Monday, March 30, 2009

Outrage at the Truth (2)

A PORTUGESE bishop has openly contradicted Pope Benedict XVI's controversial stance on condoms, saying people with AIDS are "morally obliged" to use them if they have sex.

A person with AIDS "who cannot avoid having sexual relations is morally obliged to avoid passing on the disease by using a condom", Monsignor Ilidio Leandro wrote in a message published on the website of the Viseu diocese in central Portugal today.

I guess there is a step-by-step logic into what Monsignor Leandro is saying:

1) The irresponsible person practices illicit sex (thats why he got AIDS in the first place).

2) The person contracts AIDS due to his wanton sexual behavior.

3) Now he is "morally obliged" to use condoms whenever he has sex. "He cannot avoid" sex, not because he will die as a result of avoiding sex, but because he has not been taught to cultivate the cardinal value of temperance. No, we have not heard Bishop Leandro say a word about temperance, nor chastity. And so, our morality-driven guy continues his promiscuous sexual behavior, but now he is "morally obliged" to use condoms in faithful obedience to Bishop Leandro.

4) In one of his many sexual encounters, his condom breaks in action.
It was bound to happen, as no one claims that condoms are 100% effective in preventing AIDS - although Bishop Leandro is silent about this.

5) Repeat steps 1 to 4, over and over.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Last month Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island wrote up an imaginary interview with President Obama. which apparently stirred up some controversy.

This week he responds with:

Jesus Wasn’t Always Nice

quoted partly:
I do find it intriguing, though, that the critics of the Obama column were more offended by my writing than the fact that the President is using their tax dollars to destroy unborn children. (And now to engage in the destruction of human embryos in stem cell research.) But it still seems to me that if the President’s anti-life actions don’t stir up moral outrage in you, nothing will; if they don’t offend your conscience, you need a conscience transplant, my friend.

(read the rest here)


Saturday, March 28, 2009

The eyes have it

Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 27, 2009 / 04:59 pm (CNA).-

During her recent visit to Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unexpected stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe... Msgr. Monroy took Mrs. Clinton to the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been previously lowered from its usual altar for the occasion. After observing it for a while, Mrs. Clinton asked “who painted it?”...
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on the tilma, or cloak, of St. Juan Diego in 1531. The image has numerous unexplainable phenomena, such as the appearance on Mary’s eyes of those present in the room when the tilma was opened and the image’s lack of decay. If the eyes were magnified 2,500 times, one can clearly see the imprint of 13 people. To date, there has been no scientific explanation of the technology existng in the 16 century that can paint with microscopic detail. The composition of the material used to paint the image has so far not been identified likewise. AS a footnote, it is said that within the first few years of the appearance of the Lady of Guadalupe, over 8 million have been baptized. The conversions and devotions continue to this day.

Back to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

who painted it?” which Msgr. Monroy responded “God!”.

After placing a bouquet of white flowers by the image, Mrs. Clinton went to the quemador –the open air area at the Basilica where the faithful light candles- and lit a green candle.

That evening after the Guadalupe visit, Clinton was set to receive the highest award given by Planned Parenthood Federation of America -- the Margaret Sanger Award, named for the organization's founder, a noted eugenicist.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Your will be done

March 25, 2009

Today is the feast of the Annunciation (Luke 1:28-38)

..."May it be done to me according to your will"...

Before Mary assented,
she pondered for a while and asked with some seeming trepidation: "How can it be?, I have no relations with a man".

I guess it is ok to ask questions first, to study implications, to think with a God-given brain, and to understand. After this process, humility should kick in.

As we ponder this, we will realize that our prayers are not always "according to your will", but "according to MY will". Lord, thy will be changed?

At these times, the angel Gabriel may talk to us in many ways. How often have we turned down
opportunities in the past to serve the Lord? Remained deaf and indifferent? On this very day that I turn a year older, I ask myself the same question and conclude: I have done very little. And so this day being also the feast day of St. Dismas, I pray for his intercession in pleading to the Lord: Jesus, remember to include me into Paradise! In the meantime, I pray for grace in hearing, wisdom in understanding, and humility in heeding God's will.

I took this picture of my youngest child early today. As far as he is concerned, I am almost
always humbled. He just imposes his will on me, most of the time. I wonder why he gets away with it. Maybe it's because of my full assent. Just looking at him, I guess a more apt word is: surrender.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Outrage at the truth

The lords of the mass media are spouting their outrage at the Pope--again.

This time the Pontiff's alleged offense is his failure to believe that condoms provide the world's best hope against the AIDS epidemic. Pope Benedict dared to voice a few simple truths (see Vatican press office communique here) --that chastity is foolproof, and that people can control their own sexual behavior--and the guardians of secular wisdom are rending their garments and howling their outrage.

The Pope is simply wrong about the facts, dozens of headlines proclaim.

The outrage more or less goes along the lines of: the Pope is ignorant about AIDS and, the Pope condemns millions to die of AIDS.
The truth really hurts (those who don't like it).
Expect more outrage to come...

On Whale and Human research

Australia urges nonlethal whale research
Associated Press
First Posted 15:56:00 03/23/2009

SYDNEY: Whale research can and should be done without killing the marine mammals, Australia's environment minister said Monday, taking a swipe at Japan's annual whale hunt as he opened an international workshop on whale study....Garrett said modern technology, including satellite tagging and aerial and acoustic surveys offered nonlethal methods for scientists to carry out research on whales...

(Emphasis mine. Meanwhile...)

Australian researcher hails lifting of stem cell ban

A leading Australian researcher has welcomed the decision by US President Barack Obama to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Professor Peter Gunning, from the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, says lifting the ban is vital for research to move forward.[but]...Australian laws still provide greater opportunities for [ESCR] researchers...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Did God create evil?

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."
- Isaiah 45:7 (King James Bible)

Based on the above passage, an acquiantance in a group mailing list concludes that: "apparently, God did create evil."

Isaiah 45:7 contrasts opposites. The KJV translation of this passage seems to present a semantic problem. Darkness is the opposite of light. However, evil is not the opposite of peace. The Hebrew word translated "peace" is shalom, which has many meanings, mostly related to the well-being of individuals. The original Hebrew word Ra'ah translated "evil" in the KJV often refers to adversity or calamity.

Here is the NAB version of Isaiah 45:7

"I form the light, and create the darkness, I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things."

Thus, when taken into account, the opposite of well-being (of peace in this context) is woe or calamity, not evil.

When biblical passages seem confusing, it is the bible reader's recourse to compare scriptures against scriptures, as the bible does not contradict itself. Thus, in Genesis 1:31, we read:

"God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good."

God is not the author of evil, but allows it because God created free will. Evil is borne out of man's abuse of free will. However, God does reward and punish on the basis of good and bad behavior. There has been instances in the bible where God does bring judgment and calamity (either directly or through human authorities) as a consequence for those who sin. Woe and calamity is the consequence of man's actions, but ultimately, God will judge all people.

As a further reference for Catholics, here is section 311 of the Cathechism:

/CCC 311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it./

Monday, March 16, 2009

Embryonic Surplus Crumbs Research

I came across this reader's comment from a blog I frequent:

"Finally, after almost a decade of limiting taxpayer money for research,
president Barrack Obama has lifted the restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research today. Let's think of how many Americans are suffering from ailments and what this research can do for them. I'm sure everyone reading this knows someone important to them that is affected by one of these maladies such as Parkinson's, repairing spinal cord injuries as well as treating diabetes, cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and many more defects."

How very noble, no? Throw in the usual emo story of Christopher Reeves,
and they've got a case that wants you to believe that those who oppose ESCR are irrational, unthinking, heartless people. Obama has said: "we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology".

Let's see. An embryo is a human being in its early stage of development. Scientific fact or ideology? Some people will say however that ESCR is going to be done on excess, "throw-away" embryos. Hmm, just like crumbs?? Red Cardigan puts it succinctly: there is no such thing as "leftover people".

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cutting poverty

Gawad Kalinga, Reyes Haircutters (RH) build homes for the poor
-by Patricia Esteves
"Beneficiaries of Gawad Kalinga (GK) housing in the slums of Deparo, Caloocan have a reason to smile and feel positive about these days despite the economic crisis.

Five new, rainbow-colored homes have been constructed in the area and were recently handed over to the beneficiaries.

Thiry-seven more homes will be constructed plus a new salon training center for the livelihood of the residents.

In the new salon, everyone will be welcome to learn hair-cutting, styling, body and foot massage, pedicure and salon management, among others, for free.

After finishing the course, beneficiaries are guaranteed to be employed in any of the Reyes Haircutters' branches.

They can also opt to work in other salons, put up their own business or go abroad for employment..."
I must say this is a most welcome innovation along the lines of "teach a man how to fish...". It underscores the ideal of an unselfish, holistic, sustainable, and values-driven approach in finding solutions to poverty. According to RH president Les Reyes, their on-going project "Gupit Ko, Buhay Mo" allocates 1 peso for every P50 haircut fee in all Reyes salons to the construction of more GK homes. A little less for self, but most definitely more for others. While the current news on the "Legacy" pre-need scandal (among a host of other unresolved scandals) appalls most of us, there are bright, refreshing spots on the horizon like this hair-and-poverty-cutting development. Now, if only we had more of the likes of Les Reyes and less of the likes of...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Freedom to the laundry captives

Washing machine 'did more to liberate women than the Pill'

"It may send feminists into a spin but the Vatican's official newspaper has pronounced the washing machine more important for the liberation of women than the contraceptive Pill."

"In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of western women?" asked the editorial.

"The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine." The first rudimentary washing machines appeared as far back as 1767, noted the article, with the first electrical models being produced at the beginning of the 20th century.

The article provoked an angry response from some commentators and politicians.

"Instead of entering into an abstract debate on gender, it would be better if L'Osservatore Romano discussed reality, such as the fear in which many women still live when they are in the streets and between the walls of their own homes," Paola Concia, and MP from the opposition Democratic Party, told La Stampa newspaper.
Hmm. I would say washing machines should liberate men as well. In modern times, husbands must also do their share in doing the laundry. It's like forced labor. Forced in the sense that women can't possibly do all the household chores, as most women nowadays also work outside the home to contribute to the family income. So, washing machines liberate women as well as men. Yes dear, "hiwalay ang de-kolor sa puti". That goes for microwave ovens, electric floor polishers, and take-out food as well. Now that's reality.

And now a word from the Pope on the occasion of International Women's Day:

"Today's date," he affirmed, "invites us to reflect on the condition of women and to renew our commitment, that always and everywhere every woman can live and fully manifest her particular abilities, obtaining complete respect for her dignity."

"Today I pledge my prayer for all women, that they be evermore respected in their dignity and valued in their positive possibilities."

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Practice of abstinence

The Practice of abstinence
- Fr. Joel O. Jason

This Friday of Lent is offered as a special day of abstinence. How does the Christian tradition understand abstinence? It is not only a physical sacrifice
but a spiritual one, too. It is a spiritual sacrifice because it is a way of showing our contrite heart to Jesus who bore all the suffering of man's sin. It is an expression of repentance for our sins and a manifestation of our humble imploring of His mercy and sincere regret of the transgression of His will. Bishop Fulton Sheen told of his experience one Lenten season while on a plane to a speaking engagement. When the flight attendant offered him his lunch, he excused himself saying, "I'll just have a sandwich, it's Lent.". The woman beside him also settled for just a sandwich. "So you're also Catholic," Bishop Sheen asked. The woman with a surprised look said, "No, I'm a model."

The fasting of Lent differs in essence from just plain dieting. When we diet, the aim is usually to look better. When we fast (although beautification may be its consequence), our aim is beatification - to be beatified, to be better. We become better because we are able to control our desires. Instead of being dominated by the senses, we regulate our senses because we are ruled by the Spirit. Then we become blessed, then we become better disciples and witnesses of our Lord. The discipline of Lent can never be dissociated with discipleship. Discipline without discipleship is like practicing for a marathon without running it. Discipleship without discipline is running a marathon without practicing.

In these 40 days of spiritual preparation, may we all become disciplined disciples of the Lord.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

(En)countering Temptation

First Sunday of Lent
Mk 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him...
First, a few explanatory words from New Advent

"Temptation is here taken to be an incitement to sin whether by persuasion or by the offer of some good or pleasure. It may be merely external, as was the case of Christ's encounter in the desert after the forty days' fast; or it may be internal as well, inasmuch as there is a real assault upon a person's will power. It arises sometimes from the propensity to evil inherent in us as a result of original sin. Sometimes it is directly chargeable to the intervention of the Devil, who can furnish the imagination with its sinful subject-matter and stir up the lower powers of the soul. Not infrequently both causes are at work. Temptation is not in itself sin. No matter how vivid the unholy image may be, no matter how strong the inclination to transgress the law, no matter how vehement the sensation of unlawful satisfaction, as long as there is no consent of the will, there is no sin."

Further on, it expounds on how to avoid tempation:

Temptations are to be combated by the avoidance, where possible, of the occasions that give rise to them, by recourse to prayer...

Now this last one I believe is the most powerful weapon against temptation. Overnight, my mind was filled with murderous thoughts (a hyperbole) so that I had terrible difficulty sleeping. It had to do with extreme disappointment with some people whom I perceived were very passive in our mission, to the point of being in dereliction of our covenant. The very people whom I thought should be leading the charge! I was thinking of ways in telling them off in no uncertain terms during our next meeting.

Anyway, after a fitful sleep we missed our usual Sunday mass schedule at 7:15am and went for the next one at 8:30am. My wife and I found out that the family assigned to lead the prayers of the faithful were not there, so we took over, together with my son who was then serving as a Sacristan. After communion as I knelt down in silent prayer, just then something went over me. I suddenly realized I was allowing negative thoughts to control me. There was another way and it has to be "in His steps". That moment was a WWJD moment for me. I thought about Jesus' 40 days in the desert, and then I thanked God. Tonight I know I will sleep blissfully.