The Mitigating Circumstances Gamble

My primary job as a parent is to help my children get to Heaven.  Their spiritual being comes even before their physical well-being (not that we don’t strive for both).  Our priests also share in this duty. It’s why Christ gave them to us.  If my child were to take his/her life by suicide, heaven forbid, I would want everyone who comes to their funeral to know of the tragedy and pray for their eternal soul to be at rest in Heaven.  So, when I see tweets like this, I get furious.

suicidemartinsmall

Unlike Fr. Martin, I actually waited for the homily to be posted before diving into it, because there’s always another side to a story. Fr. Martin could have chosen the high-road in this case, but he does what he always does, he pits people against our faithful priests. Let’s look at what Fr. Martin calls a “pastoral disaster.”

Before I do, I do not blame Maison’s parents for any of this. Clearly, many priests and religious teachers along the way failed them. Their understanding of death, everlasting life, funerals, etc., are contrary to the reality that the Church teaches. While it may seem life Fr. Martin is my favorite whipping boy, I only use him since he’s the biggest mouthpiece for misguiding the faithful and attacking priests who do not. He can’t help but comment on everything. He’s constantly putting people’s spiritual AND physical well-being at risk, and here he’s doing it once again.

This is Fr. LaCuesta’s homily from young Maison’s funeral.

My heart goes out to you, Mr. & Mrs. [REDACTED], and to you [REDACTED]’s siblings: [REDACTED], to Grandma [REDACTED], to [REDCATED]’s many aunts & uncles & cousins. It is with great difficulty that I stand before you knowing the pain and anguish you are going through. But I am aware, as well, that I am only a humble, unworthy mouthpiece. I ask God to use my words to bring the light, comfort and healing you need.

Is there any hope to offer in this moment? Must we only speak of our profound grief, our indescribable sorrow, even our anger and confusion at how such a thing could have happened? Is there any word from God that might break into our darkness like a ray of light?

Yes, yes, a thousand times. If we Christians are right in believing that salvation belongs to Jesus Christ, that it does not come from us–and that our hand cannot stop what God allows for us, then yes, there is hope in eternity even for those who take their own lives.”

Uh, what part of this doesn’t express hope and mercy???

Having said that, I think that we must not call what is bad good, what is wrong right. Because we are Christians, we must say what we know is the truth – that taking your own life is against God who made us and against everyone who loves us. Our lives are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please. God gave us life, and we are to be good stewards of that gift for as long as God permits.

The finality of suicide makes this all the worse. You cannot make things right again. Neither can [REDACTED]. And this is much of the pain of it all. Things are left unresolved, even if it felt to [REDACTED] like this was the only way to resolve things. You want to turn the clock back and say, “Please don’t give up. We can work through this pain together. ” But now you will have to work through this pain by yourselves, or with those close to you now who will need to lean on you even as you lean on them.

Is any of this not true??? If you know ANYTHING about suicide, especially the suicide of teens, you can see that it can often be infectious.  You’d also know if you pay attention to pop culture that it’s being glamorized in shows like “13 Reasons”, which I find demonic.  This is EXACTLY the homily I’d want my surviving children to hear. First, they need to understand that suicide doesn’t make the pain stop. It results from the lack of belief and understanding that God can help us. Yes, there can be mitigating circumstances, BUT Fr. Martin goes down a dangerous road to suggest that one is off the hook from culpability because they are depressed, mentally ill, suffered some trauma, or really any other thing. We simply don’t know, and to say that is a fact is claiming to know the mind of God.  We have the Ten Commandments. We don’t have the Thousands of Mitigating Circumstances. We only know what we know, and we have to beg for God’s mercy on the rest. Fr. Martin’s comment just makes it all the easier to embrace suicide.

How do I know this? I’ve had friends who have been suicidal. THE ONE THING that kept them from going through with it, despite bi-polar disorder, depression, trauma, etc., was their desire to go to Heaven and not hell. If they had thought for a moment, “Oh, I’ve been through x,y,z in my life, God will forgive me”, they very likely would have gone through with it. Despite all their perceived insurmountable odds, they didn’t want to gamble away eternal life with God by killing themselves. They didn’t thwart all of their hope like Judas. How many times have theologians stated that the ultimate condemnation of Judas wasn’t from handing Jesus over, it was because he refused to believe he could be forgiven and saved? This knowledge helped them continue bearing their many crosses. Thankfully, some have gotten through their “dark night.” I wish Maison understood that. I’m just guessing he didn’t, because his parents don’t seem like they understood, either.

On most people’s mind, however, especially of us who call ourselves Christians, on our minds as we sit in this place is: Can God forgive and heal this? Yes, God CAN forgive even the taking of one’s own life. In fact, God awaits us with his mercy, with ever open arms. Sacred Scripture says clearly: God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God’s abiding mercy is what sets us to ask for it. Although God doesn’t dangle his mercy like a carrot, waiting for us to ask for it in order to receive it, we do have to believe in our hearts, express with our words, and show in our actions – that it is always there. God wants nothing but our salvation but he will never force himself on us, he will not save us without us. That’s how much he loves us. Because of the all-embracing sacrifice of Christ on the cross God can have mercy on any sin. Yes, because of his mercy, God can forgive suicide and heal what has been broken.

Again, if I were a parent at this funeral, this is EXACTLY what I’d want my kids to hear.  We need to avail ourselves of God’s mercy, and we need to pray for those who are having or who have had trouble doing so themselves. This is the Body of Christ, people! When people are weak and screw up even unto death, we pray for them and we learn from it.

Because God is merciful he makes allowance for the spiritual, mental, and emotional despair that leads to suicide. God is able to read the heart, to know the whole truth of a person’s life, and thereby to pass sentence with mercy. God knows something we must discipline ourselves to do in these moments – he knows not to judge a person’s entire life on the basis of the worst and last choice the person made. God can look at the totality of a human being’s life and celebrate all the good that came from it, even while taking seriously the tragic choice that ended everything. And then he shows his mercy and love in ways beyond our limited understanding.

FR. MARTIN! Why is it OK for you to say this but not Fr. LaCuesta??? This isn’t something new to priests who actually follow the teachings of the Church. Like I said, maybe you should check your tongue. The difference is Fr. LaCuesta tells us why we don’t give up hope and we don’t stop praying for young Maison. We must avail ourselves of God’s endless mercy, but Fr. Martin insinuates that all is good and that all we need to do is comfort those grieving. How does that motivate anyone to pray regularly for this boy? How does this keep anyone from thinking of doing the same thing?

Nothing can separate us from the love of God, the great St. Paul assures us (in that Reading we just listened to). Nothing – including suicide.

Who will bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? St. Paul asks. It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? Christ Jesus sits at the right hand of God even now, interceding for this one who could not stand before God on his/her own. Truly, none of us can stand before God on our own. We all need Christ to intercede for us, to plead our case. And here’s the good news: Christ has never lost a case!

What will separate us from the love of Christ? St. Paul answers that question with a display of words that cover everything he can think of in so little space. Not death or life, not angels or principalities, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth or any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What did St. Paul leave out of that list? Nothing. He did not list suicide, but he did not list murder or gossip or greed either. He covered all of those things in the final flurry of words that includes anything else in all creation. No deed is too evil to be beyond the forgiveness of Christ. No tragedy is too great to separate us from the love of God.

So Maison is not out of God’s saving grace. What parent could have a problem with this message? It’s quite clear that Mr. and Mrs. Hullibarger have been taught so little about the Faith that they didn’t understand what a funeral is for. In fact, the Hillibargers didn’t even tell Fr. LaCuesta that Maison had committed suicide! Again, I don’t blame them, but to tear down Fr. LaCuesta isn’t right. He’s clearly the one who is putting the spiritual health and well-being of Maison’s friends and family first. This isn’t done by simply going over all the highs in Maison’s life. This is about getting people to pray for his eternal soul, to keep further people from following down his path of despair (maybe his family and friends), and to get people to avail themselves of God’s mercy.

If that is so, if the Scriptures can be believed, if God can be trusted even in this, then it gives us hope and guidance for how to manage our sorrow and anger and loss. We give it all to God. We hope…we can only hope. We do not carry it ourselves. We try to give thanks for the blessings of life we knew and shared with [REDACTED], with this child of God. And we remind ourselves that he is not lost to God who seeks to save all of his children.

And we see the good father offers more words of wisdom and comfort.

And so, we take great comfort and consolation in all this. Nothing-not even suicide-can separate us from the unconditional love of God. It is to this all- merciful love that we, through our prayers, entrust and continue to entrust the soul of [REDACTED]. Let us not deny him now of the help he needs most-our love expressed through our trusting prayers.

My dear friends, today, and in the difficult days to come, when darkness threatens to envelop and darken our hearts, let us raise high the bright light of our Redeemer and proclaim his saving mercy: Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever!

And more words of hope!

So, again, I ask Fr. Martin where this priest went wrong? This homily is precisely what it should be. I know priests who have given just about the exact same homily in the same circumstances! Parishioners should be lucky to have this priest do their funerals. People might actually avail themselves of God’s mercy! Sad the diocese pulled him from funeral services simply because of years of poor catechesis, and let’s just ignore people like me who would want a similar homily, too, since I’m quite convinced I’m not going straight to Heaven if I make it at all. I want lots of prayers. Sounds like the diocese goes along with this Fr. Martin comment:

“The purpose of the homily in the funeral rite is to speak about not only the person’s life but the resurrection and the promise of new life of that person,” he said. “It’s to offer consolation and hope to the family of the deceased.”

Actually, Fr. Martin, wrong! The entire funeral is to intercede for the dead (no matter how they died) as the Body of Christ and to comfort the grieving. Homilies are always supposed to be used to catechize and, in case of funerals, to teach people that as the Body of Christ we believe in hope and redemption and we can pray for this as the Body of Christ. What in the world could offer more comfort that??? Heaven is not promised to us unconditionally, and Fr. Martin acting as if this is so doesn’t help us to avail ourselves of God’s mercy. To do this, we need to understand that we NEED God’s mercy.

One last thing I’d like to touch on again is Fr. Martin and friends’ attempts to get the faithful to rely on mitigating circumstances in all facets of sin, not just suicide. It’s a toe–the-line way of living out the Faith and it’s incredibly dangerous to souls. We’re supposed to stay as far away from the line of sin as possible, yet Fr. Martin encourages people to dangle their toes over the line and, if they should lose their balance and cross it, well, mitigating circumstances, you know. It’s terrifying to see people encouraged to live the Faith this way.

Please join me in praying for young Maison’s soul and for the comfort and hope of his family and friends as well as the rest of the Body of Christ. And, if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please read Fr. LaCuesta’s homily and contact your local priest or National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).  

 

 

 

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Where Has All the Affective Maturity Gone?

Wow! I have been watching the Jesuit spin machine.  It’s been set on high the last few days. They have been in such a frenzy, they’re tying themselves in knots! The pope has been saying the exact same thing for years now and the liberals know it so I’m not sure it’s worth their effort. Yes, we have homosexual clergy and religious (and yes, he uses that title Fr. Martin so despises), but that doesn’t mean we should stop saying this is imprudent and knowingly let them get to their final vows and promises.

In new book on clergy and religious life, Pope Francis addresses homosexuality

<snip>

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case. We have to be exacting. In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the Church,” the pope says in the book “The Strength of a Vocation,” set to be released Dec. 3 in ten languages.

What?  “Very serious issue”?   What happened to Fr. Martin and homosexuality’s “special gifts”??? No wonder why he’s working so hard to say that isn’t really what the Holy Father is saying.  I’ve sat here all weekend watching him tweet things like “disingenuous”, “not what he said”, etc. Poor guy, grasping at straws only to find they’ve been banned.

In an excerpt from the book, released Friday by Religión Digital, the pope said he is concerned about the issue of evaluating and forming people with homosexual tendencies in the clergy and consecrated life.

“This is something I am concerned about, because perhaps at one time it did not receive much attention,” he said.

He is right to be concerned. I’m not so sure it hasn’t been given much attention in the last few decades, but it is VERY concerning. Sadly, at least in American seminaries, huge efforts have instead been made to accommodate, recruit and enable homosexuality in the priesthood. In fact, I think it’s fair to say, in many areas heterosexual men have been drummed out of seminary under the “too rigid” canard. They’re the ones who had to sit down and keep their mouths shut if they had any hope of getting to their vocation. So, yes, I’d say homosexuality during formation got a lot of attention – just the wrong kind.

Francis said that with candidates for the priesthood or religious life “we have to take great care during formation in the human and affective maturity. We have to seriously discern, and listen to the voice of experience that the Church also has. When care is not taken in discerning all of this, problems increase. As I said before, it can happen that at the time perhaps they didn’t exhibit [that tendency], but later on it comes out.”

This has really got to rain on the LGBTSJ parade. He just said we have to listen to the experience of the Church which has consistently said that homosexuals should not be admitted to the clergy and religious life. He’s also suggesting serious vetting to make sure there is no homosexual tendency. Wow! Kind of sounds like what a huge chunk of people have been saying for YEARS!!! And here I thought we were super mean for saying that???

Still, let me tell you what the spin is on this is going to be: “Well, of course we have to educate people on integrating their sexuality and their vocation. It’s not that the pope doesn’t think gays should be in the priesthood, it’s just that they need to be educated.” 

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates, if that is the case,” the pope reiterated.

Francis recalled that one time “I had a somewhat scandalized bishop here who told me that he had found out that in his diocese, a very large diocese, there were several homosexual priests and that he had to deal with all that, intervening, above all, in the formation process, to form a different group of clergy.”

Umm, please note that the Holy Father didn’t say that this bishop was a big meanie nor that he was wrong to intervene in the formation process that allowed ordination of several homosexual priests. (Apparently Pope Francis didn’t get the memo from Fr. Martin that we are supposed to call them “gay”, not “homosexual”, because that’s their preference. He’s apparently as disrespectful as the rest of us.) Pope Francis is saying that this is what needs to be done.

“It’s a reality we can’t deny. There is no lack of cases in the consecrated life either. A religious told me that, on a canonical visit to one of the provinces in his congregation, he was surprised. He saw that there were good young students and even some already professed religious who were gay,” he related.

The pope said that the religious “wondered if it were an issue and asked me if there was something wrong with that.” Francis said he was told by one religious superior that the issue was not “that serious, it’s just an expression of an affection.”

Let’s take time to ponder this. Nowhere did the Holy Father nor the religious superior indicate that these religious who were homosexual were committing homosexual acts.  Meanwhile, Fr. Martin has been working overtime to equate “affection” with “homosexual acts” while at the same time telling everyone else, “the pope didn’t say that.” Well, hello, Fr. Martin! The Holy Father didn’t say the religious superior was wondering if it was OK for his guys to have homosexual sex! Geez.

“That’s a mistake,” Francis warned. “It’s not just an expression of an affection. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the Church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life. The ministry or the consecrated life is not his place.”

BOOM! No, it’s not another earthquake in Alaska. Several Jesuit heads just exploded all at once. Just for fun, I looked up “affection.” Nowhere is the definition sex of any kind nor is it a verb. Oops.

“af·fec·tion /əˈfekSH(ə)n/ noun

  1. a gentle feeling of fondness or liking”

 

We “have to urge homosexual priests, and men and women religious to live celibacy with integrity, and above all, that they be impeccably responsible, trying to never scandalize either their communities or the faithful holy people of God by living a double life. It’s better for them to leave the ministry or the consecrated life rather than to live a double life.”

Fr. Martin and buddies seem quite fond of trying to use this particular quote to say, “See!  It’s OK if gays are allowed to enter the priesthood or religious life as long as they keep their vows and promises!” This is not what Pope Francis is saying in the least. The Holy Father is acknowledging the sad reality that the poor screening (or, in my opinion, reverse screening) has allowed people to make vows and promises that weren’t suited to do so. Those who have been allowed to do so must live chaste, celibate lives and not cause scandal. Duh!  It doesn’t mean that we should keep the status quo of putting them in situations of temptation.   

The pope was asked in the book if there are limits to what can be tolerated in formation.

“Of course. When there are candidates with neurosis, marked imbalances, difficult to channel not even with therapeutic help, they shouldn’t be accepted to either the priesthood or the religious life, They should be helped to take another direction (but they should not be abandoned. They should be guided, but they should not be admitted. Let us always bear in mind that they are persons who are going to live in the service of the Church, of the Christian community, of the people of God. Let’s not forget that perspective. We have to care for them so they are psychologically and affectively healthy,” the pope replied.

Umm, he just paraphrased “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood”, a document Fr. Martin and ilk would rather you didn’t know about, so please give it a read. 

10. It is possible that the candidate – notwithstanding his own commitment and the support of the psychologist, or psychotherapy – could continue to show himself unable to face realistically his areas of grave immaturity – even given the gradual nature of all human growth. Such areas of immaturity would include strong affective dependencies; notable lack of freedom in relations; excessive rigidity of character; lack of loyalty; uncertain sexual identity; deep-seated homosexual tendencies; etc. If this should be the case, the path of formation will have to be interrupted.

The same is also true if it becomes evident that the candidate has difficulty living chastity in celibacy: that is, if celibacy, for him, is lived as a burden so heavy that it compromises his affective and relational equilibrium.”

Just like Pope Francis, nowhere does this document say that one simply has to keep to chastity and celibacy to enter the priesthood. Evidence that one cannot is just one more reason to bar them from formation. Uncertain sexual identity and deep-seated homosexual tendencies are enough.

Another little document (and by little I mean big) that Fr. Martin and friends don’t want you to know about is “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders”:

This document states that:

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question[9], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”[10].

Can you see why the LGBTSJ crowd and those that support calling them that might not want you to see this document??? Seminarians are not even supposed to “support the so-called ‘gay culture’” to be admitted to seminary, and we’ve got way too many priests already ordained who participate in “pride parades!” 

Why aren’t they supposed to be allowed? Oh, yes, there is one very good reason.

Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women

Both of these important documents on admission to the priesthood talk of “affective maturity.” We need to get this back into the discussion because it is very important, yet the homosexual lobby (can people really deny there’s one of these anymore?) doesn’t understand it in the least. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen the term used in America Magazine lately, if ever. Pope John Paul II tells us what it is and why it’s a decisive factor for the priesthood in “Pastores Dabo Vobis” (emphasis mine).

In this context affective maturity, which is the result of an education in true and responsible love, is a significant and decisive factor in the formation of candidates for the priesthood.

  1. Affective maturity presupposes an awareness that love has a central role in human life. In fact, as I have written in the encyclical Redemptor Hominis, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself; his life is meaningless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.(126)

We are speaking of a love that involves the entire person, in all his or her aspects – physical, psychic and spiritual – and which is expressed in the “nuptial meaning” of the human body, thanks to which a person gives oneself to another and takes the other to oneself. A properly understood sexual education leads to understanding and realizing this “truth” about human love. We need to be aware that there is a widespread social and cultural atmosphere which “largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure.“(127) Sometimes the very family situations in which priestly vocations arise will display not a few weaknesses and at times even serious failings.

In such a context, an education for sexuality becomes more difficult but also more urgent. It should be truly and fully personal and therefore should present chastity in a manner that shows appreciation and love for it as a “virtue that develops a person’s authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the ‘nuptial meaning’ of the body.”(128)

Education for responsible love and the affective maturity of the person are totally necessary for those who, like the priest, are called to celibacy, that is, to offer with the grace of the Spirit and the free response of one’s own will the whole of one’s love and care to Jesus Christ and to his Church. In view of the commitment to celibacy, affective maturity should bring to human relationships of serene friendship and deep brotherliness a strong, lively and personal love for Jesus Christ. As the synod fathers have written, “A love for Christ, which overflows into a dedication to everyone, is of the greatest importance in developing affective maturity. Thus the candidate, who is called to celibacy, will find in affective maturity a firm support to live chastity in faithfulness and joy.”(129)

Since the charism of celibacy, even when it is genuine and has proved itself, leaves one’s affections and instinctive impulses intact, candidates to the priesthood need an affective maturity which is prudent, able to renounce anything that is a threat to it, vigilant over both body and spirit, and capable of esteem and respect in interpersonal relationships between men and women. A precious help can be given by a suitable education to true friendship, following the image of the bonds of fraternal affection which Christ himself lived on earth (cf. Jn. 11:5). 

Human maturity, and in particular affective maturity, requires a clear and strong training in freedom, which expresses itself in convinced and heartfelt obedience to the “truth of one’s own being, to the “meaning” of one’s own existence, that is to the “sincere gift of self” as the way and fundamental content of the authentic realization of self.(130) Thus understood, freedom requires the person to be truly master of oneself, determined to fight and overcome the different forms of selfishness and individualism which threaten the life of each one, ready to open out to others, generous in dedication and service to one’s neighbor. This is important for the response that will have to be given to the vocation, and in particular to the priestly vocation, and for faithfulness to it and to the commitments connected with it, even in times of difficulty. On this educational journey toward a mature, responsible freedom, the community life of the seminary can provide help.(131)

So, I’m just going to say it. I don’t see affective maturity in priests who are more focused on “coming out,” encouraging others to “come out”, etc. Instead, I see them acting in a manner that “largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure.” JPII NAILED IT! Our priests need affective maturity so they can correctly relate to men and women. This is why I’ve said before that I don’t want my priests to consider themselves “gay priests” or “heterosexual priests.”  I just want them to consider themselves faithful priests. The pro-LGBTQXYZ clergy and religious are striving for the wrong title. They wouldn’t know affective maturity if it bit them in the behind.