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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Wildfire

As flames sear the West Coast, so the Hollywood community skewers one of its ‘gods’ (Meryl Streep referred to Weinstein as one in accepting an award for a picture he produced) for sexual misconduct of the most lurid order. Anyone with an IPhone knows that Harvey Weinstein—movie mogul responsible for highly honored films—used his position to misuse dozens of women. Most women were twenty-something beauties on their way up. Weinstein apparently could not be stopped. His lust leapt out of the casting office and onto female reporters who are now reporting the truth.

I hope the exposure of his power abuse will restrain the gods of Hollywood. Remarkable are the weird responses to his unraveling. Especially his ‘friends.’ We are talking here about a tightly knit network of actors and staff and lawyers and politicians who knew what was happening (come on, the man exposed himself constantly to pretty women, and had eight out-of-court harassment settlements) and turned a blind eye. That Streep—the most respected advocate for women in the industry and a frequent collaborator with Weinstein—claims she did not know of his abuses rings false to me. One can know and choose not to know.

Why the silence? Since the movies became an American institution in the 1920’s, Hollywood has been off-limits for most kinds of sexual restraint. Lusty players created a moral fault-line on which the industry developed. Early studio heads did damage control constantly for reckless actors (of both sexes) while behind the scenes, these gatekeepers advanced appealing ones in exchange for sexual favors. Such trade still flourishes (both homosexually and heterosexually) under some power brokers: ‘Give me what I want and I’ll give you what you want.’ Too many aspirants perpetuate the system by exchanging their dignity for a shot at stardom.

To expose Weinstein is to challenge one of Hollywood’s central tenets: sexual lust masking as liberty. Of all kinds. When does consensual sex become abusive? Where does one cry foul? On the fifth marriage? Once the affair ends after filming? The next arrest for procuring prostitutes? Boundary-breaking films featuring underage sex (Watch for upcoming ‘Call Me by My Name’)?

Perhaps the silence—or feigned shock– of some players toward Weinstein’s exposure is based on their own compromises—maybe not as monstrous as Weinstein’s but still stinking of strange flesh. One dares not judge lest (s)he be judged. Complicity is empowered by one’s own little monsters.

Some good feminists claim that Weinstein’s mess will provoke Hollywood’s repentance. Cleansing this system may take a little more. Yes, abuse of power must end. And yes, one must sort out all the vain liberties Hollywood celebrates. Sexism is not the only villain. All sins against chastity are; only those players who confess these sins face down before their Author and Redeemer will finish well.

Only one foundation stands through the fire. Pray that Weinstein (and all his friends who now throw stones at him) fall on the Rock. While the Weinstein story was breaking, I was rereading Pope Francis’ excellent encyclical, ‘The Joy of Love.’ I close with these excerpts: ‘God Himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures. If this gift needs to be cultivated and directed, it is to prevent the impoverishment of an authentic value (150)…On the basis of this healthy vision of sexuality, we can approach the subject with a healthy realism. Sex often becomes depersonalized and unhealthy, an occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. In our day, sexuality risks being poisoned by the mentality of use and discard…Can we really ignore or overlook the continuing forms of domination, arrogance, abuse, sexual perversion and violence that are the product of a warped understanding of sexuality?’(153)

Hollywood can no longer.

Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.

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United State of the Americas

‘How pleasing it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.’(PS 133:1)

We please Him. Maybe it’s because we realize that America is as much Mexico and Chile and Puerto Rico as it is the United States. Maybe it’s because we love marriage and treat it as holy, indissoluble, or because we have committed to growing beyond homosexuality and various addictions and abuses in order to become the good gifts we are. Or maybe He just loves us. Period. He showed His love for us by pouring out the oil of unity upon us as we gathered from the four corners of the Americas for our fifth Aguas Vivas Training in Cordoba Argentina last week. I have yet to experience such a diverse and ‘well-oiled’ team of leaders who gathered to offer their stories and gifts in love. Grateful for others’ gifts as well, we created a whole, united in our brokenness and the broken God who raises us up over and over again.

Miguel from Puerto Rico brought his two Pentecostal pastors and the woman he hopes to marry soon. He has become a mighty man of God since he joined us five years ago at our first training in Mexico City, a man divided by the ‘gay self’ yet desperately seeking Jesus. Five years later, he taught powerfully from his life experience about the gifts we can become for each other and for our churches.

Marie-Innes had been sexually and spiritually abused by a New Age leader which damaged her marriage to Daniel, a man struggling with same-sex attraction. After they became part of a dynamic Catholic community in Cordoba, the couple drank in ‘Living Waters’, which brought renewal to their marriage and a vision for their vocation as husband and wife. Along with awesome Father Adrian, they are raising up witnesses and healers throughout Argentina, several of whom shared brilliantly at the training (Griselda, Roxanna and Walter, you are the best!)

In 2001, I met Ruth, a pastor’s wife with a deep wound from her pastor/father and Ignacio who was seeking to overcome sexual addiction. In their brokenness before Jesus, they represented beautifully the Vineyard Churches in Chile. For nearly 15 years now, they have dug a deep well of Living Waters in Santiago; that was evident in the team they brought to the training to minister expertly to all. Gracias Carol and Alberto, and Ruth’s daughter Constanza whose worship leading broke open the fragrant oil Mary of Bethany offered to Jesus. We offered ourselves to Him, sweetly broken and grateful.

From Guadalajara Mexico came Father Ricardo, and Veronica who is growing out of same-sex dependency and into a calling to offer the gift of ‘Living Waters’ to Catholic young adults throughout Latin America. She is sharp and humble and loved by all. Father Ricardo is among our greatest gifts. Before he imparts his considerable priestly wisdom, he offers his humanity to us and like Pope Francis simply asks: ‘Pray for me.’ He receives Living Waters like dry ground and wants to ensure that his diocese is a deep, evident well of ‘Living Waters.’

From the Caribbean, to the Southern Cone of South America, then upwards to Mexico–Catholics, Pentecostals, and evangelicals entered the ‘Living Waters’ together in Cordoba under the sure leadership of North Americans Daniel Delgado and Ondine Morales (with special assist from our Kansas City treasure, Pamela). Undergirding the seven days was a team led by Anne in Canada that interceded daily and specifically for us; I believe their prayers guarded our graceful cohesion. Prayerful trust in His divine mercy forges a unity among us that pleases God’s heart. That unity overflows as a fountain throughout the Americas.

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Obama’s Confusing Legacy

‘The rights of black people are gay rights and the rights of gay people are black rights.’ Kevin Jennings

Living in a city built on a fault-line of segregation where the majority of African-Americans flounder in poverty and poor schools, I cheer former president Obama for provoking all ethnic minorities to break down barriers and become who they can be for the good of others.

What galls me is how he mistook ‘gender-identity’ variations for ethnicity in his 8-year-pledge to expand human rights. Yesterday, I drove up to a Starbuck’s window and faced a woman employing every hormonal and cosmetic means possible to erase her womanhood; she had entered into the dehumanizing zone of becoming gender-free. Her broad face, reddened with testosterone and a pale beard, was shocking to anyone encountering her and cruel to this woman who needs help to unpack her gender rejection, not a license to destroy herself.

Obama gave her that license. His administration placed gender identity delusions on par with ethnic civil rights. One of his final acts as president was to commute the sentence of transgender prisoner Chelsea Manning. That says first, in contrast to the best clinical evidence available, Obama has done more than any other leader on earth to perpetuate the lie that fragile souls who seek refuge in the fantasy of becoming someone other than who they are should be granted government advocacy to realize their ‘dream.’ In truth, Obama made this part of the American dream, a waking nightmare for all who surround this person’s tragic choice to worsen his or her fate. Through his Abortion and Transgender Services Mandate (ACTS, 2016), Obama made every gender-rejecting figment of the American imagination ground for government-funded sex changes.

Secondly, Obama stumped over and over to ensure that ‘gender identity’ freedom was placed on every list that included racial equality. He lumped a profound identity disorder with persons who have been stripped of every vestige of human dignity due to skin color. Obviously, this further slaps the face of persons who have suffered for centuries under the oppressive hand of the majority. Obama failed to distinguish between the intrinsic dignity God grants those who represent Him in a host of ethnicities, and those tempted to chase illusions in an effort to heal the rift in their gendered selves. For the gender confused, peace comes only from reconciliation to who one is before God as either male or female. While Obama summoned greatness from the ethnically oppressed, he further oppressed the gender fractured by offering dead-end solutions to their suffering.

‘There is an ecology to man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.’ Pope Francis

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ignite the torch joy of love

Ignite the Torch

‘The Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children by restoring their hope like a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way in the midst of a storm.’ Joy of Love, Pope Francis

While Pope Francis magnificently honors marriage in his recent exhortation, he falters in fueling the torch necessary to enlighten persons lost in the storm surrounding homosexuality. Yes, he exposes the lie of constructing one’s own gender ‘self’. But he falls fall short of illuminating Christ Crucified and Raised as the fire that can consume the disordered heart and win it over to holy love.

Pope Francis does not connect the dots. On the one hand he alludes to misbegotten cultural shifts like ‘gay marriage’ and the folly of being tossed about by self-serving, shortsighted desires. He highlights the Gospel passages in which sexual sinners are admonished by Jesus ‘to live more worthy lives’ as His love awakens ‘consciousness of sin.’ Yet his pastoral directives for enlightening persons lost in the gender storm are bland and dim; Francis invokes accompaniment and the law of gradualism and other references to walking with persons in pain. All good—but none adequate to awaken the soul in darkness to the saving light of Jesus.

I longed to hear Francis refer to repentance and sexual sin in the same sentence. He hesitates here. Inspired by the Spirit and commensurate with the damage done, the urgent call for repentance seems in line with Francis’ consistent regard for ‘the immense psychological burden’ that unfaithful adults impose upon children. We serve justice to kids by returning to the Father and casting off destructive identities and relationships. By aspiring to be faithful ‘gender’ witnesses, we the repentant do our part to meet the identity needs of children.

For this, we the Church need to declare the clear and compassionate call for all to turn to Jesus amid confused identities. Repentance is the base on which our eyes are opened and we can begin to make wise choices. Yes we slowly progress in our moral formation, and yes such formation is founded on the Word who exposes our chains and offers Himself as the key.

I now live in a Catholic world where the slight majority uphold gay unions, are intolerant (often cruel) to persons who lovingly refuse to bless ‘gay unions’, and whose clergy men tend to invoke a repentance-free mercy for persons with SSA. Where is the Church who blazes like a torch in order to enlighten her members? Where are the merciful lights to guide lost loved ones home? May God fan into flame a host of blazing lights to light the way in the storm that Francis describes but inadequately guides us through in this turbulent hour.

‘For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent; for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not remain quiet, until her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.’ (IS 62:1)

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Prodigal Pope

Prodigal Pope Embraces the Family (and this family man)

Francis’ long awaited report on marriage and family is good news, a hearty hug of a document that encompasses the best of what marital love can be.

I consumed the 256 page exhortation—Love in the Family—as a hungry man. Pressures on my own marriage and family life had been mounting in the days leading up its release; I needed release from my clouded capacity to be a ‘good-enough’ gift for wife and kids. Like a father embracing his confused son who knew only to turn in the general direction of home, Pope Francis met me; his intention to reclaim and renew the value of marriage nourished me like an empanada thick with meat and vegetables. ‘He set me at His banqueting table, and His banner over me is love’ (S of S 2:4) conveys well the impact of Pope Francis’ fatherly, at times folksy exhortation to this prodigal.

With characteristic tenderness, Francis champions marriage and family as the basic cell endowed with power to transform the world; at the same time, he realizes the anxieties and tensions faced by the modern family. He cites the impact of today’s extreme individualism, consumerism, social networking, and just plain narcissism that renders people immature and unable to see the ‘other’ beyond one’s own effort to find a ‘self’.

Drawing significantly on the ‘imago dei’ (humanity made in God’s image as male and female, Gen. 1: 26, 27) as parsed by his predecessors St. John Paul ll and Pope Emeritus Benedict, Francis summons our capacity as gendered, passionate people to be good gifts to another over the course of a lifespan, a commitment he claims can grow more beautiful over the course of a hard knock life. He melds expertly the ideological with the practical. An extended meditation on the ‘love’ chapter (1Cor. 13) goes hand-in-hand with tough words on why marriage must be ‘open to life’ then tempers the call to fruitfulness with wisdom about family planning, marital communication, and humane parenting. Uncle Francis indeed.

Most interesting to me are his limited references to homosexuality in the document. As you know, I had the privilege addressing some ‘Family Synod’ delegates in Rome last September as to convey an orthodox, merciful approach to persons with SSA. Those synod members wrote reports for Francis from which he created ‘Love in the Family.’

Francis deflates any hope that he has joined the rainbow bandwagon. Twice he states emphatically that ‘there is no ground for considering homosexual unions even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.’ And he extols every child’s need for both a mother and father in order to mature into wholeness. He decries modern gender theory on the grounds that ‘it promotes a personal identity and emotional intimacy that is radically separate from the biological difference between male and female.’

Pope Francis upholds the most vulnerable—children–who before God deserve the most strenuous efforts of both a mother and a father to succeed at marriage.

At the same time, Francis cites the very real difference between biological gender and how we develop a gender identity. He is nuanced and graceful with this distinction, which leaves room for women to lead and for men to dance. Yes we need to make peace with the gender of our birth in submission to our Creator, says Francis, and yes, we must respect diverse expressions of male and female identity. Alleluia. What a pope.

In regards to persons with SSA, Pope Francis directs us back to the wellspring of life, the nuclear family. He instructs family members to love us well so that ‘we might understand and carry out God’s will for our lives.’

I would have appreciated a little more input on pastoral care of persons with SSA (grounds for next blog, perhaps.) Perhaps that is beside the point, or at least a secondary one. Love in the Family reminds me that I am more than a person seeking freedom from disordered desire. I am a husband and a father who possesses the freedom to love well and so leave a legacy of truth and mercy for persons I love most. Thank you, Pope Francis.

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