Self-Flagellation: What is Wrong with this Practice?

Blessed Henry Suso

Some Filipino Bishops have made public announcements against the practice of self-flagellation, especially during Holy Week, when the practice is very common in their country.

It seems from the article, that their biggest problem with the practice of self-flagellation is that it  “expresses superstitious beliefs and are usually done out of the need for money and for tourism purposes which is totally wrong.”

As far as self-flagellation done for tourism and money-making, I think everyone would be in agreement that if that were done for those reasons, it would always be wrong.  Again, if self-flagellation were done for superstitious beliefs, I think we all could agree, that would be wrong as well.

However, what if someone was self-flagellating for none of those reasons, but was doing it for a legitimate penitential motive?  Would it be wrong in that case?  How about Blessed Henry Suso?  Or the other great saints throughout the history of the Church.  Were they somehow “sinful” for self-flagellation?  If it was proper for saints in the past to practice self-flagellation, why is it wrong now?

I might add that it has recently been reported that Pope John Paul II practice self-flagellation as well.  I think that obviously, self-flagellation would not be for everyone, and could only be done under strict guidelines from a respected spiritual advisor.  But given those conditions, I believe that if the history of our Church is filled with saints who used this practice to enhance their spiritual life, it cannot be a practice that is no longer “needed” or somehow we have “outgrown”.

40 Days for Life September 23-November 1

Good afternoon my brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re closing in on 3 weeks prior to another 40 days for life prayer vigil. 40 Day’s for Life is a peaceful, prayerful witness to the sanctity of human life. As faithful servants to our Lord Jesus Christ, we must make a public protest against the encroaching culture of death that so thoroughly corrupts our society. Please join me in offering one hour per week in a prayful witness at the Planned Parenthood abortion mill at 990 Broadway in Vallejo. The vigil will go 24 hours for 40 days beginning September 23rd and ending on November 1st. I am actually responsible for filling the hours on Tuesday’s throughout the vigil. If you can choose an hour on Tuesday’s that would be most helpful, but of coarse any day that best suits your schedule is fine. I will be calling all of you in the next week to see if you can help. Please prayfully consider this opportunity to truly live out Christ’s call for us to be light to the World and salt to the Earth. God bless you and thank you for considering making a sacrifice for the pro-life movement in our community.


Tony Hensley

Catholic’s Becoming Like Protestants?

In a recent article in Christianity Today the author explores the reasons why Pro-Life Protestants ignore the Annunciation.  It is a good question and it seems the answer is that the Annunciation is “too Catholic” .

I think that as a Catholic, we too are falling away from the importance of the Annunciation in our liturgy and theology.  The Annunciation is a Holy Day of Obligation.  It is just not a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States.  One of the many reasons why it is not a Holy Day of Obligation is because it is considered a “Marian Feast”.  Because it is considered a Marian Feast and that it always occurs during Lent, or in the Holy Week, the U.S. Bishops in 1887 decided not to include it as a Holy Day of Obligation.  However, throughout the Universal Church, not only is it a Holy Day of Obligation, it was also considered a Feast of Christ.

In any event, the Annunciation is not widely celebrated in the Catholic Church.  Why?  There are too many answers for that question, so I will pose another.  Why not?  Why not celebrate the Annunciation as if it were a Holy Day of Obligation.  There is little doubt about the powerful affect celebrating this Feast day would have in our Parishes:  Not only would we be celebrating the Paschal mystery of our Lord, but we would also be celebrating and educating our parishioners about the importance of God becoming man, Mary’s “yes” to be a mother unconditionally, and the upfront fact that from the moment of conception, one is a human being and is precious.

So let us start being Catholic, and celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation as if it were a Holy Day!   And maybe even bring a Protestant friend along as well.

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Personhood Amendment: Winning the Abortion War Without Exception

Since 1973, many different tactics and approaches have been put forward by the Pro-life movement here in the United States.  I think it can be safely stated, that as far as these approaches and tactics have concerned making abortion illegal in this land, they have all been an unmitigated disaster.  37 years later, we are farther away from making abortion illegal in this country, and the more the years go by, the farther and farther away we go.  Can we really say that the approaches we have taken are even slightly successful, when there is still debate about whether taxpayer money should be used to kill the innocent?  The fact that it is still debateable should be a sign to all of us who deeply care about the unborn, that what we have been doing to accomplish our goal is not working.

So what needs to change you ask?  I think the only approach that will finally and once and for all end the killing is a constitutional amendment granting “personhood” to all from conception to natural death.  However, this idea of a personhood amendment is not new.  In 1974 a New York Senator named James Buckley brought a human life amendment to the Senate, and a quick search on this topic shows that 12 other human life amendments have been presented to Congress from 1973-2003.

The most outspoken proponent for a “Personhood” Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is Jude Brown of the American Life League.  Jude Brown has been at the forefront of the Pro-Life movement since before Roe v. Wade became the desecration and abomination of the land.  Mrs. Brown has on many occasions clearly articulated the reasons why a personhood amendment is the only way to win the abortion war going on in this country.  In this article, Mrs. Brown further states the reasons as why the amendment process is the only way to proceed at this point.  Further, and more to the point, Mrs. Brown discusses the reasons why allowing exceptions to our cause, has doomed us to failure.  We cannot allow “exceptions”, such as the “health and well-being of the mother” or “in cases of rape or incest”, to be used any more in pro-life speak.  Those “exceptions” are not Pro-Life!  We are being hypocrites when we say that abortion is wrong, but it is okay in these instances.  We must now take a firm inventory of ourselves and the pro-life movement and decide what we really want.  Do we want to limit abortion?  Or do we want to end abortion?

As Catholics we are all called to end abortion.  Limiting abortion may sound good in practice and at cocktail parties, but in reality, innocent life is still being murdered, and mothers womb’s are still being ripped apart.  We must do all we can to end the horror.

So, can a personhood amendment achieve the end to abortion?  I believe it is the only way we can win the war.  But, we won’t win with the “exception” mentality.  As mentioned above, Sen. Buckley’s amendment in 1974 was the first human life amendment proposed in the Senate.  The “exceptions” were of course debated at that time.  The cardinal from Boston,Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, made the following statement at the time:

“As for an amendment which would generally prohibit abortion but permit it in certain exceptional circumstances, such as when a woman’s life is considered to be threatened, the Catholic Conference does not endorse such an approach in principle and could not conscientiously support it.”

Interestingly enough, and despite the good Cardinal’s reiteration of Catholic teaching, guess what was in Sen. Buckley’s human life amendment?  You got it, an exception to abortion in the case of the life of the mother!  If you look at the other 12 proposed human life amendments, most, if not all, had language providing “exceptions” to abortion.  Is it any surprise that none of these proposed amendments had any success?

The pro-life movement needs to unite around this personhood amendment strategy in order finally and forever, defeat the culture of death.

I am well aware that the majority of Americans support abortion; either outright, or within one or more of the “exceptions”, but that should not matter when trying to prevent an abhorrent evil.  We cannot compromise with evil, lest we condone evil ourselves.

It is my belief that we are not winning, or even on the verge of winning this war, because too many good people in the pro-life movement have bought into this incrementalist approach that allows exceptions to abortion or worse, abortion itself, because the legislation may limit abortion in some unforeseen way.

These good people also believe that taking the “all or nothing” approach is too extreme and too hard a fight to see any results.  However, what results have we seen with the current approach?  In 37 years there have been over 40 million abortions in this country!  It is plainly obvious we need to reorganize our attack and focus all of our efforts on promoting and passing a Personhood Amendment that would protect all life from beginning to natural end.

To that end, California is in the process of gather petitions to place a Personhood Amendment on the November 2010 ballot.  Please go to this website for further information:

Documentary to examine Blood Money motive in abortion industry

Documentary to examine Blood Money motive in abortion industry

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Social Justice Encyclicals


Summary of the Main Encyclicals and Documents

Rerum Novarum: On the Condition of Labour (Leo XIII, 1891)

Lays out the rights and responsibilities of capital and labour;
Describes the role of Government in a just society;
Condemns atheistic communism;
Upholds the right to private property.

Quadragesimo Anno: On Reconstructing the Social Order (Pius XI, 1931)

Condemns the effects of greed and concentrated political and economic power and proposes that social organisation be based on the principle of subsidiarity.

Mater et Magistra: Mother and Teacher (John XXIII, 1961)

Identifies the widening gap between the rich and poor nations as a global concern of justice;
Raises concerns about the arms race;
Calls upon Christians to work for a more just world.

Pacem in Terris: Peace on Earth (John XXIII, 1963)

Focus on human rights as the basis for peace;
Calls for disarmament;
Stating the need for a world-wide institution to promote and safeguard the universal common good.

Gaudium et Spes: The Church in the Modern World (Vatican Council document, 1965)

Clear recognition that the Church is immersed in the modern world;
Condemns poverty;
Warns about the threat of nuclear war;
Christians must work to build structures that uphold justice and peace.

Populorum Progressio: On the Development of Peoples (Paul VI, 1967)

Focus on human development – ‘development is the new name for peace’;
Condemns the situation that gives rise to global poverty and inequality;
Calls for new international organisations and agreements that promote justice and peace.

Octogesima Adveniens: An Apostolic Letter: A Call to Action (Paul VI, 1971)

Calls for political action for economic justice;
Develops the role of individual local churches in responding to unjust situations and acting for justice.

Justice in the World (Synod of Bishops, 1971)

States that “action for justice” is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.

Evangeli Nuntiandi: Evangelisation in the Modern World (Paul VI, 1975)

Links the work of doing justice with evangelisation;
The Gospel is about liberation from all oppressive structures;
Respect for cultures.

Laborum Exercems: On Human Work (John Paul II, 1981)

Affirms the dignity of work and the dignity of the worker;
Affirms the rights of labour;
Calls for workplace justice.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis: The Social Concerns of the Church (John Paul II, 1987)

Includes the “option for the poor” as a central tenet of Church teaching;
Also develops the notions of ‘solidarity’, the ‘structures of sin’ and ‘the social mortgage on property’;
Suggests that the resources used for the arms race be dedicated to the alleviation of human misery;
Nature must be considered in development.

Peace with God the Creator, Peace with Creation – Pastoral Letter (John Paul II, 1990)

The ecological crisis is a moral crisis facing humanity;
Respect for nature and ecological responsibility is a key tenet of faith;
The integrity of creation must be upheld;
Ecological education to nurture a new global solidarity that takes account of nature.

Centesimus Annus: One Hundred Years (John Paul II, 1991)

Reaffirms the principles of Catholic Social Teaching over one hundred years;
Celebrates Rerum Novarum;
Identifies the failures of both socialist and market economies.

(This Summary has been adapted and developed from NETWORK 1998,  Shaping a New World, pp 5-11)


Planned Parenthood’s Crazy Notion of Women’s Universal Healthcare

The President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, blasts the U.S. Bishops for wanting universal healthcare that does not include abortion.  Why is she surprised by the U.S. Bishops action?  What did she expect them to “okay” abortion in this instance because universal healthcare is so important?

Cecile Richards
Cecile Richards

No.  Ms. Richards is just another anti-Catholic in a long line of anti-Catholics and worse, i.e. Margaret Sanger, who head Planned Parenthood, who attempt to use twisted logic and twisted, macabre examples, to not only bash the Catholic hierarchy, but also to push her sick and bizarre notion of “woman’s healthcare”.  The notion that woman’s healthcare include services and devices that are “harmful” to all women, is something straight out of some wacky sci-fi novel where in the future, citizens are brainwashed into thinking that bad things are good for them, and good things are bad for them, all for the benefit and glory of one illustrious, ego centric dictator.  Sound familiar?

Ms. Richards uses the same old tired rhetoric in attempting to make the U.S. Bishops Conference into hairy armed cavemen when she states, “Their hard-line opposition to women’s rights also endangers millions of women around the globe — where women also need universal health care access. The effort to criminalize access to safe abortion endangers most women in the developing world — the very women that you would think the bishops would be concerned about.”

It is not enough for Ms. Richards that over 40 million Americans have been legally murdered in America since 1973, nor is it enough that this “healthcare” for women has raped this country of precious souls, that Ms. Richards wants and desires that U.S. taxpayer money go to other lands so the murder and rape can continue in foreign lands.  Who is the true barbarian?

Ms. Richards continues on that over 68,000 women across the world die each year from abortion.  But of course, the Catholic Church is to blame because we do not support artificial contraception.  “The root cause of unsafe abortion is unintended pregnancy, a result of the lack of affordable and accessible contraception for women. The correlation between higher contraceptive use and lower maternal mortality is well established.”

Sorry Ms. Richards.  The root cause of unsafe abortion is:  the ABORTION!  68,000 women die annually because of abortions, not from continuing their pregnancy to full term.  Ms. Richards answer for this is to have more accessible contraception for women.  The facts are that in countries where condoms and  the pill are prevalent, sexual intercourse increases, which increases the risk for pregancy and for sexually transmitted diseases.

The fact of the matter is the U.S. Bishops Conference needs to do more in standing up and supporting the Church’s position on human sexuality.  They need, along with the laity, to speak up that abortion is murder; that artificial contraception is not the answer for women’s healthcare, and that condoms are not an effective, nor desirable means to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The road Ms. Richards wants the U.S. to go down, has been trod before.  It is the road we are currently on since 1973, when abortion was legalized.  It is the road that Pope Paul VI warned about it in 1967 in Humanae Vitae, that abortion and contraception dehumanize women and places them as objects for mens sexual gratification, rather than as a loving partner between a husband and wife who are seeking to express their love for another through the sexual embrace.

It is obvious to anyone who wants to listen that the Catholic Church has been in the forefront of articulating the proper human sexuality (see Pope John Paul II and his Theology of the Body) and what true universal healthcare for everyone is all about.  The U.S. Bishops are on the right track, but much more is needed to be done if we are going to overthrow our current culture of death.

The Tiller Murder is a Blow to the Pro-Life Movement

The murder of the notorious Abortionist, George Tiller, on Sunday, was a horrific and violent event.  The killing of a human being, without justification, is always wrong, regardless of who that person might be, or what that person does for a living.  In my opinion, Dr. George Tiller was a murderer.  However, Dr. Tiller murdered those babies, (some say 60,000 by his hand alone!) within the confines of the law; meaning he acted legally, and therefore he did  not actually commit murder, under the legal definition of murder  in the United States.  Therefore, any violent or forcible act to prevent him from performing more abortions would be unjust and immoral.

Most of us in the pro-life movement, understand this; we would never commit a violent act upon anyone to achieve our goals of ending abortions by making them illegal, and unwanted.  We know and understand that the only way to stop abortions is to ask God for forgiveness and mercy, and pray in the name of Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother Mary, to change the hearts of those seeking and performing abortions.  We understand that our goal to end abortions in the world will not be accomplished by anything we do, but will be accomplished by God in His mercy.

The murder of Dr. Tiller, I believe, is a tragic blow to the pro-life movement as a whole.  Just by watching the news the last few days, once again, the pro-life movement is now categorized as a lunatic, terrorist group, whose modus operandi is to commit violent acts and murder.  This at a time in the pro-life movement, when after the 2008 election we were at our lowest point, and more recently when the most prestigious Catholic university in America, Notre Dame, honored the most pro-abortion President ever in Barrack Obama, this murder takes us further away from our goal than we have ever been.  Although a recent poll showed that people identifying themselves as pro-life to be the majority for the first time since polls were taken in this area, a closer inspection of the polls does not support this finding.  51% of those polled identified themselves as pro-life, yet 76% stated that abortion should be legal either in all or limited circumstances.  That does not sound pro-life to me.  So with this backdrop, this murder may only further dilute our message of respecting life at all stages.

And not surprisingly, the media is now bent on showing Dr. Tiller as the martyred saint for the pro-choice crowd.  Dr. Tiller, far from being a saint, was an opportunist at best, and a murderer at worst.  But now, with his murder, the “high ground” that had been ours for years (at least the last 10 years), is now with the pro-abort gangs, because of the murder of their fallen hero.

To make matters worse, the media is also attempting to connect statements made by pro-life leaders, such as the Catholic Bishops, and conservative television hosts, like Bill O’Reilly, to place blame for the murder of George Tiller at their feet because they had the gall to speak out and say that what George Tiller was doing was murder.  Never mind the fact that none of these people ever abdicated violence or suggested in any way that violent acts be committed to stop the abortions. But that doesn’t matter to a media whose pro-abort views are clearly seen in their reporting of stories and in their editorial comments.

So where does that leave the Pro-Life movement?  First, we should speak loudly and forcefully that we do not condone any violent acts to achieve our goals; that violence is exactly what we are attempting to stop.  Second, we must continue to be vigilant in exposing the “falseness” of the “pro-choice” movement, by standing up for the truth, that all life is sacred from its beginning to its natural end.  And third, we must pray…and pray…and pray…

JUNO; Accidentally Pro-Life?

juno_l200712201428The film, Juno, is a movie I have been wanting to see since it hit the theatres in late 2007.  At that time it received all the Oscar buzz associated with much larger budgeted films.  I waited to watch the film because it had received so much attention from the pro-life world, that I wanted to watch it when all the furor had died down.  Well, I probably waited longer than I should have, but I did finally get around to watching it last night, and I was sure glad I did.

Briefly, Juno is a sixteen year old girl living in a Minnesota suburb with her father and step-mother (her mother abandoned her and moved to Hawaii and started a new family there) and five year old half sister.  Her best friend Leah, is a cheerleader, although it becomes obvious that the two of them are definitely not in the “in” crowd at school.  Her other best friend, is a boy in her class who also is a “track and field enthusiast”.  Paulie Bleeker (Bleeker)  is a long distance runner, and is probably best categorized as a “geek”, but Juno sees something in him that she is unsure about, but by the end of the film, she realizes that what she sees in him is love.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  The film starts with Juno and Bleeker having a very awkward and quick, sexual encounter, in a chair.  Shortly, we learn that Juno is pregnant.  Juno decides, after series of encounters, not to have an abortion, but to have her child and to give the child up for adoption.  Juno, with the help of Leah, find a couple looking to adopt in the PennySaver.  Juno and her father meet the couple, along with their lawyer, in perhaps one of the funniest scenes of the movie.  By  the end of the film, Juno not only gives birth to her child, but she also learns a lot about relationships and love.  

 Juno is definitely a film that finally promotes a pro-life position, but the film itself is not necessarily pro-life.  I loved Juno, and not just because Juno didn’t choose to have an abortion.  I loved the film because it was funny and serious, it is weird and realistic, and it has a fantastic soundtrack.  Juno is a beautiful, quirky film, with tremendous acting and fantastic writing.  While in the film, God is never mentioned, nor is any religious theme introduced into any of the characters, the fact that Juno decides to carry her baby full term and to “give up” her baby for adoption, is the kind of self-less, loving act that we need to see more of in film and in the written word.  Whatever the political, or religious views of the writer or director, Juno comes out strong in showing that having a child is more than just “me” and that  killing that life is just not an option.  I highly recommend Juno to all.