Book Review: Renewal

renewal1Renewal is a new book analyzing the conflict between conservatives and progressives within the Catholic Church in the United States over the past fifty years.

Co-written by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White, the book surveys the crisis that the Church has faced in our country since the Second Vatican Council. Why did vocations to the priesthood decline so precipitously for so long? What have dioceses done to reverse this decline? What has worked? What hasn’t?

The book’s premise is that orthodox bishops and priests are ushering in a new era in the Church, healing the damage that heterodox clerics have done over the past several decades. The authors convincingly prove their case. The proof is in the numbers, with vocations and renewal blossoming in those dioceses with solid bishops, while vocations continue to barely trickle in in dioceses with not-so-solid ones.

Many hot topics get good discussion and examination: the women’s ordination movement (as well as the failed experiment of female “lay parish administrators” with priest as subordinate sacramental helper), the problem of universities that are Catholic in name only, the Obama administration’s attacks on religious freedom.

While much of the book’s content was known to me, nonetheless it was shocking to see it all collected in one place. The numbers don’t lie. As all orthodox Catholics know, the only way to be fruitful is to remain on the vine of Christ. And we remain on the vine by obeying Him (see John 15). Those Catholics who have not obeyed Him have caused destruction within the Church, the effects of which will be endured for decades to come.

That said, the book’s message is one of hope. The renewal that is going on in the Church is real and is growing. The not-so-secret secret is that faithful bishops matter, a fact that Pope Emeritus Benedict knew very well, and that Pope Francis is continuing to support. The new episcopal appointments from Texas and in surrounding states like New Mexico, Louisiana, and California have been awesome. I have personally known some of the priests ordained to be new bishops; men of courage, of stalwart faith and orthodoxy, as well as moral character.

Renewal is a timely book, important for anyone involved in vocations, dioceses, or parish work to read. It is also a good book to give to someone who wants to know the state of the Catholic union in the U.S.

Separation of Church and State on the 4th of July

Happy and blessed 4th of July to you!

What a great country we live in; for all of its problems, it is great in countless ways, and I am grateful to God for the United States of America.

I’ve been reading Original Intent, by David Barton, and I am on the chapter where he describes the “misleading metaphor” of the “separation of Church and State”.

We all know this phrase, and I think if you asked most people, they would say it means that religious symbols and arguments have no place in State institutions or State-sponsored events.  This understanding is prevalent due in large part to the success of groups like the ACLU, and it is gravely erroneous.

The result is that the ACLU has succeeded in erasing markers of religious history and influence from hundreds if not thousands of State objects with their wrong arguments, based around the deliberate misinterpretation of the “separation of Church and State”.

So what does it mean?  Who said it, and when, and to whom, and in what context?

President Thomas Jefferson said it in an exchange of letters with the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut.  The Baptists were happy Jefferson was elected President because there were groups in the U.S. pushing for a State-sponsored Christian denomination, in particular the Episcopalians and Congregationalists, and these groups interpreted the First Amendment as aiding their arguments for a national denomination.

The Baptists, and Thomas Jefferson, did not want a State-sponsored denomination because, among other things, it would indicate that the God-given, inalienable right to free exercise of religion was really a right that depended on the government’s whim.

And Thomas Jefferson and the other founders intended the First Amendment exactly to oppose a State-sponsored denomination and prevent the government from meddling in the religious practice of its people.

Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.  I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association assurances of my high respect and esteem. [emphasis mine]

Jefferson affirms that religious liberties were inalienable, God-given rights, and that the wall of separation between Church and State was “not to limit religious activities in public; rather, they were to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions.”

Isn’t it interesting that groups like the ACLU have twisted this phrase to suit their own atheistic agenda?  We must educate ourselves and turn back the tide to reestablish the true foundations of our nation and the freedoms we possess at the labor, sweat, blood, and tears of our forefathers.

Lord, please bless our country and every person in it!