#38: Fighting Africa’s Battles–Obianuju Ekeocha

 

#38: Fighting Africa’s Battles–Obianuju Ekeocha


Ever see a bully and want to stand up to him, but couldn’t quite do it? Maybe fear got in the way, or you figured the net result wouldn’t be worth it. Obianuju (“Uju” for short) Ekeocha has mastered the art of standing up to bullies in the form of those who push the culture of death onto her beloved Africa.
In 2012, Uju had had enough of well-meaning First World leaders injecting contraception and abortion requirements into foreign policy to “help the poor Africans” and she wrote an Open Letter to Melinda Gates, wife of Bill.
That Letter went viral and the foundress of Culture of Life Africa  soon found herself debating pro-abortion advocates on the BBC, advising African Members of Parliament, and speaking at conferences around the world. In our interview, she shares insights into best practices for effectively and persuasively arguing on behalf of the culture of life.
Uju is working on a major book by Ignatius Press, titled Target Africa, and is crowdfunding a documentary. Inspiring!

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#37: Life After a Suicide Attempt—Luke Maxwell

#37: Life After a Suicide Attempt—Luke Maxwell


His 16-year-old hands were shaky on the steering wheel of the family van. Not old enough to legally drive, he stepped on the gas and gained speed. He heart raced, too, but more from dread than excitement, his eyes narrowed with dark zeal. He felt part zombie, part ghost, as though watching from outside himself as the nearest object loomed ahead, rushing toward him – an oncoming car. He yanked the wheel sharply into it, at 60 miles an hour.
It was the day Luke Maxwell tried to commit suicide.
From that terrible crash came a remarkable “upward bounce” to recovery and restoration. Luke spoke to me about the traits and feelings that indicate clinical depression, including the MMD (major depressive disorder) with which he was diagnosed in the hospital, almost on the spot.
Today, at 20, he talks to teens, parent groups, and various conferences about saying no to shame and yes to accepting the help you need if you suffer the scalding effects of depression. Here’s his website:  Do you know someone who might be depressed? Want to find out how to spot the signs? Listen on…

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How To Earn Enemies: Part Deux

The other week I posted a list of ten things that are guaranteed to garner enemies if you dare speak or write about them in the Catholic blogosphere. The negative feedback it generated validated my thesis in a marvelous way!

Since I couldn’t fit all the ELIs (Enemy List Items) into ten, here are ten more – because, let’s face it, telling uncomfortable truths can be both fun and freeing. In no particular order:

11. Harry Potter. Yes, even the most casual reference to the most famous Hogwarts alumnus will bring down the fire of the righteous. There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to Master Potter. It’s either a fairly entertaining fictional book for pre-teens and older nerds or a diabolical handbook on how to be come a witch for real. Anecdotally, I find that the most vociferous anti-Potterites have never (koff koff) read any of the books.

12. Yoga. Oh boy! One wades into the Land of Om at one’s peril. Yoga has morphed in the last decade or so into a litmus test for True Catholicism. Two camps dominate the papal corner of the internet: a) yoga is an introduction, pure and simple, to demon worship; and b) yoga is just harmless stretching so chill. The via media is hard to find here, namely that yoga draws upon an alien religious anthropology that may pose a danger to your soul, depending on your level of engagement.

13. Vaccinations. Duck! As the Glaswegians say, whether your fer or agin vaccinations, someone is going to blast you for your position. The less professional medical background and experience the more the vitriol, I find. But any mention of vaccinations is going to be an enemy magnet.

14. Liturgical abuse. Look out! The particulars don’t matter. It could be holding hands at the Our Father (we shouldn’t be doing it, not even if you add that little squeezy-poo at the end of the doxology), or liturgical dancing (we shouldn’t be doing it, at least not in suburban America pretending we’re in the outback of Ghana), or correcting folks who keep calling Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion “eucharistic ministers,” or adopting the orans position during the Our Father (there’s no provision in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for doing so)….matters liturgical sure get people royally riled! My usual reply is to bring some context: the Blessed Mother witnessed the worst liturgical abuse in the world while standing on Calvary.

15. Capital punishment. Thanks for the residual confusion stemming from the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin’s 1990s era “seamless garment” argument (which, in practice, equalized abortion and capital punishment), there is almost no way to have a balanced conversation about the liceity – however rarely applied – of the state’s ultimate punishment of evil doers. Bumper-sticker example: “It’s murder to show that murder is wrong!”

16. Catholic social teaching. There’s nothing wrong with CTS, of course. In fact, I wish it were better known because it provides a third way beyond socialism on the one hand, and usury-based free market capitalism on the other. It’s precisely because it’s not well understood – and because its level of magisterial authority is not clear to most Catholics — that it generates so much heat. Broaching CST online will draw unto yourself charges that you’re a commie or the monocled, top-hatted rich guy from Monopoly.

17. Fornication. Or its current euphemism “living together.” Any pastor or any member of the lay faithful who raises so much as half an eyebrow about the spiritual and emotional dangers attached to sexual relations before marriage is destined to be pilloried as a judgmental doctor of the law, a Pharisee, a terrible no good awful person.

18. Immigration. Of course, this is code for “illegal immigration.” You know, immigration that breaks federal law. Immigrants built this great country. Without them, we’d all be speaking Mohawk and bracing for winter about now. But don’t bring up the morality or legality of “migrants” or “migrant workers” without preparing to be flamed, my friend.

19. The Republican Party. Not going there.

20. The Democrat Party. See No 19.

BONUS!

21. Crying Babies in Church. The social science data complied over the last 40 years strongly suggests that babies cry quite frequently, and, at times, quite loudly. They also exhibit a disturbing lack of self-control. Yes, these little narcissists seem to exist for one reason: to annoy God’s holy praying people. No wonder God’s holy praying people shoot daggers at the selfish parents for not breaking land speed records toward the crying room (that’s why God created the crying room – is anyone listening to me?!) to rid us of their lachrymose plays for attention.

 

36: St. John Paul II and Ronald Reagan: The Friendship That Changed History

36: St. John Paul II and Ronald Reagan: The Friendship That Changed History—Dr. Paul Kengor


Most people are unaware of the mutual admiration and friendship John Paul the Great had with President Reagan. With differing on Christian teachings, they were acutely aware they had the same Teacher. Both survived close-up attempts at assassination, both immediately forgave their attackers, and both were passionate about bringing down the godless Soviet Communist leviathan that Reagan tagged, “the evil empire.”
Their partnership, based on moral authority and transcendent truth, did bring down the Soviet Union and all its pomps and works. Yes, there were other players in that drama, and one of them is Ven. Fulton Sheen. Another is Our Lady of Fatima.
That’s right. Fatima. As you’ll find out, not only did President Reagan learn about Fatima and its prophetic message about the spread of Russia’s errors from his dear friend the Polish Pope, he (Reagan) identified his life work in some way as being involved in a divine plan, which he nicknamed “DP.”
The fascinating details are found in Kengor’s definitive double biography, A Pope and President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20the Century.
This is a really interesting conversation with a natural born story teller and historian, Paul Kengor, complete with plenty of sidebar excursions into Things Sheen.
 
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#35: Why Capital Punishment is Justified–Edward Feser

#35: Why Capital Punishment is Justified–Edward Feser


Fog of confusion has settled over the Catholic Church on a number of fundamental teachings in the last 50 years. This is the certainly the case with capital punishment. Countless Catholics have been led to believe that “the death penalty” is morally equivalent to abortion, and many documents from the episcopal level have appeared urging Catholics to vote against laws supporting it.
The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago tried to square the circle with his “seamless garment” approach. While Catholic moral teaching does belong to a whole tradition and thus can’t be segmented into separate silos, the net result of the Bernardin proposal has been further confusion.
Did the Catholic Church change her teaching on capital punishment under Pope Saint John Paul II? What about the informal remarks by Pope Francis? What does the Bible say about it? Are there conditions under which a Catholic can still support capital punishment in good conscience?
Enter Dr. Ed Feser, co-author with Joseph Bessette for a substantial guide to these questions and more.

The book is titled By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment, and you owe it to yourself to become familiar with what was once unexceptional and ultimately unquestionable.

In this interview, Feser tackles the main objections I threw at him based on the many denunciations of capital punishment I have heard in my life. Finally, a voice of clarity and reason speaking to an issue so prone to emotion and sentimentalism.

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Want Enemies? Write About These Ten Things

There is a list of topics that, if Catholic writers dare touch them, will get you immediate and strong objections and bitter complains from readers. In no particular order, unless you enjoy acquiring enemies and readers who associate you with Satan, the music (sic) of John Cage, and the legs of Phyllis Diller, the following 10 topics will generate the most heat and the least light in your com box:

 

1. Immodest Dress. You can’t win here. No matter how gently you phrase “please remember to dress appropriately in church,” or “please try and avoid thongs at the beach,” a brigade of ill-wishers will storm your gates accusing you of hypocrisy, intolerance, and – the worst sin imaginable: judging. The advice to dress with decorum (think Melania Trump) will always be met with responses that ritually shame you because you think all women are sluts, or, in the case of low-information Catholic commenters, that “Jesus is just happy she’s in church, and you should be too, Hitler.”

2. Melania Trump. Don’t go there. Anyone who invokes Mrs. Trump with any positive allusion or comparison (unless it’s negative and you’re attacking her) you will be written off as an obvious alt-right Trumpian enemy of humanity, especially of Pope Francis.

3. Pope Francis. Good luck. Our current Holy Father’s habit of off-the-cuff pronouncements along with his promoting and de-promoting of certain Church prelates make it awfully easy to see politics everywhere. All Pontiffs are called to be signs of contradiction and, in a certain sense, a lightning rod. Of all lightning rods, Pope Francis is the roddiest. Write about him and his teaching style at your peril.

4. Pornography. Here’s another one. While we can all (?) agree that porn involving animals, children, midgets, violence, BDSM, and D-list celebrities who’ll do anything at this point, are immoral, don’t bring up Game of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Grey unless you want otherwise practicing Catholics to fire when ready at your head. Clue: in today’s climate of mushy catechesis and zero evangelization, supposedly good writing and interesting storylines trump any problems with depictions of pointless nudity and sexual acts.

5. The word trump. See number 2 above.

6. Anything gay-related. Duh.

7. Canon 915. Another classic no-win topic. If you’re, say, a self-described Catholic politician, and you publically vote for abortion rights and the redefinition of marriage, Canon 915 states that you are forbidden from receiving Holy Communion because of the danger to your soul (see 1 Corinthians 11 for the reasons why). Well, it turns out, no one outside of the fevered swamps of the Catholic blogosphere cares much. The proof is in the pudding. Can you name a single person ever to be refused Holy Communion, apart from priests who were publically castigated for doing so?

8. Medjugorje: Oh, dear. While some of the bloom has been taken off the world’s most popular unapproved apparition in history (Pope Francis has made clear his lack of enthusiasm, and Pope Emeritus Benedict told one writer he has never thought Medjugorje was authentic), the phenomenon shows no signs of going away just yet. Every official pronouncement of every Commission and of every sitting bishop of Mostar-Duvno has been negative: non constat de supernaturalitate (there is no proof of something supernatural) and the personal view of Bishop Pavao Zanic and the current Ordinary Ratko Peric has always been constat de non supernaturalitate (there is proof that it’s not supernatural).

9. Islam. Duh.

10. Church music. Fools rush in where angelic choirs fear to tread. The music scene in the Catholic Church since, oh, about 1962, has been in crisis. Whether you crave Palestrina or the Marty Haugen/David Haas/St. Louis Jesuit monster, if you weigh in with an opinion about which music is best fitted to liturgical worship – duck!

 

I here keep breaking my own rules. When will I ever learn?