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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

michalowskiToo often our understanding of what it is to be pro-life is seen from a domestic, political point of view. If we really understand what it is to be pro-life from the point of view of the past 50 years of papal teaching – the teaching of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis – it is to stand with Jesus Christ and His Incarnation.

Each Christmas we celebrate the fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Son of God entered into humanity, not just to save us from sin, but to share in human life and to lead us to eternal life.

As one of the Cappadocian Fathers of the Church said more than 1,500 years ago, “Christ became human that humans might become God.” By this he means that by grace human nature can be transformed from the certainty of death and decay to share in eternal life.

To be pro-life is to share by grace in the power of Christ’s resurrection. “He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil 3:21). It is to share in God’s desire for the world – to save all.

As St. Paul says, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation… So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” ( I Cor 5:17-18, 20).
In becoming human, Jesus embraced all of human life that He might reconcile all of life and all peoples to the Father. Thus Jesus embraced all of life from embryo to death and all peoples – Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, poor and rich, uneducated and educated, child and adult, sick and healthy, rural and urban, pariah and upper society, sinner and saint. His goal is that all are one in Christ Jesus.

By grace we can “put on Christ,” put on His eyes and voice and heart. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has not body on earth but your, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which Christ is to bless all people now.”
What concretely does this mean in the year 2018? Our next two reflections will try to flesh this out.

— Jesuit Father John Michalowski is parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Charlotte.

michalowskiToo often our understanding of what it is to be pro-life is seen from a domestic, political point of view. If we really understand what it is to be pro-life from the point of view of the past 50 years of papal teaching – the teaching of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis – it is to stand with Jesus Christ and His Incarnation.

Each Christmas we celebrate the fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Son of God entered into humanity, not just to save us from sin, but to share in human life and to lead us to eternal life.

As one of the Cappadocian Fathers of the Church said more than 1,500 years ago, “Christ became human that humans might become God.” By this he means that by grace human nature can be transformed from the certainty of death and decay to share in eternal life.

To be pro-life is to share by grace in the power of Christ’s resurrection. “He will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Phil 3:21). It is to share in God’s desire for the world – to save all.

As St. Paul says, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation… So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.” ( I Cor 5:17-18, 20).
In becoming human, Jesus embraced all of human life that He might reconcile all of life and all peoples to the Father. Thus Jesus embraced all of life from embryo to death and all peoples – Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, poor and rich, uneducated and educated, child and adult, sick and healthy, rural and urban, pariah and upper society, sinner and saint. His goal is that all are one in Christ Jesus.

By grace we can “put on Christ,” put on His eyes and voice and heart. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has not body on earth but your, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which Christ is to bless all people now.”
What concretely does this mean in the year 2018? Our next two reflections will try to flesh this out.

— Jesuit Father John Michalowski is parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Charlotte.

Who count as persons?

Who count as persons?

"Who Count As Persons?" is the title of a book by the Jesuit ethicist Father John Kavanaugh. In it, he defines what it is to be a person and shows what the ethical consequences of that understanding are. Arguing from a philosophical viewpoint, he shows the limitations and fallacies of those who argue from a materialist or a dualistic or a utilitarian or a Marxist or a consumerist or a linguistic or a mechanistic or a “performist” philosophy or point of view. That list of inadequate and dangerous positions is matched by 50 pages of backnotes in a 233-page book.

Why are these positions inadequate or dangerous? They hold that certain people don’t count and can be eliminated. They range from Mao’s willingness to lose 200 million Chinese in a nuclear war, to a Princeton ethicist’s claim that a three-year old Labrador retriever has more right to live than your newborn baby. They range from Margaret Sanger and her Ivy League professor friends’ eugenics movement to rid the U.S. of defectives such as poor African-Americans, Central and Southern European immigrants and Down Syndrome children, to the demonization of one’s enemies whether they be German or Japanese, North Korean, Isis, Jews, Rohinga, drug addicts, immigrants or Americans.

These philosophical and ethical positions are more than matched by political, racial, class, economic, national, religious or security reasons for killing or disregarding other human beings. Millions are aborted because they are the wrong gender, particularly in China and India, or in the U.S. because the mother is poor and unmarried, or is pressured by the baby's father or her parents not to “ruin her life.” Millions die due to malaria, HIV, diarrheal diseases such as cholera, or starvation because they were born in poor countries (which don’t count in terms of the geopolitics of rich nations). More than 65 million people, driven out of their countries by war, oppression or poverty, live in refugee camps.

While Kavanaugh argues for the primacy of the human person in moral philosophy, as Catholic Christians we know that Jesus died to save us all. No one was left out, unless he or she chooses to be left out. We know that in our minds. It is through prayer, grace and the encounter with others who are different from us that that truth seeps into our hearts and into our hands. One of the greatest and most frightening gifts is to see any other person, and throuth them, to see Christ. When we let Jesus in, He brings all of His brothers and sisters in with Him, and they are a motley crew. Of course, so are we.

Who count as persons? We all do. This is why a pro-life position must be a seamless garment, like the garment that Mary wove for her Son.

— Jesuit Father John Michalowski is parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Charlotte.

Christ's seamless garment is pro-person, pro-life

Christ’s seamless garment Is pro-person, pro-life

Christ shows us that every person counts. For 51 years every pope from Paul VI to Pope Francis have called on Catholics and all people of goodwill to recognize that we all share in Christ’s mission to reconcile all persons and all things. As Pope Paul VI said in 1967 in "On the Development of Peoples," we are called to foster the integral development of each person and all persons. The economic, familial, political, religious and social rights of each person – indeed, of all people – must be both recognized and fostered. No person, family, community or nation can be left out. At a time when colonial empires were dissolving in Pope Paul VI's time, colonial powers have a special responsibility to their former colonies, he noted.

St. John Paul II from his first encyclical, "The Redeemer of Humankind" through "The Gospel of Life" ("Evangelium vitae") and into his writings on the Eucharist and the Jubilee Year 2000, stressed “a correct scale of values: the primacy of being over having, of the person over things.” ("Evangelium vitae," 98). “In helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned – as well as the child in the womb and the old person who is suffering or near death – we have the opportunity to serve Jesus. … Where life is involved, the service of charity must be profoundly consistent. It cannot tolerate bias or discrimination … We need then to ‘show care’ for all life and for the life of everyone.” ("Evangelium vitae," 87).

In "On Social Concern," the Pope spoke of “structures of sin” which continue to haunt our world, “on the one hand, the all-consuming desire for profit, and on the other, the thirst for power, with the intention of imposing one’s will upon others. …If certain forms of modern ‘imperialism’ were considered in the light of these moral criteria, we would see that hidden behind certain decisions, apparently only inspired by economics or politics, are real forms of idolatry: of money, ideology, class, technology.” (37).

Pope Benedict XVI has written that: “One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.” (Charity in Truth, 28). Thus he speaks of food and water insecurity, the downsizing of social security systems, the growing inequality in wealth, corruption, abortion, the denial of religious freedom, unemployment, the importance of distributive and social justice in a market economy, etc.

What the popes of the past 50 years have written about and supported, Pope Francis has taken to heart. He calls on all Catholics, all Christians, all Jews and Muslims and people of goodwill to create a world that God would recognize as His own.

How well do we recognize the value of each person?

— Jesuit Father John Michalowski is parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Charlotte.

Two standards: Will we follow Christ’s?

Two standards: Will we follow Christ’s?

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius asks the retreatant to compare the value system of Satan and the value system of Christ. The retreatant is to ask for the grace to see how each system exists in the world and in his or her life, and then to ask for the grace to embrace the standard of Christ.

The Jesuit ethicist Father John Kavanaugh points out the dominance of the standard of Satan in the events of the past 100 years: “The history of the 20th century can be read as a catalogue of expendable people. Armenians, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Aboriginal peoples, Africans, Afrikaaners, Jews, Lebanese, Palestinians, American Blacks, White Russians, Serbians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Tibetans, Nicaraguans, Argentines, Mestizos, East Timorese, Algerians, Cubans, Bosnians, Rwandans, and Chinese have all seen themselves placed upon the victim’s altar: a slaughtering-block of history.” “The destruction of personal existence is closest to each of us in advanced industrial technologies in the area of medical ethics, however. The killing of marginal, damaged, or unfinished human beings has been offered to us as the most highly rationalized, socially acceptable, and culturally strategic form of extinguishing personhood. In controversies concerning the beginning and the ending of human life, the phenomena of depersonalization and human devaluation mark public discourse and national policy.” ("Who Count As Persons?" (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2001), pp. 114, 125).
How different is the standard of Christ who said: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another.” (John 13:34). He then laid down His life for us on the cross. “He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. …And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation… So we are ambassadors for Christ… (2 Cor 5:14, 18, 20).

The standard of Christ is love, service and compassion.

As Pope Francis said Jan. 1 in his message on the World Day of Peace: “In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.” (1) “The wisdom of faith fosters a contemplative gaze that recognizes that all of us ‘belong to one family, migrants and the local population that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded.”(3) “Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combing four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.” (4)

Pope Francis has said that the Church – you and I and all Christians – are called to be a love story, disciples sent by Christ to share the Father’s love. “Every one of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we understand nothing about what the Church is.” ("Encountering Truth," p. 35). “Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.” ("The Joy of the Gospel," 39). “But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much to our friends and wealthy neighbors, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you.” ("The Joy of the Gospel," 48). The homeless, the unemployed, the sick, the unborn, the elderly, the refugee, the prisoner, the traumatized, the addict, the migrant, the minority – the list goes on, but God’s love is greater.

May we pray that the Spirit will open our hearts wider, as Jesus’ arms were opened wide in love on the cross.

— Jesuit Father John Michalowski is parochial vicar at St. Peter Church in Charlotte.