Upcoming events will be announced in this section.
Upcoming events will be announced in this section.
A lot of effort is expended by Christians talking about the problem of pornography (we hear of the scourge of porn, the dangers and damages of porn ) and so little effort on what to do about it, at least on a personal level. Last week on Catholic Answers Live, I interviewed a young man with a plan. Denver-Based Everett Fritz has written a combat manual, titled Freedom: Battle Strategies for Conquering Temptation. It’s a slightly misleading title for two reasons: a) women stuck in the porn rut will profit much from Fritz’s insights into the habit cycle that feeds porn use; and b) it’s not focused on generic “temptation” but sexual sin in particular. Which is a good thing. (Have you noticed how preachers avoid the S word when listing different kinds of sins? You’d think gluttony and avarice are the biggest, most secret vices today.) HERE is the interview, followed by live callers. The real solution to addictive or compulsive porn use involves steering clear of two extremes:1) moralizing without mercy (“that’s a mortal sin! Repent or perish!”); 2) excusing through therapy-speak (“you have a disease no different than influenza or diabetes”). What does the middle ground — the golden mean — look like? It looks like hard work, and a complete reliance on the grace of God. Fritz’s hilariously titled chapter, “Dump Your Fake Girlfriend,” identifies the role played by porn in the lives of so many men today, married and single, and how to begin to be set free, by….. Dumping it. If you want to get rid of porn, and all its pomps and all its works and all its empty promises, you have to decide now to dump it now — not a) negotiate better terms with it; not b) wish it away; and not c) use the Sacrament of Confession as a car wash — where the cleanliness is 1/1o0o of an inch deep — while the “interior” (a symbol of the mind and heart) is untouched by grace and a firm purpose of amendment. Dumping means removing access. So do you or a loved one a huge favor. Start with the a test drive of the best blocker and accountability software on the market (my opinion after trying options and researching alternatives): COVENANT EYES. (This link gets you a 30-day free trial.) Would you let a maniac have access to your front door to molest you or your children? Duh — no. So why would you let the maniacal porn industry have access through the internet? Everyone with a mobile device, laptop, or home computer, has the world’s largest collection of pornography in his hands. The most terrifying, often illegal, pornographic images are one click away. I was on a staff retreat once, led by Father Paul Check of Courage International. He said many insightful things on that retreat but one that stuck with me is: “God is not harmed by our sins. He’s God. The reason sin is offensive to Him is that it has the power to destroy what He loves most.” What does He love most? You. And me. Be a saint, what else is there? Patrick PS. I’m writing a free e-book on how to stay cool and calm when the arguments heats up. Stay tuned! ...read more
Do you know how the Vietnam War started? Until last month, I hadn’t really thought about it. I knew the French were there before World War II; I knew (vaguely) about Ho Chi Minh in the North; and I knew that the Soviet Union and the United States were playing a game of Cold War chess by proxy. The rest I “learned” from Oliver Stone, and from the endless stream of movies about troubled (invariably anti-War) Vietnam vets. None of this prepared me for The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngô Đình Diệm, President of Vietnam (Ignatius: 2015) by Canadian military historian Dr. Geoffrey Shaw. Who was Ngô Đình Diệm (pronounced roughly NO DIN YIM)? President Diệm was passionately anti-Communist, highly educated, and he venerated the traditions of the mainly Buddhist and Confucian Vietnam. Diệm was not perfect, and (yes, it’s complicated) his enemies in the Kennedy Administration’s State Department plotted with increasing zeal to have him removed as they fed a media narrative that painted Diệm as (at best) a tyrannical dictator. Eventually the cabal convinced a vacillating John F. Kennedy to authorize a coup to remove Diệm by force. What the American press and many historians leave out was: Diệm’s intense Catholic faith. Shaw’s riveting account is a heavily foot-noted wrecking ball against the anti-Diệm propaganda and a corrective that has ignored or denied the man’s Catholic formation and the daily practice of faith, which, in the end, explain his reputation for fairness and non-violence under near-impossible political conditions. The U.S.-backed coup went down on November 2, 1963, when Diệm and his brother Ngô Đình Nhu were abducted after early morning Mass on the Solemnity of All Souls. Within minutes, they were disemboweled by Army assassins in a military vehicle before being shot to death. I get angry just repeating what happened to them — all of it, ultimately, stemming from the say-so of the ostensibly Catholic President Kennedy and those who pressured him to oust a fellow head of state who was unwilling to play the puppet role for the American government. This allegedly brutal dictator (whose older brother Ngô Đình Thục was the archbishop of Huế) began each day with 6:30AM Mass and to this day, Catholics of Vietnamese extraction speak his name with reverent tones. Even Diệm’s enemies were shocked at how stupid the decision was to execute this ascetic, almost monastic, intellectual leader. (Most photographs of the late president show an almost beatific child-like man, per above.) The All Soul’s Day murders were the point of no return for the country. Nine years of excruciating diplomatic efforts vanished, plunging Vietnam into the downward death spiral that became the Vietnam conflict. Barely three weeks later, under a noonday Dallas sun on November 23, for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, what went around came around. HERE is my interview with author Geoff Shaw on Catholic Answers Focus about the complex, absorbing true story of this devoutly Catholic visionary of democratic statecraft. Ngô Đình Diệm, ora pro nobis....read more
Polite society prizes moderation, doesn’t it? We’re told (in a maxim with various versions) that “in all things moderation.” This is commonly understood to mean that the alternative to moderation is extremism, which is unwise, either because a) it peters out quickly; or b) it’s is rooted in a volatile emotional impulse. Makes sense, right? Yes, but. Here’s the post-but caveat. On the other hand, there are some contexts in which the maxim doesn’t apply. Like loving, for instance. Does the Bible warn against loving too much or too well or too long — or command us to love moderately? How long can the average marriage stay together if both spouses are only willing to be moderate in the way they serve and forgive one another? How many gold medals have been won by an athlete who trained moderately? I have an image in my head of a 500-page book, titled Great Moderates of History. Beautifully bound in handsome leather and gold leaf. And all the pages are blank. Which brings me to a pet peeve: the frequency with which the language of disagreement (particularly on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and letters to the editor) jumps straight to combative language. No one simply disagrees with anyone else — no, plain disagreement is now tagged as an “attack” or an act of “hitting out.” A response to a criticism is now “hitting back,” or “slapping back.” As far as I can tell, the habit is bipartisan. Both liberals and conservatives both do it: “I heard a crazy socialist attacking Rush Limbaugh today;” or “a Ted Cruz spokesman destroyed a smarmy reporter;” or “Bill Maher (or Ann Coulter or Fidel Castro or George Will or Chris Matthews) owned that guy during the Q&A.” The language of disagreement has morphed into the rhetoric of humiliation and hyperbole such that “winning the debate” (over the most trivial of disagreements) becomes, in the memorable term of Dr. Abraham Low, MD, “a symbolic victory.” It’s not enough to hold a contrary viewpoint. Today one is expected to project into the other guy a collection of evil intentions and “vitriol.” Com-box threads catch fire with insult and spittle faster than you can say, “Good point, Hitler.” It’s getting ridiculous. And it should embarrass Christians who value true dialogue and debate and who are taught to speak “with reverence and gentleness” (1 Peter 3:16). I have an idea. Let’s swap out moderation for balance. That way, we don’t have to sacrifice principles on the altar of compromise, and we don’t have to assume that people and their opinions comprise one thing. They don’t. People are made in God’s image and likeness, while their viewpoints and opinions are accidental, fleeting, and can change. Balance means discussing the latter without being disrespectful toward the former. When Jesus commands us to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:24; Luke 6:27) he’s assuming we can will the good of another even as we strongly disagree with him or her. Balance characterizes the Christian life in ways that “moderation” does not. The characteristically Catholic lens sees the world in such a way that joins apparent contraries, such as faith and works, human and divine, faith and reason, salvation as present and future, providence and free will, and so on. Rodney King wasn’t all wrong when he pleaded to the cameras, “Can’t we all just get along?” (You kids under...read more
The world and its worldly way of interpreting reality is getting stranger by the hour. Consider. Jeremy Irons is acknowledged by most movie and theatre lovers to be one of the greatest living actors. He endorsed Green Party candidate Caroline Lucas in 2015; his best man was the Openly Gay [tm] Christopher Biggins; and his big break came with Brideshead Revisited, the 1981 English TV miniseries with homoerotic undertones. A reasonable observer would say Mr Irons’ political views reflect a man of the Left. Fine. So why can’t this brilliant actor (his performance in Reversal of Fortune, in 1991, earned him the Best Actor Academy Award) catch a break when speaking his mind? When asked about “gay marriage” in a 2013 interview on HuffPost Live (which was supposed to be about his role in The Borgias series on Showtime), Mr. Irons asked rhetorically whether refining marriage might lead to a father and son marrying for the sake of avoiding inheritance taxes. It’s an excellent question, actually. The logic is inexorable. Redefining marriage away from the one-man-one-woman-with-openness-to-children leads to precisely such questions. Mr. Irons didn’t say it with hatred or judgement or advocacy one way or the other. He simply posed the question as a thought experiment. Doesn’t matter. He got hammered in the press and was called all manner of bad names (like homophobic) for his troubles. And, as inevitable as night following day, thanks to the ritual shaming that attends expressing views labelled as heterodox, Mr. Irons was induced to walk them back. Which he did. Sort of. Then in an INTERVIEW in The Guardian a few days ago, ostensively to talk about his role as Alfred in the new Batman/Superman (or is it Superman/Batman?) movie, he again veered, as they say, off-script, and uttered the following: “Our society is based on a Christian structure. If you take those religious tenets away, then anything goes and it will become terrible – and you usually get into trouble.” (Can’t you see his manager off camera? Uh oh — Where are you going with this, Jeremy? What are you doing?) Just warming up. “Take abortion,” he continued. “I believe women should be allowed to make the decision, but I also think the church is right to say it’s a sin…Because sin is actions that harm us. Lying harms us…Abortion harms a woman. It’s a tremendous mental attack, and physical, sometimes. But we seem to get that muddled. In a way, thank God the Catholic Church does say we won’t allow it, because otherwise nobody’s saying that it’s a sin.” Before you get to excited, he quickly mentioned his pro-choice bona fides. (“I believe women should be allowed to make the decision,” he averred). Too little, too late. Celebrities must offer obeisance to Moloch, as they must promote and exalt the redefinition of marriage. Today’s public figures touch these particular third rails at their peril — even if the majority of their fans agree with them as is the case with Jeremy Irons. Here’s a short sample of the online insult slinging: moron; patronizing as f***; stupid fart bag; surprisingly off-base; totally insensitive. If this is how our culture of decay deals with low-information celebrities who stray from the politically correct slogans of the new orthodoxy, are Christians to expect better? (I could be misreading or projecting, but I get the sense Jeremy Irons would love to go full Catholic. I’m fixing to contact his publicist for an interview. Stay tuned.) In the spirit of the Easter Season, I know you’ll enjoy this rollicking podcast conversation with...read more
I am a lazy schlub. I am mainly undisciplined — at least I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be. Which is why I’m thrilled with the results of a 30-day science experiment on my body known as the Whole30 Diet. It’s based on the book, It Starts With Food by nutritionists Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I’m no doctor so don’t take this as medical advice. I’m just telling you what jolt of great feeling, great energy, and great life lesson this Whole30 thing has given me. Again, just me, but I got sick and tired of being sick and tired over how listless I felt and how needlessly chubby I had become. Some dress belts no longer fit, and I was sorely tempted to upgrade to a bigger waist size in pants. My dress shirts made me look like Elvis (c. 1975, not c. 1955), as though the front buttons were this close to popping off to make way for my ponderous belly. Forget aesthetics. I just felt horrible; and, frankly, too weak to change it. So my wife and I dived in on Ash Wednesday. We were finally willing to just do it exactly as recommended, with no cheating: no sugar, no dairy, (almost) no carbohydrates, no alcohol, and no legumes. Sounds radical, right? What does that leave? Well, all of the following delicious foods: steak, eggs, sausages, mangos, lettuce, spinach, oranges, white potatoes, kale, mushrooms, olives, burgers (sans the bun), sautéed veggies of any variety, smoothies from any fruit or veggie, black coffee, water, soda water, plantain chips, pumpkin seeds. For starters. Big ole benefits have included learning the difference between craving (to be ignored) and hunger (to be obeyed); how your brain can finally detect the presence of the food hormone leptin so you can break the binge-crash cycle, and experience sense of well being. In my case, my GERD (acid reflux) symptoms also vanished. Talk about a worthwhile investment. This is all related to another book I want to recommend. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. This is a perfect compliment to the Whole30 experience as it breaks down habits into component parts and offers a structured way to remove them if they’re bad, improve them if they’re good. I consider it providential that both books crossed my path to reinforce a decision I made to lose some weight and feel better. I started at 195.6 pounds. 30 days later, I’m 178, having overshot my target “marriage weight” of 2001 by six pounds. MAN does it feel great to walk with pep in my step! Mission accomplished. Hopefully, I’ll stay away from the bad habits that kept me unhappy and unhealthy. Small wins, O my people, small wins! ...read more
I recently interviewed one of my childhood idols, the television mentalist, The Amazing Kreskin. Remember him? I still recall sitting slack jawed before our “rec room” TV set after hockey practice with my dad, marveling at the things this avuncular man (Kreskin, not my dad) with the large-framed glasses performed for his celebrity guests and audience members. He played on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and similar shows countless times, and is now a hit with the Jimmy Fallon generation. When I found I had a facility for doing magic myself (although more sleight of hand than strict mentalism as you can see on my magic website: HERE), I looked up to Kreskin as a model of smooth patter and natural presentation: no flowing capes, no fake mustaches, no creepy psychic aura. Just impossible mind reading, all done with a Cheshire Cat grin and a twinkle in his eye. His signature sign-off was, “May the Good Lord bless you.” Turns out, Kreskin is a longtime practicing Catholic who carefully distinguishes “psychics and mediums” (charlatans or worse) and the entertainment and psychological insights in which he gambols as a showman. Of great interest to me was his friendship with Venerable Archbishop Sheen. I could go on, but I’ll let him tell you in this eclectic conversation about his amazing (sorry, couldn’t help it) career, his insights into magic vs the occult, and what keeps him energized (and still crisscrossing the world) at 81. Click HERE for the podcast interview on Catholic Answers Focus. His 20th book, titled Kreskin In Real Time, can be got HERE. To find out about Kreskin’s future appearances, click HERE on his website. Arbadacarba! (Abracadabra backwards…)...read more
Our Restoring Marriage Today conference this weekend in San Diego, the third annual Catholic Answers conference. Highly gifted speakers dropped value bombs the whole time: Dr. Ray Guarendi, Father Larry Richards, Father Paul Check, Tim Staples, Trent Horn, Jimmy Akin (Karlo Broussard hosted a get together with young adults with Trent Horn) and our keynote speaker was Bishop James Wall, of Gallup. He is a bishop who knows how to bish. Y.H.S. (Your Humble Scribe) was the emcee. An exhausting job over three days and nights, but the pleasing sort of exhausting. Know what I mean? For some people, having a conversation about the debate over the redefinition of marriage is too emotional a topic. Tempers flare. Claims of bigotry are bandied. Most other people just don’t feel they have the verbal tools or a good enough grasp of the foundations of marriage to communicate effectively. Further, most Catholics “have a problem” with the Church’s teaching on contraception, and this has spilled over into their inability to talk about what marriage is. Their grasp of the teaching found in Humanae Vitae (1968) doesn’t go farther the above parody poster that came out when Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical did. Helping people Catholics and others why contraception is gravely wrong, a moral fact that can be known through looking at the natural law, the teaching of the Bible, and the constant Tradition of the Church is why I wrote Sex Au Naturel. If you’re a skeptic of the Catholic vision of sexuality, love, and marriage, get a copy and one for a friend. There’s more at stake — and more in it for you and your marriage — than you may...read more
Joseph Fiennes, magnificently named Joseph Alberic Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, brings his own quiet intensity to his characters on the stage and in the movies. He makes you wonder: is he the PG guy or the rated R guy? There’s a vague hint of danger, quickly dispelled by a grin. He has appeared in a long string of popular and critically lauded movies, including Shakespeare In Love, Enemy at the Gates, Elizabeth, and Luther. His latest role is as Clavius, a rough and ambitious Roman tribune who confronts the claim of resurrection of a certain resurrected Jewish zealot named Yeshua (a very un-Anglo-Saxon Cliff Curtis). I spoke with Mr. Fiennes about the role, about the (apparent) battle between faith and reason, and about how the historical backdrop of 33 AD parallels today’s atmosphere of relativism and “pluralism of gods.” Click here to enjoy and share. Oh, and watch for my upcoming interview with Fiennes about his next movie, The Last Race, which takes up where Chariots of Fire (1981) left off. He plays Eric Liddell, the great Olympic runner and Scottish missionary — first played by the late Ian Charleston in the original. I have paired my interview with Joseph Fiennes with another outstanding artist from the UK, Sir James MacMillan. Knighted only last December (alongside Sir Van Morrison) by Prince William, Sir James works at the top echelon of composers and conductors. He has a broad following and I pray this podcast makes him better known here in North America. As Chesterton said of poet Francis Thompson, Sir James is a very Catholic Catholic – a rare bird in an increasingly secular Scotland. His musical work is marinated by a deep—and distinctly Dominican—faith lived out with his wife, Lynne, and their family. This is not to say he writes music as a Catholic for Catholics. In addition to exquisite Mass settings, he has written choral works for opera, orchestral pieces, and has collaborated with the very best composers and classical musicians with the BBC, Boston, and London symphony orchestras, and many others. The Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales and of Scotland commissioned him to write a sung Mass setting for two of the three masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Great Britain in 2010, including for the Mass of Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman. Sir James also wrote the piercing motet Tu es Petrus to accompany the entrance of Papa Ratzinger into Westminster Cathedral. Since we’re in Lent, try his The Seven Last Words From the Cross on for size. You’re welcome. Here’s the tie-in with Risen: Do you long for a resurrection of elegant and powerful (and sing-able) music for the liturgy and for gorgeous music generally? Do you find yourself sitting in church wincing (or weepgin) through a medley of maudlin 1970s-style “hymns” that have dominated the liturgy-scape for 50 years? Feel like you’re under fire by professional liturgists who are stuck in a time warp? There is hope. Sir James MacMillan, with his Celtic-accented classical training and experience, has already climbed out of the trench and run onto the battlefield. HERE is the interview....read more
With Lent now out of first gear, I hope you’re digging into this holy season like it’s your first, last, and only Lent. As our chaplain Father Vincent Serpa, OP, said to our staff last week, Lent is all about death and all about life. It’s about trekking through the desert knowing you are fully equipped to make it all the way. Supreme Court Justice Antonin made the trek all the way. My sympathy goes to the Scalia family and let’s not forget the man’s soul. I will be interviewing his son, Father Paul Scalia, on March 4, 2016, in the second hour of Catholic Answers Live. The topic? Mercy in a Relativist Culture. A non-sidebar thought: elections matter. Back to Lent. With God’s grace, our No to self with its disordered cravings can become a Yes to the Source of life. Lent for the sake of “giving up stuff” is missing the point, which is, among other things, the decision to deny ourselves legitimate pleasures, (i.e., good things) for the sake of the highest good, God. My wife and I are doing the Whole30 Diet for the duration of Lent (no cheating on Sundays). It’s not always easy, but you know what? Other people are facing much worse: fighting cancer, forgiving someone who hurt them, caring for a sick and abusive relative, giving birth to a baby, for starters. I find that the cravings I have during Lent can become a signpost, pointing me to the One I fundamentally really long for, the Word through Whom you and I were made, the One who suffered torture and death for love of sinners like me and you. For many people today, pornography has become a substitute form of worship, a false god. As I say in my book Sex Au Naturel this false god has a whole apparatus supporting its worship: a clergy (Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner et al); prophets (Howard Stern, Jerry Springer et al); a creed (the Playboy philosophy); sacraments (masturbation, adultery, and fornication); and an evangelical revival (the sexual revolution). If you want a proven way of deleting porn from your life, and of protecting your family, I always recommend Covenant Eyes. It works on all your computers and mobile devices to block “adult” sites while providing third party accountability. Use this link and get 30 days for free to test-drive it. Finally, I know you’re going to enjoy my podcast interview with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dion DiMucci, singer of the smash hits “The Wanderer,” “Runaround Sue,” “Abraham, Martin, and John,” and many others. Dion is the epitome of New York cool. A true American original. And what a life so far. On February 3, 1959, he decided not to get on a small tour plane with Buddy Holly, J.P “the Big Bopper” Richardson, Ritchie Valens, pilot Roger Peterson. The plane crashed six miles from the Minnesota airport, killing all aboard — a tragedy memorialized by Don McLean as “the day the music died” in the song “American Pie.” Dion was saved from death that night (the aircraft was completely destroyed). But it took him a while to figure out what he was saved for. Having begun a heroin habit at the tender age of 14, he has drunk from the bitter dregs...read more
The Harris County, TX, grand jury indictments against David Daleiden (pictured below) and Susan Merritt of the CMP (Center for Medical Progress) are all over the news. But how much confusion and misinformation has so far muddied the waters? Tons. The indictment case is a festival of half-truths, which have only added to an already Kafkaesque state of affairs. What is a grand jury? What do the indictments mean for Daleiden and Merritt? You’re about to get the answers from my latest podcast interview with Daleiden’s attorney in the (concurrent) civil case in Los Angeles Superior Court regarding StemExpress, Charles LiMandri. He is president and chief counsel for the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, is double Board Certified in Pre-Trial Litigation and Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and is qualified to argue before the United States Supreme Court. I’ve interviewed Chuck many times. He is an outstanding communicator, especially when it comes to distilling complex legalese for the layman. In this interview gives you the inside scoop about the Harris County grand jury, the particular indictments against Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, how Planned Parenthood was cleared of wrong-doing in their baby body parts practices yet the ones who exposed it in their sting video footage were indicted (!), and what’s at stake for the pro-life movement. You’re not going to hear this side of the (legal and moral) story on MSNBC, CBC, ABC, et al, nor will you read it in The New York Times or The Boston Globe. These MSM outlets are unofficial mascots for Planned Parenthood. They protect their own and promote their own. Click here to listen. One more thing. The director of Priests For Life, Father Frank Pavone, has a new book out, titled Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Help End the Greatest Evil of Our Time. It’s part field manual, part history, and part practical guide to answering tough questions from pro-choice friends. What about the much vaunted “separation of church and state”? What about “losing our tax-exempt status” if our leaders blow the whistle on the abortion industry? You’ve heard them all, but can you reply to them effectively? And what do you do if you feel down right guilty about not doing enough to abolish abortion in this country? If this sounds like you, Father Pavone’s your man, and this is your book. It’s hard to think of a priest who has done more to help pro-lifers from all backgrounds engage their talents to defend innocent human life — armed with the charity and patience of the...read more