Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Year of Mercy

Pope Francis has declared 2016 to be a year of mercy, that is, a period of time for the remission of sins and the extending of a universal pardon, with a particular focus on God's forgiveness and mercy, which we are to mirror. The inauguration of the Year of Mercy should be, therefore, for all apostles and defenders of human life an impetus to live more faithfully and preach more fully the message of the Gospel of Life in which Christ our Saviour calls us to be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. (Lk.6:36)
St Augustine on mercy
Whenever one faithfully practices the Christian life by acting mercifully towards one’s neighbour, one’s concern actually encompasses Christ personally (Mt.25:40). As such, any act of mercy becomes fruitful and blossoms into eternal life. In order to be merciful, it is necessary to know specifically in what mercy consists. St. Augustine defines mercy as a “heartfelt sympathy for another's distress, impelling us to help him if we can.”
By exhorting us to be as merciful as is our Heavenly Father, Christ invites us to take a path, which is intrinsic to the nature of mercy, that is, a path leading to divine greatness manifested by our generosity in dealing with others. A simple act of mercy, then, may bring solace in a time of great need. (Prov.22:9) Since this generosity is, however, a characteristic chiefly belonging to persons of influence, authority or power, it is a distinctive feature of God, who being all powerful, manifests His goodness by being, Himself, all merciful. (Ex.34:6-7)
The ultimate formula for governing our lives is found in God’s greatest commandment, which obligates us to love Him above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. (Mt.22:35-40) The guidelines for keeping this greatest commandment are the avoidance of doing evil by observing the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:1-17) and earnestly doing good by practising the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. St Paul, while encouraging the performance of the works of mercy, nevertheless, pointed out that they should originate from a love for God Himself: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony”. (Col.3:12-14)
This love for God, which consists in keeping His commandments (Jn.14:15) finds concrete expression in the seven corporal and in the seven spiritual works of mercy.
These specifically are
  • The corporal works of mercy
  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To shelter the homeless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To visit those in prison;
  • To bury the dead.
  • The spiritual works of mercy
  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To comfort the sorrowful;
  • To exhort sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Rape Crisis

One would hope that the descendants of slaves would have an edge in understanding the impact and consequences, both physical and spiritual, of buying and selling human flesh. But sadly, reflecting on the state of our nation, country and society, it would seem that such a hope has no foundation in reality!
In the past, no less than in the present time, the trade in human flesh results not only in the enrichment of a few and the oppression and victimization of many, but also, far worse, the dehumanisation of both the sold and the seller, the former in the body, the latter in the soul.
The buying and selling of human flesh has never been more widespread in all of human history than it is at present. Human trafficking, the kidnapping of girls and women, whether by force or subterfuge, is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Pornography depicting the brutalization of women and girls is among the most popular material on the Internet. And abortion, the financed destruction of tiny human beings developing in the womb, claims the lives of almost 42 million pre-born children each year. Throughout the work place in all sectors, women are sexually harassed and assaulted.
The sacred mantra linking every assault on human dignity is the word choice. The defenders of legalized prostitution and the prompters of abortion no less than the users of pornography all defend their position with the same arguments used by slave owners: “No one is forcing you to own or keep slaves (to use the services of a prostitute, etc...) It is my choice and none of your business.”
It is no surprise that the promoters of prostitution should also be strong supporters of abortion, if only to deal with any child unfortunate enough to be conceived. Further, if the mother has been reduced to a mere object of pleasure, it is not surprising that her child becomes an object for profit. Equally, Planned Parenthood’s, the world’s largest abortion provider, selling of baby parts for profit should cause no surprise considering that slave owners once personally bred their own slaves. After all, if human beings are seen merely as the sum of their parts then, like animals, the value of human beings is the monetary value of their bodies. Or to put it another way, human beings are only valuable to the degree that their bodies benefit others: hence, the perversity of surrogacy or renting a womb for cash and of generating designer babies, according to the inclination of the buyer.
Ours is a culture of buying and selling, a commodity culture, the sterile offspring of a materialistic culture without morals wedded to an avaricious capitalism without ethics.
It is not widely recognised that the source of the socio-sexual problems we currently face lies in the ideological acceptance and practical application of the philosophy of sterile sex that is, sex strictly for pleasure. Contraceptive in origin, sterile sex soon morphs into the fantasy world of pornography. Not initially or even necessarily the brutal sadistic stuff but the soft, classy seductive pictures of almost naked girls whose bodies are used to sell water, beer, cars or perhaps just newspapers. The fantasy world of pornographic imagery soon takes hostage the souls of the men who view it, creating in them a morbid desire to imitate what they see.
Like pornography, the face of prostitution is not necessarily hard, callous and painted but it is also that of a young child sent out by her mother to a neighbour or friend, or the mother whose silence, conscience and maternal instincts can be bought for a few dollars or the young woman who can advance her career or supplement her income just by being friendly. While pornography dehumanizes women for a mass audience, human trafficking and prostitution permits men the freedom to play out their fantasies in real life; fantasies they would never try on “real women.” And, of course, abortionists can take care of any children who appear in the above scenarios, since these, in the eyes of our commodity culture, are not “real children.”
The connection between pornography and human trafficking is money. It is a business, which the researcher Dr. Mary Anne Layden thinks “a lot of pimps would stop doing this if there wasn’t any money involved, but it’s a business and as soon as you tell somebody it’s a product, as soon as you say this [is] something you buy, then this is something you can steal. Those two things are hooked. If you can buy it, you can steal it, and [it is] even better if you steal it because then you don’t pay for it. So the sexual exploitation industry, whether it’s strip clubs or prostitution or pornography, is where you buy it. Sexual violence is where you steal it – rape and child molestation and sexual harassment is where you steal it. So these things are all seamlessly connected. There isn’t a way to draw a bright line of demarcation between rape and prostitution and pornography and child molestation. There are not bright lines of demarcation.”
With this understanding of the moral bankruptcy of our culture, we should not be surprised but rather, with opened eyes, be thoroughly outraged by the rapes inflicted on our womenfolk. Our outrage in turn should empower us to address the crisis at its source. It is time to put away the foolish platitudes about educating men to respect women. It is time for the moral formation of our boys and girls in chastity: Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. (Mt.5:8) For the men who are held captive in the exploitation industries, there is need for conversion, which we cannot hope for until, as a nation, a country and a society, we turn back to God, or until the day of God’s visitation falls upon us. In the meantime, we should firmly, clearly and consistently reject everything in our culture that portrays human relationships as nothing more than two randomly-ordered bodies of flesh coming together for brief pleasure. We are so much more than this. We were not designed for abuse and degradation, but for love and dignity.
It is true that nothing is perfect in this fallen world and that slavery, prostitution abortion and infanticide are as old as time, but they used to be regarded as awful practices that ought to be stamped out. I suspect that until we once again recognize these awful practices for what they really are we will not be able to return to the full realization that even if the Lord of glory was sold for thirty pieces of silver, the value of each and every human being can no longer be measured in terms of gold or silver but only in the precious Blood of the Lamb. With this understanding and the historical experience of slavery, there is hope that we can change the moral framework of our culture to once again recognize transcendent concepts like the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of human life, and infinite preciousness of each and every human soul. Hope never dies.
Fr. Linus F. Clovis
Secretariat for Family and Life
Archdiocese of Castries