In the Introduction we referred to the culture of death and how it assaults us from all sides. This is embodied in satan's six "a's" of artificial contraception, abortion, adultery, abuse, abandonment and addiction. These six vices are a major roadblock to the Sanctity of Life which begins with the Holy Covenant of Marriage. In order to eradicate them completely, each couple needs to eradicate any carbuncle of these cancers in their own lives first. Only by being free of these sins can they be cleansed and purified in their love for each other and be able to nourish family love. The first five are definitely sins, the sixth is not necessarily a sin but can become one and can undermine the entire family unit. Therefore, we will deal today on the first five and devote next week's Fourth Lesson on the sixth vice which is much more complicated.
No matter what vocation God calls a person to - whether the priesthood, religious life, marriage or the single life, we all, as baptized children of God have the same vocation in life: to strive to become holy. It can't be done overnight, it often takes a lifetime and beyond - as in time in Purgatory - before we are totally holy, totally worthy to enter into the Beatific Vision. In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, then there is a double assignment. Not only are we striving ourselves to become holy, but we are endeavoring to help our life partner become holy as well so that both may totally fulfill God's will in their life together and pass on these blessings to their children. It is through this process that the couple begin to truly experience the matrimonial bliss that is the Charism of Conjugal Love.
To build toward this, it is necessary to clear away the heavy cobwebs of sin and vice. A solid foundation needs to be laid. Therefore, preparation for Marriage and Marriage itself requires an on-going process of pruning away sins and faults to present not only to God a pure soul, but also to our spouses a pure heart. As Psalm 51: 12 says, "create in me a clean heart, O God." Verse 9 prepares that clean heart: "Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." The Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist enable graces to purify the soul, but the practice of purifying the soul is an on-going process that continues all our lives. Just as a tree and a rose bush grow more bounteous, balanced and beautiful when pruned regularly, so also we need to continually prune ourselves of faults and sins. This is especially important when we enter into the holy, awesome, and wonderful Sacrament of Matrimony for we are telling God, the world and the person we have chosen to spend the rest of our lives with that we are totally committed.
That is why the Church wisely provides mandatory Cana Conferences for serious engaged couples who wish to be married in the Church during Holy Mass. In some parishes the banns of marriage are still published, but sadly it has become another tradition that has gotten lost in the shuffle. The reason for publishing the banns was to make sure not only the couple was ready, but any skeletons in their closet would not come back to haunt them and ruin lives and commitments. Therefore, the Church was one of the first to provide preventative medicine for the soul through the publishing of the banns of marriage three times. Similar to the nine months in the womb, a couple grows in spirituality during the nine months the banns are published. They attend regular pre-Cana conferences and then Cana Conferences in preparation for one of the happiest days of their lives. The Church sagely conducts these conferences so couples know what they are being asked in their life commitment. It is final, there's no backing out. That's another reason the Church takes time in approving a Catholic marriage. Each diocese takes this responsibility seriously. It is a matter of prevention so each is sure before they commit to each other 'until death do us part.'
In today's society, there are many distractions to detour the noble task of the Church in preparation for a life-long commitment and there is no person immune from these temptations. What makes it worse today is the total acceptance by society of evils that just thirty years ago we would have shrieked in abhorrence of and yet today so many take it with a grain of salt and say, 'what are you going to do? That's life!.' No, it's not. Every person entering into the sacred bond of matrimonial love must remember Jesus words that we are in the world, but not of this world (cf. John 17: 14-16). Therefore, we must constantly prune ourselves of those vices that would endear us to the temporal world rather than our goal of eternal life in the Heavenly world.
It is therefore paramount that couples go into a marriage pruned of these vices that will choke the vine, wither and die. With their love so strong for each other in the beginning weighing highly on the physical spectrum, they must be aware that their main goal in life is the salvation of their souls and their mate's. If they have this first and foremost in their relationship, then all other things will fall in place for they will have built their marriage on solid foundation (cf. Matthew 7: 24-25). Thus, for a tree to grow strong, it must be pruned. So also the couple must be in unison in pruning their lives of vices.
As we emphasized in our introduction and in the subtitle of this series, the key to the Sanctity of Life begins with the domestic church - each family unit. Families begin when man leaves his mother and father, brothers and sisters and a woman leaves her parents and siblings and they cling to each other to begin new life - an additional domestic church joining countless others that make up parishes, communities, dioceses, nations and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. To be assured this family will further the culture of life, that they will eat, drink, sleep and live the Sanctity of Life together they must be cleansed in the fires of purification, ridding themselves of enemic elements that would corrode the covenant of Conjugal Love.
The greatest corrosions are the vices, the sins we will treat today. It must be noted that Pope Paul VI warned all the following vices would spread in his excellent, but largely neglected and rebuked encyclical Humanae Vitae. This encyclical was a masterpiece and, along with His Holiness Pope John Paul II's equally excellent encyclical Evangelium Vitae - "The Gospel of Life," they both should be required reading for all high schoolers. You would be surprised how many of the youth hunger for the truth and these two masterful encyclicals are the apex of truth. And truth is so badly maligned today, so hidden from the world because they have bought into the culture of death. No marriage, we repeat no marriage can last if it is built on the culture of death. That is the reason why we have so many divorces; why we have so many abortions; why we have so much infidelity through adultery; why we have so much spousal and child abuse; why we have fathers abandoning their family, mothers walking out on their husbands and children. Why? Because of selfishness. No marriage, we repeat again, no marriage can last if it is built on selfishness. For, like the man who built his house on the sand, the winds of change and boredom will wash away any commitment, any moral character because it was built on sand, not solid foundation (cf. Matthew 7: 26-27).
There are many ill winds, many elements that beat against these houses, forces that comprise all seven deadly sins. The effects of these are the six evil "a's." They are the greatest corrosions to the covenant of Conjugal Love. They are:
We didn't listen in 1968 when Humanae Vitae was released and the majority of the world still does not realize Paul VI was right. If human sexuality is not treated as sacred and something beautiful and God-given only to a husband and wife, then all kinds of abuses will follow. They have and it began with artificial contraception. The Church has always promoted natural family planning, never any kind of artificial means of preventing conception. Artificial contraception cuts off life at its core by killing the sperm before it can fertilize the egg. This is the purpose of condoms, birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs, and other gross and selfish devices. It begins with rationalization. Oh, we can't afford to have a family yet. Therefore, many falsely assume artificial contraception can be used for a short time so the couple won't conceive because financially they can't afford a child yet, or they are still grooming their careers. Do you hear the sense of selfishness in the last sentence? Whatever reason they may come up with and there are many, there is never any rationalization for artificial contraception. But God provides a natural means of contraception called the "Rhythm Method" in which each month the mother is fertile during a period of a few days to a week. Most of the rest of the month she is not fertile and no contraception is necessary. Yet couples still complain. This is an excellent chance to practice conjugal abstinence during this short window each month if they do not want to conceive. This means the couple refrains from intercourse during the time of the month when the egg is fertile. It's called restraint. Very few couples today practice this virtue and that opens the door for the other "a's."
You see, the culture of death, in casting its deadly shadow over all society, goes even further. When artificial contraception fails, they have yet another failsafe method to prevent life. It is called abortion, but those dedicated to the Sanctity of Life must call it what it truly is: MURDER! For no one but God has the right to take a life and life, as overwhelmingly proven in Sacred Scripture and scientifically confirmed by the medical profession, begins at conception, not at birth. That's nine months where the unborn is nourished and must be protected from the vicious, vile promoters of the culture of death.
People talk about the horrors of the holocaust during World War II and the plight of the Jews but their numbers pale in comparison to the horrific Holocaust of the Womb which is the most vile mass murder that has ever been committed on the face of this earth throughout history. Selfishness is at the core of abortion. Pro-abortionists are so clever, couching their phraseology in politically correct rhetoric that satan has polished. Their verbal engineering changes nothing. Abortion is unadulterated murder pure and simple and nearly 50 million known babies have been slaughtered in the womb. That doesn't take into consideration the countless abortions that have gone on unrepeated.
It is important here to make the distinction between abortion and miscarriage. Abortion is the wilful act of the mother to rid her womb of the human life dwelling there. Miscarriage is the unwillful act often caused by something out of the mother's control. It might be her physical makeup, the position of the egg not becoming fully capable of growing in the uterus. There are many, many medical reasons that a miscarriage happens for that tiny life conceived in the womb is the most delicate of God's creation and that is why mothers-to-be must take the greatest of care for themselves and their babies.
We say there is confusion because the medical profession treats miscarriages much like abortions, even using the same terminology of "aborting" the fetus. They call it a "spontaneous abortion." We know because we have lost two children to miscarriages. Before Kevin was born we lost our first child at six weeks. We named her Angel and baptized her conditionally. Later Cyndi miscarried again around the six and a half week period early in the morning and we named her Dawn, also baptizing her conditionally. We never hesitate to remind our sons that they have two sisters in Heaven. After Kellin was born in 1985, Cyndi hemorraged so badly that she actually bled to death, dying on the table.
She recalls, "Part of my soul left me and I went upwards into a golden light. It was not a tunnel and the light was a brilliant gold, not white. I was completely intact, everything that makes me Cyndi was there, but my body was laying below on the operating table. As I was drawn into the light I willingly left my body below and turned my attention to the Light. There was nothing but a total peace and indescribable love that drew me upward. I came to a golden door and that's when I heard two little voices say, 'not now, Mommy, God has something else He wants you to do.' I said 'yes, I will do it.' And then I woke up in the recovery room. And the surgeon apologized to me that day for not believing me in the emergency room when I had told him how much blood I had lost. My blood count had been 2."
She stayed in the hospital for a week on blood transfusions and the doctors told her if she conceived again she would die as well as the child. Her uterus had been damaged with Kellin's birth and there was a large blood clot behind the uterus that required surgery that prevented her from ever being able to bear another child. Those were tough, tough times emotionally for us as well as physically for her and were it not for true love for God and each other we wouldn't have been able to make it through those crises. It still bothers Cyndi greatly today when they call miscarriages spontaneous abortions.
Yet so many gloss over that word abortion and call it something else, like the woman's right to choose. Cyndi had no choice. Had she a choice she would have gladly given her own life to bring another into the world. Thankfully our youngest was a healthy bundle of joy and there was no danger to the baby, though mom went through great danger for several months and it is only through the grace, mercy and love of God that she pulled through. Indeed God did have something else' for her and her fiat then and again in 1989 and our joint fiat to dedicate our lives to God's work a year later bear out the mission He has entrusted us to do.
Part of that mission is pointing out the horrors of abortion. Just as the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Blessed Juan Diego at Guadalupe in 1531 for the specific purpose of stopping human sacrifice by the Aztec empire, so today she pleads with her children to stop the human sacrifice of abortion, far worse than the combined sacrifices of the Aztecs, Mayans or Toltecs and all other barbarian nations and empires throughout the history of mankind. What makes abortion so horrible is the lack of respect for human life. This demeaning of God's creation leads man and woman to take lightly the commitment of marriage, the commitment of unselfishness, the commitment to the Sanctity of Life.
If a couple practices artificial contraception and abortion, then the next step - adultery, becomes not only possible but probable for the couple's morals and self-love are stronger than their bond for family. Ergo, they are likely to stray when the temporal pleasures wane, and they do if that is all a union is based on. For the past several decades it has become acceptable in society, not in God's eyes or His Church, to live together - to "try it out," rationalizing that if it doesn't work out no one gets hurt, there are no lasting scars. Have they looked at their soul before saying that? They go into every relationship looking for a way-out, not fully committed because society allows them to change their mind. By doing so they are flaunting it in Christ's face, saying "we don't need your stinkin' sacrament of Matrimony, we can do anything we want." Sadly the political process has played right into their hands and what used to be outrage, shame and shock is now accepted as the norm. Adultery and fornication are portrayed as the norm in the media and Hollywood films and television. It is considered a badge of honor for the man if he has slept with more than one woman. Conversely, the woman, through the insidious liberation movement has, rather than experiencing more freedom, become a prisoner of selfishness and retaliates by sleeping with men as her whim leads her. This lack of respect for the sacred conjugal act of copulation leads to a full embrace of the culture of death because of pure, unadulterated selfishness.
When men and women do not commit to God's laws, when they treat sex as profane rather than sacred, then the next step from adultery is abuse and it comes in every form. We see it today in the headlines, in the media, in the entire political correct culture that mandates we must be tolerant of every type of sin. They demand that the sin be accepted and no Catholic, no Christian can ever, ever do that. We are taught by Our Lord to always love the sinner, but despise the sin (cf. John 8: 11). Therefore sodomy, lesbianism, pedophilia, sadomasichistic sex and a plethora of other evils are totally abhorrent to all God intended and must be rebuked vigorously.
We know what the Church teaches, but society continues to smother us with guilt for 'judging others.' Part of the hidden homosexual agenda includes pedophilia which is sadly a problem the Church must deal with in some of her priests. Even though the media portrays pedophilia as synonymous with the celibate priesthood, but statistics bear out the fact that more Protestant ministers are guilty of pedophilia than Roman Catholic priests, far greater. But you won't hear of that because it wouldn't paint the Church in a bad light and this is what satan wants to do. Look at the media circus in Dallas a few years ago over the notorious gay "priest" Rudy Kos who used the priesthood as a cover for his homosexuality and selfishness. The majority of priests are nothing like that. Yet, lucifer orchestrates his disciples to deny the Church and Christ because, as the fallen angel, he has no other alternative. Yet unlike the devil, we must remember the souls he is after are human as well and love them through prayer, but neither condone or deny the sin. Know this. We judge the sin and are expected to, while we leave the sinner to the mercy of God and pray for them because they are our neighbor, because they are a child of God. We don't have to like the person, but we do have to love them as Christ loves us. But we cannot compromise our value system to please others. Remember Christ's words in Matthew 16: 26, For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but sufer the loss of his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? There is a big difference between tolerance as Our Lord teaches and the politically correct tolerance being preached today by those influenced by the radical homosexual agenda.
In the same way, when this kind of sexual freedom runs rampant, then abandonment follows. We see it in the welfare rolls, in the courts, in the prison system. Husbands leave wife and kids when push comes to shove. Wives run off with someone else in search of security, leaving husband and children to fend for themselves. There are more broken families today than ever before and one wonders why sex, drugs and violence are on the increase. Is this anyway to foster Conjugal Love and Family? Definitely not!!! But again, the house built on the sand is "utterly ruined" because of selfishness.
That is the root of all evil. Not money, but selfishness. It is selfishness that manifests itself in so many ways and means. And selfishness has no place in marriage. Selfishness has no place in the plan for the Sanctity of Life.
The reasons are simple. Marriage is all about giving, not getting. It is no longer love when either of the couple are looking at the situation as "what's in it for me?" When that happens, especially in the sacred conjugal act of intimate intercourse it becomes lust. Yes, just as lust outside of marriage is wrong, lust inside of marriage is wrong as well. It is abandonment to the ideals both professed on their wedding day when they vowed to each other to love, honor and obey, to be there for each other in good times and in bad. Abandonment occurs when the good times end and the trials begin. Rather than growing together and navigating safely through the rough waters of life rowing together, one of them jumps ship. In so doing, the other is left with only one oar and everyone knows you can't row straight with one oar. The result, divorce on the grounds of "irreconcilable differences." It is the catch all for covering up the selfishness that deteriorates marriages. Remember this: There are never any irreconcilable differences with God.
These five, sinful vices, which have their root in selfishness, will be referred to again in future lessons, but we wanted to establish in the reader's mind that they are deadly. They are mortal sins all and punishable by eternal damnation if one does not sincerely repent of one or all of these above sins. God forgives all. No one need despair if they are guilty of any of the above. God loves the sinner, hates the sin. We must all hate sin and do all we can to eradicate it from our hearts and souls through obedience to His Holy Will carried out by His Church. We cannot be honest with God or ourselves if we are hurting our spouse, we cannot be honest with our spouse if we are hurting God.
Still there are many, many couples who do not practice any of the first five "a's" - they are loyal to each other and strive to live as the Church asks. But often it is the sixth "a" that gets them: addiction. This is what we shall treat in next week's lesson.
NEXT: Chapter Four: Being on guard against the addictive weeds of destruction