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donald_trump_august_19_2015_croppedIf the firestorms surrounding Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump were literal, America would long ago have been reduced to cinders.

A 10-year-old video, recently shared by the Washington Post, shows Trump and Billy Bush (of Access Hollywood) making lewd comments about women on the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives.

Let’s state the obvious first: (more…)

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Young red-haired boy facing away from camera, stacking a seventh can atop a column of six food cans on the kitchen floor. An open pantry contains many more cans.

So we’re right in the middle of Autism Awareness Month, and a friend of mine recently shared with me a wonderful video documenting the struggles and triumph of Carly Fleischmann, a nonverbal autistic teenager.

But before we get to the video (and I do encourage you to watch it; it’s less than 10 minutes long), I should spend a moment on how it fits into the overall purpose of Into the Dance — specifically, how I see it in relation to the Catholic worldview I hold dear.

What it comes down to is the inviolable dignity of the human person.  This dignity is much greater than we think — so great that it cannot be expressed in the trappings of fame, power, prestige, accomplishment, or even ability.  On the contrary, it is at its height in hiddenness.

Thomas Howard puts it this way:

[Speaking of a wheelchair-bound child]: Who knows what glory inhabits that enfeebled frame?  What honor is incubating there, quite hidden from worldly eyes?  Or what of the Down’s syndrome child?  What exquisite fruit is adumbrated in the sweetness and vulnerability that gild this child’s limitations?  The answer to such questions lies hidden among the secrets laid up by the Divine Mercy. (pg. 219-20)

Lest we doubt this, let us see how this can become clear in the natural course of things:

Reference

  1. The original uploader was Andwhatsnext at English Wikipedia The original uploader was Andwhatsnext at English Wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5118849
  2. Howard, Thomas.  On Being Catholic.  San Francisco: Ignatius, 1997.

 

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handgunWell we’ve seen several more tragic and senseless shootings these last couple weeks, most notably those at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA.

And with the three-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting fast approaching, dealing with these tragedies casts an even greater pall over our holiday anticipations.

There is no way around it: We’re in the midst of an epidemic.  It has not yet reached the level of a Black Plague, but it’s not inconceivable that it will.

As always, to point to a single cause is surely simplistic and potentially irresponsible.  But there are a number of “currents” in our great cultural ocean that feed into this phenomenon (more…)

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For those of you who weren’t aware, Fr. Robert Barron, whom I’ve admired and followed for years now and whose videos I have often shared on this blog, was recently appointed an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles.  Hence, Into the Dance extends hearty congratulations to him!

Bishop Barron was one of the commentators on MSNBC’s coverage of Pope Francis’ Mass in Philadelphia, along with Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, and Notre Dame professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings.  In this short segment of the commentary, he offers a very concise, charitable, and brilliant defense of priestly celibacy within the Church.  Take a look!

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I’ve toyed with the idea of offering some explanations and reflections on the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded earlier this week.  I’m glad I waited, though, because I think Fr. Barron does a better job 🙂

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 Robin_WilliamsTogether with millions of others, I am deeply saddened by the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams. To say that I was shocked when I heard about his apparent suicide on Monday would be an understatement; if I hadn’t put my hands on my head, I might have fallen over.

I’ve been a big fan of Williams since I was about eight years old, having been introduced to his work through such family favorites as “Hook,” Aladdin,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Since then, I have come to admire his incredible range as demonstrated in such films as “The World According to Garp,” Dead Poets Society,” “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Awakenings,” and “Good Will Hunting.” He was an enormously talented man, and surely his complexity as a person was mirrored in the depth and breadth of his work.

And that is what makes this situation especially tragic. Suicide, the ultimate act of despair, is always a tragedy – but its sting is uniquely potent when it occurs in someone who, in life, seemed so positive, so life-affirming, so happy…someone who brought cheer and hope to many through laughter.

Before I start rambling (if I haven’t already), I want to cut right to a question on the minds of many religious people: Is Robin Williams now in hell?

Here is my definitive answer: I don’t know. And if you were to talk to the pope or any conference of bishops, they would have to say the same.

SuicideLet me try to sum up the Catholic position on this issue as best I can. Suicide, objectively speaking, is a mortal sin – that is, a sin of the type that results in the loss of divine grace in the soul (for more on mortal sin as distinct from venial sin, click here). Why is this? In short, it is a selling-out. It is one thing to accept the fact of death, and even to surrender to it when our time comes; but to kill oneself is to choose death over life. And if we believe in existence beyond death, then we must affirm that our choice in favor of life or death carries into eternity.

However – and this is very important to understand – mortal sin requires three things: 1) Serious matter (which suicide is); 2) full knowledge; and 3) full consent of the will. In other words, we have to both know what we are doing and consent to the action with full freedom. So it is not only fully possible, but probably very common for people to commit objectively serious acts, but without culpability in terms of a mortal sin…and, in some cases, perhaps even without any responsibility for their actions.

As experts will affirm, spontaneous suicides are very, very rare. In the vast majority of cases, those who commit suicide suffer from any one of a number of debilitating mental illnesses that not only impact their lives, but also severely inhibit their ability to make the right decisions.

As has been widely publicized, Robin Williams suffered from clinical depression, which is a very serious condition. I think we can pretty safely assume that his freedom in decision-making was compromised.

It may be that there are people reading this who, like Williams, suffer from depression or a related illness. After Williams’ suicide, you may be tempted to lose hope. “Gosh,” you might say, “if a celebrity with billions of dollars couldn’t get sufficient help to battle his depression, what’s in store for me?”

Here’s what you have to understand: Robin Williams’ situation was very unusual. From what I understand, his depression was part of a longer history of bi-polar disorder. And this was in addition to a history of addiction to cocaine, heroine, and alcohol. Pile onto that the immense pressure of stardom, and you have a dangerous situation that, thankfully, most people with a mental illness don’t have to face.

Let us pray for the soul of Robin Williams, and for all of our dearly beloved brothers and sisters who struggle with these very cruel conditions. Remember, all times and places are present to God at once, since He is outside of time and space; therefore, we must never despair of our prayers being able to help even those who have left us.

Images from Wikipedia

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The following is a roughly four-minute segment of a recent episode of NBC’s “TODAY Show.”  It offers us an amazing glimpse into the great miracle of human life…

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