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Narcissism Kills—A Lesson From the Germanwings Plane Crash Tragedy

by Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons via Aleteia.org

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A burning question in the minds of millions of people is why Andreas Lubitz deliberately crashed a jetliner into the Alps killing himself and 149 innocent passengers.

Early reports indicate that he was struggling with depression about his career lead many people to erroneously conclude that this illness caused his actions. Severe depression and hopelessness lead to self-destructive behaviors and rare violent actions against others, but not to massive killing.

If it wasn’t depression, then what was it that drove Lubitz’s evil behavior?

His former girlfriend of seven months has given us important clues. She has related that he said, “One day I’m going to do something that will change the whole system, and everyone will know my name and remember.” She has stated that if he deliberately brought down the plane, “it is because he understood that because of his health problems (most likely with his vision), his big dream of a job at Lufthansa, as captain and as a long-haul pilot was practically impossible.”

When she felt unable to deal with his growing problems and his increasingly volatile temper any more, she ended the relationship. She related, “During conversations he’d suddenly throw a tantrum and scream at me. I was afraid. He even once locked me in the bathroom for a long time.”

He appeared to have made a desperate last attempt to win her back by buying her a brand new Audi car only weeks ago. She apparently said no, as the car was never delivered.

In some individuals, when it becomes clear that they cannot have what they want and feel entitled to, they develop severe anger and go into a rage against others, including murderous behaviors. Others engage in the violent act of rape because they feel entitled to sex.

What is the psychological conflict that causes this maladaptive thinking and emotional and behavioral responses? It is the most extreme form of selfishness, described in the mental health field as narcissism. This progression is comparable to the common struggle with anger—its most severe manifestation is a sociopathic, criminal personality.

Academic psychologists Twenge and Campbell  have described the alarming growing narcissism in the culture in the their book,Narcissism Epidemic: Living in an Age of Entitlement. Narcissism results in an exaggerated sense of self-importance, grandiose thinking, an exaggerated desire to be recognized, and intense rage in some when they do not obtain what they desire.

Lubitz essentially told his girlfriend that if he could not be recognized as an important international pilot with Lufthansa, he would find another way to make a name for himself in the aeronautics industry. He succeeded in his goal by now being identified as one of the greatest villains in aeronautical history.

In our clinical experience, narcissism is rarely identified as a source of sadness, anger, and violent impiulses. In fact, it was only in thesecond edition of our American Psychological Association textbookon the treatment of anger through forgiveness therapy in 2015 that we identified it as a major source of anger in children and in adults. In 2000 we did not fully understand its role in the development of excessive anger in psychiatric disorders.

Now, given the epidemic of narcissism in the culture, we attempt to evaluate its influence in all patients with mood, behavior and personality disorders.

Selfishness from a Christian perspective has its origin in the Fall and Original Sin. Parents do not have to teach toddlers to shout “Mine!” when an object they desire is held by someone else. It is only at three-and-a-half to four years of age, after much patient correction and good example by parents, that children are finally willing to take turns and share with others.

The significant dangers of self-love used to be communicated in our churches, families, and schools as an important aspect of personality development. We were taught that the dangers of self-love could even lead to hatred of God, as Saint Augustine warned. But decades of pop psychology promoting inflated self-esteem, indulgent parenting, and moral relativism have made “me first” normative.

Selfishness needs to be recognized as having a harmful effect upon all of us. Pope Benedict XVI compared its action to the effect of gravity: selfishness pulls all of us spiritually earthward, making it harder for us to break free and pursue a life of love and service to others, rather than being in the Pope’s words “a prisoner of the self.”

In this narcissistic culture it is a destroyer of marriages, family relationships, sexual morality, loving relationships in singles, friendships, the unborn, and faith.

The good news is that a daily commitment to grow in virtues, particularly generosity and self-denial, and in grace, can lead to a mastery over selfishness and anger and prevent the development of narcissism.

Rick Fitzgibbons, MD, is the director of Comprehensive Counseling Services and the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia. Trained in psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center, he co-authored Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope with Dr. Robert D. Enright, University of Wisconsin, Madison, for American Psychological Association Books. 

Germanwings Co-Pilot Appears to Have Rehearsed Fatal Dive, Report Says

A note from Al:

People are still mystified by Address Lubitz’ actions. Apart from biochemical problems in his brain chemistry, there may just as well be a psychiatric problem that has great moral significance: narcissism.

Additional reading:

Article: Narcissism Kills – Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons

Book: The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement

- Al Kresta

by Nicola Clark via NYTimes.com

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PARIS — Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot suspected of deliberately flying a German airliner into the French Alps, appears to have rehearsed the plane’s fatal dive during an earlier flight on the day of the crash, the French authorities said in a preliminary report published on Wednesday.

The initial findings by the Bureau of Investigations and Analyses, known by its French abbreviation B.E.A., show that the co-pilot repeatedly set the Germanwings plane’s altitude to 100 feet during its outbound flight to Barcelona, Spain, from Düsseldorf, Germany, on March 24.

The maneuvers, which were captured by the plane’s flight data recorder, took place while the flight’s captain had left the cockpit temporarily.

“To us, it is clear that this was some kind of rehearsal,” Rémi Jouty, the director of the B.E.A., said in a telephone interview. “We see the same actions being taken in the same circumstances, at a moment when the co-pilot was alone in the cockpit.”

The new information contained in the 29-page report provides further evidence suggesting that the 27-year-old co-pilot crashed the Airbus A320 intentionally after locking the captain out of the cockpit, killing himself and 149 others, on its return leg to Düsseldorf.

An initial analysis of a cockpit audio recording retrieved from one of the plane’s so-called black boxes just days after the crash led a French prosecutor to declare that Mr. Lubitz had acted deliberately.

Investigations by the German police later revealed that Mr. Lubitz had a history of severe depression dating from at least 2009, and that he had scoured the Internet for methods of committing suicide in the days before his final flight.

The French report indicates that Mr. Lubitz’s trial run was so fleeting that it went undetected by air traffic controllers, who had already given instructions for a moderate descent to 35,000 feet from 37,000 feet. The flight’s captain, Patrick Sondenheimer, also apparently did not notice the maneuvers, which occurred about 20 minutes into the flight and while the captain was out of the cockpit for roughly five minutes.

The report says that the co-pilot selected a target altitude of 100 feet “several times” for durations ranging from a few seconds to up to three minutes during the captain’s absence.

French investigators did not try to explain Mr. Lubitz’s actions, but they were unambiguous about his role in the crash.

“We cannot presume what was going on in his mind,” Mr. Jouty said. “But based on all the information that we have gathered so far, we can affirm, categorically, that this crash was the result of an intentional act, a series of steps that, taken together, all point in the same direction.”

The report notes similarities between his control inputs on the two flights and, in its analysis of the second, ill-fated flight, supports the French prosecutor’s initial conclusions. The co-pilot “intentionally modified the autopilot instructions to order the airplane to descend until it collided with the terrain,” according to the report.

“He did not open the cockpit door during the descent, despite requests for access made via the keypad, the cabin interphone and knocks on the door,” it said.

In the wake of the crash, Germany established a task force of aviation, medical and government experts to study the circumstances that led to the fatal descent and how it might have been averted.

Last month, two working groups met to discuss possible changes to cockpit door security systems and to review the standards for monitoring pilots’ mental health. The group expects to publish its initial findings before the summer.

The European Commission in Brussels is also expected in the coming days to announce the formation of a high-level working group that will propose rules intended to prevent similar disasters. Although Mr. Lubitz is the highest-profile example of pilot suicide, his was not an isolated case. Over the past two decades, a series of fatal airline crashes have been attributed to deliberate actions by the pilot.

The B.E.A. investigation is limited solely to determining the facts of the case and to making recommendations to safety regulators with the intent to reduce the risk of a similar episode. Unlike the separate criminal inquiry being conducted by French prosecutors, it will not seek to apportion legal responsibility for the crash.

France is one of a handful of countries that routinely seek criminal indictments in air accidents, regardless of whether there is clear evidence of criminal intent or negligence. Such indictments typically target the airline, legal experts said, but they can include individuals.

Any criminal case against Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, will hinge on whether prosecutors can prove that the airline was negligent in its oversight of Mr. Lubitz.

Evidence uncovered by German prosecutors after the crash indicates that Mr. Lubitz had sought treatment for psychological issues in the months before the flight, but that he had hidden his illness from his employer.

Lufthansa has admitted that Mr. Lubitz informed the company of a previous episode of severe depression, which had led him to interrupt his pilot training for several months in 2009. Mr. Lubitz was reinstated after an evaluation by a flight doctor found him fit to return to the cockpit. But the airline does not appear to have imposed any special monitoring of him beyond the minimum required for any pilot who had a flagged health issue.

The French report says that Mr. Lubitz started his basic training at the Bremen campus of Lufthansa’s prestigious flight school in September 2008, but suspended it just two months later for “medical reasons.”

He did not resume his training until late August 2009.

During his absence, Lufthansa’s flight doctors twice refused to certify Mr. Lubitz as fit to fly, citing his depression and the medicine that had been prescribed to treat it.

According to the French report, a Lufthansa doctor informed Germany’s Federal Aviation Office, which licenses pilots, that Mr. Lubitz had been denied medical clearance on July 14, 2009.

But two weeks later, he received a valid “Class 1” medical certificate that noted that he had a medical condition, although it did not specify whether it was related to a psychological issue. The flag instructed flight doctors to contact the aviation office before evaluating Mr. Lubitz for his required annual physical.

Barbara Schädler, a Lufthansa spokeswoman, declined to comment on the French report. A spokeswoman for the German regulator did not immediately respond to telephone calls or emails requesting comment.

Because of Germany’s strict privacy laws, the details of Mr. Lubitz’s condition and of his treatment were never shared with Lufthansa managers. Flight doctors who examined him after his reinstatement reported no signs that his depression had returned — something that would have set off an alert to the airline and to German regulators.

But documents made public last week showed that Mr. Lubitz’s depression did catch the attention of American regulators. The Federal Aviation Administration raised questions about his fitness to fly in 2010, when he sought a student pilot’s license to continue his training at a Lufthansa-owned flight school in Arizona.

According to the documents, the F.A.A. ultimately granted Mr. Lubitz a license after a doctor in Germany certified that he had recovered fully and was no longer taking antidepressants.

The French report indicates that Mr. Lubitz was in Arizona for four months, from November 2010 until March 2011, before returning to Germany. He continued his flight training while also working under contract as a Lufthansa flight attendant for another two years, significantly longer than the 11 months that the airline had previously disclosed, before being hired by Germanwings.

He did not become a fully licensed commercial pilot until February 2014, barely more than a year before he crashed the plane into a mountainside.

Given the worldwide attention the crash has received, French prosecutors are widely expected to move ahead with a criminal indictment, despite some diplomatic pressure to transfer the case to a German court. Brice Robin, the prosecutor in Marseille who is in charge of the investigation, is expected to reach a formal decision about whether to proceed before the summer.

“I cannot imagine that the prosecutor would close this case,” said Stéphane Gicquel, secretary general of Fenvac, a French association that represents the families of accident and disaster victims. “It is too high-profile.”

We Could Use a Little Fire and Brimstone

A note from Al:

Here’s a piece that follows up on yesterday’s article “The Catholic Church Young People Actually Want.” –  Al Kresta

by David Mills via Aleteia.org

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It was his senior year, said the oldest man sitting round the table in the pub, and the first day of religion class in his Catholic high school the teacher handed out thin paperbacks printed on cheap paper. They’d had a real textbook the year before. A younger man remembered studying doctrine one year and coloring pictures the next. And the youngest at the table, a new father in his late twenties, said that all he’d known in his CCD classes was the lite version.

My companions at dinner were all victims of a revolution in catechetics. What most struck me as they talked was how sentimental was the teaching, and how light and thin it was. It sounded frivolous. The teachers may have loved the Church and the Faith, but they taught Catholicism as if it were a subject they didn’t really care about and didn’t expect their students to care about either.

The materials and methods made the Catholic Church look like one of those companies that makes products no one wants anymore and keep lowering the price in the hope — a hope even the salesmen feel is vain — that people will buy their stuff anyway. The catechetical authorities sounded like people who’d taken seriously Mary Poppins’ advice that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down and decided to keep reducing the medicine and increasing the sugar.

It was fundamentally un-serious. The oldest man remembered even at the time noticing the symbolism of the big heavy hardbound book he carried to biology class and the small floppy paperback. Biology was an important subject to be mastered with effort, Catholicism wasn’t.

When I looked at Christianity as a fairly secular teenager, I was looking for something serious, something dramatic, something that mattered. Very early on the Catholic Church impressed me as the most serious version of Christianity. What her critics saw as faults, especially her dogmatism and her moral rules, I saw as signs that she knew life was a game to be played for keeps and that winning and losing meant everything. In a world that could be so frivolous about so much, even the ends of human life, she stood for the belief that the way we live means something ultimate.

That’s still true, but even so, I wish normal Catholic life were more overtly serious in this sense. I would find it a great help in not sinking into the complacency that seems to be our, or at least my, natural mode of spiritual life. (I exclude my own pastor from this, and others I know.)

We ought to hear a lot more about sin and the broad road to Hell, for example, than we do. And about Purgatory too. We don’t get a sense from most preaching and Catholic writing that our choices actually matter. We move in only one direction, and that’s up. God is infinitely indulgent (which is not the same thing as infinitely loving). He is always ready to let us back in apparently without our having to repent, as long as we feel regretful. Sins don’t leave a mark.

In all the homilies on the Parable of the Prodigal Son I’ve heard, the priest has always emphasized the father’s welcome, and sometimes touched on the older brother’s resentment. It is indeed a story about God’s never-ending love for us, but it is also the story of the prodigal son’s return, and that I’ve never heard spoken of.

The son had to walk a long way as a starving man with no money to get to his father. He hadn’t just moved into town and started partying, he had travelled to a far-off land. It was a long way back and getting home cost him. And when he finally got home, he had to tell his father he was sorry even after his father embraced him. Returning home didn’t make his life as it had been before. Although his father forgave him for rebelling, he’d thrown away his inheritance and picked up who knows what diseases.

That’s a drama. It’s a story of sin and redemption that could have ended without the redemption. It’s a story of choices that mattered and mattered both in this life and the next. The prodigal son could have died in that far-off land. He could have been too proud or too invested in his sins to return home. The Parable of the Prodigal Son tells us that life is a serious thing, and that reconciliation costs us, but that’s not the way it’s usually preached.

How often do we hear anything remotely like C. S. Lewis’s words inMere Christianity about the ultimate importance of every choice we make? “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before,” he wrote.

And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.

That also describes a drama. It’s also a warning to stay alert at all times and a promise of a great reward if we do. It’s a reminder that life is a serious affair.

I can guess why the softer versions of Catholicism appealed to so many. It wasn’t just the sixties, liberalism, compromising clerics, and the other reasons often given. Older friends have told me stories of growing up with a harsh, cold version of Catholicism, something out of the stereotypes. They needed to hear the gospel as good news. Priests have told me of the number of people they see who are paralyzed by guilt and the feeling God can’t possibly love them (as well as the ones who feel no guilt at all). They need to hear about the Father who runs to embrace them.

Still, we need more seriousness. Many of us laymen need it, because we need all the help we can get to seek first the Kingdom of God as Our Lord instructed us and not shuffle along expecting everything to turn out all right anyway.

The world needs it as well. A materialistic world is a world that has trouble being serious, whether we’re talking about materialism as a philosophical position or a consumerist practice. It tends to be a world in which few things really matter. People have an instinct for meaning, a sense that this world is not all there is and that what they do should count for something beyond their death.

Speaking Out About the Transgender ‘Delusion’

by Brian Fraga via NCRegister.org

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Walt Heyer lived for eight years as a woman named Laura Jensen.

Having suffered from gender-identity disorder since he was a child, Heyer was a married, successful businessman when he underwent cosmetic surgery to alter his sex  at age 42.

However, Heyer said surgery and hormone treatment failed to address his underlying psychological issues. After undergoing therapy, attaining sobriety and turning his life to Christ, Heyer says he was able to accept his biology and return to living as a man.

Heyer, now 74 and married to his second wife for 18 years, is an author and public speaker who devotes his life to helping others who regret their choice to undergo what is known as “gender-reassignment surgery.”

A nondenominational Christian, Heyer has told his story in the novel Kid Dakota and the Secret at Grandma’s House and in his autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith. He also spreads awareness through his blog, WaltHeyer.com, and website, SexChangeRegret.com.

Courtesy of Walt Heyer

Heyer discussed his journey in a recent interview with the Register. Heyer also offered his thoughts on whether American society has reached a tipping point on the “transgender issue” in the wake of Bruce Jenner’s April 24 interview with ABC News, during which the Olympic gold-medal athlete and reality-television star described his lifelong struggle with “gender dysphoria.”

Has society reached a tipping point, a so-called transgender moment?

If we just look at the media, which has great influence and power, and look at what they’re putting out there, then one would certainly think that we’re at a tipping point. However, I think if you dig into society, aside from the media, most people would say that the whole gender-change thing is dubious, in terms of really thinking anyone can change genders. I think there’s much more of a media selling point. It’s like great advertising for gender change, but I think, still, the majority of people are skeptical that it’s effective.

What did you think of Bruce Jenner’s interview and his statements on being “transgender,” including his comment that he has a female soul?

Well, keep in mind I was right where he was at one time, so I don’t want to minimize or degrade anything that he’s saying. But people who are in the throes of trying to switch from one [sex] to the other will say anything, absolutely anything, to convince people that what they’re doing is because they have to. Part of what his dialogue was about was much like mine was at the time. We’re trying to convince ourselves that it’s actually necessary.

What I saw was somebody desperately trying to sell the audience with “I’ve been struggling with this all my life. Finally, I’m going to be fine.” But then, if you look at his ambiguity, he was not willing to identify a female name. He said, “Yeah, I’m a man, but I have the soul and brain of a woman.” All those are things that no one can prove.

It’s very hard when you just look at a glass TV screen and listen to what somebody is trying to sell you — that is a gender change. What deeper issues does he have? He hid a lot of these things for years. “What else is he hiding?” is my question. There are too many things to consider: What is motivating him to do this when he’s 65 years old?

What do you say when Jenner and other people who identify as “transgender” say this is something that they’ve felt their entire lives?

I know a lot of individuals, and I was one of them, who were cross-dressed at a young age. And Jenner cross-dressed himself. One of the things that happens is we start to fantasize about what it’s going to be like. If we obsess about it or ruminate about it for a long period of time, we begin to develop our own gender-identity disorder if we choose to, if it becomes fun and somehow exciting and exhilarating. I can say it was true for me, and it’s fun for others; but down the road, that feeling goes away, and then you’re left with something very different than excitement: You’re left with depression.

What do you say to the American Psychiatric Association’s decision in 2012 to replace “gender-identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)?

It is true that “gender dysphoria,” in of itself, is not a psychiatric disorder. The problem with the statement is that we know for a fact that people who migrate toward a transgender life are people who suffer from comorbid [two or more] disorders, and those are psychiatric issues and psychological issues. Every last one of them needs to be diagnosed and treated, and it doesn’t get diagnosed and treated, because they [APA experts] pulled the top one out, the “gender dysphoria,” and said, “Well, if you’re gender dysphoric, then you’re fine just the way you are.”

The problem is no one is dealing with the dissociative disorder, the bipolar disorders, the schizophrenia, excessive compulsive [issues] and all those other psychological disorders that make up the driving cause for people desiring to change sexes.

The other thing most people are not aware of is the question of why transgender was taken out of the DSM. It was taken out not for any other reason but for the purpose of political activism. The DSM has become the greatest political tool for the advancing of Kinsey and his 1947-48 moves to make every kind of sex available to anybody, because he believed any kind of sex was good sex. … It didn’t matter what it was.

How old were you when you first began experiencing signs of a gender-identity disorder?

My grandmother began cross-dressing me when I was 4 years old, and she did that until I was probably about 6 1/2 years old. She even made me a beautiful, purple chiffon evening dress. She fawned all over me when I was dressed like that. She loved me as a little girl, not so much as a boy. I took the dress home when I was probably 6 1/2. I was not allowed to go back to [see] my grandmother because my dad, who was a part-time police officer, exploded when he found out. My mom was horrified at what her mother was doing. It was a secret all that time. I was supposed to keep the secret.

Once you plant the seed, it grows. You’re fostering gender dysphoria from the first time you put a dress on, not much different than the first time a drug addict takes the drug. He’s hooked. There’s very little difference when someone cross-dresses like [Jenner] did. You get hooked.

How and when did you decide to go through “sex reassignment” surgery and live as a woman?

I told my first wife that I was struggling with it, just like [Jenner] said, and we just kind of blew it off and said, “It’ll be fine.” [I thought] “She can fix me,” and [figured] that once I got married and had kids, the feelings would go away.

But you keep it a secret, and it’s the secret that really becomes the issue, because you’re trying to hide it from everybody, all the family and everybody else. Everybody copes in a different way. I coped by using alcohol. But I was very successful. I had a wonderful career in aerospace. I worked on the Apollo space missions. I was an automobile executive with a very large, $300-million corporation at that time. But I was using alcohol to suppress or cope with my feelings about changing gender, but the truth is, it probably did nothing but enhance it. So by the time I had been married 17 years, like Jenner, I had had enough, and I decided to change genders.

How did you realize that living as a woman was not the answer?

I lived eight years as a female. I had a successful career, working-wise, as a female for eight years. But I realized after studying psychology that no one can change genders. That’s the first thing you learn when you break the delusional disorder down. It is a delusion to think you can change genders. You can’t. It’s total nonsense. You can live in a masquerade, and the surgeries make it look like you changed genders, but you actually don’t.

When I came to that realization, then I began considering the Lord. I started studying and working toward that goal of having my identity in Christ instead of in my gender. It took a while. I got treated for my dissociative disorder by a psychotherapist. I was able to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. My life was restored back to my birth gender, and I’ve lived that way for over 20 years now.

Psychotherapy was the key, along with Jesus Christ, in restoring my life: psychotherapy to get my head screwed back on correctly, and I discovered that when I was studying psychology at university in California. Once you begin to get a clear head, you start to get your sanity back; then you realize God didn’t make a mistake and that you need to turn your life over to Christ. At least that’s what it was for me.

How does your Christian faith influence the way you now approach the “transgender” issue?

I look at it like it’s a community of people who are psychologically disturbed, and they need psychological treatment. But because activists are trying to prevent them from having psychological treatment, they are going to stay unhealthy psychologically.

A fair-minded person would look at the staggering attempted-suicide rate, which is somewhere between 40% and 50% [for gender-confused people]. You’d stop and say psychologically healthy people, under the worst conditions in their lives, don’t attempt suicide. It’s only unhealthy people, psychologically, who are so unprepared for what life throws at them that [makes them] just give up on life. So we’re dealing with a small population of people who are not receiving good psychotherapy. They are people who believe that they can change genders, so they’re delusional from the start, and no one is going to diagnose them with a disorder until after they have surgery, in most cases, because all the psychotherapists are afraid to say anything. They’re handcuffed and fearful of losing their licenses.

How did you attain a different view of your sex?

It took a lot of work. It probably took two years to unravel all the nonsense. I had to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. I had to stop drinking. I had to start going into therapy. I had to start thinking about who really is in charge of my gender, which is the Lord. You begin to start putting all these pieces together. Certainly, sobriety, not drinking, and being in psychotherapy is a good start for anybody to gain some psychological health and begin to get  sanity back.

How did turning to Christ help you deal with your own sexual-identity issues?

I had a vision of Christ. I met with a Christian therapist in his office. He said, “Let’s pray,” so he began to pray. All of a sudden, during that time, the Lord Jesus Christ actually appeared to me. He came to me with his arms stretched out. I saw myself as a baby. I saw the Lord, all dressed in white, his arms outstretched, and he grabbed me as a baby and cradled me in both of his arms and held me to his chest, and said, “You are now safe with me forever.” Then he went out of the room, and he was gone. And from that moment forward, I was redeemed, restored and healed.

That was the redeeming moment. From then on, I’ve been serving him to try to help others not fall into the pit of having their bodies mutilated by surgeons who are doing it for the money. I doubt that any person actually needs surgery. I get letters all the time from so many people who regret it, and many [who identify as] transgenders today send me letters thanking me for what I’m doing.

You remarried after resuming your life as a man. How has that been?

I have a great relationship with my wife. You don’t stay married very long if you don’t have a good relationship. I even have a very good relationship with my first wife, and so does my current wife, who is the editor on everything that I write. She has an MBA from Berkeley, and she’s brilliant. She’s the driving force behind me getting out there [to tell my story].

How to overcome the Good Samaritan Syndrome

A note from Al:

The spiritual and corporal works of mercy provide an antidote to the problem pierce describes. None of us can exercise all of the spiritual and corporal works. We have areas of giftedness and talent. Those are the areas we must cultivate. and simply die to the possibility that we can do all. We aren’t God. We are not even Atlas, trying to shoulder the world. Dorothy Day is also a good guide in applying this insight.’

- Al Kresta

Good_Samaritan_Law

by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce via NCRonline.org

The story of the good Samaritan has always challenged me. In fact, it has become my spirituality touchstone. My bottom line is: Do I regularly help the guy out of the ditch or not?

When the Samaritan businessman traveled down the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho and encountered a man set upon by robbers, he did what every one of us wants to do: He helped the victim. He didn’t just call 911 or put a couple of bucks in the guy’s begging cup. He pulled him out of the ditch, put him in his own car, delivered him to the closest thing to an emergency room they had in those days, paid for his care, and checked on him a few days later on his return trip.

Wouldn’t we all like to do what that good Samaritan did whenever we come across someone in dire need? Yes, but we are all but paralyzed by what I call the Good Samaritan Syndrome.

That syndrome is the result of modern communications that bombard our eyes with countless people dying in ditches every day. It’s all right in front of us all the time, on TV or the Internet or in almost every book, magazine and news source we read. Tsunamis in the Pacific, Ebola in Africa, ISIS in the Middle East, global warming, human trafficking, dire poverty, intractable homelessness … I give up.

Those are just the big ones from the news. Then there is all the personal tragedy we encounter. A father dies too young because he didn’t receive good health care, a child is born with a birth defect, a woman stands by the side of the road with jumper cables in her hands. Your kids need help, your elderly parents need help, your neighbor needs help, strangers need help.

I swear sometimes that if the good Samaritan were around today, he would figure out a bypass to Jericho.

Is there any way to overcome the Good Samaritan Syndrome and be effective? Jesus’ good Samaritan couldn’t have helped everyone in the world either. He wouldn’t even been aware of all the people that needed his help, and even if he did, he wouldn’t have had the means.

We do know and we do have means, but the syndrome tempts us to tune out entirely because we can’t follow our instinct to help everybody. Our challenge is to make hard judgments about where we can help most meaningfully.

For me, the best remedy for the Good Samaritan Syndrome is in community organization. Since I left college, I have been involved in congregationally-based organizing through the Industrial Areas Foundation, the largest network of local faith and community organizations in the U.S. First I was an organizer myself, and then a volunteer leader. It is the only way I have discovered to help people without burning myself out.

Let me give you just one example: gun violence.

Like you, I watch in horror the latest mass shootings and the almost nightly killings, and I want to do something, anything, to help. That is a good instinct, one I don’t want to lose. Leviticus says that I am not to stand idly by while the blood of my neighbor is being shed. But what on earth am I to do?

Because my church is a member of United Power for Action and Justice in Chicago and because United Power is an affiliate of the national Industrial Areas Foundation, I can do something. I can’t do everything, but I can do something.

What I was able to do is help organize a national campaign we call “Do Not Stand Idly By” to pressure gun manufacturers to become part of the solution to gun violence, rather than remain part of the problem. We are organizing congregations of all faiths and denominations to join us in this effort. Is it the only way? No. Will it work? I don’t know. Might it work? Yes. Do I need to be involved in it? Absolutely.

Good Samaritans suffering from the syndrome of “too many people and causes to help” can find this avenue effective on all kinds of concerns. It has these advantages:

It is a collective effort rather than an individual effort. The good Samaritan has to organize a League of Good Samaritans if he (or she) is going to clean up that dangerous road to Jericho.

It gets at the root causes of problems rather than merely dealing with the effects. The road to Jericho needs better police protection, not only generous Samaritans.

It can take a wider view and stick with an issue longer than any individual Samaritan can do.

So, I belong to a church and my church belongs to a community organization so that I can be an effective good Samaritan in the 21st century. That is where the rubber meets the road, where I choose to befriend my Good Samaritan Syndrome.

[Greg Pierce is the publisher of ACTA Publications in Chicago and the author of The World as It Should Be: Living Authentically in the Here-and-Now Kingdom of God.]

Kresta in the Afternoon – May 6, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on May 6, 2015

 

4:00 – Kresta Comments: What is a Pastor to do when Faced with Parishioners who are Publicly Sinning?


4:20 – Catholics at Work in Nepal

Wherever there is a disaster, there is a Catholic charity aiding in the recovery. The Nepal earthquake is no exception. Jim Cavnar joins us with stories from the recovery effort.

 

4:40 – Does a Mom need to be “Momnipotent?”

Danielle Bean has identified eight uniquely feminine strengths that validate the dignity and importance of motherhood. She is here today with tips on how mothers can use those strengths every day.

 

5:00 – Kresta Comments: Beauty in the Month of Mary 


5:20 – A Catholic Psychiatrist Looks at Transgenderism

With acceptance of gay marriage at every-increasing highs, many social commentators say the next big movement will be acceptance of transgenderism. Bruce Jenner’s saga has given celebrity status to the issue. What is transgenderism? What psychological issues are at play? We take a look with Rick Fitzgibbons.

 

 

That Loving Gaze

by Greg Hurst via ReverbCulture.com

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I’m entering seminary in a month.

Already in March you could find me joking about how the two (young, joyful, Steubenville-birthed) weddings I was attending this summer were my “final test” before entering seminary.  Strikingly beautiful Catholic millenials abound at such events, and though I spoke of the challenges of these looming festivals of Christ-like love with much jocularity, I was in fact, hauntingly certain that my always-fragile self-understanding would be disturbed at some point.

I am, shamelessly, but a man.


A few days before wedding #1, hanging out with everyone who had traveled into town for the occasion, it happened.

She walked into the room with grace, her smile luminous, her joy ineffable.  She strolled–or did she float? I had no time to admire whatever her (undoubtedly adorable) feet were doing–across the room, and her eyes, passage ways to worlds where agape reigns and red wine flows with unscrupulous delight, pierced right through… her boyfriend.

I watched the whole scene unfold in wonder.  The moment she caught sight of him; the way her gaze was reciprocated by his; the embrace.  Mind you, all of this occurred in a time briefer than it took to read this paragraph.  But when you “fall in love with human love”, as a young Karol Wotyla once expressed it, time is an afterthought, an annoyance, a distraction.

A simple look cast into the eyes of another can speak eternity.

The rest of the weekend, I watched this same chain of events unfold a handful of times, as husbands embraced their wives and fiances shared longing looks of anticipation,  each time cutting deeper into my heart than the previous.

What was it about this gaze, this simple glance between two lovers, that rocked me?  I was in no way naive or ignorant of what, exactly, I committed to give up by choosing to enter seminary.  I have, myself, been on the receiving end of that look in times past, though those memories have gotten awfully blurry (thanks to time and some concerted effort to simply forget).  Yet repeatedly I found myself pondering this question, never quite having enough time to piece it all together, to make total sense of what it was, precisely, that had gripped me.  

After all, I felt bad for staring.


Memories of that gaze stuck with me over the next three weeks, as I prepared for wedding #2.

My prayer during that time wasn’t exactly profound.  It consisted, in fact, mostly of uncertain pleas, repeatedly asking, “Can I live without that?”  Words that my spiritual director once shared with me resounded like a chorus: “To be a priest, you must accept  that you will never be the most important person in someone’s life.”

Wedding #2 was a few weeks later.  This time, there was but one occurrence of that devastating look that haunted me so, and thank God for that–for it was inexpressible in effect:

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This is not the nervous look of two timid ‘prudes’ who have “saved themselves for marriage”, nor is it the boring stare of two people blandly reciting legalistic words of unity, their bodily covenant having already been expressed long ago.  This is the gaze of two human persons, ready to give of themselves entirely to one another, willing to allow themselves to be torn apart in love and suffering, prepared to heal one another by their own bruises: two lovers anticipating the consummation of their love.

The day after the wedding, I shared my own reflections and questions about this gaze with a fellow groomsman.  His response was simple, likely obvious to many, nothing I had not heard before.  Yet for me, at that moment, it was the answer to the questions raised a month before, a key to unthinkable liberation, unlocking and releasing immense spiritual desire within.

“The way they looked at each other was beautiful.  And we were all created to ultimately find that gaze of love in Christ.”

For the first time, the words “Beatific Vision” made a lot of sense.


I returned from this wedding far more optimistic than I had the month before.  Far from being a deterrent to my discernment of the priesthood or an obstacle to my journey, my encounter with “the gaze” intensified it.  The forthcoming year (years, God-willing) of seminary is an opportunity for me to be schooled in allowing the gaze of Christ to be my satisfaction.  My prayer this time was, “Lord, how do I find this gaze you offer me?  Where, exactly, is it?”   “The Eucharist,” to me, was too easy of an answer, not the wronganswer but simply insufficient, not penetrative enough.

And then this, from CCC 2715:

 “Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. ‘I look at him and he looks at me’: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men. Contemplation also turns its gaze on the mysteries of the life of Christ. Thus it learns the ‘interior knowledge of our Lord,’ the more to love him and follow him.”

Yes, within each of us dwells the “inner Christ”, and a simple contemplative glance in His direction is met with a gaze that speaks eternity.


But there is more.  The problem I found as I began attempting to find my “gaze” in Christ was that, throughout the course of a day, I simply forgot.  No matter how stellar my morning prayer was, or how intimate my holy hour may have been, hours later my day was simply carrying on as it always did.  This didn’t seem right.

Any good book on the Christian spiritual life begins with some words on the need for Christ to take center stage in one’s life and allowing everything else to fall into place around Him.  This is often referred to in different ways–for Robert Barron it is “finding your center” and allowing Christ to be it, for CS Lewis and Michael Gaitley it is “putting first things first” allowing Jesus to be first in your life, for Jean C.J. d’Elbee it is spoken of under the theme of abandonment–but the point is always the same.  Jesus has to be the at the heart of the believer’s daily existence, not merely given a sliver of the day to be focused on but the very fabric that enlivens every moment of every day.

This pretty much brings us to the present day.  I realize, now, that I need to learn to find that gaze of Christ not only in moments of personal or sacramental prayer, but in the eyes of others and in the seemingly ordinary events of my life.  If I find His gaze in others persons or in His providence, I figure, I won’t be capable of taking my eyes off of Him.

I’ve come to understand this as the four-fold gaze of Christ: in prayer, in sacraments, in others, in happenings.  Again: simple lessons, nothing we haven’t heard before.  But when cast into the language of genuine agape they take on a whole new dimension, for it is He, the beloved, gazing back behind all these various appearances, fanning the flames of an intimate relationship with the One in whom all of our spiritual, emotional, and, yes, physical desires are meant to be satisfied.

(Pray for me.)

At What Point Do We Call Schools Orphanages?

by Joy Pullmann via TheFederalist.com

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The city fathers of Buffalo, New York are considering what they call “public boarding schools,” “where students as young as first or second grade would be assured proper meals, uniforms, after-school tutoring and activities.”

“We have teachers and union leaders telling us, ‘The problem is with the homes; these kids are in dysfunctional homes,’” Buffalo school board member Carl Paladino told the Huffington Post. The “Buffalo Institute of Growth would supplement a college-style academic schedule with life skills and social activities that would keep students on campus seven days a week…”

This isn’t an isolated discussion. In Madison, Wisconsin, a local foundation recently shelled out $300,000 to help the district create four “full-service schools,” which is a euphemism for “take over basically every salient aspect of parenting.” This includes health care, dental care, after-school and weekend babysitting, meals and snacks, and parenting (although Madison schools have renamed that “mentoring” so it’s more appropriately generic).

Of course, behind every statist program you’ll find the Obama administration, which has for its tenure been busily shelling out your kids’ money (because it’s all debt spending now) to “help” public schools transform into similar incarnations of modern orphanages. They’re not even quiet about their ambition to program children “from cradle through college and career.”

The Promise Neighborhoods initiative, which is just one arm of a multipronged effort, wants “cradle-to-career solutions” that “integrate programs” and “break down agency ‘silos’” for comprehensive government-run life planning. All on behalf of the children, as usual. These are already in at least 20 states.

Boarding Schools and Orphanages Aren’t Necessarily Bad

Before some analysis, first the necessary caveats.

Boarding schools are not necessarily evil. My husband attended a boarding high school, and it was neither one of those “military school” halfway houses for troubled kids nor an elite school for wealthy kids with detached parents. There was no Christian high school anywhere near his family’s home, and it was really important to their family that the children attend one, so they ate margarine and rice and sent their six kids on partial scholarships to their alma mater in the Missouri boondocks 900 miles away. If only every parent was that dedicated to his child’s success, right? And if only every child had the opportunity to use his education tax dollars to attend such a school if his family felt the need.

I also understand the need to remove some kids from terrible homes. That’s why we have a foster-care system. The Federalist has also published some poignant writingfrom a graduate of a 1950s orphanage who has spent his academic career researching their modern incarnation: group foster-care homes. He argues they are not right for all displaced children but are perfect for some. It’s perfectly plausible that kids of widely diverging personalities, family situations, and abuse histories will need widely diverging modes of restoration.

The Default Should Be Home, Not an Institution

Look, we all recognize the sad truth that some children’s families are not safe places for them. A just society removes such innocents from their messed-up parents when it is truly necessary, and places them in real homes where they might have a fairer shot at life.

But that’s not we’re talking about here. We’re talking about assigning a kid to full-time government oversight simply because his parents have less money than some others, or because his family speaks a language other than English at home. These situations are not inherently abusive. Government owes parents and children proof their relationship is causing permanent and abominable damage before it reaches to separate the two. It’s entirely offensive to poor and minority families to tell them these qualities alone require society to remove their children.

It’s also wrong. How does it make sense to think that hired hands will be better at meeting children’s needs than their own flesh and blood? How does it make sense to think that shuffling children into some mechanical, preset series of government programs will nurture their beings better than weeding and feeding within the organic ecosystem in which they first bloomed to life? Families were made for children. They’re the natural place children abound. When a habitat is sick, we don’t call it restored if someone comes in, pours concrete, and builds a pile of cubicle holders on top. We call it destroyed, and we mourn that destruction.

This Is an Inevitable Consequence of Big Government

One could easily consider “full-service schools” a form of damage control politicians need to cover the evidence that their policies of paying people to have babies outside of marriage and creating a false sense of security with “free” birth control for everyone have contributed to skyrocketing rates of children born to inherently unstable homes, with attendant increases in child abuse and neglect.

Ultimately, though, the increasing conversion of schools into orphanages only makes obvious what is already true about American society: We’re already a cradle-to-grave welfare state. Government oversees children from before birth through programs like WIC, which gives poor pregnant and nursing moms “free” health care and food. It then oversees children from birth through adulthood with health care from Medicaid, food from SNAP and school breakfast and lunch (and sometimes dinner), rent subsidies and low-income housing, out-of-home early childcare and parenting through child-care vouchers and Head Start, even more babysitting through make-work after-school programs, and more. We pay for millions of kids’ college tuition, “workforce training,” hell, even their cell phones. Next we’ll be supplying them with iPads. Oh, wait.

The Obama administration is merely rearranging this reality, trying to streamline all the pre-existing welfare into one centralized orphanage people can stay in even after they reach 18. At least they’re honest. Given Republicans’ penchant for efficiency in government control rather than concern about reducing it, they might as well be honest, too, and cheer Obama for using the money and power they keep giving the federal government instead of pretending he’s some antagonist to their long-proclaimed but long-abandoned principles.

U.S. probes possible international terrorism link with Texas jihad shootings

by Robert Spencer via JihadWatch.org

It isn’t as if it is hard to find such a link, but U.S. authorities under Obama are so determinedly clueless that it takes them a great deal of effort to arrive at the obvious. At very least, the shooter appears to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (Amirul Mu’mineen is Leader of the Believers, i.e., the caliph, and bay’ah is allegiance). Whether it was orchestrated from there or not doesn’t shed much more light on what happened, but since officials are forbidden to study or understand the jihadis’ motivating ideology, they make a great deal out of such matters, however little they warrant such treatment.

“U.S. probes possible international terrorism link with Texas shootings,” Reuters, May 4, 2015:

(Reuters) – U.S. authorities are investigating possible links between gunmen shot dead by police at an anti-Muslim event near Dallas and international terrorist groups, a U.S. government source said on Monday.

The source said the FBI and other U.S. agencies believed the incident on Sunday could have been instigated or directed by foreign-based militants such as Islamic State, which operates mainly in Syria and parts of Iraq.

Here we go: McClatchy suggests limits on free speech after Texas jihad shooting

by Robert Spencer via JihadWatch.org

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You knew this was coming. It was inevitable. We have seen it before.

When the Obama Administration blamed the Benghazi jihad attack on a video about Muhammad, there were calls in the mainstream media for restrictions on the freedom of speech. Eric Posner in Slate derided the First Amendment’s “sacred status” and declared that “Americans need to learn that the rest of the world—and not just Muslims—see no sense in the First Amendment. Even other Western nations take a more circumspect position on freedom of expression than we do, realizing that often free speech must yield to other values and the need for order.”

In the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Chayes noted that “the current standard for restricting speech — or punishing it after it has in fact caused violence — was laid out in the 1969 case Brandenburg vs. Ohio. Under the narrower guidelines, only speech that has the intent and the likelihood of inciting imminent violence or lawbreaking can be limited.” She then argued at length that the Muhammad video did indeed have the likelihood of inciting imminent violence, and should thus be banned. Her article was a sleazy and dishonest sleight of hand, as the law is that speech that calls for violence can be banned, whereas she was arguing that speech that doesn’t call for violence, but that might make people who oppose it behave violently, should be banned. That would be to enshrine the heckler’s veto into law and to enable Islamic jihadis to silence anyone they disliked simply by killing someone.

And in the Washington Post, the vile gutter thug Nathan Lean (who has repeatedly published on Twitter what he thinks is my home address and places I frequent, in a transparent attempt to endanger me and those around me, and/or to frighten me into silence) declared: “The voices of hate that hope to fracture our society along religious lines should have no place in our public discourse.” Who would decide which are the “voices of hate” that should be silenced? People like Nathan Lean, of course – that is, purveyors of the “Islamophobia” myth who are determined to silence anyone and everyone who dares raise the slightest objection to the advancing jihad.

And now, Lindsay Wise and Jonathan S. Landay of McClatchy wish that Pamela Geller and I could be prosecuted for standing for free speech against violent intimidation, and describe completely wrongly the concept of “fighting words,” which is actually about words spoken in an actual fight situation, not about an innocuous activity that others find so provocative as to commit murder.

The free world is going quietly.

“After Texas shooting: If free speech is provocative, should there be limits?,” by Lindsay Wise and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy, May 4, 2015 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):

WASHINGTON — Organizers of the Muhammad Art Exhibit in Garland, Texas, knew violence was a possibility.

They shelled out $10,000 for extra security to patrol the controversial event, which featured a speech by a Dutch politician who’s on al Qaida’s “hit list” and a contest for the best cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Local law enforcement was on the alert. A SWAT team and a bomb squad patrolled.

The two gunmen who opened fire with assault weapons outside the exhibit on Sunday were killed by a police officer. They have been identified by law enforcement as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both of Phoenix. They appear, from social media posts, to have been motivated by a desire to become mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

The attack highlights the tensions between protecting Americans’ treasured right to freedom of expression and preserving public safety, and it raises questions about when – if ever – government should intervene.

There are two exceptions from the constitutional right to free speech – defamation and the doctrine of “fighting words” or “incitement,” said John Szmer, an associate professor of political science and a constitutional law expert at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“Fighting words is the idea that you are saying something that is so offensive that it will lead to an immediate breach of the peace,” Szmer explained. “In other words, you are saying something and you should expect a violent reaction by other people.”

The exhibit of cartoons in Texas might have crossed the line, Szmer said.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect what they were doing would incite a violent reaction,” he said.

Organizers knew, he said, that caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which many Muslims consider insulting, have sparked violence before. In a recent case that drew worldwide attention, gunmen claiming allegiance with the self-described Islamic State killed 12 people in an attack on the Paris offices of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was known for satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

On the other hand, “fighting words can contradict the basic values that underlie freedom of speech,” Szmer said. “The views being expressed at the conference could be seen as social commentary. Political and social speech should be protected. You are arguably talking about social commentary.”

It’s unlikely that the issue will be tested in the Garland case, however, because prosecutors in Texas almost certainly won’t press charges against the conference organizers, he said.

The anti-Islam group that organized the art exhibit and contest in Garland is the American Freedom Defense Initiative, whose mission is the preservation “of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equal rights for all,” according to its Facebook page….

The gunmen’s violent actions will end up drawing undeserved attention to the hateful message spread by Geller’s group, said David Schanzer, a professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

“Any efforts to censor them or restrict their rights will just play into their agenda, which is to antagonize and spread a pretty vile message,” Schanzer said.

What exactly is vile about standing up for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law, Schanzer? You’re just libeling, not giving a reasoned argument.

The best way to fight against people you disagree with is to confront their ideas, he said.

“I think their ideas are both wrong and actually makes problems worse through their actions,” Schanzer said. Echoing Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ well-known sentiment from 1927, he added: “I say we go against them by fighting speech with more speech.”…

This is rich. I have offered to have a public discussion or debate with virtually every significant Muslim leader on the scene. They have all contemptuously refused. They don’t want to fight speech with more speech. They don’t want to confront our ideas. They want to smear us, defame us, marginalize us, and destroy us utterly. That is how the Left and the Islamic supremacists work these days.

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