Sinner, I Admonish Thee

TBM Topic 28: Admonish the Sinner

“Sinner, I Admonish Thee” by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy every week.

There’s a Protestant church up the street from my house that has a sign up for Lent. It reads, “Pray. Reflect. Prepare.”

This sign makes me wrinkle my nose. Mere semantics, perhaps, but why “reflect” instead of “repent”? Aren’t we called not just think about what we have done but act to more align ourselves with God’s will, as the Kingdom of God is at hand? As the Christ is going to unjustly die for our sins? My sister says it’s because “repent” has more of a negative connotation. So does the Spiritual work of Mercy “Admonish the Sinner” – which is precisely why it is needed.

Americans love admonishing the sinner. Who hasn’t signed up to promote some cause, using social media, clothing or dolla-dolla donation? Who hasn’t felt that twinge of guilt at the grocery store when you don’t give a dollar to the Very Good Cause? Oh, so you don’t support this cause? Do you kick puppies and take candy from babies too?

The second route of admonishing the sinner offends the “Don’t Judge Me” movement. Fraternal correction (as we Catholics prefer to call it) is a private correction of a fellow soul as a way to lead them to God and, ultimately, repentance. As we say in the Act of Contrition, we should be sorry we sin not out of the loss of Heaven or the fear of Hell, but because we have offended God, whom we love. This is why people cannot separate their conscience from their public actions anymore than one can separate the facts from a situation.

Admonishment should always happen out of love, and in a loving way. To act otherwise is to distort the meaning of God’s way, and perhaps turn people away. This is always a tragedy.

There are, however, some sinners need to be admonished publicly. There is a new social experiment growing to draw attention to Joseph Kony, the leader of a rebel group in Uganda who abducks children to be sex slaves and soldiers. Kony wants to establish a theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments and says God sends spirits which communicate directly with him.

His actions go beyond not practicing what he wants preached:


KONY 2012 from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

Admonishing the sinner is the loving thing to do, even when it is the unpopular position. Admonishing the sinner is the right thing to do, even when the sinner claims to the higher moral ground. When Jesus lived among us, he did so in order to relate to us human, to understand our tendency towards sin, and to forgive when we ask it of him.

Repent, my fellow sinners, and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ! The most we’ve got to lose is our pride.

Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings

Week Five: My issue(s) with the Church

“Going to the Mattresses: One Girl’s Take on Faith and Feelings” by Julie Robison
“Half-Measures” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“The Church’s Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” by Trista at Not a Minx


This is the fifth post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens.” We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

In the Gospel reading at Mass today (John 5:1-16), Jesus went to Jerusalem, where he met a man who had been ill for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying on the ground and asked him if he wanted to be well. The man  replied, that he was trying to get to the healing pool. Jesus then commanded him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Later, Jesus met the same man in the temple area and said, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Last Friday, I heard Peter Kreeft say the great line of, “The Church is not the Magesterium.”

To clarify our terms- the Catholic Church ostentatiously has a very extensive and elaborate hierarchical system. In more recent years, the priesthood has come under attack- not only because many priests violated their sacred promises and the laws of God, but because an out-pouring of acceptable anti-Catholicism is seeping into the culture.

It is easy to look at the priests and say, they’re not doing their job. But that would only be looking at the Church by its skeleton, not its body. What of the lay people? Those whom, because they are not bound by Holy Orders, think they know better than the Church. Many think, for example, because a priest does not have sex, he must not know anything about it, forgetting that he lives his life in self-controlled celibacy. Or if he’s a priest, he’s repressing homosexual desires or molesting small children. All of these, even as thoughts, do grave injustice to the honor and dignity of the priesthood.

It is easy to say- priests are just men. But what is different is that they have set themselves apart. They have vowed to live the high road. When one priest does wrong to another person, it affects the entire foundation of the priesthood. When they do wrong, the consequences are clear.

But what about when lay people do wrong? What are the consequences there, when they do not attend Mass every week? What happens when Catholics don’t know their catechism? What happens when Catholic schools don’t teach the faith? What happens when parents and families do not reinforce religion in the home?

Well, fortunately for you dear reader, I can tell you.

I won’t be speaking from statistics, although they’re out there- like Pew finding a decent amount of Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence and support legalized abortion. I’ll be speaking from experience as a cradle Catholic: Mass every Sunday with the family, Catholic schooling Kindergarten through senior in high school, and all the high holy days in between.

I’ve encountered a lot of feelings and poor reasoning, which is one reason I am fascinated by Aquinas and canon law. I love reason and logic, and talking about one’s childhood in a high school religion class teaches one nothing of either. It is not surprising then, that I left high school with my Catholic faith not firmly planted, although still a strong aspect of my identity.

I went to a non-Catholic college, where the student population was roughly 40 percent Catholic, 60 percent Protestant. In the first few days of college, I had a great experience of sitting on the floor of my dorm room with my roommate, also Roman Catholic, talking to the girls across the hall: a Lutheran, an Evangelical Baptist, a Presbyterian (USA) and a non-denominational Christian. The conversation was fun, respectful and informative. I am still friends with all those girls, and very close with most of them. The importance of spiritual friendships in Christ is an essential part of living the Christian life.

The ability to verbalize ones beliefs is not only important for people who share the Christian faith, but those who do not. Richard Weaver said in ‘Ideas Have Consequences’ that, “Nothing can be done until we have decided whether we are primarily interested in truth.”

The Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Jews, Muslims, and, most recently, Atheists. I recently stumbled across a wonderful non-profit resource called “Why I’m Catholic”, which features really great conversion stories. Today’s story is from a former neopagan witch. Yep, you read that right. She used to be a witch, and now she’s a Roman Catholic. Isn’t God’s grace so bountiful?!

Before I launch into my Masters, I help out with RCIA, to get more personal experience. Talking with those people is so humbling and glorious; I love listening to how they found wholeness and truth in the Catholic Church. Many times, it was not an easy decision, and their friends and family do not support them. I became initially interested in helping out at RCIA because of the decent amount of friends I have who have converted/ are converting to Catholicism as well. It is not just reason and intellect which brought them into communion, but cor ad cor loquitur – heart speaking to heart, as it says on Cardinal Newman’s coat of arms.

Their story of how they found their way back to the Church is not one, however, that only non-Catholics can experience. I too came back more fully into my Catholic faith in college, literally diving into its rich intellectualism, long history, Church Fathers, consistency, and promise to uphold and defend justice, mercy, love, forgiveness and the Gospels, as well as the countless witnesses and conversations with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Furthermore, I love natural law, and I love the reasoning behind Church teachings, many of which can be supported using non-religious defense.

But I also hold very strongly to the belief that belief is a choice, and that, every day, I have to choose God, as he first chose me. To follow Christ, you also have to want to be cured, like the beggar. (Spiritually cured, of course, although physical cures are miraculously possible as well.)

Last night at RCIA, Fr. George asked me to talk about reconciliation, since one of my Lenten spiritual practices is going to Mass more than once a week and going to confession at least once a week. One of the most important reasons to frequently take communion and to go to confession is because it will heal you. Through God’s grace, the sacraments endow the recipient with the grace and moral courage needed to face an unloving world and desires not in your best spiritual interest, even if it is what you think you physically want.

Libby Edwards, the lady mentioned above, who converted from neopaganism to Catholicism said it best: “Witchcraft offers incredible freedom, but oh, it’s a clever lie.” This is why the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel asks him to “protect us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

The priest said during the homily today that it is not just physical ailments which keep us down- it is spiritual ones. Things we don’t want to change about ourselves. Maybe we don’t want to stop swearing, or drinking a lot, or dressing a certain way, or using contraception, or doing whatever we want, whenever we want. It’s our life, right? But, oh! How even some of the Catholics closest to me have forgotten that we are not our own; that we were bought at a price.

 I take issue with the namby-pambiness I have witnessed among fellow Roman Catholics: be it from parents to teachers, from the community of believers to the individual, from the rectory for the home- there is a need to call for more faithfulness among the faithful. I have encountered too many feelings, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much fear, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much ignorance, and not enough faith. It is the promise we make at Confirmation to be soldiers for Christ- but how can we fight for truth if we do not follow our own leader?

Venerable John Paul II said, be not afraid. This is why he started the New Evangelization movement at the start of the third millennium. Modernity and people want to be different and counter-cultural, but they miss the point of life when they dress alternatively, or act scandalous, or listen to hip music. To truly be counter-cultural, one takes up the cross to follow Christ. The Catholic Church was established by Christ, who gave us the sacraments, to sustain us with grace and faith; the hierarchy, to ensure apostolic succession; and the laws, to survive faulty human judgment.

The Catholic Church survives and flourishes today, even after 2,000 years human fallibleness. The Catholic Church is more than bad priests. The Catholic Church is more that wayward lay people. The Catholic Church is just one part of the communion of saints, which is filled not only with the faithful believers, but the saints and the angels, those in heaven and those in purgatory, and a living, viable Trinitarian God. My issue with the Church isn’t the Church itself – it is the people within and outside the Church, wasting their earthly opportunity to find true happiness and joy.

I remember reading a book in my Intro to Western Religion class, where so many of the theologians’ final question was this: they wanted to know what happened to Paul on his way to Damascus and what he saw. I don’t think it matters specifically to them- I think we’re all walking to Damascus. If God hasn’t done it already, he just might knock you on your back if he has to get your attention. Or maybe, if you’re struggling with something, then hold on to God and wrestle him like Jacob, until you extract your blessing.

We all have a role to play in this life; may we find the moral courage to answer the call! The Catholic Church is here to support us through this life, to help us reach the next life, if we only let her.

And as a final hurray for the Catholic Church, here is a Eucharistic processional through the streets of NYC. I get chills every time I watch this:

“Speak up for what you believe. Love the Church. Defend her teaching. Trust in God. Believe in the Gospel. And don’t be afraid. Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life. Changing the course of American culture seems like a huge task. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming and converting a civilization has been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling us to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him.” 
-Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Evil Don’t Look Like Anything

Week Two: Contraception

“Evil Don’t Look Like Anything” by Julie Robison
“Beyaz Yourself” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
“Wearing Crucifixes and Condoms” by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the second post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens”. We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Today’s blog carnival is hosted by Fire of Thy Love

This week’s discussion of contraception is not a judgment of people who take it, or meant to belittle or dismiss its helpful medical benefits. But it is false to claim that most women currently on hormonal birth control are not on it to prevent pregnancy, and it is folly to defend any contraceptives as a safe way to have sex.

First of all, sex isn’t meant to be safe. Holding hands is safe. Sex is supposed to be exciting and the ultimate sign of love and commitment between two spouses in the marital bed. Sex is a risk; every act of love may result in a new creation. Sex is a bond, physically and emotionally. Contraception attempts to take away all the risk, lessen the bond, and leave the sensual excitement. There is no longer a need for commitment, just mutual consent.

At the beginning of this year, I was assigned to write an article for Our Sunday Visitor on a poll sponsored by Human Life International America and done by the polling company inc./ Women’s trend. I thought it was going to be very cut and dry. The teleconference press conference was a half hour, and I was the only journalist who asked any questions. Total weak sauce on the side of the journalists; the information was fascinating and the women speaking were fabulous—like Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, a breast cancer surgeon and co-director of the Sanofi Aventis Breast Cancer Center at the Steeplechase Cancer Center.

She said, “It’s long been known that estrogen/ progestogen combination drugs such as the pill does cause breast cancer. In fact, in 2005, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, put it as a Group I carcinogen.”

From what I’ve read by the Mayo Clinic (Dr. James R. Cerhan, 2006), the question of this connection between hormonal birth control and breast cancer should not even be a question any more. But I’ve now discussed it with multiple friends in med school and found other results. My mom is a cancer specialist too, and this topic has fascinated me since high school. I had only heard snippets of this growing up, mostly concluding in “inconclusive results.” But did y’all know that a woman’s risk for breast cancer is increased by 52 percent if she takes the pill for four years before her first pregnancy? The National Cancer Institute, according to its Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data, shows a 400 percent increase in non-invasive (“in situ”) breast cancer in premenopausal women since 1975!

And this poll, which surveyed over 800 women between the ages of 15 and 44, revealed that only 19 percent knew about the links to breast cancer. Of those participants, 3/5 admitted to using birth control to avoid pregnancy. My article, “Most women unaware of birth control pill health risks, poll finds,” continues to be republished in newspapers, the latest being San Diego’s Southern Cross. The research I did for it, the people I talked to and encountered, not only changed my perception and understanding of contraception, but my attitude of its noxious hold on society and the pedestal it arrogantly enjoys.

Even before this article, I had done a lot of research on the family and family planning for my senior thesis on the degradation of the family with the expansion of government (focusing on the black American family and the Moynihan Report). Did you know that the black community saw the work of government-sponsored Planned Parenthood as an attack on the black community for decades? As they rightly should have- it’s an unfortunate part of American history that the black community was targeted by “family planning” centers to lessen the amount of black people.

Even today, it was recently released that, in New York City, 41 percent of pregnancies ended in abortion in 2009. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, that’s 87,273 abortions. More than half of those were black babies. And that is only one major city, in one country. This is happening all over the world, to babies of all colors!

Which brings us back to contraception: yesterday evening, at RCIA, we talked about temptation and sin. The thing about temptation is that the Devil is taking something good and twisting it for his own, malicious ends. Temptation isn’t the bad thing- it’s how one chooses to respond, in what we do or fail to do.
For example, at one turning point in the movie Down With Love, Renee Zellweger has let Ewan McGregor’s character think he was tricking her into bed the whole time, when really, she had him him fooled: 
Then you, the great Catcher Block, would know that you’d been beaten at your own game… by me, Nancy Brown, your former secretary. And I would have, once and for all, set myself apart from all the other girls you’ve known, all those other girls that you never really cared about, by making myself someone like the one person you really love and admire above all others: you. Then, when you realized that you had finally met your match… I would have at last gained the respect that would make you wanna marry me first and seduce me later.


This, of course, is not how people should date, but Zellweger has it down: marry first, seduce later. Unfortunately, the Devil knows people lean towards the good in this world. So what does he do? He turns people’s hearts so that evil appears good, or at least, equal to the good. Because seducing is just as good as marrying, right? This is why free will is so important and our capacity to freely choose the good over the bad. Contraception- which starts with contra, meaning against- is detrimental for sex and the people who use it because of its very purpose, which is to disconnect the physically and emotionally sacred act from the physical and tangible formation of little souls.

Sex while using contraceptives outside and inside marriage (the current statistics say 85 percent of sexually-active Catholics use some sort of birth control) has taken its toll on the very institution of marriage, weakening its foundation and meaning, as well as being linked to health issues like breast cancer, and a substantial increase in infertility, divorce, and abortion over the past half century.

One of my favorite songs is a murder ballad by Okervil River called “Westfall”:

The song is about a boy and his friend who kill two girls. The end stanzas are the ones which give me absolute chills, when the band really speeds up and the passion is almost pleading–

And when I killed her it was so easy
that I wanted to kill her again.
I got down on both of my knees and…
She ain’t coming back again.

Now, with all these cameras focused on my face,
you’d think they could see it through my skin.
They’re looking for evil, thinking they can trace it,
but evil don’t look like anything.

C.S. Lewis said, “By mixing a little truth with it, they had made their lie far stronger.” Contraception claims to free women, free them from their “biological repercussions.” But when you compare men to women, they are functionally the same. One’s masculine or feminine vocation aside, men and women have very different natures, while retaining the ability to do similar tasks and activities.

The difference between men and women, without oversimplifying the matter, lies in the woman’s ability to create (with the man), carry and then give life to another human being. That is why women must defend this gift and calling: bearing children is the ultimate litmust test- it is the one thing men cannot do! They do not have the inner tools for it, medical procedures and flukes aside.

While doing research for my senior thesis, I had the pleasure of reading many fantastic documents like Pope Pius XI’s “Casti Connubii. Delivered in Rome on December 31, 1930, this is a very important treatisie on Christian marriage, especially since it followed the 1930 Lambeth Conference, which loosened the Protestants’ historical rejection and objections to birth control. I wish I could share more of this wonderful encyclical, but this passage held me particularly rapt:

This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man.


This is why contraception, with its outer appearance of helping women and relationships, actually does the opposite. It cheapens sex. It alleviates commitment. Contraception, like drops of water wearing down a stone, lessens the dignity of the human person when used to avoid becoming pregnant. It reduces romance and equalizes love. Even more so, the attitude of an “unwanted pregnancy” attempts to relinquish the newly created child’s dignity. But a person does not have worth because its mother wants it; as the Lord says even when your mother forsakes you, I will not.


Yes, God. I know, my rosary is getting near your ovaries! But people forget that their rights are not more important than right and wrong. People don’t want to be reminded that God’s law is eternal and, in the end, we all must answer for what we have done, and what we have failed to do. Contraception does not deliver people into more freedom, it decieves and corrupts charity.

This, I suppose, is my biggest problem with contraception: it warps people’s minds about what is life and what is not. It darkens the intellect. It takes the grave and moral matter of life and turns it into a gray matter. But anyone who has an abortion or uses contraception admits de facto that sex results in babies. Why else would they use contraception? If it’s actually a clump of cells growing rapidly, you might want to see an oncologist, not an ob/gyn.

Russell Kirk, on the object of human life, said,

Men are put into this world, he realizes, to struggle, to suffer, to contend against the evil that is in their neighbors and in themselves, and to aspire toward the triumph of Love. They are put into this world to live like men, and to die like men. He seeks to preserve a society which allows men to attain manhood, rather than keeping them within bonds of perpetual childhood. With Dante, he looks upward from this place of slime, this world of gorgons and chimeras, toward the light which gives Love to this poor earth and all the stars. And, with Burke, he knows that “they will never love where they ought to love, who do not hate where they ought to hate.”

May we all look upwards, without fear, and towards hope in the Lord’s already given gift of life. Happy Tuesday, y’all!