Belgium: First in the World?

02-23-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

In Belgium, euthanasia has been deemed medically appropriate for adults for at least twelve years and now has been legalized for minors, with the consent of their parents of course and only after the child has put his request to die in writing. The Belgians are "surprised" that much of the world finds this development disturbing. As reported by Reuters:

Bart Sturtewagen, chief editor of De Standaard, one of the country's largest daily newspapers, said that after 12 years of legal euthanasia in the country, Belgians had grown used to it as an option for the final stages of their lives. "I'm annoyed at hearing 'you'll kill children' in the foreign media. We don't use that kind of language anymore. It's a very different debate on a different level," he said..

Obviously forthright language is for a lesser culture than Belgium. Euphemism is now the lingua franca of ethics and morality. Euphemism is how to say what you don't mean and mean what you don't say. The use of euphemism seems to be the way to permit the formerly impermissible. If we just change the language, the words we use, killing even children somehow becomes acceptable. This strategy, something George Orwell called "double-speak" in 1984 cleans up the ugly reality that has become part of our moral slide to depravity. It functions as verbal quicksand: just try to debate why the issue of killing the sick and vulnerable is wrong and you get stuck in the muck of "you just want people to suffer" backlash.


Love Sweet Love

02-16-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

We just celebrated St. Valentines Day and as anyone who has been married for a long time knows, love, real love is much more than romance. Still romance is important and must be keep alive and that's why having a day to just be romantic is important. Unfortunately for those whose married love is waning a heart shaped box of chocolates or a dozen roses won't change things much. Married love requires much more. Think of it like one of those little bonsai trees that need lots of trimming, just the right amount of water and sunshine. Without that kind of attention married love can easily begin the slow process of decline and just like the bonsai tree that shows little signs of stress until it is too late, marriages can come apart without the partners realizing it until it is too late.

One of the lessons that was learned from the sinking of the Titanic was that a sense of urgency is often our best defense against serious and sometimes fatal problems. During the sinking of the Titanic the crew made a decision to keep the lights on so as to keep the passengers calm. They realized too late the seriousness of the destruction the iceberg caused the ship and instead of alerting the travelers that they had little time, keeping the lights on lulled them into thinking things weren't that bad. Reacting quickly, taking action and not waiting to see if things are really that bad is a good sound strategy for marriages.


Guest Writer

02-09-2014Fr. John LettersMatthew Rich

Dear Friends,

(While I'm away here's a "Guest Columnist". One of our young men at ASU who does some exceptional writing for The State Press)
By Matthew Rich *** November 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm

As an economics student and a believing Christian, I have often found myself conflicted as to how I ought to balance my educational influence with my theological influence. As I have come to understand the field of economics, I have discovered that it is fraught with mathematical conceptions and models that can come across as cold and insensitive to the human condition.

This scientific approach is certainly important to economics, as it provides a framework for consumption patterns, ideal policy decisions and more. However, to reduce economics to a merely scientific subject is to strip it of the very question it seeks to address: the human condition.


Presidential Pot

02-02-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

I wish the President had not waded into the marijuana craze that is sweeping the country. Or at least he had commented on the issue as a parent rather than a politician. But then again politicians tend to see everything as a political opportunity. Whatever the President said, no matter how you parse his words, what many teenagers heard was the "Obama says pot is OK".

This makes it even more difficult for parents who are trying to get their kids not to smoke pot. Parents in this country, especially in Colorado and Washington just don't need the President giving their children another excuse to rebel against them. In fact it would have been nice for the President to let parents know that he was interested in putting up more walls and hurdles to make it more difficult for young people to get pot by using his "pen" or simply by actually enforcing existing marijuana laws. The Presidential seal of approval on marijuana is certainly something that parents could have done without.


Little Sisters vs. Big Brother

01-26-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Little Sisters of the Poor v Big Brother, actually big sister Sebelius, is a David and Goliath sort of lawsuit. The Sisters asked the Federal Court for relief from the Affordable Care Act's "abortion pill mandate" and while the District Court said no, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction pending full review by the Federal District Court in Denver.

The Little Sisters of the Poor for over a hundred years have been operating Nursing Homes in the US for the poor elderly. They give a dignified life to some of the poorest people in the country and none of their residents die alone as the Sisters are there with them at their bedside. In order to support their work the Sisters even go out and beg weekly. I know I worked with this wonderful group of religious women back East. More pertinently the Sisters live a very simple lifestyle and take their religious commitment with all seriousness. Their Catholic Nursing Homes are not considered religious employers by the twisted logic of HHS regulations because they don't restrict their homes to Catholics only therefore they fall under the ACA's abortion pill mandate. HHS offered them a "compromise": sign a piece of paper stating your conscientious objection and giving your Insurance Carrier permission to give your employees no cost contraception, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization". Obviously HHS is giving with one hand and taking away with the other. The Sisters said no.


41 = 560,000,000

01-19-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

The US Supremes this week refused to hear an appeal from Arizona on the 9th Circuit's injunction stopping implementation of AZ's new abortion law that permits abortions up to 20weeks. All this means is that the State Lawmakers will have to fix the law and try again. While there are other states operating with the same abortion law they for some reason have not been stopped from implementing the law. (Then again Arizona has the unfortunate geographical curse of being under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit). This is pretty much how it has gone with abortion laws over the last 41 years since Roe v Wade, an unending series of litigation. But the good news is that our persistent efforts have paid off in many cases in this unending war against the unborn.


Rocky Mountain High

01-12-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Have you gotten a contact high yet from that giant cloud of marijuana smoke wafting down from Colorado? Now that marijuana has been made legal for "recreational" use we'll get to see how this social experiment turns out. Will it be a really groovy Rocky Mountain high or one toke over the line?

So far I've noticed the following "tweets" from the Office of National Drug Control Policy:

U.S. Drug Policy (@ONDCP):

Teen marijuana use is higher in states with medical marijuana laws.

1/3 of high school seniors in medical marijuana states report getting marijuana from someone else's prescription.


The Drugging of our Children

01-05-2014Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Just so you know it is not my imagination….

Dr. Kevin Conners who for the past 50 years has been cheerleading for the legitimization of ADHA (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in a recent NY Times article (12.14.13) had this to say about the ever-increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis:

He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. He questioned the rising rates of diagnosis and called them “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.” “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”


A Day To Remember?

12-27-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Soon it will be the year that was. But was it a year to remember, or your favorite year? Was it the best year ever, maybe a year in the life of a fool? Or was it more the days of wine and roses or a time we’d rather forget? However those 525,600 minutes of those 365 days of 2013 passed by, I hope you can find many reasons for gratitude and thankfulness.

As 2014 dawns we have a new day and a new opportunity for sanctity. What kind of day will it be: a Holy Day, Ground Hog Day, Independence Day or maybe Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Might it be a Dog Day Afternoon, or the Day of the Jackal or a Day of Reckoning? Or will it just be the Longest Day or the End of Days, the Day of Wrath or just a Long Day’s Journey into Night? It possibly could be a Hard Days Night or just One Fine Day. For some it might be Training Day, D-Day, Judgment Day or the Last Day. Unlikely you’ll get a Snow Day but maybe a Fathers Day or Valentines Day and hopefully a Pay Day. One thing for sure it will be the First Day of the Rest of Your Life.


Is Christmas all about the Kids?

12-22-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

(I reprint this every year as a reminder that even situations that are less than ideal can find workable solutions.)

While this may not be pertinent to many of you, I'm sure you know many divorced couples and if you know them well enough you can pass this along.

Each year thousands of American children are informed that their parents are divorcing and that there will be new living arrangements with the children alternating time between parents. Adults who experienced divorce as children frequently report that the holidays were especially stressful for them during their own childhood. This means that divorced or separated parents have to take time to figure out and maturely discuss, without emotional baggage, what the holidays should look like for their children and not what suits the parents or the custody arrangements. After all we say, "Christmas is all about the children" but do we really set it up to be so?


My Grown up Christmas List

12-15-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

You may remember the famous NY Sun editorial, "Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus". What you may not remember though is that You ARE HE! So in light of that here is my Christmas list:

Dear OLMC Santa(s),

Santa did you know that you could double your gift giving this year? And it won't cost you anything. Just purchase all gifts with gift cards sold through our Food For Thought Program. That's 2x's the giving!

And ho, ho, ho did you know that the end of the year is coming and you can donate to the parish's Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School (#122) through Catholic Education Arizona ( and get a full tax credit when you file your state income taxes. (And by the way you also get a tax deduction on your federal income taxes.)


Pope Francis & Rush Limbaugh

12-08-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Pope Francis' new apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Gospel of Joy) apparently has brought not joy but irritation to some. The exhortation covers a lot of ground as it is some 200 pages most of it reiterating long-standing Church teaching on issues such as the sanctity of human, life, marriage and the family. That in itself irritated those who were hoping for the Pope to change some of these teachings. Not happening. But the bigger irritation was caused by the Pope's critic of capitalism and free-markets.

Apparently this caused radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to throw a spittle-flecked hissy fit. While I'm not a listener (because I can't take the anger that the show gives off) I usually admire Rush's logical way of making his case. But this time I think he got it wrong or at least Pope Francis' vision wrong. One of the problems with the text of the Apostolic Exhortation is the questionable quality of the English translation. There is no official Latin version of the text so it looks like it was written in Spanish and translated from Spanish into English. As we learned from our study of the new translation of the Roman Missal translations can subtly change the meaning of a text or at least not express the original intention of the author clearly.


Come get healed

12-01-2013Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

"Father if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it.?"
—2 Kings 5:13

Such were the words of the young servant of Naaman the Syrian who went to Israel to find healing for his leprosy. When the prophet Elisha tells him to bath seven times in the river Jordan, Naaman scoffs. To him, that just didn't have enough hocus pocus to it. We often have the same mindset when it comes to healing: we just refuse to accept the simplicity of how God can heal us. Instead we search for that magic potion, that fountain of youth that's usually sold on a TV info-mercial.

At the same time we have to really want to be healed. I'm afraid too often what we look for is pain relief not complete healing. We set our expectations way too low. The problem that Naaman faced was that his god was too small to cure his leprosy. Instead he had to travel to Israel to find a really big God who could handle his illness. We have that same God, a God who is really big and willing to take on our problems and sicknesses. So why not step out and trust Him?