Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
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Bill Dunn

Earlier this year, Pope Francis denounced “fake news,” which is the widespread distortion of the facts, often used to manipulate public opinion and promote a particular agenda.

 Soon after, I saw this comment online: “The pope condemned fake news, then told everyone there’s a magic man living in the sky.”

Sometimes snooty atheists can be so tedious. Yeah, we get it. You don’t believe in God. And in your view, folks who do believe in God are obsessed with a non-existent “magic man living in the sky.”

 This snarky comment reminded me of the most important question in the world, the question that is at the heart of our cultural polarization nowadays. Oh, you thought the large gulf in our society was caused by a conflict between red state v. blue state, Democrat v. Republican, rich v. poor, black v. white, old v. young, Planned Parenthood v. the NRA? Not at all. The root cause is the answer people give to this, the most important question in the whole world: Did God create mankind or did mankind create God?

 Every aspect of our lives — our purpose, our plans, our dreams, our goals, our values — will be based on how we answer that question.

 If God designed and created mankind, then he, as the supernatural divine Creator, has the final authority for defining right and wrong. He is perfectly within his rights to tell us how we should live our lives, since we are accountable to him.

 On the other hand, if mankind created God, if our fearful and ignorant ancestors invented a concept called God (in other words, they mistakenly declared that there is a “magic man living in the sky”), then we, as the highest evolved beings on the planet, have the final authority for defining right and wrong. We are perfectly within our rights to decide for ourselves how we should live our lives, since we are accountable to no one.

Those who believe God created mankind (my view today), understand that we were created for a sublime purpose, that we are called to live our lives according to God’s plan, and that this natural life on earth is only a dress rehearsal for eternal life in heaven.

 Those who believe our existence is a cosmic accident, that we are the product of matter and energy shaped by blind random chance (my view three decades ago), understand that we were not created for any particular purpose, that we do not have any transcendent calling, and that this life on earth is all there is. Once we die, we cease to exist.

 It is not a coincidence that the people promoting ideas such as moral relativism, hedonism and nihilism so often hold a secular, atheistic worldview. After all, if our existence is nothing more than an accident, it is difficult to argue that there is much ultimate meaning to life, above and beyond our nation’s theme song during the past 50 years: “If it feels good, do it!”

 Can I prove scientifically that God created mankind? No, not really, not any more than a smart-aleck atheist can prove scientifically that random swirling molecules accidentally formed themselves into a complex living organism capable of reproducing. But the thing is, 100 years from now we all will know with certainty which view is correct. I suspect it might be a bit dicey at that point, not to mention surprising, for the snarky atheists among us.

On the other hand, if I’m wrong and atheism is true, 100 years from now today’s snarky atheists will ceased to have existed (as will I, of course), and they won’t be able to tell me I was wrong.

 It’s a very simple question, but with profound implications. I ask you, please, sincerely ponder this question and let the answer shape your life: Did God create mankind, or did mankind create God?

Bill Dunn is a recovering atheist who resides in Torrington. He loves Jesus, his wife and kids and the Red Sox (usually in that order). He can be reached at MerryCatholic@gmail.com.

Recently I was waiting in the examination room at the doctor’s office. I don’t really like the fact that I now can utter the phrase, “My cardiologist told me. … ” I guess having a doctor whom I can describe as “my cardiologist” is just another sign of getting old. At least I am as yet unable to say, “My oncologist told me … ”

Recently, Pope Francis made an interesting comment. (Well, obviously that’s not a news flash. Pope Francis always is making interesting comments, which invariably cause part of the Catholic world to gush, “Yippee, he’s abolishing all the rules!” and another part of the Catholic world to ask, in all seriousness, “Is the pope Catholic?!”)

Recently, Pope Francis made an interesting comment. (Well, obviously that’s not a news flash. Pope Francis always is making interesting comments, which invariably cause part of the Catholic world to gush, “Yippee, he’s abolishing all the rules!” and another part of the Catholic world to ask, in all seriousness, “Is the pope Catholic?!”) 

The interesting comment I’m referring to was made by Pope Francis in late January during a speech marking World Communication Day. He said the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was caused by “fake news.” I guess it depends on how you define that popular term. In recent years, the expression “fake news” has been used to describe journalists who frequently twist and distort details of a story in order to promote a particular political or social agenda. It is also used to describe certain yuge public figures who are acquainted only marginally with the concept of honesty and who have spent their entire lives as tall tale-telling hucksters. 

In a broader sense, fake news can be defined as any distortion of the truth — or especially an outright lie — for the intended purpose of manipulating others. Using this definition, the fall in the Garden of Eden was indeed prompted by fake news. If you remember from the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve had a really sweet gig. They had dominion over the entire garden, and Scripture tells us that somehow,  in those early days manual labor was actually enjoyable. Can you imagine?

Anyway, the only restriction concerned the tree in the middle of the garden; Adam and Eve were not allowed to touch it. So naturally, like most humans, this prohibition made Adam and Eve downright obsessed with that one tree. One day, the serpent came along. He didn’t outright lie to Adam and Eve at first. He instead caused them to doubt what they knew to be true. He said, “Did God really say you cannot eat from any tree?” This caused them to question the Word of God. (Something that is the root of many of our problems today, if you ask me.)

Then Satan shifted to an outright lie. He said, “Surely you will not die. When you eat of it, you will be like God!  

And we all know how that ultimately turned out.

When you think about it, almost everyone who has ever walked the face of the earth has been guilty of spreading “fake news.” We often are tempted to twist the facts, or leave out key details, or even outright lie, to persuade others to do or think what we want. For example, my fulltime job is in sales. Um, enough said.

In his speech, Pope Francis said that disinformation and “manipulative use of social networks” can have “dire consequences.” He said fake news ultimately leads to the “spread of arrogance and hatred.” If we look at the various discourses taking place in our culture today — whether political, social, economic, or religious — the level of anger and hatred is frightening.

The main theme of the pope’s speech came right from Jesus’ lips: “The truth shall set you free.” And don’t forget, Jesus also identified himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.”So, if we cling to Jesus, we are embracing the truth, with a capital “T.” And if we strive to make truth-telling a major facet of our lives, we’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much our spirits will be set free. Oh sure, we may not be able to manipulate others quite as easily as we once did, and we may not close that sale quite so quickly (hello, mirror!), but the peace of mind that we’re doing God’s will will more than make up for it.

Give truth a try. Avoiding the spread of “fake news” will be yuge.

There’s been a big emphasis lately on Catholic evangelization. However, telling other people about our faith in Christ is not something most American Catholics feel comfortable doing. So, despite the recent emphasis, the vast majority of us choose to keep silent and leave that job to the professionals: priests, deacons, nuns, etc.

In recent months, the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford implemented its pastoral planning process, which resulted in many parishes' being closed or merged. This unprecedented restructuring has produced a lot of upheaval in the lives of area Catholics. It also has produced a slew of letters to the editor in local newspapers.

Christmas Day is coming soon, so it’s time to prepare for those “visitors from the east.” No, I don’t mean the Magi, the mysterious visitors who “traversed afar” over “field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star,” to pay homage to the child Jesus. (How often do you get to use the words traversed, moor and yonder in the same sentence? Thank God for traditional carols and hymns, without which our modern day vocabulary would be reduced by now to nothing but grunts and screeches.)