Sunday, May 31, 2009

Broken Vows

I haven't mentioned the Fr. Cutie story. I was hoping very much that he would repent of his actions and reconcile with the Church. Instead, he has chosen full-blown heresy and schism. Per CNN:

Father Alberto Cutie, an internationally known Catholic priest who admitted having a romantic affair and breaking his vow of celibacy, is joining the Episcopal Church to be with the woman he loves, he said Thursday.

Father Alberto Cutie will deliver a sermon Sunday at a Florida Episcopal Church.

"I will always love the Catholic Church and all its members," he said at a news conference. "But I want to start today by going into a new family. Here before this community where I have chosen to serve and where I live, I am going to continue to proclaim the word of God and my love for God," Cutie said.

Translation: I need to be with this woman so badly that Truth is a secondary concern. The Episcopalians will be Ok with my marrying her. This is what counts.

Very, very sad. Archbishop Favalora is correct:

In Thursday's statement, Favalora said that, in the eyes of the Catholic church, Cutie now has the worst of both worlds: He may no longer perform a priest's sacraments and any mass he might perform would be "invalid," but he must abide by his vow of celibacy.

"Father Cutie is still bound by his promise to live a celibate life, which he freely embraced at ordination," Favalora said. "Only the Holy Father can release him from that obligation."

I think that's a misprint or something, as I'm pretty sure the Mass would be valid, but illicit.

It doesn't change the fact that we should pray for this man. A lot. And not just for him. He's a very popular figure, especially among the Hispanic community in Florida. We must hope and pray that he doesn't drag others into his sins.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

So Is Gay Ok Or Not?

That's the question currently getting knocked around by some Methodists and Baptists over in Dallas. You can read the story here.

The DMN's Ed Housewright had a story a couple of days ago about a sermon preached at Grace United Methodist Church in East Dallas. The pastor, the Rev. Diana Holbert, was responding to a sermon preached last November at First Baptist Dallas titled "Why Gay is not OK." Rev. Holbert's response was titled, logically enough: "Why Gay is OK."

The Methodist bishop has come out with a statement that it's not ok. I guess that settles it until the next time the pastor in question says that it is ok.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gather Us In: The Obama Speech, Pt. 3

Obama then gives a segue about how the graduates will be exposed to lots of different opinions and ideas, mostly from people who really don’t know much.

And in this world of competing claims about what is right and what is true, have confidence in the values with which you've been raised and educated. Be unafraid to speak your mind when those values are at stake. Hold firm to your faith and allow it to guide you on your journey. In other words, stand as a lighthouse.

But remember, too, that you can be a crossroads. Remember, too, that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It's the belief in things not seen. It's beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

And this doubt should not push us away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious and eager to continue the spiritual and moral debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us even as we cling to our faith to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works and charity and kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.

Theological side note: Faith does not necessarily admit doubt. Faith is a virtue wrought and infused by the grace of God. It permits us to know certain things with absolute assurance because those things have been revealed by God Himself, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.

I’m willing to bet that Obama knows the Catholic view on this. He at least knows that the Church believes in some measure of infallibility, which necessarily means ultimate confidence in being right. Knowing this, he has exactly the right linguistic arrows to punch holes in this idea by equivocating and setting faith on the same level as precognition.

We arrive again at the problem that we are still being asked to pay no attention to the dead babies behind the curtain. Not only that, we are now being asked to consider that maybe we’re wrong in worrying about it altogether. The man actually says that FAITH should compel us to be OPEN AND CURIOUS to debate the issue! This is double-speak crap. If you don’t do this, you are running into “self-righteousness.” Ergo, you are a bad person.

Not content in staying there, Obama encourages doubt. Think about that. A guy stood up in front of a group of young people at an ostensibly Catholic university and encouraged them to doubt their faith. And why? So that we can avoid faith-based arguments and all be good rationalists and keep that nasty faith business on the shelf. Consider the hypocrisy in this statement after the above comments on being a “lighthouse.” I guess it’s ok to hold firm to our faith and let it guide us, as long as we doubt enough not to let it guide us too much and keep it out of debate so that we can focus on reason alone.

The Pelagian capstone about everyone being nice and moving hearts/minds really sets this section of the speech apart.

I say all this to compliment the president again. Only a man of the highest level of charisma could pull this off.

For if there is one law that we can be most certain of, it is the law that binds people of all faiths and no faith together. It's no coincidence that it exists in Christianity and Judaism; in Islam and Hinduism; in Buddhism and humanism. It is, of course, the Golden Rule _ the call to treat one another as we wish to be treated. The call to love. The call to serve. To do what we can to make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share the same brief moment on this Earth.

He does a good job here laying out the appeal of indifferentism. Of course, the dead baby problem still won’t go away. This is a good reference point for why we need the Magisterium so badly. Obama’s definition of the Golden Rule is defective, as it ignores things like the dead baby problem and the need for anyone who actually loves another to have concern for their eternity, not just our “brief moment” here. This requires, as with any loving teacher, condemnation and correction of error based on the certainty, through Faith, that the Church is right.

So many of you at Notre Dame, by the last count, upwards of 80 percent, have lived this law of love through the service you've performed at schools and hospitals; international relief agencies and local charities. Brennan is just one example of what your class has accomplished. That's incredibly impressive, a powerful testament to this institution.

I wonder what Obama feels drives the actions of the protestors. Would he use “love” to describe their motivation? Probably more “conviction” or “belief” is what he’d say. Love is apparently inapplicable to those still in the womb.

Now you must carry the tradition forward. Make it a way of life. Because when you serve, it doesn't just improve your community, it makes you a part of your community. It breaks down walls. It fosters cooperation. And when that happens, when people set aside their differences, even for a moment, to work in common effort toward a common goal; when they struggle together, and sacrifice together, and learn from one another, then all things are possible.

There’s that common ground again. Work on making the trains run on time. Work on doing stuff together. The babies are a secondary issue. What you need to focus on is the stuff happening to the real people around you. Anything is possible when you do this. Except saving the babies. We’ll just have to disagree on that.

After all, I stand here today, as President and as an African American, on the 55th anniversary of the day that the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Now, Brown was of course the first major step in dismantling the "separate but equal" doctrine, but it would take a number of years and a nationwide movement to fully realize the dream of civil rights for all of God's children. There were freedom rides and lunch counters and Billy clubs, and there was also a Civil Rights Commission appointed by President Eisenhower. It was the 12 resolutions recommended by this commission that would ultimately become law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a brilliant rhetorical move, the president shifts the discussion to an issue of almost climate change proportions, namely, segregation. We can all agree that’s bad, right? That means it must be bad. Since we can’t agree on abortion as bad, it either isn’t bad or it’s something we need not worry about.

The bit about “civil rights for all God’s children” makes for an interesting contrast given the bit above about children carried to term. Obviously, those children not carried to term have no civil rights. But never mind that.

And years later, President Eisenhower asked Father Ted how on Earth he was able to broker an agreement between men of such different backgrounds and beliefs. And Father Ted simply said that during their first dinner in Wisconsin, they discovered they were all fishermen. And so he quickly readied a boat for a twilight trip out on the lake. They fished, and they talked, and they changed the course of history.

The inclusion of this story should be considered irrelevant fluff, but I'm sure that it served to obfuscate the point of morality well enough. We already know that dead babies are not subject to such an agreement. Remember- “irreconcilable.” The bad comedy here is that the whole civil rights movement has been a success precisely because the search for common ground was not an option. There was a relentless and unyielding march towards equality. Whatever was conceded was gladly taken, but the movement never rested. It kept seeking more and more. There wasn’t any notion that disagreements on the issue could be ignored because, say there was a war in Viet Nam or the economy was bad.

The only message that one can take away from this is that these “irreconcilable” issues are not going to change, so they must be ignored in favor of more timely rail traffic.

I will not pretend that the challenges we face will be easy, or that the answers will come quickly, or that all our differences and divisions will fade happily away, because life is not that simple. It never has been. But as you leave here today, remember the lessons of Cardinal Bernardin, of Father Hesburgh, of movements for change both large and small.

Whose lessons are we to remember? Those with open hearts/minds who look for common ground, whether such a characterization is accurate or not. It’s the willingness to give up certain principles in favor of a secular common good that really matters. Those who refuse to do this are close-minded, self-righteous, unfaithful types who are shirking the true meaning of the Golden Rule.

Remember that each of us, endowed with the dignity possessed by all children of God, has the grace to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we all seek the same love of family, the same fulfillment of a life well lived. Remember that in the end, in some way we are all fishermen.

In going off with the “children” lingo again, we see the president trying to co-opt pro-life/Catholic terms for his own use. Stuff about dignity and what-not is very much in line with personalism, which is at the forefront of a lot of Catholic opposition to abortion.

The rhetorical circle is now complete. Secular common good, to dialogue, to common ground, to anti-dialogue, to faith, to certitude is bad, to doubt is good, to reason, to secularism, and finally to the only reasonable certainty is that God really just wants secular goods. And isn’t that what we all want?

Masterful work.

I do not have the president’s engaging personality or finesse with words. To both his and Fr. Jenkins’s requests for common ground, I can only answer with a question I had previously posed:

What concord hath Christ with Belial?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reformation Nostalgia

I was thinking about the point below on what modern Protestant Judaizers might think of their Reformation brethren if they'd read something like On the Jews and Their Lies. This brought another question to mind.

Just what do modern Protestants think of the Reformation anyways? I hear a lot of folks, especially Pentecostals and "non-denominational" folk who claim that the early Church believed exactly as they do. This is why you see a lot of them bandying around the label of "apostolic." I've known Baptists who buy into the Trail of Blood. I'm pretty sure the JWs I've talked to carry similar views.

Do they think of the Reformers the same way? Do our contemporary Protestant brethren think Luther, Calvin, etc. all believed the same thing and that this thing is the same as they believe (whatever group they may belong to)? Given the praises I see heaped in the Reformers' direction, I have to think that there's some ideas like this floating around out there. Of course, this basically means that these modern groups either don't know what the Reformers thought, don't care what they thought, or just care enough to know that whatever it was, it wasn't Catholic, and that's good enough.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Smile On Your Brother: The Obama Speech, Pt. 2

When we last left the president, he had just introduced the topic of abortion and made the rather asinine point that, only through recognizing common ground, could we think about abortion as a decision with moral and spiritual dimensions. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he actually believes that even though his actions say otherwise. As do his words for that matter:

Babies. STDs. What's the difference, really?

Anyways, we join the president here, speech in progress, as he lays out his vision for common ground on this issue:

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies.

“And if a few million babies get killed along the way, I can still plead ignorance. After all, such questions are above my pay grade. If they are persons, oh well, my bad.”

Seriously, though, how do you think Pres. Obama plans to accomplish that goal? What are we going to say when he pushes for greater access to contraception (which includes chemically-induced abortions) and sterilization? Are we going to be blown off so that we can find common ground on that one, too?

Let's make adoption more available. Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term.

Hold the hell on. Read that second sentence again. “Their children.” Having already acknowledged the president’s oratorical skills, I can only conclude one of two things from his use of the term “children” here, rather than, say, “fetuses.” I cannot believe that such a speaker as Obama would have something like this accidentally pop up.

Either he believes the consensus that the unborn are children and simply doesn’t care, or he is attempting to rhetorically sweep in pro-lifers by engaging them with their own vocabulary.

Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do.

This is actually new. While it would be a positive, it’s difficult to weigh such a benefit on a scale balanced with dead babies. Of course, there’s also an issue with the president’s sincerity, since he’s already reversed himself on more than a couple of stated commitments.

Now, understand, understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it _ indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory _ the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Irreconcilable? As Bishop Finn has pointed out, this is an admission that there can be no dialogue and essentially acts as a complete refutation of Jenkins’s whole stated purpose for inviting Obama to campus in the first place. I’d like to praise the president here for actually agreeing with what we’ve been saying here all along. There can be no dialogue in the Jenkinsonian sense of the word. There can only be dispute and refutation.

I must say, though, the ability to move words in this speech is quite astonishing. Fr. Jenkins greased the rails for the president very well. We have moved from secular common good, to dialogue, to common ground, to anti-dialogue, and I can almost guarantee that nobody has even noticed how the progression of these topics has been set up so that the listener gradually accepts each one as a good thing.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words. It's a way of life that has always been the Notre Dame tradition. Father Hesburgh has long spoken of this institution as both a lighthouse and a crossroads. A lighthouse that stands apart, shining with the wisdom of the Catholic tradition, while the crossroads is where "differences of culture and religion and conviction can coexist with friendship, civility, hospitality, and especially love."

“And if a few million babies get killed along the way, at least we can all still be friends.”

Again, we see stuff like morality, good, and evil, placed on the same level as “differences of culture and religion,” with the idea that we should be willing to “coexist” with people promoting evil. I bring up the segregation comparison again. If a group of students wanted to start a campus chapter of the Klan, should ND be ok with that?

Or what about on the religious end? Should the Freemasons be allowed to have a lodge in South Dining Hall? I’m almost afraid to know what the administration’s response to that question would be.

This tradition of cooperation and understanding is one that I learned in my own life many years ago, also with the help of the Catholic Church.

To condense the next bit, Obama mentions that his family wasn’t particularly religious, but he did have a “sense of service” that led him to being a community oraganizer. He worked with a lot of different people, including some Catholic churches. Everybody acted together to make the neighborhood better. Working with all these churches, he was “brought to Christ.”

Of interest is that he says he was “drawn to be in the church.” Clearly, this is another verbal bait-and-switch. At first, he’s talking about Catholic churches, but the church he’s drawn to be in isn’t Catholic, as we know from his comments regarding Jeremiah Wright’s influence on him.

And at the time, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was the Archbishop of Chicago. For those of you too young to have known him or known of him, he was a kind and good and wise man. A saintly man. I can still remember him speaking at one of the first organizing meetings I attended on the South Side. He stood as both a lighthouse and a crossroads _ unafraid to speak his mind on moral issues ranging from poverty and AIDS and abortion to the death penalty and nuclear war. And yet, he was congenial and gentle in his persuasion, always trying to bring people together, always trying to find common ground. Just before he died, a reporter asked Cardinal Bernardin about this approach to his ministry. And he said, "You can't really get on with preaching the Gospel until you've touched hearts and minds."

Now the president is going to expand on his earlier identification of himself and those others seeking open hearts/minds as the good guys. I’m not going to pass any judgments on Cardinal Bernardin here. I’m just drawing out the Obama characterization of who is on the right side of the fence here.

And again, notice that who the good guys are isn’t really the result of actually being right about something. If Obama was wanting to illustrate this, he would have mentioned what Cardinal Bernardin’s positions really were. But no. What made His Eminence a good guy, as presented in context here, was his open heart/mind and the quest for the holiest of holies, the “common ground.”

My heart and mind were touched by him. They were touched by the words and deeds of the men and women I worked alongside in parishes across Chicago. And Id like to think that we touched the hearts and minds of the neighborhood families whose lives we helped change. For this, I believe, is our highest calling.

Funny. I thought it was knowing, loving, and serving God in this world so that we can be happy with Him in the next.

Yet again, the president uses his rhetoric to revise what should be regarded as fundamental tenets of the Faith. This sort of utopianism as our “highest calling” should be repugnant to any Christians, but Catholics especially. With enough sugar, though, even the most distasteful poison will go down.

We'll have one more installment of this, but I hope that this series is teasing out the meaning of Obama's rhetoric. Once you're passed the glamour and charisma, what he's saying is pretty scary.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Bit More on Judaizing

A little while ago, we were discussing the recent Judaizing trend among our Protestant brethren. I've thought of a couple of other questions that make this whole trend even weirder.

First, has it occurred to any of these guys that modern Judaism really isn't what our forerunners in faith were actually doing? There's no more Temple. No more priesthood. No more sacrifices. The entire guts of the religion were ripped out. How exactly does this identification with the contemporary Jewish movement work then?

Second, I was watching Ralph West, and he started talking about how awesome Martin Luther was and how he did God's work and so on and so forth. Have any of the Judaizers read On the Jews and Their Lies? Would it change their opinion of their own forerunner if they knew that he thought of Jews as a "whoring people" who were "full of the devil's feces"? Would this knowledge maybe change their whole view of the Reformation in general?

Probably not entirely, but it might move them at least to wonder what kind of folks were behind the revolution against Catholicism and perhaps reconsider the revisionist hagiography that has sprung up around their origins.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Anthem: The Obama Speech, Pt. 1

So I'm a big fat liar. I said there would only be three more Obama/ND posts. That was before I realized how long the speech he gave was. So I'll be splitting that up because I think it is very important to examine what he said. I also think I have a pretty good handle on why he said most of it, so bear with me.

Anyways, here goes, with the more fluff parts excised:

You (Jenkins) are doing an extraordinary job as president of this extraordinary institution. Your continued and courageous and contagious commitment to honest, thoughtful dialogue is an inspiration to us all.

Returning the suck-up right off the bat. And making sure that the appropriate buzzword, namely “dialogue,” gets put immediately at the forefront.

Your generation must decide how to save God's creation from a changing climate that threatens to destroy it. Your generation must seek peace at a time when there are those who will stop at nothing to do us harm, and when weapons in the hands of a few can destroy the many. And we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity: diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief.

For some reason, I immediately thought of Pelosi’s comments about her visit with the Pope and the Vatican response to those comments. Regardless, we see here Obama introduce diversity in order to continuing to lay the groundwork for what will be his major theme, which he arrives at way faster than I thought he would.

Moreover, no one person, or religion, or nation can meet these challenges alone. Our very survival has never required greater cooperation and greater understanding among all people from all places than at this moment in history.

Everyone's red flags should have gone up right here. He has just stated, without qualification, that Christianity is not up to its stated task. We might as well shelve the idea of evangelizing the world. Christ’s Church is just one other religion among many in this “one human family.” I’m not sure how this can be regarded as anything other than offensive.

Unfortunately, finding that common ground, recognizing that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a "single garment of destiny," is not easy. And part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man : our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin.

There is a very subtle shift coming. Right now, common ground is associated with “recognizing that our fates are tied up.” It’s going to be something completely different in a few paragraphs. What’s really funny about this part is that Obama is willing to take all of those respective fates and tie them up in a secular solution dominated by the very imperfect men that he is criticizing. This naturally means rejecting the authority of a supernatural institution, whether the Church or some other relation with the Almighty, as the guiding principle.

We too often seek advantage over others. We cling to outworn prejudice and fear those who are unfamiliar. Too many of us view life only through the lens of immediate self-interest and crass materialism; in which the world is necessarily a zero-sum game. The strong too often dominate the weak, and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice. And so, for all our technology and scientific advances, we see here in this country and around the globe violence and want and strife that would seem sadly familiar to those in ancient times.

I think we all can agree on this, at least.

We know these things; and hopefully one of the benefits of the wonderful education that you've received here at Notre Dame is that you've had time to consider these wrongs in the world; perhaps recognized impulses in yourself that you want to leave behind. You've grown determined, each in your own way, to right them. And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation among people is the discovery that even bringing together persons of good will, bringing together men and women of principle and purpose _ even accomplishing that can be difficult.

“Bringing together” for what?

Also, note the president’s self-identification with the “us” who are “interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation.” I don’t know how Obama did as a lawyer, but his manipulation of language is brilliant.

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

No mention at all over the possibility that perhaps one of these parties might actually be wrong in their convictions. This will be critical in the coming bits, as much of Obama’s speech hinges on the idea that there are only a select number of issues that we can make moral determinations about. Climate change is evil, for example. Using people as spare parts is just something that we’ll have to disagree on.

The question, then, the question then is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without, as Father John said, demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?

"Common efforts” for what?

The demonizing bit is pretty hilarious considering what we’ve heard from this man’s spiritual mentor. Yeah, yeah, I know. He never heard any of that stuff.

But please be aware of the continued subjectivization of morality here. Things are only “considered” as right, while others may hold equally strong convictions. What does having a strong conviction have to do with whether something is good or bad? I’m sure there are loads of jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan who have strong convictions about the United States. Does that mean that we just need to bring everybody home and start dialoguing to get us some common ground to work with?

Or is it possible that some practices and/or parties are so reprehensible that common ground on other issues becomes irrelevant? I don’t recall Dr. King ever just agreeing to disagree with segregation so that he could focus on finding common ground.

And of course, nowhere do these questions come up more powerfully than on the issue of abortion.

Speak of the devil . . .

To condense the next bit, Obama mentions a letter he got during his Senate campaign in which a pro-life physician expressed reservations about voting for him due to comments on the campaign web site pledging that he would “fight right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose.” The physician wrote, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."

After I read the doctor's letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn't change my underlying position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my Web site. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me. Because when we do that _ when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe _ that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.

And there’s the shift. Notice that common ground is no longer about some version of solidarity. It’s now about emphasizing issues of common concern, while de-emphasizing disagreements, no matter what their substance. And again, we see the president’s ability with verbal flourishes. Those with open hearts and minds are the ones seeking common ground. Of course, this means that if you aren’t seeking common ground, you don’t have an open heart/mind. You bad person, you.

That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions."

When have “we” not been saying this? Pardon my lingo here, but if anyone other than Obama had made such an empty-headed statement as this, he would have been immediately labeled a douche-bag.

I'm going to leave it there for now. It's really something to watch this guy work.

More to come . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Surrender All: The Fr. Jenkins Speech

Fr. Jenkins has gotten lots of accolades for his introduction of President Obama. Let's take a look at the more substantive bits (such as they are) and see if we can get this to jive with his previous statements and reality.

In the interest of full disclosure, this isn't the whole thing. You can find the full text here, though. With that in mind, let us begin:

I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world. They hope that Notre Dame will be one of the great universities in the nation, but they also hope that it will send forth graduates who -- grounded in deep moral values -- can help solve the world’s toughest problems.

And whose moral values might those be? If we are grounded in the Church's values, we're going to see a vastly different array of problems to be solved and different priorities in how to do so.

That is a good place for hope to be. I have great confidence in what your talent and energy can accomplish in the world. But I have a special optimism for what you can do inspired by faith. It is your faith that will focus your talents and help you build the world you long to live in and leave to your children.

What faith might that be? Are we speaking of the "one faith" that St. Paul wrote about? Or just faith in any random thing that we choose to exalt, no matter who or what that might be? I suggest that Fr. Jenkins's context makes for the latter definition, since he knows that not all these people are Catholic or even Christian. This begins Fr. Jenkins verbal ambiguities so that he can sound Catholic, while really preaching secularist indifferentism.

The world you enter today is torn by division – and is fixed on its differences.

Weird how that happens, huh? How could we live in such a world.

Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.

Oh yeah.

Differences must be acknowledged, and in some cases cherished. But too often differences lead to pride in self and contempt for others, until two sides – taking opposing views of the same difference -- demonize each other. Whether the difference is political, religious, racial, or national -- trust falls, anger rises, and cooperation ends … even for the sake of causes all sides care about.

Note the verbal massage here. There is no mention of the fact that differences, especially with regards to something important (like God) really mean that someone could actually be wrong and in need of correction. Jenkins immediately casts "differences" as one of three things: neutral, positive, or obstacles.

More than any problem in the arts or sciences - engineering or medicine – easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others.

Nice of Fr. Jenkins to pass on his wisdom as to the supreme challenge of this age and how to solve it. This plays into his prior point about differences. Differences are bad and keep us from doing what is REALLY important.

As a Catholic university, we are part of the Church – members of the “mystical body of Christ” animated by our faith in the Gospel.

Yet you give your own employees carte blanche to attack that faith. You ignore the directives of everyone from the pope to the local ordinary. And, of course, you bestow honors upon those who are encouraging the murder of children.

As we serve the Church, we can persuade believers by appeals to both faith and reason. As we serve our country, we will be motivated by faith, but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialogue that appeals to reason that all can accept.

Of course, we also must accept that some people are simply unreasonable. This point in the speech is significant, as it introduces the concept of "dialogue."

When we face differences with fellow citizens, we will be tested: do we keep trying, with love and a generous spirit, to appeal to ethical principles that might be persuasive to others – or do we condemn those who differ with us for not seeing the truth that we see?


But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

We try. If they are obstinate, we may continue to pray for them. The real answer is found, as usual, by paying attention to what Christ says. I don't think Jesus was looking for Jenkins-esque dialogue when He called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers." Do we condemn such people? Maybe looking at the 2000-year history of the Church would help. From St. Paul onward, the anathema was an act of love, both for the offender (that he be moved to repentance) and the rest of the flock (that they be protected from the offender).

The first approach can lead to healing, the second to hostility. We know which approach we are called to as disciples of Christ.

Yeah, we do. I wonder what Fr. Jenkins thinks of Our Lord's cleansing of the Temple. It sounds sort of hostile to me, but Jesus was probably just looking for some dialogue and accidentally tripped over the money-changer tables. It was all a big misunderstanding.

Pope Benedict said last year from the South Lawn of the White House: “I am confident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs a precious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned, responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humane and free society.”

Do you think that he defined dialogue in the same way that Jenkins does? I suggest not on both counts, especially given that the quote here mentions that the dialogue in question has a specific end, namely, a humane a free society. Skipping over the Catholic ideas of "free society," I think we can all at least agree that Obama's idea of such a thing isn't the same as the Pope's. I mean, do you really think that the Holy Father had a society that condones abortion in mind when he said this?

Genuine faith does not inhibit the use of reason; it purifies it of pride and distorting self-interest. As it does so, Pope Benedict has said, “human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind, giving expression to our deepest common aspirations and extending … public debate.”

What faith? There is only one really "genuine faith." The Holy Father was clear on this in his past life. See Section 7. I invite everyone to read the full context of the Pope's quote here, by the way, since the whole point he was making isn't so much about dialogue but protecting society from secular egoism.

Tapping the full potential of human reason to seek God and serve humanity is a central mission of the Catholic Church. The natural place for the Church to pursue this mission is at a Catholic university. The University of Notre Dame belongs to an academic tradition of nearly a thousand years – born of the Church’s teaching that human reason, tempered by faith, is a gift of God, a path to religious truth, and a means for seeking the common good in secular life.

First, what Jenkins is glossing over at this point is what he hopes that many will simply presume. He wants you to think that ND is promoting the Faith in its classrooms and other activities and that this Obama stuff is therefore not a big deal. This is not the case, as is obvious to anyone who has had a class with, say, Fr. Richard McBrien or Hugh Page. Where is the "tempered by faith" part? That we have a Basilica on campus and chapels in the dorms? I think Aquinas and Bonaventure would be looking for a bit more than that.

Second, the italicized part begins what is probably the most subtle distortion of the entire speech. "Common good IN SECULAR LIFE." What just happened to all that "path to religious truth" and needing "to serve humanity" stuff? This is where the rubber hits the road, folks. It seems that Fr. Jenkins and his ilk wish to make the common good something that is temporal only. This is absolutely contrary to Catholicism, which has always made a person's soul a necessary consideration in the common good. Reason itself, which Jenkins has been praising this whole time, demands that such consideration be given. This is why the Church set up universities in the first place. To help temper reason with faith with the goal of people getting to heaven. So we see some mentions of paths to religious truth (by which I hope he means Catholicism), while the bulk of his speech is focused on surrendering religious truth so that we can work on temporal problems.

It is out of this duty to serve the common good that we seek to foster dialogue with all people of good will, regardless of faith, background or perspective. We will listen to all views, and always bear witness for what we believe. Insofar as we play this role, we can be what Pope John Paul II said a Catholic university is meant to be – "a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture" [Ex corde ecclesiae, 3.34].

Now that he's nudged in his re-definition of "common good," he can really take off. He can emphasize dialogue. He's even got the gall to quote Ex Corde Ecclesiae. How is ND coming along in getting those norms for Art. 1, Sec. 3 approved by Bishop D'Arcy? Has McBrien gotten his mandatum yet?

Anyways, the real point is that Jenkins is constructing a picture of dialogue in which all that matters is that there is some sort of exchange of ideas. Let's try to keep in mind as he does this that the only sort of "fruit" that we can acknowledge from such an exchange is the spread of Gospel and the subsequent transformation of culture.

This entire line of thought reduces the Church to nothing more than a commentator. The Church is no such thing. The Church is Mother and Teacher. Given that role, an exchange of ideas is a mischaracterization of what sort of dialogue can occur here. Have you ever seen a math teacher enter into a dialogue with a student who thought that 2 + 2 = 5? There isn't much of an exchange. The teacher tells the student he's wrong and explains why. If he persists in his error, he fails. The teacher does not flinch from proclaiming the truth and continues to fail the student if he does not change. She doesn't award him an honorary diploma, and let him speak to the rest of the class about how everyone should just agree to disagree on what 2 + 2 might be, as long as we can all play nice at recess.

Of course, dialogue is never instantaneous; it doesn’t begin and end in an afternoon. It is an ongoing process made possible by many acts of courtesy and gestures of respect, by listening carefully and speaking honestly.

Or it can work like this:

Having faith and a good conscience, which some rejecting have made shipwreck concerning the faith. Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander, whom I have delivered up to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Notice how it's all about how the terms get defined.

President Obama has come to Notre Dame, though he knows well that we are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, and we oppose his policies on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

He left out this part: But we are willing to look past that because he can get us a common good in secular life that is pretty awesome even though babies will still be getting murdered.

Others might have avoided this venue for that reason. But President Obama is not someone who stops talking to those who differ with him. Mr. President: This is a principle we share.

Let us never forget, though, that talk is cheap.

As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote in their pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.”

This is Fr. Jenkins, the Editor at work. Let's check the context of this quote by reading couple of lines from Gaudium et Spes:

This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.

This strikes me as a bit of a qualifier on Jenkins's quote. Where Jenkins apparently sees dialogue as a simple exchange, in which differences must be minimized in order to find the ever-popular common ground, Vatican II speaks of dialogue as including repudiation of error. In other words, "dialogue" does not mean what he is saying it means.

If we want to extend courtesy, respect and love – and enter into dialogue – then surely we can start by acknowledging what is honorable in others.

And so the sucking-up begins . . .

We welcome President Obama to Notre Dame, and we honor him for the qualities and accomplishments the American people admired in him when they elected him. He is a man who grew up without a father, whose family was fed for a time with the help of food stamps -- yet who mastered the most rigorous academic challenges, who turned his back on wealth to serve the poor, who sought the Presidency at a young age against long odds, and who – on the threshold of his goal -- left the campaign to go to the bedside of his dying grandmother who helped raise him.

Who thinks killing babies, born or not, is Ok.

He is a leader who has great respect for the role of faith and religious institutions in public life. He has said: “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”

Who has been pretty willing to strike conscience protections for health care providers and sign legislation that could potentially close Catholic hospitals. Did I mention the baby-killing thing?

He is the first African American to be elected President, yet his appeal powerfully transcends race. In a country that has been deeply wounded by racial hatred – he has been a healer.

So this makes the baby-killing thing Ok, then?

He has set ambitious goals across a sweeping agenda -- extending health care coverage to millions who don’t have it, improving education especially for those who most need it, promoting renewable energy for the sake of our economy, our security, and our climate.

He'll make the trains run on time! WooHoo! Secular common good, here we come! Ends justify the means!

And thank God that Obama won, because we know that every other candidate wanted to deny health coverage to the needy, destroy educational opportunities, oppose renewable energy, encourage a massive economic decline, and destroy the planet.

He has declared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and has begun arms reduction talks with the Russians.

Drinks on me! Obama has declared it, so it shall be done. Unlike those other candidates who sought a nuclear holocaust.

What? Dead babies? Did you hear what Jenkins said? We have begun arms reduction talks with the Russians!

He has pledged to accelerate America’s fight against poverty, to reform immigration to make it more humane, and to advance America’s merciful work in fighting disease in the poorest places on earth.

No more poverty! Humane immigration (whatever the hell that means; it must be good or Obama and Jenkins wouldn't support it)! Fighting disease!

Yes, yes!

Wait. Wasn't there something about dead babies?

As commander-in-chief and as chief executive, he embraces with confidence both the burdens of leadership and the hopes of his country.

I've got a newsflash for you. He doesn't embrace my hopes. I had the audacity to hope for a nation that didn't facilitate the destruction of the unborn. Pres. Obama stands opposed to that. You and others have decided that your common good, timely rail traffic, etc. is sufficient cause to de-prioritize the ongoing massacre of children and the denigration of the Church's role in society.

We should all pray for this man and those like him. I close with this final bit:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men's bones and of all filthiness. So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just: but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, that build the sepulchres of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the just, and say: If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

Substitute "unborn" for "prophets." I think it still works.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Grace and Reason

In my previous post, I think I was unclear. I am not attempting to say that productive argument is impossible, but that it is difficult, and that the fallen state of human beings must be taken into account. I take it as a given that humans do not follow what their minds determine, as Aristotle knew, as Plato knew, as St. Paul and St. Augustine knew. No one ever becomes good simply by reading a book! If you are already good, the book might help you be better, but if you aren't, the book won't do anything for you. As Aristotle says, it is like going to the doctor, listening to the healthy advice, and then ignoring it.

I know this to be the case in my own life: I know what is good, and choose the opposite. Perhaps I am being presumptuous in assuming it is the case for others? So, arguments do me no good. In fact, I know them all.

What is needed is metanoia, a change of heart (literally a change of mind). We pray "Create a new heart in me, O God/ put a steadfast Spirit within me." (Psalm 51). Look at the example of the apostles, who constantly misunderstood Jesus, despite living with him for three years. Two betrayed him, and nine abandoned him. Even after the resurrection, they weren't able to understand. It wasn't until Pentecost and the reception of the Holy Spirit that they were able. The steadfast Spirit that we pray for is the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things.

Let me do it in math:

argument + listener = 0
argument + listener + grace = infinity

Thus the question becomes not "how do we convince," but "how do we help the Spirit?" How do we present God to the world?

Are we too dumb for the natural law?

I've been thinking about this for a while. Humans seem to be immune to moral argument. This was occasioned by Barack Obama's speech ostensibly asking for dialogue on the issue of abortion. There will be no dialogue, of course, since he himself said that the differences are irreconcilable. They certainly appear to be. But why?

It is puzzling for pro-life people why there has been so little movement. Why don't people change their minds? The science is clear. Ethically, it seems obvious that if man is ever worth protecting under the law, he must be worth it in the womb, since there is no substantial change. If humans acquire dignity as a result of some power of reasoning, then we never acquire dignity at all. I've been over this before, but no one ever seems to be convinced.


Because humans are not entirely rational. We make decisions on the basis of desires and pleasures, and our desires and pleasures and intellect have been disordered by sin. We have trouble thinking clearly, especially when the res is something close to us. We are fallen, and can't think our way up.

But don't just take my word for it. Look at what Plato does in the Republic. He wants to talk about justice, but can't do it, because his audience is not ready. The common wisdom about justice is so faulty that any attempt to reach justice itself is doomed to failure. It is only after the soil is prepared over the whole book that the interlocutors can attempt the ascent out of the cave.

Look at what Aristotle does in the Nichomachean Ethics: he attempts to determine the nature of happiness, and decides that it is good rational activity. Then, he avoids talking about what kind of activity it is, rather spending much time speaking of virtues. But how can one speak of virtues without knowing what they are virtues for? It doesn't make sense, unless he was tailoring the discussion to the audience, only presenting contemplation as true happiness at the end, when presumably they would be more ready to hear it.

But we don't argue that way any more. We don't even argue. There will be no debate on abortion, only soundbites and caricatures. Given the limits of our attention span, how could we convince anyone else of anything important?

I need to think about this more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

After Some Reflection . . .

I had told myself that I'd wait a couple of days to cool off after the speech(es) this weekend before I posted about it, hence my prior offering about Cardinal Canizares. I needed SOMETHING to take up space in the interim.

I will provide three more posts about the Obama/ND thing. I know folks are tired of it, and there's not much more to say anyway. So it will be one bit on Fr. Jenkins's speech, one on Obama's, and one last one about the bishops involved

For now, I leave you with Archbishop Burke's comments, which I had previously kept silent about because they are that good and sum up my own views pretty well. The text is here at LifeSiteNews.

In the Baltimore Catechism, the virtue of patriotism is joined with filial piety. These essentially connected virtues, in the words of the Catechism, dispose us to honor, love and respect our parents and our country (Revised Baltimore Catechism and Mass, No. 3, New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1949, 1952, no. 135). Surely, the most fundamental expression of patriotism is daily prayer for our homeland, the United States of America, her citizens and her leaders. Our participation in the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast is, I trust, an extraordinary expression of the daily prayer which we all offer for our country, as good Catholics and, therefore, good citizens.

This will be critical in understanding the Jenkins and Obama offerings.

As Catholics, we cannot fail to note, with the greatest sadness, the number of our fellow Catholics, elected or appointed by our President to public office, who cooperate fully in the advancement of a national agenda was is anti-life and anti-family. Most recently, the appointment of a Catholic as Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has openly and persistently cooperated with the industry of procured abortion in our nation, is necessarily a source of the deepest embarrassment to Catholics and a painful reminder of the most serious responsibility of Catholics to uphold the natural moral law, which is the irreplaceable foundation of just relationships among the citizens of our nation. It grieves me to say that the support of anti-life legislation by Catholics in public office is so common that those who are not Catholic have justifiably questioned whether the Church's teaching regarding the inviolable dignity of innocent human life is firm and unchanging. It gives the impression that the Church herself can change the law which God has written on every human heart from the beginning of time and has declared in the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue: Thou shalt not kill.

This is significant since it deals with the alleged "true" interpretation of the 2004 USCCB statement, which has been used in this context to justify the president's invitation, while it's further implications of how Catholics in public office are carrying out their duties is ignored.

If we are serious about our patriotic duty, then we must pray everyday for our leaders, especially our President, and our nation. We should also practice more fervently our fasting and abstinence for the conversion of our lives and the transformation of our society. If we want to act for the common good, the good of all, in our nation, then we will seek to convert our lives each day to Christ, especially through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Christ desires to announce the Gospel of Life and bring about its saving effects in our nation by the complete conversion of our lives to Him for the sake of all our brothers and sisters, without boundary, and for the sake of the preservation of the sanctuary of human life, marriage and the family.

This is true patriotism.

Catholic educational institutions must devote themselves ever more strenuously to the study of the truths of the faith, addressing them to the moral challenges of our time. In a culture marked by widespread and grave confusion and error about the most fundamental teachings of the moral law, our Catholic schools and universities must be beacons of truth and right conduct. Clearly, the same is true of our Catholic charitable, missionary and healthcare institutions. There can be no place in them for teaching or activities which offend the moral law.

I wonder how seriously this is taken at ND. Not so much, I am sad to say, as the moral law is rejected by more than a couple of its own theology faculty.

Dialogue and respect for differences are not promoted by the compromise and even violation of the natural moral law. The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our President who is as aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is a source of the gravest scandal. Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law. In a culture which embraces an agenda of death, Catholics and Catholic institutions are necessarily counter-cultural. If we as individuals or our Catholic institutions are not willing to accept the burdens and the suffering necessarily involved in calling our culture to reform, then we are not worthy of the name Catholic.

That first sentence cannot be said enough.

On the contrary, the common good depends upon the active engagement of religious faith in the public forum.

This absolutely must be drilled into the heads of every Catholic. DO NOT LET THEM CONVINCE YOU THAT "COMMON GOOD" MEANS "TEMPORAL GOOD." Common good necessarily entails the well-being of the soul.

Our uncompromising commitment to protect the inviolable dignity of innocent human life and to safeguard the integrity of marriage and the family are not based on peculiar confessional beliefs or practices but on the natural moral law, written on every heart and, therefore, a fundamental part of the Church's moral teaching. At the same time, what is always and everywhere evil cannot be called good for the sake of accomplishing some other good end. All of us must be concerned about a wide range of goods which are important to the life of our nation, but the concern for those goods can never justify the betrayal of the fundamental goods of life itself and the family. We must take care to uproot from our moral thinking any form of relativism, consequentialism and proportionalism, which would lead us into the error of thinking that it is sometimes right to do what is always and everywhere evil.

I fear these last concepts are exactly what is meant when supporters of the invite say "dialogue," even though I firmly believe that many do not understand it to be so.

More to come. . .

Monday, May 18, 2009

Those Dirty Traditionalists Don't Matter

Not when it comes to the Traditional Mass, at least. That's the point made by Cardinal Canizares Llovera in the foreword of a new book called The Reform of Benedict XVI by Fr. Nicola Bux.

Quick note: I tend to hate the word "traditionalist, but it's what he said, so we're just going to toll with it.

Per The Hermeneutic of Continuity, His Eminence begins by discussing how "preconciliar" has become some sort of epithet. He continues:

Today, thanks to the Motu Proprio, this situation is changing notably. And it is doing so in large part because intention of the Pope has not only been to satisfy the followers of Monsignor Lefevbre, nor to confine himself to respond to the just wishes of the faithful who feel attached, for various reasons, to the liturgical heritage represented by the Roman rite, but also, and in a special way, to open the liturgical richness of the Church to all the faithful, thus making possible the discovery of the treasures of the liturgical patrimony of the Church to those who still do not know it. How many times is the attitude of those who disdain them not due to anything other than this ignorance! Therefore, considered from this last aspect, the Motu Proprio makes sense beyond the presence or absence of conflicts: even if there were not a single "traditionalist" whom to satisfy, this "discovery" would have been enough to justify the provisions of the Pope.

This isn't even the best part of the shpiel. Get this:

How many priests have been called "backward" or "anticonciliar" because of the mere fact of celebrating in a solemn or pious manner or simply for fully obeying the rubrics!

How many, indeed. It seems to be a fairly regular occurrence that I hear folks complaining about a priest because he doesn't do disco or Disney liturgy. Instead, he actually believes in offering Mass the way the Church wants, namely, in a reverent fashion with actual sacred music and an emphasis on the Eucharist.

Who would complain about such a thing?

Oh, yeah. I forgot.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray For Us

Holy God, we beg your forgiveness. Break the stone hearts of those who are enemies of life and those who enable the subsistence of this evil. Protect those who carry Your banner today, especially our friend Karl. Most especially, please protect our unborn children and bring this scourge to an end.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Probably Our Last Bishops vs. ND/Obama Post

This looks to be the final countdown of bishops who have opposed the Obama invite. God bless these brave shepherds.

Bishop Campbell of Columbus, OH:
It is important to understand why such a decision has occasioned such controversy. As a Catholic institution, Notre Dame lives its academic life within a particular context. It seeks to pursue truth, in its many and various disciplines, with the understanding that all truth ultimately derives from God and is oriented toward the enhancement of human dignity from conception to natural death and beyond. Every human person possesses a destiny that stretches into eternity.

I believe that Bishop D’Arcy’s decision not to attend the commencement (for the first time in years) is a proper one and morally courageous. I pray that Our Blessed Lady, under whose patronage the University of Notre Dame was founded, will assist by her prayers the university’s more authentic understanding of its identity as a Catholic institution.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit:
No comments available. :-(

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis:
Notre Dame has to figure out who they are — are they of the culture, or are they of the church?

Whatever process they used was flawed. I would say the university really has to sit down — its board, its administration — and reflect on what its role is, and what they're going to be.

Bishop Emeritus John Yanta of Amarillo:
God has been very good to Notre Dame and more and more, gradually, you have "forgotten God's deeds," you choose "to be a defiant and rebellious race," your heart is "fickle," you "forget the things He has done," and "you have failed to keep God's covenant and would not walk according to His law." Psalm 78 is "a didactic Psalm drawing savatory lessons from Israel's history."

In conscience I can no longer support Notre Dame as a Catholic College. I am deeply offended how you treat my wife of 54 years, the Church I love whose head is Jesus Christ.

Blessed Mother Teresa said: "Do you think that God is going to bless a nation that kills its unborn babies?" Do you think God is going to continue blessing Notre Dame?

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs:
I have read your apologia in defense of your action. It is not convincing. Your attempt to justify your invitation by appealing to the title of the 2004 publication of the USCCB is little more than an exercise in legalism. We Catholics must be about the business of standing unambiguously and always on the side of life. Regardless of the title of the document, Notre Dame, arguably the premier Catholic university in the United States, has sent a message to countless Catholics that you will not take this stance. I am convinced that this will prove to be most unfortunate for the university and for the faith of many, many Catholics. And your invitation to the president speaks far more loudly than your disclaimer that you disagree with him on the life issues.

Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA:
The Golden Dome of Notre Dame, the long revered symbol of a Catholic university, will be disgraced and dishonored on this coming May 17th, the commencement day of the university. On that day the leaders of the university are giving a platform and honorary degree to an individual who is a relentless advocate of unrestricted abortion: President Obama.

Many loyal alumni, students, and faculty will continually pray the rosary in reparation at the Notre Dame Grotto during the graduation. They will give witness of what the real Notre Dame is all about. What should be a day of joyous celebration for graduates and their families will be a day of shame and dilemma as the university leadership moves away from its rich Catholic tradition.

And lest anyone think we don't give equal time here, Archbishop Quinn of San Francisco has actually spoken in support of the invitation. +Quinn's letter begins by praising Obama for being the first black president (with some ridiculous embellishment comparing the event to the fall of the Berlin Wall). He also congratulates the president for having a good family life. Then, we have this:

It strikes me that you have shown a measured, thoughtful approach to issues of public concern and your ability to listen to and weigh views different from your own is an asset to the discharge of your high responsibilities. This admirable quality inspires hope for further dialog on issues over which there are major differences.

I'm not sure how we got to Fantasyland here, but +Quinn really needs to slow his roll here and review Obama's record on life issues. I repeat, the man claims that he doesn't know when life begins but is still enthusiastically supporting increased access to abortions. This is either hypocritical or utterly reckless. There is no middle ground.

Return of the Judaizers

If you've watched any preacher channel lately, you may have noticed that there is astonishingly little conversation about Christianity. Pretty much every show you see is about Judaism. Not only that, but it's about taking Christians back to Jewish custom and ritual. We've discussed this a little, but I haven't gotten my thoughts together to go into detail. Maybe I still haven't, but here goes anyway.

Consider this bit by Perry Stone:

Or John Hagee:

I heard Jack van Impe say something to the effect that the Church is the Bride of Christ but that the Jews are the Spouse of Yahweh. This makes for some really strange ecclesiology.

You might think this is small stuff, but I actually saw Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu appearing on some of these preacher shows talking about how great these guys were to be promoting Judaism. If Israeli prime ministers are noticing, I think we can safely say that this is a big deal.

I think these Judaizing tendencies are the result of three major trends. One, of course, is the proliferation of dispensationalism. Why has dispensationalism become such a big deal? Personally, I think it's part of what a Protestant pastor once said to me in a discussion we were having about justification. He said that such arguments really didn't matter anymore because "Protestant theology is dead." His point was that there was no real science or reasoning regarding religious truths anymore. When was the last time you heard someone like Joel Osteen give reasons for their Biblical interpretation? Is anybody really going to mistake the latest Rick Warren fluff for Calvin's Institutes? You get the point.

Dispensationalism really seems to be the last theology left for Protestants these days. When was the last time you heard an argument about infant baptism? Or the properties of sanctification? Or the interplay between free will, grace, and predestination? I'm willing to bet that you haven't. It's pretty easy, though, to find folks at each others' throats about pre-trib/mid-trib/post-trib raptures.

Number two on the "Ascent of Judaizers" list is the fact that Protestants are starting to understand that the beliefs in stuff like liturgy, relics, sacramentals, etc. is all grounded in our Jewish roots. What we understand is that these Jewish practices are just types and foreshadowings of the New Covenant rites of the Church. We don't do seders, for example, although it seems that more and more Protestants are. We have the Eucharist.

Number three, and something that I think works on a much subtler level, is the popularity of once-saved-always-saved theology. By that, I mean that people are less concerned about their own salvation because they think they are guaranteed heaven regardless of their sins. Since they don't have to worry about fear and trembling and other such nonsense, they have to focus on something and that something is the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Strangely enough, these same folks often appear to be preaching that the Old Covenant has some sort of salvific effect. So, you must have faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior, unless you just happen to be Jewish, in which case, you just have to follow the Law.

It's weird.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fr. Hesburgh doesn't like me

Fr. Hesburgh insults me. Read:

"It's like a common place where people who disagree can get together, instead of throwing bricks at one another, they can discuss the problem and they can see different solutions to difficult problems and those solutions are going to come out of people from universities. They aren't going to come from people running around with signs," he said.

I'm a guy that runs around with signs. Not often enough, I stand on the sidewalk with signs making clear just what an abortion is. The sign I carry is of a boy named Malachi who never got to attend Notre Dame because he was ripped limb from limb in an abortion. The picture is gruesome and I hate it. But I carry it because it is gruesome. The reality is gruesome, awful, and monstrous. This is the price for the sexual revolution.

Fr. Hesburgh thinks I am just running around with signs, and that the dialogue to happen this Sunday is better than what I do. Well, I know that the signs have saved lives, because the people who didn't kill their unborn children have told me. I doubt very much that the nuanced mutual back-scratching among academics and their academic-turned-president will save a single baby's life.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand vs. Christopher West

I know that it's a popular thing to throw around Theology of the Body and buy boatloads of Christopher West books in looking to study it. This puts me in yet another minority. I don't like West's treatment of the subject. At all. I think he's taking the ideas of John Paul II and, through personal extrapolation, making them into something they are not.

Don't take my word for it, though. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand says it much better.

“My feeling is that Christopher West has become famous because he started discussing the Theology of the Body, which is extremely appealing topic. The difficulty is that, in the meantime, he became so famous that I do believe he has become much too self-assured and has lost sight of the extreme sensitivity of the topic.”

This is “very troubling” because what she calls the “intimate sphere” is something “very mysterious, very profound, something that has a direct relationship with God.”

“My feeling is that his vocabulary and his way of approaching it totally lacks reverence.”

“Reverence is the key to purity,” she told CNA.” The intimate sphere “is not a topic of public discussion” but is “extremely serious.”

“It seems to me that his presentation, his vocabulary, the vulgarity of things that he uses are things that simply indicate that even though he might have good intentions he has derailed and is doing a lot of harm.”

She then goes into detail about West's decision to ignore the dangers of concupiscence. Basically, if you talk about sex in any manner, there's a danger of leading people's minds into bad territory. We have to acknowledge that. In my opinion, West pays it lip service, then moves on to graphic discussion of stuff. Mentioning Hugh Hefner in the same breath as John Paul II is a minor example.

Anyways, here's my advice. If you want to study theology of the body, stay away from West. Read Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae. Read the Song of Songs. Read Dietrich von Hildebrand, specifically Defense of Purity. Not to knock John Paul II, but he lifts a lot of his stuff from von Hildebrand. Then read JPII's actual audiences on the subject. A lot of this will be dense, and you might not grasp it all (I know I don't), but it's the best that I know of.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ND Protests

In case any of you can make it, you might want to attend the following activities at ND.

Fr. Pavone of Priests for Life will be there, so it's good to know that we have some "names" who are interested.

I also strongly advise looking for the the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society protest.

Archbishop Wuerl Will Allow Pelosi to Receive Communion

Before we get to Archbishop Burke's recent comments (and we will get to them), there's a story not getting too much play out there. Per LifeSite, Archbishop Wuerl of DC will be allowing Nancy Pelosi to receive the Eucharist.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. has stated that he would not deny Holy Communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the most notoriously pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians in the U.S., because he says historically "the Church just didn't use Communion" as a "weapon."

In an interview published in a Politics Daily article today, Bishop Wuerl said he disagreed with refraining from giving communion to manifestly pro-abortion politicians, which was equated with "Communion wielded as a weapon." "That's the new way now to make your point," said Wuerl. "We never - the Church just didn't use Communion this way. It wasn't a part of the way we do things, and it wasn't a way we convinced Catholic politicians to appropriate the faith and live it and apply it; the challenge has always been to convince people.'' On the other hand, sanctioning Catholics tends to alienate them, he said.

Really? So all those canonical penalties over the years were just for laughs? Somebody get Henry IV on the phone. And yes, I know that the withholding of communion in these cases isn't really a penalty, per se, but that's what makes it even worse. You aren't barring someone from the Eucharist "as a weapon." You're doing it because they are committing sacrilege and wreaking horrible damage to their souls. I'm not really sure why this is even a controversy. Typically, you wouldn't think that we should be allowing acts that promote the damnation of others.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cardinal Mahony on the State of the Church

In his geography, at least. Thanks to Fr. Z for providing this and for his accompanying comments.

Whatever you may think of Cardinal Mahony, it is always a good thing to pay attention to his comments, if for no other reason than they give a good barometer for what prelates of his ilk are thinking. Here are a few “greatest hits” from his recent address to the National Federation of Priests’ Councils convention in San Antonio. This is just my shpiel. Fr. Z's, as usual, are much better.

Challenges cited by the cardinal include:

“Some really harsh generational divides” among priests, “with the younger generation often quite openly challenging the orthodoxy of older priests.”

Yeah. I wonder why that is.

In light of the priest shortage, deacons are increasingly being formed to administer priestless parishes. Does that risk “undermining the integrity of the diaconate as a ministry distinct from the ministerial priesthood”?

Of course, the actual shortage isn’t the problem. Recall that not having enough priests and the accompanying numbers of faithful cut off from access to the sacraments is a good thing. Just ask His Eminence. It’s really a great fruit from Vatican II.

“Too many liturgies and homilies are not what they might be, often because of a lack of a good grasp of Scripture as the basis for homilies and for liturgy planning.”

What planning do you really need? It’s why we have a missal. Surely, we aren’t talking about encouraging sacrileges like this:

Threats to parish unity from “the re-introduction of the Latin Mass and more ‘sacred’ liturgies, which have the effect of creating two parallel communities.”

God save us from liturgies that are too sacred. Is anyone actually seeing or hearing about polarizations from the Traditional Mass? I mean besides anonymous calumny. We have people in our parish absolutely terrified of a Traditional Mass even once a month. Other than complaints about “turning back the clock” or “moving backwards,” though, everybody still gets along and supports the church.

Training laity to provide spiritual direction, “as part of a larger spiritual renewal ministry in the parish.”

How many laity have spiritual directors at all? This is something that priests and religious have enough problems with. How about training them first?

Anyways, take heed all. These ideas could very well be coming to a diocese near you.

And the Beat Goes On

More bishops condemn the Obama/ND invitation. Thanks again to American Papist for helping to keep up with this so myself and emailers don't have to:

Bishop George Thomas of Helena, MT:
The honorary doctorate should be reserved for persons whose lives and accomplishments reflect those exemplary qualities and values we wish to cultivate in the lives of our students. Sadly, President Barack Obama's consistent assault upon the civil rights of the unborn reflects the very antithesis of our Catholic social and moral teaching on the sacredness of life from conception until natural death.

I am particularly disappointed in your leadership, Fr. Jenkins. By allowing the University to confer this degree, you have failed to exercise your prophetic voice and teach the American people that the only change we can count on is 'founded on truth, built upon justice, and animated by love' - love for the least, the last, and the lowliest in our midst.

Bishop Reymundo Pena of Brownsville, TX:
Father Jenkins, what you have done is in direct violation of the U.S. Bishops 2004 document on Catholics in Public Life, which states that Catholic institutions are not to bestow honors on, or provide speaking platforms to, anyone who stands in public opposition to the Church’s moral doctrines, particularly those which defend the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death. The prestige that the president will lend to your commencement is not sufficient reason to disregard these principles. There are numerous prominent public figures distinguished for their moral rectitude and record of public service from which you could have drawn.

Mr. President, less than 18 months ago, Pope Benedict XVI canceled a speaking engagement at La Sapienza University in Rome, simply because some of the students reacted negatively to the announcement of his coming. Rather than risk throwing the university into turmoil, the pope humbly withdrew. I respectfully ask you to consider freely withdrawing your commitment to speak at Notre Dame University, for the same reason.

Bishop Edward Cullen of Allentown, PA:
When there is a doubt about the meaning of a document of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where does one find an authentic interpretation? A fundamental, canonical and theological principle states that it is found in the local bishop, who is the teacher and law-giver in his diocese.

I stand in solidarity with my brother bishop and share the sentiments that he expressed in his letter. As does he, I regret that this situation has taken place and call on the leadership at Notre Dame to face the issue squarely.

Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis:
Father Jenkins has no excuse for not standing up for a strong Catholic identity at Notre Dame.

I am quite confident that if there is a change of direction on the part of the board, Father Jenkins will quickly change or leave. I would appeal especially to major donors who love the university enough to withhold donations until there are substantial changes in leadership.

Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, WI:
No comments available. :-(

Bishop James Johnson of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO:
While we must pray for our president, respect his office, and acknowledge and support the good things he does to lead our nation, it is also our duty to make known our opposition to those actions and decisions that stand in direct opposition to the moral law and the foundational principals of America. Such is the case when innocent human life is attacked and left open to the exploitation of the powerful. This is a position which is totally incompatible with Catholic faith and life. A person who holds such a position should not be honored in any way by a Catholic institution.

I lend my support to Bp. John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in Indiana, and his decision to not attend this year’s commencement at Notre Dame. I also join those calling for Notre Dame to reconsider this decision. Even at this late date, such a reversal would be a credit to Notre Dame’s leadership, and would restore the near-universal goodwill that Notre Dame is now almost assured of losing.

Bishop Michael Jackels of Wichita, KS:
A statement about this invitation remarked that the University is “delighted that President Obama will follow in this long tradition of speaking from Notre Dame on issues of substance and significance.”

What issues are of greater substance and significance than those touching upon the sacredness of human life? What might he say that would inspire delight? Bestowing on the President an honorary degree only adds insult to injury.

It is impossible to defend this invitation to the Catholic faithful who ask; it is an embarrassment. The President would surely understand if you were with all courtesy to disinvite him; he is an intelligent person. Please do so.

Bishop Michael Warfel of Great Falls-Billings, MT:
“Until there is clarification, this decision will prevent me from advocating participation by members of this diocese at the University of Notre Dame,” Warfel said.

Warfel said he will encourage Catholic parishioners in his central- and eastern-Montana diocese to boycott the Indiana school and its Catholic formation programs “until its leadership discontinues making decisions that are inconsistent with the promotion of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sacredness of human life.”

Bishop Joseph Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown, PA:
Despite the fact that Notre Dame University has painted itself into a corner, its
President could rise to the occasion and have this Catholic institution of higher learning be a powerful witness to the plight of the unborn by withdrawing the honorary degree. Perhaps, the degree was a condition for the President’s speaking at the commencement, as was the covering up of the cross at Georgetown University when he spoke there. If so, we are seeing an unprecedented intrusion into the practice of our Faith in this nation, and it is being aided by educational institutions claiming to be Catholic.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn:
Father Jenkins made a serious error in inviting President Obama to be the commencement speaker at Notre Dame, and even more so in conferring upon him an honorary degree. Father Jenkins speaking to the rationale behind the invitation has said that it should not be interpreted as “condoning or endorsing his (President Obama’s) positions on specific issues regarding the protection of human life, including abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Yet, we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement.”

Unfortunately, his disclaimer has not been accepted by the bishop of his diocese, and many other bishops, as well as a host of the laity and alumni of the University of Notre Dame. Our engagement is always meant to influence the person for the good, to explain perhaps how they may be in error and always to respect the dignity of the person even if they may be wrong. I will write to Father Jenkins and explain my opinion, sending a copy of this article.

Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greensburg, PA:
It does not seem exaggerated to conclude that Notre Dame is not one with what the Catholic Church believes and teaches. Consequently, how can Father John Jenkins, President, purport to uphold and advocate for the Catholic mission of the institution?

The attempts to justify this invitation represent for so many a pathetic trivialization of Notre Dame's Catholic identity. The toxic residue from this scandal will be the perception that Notre Dame has made dissent in the Catholic Church respectable. This cannot be looked upon as a paradigm to be followed by others.

Auxiliary Bishop Roger Gries of Cleveland:
No comments available. :-(

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston at BC's Law School:
No comments available. :-(
But I'm going to look around for this. If anybody has a reference, please let me know.

Bishop John Gaydos of Jefferson City, MO:
The invitation on the part of the university asking President Obama to address the graduates at this year’s commencement has raised serious questions about Notre Dame in particular and Catholic colleges and universities in general and their relationship to the wider Roman Catholic Church.The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a document written in 2004 and titled, “Catholics in Political Life,” states: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

This directive seems to me to be in harmony with the vision set out by Cardinal Newman those many years ago. Bishop D’Arcy has pointed out that by inviting the President to speak and giving him an honorary degree, Notre Dame is violating this directive, since the president has shown ample evidence of his opposition to the obligation of protecting defenseless human life.

And in local news, Bishop Sam Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux, LA:
While we respect the office of the president of the United States and the person, we do not agree with his policies and actions, especially when they are diametrically opposed to the moral teachings of the church and the fundamental Natural Law. As citizens we have a right to voice our opposition within the norms of the country’s civil laws.

At the same time, we have a right to deny any person a forum to promote his own agenda, when these are in contradiction to the teachings of the church. And if we are going to deny them a forum, we should certainly not honor them with any recognition or award.