Friday, July 31, 2009

Newsweek Contra Reality

I think everyone can agree that Newsweek has chosen the path of ragdom, rather than attempting to maintain status as an objective source for news. This triumph of propaganda over fact is marvelously illustrated in Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's recent textual vomit that compares the Pope and the President. I had planned on leaving this bit alone but have reconsidered in light of the recent bits we've done here on Caritas in Veritate.

Let's consider Ms. Townsend's views for a moment:

When Obama meets the pope tomorrow, they'll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won't care, because they know Obama's on their side. In fact, Obama's agenda is closer to their views than even the pope's.

I wish that more Catholics would go ahead and join Ms. Townsend in this rather striking admission. They care more about what Obama says than what the Pope says. They have exchanged their allegiance with the Vicar of Christ for that of the Vicar of Secularism. Some even get to go to Malta as part of the deal.

However, this shred of truth is overshadowed by pretty much every other word she says. The basic premise is "American Catholics think X. Ergo, X is what is good, pure, true, and loving. The Pope thinks why. Ergo, Y is the opposite of all that is good."

Behold the set-up:

It's fitting that Obama's visit comes just days after the publication of "Charity in Truth," a Vatican encyclical that declares unions, regulation of capitalism's excesses, and environmentalism to be ethical imperatives. The document gives moral credence to Obama's message and to progressive politics writ large.

Ok, so we know she didn't actually read it. Anybody that has would immediately see the polar opposite of Obama's views on politics, economics, and humanity in general. I hope we've demonstrated thus far that there is little in CiV that the President would embrace except on the most shallow level and stripped of all its supernatural focus,

Politics requires the ability to listen to different points of view, to step into others' shoes. Obama might call it empathy. While the pope preaches love, listening to the other has been a particular stumbling block for the Catholic hierarchy (as it is for many in power). The hierarchy ignores women's equality and gays' cry for justice because to heed them would require that it admit error and acknowledge that the self-satisfied edifice constructed around sex and gender has been grievously wrong.

Justice, huh? I wish Socrates was still around. What is this "justice" of which she speaks? What has been wrongfully deprived from women and gays that they are rightfully due? And what is the basis for these rights?

Ms. Townsend has only opinion (public or private) to bolster her claims here. Majorities do not decide moralities. The funny part here is that Obama's listening has no bearing on his actions. Pray, what is the difference between Paul VI hearing the theological commission's report on contraception, then ignoring it to write Humanae Vitae, and Obama's listening to any pro-life group, then moving to increase access to abortions?

The only difference is that Ms. Townsend agrees with the latter and not the former. Yet it's the Popes who adopt "heinous" policies while Obama displays "empathy."

If only we were so enlightened as to hearken to the voices of American Catholics:

Yet polls bear out that American Catholics do not want to be told by the Vatican how to think. Despite the rhetoric of love and truth, the Vatican shows disdain (if not disgust) toward gays. But 54 percent of American Catholics find gay relationships to be morally acceptable, according to a 2009 Gallup poll. Meanwhile, against all scientific evidence and protestations from clergy on the ground, the pope claims that condoms aggravate the spread of AIDS. Seventy-nine percent of American Catholics disagree, according to a 2007 poll by Catholics for Choice.

We have a name for such people. They are called heretics. We call them that out of love and concern for their immortal souls. If we loved them not, we wouldn't care enough to even bother with them.

This is a great example of how folks like Townsend are convinced that anyone can be infallible except the Pope. Who leads the list of alternative infallibilists? Take one guess:

For Obama, respectful disagreement and a willingness to recognize differences was the animating spirit of the presidential campaign, and it was central to his Notre Dame speech. That is the kind of politics many Catholics practice. They're tired of watching the church grasp frantically for control at the expense of truth and love. In America last November, it showed: 54 percent of Catholics voted for Obama.

Notre Dame awarded the president an honorary degree because it saw the need to highlight the best of Catholic teaching as applied to politics: the ability to open the eyes of those who would prefer to keep them closed, and to open the hearts of those who would prefer not to know the pain that their actions cause. The pope has a lot to learn about Catholic politics in America. Barack Obama can teach him.


Anyways, if there's anyone out there still misguided enough to think that Obama's ND speech had anything other than veiled contempt for the Faith, please check our prior postings on his talk and feel free to tell me where I'm wrong.


I think Rowan has hit rock bottom. Check out his latest statement on the Anglican "Communion" and homosexuality. Per CatholicCulture:

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury said that the Anglican Communion is not free to bless same-sex unions at this time but added that there are “two styles of being Anglican” on this issue.

“It needs to be made absolutely clear that, on the basis of repeated statements at the highest levels of the Communion's life, no Anglican has any business reinforcing prejudice against LGBT people, questioning their human dignity and civil liberties or their place within the Body of Christ,” the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans said. “Our overall record as a Communion has not been consistent in this respect and this needs to be acknowledged with penitence.”

Really, if he would have stopped there, it probably wouldn't have been that bad. But he couldn't help himself.

However, “so long as the Church Catholic, or even the Communion as a whole does not bless same-sex unions, a person living in such a union cannot without serious incongruity have a representative function in a Church whose public teaching is at odds with their lifestyle.”

What public teaching might that be?

Acknowledging that “there have never been universal and straightforward rules about” dealing with Anglican doctrinal disputes,” and adding that “no-one is seeking a risk-free, simple organ of doctrinal decision for our Communion,” Archbishop Williams called for “two styles of being Anglican, whose mutual relation will certainly need working out but which would not exclude co-operation in mission and service of the kind now shared in the Communion … The ideal is that both ‘tracks’ should be able to pursue what they believe God is calling them to be as Church, with greater integrity and consistency.”

I have no idea what this means, other than Rowan admitting that dogma is dead and that there is nothing he can do about it. Is the rest just an invitation to schism without calling it that? The compromise of everyone wearing the same tie-tack without any real allegiance to anything?

I don't know. Maybe we can have a contest where folks can submit guesses as to what he's actually saying here. If there was any way of declaring a winner, we'd probably do just that. Since this is ultimately just one more step in the Death March, though, let's just have pity and offer prayers.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

St. Martha And Pope Benedict

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Martha. As such, we got the following reading from Luke 10, which really doesn't paint our saint of the day in a very flattering light:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary. who, sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? Speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.

I'm probably reaching a bit here, but this reminded me a great deal of what Pope Benedict has been talking about in the latest encyclical. Jesus comes to town. Martha immediately busies herself with taking care of the food and housework stuff (or something like that). Mary has chosen to contemplate and adore. Martha gets upset. Jesus straightens everything out.

The significant bit here is that Jesus indicates that what Mary has chosen is better. He didn't denigrate Martha's work. He just reminded her (and us) that there is a hierarchy of goods, and Mary's actions were farther up on the scale.

When we encounter Jesus in our daily lives, it is often in the context of His words at the Judgement:

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry and fed thee: thirsty and gave thee drink? Or when did we see thee a stranger and took thee in? Or naked and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison and came to thee? And the king answering shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

Matthew 25

Clearly, it is good that we take care of their temporal needs. However, in light of Christ's words to Martha, aren't the supernatural needs of higher priority? In fact, just ignore the whole eternal fate of their souls issue for a moment. How can such people even partake of the best part like Mary unless they are first evangelized?

They can't. In fact, it seems to me that it would be a sin to deprive them of such an opportunity. Not evangelizing is to purposely stunt their development as a person because you are cutting them off from the best of things.

How is that not the message of Caritas in Veritate?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Dominance Of Personalism

If you've read any historical lead-up to the Second Vatican Council, you've probably heard a story something like the following, and yes, I'm paraphrasing:

There was a great blackness that had spread across the spectrum of Catholic theology in the 19th century. There was very little in the way of decent theological thinking. Leo XIII tried to fix this by lighting a fire under theologians and seminarians to study St. Thomas Aquinas. This worked for about 3 hours until St. Pius X became pope and declared war on modernism. After that, Thomism became this repressive, calcified system that stifled the genius of guys like Hans Kung, which in turn led to an even deeper crisis of good theological thinking. It wasn't until Vatican II downgraded Thomism that the Kungs of the world could fully share their awesomeness with the rest of us peons.

That's how the story goes. Like so many other such stories, it's mostly bullcrap.

Sure, Pope Leo did try to rejuvenate Thomism. I'd say it worked pretty well given the fact that we got guys like Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain between then and the Council. Pius X's crackdown on Modernism was much-needed and, frankly, we could have used another one right after the Council.

Side note: If anyone expresses a hatred for Thomism, they are likely a Modernist. See the Kung example above.

Anyways, despite the emergence of guys who are heralded as great theologians who weren't under suspicion by the Holy Office, you had a backlash building against St. Thomas, especially by folks who liked to portray their opponents as idiots and themselves as the first guys who had ever read the Summa. Regardless of what you might think of Henri de Lubac, for example, he never seemed to do a lot to actually win arguments against Lagrange. Calling him names was much easier and actually much more effective.

Oh, and on that downgrading of Thomism, let's just ignore for a moment that St. Thomas's greatness is promoted by numerous popes to the point where he's known as both the Angelic Doctor and the Common Doctor. Let's look at what the Council really said:

The Church is concerned also with schools of a higher level, especially colleges and universities. In those schools dependent on her she intends that by their very constitution individual subjects be pursued according to their own principles, method, and liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas, there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science.

Gravissimum Educationis, Declaration on Christian Education

And again:

Dogmatic theology should be so arranged that these biblical themes are proposed first of all. Next there should be opened up to the students what the Fathers of the Eastern and Western Church have contributed to the faithful transmission and development of the individual truths of revelation. The further history of dogma should also be presented, account being taken of its relation to the general history of the Church. Next, in order that they may illumine the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible, the students should learn to penetrate them more deeply with the help of speculation, under the guidance of St. Thomas, and to perceive their interconnections.

Optatam Totius, Decree on Priestly Training

So basically, if by "downgrade" you mean that the Council wanted everyone in every Catholic institute of learning and every priest who is trained to be educated in Thomism, then yes, Thomism was downgraded.

So what does all this have to do with personalism?

It seems to me that personalism might soon find itself in the same arena that Thomism was at the time of the Council. I have a hard time seeing how it isn't the dominant framework in the Church today. You can't read 2 paragraphs in any Church document without seeing some personalist structures on human dignity and such. Let me say that I'm not one of these folks who thinks that personalism is a heresy. As much as I promote Dietrich von Hildebrand, I hope this is obvious. I do, however, think that personalist language has led to some of our current problems. When was the last time you heard somebody bother to mention that the soul in the state of grace is of a higher dignity than the soul in the state of sin? It just isn't brought up. Folks are too caught up emphasizing natural dignity to pay attention to supernatural destiny.

Again, this isn't directed at personalism in general. It's just an observation that it can be abused and is being abused. I'm just curious as to when and how we will see the backlash and criticisms begin to emerge. Thomism was an easy target for dissenters. It was endorsed by a number of Magisterial documents, including the Council itself. It's clarity and structure make Modernists have nightmares. It shatters the emotionalism and sentimentality that so many folks have raised to the highest pedestal of their consciences in order to avoid that nasty dogmatic stuff.

Personalism doesn't have these same vulnerabilities, but it's way too popular right now to continue unscathed.

Am I wrong here?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rhode Island: The First State To Go Completely To Hell(?)

Just this week the Providence Journal revealed that a loophole in the state's minor laws do not restrict girls as young as 16 from working as strippers, as long as they are home by 11:30 p.m.

This spring, while investigating a 16-year-old runaway who had been working at one of Providence's notorious strip clubs, police discovered that they could not prosecute, because there were no local or state laws barring teens from working in the city's thriving adult entertainment business.

No, this isn't a joke. It's from ABC News.

Apparently, it's being addressed:

Now, amidst the embarrassing publicity in a state that has one of the highest unemployment rates and a reputation for corruption, Roberts is supporting a bill introduced by state Rep. Joanne Giannini, D-Providence, that would close that loophole.

How is this not already addressed by child pornography laws? Why do we even need such laws?

Oh yeah. Because the whole world is entirely (bleep)ed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Caritas in Veritate, Part 3

As we keep plowing through the Holy Father’s latest encyclical, I’m going to go ahead and say that the guy needs an editor. Part of me wonders if the unfocused and rambling bits of this one aren’t the result of some ghost-writing additions meant to “update” it in light of the recent economic troubles. We know it was revised with that in mind at some point.

I don’t know. The style just seems to vary quite a bit, especially when compared to Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi. Oh well, on we go.

We left off where the Pope was transitioning into the Chapter on Fraternity, Economic Development, and Civil Society. Unlike what the heterodox would like to hear on these topics, namely, that we can have a world of burgers, fries, and cherry pies, Pope Benedict reminds us of original sin and the fact that this is the vale of tears.

The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action. Then, the conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to deliver the justice that they promise.

For more on this, note Karl’s take here in reference to Michael Jackson. This is the need for charity in truth and that integral human development that is a central theme in this letter. This belief that men can fix everything is nothing but pride and a guaranteed path to catastrophe. We can’t get paradise here. In our charity for others, this must be accepted but not with despair, which is what we’re left with when God is excised from the picture.

Because it is a gift received by everyone, charity in truth is a force that builds community, it brings all people together without imposing barriers or limits. The human community that we build by ourselves can never, purely by its own strength, be a fully fraternal community, nor can it overcome every division and become a truly universal community.

This is why folks who elevate the market to the role of Providence have it wrong. You can’t arrive at true charity by simply relying on the forces of supply and demand, monetary policy, etc. Some folks find this offensive. I really don’t know why. Oftentimes, it seems that the concept of a free market economy has become the end rather than the means of, say, promoting justice and true charity throughout the world.

The Church has always held that economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society. In and of itself, the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak. Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations. Admittedly, the market can be a negative force, not because it is so by nature, but because a certain ideology can make it so. It must be remembered that the market does not exist in the pure state. It is shaped by the cultural configurations which define it and give it direction. Economy and finance, as instruments, can be used badly when those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends. Instruments that are good in themselves can thereby be transformed into harmful ones. But it is man's darkened reason that produces these consequences, not the instrument per se. Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.

In other words, the market is just as subject to abuse as anything else we humans get their hands on. Given our propensity to screw things up, we are left with a conundrum:

The great challenge before us, accentuated by the problems of development in this global era and made even more urgent by the economic and financial crisis, is to demonstrate, in thinking and behaviour, not only that traditional principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and responsibility cannot be ignored or attenuated, but also that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but it is also demanded by economic logic. It is a demand both of charity and of truth.

The Holy Father is basically calling for a bit of consistency on the part of us Catholics. We can believe in a free market system. I most certainly do. However, we same folks that clamor for religion to influence our political system and other societal beliefs must also allow for the principles of the Faith to infiltrate our economic policies as well. Think of it as the Economic Kingship of Christ. Again, this should not be all that controversial, especially in light of prior papal pronouncements. Hence:

The Church's social doctrine has always maintained that justice must be applied to every phase of economic activity, because this is always concerned with man and his needs. Locating resources, financing, production, consumption and all the other phases in the economic cycle inevitably have moral implications. Thus every economic decision has a moral consequence.

What follows is a discussion of economic solidarity stressing the ability of businesses and individuals to freely contract amongst themselves, but with market structures in place that enable goals higher than mere profits to be sought. A lot of folks who don’t know what they are talking about often call for “unrestricted markets” or “unfettered capitalism.” Such people neglect the fact that markets that are free get to be that way because they have structure and rules and protections. The very nature of a contract is a restriction on a given market or transaction. When is a train freer? When it’s locked into the track or when it’s off the track? You need fetters or else there is anarchy. The Pope is calling for a market that respects the transcendent calling of man to seek something more than the material. We have certain policies like that now in items such as tax breaks for charitable contributions. I wonder what all the “Obama is so Catholic, he should be Pope” jerks think of the recent proposals to shelve such measures.

More people who don’t what they are talking about are claiming that these sorts of views somehow make Pope Benedict some sort of socialist. Keeping in mind the Pope’s repeated condemnations of liberation theology and the repeated push in this very encyclical that man is really only good at screwing things up, let’s take a look at how Pope Benedict runs with the ball here:

When both the logic of the market and the logic of the State come to an agreement that each will continue to exercise a monopoly over its respective area of influence, in the long term much is lost: solidarity in relations between citizens, participation and adherence, actions of gratuitousness, all of which stand in contrast with giving in order to acquire (the logic of exchange) and giving through duty (the logic of public obligation, imposed by State law). In order to defeat underdevelopment, action is required not only on improving exchange-based transactions and implanting public welfare structures, but above all on gradually increasing openness, in a world context, to forms of economic activity marked by quotas of gratuitousness and communion. The exclusively binary model of market-plus-State is corrosive of society, while economic forms based on solidarity, which find their natural home in civil society without being restricted to it, build up society. The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift.

In other words, state-run economies are crap and immoral. So much for socialism. What’s being called for here is an economic vision that is guided and directed by what the Church thinks, not secular society, materialism, and/or socialism. Perhaps I am dumb, but I fail to see the controversy in all this. Many people have accused the Pope of secular humanism here. I find such commentary asinine. Such people are presupposing secular definitions to words like “solidarity” and “common good” when the Holy Father uses these terms. More than that, they are ignoring the whole first 1/3 of the encyclical where repeated calls are made for the mind of man to reject secular and material things and order themselves towards God.

I will probably get gripes for skipping through the next few paragraphs, but to be blunt, they seem to be very lengthy ways of saying, “Businesses shouldn’t screw people over.” Anyone who thinks I’m wrong is welcome to comment. Instead, since it’s the political aspects of the encyclical that are getting the most play (and distortion), let’s look at political authority for a moment:

As well as cultivating differentiated forms of business activity on the global plane, we must also promote a dispersed political authority, effective on different levels. The integrated economy of the present day does not make the role of States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater collaboration with one another. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State. In terms of the resolution of the current crisis, the State's role seems destined to grow, as it regains many of its competences. In some nations, moreover, the construction or reconstruction of the State remains a key factor in their development. The focus of international aid, within a solidarity-based plan to resolve today's economic problems, should rather be on consolidating constitutional, juridical and administrative systems in countries that do not yet fully enjoy these goods. Alongside economic aid, there needs to be aid directed towards reinforcing the guarantees proper to the State of law: a system of public order and effective imprisonment that respects human rights, truly democratic institutions. The State does not need to have identical characteristics everywhere: the support aimed at strengthening weak constitutional systems can easily be accompanied by the development of other political players, of a cultural, social, territorial or religious nature, alongside the State. The articulation of political authority at the local, national and international levels is one of the best ways of giving direction to the process of economic globalization. It is also the way to ensure that it does not actually undermine the foundations of democracy.

It’s great how people stuff and automatically think it’s a shot at their own situation. The last thing that is being called for here is a global super-state. What is needed is something to keep the places like Sierra Leone and Darfur from annihilating each other. The whole context here is helping out the countries that are most broken. As a side note, for you separation of Church and state folks, the Pope slipped in a nice present for you at the end there by mentioning religion as a politically stabilizing force. Call it a gut feeling, but I’m betting he isn’t talking about sharia.

The Pope closes out this section by turning his points on the market towards globalization. Like the market, globalization isn’t good or bad. It’s an instrument that can be used for doing good things or for destruction. The latter is not a foregone conclusion, but given our tendency to screw up, it is a distinct possibility:

Globalization is a multifaceted and complex phenomenon which must be grasped in the diversity and unity of all its different dimensions, including the theological dimension. In this way it will be possible to experience and to steer the globalization of humanity in relational terms, in terms of communion and the sharing of goods.

We'll probably have a couple of more entries on this. It's long as all get out. Bear with me. We'll have a wrap-up soon enough.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

So Can We Have It Back Now?

Just a story that isn't getting much pub right now:

A Turkish official says restoration workers have uncovered the never-before-seen mosaic face of an angel at Istanbul's Haghia Sophia — a former Byzantine cathedral.

The cathedral's Christian mosaics were covered up in line with Muslim custom shortly after Constantinople — the former name for Istanbul — fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and the cathedral was turned into a mosque.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,but no sign will be given itexcept the sign of Jonah the prophet.

Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.

This is from Matthew 12. It was yesterday's Gospel. At least the Ninevites were repentant. As I see my country heading down this health care reform road with abortion being trumpeted as a universal right, I have to wonder how many nations will condemn us on The Last Day. We already kill our young. Several times, I've posted my musings as to how long it will take us to begin formally euthanizing our elderly. Newsflash folks- That's the most efficient cost containment mechanism you could come up with in any health care plan.

How long before the dollars outweigh the lives? And with nary a shred of penitence, we'll smile and tell them it's for their own good. Our secular messiahs will give us no signs, except for the bread and circuses paid for with our bloodshed.

It's dreadful because it's true.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

St. Chesterton (maybe)

We'll work on "Blessed" first.

I think of him that way already, but I wanted to throw this Zenit interview out there, given that a formal beatification would be a pretty big deal. Let me go a bit further and say that, should Chesterton ever be canonized, he should immediately be considered for the title of Doctor of the Church. For that matter, it would be a huge step in rehabilitating Catholic intellectual thought of the 20th century. The post-conciliar era has created this impression that every major Catholic thinker that wasn't named Ratzinger or Wojtyla must have been cast in the mold of whackjobs like Charles Curran or Hans Kung.

Anyways, a push for guys like Chesterton, or even more philosophical/theological figures like von Hildebrand and Garrigou-Lagrange, would be a marvelous remedy for helping iron out some of the lingering chaos.

The whole thing is pretty interesting. Let's pray for a serious (and successful) undertaking in this direction.

Chesterton's proposal is to take all of reality seriously, beginning with the interior reality of man, and to confidently make use of the intellect, that is to say, of common sense, in its original sanity, purified of every ideological incrustation.

One rarely reads pages that speak of faith, conversion and doctrine that are so clear and incisive, while being free of every sentimental or moralistic excess. This comes from Chesterton's attentive reading of reality; he knew that the most harmful consequence of de-Christianization has not been the grave ethical straying but rather the straying of reason, synthesized in this critique of his: The modern world has suffered a mental fall much greater than the moral one.

Faced to this reality, Chesterton chose Catholicism, and affirms that there are at least 10,000 reasons to justify this choice, every one of them valid and well-founded, but able to be boiled down to one reason: That Catholicism is true. The responsibility and the task of the Church then consist in this: In the courage to believe, in the first place, and therefore to denounce the paths that lead to nothingness or destruction, to a blind wall or a prejudice. An undoubtedly holy work, and the holiness of Gilbert Chesterton, which I hope the Church will recognize, already shines and sparkles before the world.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hamas: Gaza youth "corrupted" by Israeli aphrodisiac chewing gum

Yes, that's the actual story.

Hamas charges Israeli intelligence with spreading aphrodisiac chewing gum in Gaza in order to increase Gaza youth's sex drive and thus destabilize the Palestinian territory.

An Israeli military source has dismissed Hamas claims that the Israeli intelligence service is offloading aphrodisiac chewing gum on Gaza Strip youth in some form of cunning sex-based plan to destabilize the Palestinian territory.

Hamas spokesman Islam Shahwan said: "We have discovered two types of stimulants that were introduced into the Gaza Strip from Israeli border crossings. The first type is presented in the form of chewing gum and the second in the form of drops."

This doesn't have anything to do with the Church or the related topics I usually post on, but it was too hilarious to just pass up.

Do they just sit up at night thinking this crap up? Or is it a bunch of guys sitting around a table trying to figure out the most outlandish story possible to unleash on the masses just to see what the stupidity threshold is?

Children Have Memories

Even in the womb. From the Washington Times:

They weigh less than 3 pounds, usually, and are perhaps 15 inches long. But they can remember.

The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation - or about two months before they are born.

"In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later," said the research, which was released Wednesday.

Not that this will matter much to the abortion crowd.

A call to NARAL Pro-Choice America for comment on the implications of the research were not returned.

Big freaking surprise there.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Caritas In Veritate, Pt. 2

We left off from the previous post with the Holy Father talking about how human development isn't just about the acquisition or the bequeathing of stuff, much less burgeoning economic prowess. To the contrary, these things will hinder development if they are accomplished at the expense of God. Given that temptation comes from the WORLD, the flesh, and the Devil, you can see how easy it is for this to happen.

But, and here's where the political left has been trying to make their bones with this document, you can't ignore the government's role in economics or that of economics in social justice. So:

Today, as we take to heart the lessons of the current economic crisis, which sees the State's public authorities directly involved in correcting errors and malfunctions, it seems more realistic to re-evaluate their role and their powers, which need to be prudently reviewed and remodelled so as to enable them, perhaps through new forms of engagement, to address the challenges of today's world. Once the role of public authorities has been more clearly defined, one could foresee an increase in the new forms of political participation, nationally and internationally, that have come about through the activity of organizations operating in civil society; in this way it is to be hoped that the citizens' interest and participation in the res publica will become more deeply rooted.

Ah-HA! The Pope is about to drop some mad Marxist-socialist-communist-whatever science on us, right?

Not so much.

Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers' associations. Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labour unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church's social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers' associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

I've been told this is somehow different from what Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI said on the subject, not to mention JPII. I have yet to see a good explanation of this alleged difference. The Church has always supported workers' rights and the formation of unions, albeit unions free from corruption. The bottom line is that cutting off social systems that are meant to protect the masses in exchange for that new factory is crossing some moral lines that are best left alone. This does not equate to some sort of "nanny state," which was condemned in Centessimus Annus:

In recent years the range of such intervention has vastly expanded, to the point of creating a new type of State, the so-called "Welfare State". This has happened in some countries in order to respond better to many needs and demands, by remedying forms of poverty and deprivation unworthy of the human person. However, excesses and abuses, especially in recent years, have provoked very harsh criticisms of the Welfare State, dubbed the "Social Assistance State". Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State. Here again the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending. In fact, it would appear that needs are best understood and satisfied by people who are closest to them and who act as neighbours to those in need. It should be added that certain kinds of demands often call for a response which is not simply material but which is capable of perceiving the deeper human need. One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances which call for assistance, such as drug abusers: all these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care.

It would be really nice if people just calmed down and didn't take everything the Pope says to its immediate and most distorted extreme.

The Pope goes on to discuss some items that are driving globalization and creating problems that we really haven't seen before. One of these is cultural exchange, which led him to drop this nugget:

Let it not be forgotten that the increased commercialization of cultural exchange today leads to a twofold danger. First, one may observe a cultural eclecticism that is often assumed uncritically: cultures are simply placed alongside one another and viewed as substantially equivalent and interchangeable. This easily yields to a relativism that does not serve true intercultural dialogue; on the social plane, cultural relativism has the effect that cultural groups coexist side by side, but remain separate, with no authentic dialogue and therefore with no true integration.

Secondly, the opposite danger exists, that of cultural levelling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles. In this way one loses sight of the profound significance of the culture of different nations, of the traditions of the various peoples, by which the individual defines himself in relation to life's fundamental questions. What eclecticism and cultural levelling have in common is the separation of culture from human nature. Thus, cultures can no longer define themselves within a nature that transcends them, and man ends up being reduced to a mere cultural statistic. When this happens, humanity runs new risks of enslavement and manipulation.

Very important, especially in light of what seems to be growing views among certain camps that are basically cultural elitism and moral bankruptcy when considered at a cultural level. The Church basically doesn't care if a certain group has been indoctrinated via culture into thinking that intrinsic evil is ok. The badness in question remains bad. It's weird how folks will try to skirt around the issue of the Church purifying a lot of bad pagan stuff, but when it gets applied to modern cultural stuff, we get blasted for it in the claim that we are "imposing" on the other group. This view, of course, has moral relativism as its foundation, taking it for granted that what the other group is doing must be ok.

Next topic: Hunger is bad, and everybody should help to get rid of it. I think we can all agree and move on to a bit more controversial topic.

Moreover, there is reason to suspect that development aid is sometimes linked to specific health-care policies which de facto involve the imposition of strong birth control measures. Further grounds for concern are laws permitting euthanasia as well as pressure from lobby groups, nationally and internationally, in favour of its juridical recognition.

Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help. By cultivating openness to life, wealthy peoples can better understand the needs of poor ones, they can avoid employing huge economic and intellectual resources to satisfy the selfish desires of their own citizens, and instead, they can promote virtuous action within the perspective of production that is morally sound and marked by solidarity, respecting the fundamental right to life of every people and every individual.

Isn't it odd that the leftists haven't really grabbed hold of the pro-life material in this encyclical? Or that the rightists (or whatever they are called) aren't harping on these elements more? It shouldn't be surprising to anyone. It just goes to show that no significant group currently on the political radar is completely backing the Church. I wanted to draw this bit out specifically because the Pope is clearly going beyond abortion here to target contraception and sterilization as well.

The gall of the man.

Now, something that has come up in modern times is that every time a pope mentions religious liberty, everybody kind of freaks out. The fuzziness of Dignitatis Humanae has something to do with this, but I think it would be a major issue anyway, if for no other reason, than the rampant advance of secularism. Given that our current Pontiff has such a knack for outraging folks, he naturally waded into these waters:

There is another aspect of modern life that is very closely connected to development: the denial of the right to religious freedom. I am not referring simply to the struggles and conflicts that continue to be fought in the world for religious motives, even if at times the religious motive is merely a cover for other reasons, such as the desire for domination and wealth. Today, in fact, people frequently kill in the holy name of God, as both my predecessor John Paul II and I myself have often publicly acknowledged and lamented. Violence puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being. This applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism, which generates grief, destruction and death, obstructs dialogue between nations and diverts extensive resources from their peaceful and civil uses.

The Pope here doesn't seem to be making much of a point other than religious conflicts are bad and escalate into much larger issues if not defused. Check this out, though:

Yet it should be added that, as well as religious fanaticism that in some contexts impedes the exercise of the right to religious freedom, so too the deliberate promotion of religious indifference or practical atheism on the part of many countries obstructs the requirements for the development of peoples, depriving them of spiritual and human resources. God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to “be more”. Man is not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God's creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom he has always loved. If man were merely the fruit of either chance or necessity, or if he had to lower his aspirations to the limited horizon of the world in which he lives, if all reality were merely history and culture, and man did not possess a nature destined to transcend itself in a supernatural life, then one could speak of growth, or evolution, but not development. When the State promotes, teaches, or actually imposes forms of practical atheism, it deprives its citizens of the moral and spiritual strength that is indispensable for attaining integral human development and it impedes them from moving forward with renewed dynamism as they strive to offer a more generous human response to divine love. In the context of cultural, commercial or political relations, it also sometimes happens that economically developed or emerging countries export this reductive vision of the person and his destiny to poor countries. This is the damage that “superdevelopment” causes to authentic development when it is accompanied by “moral underdevelopment”.

I want all the separation of Church and State folks to take notice here. The crux of every Magisterial warning about Church/State separation has hinged on two factors. One, such a policy promotes indifferentism. Two, such indifferentism eventually leads to atheism. I'll admit that this isn't exactly Pius IX and the Syllabus of Errors, but it is quite refreshing to see the Pope bringing these elements back into play. Oh, and for those who are freaking out that over the fact that he didn't explicitly mention Catholicism in this snippet, please unclench for a moment. Try to accept that maybe the Pope is actually thinking with the mind of the Church here. What other religion is he going to be promoting?

We are returned to the centrality of God as the set up for the next chapter:

Charity is not an added extra, like an appendix to work already concluded in each of the various disciplines: it engages them in dialogue from the very beginning. The demands of love do not contradict those of reason. Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead: this is what is required by charity in truth. Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.

Again, if we humans try to go it alone, we're screwed.

Pope Benedict concludes with some further comments on globalization and the human aspects of the economy which are being ignored in favor of a more materialist vision of human development. The next chapter begins the more economic-centric parts of the encyclical. Hopefully, I'll have some stuff up for that shortly.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Norms On Tabernacle Placement

Bishop D'Arcy of Fort Wayne has issued a few. It's a shame that any bishop should even have to do this. My question:

If folks ignored the directives in Redemptionis Sacramentum, which came straight from Rome, why are they going to pay attention to this?

In recent years, the place of the tabernacle in our churches has become a source of controversy. This should not be. The Eucharist, whether we are referring to its celebration or to the place of reservation, should always be a means of unity and communion, and never of division.

The place of the tabernacle in our church should reflect our faith in the real presence of Christ, and should always be guided by church documents.

My experience is that our people, with their instinct of faith, have always desired that the tabernacle be central and visible. They find it confusing when the tabernacle in their churches is not visible, and if possible, central.

Because of my responsibility to foster the devotional life of our people, and to keep it sound, I have asked our Office of Worship to prepare norms for the placement and design of the tabernacle in this diocese. These norms were brought before the Presbyteral Council, the Liturgical Commission and the Environment and Arts Committee. Suitable refinements and improvements were prepared.

It's 2012. Two Anglican Clergy Walk Into The National Cathedral

They observe the Episcopal presiding bishop and her incense-bearing lover process down the aisle behind a statue of the Buddha, while the faithful sing a hymn to Mother Earth.

“You know,” one traditionalist whispers, “ONE more thing and I’m out the door.”


Thanks to Fr. Obi-Wan for that one.

We posted here earlier a re-evaluation of the whole Anglican collapse. As the joke makes clear, schism can be a pretty complicated process when so many of the laity and clergy have abandoned the idea of dogma. The TimesOnline has the latest:

A worldwide Anglican schism now seems inevitable after Episcopal bishops in the United States today backed the consecration of gay bishops.

No freaking way! Has someone told Rowan about this?

Episcopal bishops approved a resolution passed earlier this week by the laity and clergy that allows “partnered gays” full access to ordination.

The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed “regret” over a decision by Anglicans in the US that represents a blow to his hopes for Church unity.

I'm shocked that the Americans would do this sort of thing. But at least the Archclergyman of Canterbury has been informed so that, by golly, he can do something about it. Anybody remember when the Anglicans were gracious enough to state that, in the event of full-scale reunion with Rome, they would accept the Pope as having the same authority as Canterbury?

It still makes me laugh.

They took the step towards schism in spite of a plea by Dr Rowan Williams, who addressed the General Convention in Anaheim, California, last week.

The new resolution effectively overturns the moratoria on same-sex blessings and gay consecrations agreed by the last General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2006.

Anglican leaders requested the moratorium five years ago in an attempt to prevent schism. The Episcopal Church General Convention three years ago urged “restraint” over the election of bishops whose “manner of life” would cause offence to the wider Anglican Communion.

It's becoming very clear that the Anglican implosion is probably a better example than your run-of-the-mill house church break-up for why poping is so very necessary .

Only last month conservative Episcopalians set up a new province, the Anglican Church in North America, which is seeking recognition from Dr Williams and the General Synod of the Church of England.

But Dr Williams’s hopes of maintaining unity seemed increasingly futile as the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori, warned the Church of England that it should not recognise the new province, arguing that “schism is not a Christian act”.

BWAH-HA-HA-HA!!! Oh, that wacky Katherine!

Wait. It gets better.

About a quarter of General Synod members, including four diocesan and two suffragan bishops, back a private member’s motion calling on the Church of England to declare itself “in communion” with the American conservatives.

Earlier Bishop Jefferts Schori “threw a hand grenade” into proceedings, as USA Today’s Faith and Reason blog put it, when she said that the tendency to focus on individual salvation in the debate over sexual ethics was “heresy” and “idolatry”.

I hope everyone can see the irony here. Schori has effectively set herself up as the Anglican pope. Who is in schism? Whoever she says. Who is preaching heresy? Nobody knows but her. And maybe God, but we can't be sure where Katherine has set the rankings between the Almighty and herself.

How about we accept the reality of the situation and call a schism a schism? Even if you take out the complete doctrinal anarchy, how can there be a "communion" of any kind when you've got Schori running around basically setting the rules and standards for everyone else?

What exactly are the Anglicans "communing" over anymore? Hell if I know.

On the bright side, we have three Episcopalians here in town looking to convert to Catholicism. So we got that going for us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Cardinal Kung Foundation

As a spiritual exercise for our family, we recently all signed up with the Cardinal Kung Foundation to be prayer sponsors for members of the underground Church in China. We've only been doing so for a few days, but it seems to have been a great benefit to my children. They are quite enthusiastic to be engaged in a spiritual battle against the forces of schismatics and godless materialists. Or as we call them, "bad guys."

For more information and to sign up yourself, check the link above. If you have the means, you might also want to help the priests out via Mass stipends. The web site tells you how to do so.

For some more information on the current conditions in China, check out the article A Tale of Two Bishops by Marc Thiessen over at InsideCatholic. I am honored to say that we recognized some of the names from the article.

The support given to the schismatic group by Maryknoll appears to be factual. I am still looking for confirmation of the Jesuit approval. Can anyone confirm or deny this? Not that it would be that shocking, I guess. . .

Keep these people in your prayers, though. The blood of the martyrs might be the seed of the Church, but we should try to help our brothers and sisters in any way possible.

O Lord, comfort China and those persecuted for Christ in that great country. Grant them joy in their communion with the universal Church. Bless them so that the seed they plant during their years of sufferings, patience and love will be richly harvested. Grant mercy, Lord, to those brothers and sisters who chose to be separated from You, may they return to the one fold and one Shepherd.

Our Lady of She-Shan, pray for them.

Some Great Articles on Catholic/Jewish Perspectives

Just dropping these here for your edification.

This one is by Boniface over at Unam Sanctam. It's a good take on why current Protestant views regarding Israel are misguided. We've previously given takes on some of the issues with such views here.

The other one is an InsideCatholic overview of Church/Jew relations throughout the centuries. It's by Thomas Madden, whose books on the Crusades are quite good. Basically, things aren't nearly as bad as what guys like Wills and Cornwell would have you believe.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

Remember when papal encyclicals used to be kind of short and easy to read?

Me neither.

I did finally make it through this new one, though. On the external side of things, I've been disappointed with the Catholic reaction and enthralled by the Protestant response. Catholics are basically uncomfortable with what the Pope is saying and trying to downplay it. Protestants are soiling themselves in large numbers over the approach of the new-one-government-world-order and the rise of the papal AntiChrist. Not to mention that many find the concepts of solidarity and subsidiarity repugnant anyway.

For starters, I'm going to recommend that folks maybe go back and read my prior posts here and here. The latter discusses the Catholic definition of "common good," while the former gives a nutshell account of solidarity and subsidiarity. These terms will all be very important in understanding this encyclical.

For starters, the Pope revisits a lot of stuff from Deus Caritas Est. One would expect some measure of recapitulation here given that love is clearly a focus of this work as well. And yes, I'm going to play fast and loose with the Holy Father's order of things here. Back to love, though. We are reminded early on here that:

Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.

This is where the truth part of the encyclical comes in:

Hence the need to link charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate (Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate. Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.

Here's the deal. Truth is an objective and absolute reality. So it is with charity as well, especially if you are going to claim that God is love and that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You can't just go around doing stuff to and for persons or the community or whoever and claim that it's an act of love just because you happen to think so. This is what we see in modern pro-abortion and euthanasia movements. See, starving people like Terri Schiavo to death is the ultimate act of love. So is killing these unwanted babies or these old people.

There are less extreme examples, though, and this is where the Pope really hits his stride. Lots of folks who proclaim the social justice basically limit it to giving people stuff. That's it. What is lost is that the Church's primary mission is to save souls. Giving people stuff is nice, and we are commanded to do so by God, but if you are tending to the spiritual and moral needs of the people, you aren't really loving them. Yeah, I'm looking at you liberation theology. What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? How much less if all the guy gets is soup, a sandwich, and maybe some money to get him through the week.

Point being, real charity has this truth to it that is going to keep those kinds of situations from happening.

Truth preserves and expresses charity's power to liberate in the ever-changing events of history. It is at the same time the truth of faith and of reason, both in the distinction and also in the convergence of those two cognitive fields. Development, social well-being, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth. What they need even more is that this truth should be loved and demonstrated. Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present.

For the most part, Pope Benedict takes the rocket of this theme and couples it with the launching pad of Paul VI's earlier work on development, Populorum Progressio, beginning with two main ideas:

The first is that the whole Church, in all her being and acting — when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity — is engaged in promoting integral human development. She has a public role over and above her charitable and educational activities: all the energy she brings to the advancement of humanity and of universal fraternity is manifested when she is able to operate in a climate of freedom. In not a few cases, that freedom is impeded by prohibitions and persecutions, or it is limited when the Church's public presence is reduced to her charitable activities alone.

Notice this. Integral human development. What does that mean? Way more than just the Church's "charitable activities alone."

The second truth is that authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension. Without the perspective of eternal life, human progress in this world is denied breathing-space. Enclosed within history, it runs the risk of being reduced to the mere accumulation of wealth; humanity thus loses the courage to be at the service of higher goods, at the service of the great and disinterested initiatives called forth by universal charity. Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him.

Interesting that we get an immediate repudiation of the Jenkinsonian "secular common good." Again, integral human development. I can't say it enough. This whole shpiel about development including spiritual development is critical to what the Pope is saying. Also, keep in mind that such development doesn't happen by man's own natural abilities.

In the course of history, it was often maintained that the creation of institutions was sufficient to guarantee the fulfilment of humanity's right to development. Unfortunately, too much confidence was placed in those institutions, as if they were able to deliver the desired objective automatically. In reality, institutions by themselves are not enough, because integral human development is primarily a vocation, and therefore it involves a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone. Moreover, such development requires a transcendent vision of the person, it needs God: without him, development is either denied, or entrusted exclusively to man, who falls into the trap of thinking he can bring about his own salvation, and ends up promoting a dehumanized form of development. Only through an encounter with God are we able to see in the other something more than just another creature, to recognize the divine image in the other, thus truly coming to discover him or her and to mature in a love that “becomes concern and care for the other.”

What does man do when he tries to go it alone? He screws it the hell up.

Right about here, we see the Pope do sort of a tribute to Paul VI. How often do you see someone do that? It's good stuff, though, and recounts Pope Paul's contributions to the social justice corpus. In doing so, Pope Benedict decides to throw a fastball right at the head of contemporary liberals:

Two further documents by Paul VI without any direct link to social doctrine — the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (25 July 1968) and the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975) — are highly important for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes.

Aw, yeah. Considering that the first condemns contraception and the second condemns indifferentism, this is a great tangent to insert here. I wonder if Obama will stop reading at this point.

As to the former:

The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”

And the latter:

The Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, for its part, is very closely linked with development, given that, in Paul VI's words, “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man's concrete life, both personal and social.” “Between evangelization and human advancement — development and liberation — there are in fact profound links”: on the basis of this insight, Paul VI clearly presented the relationship between the proclamation of Christ and the advancement of the individual in society. Testimony to Christ's charity, through works of justice, peace and development, is part and parcel of evangelization, because Jesus Christ, who loves us, is concerned with the whole person.

Again, the Pope is pounding on the fact that you can't just give people stuff and call it charity. Proclaiming the Faith is an inextricable part of the equation.

In promoting development, the Christian faith does not rely on privilege or positions of power, nor even on the merits of Christians (even though these existed and continue to exist alongside their natural limitations), but only on Christ, to whom every authentic vocation to integral human development must be directed. The Gospel is fundamental for development, because in the Gospel, Christ, “in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself”. . . The Christian vocation to this development therefore applies to both the natural plane and the supernatural plane; which is why, “when God is eclipsed, our ability to recognize the natural order, purpose and the ‘good' begins to wane."

This is probably a good place to stop for now. The next several sections of the document are a laundry list of world-wide economic and social badness, along with comments on the accelerated pace of globalization and its relationship to those problems. In other words, I think we're all familiar with it. I'll leave off with this comment to set up the next installation:

Yet it should be stressed that progress of a merely economic and technological kind is insufficient. Development needs above all to be true and integral.

Indeed, Holy Father. Indeed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Re: The East

I went to a Divine Liturgy on Sunday. Here's a note to everyone: When you are out of town, try to check out a different facet of the Faith. If you've never been to a Traditional Latin Mass, go to one. If you haven't seen the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, do so.

To begin, I must thank my posting colleague Karl and my wife for first sparking my interest in things Eastern. Sure, I'd read some of the Fathers and what-not, but it bore very little attraction for me until I first encountered Karl on NDNation. Karl's take on things led us to a lot of similar conclusions, but his perspective on things was so radically different that I was immediately intrigued.

As for my wife, she initially sought to convert to Orthodoxy, then opted to swim the Tiber instead. However, there was a year or so there in which I was treated to my first Divine Liturgy. It was an extraordinary experience. Despite my wife's conversion, she still describes having to leave the liturgy behind as having a limb amputated. For the record, there is no Eastern Catholic liturgy or Traditional Mass within 4 hours or so of here.

Anyways, back to this weekend. The actual church was St. Basil's in Irving, Tx. This was my second time attending there. Before that, I attended St. Sophia's in The Colony, Tx when I was in the area. No offense to St. Sophia's. Fr. Vasily is awesome. St. Basil's is just closer to where I've been staying.

St. Basil's is small in square footage but big in attendance. What always amazes me, and I'm sure astounds the Call to Action types, is the percentage of young folks at traditional liturgies. There were probably 70+ people at this one and the average age (I kid you not) was under 35. And this was a holiday weekend. Last year, when it wasn't 4th of July, it was standing room only.

On a side note, please pray for this parish. They are currently without a resident priest.

The priest who was there was a Melkite from out of town. I got there early to do the Third Hour and ran into him as he was arriving. I asked him if he would hear my confession, and he readily agreed. I'd never done this before with an Eastern priest. It's pretty radical.

I'm a huge fan of the confessional box and what it symbolizes. The absolute darkness and isolation as a sinner always helped me in coming to understand the reality of my sins. Of course, we've screwed this all up in the Latin rite by getting rid of the boxes. This brings me to my first bit of praise for the Easterners. They don't go out of their way to screw things up as much as us. While I'm at it, to hell with Latinization. Let us do the Latinizing. We need it a whole lot more than you Easterners do.

Eastern confession is way different. The priest took me to the icon of Christ and had me confess to the icon. He then counseled me a bit and asked me to lean over. He covered my head with his stole and pronounced the absolution, concluding by blessing me with his cross. It was beautiful and retained the outward signs that make sacraments so powerful. Sure, they weren't the same signs that I know from my Latin heritage, but they are just as significant and meaningful. Easterners remember that these things are important. Too many of us Latins seem to be in a hurry to get rid of them so that we can bask in ugliness or plainness, terms which are synonymous when you are talking about worshipping and giving glory to God.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the liturgy itself. Easterners have their liturgical business together. The priest is turned around the right way. Incense. Bells. Music that will knock your socks off and is sung by the whole congregation. Actual freaking rubrics to draw your attention to the sacred mysteries. It's an entire action that draws the mind away from self and towards God. Laying aside all earthly cares, so to speak.

Here's an example. What is the fundamental mystery of the Faith? The Trinity. You get Trinitarian theology from start to finish in the Divine Liturgy. The whole thing is one big catechesis on Father, Son, and Spirit. People are making the Sign of the Cross and bowing all over the place because the Thrice Holy is invoked by name(s) so many times. You could go to a single Divine Liturgy and walk out with a pretty good idea about the basics of the Faith. Unless your priest is using the Roman Canon (aka- Eucharistic Prayer I), I'm not sure that us Latin rite folks can make similar claims.

The homily was great, too. The priest gave a great shpiel starting with the radicalness of Christ's actions seeming to turn the world upside down. We only see it that way, though, because we (and the entire world) are already upside down. Christ is turning things right side up again. This led to a discussion on freedom and how God makes us free, even if it doesn't seem that way to us. The fact is that we become freer as we become holier. All this was interspersed with brief teaching moments on the sacraments and how they contribute to this process.

It was a marvelous time. I wasn't the only one who thought so either. As was the case last year when I visited, a small group of other visitors lingered behind to ask parishioners about the church and what all the icons, etc. meant. As I left, I'm pretty sure I heard the visitors comment that they would be attending there on a regular basis. This should not be surprising. It's what happens when the splendor of the Church is allowed to shine forth without all the filters that have dumbed things down in so many places.

God bless St. Basil's.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

In the spirit of the holiday, I offer the following nugget from Pope Leo XIII's amazing work Immortale Dei:

It is not difficult to determine what would be the form and character of the State were it governed according to the principles of Christian philosophy. Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life-be it family, or civil-with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But, as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every body politic must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world. Everything, without exception, must be subject to Him, and must serve him, so that whosoever holds the right to govern holds it from one sole and single source, namely, God, the sovereign Ruler of all. "There is no power but from God."

The right to rule is not necessarily, however, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form, provided only that it be of a nature of the government, rulers must ever bear in mind that God is the paramount ruler of the world, and must set Him before themselves as their exemplar and law in the administration of the State. For, in things visible God has fashioned secondary causes, in which His divine action can in some wise be discerned, leading up to the end to which the course of the world is ever tending. In like manner, in civil society, God has always willed that there should be a ruling authority, and that they who are invested with it should reflect the divine power and providence in some measure over the human race.

They, therefore, who rule should rule with evenhanded justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father's kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all. But, if those who are in authority rule unjustly, if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly, and if their measures prove hurtful to the people, they must remember that the Almighty will one day bring them to account, the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office and preeminence of their dignity. "The mighty shall be mightily tormented." Then, truly, will the majesty of the law meet with the dutiful and willing homage of the people, when they are convinced that their rulers hold authority from God, and feel that it is a matter of justice and duty to obey them, and to show them reverence and fealty, united to a love not unlike that which children show their parents. "Let every soul be subject to higher powers." To despise legitimate authority, in whomsoever vested, is unlawful, as a rebellion against the divine will, and whoever resists that, rushes willfully to destruction. "He that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation." To cast aside obedience, and by popular violence to incite to revolt, is therefore treason, not against man only, but against God.

Just some food for thought. Reading the whole thing is greatly advised.

Friday, July 3, 2009

US Nuns Facing Vatican Scrutiny

It's about time.

The NYT has the story.

The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition.

Nuns were the often-unsung workers who helped build the Roman Catholic Church in this country, planting schools and hospitals and keeping parishes humming. But for the last three decades, their numbers have been declining — to 60,000 today from 180,000 in 1965.

At this point, any doctrinal inquisition is probably a good thing, but let's face it, the women religious communities are long overdue for something like this. When was the last time you personally met a sister who wore her habit and didn't want women to be priests?

The best part of the whole article is how there's all this shock and outrage with nobody knowing exactly why this would be happening, while the whole account is peppered with examples. It makes you wonder if any of these dissenters are even paying attention. For instance:

Given this backdrop, Sister Schneiders, the professor in Berkeley, urged her fellow sisters not to cooperate with the visitation, saying the investigators should be treated as “uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house.” She wrote this in a private e-mail message to a few friends, but it became public and was widely circulated. . .

So much for obedience.

Then there's this:

Cardinal Levada sent a letter to the Leadership Conference (of Women's Religious) saying an investigation was warranted because it appeared that the organization had done little since it was warned eight years ago that it had failed to “promote” the church’s teachings on three issues: the male-only priesthood, homosexuality and the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church as the means to salvation.

The letter goes on to say that, “Given both the tenor and the doctrinal content of various addresses” at assemblies the Leadership Conference has held in recent years, the problem has not been fixed.

And who can forget this?

The Leadership Conference drew the Vatican’s wrath decades ago when its president welcomed John Paul II to the United States with a plea for the ordination of women. But several nuns who have attended the group’s meetings in recent years said they had not heard anything that would provoke the Vatican’s ire.

People who think that all is well with the religious orders remind me of the folks who think that, just because the Jesuits were awesome a century ago, they are a-okay in our current era.

What is needed are groups like the Nashville Dominicans, who are bringing in novices by the truckload:

Pray for these ladies and for the success of the Vatican's efforts on this front.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Fall

The first is proof of the second. Chesterton once famously said that Original Sin is the only doctrine of the Church proved every day on the front pages of the newspaper. Consider this:

  • He mutilated himself.

  • He had inappropriate (at best) relations with children.

  • He popularized masturbatory dance.

Perhaps I am a prude, but this is not a man worthy of any admiration. Why, then, do we admire him? (By "we", I mean of course a substantial portion of the public.) We admire him because we humans are fundamentally irrational, choosing bad things in preference to the good.

It seems to me that the renewal of the Church and of the society in which she dwells will start with a recovery of the doctrine of the Fall. I know that in my case, I might as well have been taught by Pelagians as a child. We were told that God loved us, and that we were good. Confession was an afterthought, a relic of old sacramental systems that we didn't need to worry about. I was told by one earnest pastoral associate that "The Church doesn't talk about sin anymore."

Sin is all around, and needs to be fought vigorously. As evidence, see the adulation of the unfortunate and ruined Michael Jackson.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Encyclical Due July 7

Per Zenit:

Benedict XVI's new encyclical, titled "Caritas in Veritate," will be released Tuesday, the Vatican announced.The Vatican press office confirmed today that the Pope's first social encyclical, which is expected to offer an analysis of the current economic crisis, will be presented at a press conference in the late morning July 7. The text will then be released to the public at midday, local time.

We'll have a full breakdown when it comes out. And more frequent updating that what's been seen lately. I promise.

I'm actually pretty stoked to read this document. While I have certain issues with Populorum Progressio, the Magsterium's corpus on social justice is some of the deepest and most profound stuff you can read these days. Especially given the habits of the heterodox to use social justice as a smokescreen for their heresies.