Sunday, December 12, 2010


When John heard in prison of the works of
the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with
this question, "Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?" Jesus said to
them in reply, "Go and tell John what you hear
and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame
walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the
dead are raised, and the poor have the good
news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the
one who takes no offense at me."

Matthew 11:2-6

Sunday, December 5, 2010


But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit
of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom
and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of
strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the
LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay
shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with
justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his
mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall
slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around
his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the
leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and
the young lion shall browse together, with a little
child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be
neighbors, together their young shall rest; the
lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall
play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his
hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm
or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth
shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as
water covers the sea. On that day, The root of
Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The
Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall
be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Apparently liberal anti-Christian hatred isn't just confined to the Left Coast

I would draw attention to the second image on this page, the one with the man in the clerical shirt wearing the "ignore the poor" button. If the Minnesota Democratic Party had the intention of attacking one specific Protestant minister then perhaps they should have chosen an image that singled him out specifically. As it stands, this ad appears to be an attack on all conservative clergy and is therefore inexcusable. Liberals attack conservatives who use bigotry to gain votes, for them to turn around and stoke the flames of anti-Christian hatred for votes in hypocrisy at its worst.
Apparently the whole Establishment Clause thing only protects religious beliefs that liberals agree with

The sad thing is that this isn't even surprising. This is the Ninth Circuit, after all, the court that never found a liberal violation of the Constitution that it couldn't excuse or a conservative opinion that it couldn't quash. Nobody should be surprised at San Francisco's bigoted condemnation of the Catholic faith, considering the anti-Catholicism that has come out of that city in the past. I'm sure that the establishment in that city was quite hostile toward Cardinal Levada when he was Archbishop and quite happy when he left, now of course they're upset that his successor has proven just as immune to their corrupting influence and so they're looking for a way to justify discriminating against him and his flock.

Any impartial observer would have to admit that San Francisco's resolution violates the Establishment Clause. The First Amendment doesn't only prohibit the government favoring a particular religion, it also clearly forbids discrimination against a particular religion. If any liberal denies that they would reject the Council's action if it involved any other religion, think about what the response would be if some city in the conservative part of California passed a resolution condemning the Episcopal Church's vocal opposition to Prop 8. Better yet, think how people would react if San Francisco's City Council condemned the anti-gay marriage beliefs of Muslims or Orthodox Jews. It is a fact of life that anti-Catholicism is a permissible bigotry, not even considered a bigotry by many, and that Catholics are attacked in ways that few other groups would be forced to endure. People may attack Muslims for the actions of a few that are not supported by the many, but this comes from an ignorance of the typical beliefs of Muslims where the attacks on Catholics come from knowledge of our universal teachings and are therefore attacks on the integrity of all the faithful. Hopefully the Supreme Court will hear this case and instruct the Circuit Court to revisit their decision, otherwise we may see many more of these "no Catholics allowed" resolutions by liberal cities in the future. I'm very grateful that I don't live in San Francisco right now, because the Council has sent a clear message that Catholics don't have freedom of worship within city limits, and I am also relieved that I don't live under the jurisdiction of the obviously biased Ninth Circuit. New Jersey is quite liberal, but I haven't heard anything about Newark or Camden passing such a hateful resolution so at least for the moment I have hope of tolerance here. Unless the higher court steps in I fear all tolerance may be lost forever in the western states.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

He that is faithful in that which is least,
is faithful also in that which is greater: and
he that is unjust in that which is little, is
unjust also in that which is greater. If then
you have not been faithful in the unjust mammon;
who will trust you with that which is the true?
And if you have not been faithful in that which
is another's; who will give you that which is
your own? No servant can serve two masters: for
either he will hate the one, and love the other;
or he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.

Luke 16:10-13 (D-R)

In how many ways do we serve mammon instead of God? It doesn't have to be money, many things in our society take the place of God in our lives. It could be fame, or sex, or objects like iPods and designer clothes. It could also be people, those around us who we look to for validation and whose approval we seek when we should be looking to God. How much better would our world be if we sought God in the same way we seek out the latest celebrity news? How many could be converted if we approached evangelization with the same energy that we bring to seeking our own wealth? Even among Christians, there are many who look to personal advancement while rarely thinking about what God may want from us. Many see religion as only involving an hour's obligation on Sundays, while they spend the rest of their time behaving no differently from any of their non-Christian neighbors. We cannot be devoted to God while we're also devoted to the things of this world, and if we become obsessed with the pleasures of the physical world then we risk pushing God out of our lives. You cannot put your trust in God and the world at the same time, because they stand in opposition and seek to eliminate the other's influence on us. We must remember that the world provides benefits that are fleeting and only of this life, while God's benefits are eternal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It seems that Christopher Hitchens has decided to resurrect the old hate-mongering in anticipation of Pope Benedict's visit to the UK, namely that the Pope is guilty of crimes against humanity and should be arrested when he sets foot on British soil. Never mind the fact that nobody has been able to lay any blame on our current Pope for the abuse crisis, no matter how much they've tried (and how they have tried!). Never mind that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith only received jurisdiction over cases of child abuse by clergy in 2001, long after most of the cases were alleged to have occurred, and every indication is that Cardinal Ratzinger pursued justice for the victimized pretty quickly after being given the authority to do so. Never mind that Pope Benedict has, in his five years as Pope, shown himself to be committed to justice and has repeatedly made it easier for cases to be investigated and if necessary turned over to civil authorities. People like Hitchens don't really care about the victims, they only care about punishing the Pope for being conservative and brow-beating Catholics into bowing before their destructive brand of hedonistic narcissism. I will quote and respond to particularly egregious sections of the article below.

I came across the following passage from Cardinal John Henry Newman's classic statement of belief, his Apologia Pro Vita Sua:

The Catholic Church holds it better for the Sun and Moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die from starvation in extremest agony … than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.

I doubt that Hitchens is operating under any misunderstanding, rather I think that he is intentionally mischaracterizing Newman's statement in an attempt at character assassination. Newman obviously wasn't saying that Catholics want people to starve and suffer, rather that we hold apostasy to be a horrible thing and do not desire it to happen to any person. We certainly don't enjoy the suffering of human beings, but so much more than that do we deplore the loss of souls to sin.

As we have recently been forcibly reminded, the Roman Catholic Church holds it better for the cries of raped and violated children to be ignored, and for the excuses and alibis of their rapists and torturers indulged, and for a host of dirty and wilful untruths to be manufactured wholesale, and for the funds raised ostensibly for the poor to be paid out in hush money and shameful bribery, rather than that one tiny indignity or inconvenience be visited on the robed majesty of a man-made church or any limit set to its self-proclaimed right to be judge in its own cause

We've recently been reminded, actually, that human beings are sinful and that applies as much to human beings in the Church as it does to those outside. Peter Tatchell, a leading opponent to the Pope's visit, has said in the past that nine year old children could consent to sex with adults. If a Catholic priest said that then Hitchens would put the blame for it directly on the Pope, and yet I hear nothing from him about his ally's reprehensible beliefs. Hitchens is also overlooking, of course, the many actions that have been taken by the Pope to safeguard children in the wake of the abuse scandal. Not only has the Pope raised the statue of limitations to 20 years, an action that Hitchens would hail if it had been undertaken by civil leaders, but he has also put together concrete rules governing the removal of accused priests and religious from their positions. When he was given responsibility for these cases as head of the CDF the Pope essentially had to create rules from scratch, and personally I think that he's done an admirable job of it.

I asked a simple question in print. Why was this not considered a matter for the police and the courts? Why were we asking the church to "put its own house in order," an expression that was the exact definition of the problem to begin with?

That's exactly what has been done. In fact, in many cases the accusations were brought before the civil authorities and they either declined to prosecute or else investigated and found no basis for an indictment. There was certainly a cover up in some dioceses, but the blame for a lack of prosecutions lies in the hands of civil government at least as much as in the Church's hands.

I followed this up with a telephone call to Geoffrey Robertson, a British barrister with a second-to-none record in international human rights cases.

Robertson is the moron who tried to stoke anti-Catholic hatred in England to gain support for his plan to put the Pope on trial at the Hague, solely to increase his own name recognition and make himself look good without any concern for those who actually suffered from the actions of clergy. I am not at all surprised that Hitchens would be allied with this guy, after all they're birds of a feather.

Consider: The now-resigned bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, stands revealed by his own eventual confession as being guilty of incest as well as rape...Very belatedly, a few months ago, the Belgian police finally rose from their notorious torpor and raided some ecclesiastical offices in search of evidence that was being concealed. Joseph Ratzinger, who had not thus far found a voice in which to mention the doings of his Belgian underlings, promptly emitted a squeal of protest—at the intervention of the law.

The problem that the Church has with the civil investigation is in its methods, not its motives. In executing their warrant the police violated the crypts of two bishops, a horrid sacrilege without justification. The Church has no problem with civil authorities investigating accusations of abuse, so long as they don't intentionally insult our religion in the process. How would Muslims react if the Belgian police had desecrated a Koran in a search for evidence? How would Jews react if they had searched for evidence by tearing apart the ark that contains the Torah scrolls?

Robertson's brief begins with a meticulous summary of the systematic fashion in which child-rape was covered up by collusion between local Catholic authorities and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, an office that under the last pope was run by Ratzinger himself.

Funny, considering that the CDF did not gain jurisdiction over such cases until 2001 at around the same time that many of the cases came to light. During most of the time of cover-up, and in fact when the vast majority of cases were alleged to have been committed, the responsibility for investigating cases and bringing them to the attention of law enforcement fell on individual bishops rather than any central Church authority. That was the problem, and giving the power to the CDF and then-Cardinal Ratzinger was the solution.

The Catholic authorities have now rudely disinterred the bodies, finding nothing that had survived decay or could serve as a relic.

Hitchens seems crudely satisfied at this fact, as if it proves that Newman wasn't a saint. Of course, the Church does not teach that a saint's body must be incorruptible in order for that person to be a saint. Many saints have shown such incorruptibility, and it can be seen as a sign of sainthood, but it is not required.

The sun and moon don't need to fall and the species doesn't have to die in agony in order to expiate this sin—a little application of simple earthly justice is all that is required. Will it really continue to be withheld?

Hitchens hates the Catholic Church, and in spite of his protestations to the contrary his words and actions scream hatred for those who choose to believe in the Church. Since he can't brow-beat the Pope into renouncing the faith and dragging its followers down with him he'll try to destroy the Pope by putting him on trial for false accusations and making him rot in jail. May God bless the Pope in his journey to hostile lands, and if he must be martyred by Hitchens and his pagan friends may his martyrdom obtain blessings for the Church and conversion for the English people who so desperately need it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Then he said, "A man had two sons, and the
younger son said to his father, 'Father,
give me the share of your estate that should
come to me.' So the father divided the
property between them. After a few days, the
younger son collected all his belongings and
set off to a distant country where he
squandered his inheritance on a life of
dissipation. When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country, and he found
himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to
one of the local citizens who sent him to his
farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his
fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody
gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought,
'How many of my father's hired workers have more
than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from
hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I
shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against
heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be
called your son; treat me as you would treat one of
your hired workers."' So he got up and went back to
his father. While he was still a long way off, his
father caught sight of him, and was filled with
compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and
kissed him. His son said to him, 'Father, I have
sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer
deserve to be called your son.' But his father
ordered his servants, 'Quickly bring the finest
robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and
sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and
slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to
life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then
the celebration began.

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on
his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the
sound of music and dancing. He called one of the
servants and asked what this might mean. The servant
said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your
father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he
has him back safe and sound.' He became angry, and
when he refused to enter the house, his father came
out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in
reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not
once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me
even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But
when your son returns who swallowed up your property
with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened
calf.' He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me
always; everything I have is yours. But now we must
celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead
and has come to life again; he was lost and has been
found.'" Luke 15: 11-32

Today's very long Gospel reading contains a very important message, and I hope that you all heard the long version so that you were exposed to this parable. One of the Devil's most favored tactics to separate us from the faith is to tell us that we are beyond hope, that we have sinned so much that God has given up on us and we are certainly damned. The idea, of course, is that a man without hope of salvation has no reason to behave like a man in search of salvation. This is, of course, a lie, and what we find in the parable of the Prodigal Son is a God who loves us and never stops seeking us out no matter what we do against Him. It doesn't matter how many sins we commit, how far we drive ourselves away from God and His Truth, because He will always be there waiting for us when we return. It is also good to look at the Second Reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy, where Paul gladly acknowledges his own sinfulness because he knows that God's mercy and love are most apparent when we come to him in our sin and ask for His forgiveness. We all sin and fall short of what we should be, but that is no reason for despair because God is Love and He will never abandon or disown us. We are His children in our sin, even in the moment of our commission of sin, and He is always waiting to rejoice when we come to our senses and seek Him out again. How blessed indeed are we to have this wonderful gift, to know that our God loves us so much that He will suffer infinite disrespect from us without ever rejecting us or turning His back on us.

Monday, September 6, 2010

So apparently Christopher Hitchens is at it again. I'm constantly surprised at how many publications seem to view this hack as a genuine thinker, having seen his hatred spilled on the pages both of the Washington Post Religion Section and also on Slate. It is on Slate that I found this particularly objectionable bit of atheist rambling. Not content to satisfy his superiority complex with internal derision of us foolish theists, apparently Hitchens feels that it is his duty to neuter those of us who dare to believe in what he doesn't. Never mind the fact that he is dead wrong, Hitchens feels he has the right to dictate to religious groups what of their doctrines can and cannot be carried forward into the future. Perhaps he can call it the "Bright" Man's Burden, his obligation as an intellectually advanced person to bring enlightenment to us pathetic throwbacks who haven't gotten it through out heads to abandon religion and embrace hedonistic naturalism. Personally I just call it hubris, and I pray to God that he gets over it before he goes to meet his maker. I'll bring attention to the more egregious statements that he makes below, along with my responses.

Take an example close at hand, the absurdly named Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...Thus, to the extent that we view latter-day saints as acceptable, and agree to overlook their other quaint and weird beliefs, it is to the extent that we have decidedly limited them in the free exercise of their religion.

It is true that the Mormons have had some strange beliefs in the past, beliefs that were framed as eternal dogma right up to the point where prophetic revelation exiled them to the dustbin of history. Still, the elimination of these objectionable doctrines had more to do with the internal decisions of the hierarchy than it did with any kind of governmental intervention. The US government may have made it clear that a continuation of polygamy would have doomed Utah's chances at statehood, but Utah could have carried on as an independent country if Mormons really wanted to keep things the way they were. In a like manner, they could have very easily maintained their beliefs against black people just as many small religious groups have to the current time and while it might have made them unpopular it probably wouldn't have lead to governmental intervention. Plenty of religions do things that are considered discriminatory against one group or another, the Catholic Church's exclusion of women from the priesthood being one example, and none of them have the police knocking on their door for it. Hitchens, who is British, may not fully understand what freedom of religion means, but it is solely limited to governmental action. Mormon beliefs about homosexuality may make them unpopular with the "No on 8" crowd, but that doesn't mean that their freedom of religion is being limited unless the government starts arresting them or otherwise impedes their free exercise. In other words, they limited themselves to be popular and weren't really forced to do so by the government or even by society.

One could cite some other examples, such as those Christian sects that disapprove of the practice of medicine. Their adult members are generally allowed to die while uttering religious incantations and waving away the physician, but, in many states, if they apply this faith to their children—a crucial element in the "free exercise" of religion—they can be taken straight to court. Not only that, they can find themselves subject to general disapproval and condemnation.

Hitchen's argument in this case conflates two very different things, the governmental prevention of faith-based violence against children and what he advocates as the societal neutering of faith in general. Later on in the article he brings up non-Christian examples, such as the disgusting practice of metzitzah b'peh in Orthodox Judaism and female circumcision in Islam, as examples of cases where religious exercise is limited. Of course, what he misses is that public safety has always been a limitation to most of the rights granted in the Constitution. Freedom of speech has always been thought to exclude "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater" or other such threats to safety, and all but the most rabid NRA supporters would agree that limits on gun possession in certain buildings and areas are perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, when public safety isn't affected the law is quite clear in granting religion a wide latitude. The government can stop a church from performing human sacrifice, but current interpretation doesn't even allow them to force religious groups to abide by zoning and historical preservation laws as recent cases in Pemberton, NJ and Washington, DC attest.

We talk now as if it was ridiculous ever to suspect Roman Catholics of anything but the highest motives, yet by the time John F. Kennedy was breaking the unspoken taboo on the election of a Catholic as president, the Vatican had just begun to consider making public atonement for centuries of Jew-hatred and a more recent sympathy for fascism.

Always one to appeal to base emotion and hatred, Hitchens once again brings up the idea that the Church was a big fan of fascism. One must wonder what he thinks of Mit brennender Sorge and the other cases where Popes Pius XI and Pius XII spoke out against nationalism. I guess that he could be talking about Franco's Spain, which was supported by the Vatican, but I'm not sure what he expected when Franco's opposition was extremely anti-clerical and wanted nothing more than to burn the Pope at the stake. It would be akin to Hitchens allying himself with fundamentalist Christians who want to kill him for not believing in God. At any rate, the Church still has many views that Hitchens hates (like, for instance, being the Church in the first place), so I guess our socialization isn't quite finished.

t is generally agreed that the church's behavior and autonomy need to be modified to take account both of American law and American moral outrage.

I don't know if I'd call this "generally agreed." It is obvious that Church leaders can be held accountable for breaking civil laws, as the Church has admitted and is assisting in the cases of child sex abuse. Still, "moral outrage" is vague and could apply to anything from forcing the Church to turn over abusers all the way to compelling the Church to accept women priests and stop believing in the Real Presence. I doubt that most Americans support the latter, in fact I'd guess that it's only popular among cynical atheists like Mr. Hitchens.

The Church of Scientology, the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, and the Ku Klux Klan are all faith-based organizations and are all entitled to the protections of the First Amendment. But they are also all subject to a complex of statutes governing tax-exemption, fraud, racism, and violence, to the point where "free exercise" in the third case has—by means of federal law enforcement and stern public disapproval—been reduced to a vestige of its former self.

First of all, the KKK isn't a religious organization. At best it's a fraternal order like the Freemasons or the Elks and is therefore protected under Freedom of Speech rather than of Religion. Still, it is not a limitation of free exercise to force people to abide by legitimate laws. Preventing violence isn't a violation of religious freedom any more than preventing speech that endangers public safety is a violation of free speech.

There's an excellent chance of a healthy pluralist outcome, but it's very unlikely that this can happen unless, as with their predecessors on these shores, Muslims are compelled to abandon certain presumptions that are exclusive to themselves. The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization.

There is a huge difference between forcing religion to abide by laws on the one hand and on the other forcing religion to become assimilated to the moral sensitivities of the majority. The first is perfectly reasonable, the second is not. Hitchens seems to want both, but if the Catholic experience is a sign then the second part will never occur. Catholics have plenty of beliefs that are objectionable to the world, and yet we still believe them centuries after we came here. Hitchens wants to neuter religions by forcing them to get rid of things that are "exclusive to themselves," removing its potential by removing its distinctiveness. While this may have worked on mainstream Protestants, making it almost impossible to tell between a Lutheran and a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian and a Methodist, it will never work on the Catholic Church and certainly not on Islam. We are all different, and while he'd like to subjugate us to secular control he'll always be disappointed.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last night I happened to catch a small portion of the Rachel Maddow Show. My brother was watching it on the television and I was listening to music on the computer, but in between songs I noticed that Maddow was talking to Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania and since he's the governor of the state next to mine I decided to listen. What I heard was horrifying, and should be even more so to any orthodox Catholic who lives in that state. Maddow asked him about the "extremist" views of Tea Party candidates on abortion, expressing outrage that they would oppose abortion even in cases of rape, and Rendell stated that he has never met a single rational person who opposed abortion in these cases. I have to wonder whether he's ever met Cardinals Bevilacqua and Rigali, both archbishops of the largest city in his state and both steadfast opponents of abortion in cases of rape. Perhaps he's just saying that these two courageous champions of human dignity are irrational, I certainly wouldn't put it past him.

The argument that Gov. Rendell offers contains a false dichotomy, and does so intentionally as a kind of trap to neutralize the pro-life movement. When he states that he knows and respects many "pro-life" people who support the rape exception what he is trying to do is weaken the resolve of his opposition in order to destroy it. There is no difference between a fetus conceived of love and one conceived of rape, and therefore we should not allow the destruction of the child conceived of rape any more than we should allow it for any other unborn child. If we compromise on one group of children and say that the circumstances of their conception invalidate their right to life then we should just give up and support abortion completely, and therein lies the outcome desired by Rendell and Maddow among many others. Extremist liberals like these two will be satisfied with nothing less than an unlimited right to abortion, at any point in pregnancy and with any conceivable justification or no justification at all, and therefore when they talk about the respect they have for "compromising" abortion opponents there is no reason to believe it. Just as liberals pretended to care about Rep. Stupak's opinion right up until the point that they destroyed his amendment and launched a campaign of vilification against him, should Rendell and company ever succeed in destroying opposition to abortion then the pragmatists among us will find their friendship to be non-existent. We have a choice between faithfulness to life or compromise against it, the ultimate reaction from the left being the same, and I know which one I'll choose.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Someone asked him, "Lord, will only
a few people be saved?" He answered them,
"Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to
enter but will not be strong enough. After
the master of the house has arisen and
locked the door, then will you stand
outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open
the door for us.' He will say to you in
reply, 'I do not know where you are from.'
And you will say, 'We ate and drank in
your company and you taught in our streets.'
Then he will say to you, 'I do not know
where (you) are from. Depart from me, all
you evildoers!' And there will be wailing
and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the
kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the
west and from the north and the south and
will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last."

Luke 13: 23-30

The last two verses here are ones that I think really speak to our situation as a nation and indeed as a culture in the "Western" world. It is a message that was unthinkable to the Jewish people of Jesus' time, just as it seems to be equally incomprehensible to our current age. God came down not only for the pious and the self-righteous, not only for the rich and the light-skinned, but indeed for the whole of the human race. God does not care if a person is a CEO or a fruit picker, a descendant of the Pilgrims or an illegal immigrant, a rich man or an unemployed single mother of multiple children on public assistance. What He cares about is located within the heart, and I think that many rich and supposedly pious people will be shocked on Judgment Day to find that their riches are inadequate to earn salvation. God will indeed gather together people from every nation and language, from every class and situation in life, and those who are considered last in our society will indeed be the first ones welcomed into Heaven.

In our society today there are many who would question the worthiness of the immigrant and the laborer to be counted among the righteous. Just today in his homily my pastor mentioned some grumblings that had been expressed to him about the creation of a Spanish Mass at our parish. Our parish has had non-English language masses for a long time, having been blessed with a large Portuguese and then Brazilian immigrant community since I was a child, but this would be the first time that the Spanish immigrant community has been welcomed in such a way there. Unfortunately, there are many among us who think that even the Portuguese-speaking Mass is a problem and that adding a Spanish Mass is a move in the wrong direction. To them I would say that God does not love us because we speak English or because our families have been here for some "respectable" period of time. He loves us because we are His children, and He loves the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking people here just as much as He loves us. God does not look at our "pedigree" as if we are pure-breed dogs, he does not care where we come from or how we got here. What is important to God is whether we are willing to serve Him and love our brothers and sisters, and from experience I can say that there are many among the immigrant communities who would put many of us "well-established" Americans to shame in those departments.

In my experiences of the marginalized and downtrodden I have always found that the poorest and most disregarded among us feel the closest to God and have the richest faith. I didn't grow up rich but compared to many even in our own country I was relatively well-off, so my experience of this phenomenon didn't begin until I was in college. For my first spring break of my time in college I decided to participate in an Alternative Spring Break service trip to Kingston, Jamaica, a trip that brought me face to face not only with crushing poverty but also the gaping divide between rich and poor that exists in many countries but is often not acknowledged by those who can choose to ignore it. In my time there I was blessed to meet a man whose condition would be considered a curse to most of us, and yet his outlook was one of intense faith and gratitude to God. This man had been stricken by leprosy back when that disease was less treatable, and by the time that he gained access to life-saving treatment he had lost his sight as well as all of his toes and fingers. The disease had scarred his body, and yet his spirit was unafflicted. To hear him sing praise to God in spite of his sufferings brought into perspective a truth that is not easy for those of us who are more affluent, that true faith comes not in thanking God for an easy life but in praising God through the hardships and trials. How many of us in our comfortable existence would choose to praise God instead of blaming Him for our pain and becoming bitter and angry? I think that many would choose the "curse God and die" response favored by Job's wife rather than keeping the faith as Job himself did. It is not for no reason that Jesus preached the difficulty of salvation for the rich, indeed great wealth fosters a mindset of self-reliance and even self-adoration that is antithetical to the teachings of Christ. The poor have nothing and therefore have no choice but to lean on God, their utter helplessness leads them to the true Rock in a way that is impossible for those who have learned to put their trust in self and in temporal riches.

It is a shame that so many among the Catholic faithful have embraced the millennial rhetoric of those like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, rhetoric that poisons them against their neighbors and makes them see enemies and rivals where they should see brothers and sisters in Christ. You can see this in the objections that some have leveled against the Park51 project, objections that seem to imply that all Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. Imam Rauf was previously such a non-controversial figure that he was sent on bridge-building missions to the Middle East by President Bush after 9/11, but now that the right wants to start a fight they're condemning him for insufficiently condeming the actions of other Muslims. They chastise him for making (in my opinion accurate) statements about US policy contributing to the popularity of groups like Al Qaeda, and they attack him for not being penitent enough for the attacks on our country by supposed followers of Islam. I have to wonder what these conservatives would say about Christian sins against human dignity, such as the treatment of Native Americans not to mention the current atmosphere of xenophobia that prevails among many so-called followers of Christ. I'd also wonder whether they think that Americans should express penitence for the terrorist actions of our government in places like Dresden, Nagasaki, My Lai, and Baghdad (anyone remember "shock and awe"?), but then I think that I already know the answer. The great irony is that people like Beck and Palin hold up our nation as the chosen land of God Almighty a land of justice and peace obedient to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and yet in their actions and their disdain for the poor man and the foreigner they betray themselves as descendants of the Pharisees and bring down upon themselves the condemnation chosen for that group by Jesus himself. May God have mercy on them, and on us all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Et factum est ut audivit salutationem Mariae
Elisabeth exultavit infans in utero eius et repleta
est Spiritu Sancto, Elisabeth et exclamavit voce
magna, et dixit: Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et
benedictus fructus ventris tui. Et unde hoc mihi ut
veniat mater Domini mei ad me? Ecce enim ut facta
est vox salutationis tuae in auribus meis, exultavit
in gaudio infans in utero meo. Et beata quae credidit,
quoniam perficientur ea, quae dicta sunt ei a Domino.
Et ait Maria: Magnificat anima mea Dominum: et
exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo; quia
respexit humilitatem ancillae suae, ecce enim ex hoc
beatam me dicent omnes generationes. Quia fecit mihi
magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen eius, et
misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus

And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the
salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And
she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed
art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy
womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my
Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice
of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my
womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast
believed, because those things shall be accomplished
that were spoken to thee by the Lord. And Mary said:
My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath
rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded
the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that
is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is
his name. And his mercy is from generation unto
generations, to them that fear him.
Luke 1:41-50

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I can't believe that I didn't mention this here before, but tomorrow I'll be attending a Solemn High Mass being sponsored by Mater Ecclesiae Catholic Church at St. Peter Church in Merchantville, NJ. The Mass will be in the Extraordinary Form, and it will be my first experience of Mass in that Form. I honestly have no idea what to expect, my only knowledge of this Mass is theoretical and it seems so different from the Ordinary Form as to make comparisons to that Form impossible. At any rate, tomorrow I should have a much better idea of what I'm talking about when I discuss the differences between the two Forms.

If anybody else here is interested in coming and is in the area, the Mass is at 1pm at St. Peter Church and the directions can be found here. The flyer can be found (in PDF form) here.
If anybody out there reads this blog, please pray for my brother who is suffering from physical ailments and also facing difficulty in finding a job. Please pray that he may be healed physically and spiritually and that he may find employment soon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out
to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he
went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he
sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the
same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with
foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith
he received power to generate, even though he was past
the normal age--and Sarah herself was sterile--for he
thought that the one who had made the promise was
trustworthy. So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead, descendants as numerous as the
stars in the sky and as countless as the sands on the
seashore. All these died in faith. They did not receive
what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on
earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking
a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land from which
they had come, they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he
has prepared a city for them. By faith Abraham, when put to
the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the
promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said,
"Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name." He reasoned
that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received
Isaac back as a symbol.

Hebrews 11:8-19

As the people of Christ, a community of hope and faith, we are called to trust in the love of God when He calls us out of our comfort zone and asks of us more than we think we can accomplish. Abraham was told by God to leave his homeland, to make a dangerous journey, so that he could take possession of a foreign and hostile land that he had never even seen before. Even after his arrival in the promised land, his life was not easy. Abraham had been promised descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, not a likely outcome considering that he was at the time childless and he and his wife were too old to conceive. Still, he trusted and God rewarded his faith with a son. How shocking must it have been to Abraham, after all he had been through and the faith he had put in God for the life of his son, when Isaac's life was demanded as a sacrifice? Even in spite of this seeming contradiction, Abraham trusted that God would keep His promise and ultimately He did just that. How much more should we trust God when He asks the seemingly impossible from us, considering that He is unlikely to ask of us nearly as much as He did of Abraham? Most of us are called simply to bring Christ to those around us, not in hostile lands or empty wilderness but in our own backyards where the Good News is just as desperately needed. Will we respond with faith and acceptance of the love of God, or will we favor instead our own will and plan for our lives?

I'm not saying that it's easy, Lord knows it isn't and I'm the least of all when it comes to subjugating my own will to His. It is only through the grace of God that we are able to answer His call and do what is pleasing to Him and yet we are called to ask for that grace and seek that which is pleasing to Him. It is the great contradiction vocalized in the plea of the man in Mark 9:24, "I do believe, help my unbelief." We are called to ask for that which we cannot even fathom on our own much less obtain, to reach our short arms out to Him who comes down to meet us where we are. We are called to have faith in that which we cannot see and to seek that which we cannot fathom, and only through the grace of God can we finally obtain this great gift which brings eternal life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So apparently a judge in California declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional, setting the stage for more appeals and possibly leading to the nullification of every "traditional marriage" referendum in the country. Personally I find it ironic that a homosexual judge from Illinois can be celebrated for spitting on the will of the people but when a religious group like the Mormons that has members in California but is headquartered in another state tries to get people to vote then it's suddenly the worst thing in the world and they have to be punished for it. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'm surprised. It was only a matter of time before they found a judge to do this, and history has told us that many radical changes in our country both good and bad have come about through a judicial disregard for the will of the people.

This may seem like a small thing, like an inconsequential movement toward something that will have no effect on those who don't approve, but if history has taught me anything it's that California is the harbinger of doom and things always end up worse than they were when they started. Looking at abortion, many probably didn't believe that the actions of a few liberal states like California and New York would shortly be mandated throughout the country. They also probably didn't think that we'd be experiencing such a breakdown in the family, such catastrophic rises in child and spousal abuse as well as other sorts of domestic violence, and in fact many in the pro-abortion movement seem to have thought that legalized abortion would lead to the eradication of such evils. In five or ten years we may face a situation where a federal judge declares all "marriage between a man and a woman only" laws unconstitutional, and then we'll all be in this situation. It will be tragic, but it certainly won't be surprising.

The real question here, the real uncertainty about the rapid movement toward entropy and chaos that is defines our culture, is whether this will be used to persecute religious groups that oppose gay marriage. This sort of thing has happened in the past, where churches that rented out halls for wedding receptions were sued for not renting them out to gay couples. If the courts decide that church weddings are a "service" like renting out facilities, what would stop them from deciding that such services have to be offered equally regardless of sexual orientation? What would stop them from penalizing churches that performed weddings for straight couples but refused to perform them for gay ones? Even if they couldn't punish churches and clergy for their inconvenient beliefs, what stops them from using litigation to discourage laity from supporting those churches and clergy? We may very well end up in an era of persecution of the Church in this country, perhaps not tomorrow or next year but soon enough, and I only pray that God graces our leaders and the faithful with the strength to endure. Perhaps after a while our culture will realize the error of its ways and return to God, hopefully before we become so morally bankrupt that we end up like the Roman Empire and fade out of existence as a society, and at that point we'll need somebody to reintroduce His ways to a fallen world.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what
is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand
of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on
earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden
with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to
death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the
greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its
practices and have put on the new self, which is
being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its
creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision
and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Col. 3:1-5,9-11

What is it about us that, while we proclaim our belief in Christ and pledge to serve Him, clings to the vestiges of paganism as if our lives depend on it? We seem to live as two separate people, one concerned with the things of Heaven and the Word of God and the other mired in the flesh and its urges. Saint Paul is talking to the community of Colossae, Christians who had accepted Christ and yet seemed to be falling back into the sins that characterized their pre-Christian lives. Paul reminds them that they have been recreated in Christ, that their old selves and their old "gods" have died and no longer have power over them.

How much do we in modern society, most of us never having been pagans in the traditional sense, behave as if we were in fact pagans and show our constant need for conversion to the faith of Christ? We may not have a pantheon of gods and goddesses to worship, but we do just fine to fashion idols out of the things that surround our earthly lives. In his homily today, the pastor of my parish mentioned the story of Juno Moneta, the Roman goddess in whose temple was the mint where Roman coins were created. It is this epithet that gives us the word "money," and yet the word moneta does not relate to currency but rather refers to a warning or reminder. Perhaps we can see this as a warning to ourselves when we mix religion and the pursuit of money, the message of the "prosperity gospel" being a particularly egregious example, and when we risk crossing the line into an outright worship of wealth. Perhaps we should approach money as we do Uranium, having a particular usefulness but extremely dangerous if possessed in large amount or held too closely. Many seem to think that St. Paul called money the "root of all evil," but as my pastor pointed out today it was the love of money that Paul was warning against rather than the thing itself. Money has its uses, it can be given in charity to those without and it can be used to uplift people and to build things in praise of God, but if we hold it too closely or being to see it as an end rather than a means it will end up consuming us. We should always hold wealth at an arm's length, using it to do good works and bring others the Gospel but being careful not to become too attached to it. It is God who will allow us to do this, He who will show us the truth of the world and allow us to overcome its pull.

Sin has an effect like gravity upon us, it keeps us down when we want to float away in the direction of light and grace and God. Every sin that we indulge in increases that gravity, like heavy chains that weigh us down ever more toward the dirt of sin. After a while these chains can become familiar, so familiar in fact that we don't even notice their presence. Even if we become used to them and gain the ability to stand and walk in spite of their weight, we remain unable to rise to the heights that should be within our grasp. If we ask God to then He will take the chains from us and show us how to fly, and yet how many among us ever ask? We may think that we are asking, and yet we know not even how to much less what should be requested. To receive we must ask, and to ask we must listen for the direction of Him who already knows our yearning. May He lift up our heads to see the stars and break our chains so that we can reach for them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Apparently not all "diversity" is welcome at public universities

I wonder if liberals/secularists understand how this could come back to bite them. If one opinion can be blacklisted then any opinion can receive the same treatment. There are plenty of atheists who consider religious belief to be at least a mental flaw if not a sign of mental illness, should they be banned from receiving mental health degrees because they might traumatize their religious patients? Better yet, should people who have these views about religion be banned from becoming teachers because they might take their bias out on their students? It is possible to counsel somebody with whom you disagree, and I'm sure that this young woman would have been a wonderful counselor to all of her students whether gay or straight. This school is obviously trying to create a consensus that doesn't exist by expelling everybody who doesn't agree with them, and that's never a good thing for an educational institution to do. I hope that some other more courageous school gives this young woman a place, and that her lawyers sue the school for enough money to give any other institution pause when they consider this sort of action in the future.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I thought that the point of going to college was "diversity" and encountering different viewpoints.

Turns out that this only applies if the diverse viewpoints are not too different, or in other words if the ideas expressed are acceptable to the liberal establishment. If you say something that offends their fragile sensibilities then you can expect to be thrown out in favor of somebody who preaches to the choir. The worst part of this is that the teacher was fired for expressing the true teaching of the Catholic Church in the context of a class about the Catholic Church. Perhaps the statement he made could be considered inappropriate if he was a sociology professor teaching a class about alternative sexuality, although as I said before the whole point of college is challenging a student's beliefs, but how do you teach a class about Catholicism without bringing up one of the most visible issues of contention between the Church and society at large? If the school expects its teachers to gloss over things that they consider uncomfortable then I can't imagine that their classes are very informative, and I have to say that I'm glad to have not gone to this university.

It's a good thing that the American Association of University Professors is on the professor's side on this, last I checked they were more likely to condemn institutions related to the Catholic Church than to support them. This does create a troubling precedent though, if teaching at state schools is subject to the opinions of secular culture then students will only learn what the liberal establishment lets them learn. I had a history professor at my Catholic university who idolized Margaret Sanger and considered legalized birth control to be the crowning achievement of the 20th century, and yet she was allowed to teach because the school valued professorial independence. If they replace this professor with one who omits or ridicules the beliefs of the Catholic Church where they aren't acceptable to liberal society then the class will suffer for it and the students will be that much less prepared to enter a society where the Church does indeed hold such beliefs. The school's representative argued that the professor's e-mail violated the school's rules on inclusivity, but apparently they have no problem with not being inclusive as long as the ideas they're excluding are time-tested and separated from the fickle whims of public opinion. The liberal establishment is only tolerant to those they consider "tolerant," which doesn't include anybody who holds views contrary to theirs. Anyone who challenges their pre-conceived notions and agendas is marked as "intolerant" and loses any right to their opinion.

It would be nice if I could believe that the mainstream media will pick up on this blatant attempt to indoctrinate the young by silencing opposing viewpoints, but I've been around long enough to know that if they did mention it they would portray the professor as an intolerant fascist and the university as a paragon of virtue and acceptance. The media is just as beholden to the liberal establishment as our system of colleges and universities, at least as far as social issues are concerned, so they're not going to give voice to something that would challenge the views of that establishment.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

God bless your Church, give it perseverance in adversity and peace in persecution, grant it your strength to prevail against the forces of evil and to endure the disdain of the world and those enslaved to the flesh. Grant this through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.

This is an act of sacrilege, a sign of the disdain with which we are held by secular society. Would they do such a thing to the tombs of Protestant bishops, much less to those of Jewish or Muslim leaders, regardless of the crimes of which those religious communities had been accused? I think not. They only do these horrible things to the Catholic Church because they hate us for our "meddling." We've been held to be respectable for too long, perhaps distrusted for our beliefs which challenge the desires of the flesh but still invited into society and allowed to hold our Masses with a degree of freedom. It would seem that the world has grown tired of our chiding as it falls deeper into the abyss of carnality and avarice, and so it has decided to bring us low by destroying our sacred tombs and desecrating our holy objects. Unfortunately for them we've been through this many times before, and our Scriptures along with the grace of God will bring us through just as they have always done throughout the last two thousand years.

We've had it easy for a long time, being held respectable by the world may have its advantages but it doesn't help one to lead a holy life. We've grown comfortable in polite society, holding a grudging acceptance from those whose great-grandfathers scoffed at us and regarded us as vermin and trash. Now it would seem that this acceptance, this toleration, is at an end, and frankly it may be the best thing that could happen to the Church. We are supposed to be at odds with the world, despised by it because we say the things that it doesn't want to hear. We are supposed to speak truth to power, and that simply can't happen if we ourselves constitute that power. A rising tide of persecution may strip away from our ranks those among us who are perfectly willing to worship God in comfort but unwilling to do so in adversity, but those who remain will worship Him all the more in their absence. We may not continue to have 1.1 billion adherents, but the ones who remain will be all the more devoted due to the risk involved. This is a very clear violation of the Church's freedom of worship, showing clear contempt for the faith of Catholics, and it would be naive to think that such things couldn't happen in other countries.

This attack on the Church makes me sick, as it should to all Catholics. Anybody who would use these thinnest of excuses to desecrate sacred crypts can't have much respect for our religion. It's the beginning of a new era for the Church, an era of persecution and contempt, and this is but the first of likely many attacks to come. God bless us all.
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do
not use this freedom as an opportunity for the
flesh; rather, serve one another through love.
For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement,
namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
But if you go on biting and devouring one another,
beware that you are not consumed by one another.
I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will
certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For
the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the
Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each
other, so that you may not do what you want. But if
you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the
Gal 5:1,13-18

Too often in our society we equate freedom with the ability to do whatever we please, to act however we want and satiate whatever desires we may choose to entertain. However, many of these desires constitute in themselves a form of slavery that robs us of free will and negates our freedom. How many of us have suffered with an addiction, whether of a chemical nature like alcohol or drugs or else of a more mental nature like addiction to pornography or violence? Many things can be enslaving; such as wealth, lack of wealth (aka financial anxiety), possessions, lust, anger, fear, hatred, and of course pride. If we indulge these sinful inclinations then they will own us just as surely as if we were slaves in the physical sense. This is not something that just affects "sinful" people either, as we are all sinful regardless of how highly we are esteemed by those in the world or even those in the Church. Even Popes sin, even the self-proclaimed lay leaders of parishes sin, and there are many among us like the Pharisees in the Bible who will proclaim their "holier-than-thou" status right up to the point where they're thrown into the lake of fire. To their credit I think that many in the hierarchy realize this fact, I've heard many including the Pope who seem very willing or even eager to highlight their faults and show themselves to be ordinary people with the failings inherent in all flesh. As Socrates is claimed to have said, the wisest among us are those who recognize their own ignorance and lack of wisdom. It is only through losing ourselves and our notions of self-importance and power that we will truly become free from the chains that bind us to our dying flesh.

In his book 1984, George Orwell parodied the philosophy of totalitarianism with the line "freedom is slavery." To an extent this may in fact be true. When left to his own devices, man can be a cruel and destructive force. It is only in subjugating our will to something larger and more powerful, whether that be the "social contract" of Hobbes or the God of Christianity, that we can be at peace with ourselves and with those around us. We do not clearly see the perfect reality of the universe, we can at most only see what is immediately around us and visible to our senses. Even the great insights of science only get us so far, since they are to an extent dependent upon our fallible senses for interpretation. Because of this limited sight, we are not always conscious of what evil consequences our actions may create. Even when we can predict those consequences, often we either willfully ignore them or enter into our actions fully accepting them and deeming our own pleasure to be worth the cost. We only have to look as far as events occurring in our own time and place to see this in action. The Gulf Coast oil spill came about as a result of a company seeking short-term gains without care for long-term risks. They cut corners and sacrificed safety in order to increase profits, knowing that such a disaster was at least possible as a result, and when the unthinkable happened they pretended to be surprised and tried to salvage their public image with the least amount of expense possible. They chose the freedom of personal wealth over their obligation to society and the environment, and as a result we have a catastrophe of immeasurable scale. Whenever we as flawed human beings put our selfish desires ahead of our duty to society and our fellow human beings it inevitably ends in sorrow, whether we're talking about abortion or polluting the environment or starting unjust wars or any other situation where selfish interest is in conflict with concern for humanity.

As our technological command over nature increases, the conflict between greed and compassion will grow larger and much more dangerous. Even an atheistic, humanist worldview would have to agree that we must subjugate our own egos and selfish desires in order to survive as a species and preserve our planet, but how much more so are we as Christians called to put the needs of others over our own desires and look at their safety and security as paramount over our own? How much more are we as Catholics called to become slaves to the Cross of Christ, to follow him even to death and not look back so that our subjugation can lead to the freedom of the world from sin and evil? To paraphrase the words of Bob Dylan, you gotta serve somebody and it's either going to be the Devil or the Lord. We're not powerful enough to serve ourselves, even when we think we're doing so we're only doing the bidding of Satan. We all have a choice to serve Good or evil, and if we thought about the consequences I think that we'd all arrive at the same position. It is only in serving the Lord that we find the true freedom to cast off sin and become true people as we are meant to be. It isn't easy, I certainly haven't found the way and very few actually have, but through God's grace and the inspiration of the saints perhaps one day we can find the strength to give away our lives to God.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and
be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the
scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."
Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and
follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose
it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet
lose or forfeit himself? Whoever is ashamed of me and of
my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes
in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the
holy angels.

Luke 9:22-26

Today at Mass I heard what is possibly the worst homily ever, the one that more than any reflects what I consider to be the antithesis of a good homily. The priest who gave the homily is often frustrating and seldom says anything that I would consider good or helpful, but this one was worst by far. It started out okay, a typical "special day" homily for Father's Day that didn't relate to the readings (the whole point of a homily) but wasn't really problematic either. Then it started, the movement from hippy-dippy futility to outright disobedience against the teachings of the Church. The priest started out by saying that he was jealous of fathers for their relationship with their children, and then stated that the Church must allow Latin Rite priests to marry and have families. His point seemed to be, regardless of what the Pope might say, the Church must bend to his will because otherwise it'll be a catastrophe (that seems to be a very common claim by those who advocate the elimination of tradition). Scattered throughout the homily were several glaring errors that diminish the effect of his argument. For one thing, he said that there was a married Anglican minister (he was Lutheran) who was ordained a priest in an action by the Diocese of Camden that he described as a theological turning point (not even close, see below). He also said that the Church would probably not accept married priests in his lifetime (not necessarily true) and that refusing to do so would be the death knell of the Church (not likely).

The first obvious error in the priest's logic is in thinking that married priests are something new or particularly interesting. There have been married priests in Eastern rites under the authority of the Pope since the first millennium, and "Anglican Use" parishes with married ex-Protestant clergy have been in existence in the United States for 30 years. The situation of a Lutheran minister who comes home to the Catholic Church and seeks ordination as a Catholic priest is neither new nor unique, and therefore is not earth-shattering. Clerical celibacy is particular to the Latin rite, and there are many Catholic priests who do not belong to that rite. Another problem with his logic is the idea that the Pope is refusing to speak about celibacy and therefore denying priests something that they desperately need. Celibacy is not a doctrine, it is a discipline and therefore can be changed by the Pope if he so desires. There are many good reasons to continue the discipline, from the devastating financial toll married clergy would have on parishes already struggling to survive to the fact (recognized by St. Paul 2,000 years ago) that celibate clergy can devote more of their time and energy to the parish without having to worry about caring for their families. In spite of this, if the Pope decided tomorrow to end the discipline of celibate clergy it would not be earth-shattering and the Church would continue to exist with few if any Catholics leaving over the change. If that day ever comes the media will make a big deal about how the Church supposedly bowed to secular pressure and abandoned sacred doctrine, mostly because they like to tear down the Church at every opportunity, but they will be wrong.

Another error in the priest's logic is the idea that not allowing married priests will produce a catastrophe that will either destroy or at least seriously damage the Church. The priest in his homily gave no specifics about why the Church "cannot afford not to act," but I have heard various arguments as to why the Church must acquiesce or die. Some people think that allowing married clergy will eliminate the priest shortage, while others believe that doing so will cure the child abuse scandals and ensure that such things don't happen in the future. As for the first argument, there's no reason to think that men would flock to the priesthood if they were also allowed to have sex. The reluctance to accept celibacy is merely a symptom of two larger problems, namely our society's obsession with sex and aversion to discipline and obedience. Men don't avoid the priesthood because they can't accept celibacy, they do so because they want to control their own lives without any obligation or obedience required. Priesthood is about obedience and service, and neither of these things is very popular in our culture. The other argument, that married people and those in acceptable sexual relationships don't "resort" to sexually abusing children, is also quite absurd. There are many married people who abuse children, and in fact many of them abuse their own children which makes it much more difficult to get the victims to come forward. If people think that an abuser's brother priests would be reluctant to turn him in, how much more reluctant would you expect his wife to be? Regardless of whether we have married clergy we will still have a shortage of priests because of the cultural aversion to service, and we will also still have to be vigilant against child abuse because human nature does not change just because a person gets married and has an acceptable outlet for sexual desire.

I would like to think that this disobedience is rare, that most Catholics accept the authority of the Pope and don't make demands like this. However, the loud applause that broke out while this priest was talking makes me think otherwise. What is the Catholic Church if not a group of people who follow the Bible and the teachings of the Church? If we're all just a bunch of free agents who listen when the Pope says what we want to hear and shout him down when he doesn't, then what kind of Church are we? I know that there is a great deal of orthodoxy among those currently in and recently out of seminary, a fact that fills me with optimism for the future. Still, while the "old guard" parish priests are still in authority and the pews are filled with people who clap at blatant disobedience we will have to be careful about what we take from homilies at certain parishes. I am fortunate in that this parish is not my home one, merely a neighboring parish that I occasionally attend, but he is not the only priest who does stuff like this and all but the most conservative of parishes could easily hear the same tired demands.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I really should stop reading articles written by Christopher Hitchens. The man has such a vitriolic style, and such an absurdly inflated obsession with himself and his self-acknowledged genius, that I end up screaming at my computer screen with every double standard and piece of false logic. Still, some part of me apparently can't stop reading it, which is why I happened upon this tired stupidity. Basically a rehash of Hitchens' usual arguments, it literally made me want to scream. If you choose, you can read my comments about the more egregious parts below.

Faced with a number of court cases in the United States that have named the pope himself as a defendant in the enabling and covering up of many rapes, the Vatican has evolved the strategy of claiming that the Holy See is in effect a sovereign state and thus possessed of immunity from prosecution.

Vatican City is a sovereign state by every definition of that world of which I am aware. It has a leader and a military (at least in theory) and is not subject to the authority of another sovereign nation. It also has its own set of laws and a well-established history of diplomatic relations with many other states. It also has citizens and a currency. If Hitchens can explain how Vatican City is not a sovereign state, if perhaps he can come up with an alternative definition of sovereignty, then I think that he should do so. Otherwise he's just picking and choosing who gets the protection of international law based solely on whether he likes them or not, which now that I think about it wouldn't be a first for him (he did, after all, support the previous US administration's "war on terror").

It has now been announced that the Obama administration will be advising the Supreme Court to adopt this view of the matter.

I can certainly understand why they would do this, after all if one state can lose sovereignty simply because it's unpopular then how is anybody safe?

It is not usually considered polite to mention that the majority of Supreme Court justices are practicing Roman Catholics.

Perhaps if he considers it impolite, then he shouldn't say it. I think that it would be perfectly polite to bring such a situation up if it seemed to have a bearing on the actions of the Court, however I don't see that to be the case. As far as the Catholics on the Court go (Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Kennedy, and Sotomayor, in case you're wondering), it seems to me that they vote with their political allegiance much more than their religious ones. Scalia, Thomas, and Alito may support restrictions on abortion and a less than favorable view of the Roe decision, but they also decide against Church beliefs on issues like torture and the death penalty. As for the other two, Kennedy has always been a swing vote and Sotomayor will probably be a reliable pro-abortion vote considering the party that put her on the bench. Would Hitchens make a big deal of the fact that 4 of the 9 justices (44% of the total) are Jewish when only 2% of the US population belongs to that religious group? I doubt it. He's trying to incite hatred and fear in order to stigmatize Catholics in Western countries for his own selfish agenda. Hopefully he won't succeed.

We will soon have a Supreme Court that contains no Protestants and no secularists and which is being asked to rule on a matter central to the religious beliefs of a majority of its members, who are bound to regard the man formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger as the vicar of Christ on earth.

More fear-mongering. Besides, just because you're a Catholic doesn't mean that you can't be a "secularist," at least in terms of putting secular agendas over religious ones. Half of the Democratic Party, including many of its senior leaders (Pelosi, the late Ted Kennedy, John Kerry) are Catholics after all, and they see no conflict between going to Mass on Sundays and ignoring the teachings of the Church during the rest of the week.

Even if they do decide the matter in this way, they will not succeed in banishing the terrible question of Vatican responsibility for the destruction of so many childhoods and the protection of so many hardened criminals.

Ah, hyperbole. The Catholic Church is not unique in having abusers in its midst, nor is it alone in having covered up abuse. Most of these cases wouldn't have even been known about at the Vatican, the cover up having been perpetrated by local leaders. I don't see Hitchens getting worked up over the epidemic of child abuse in public schools, or in any other segment of society where children are present.

This all arises because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling that effectively lifted the Vatican's immunity under a 1976 law (the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which governs the extent to which foreign entities can be pursued on American soil).

The Appeals Court overstepped, essentially changing international law and stripping sovereignty from a state without justification. Let's hope that the Supreme Court stops this from continuing, otherwise it'll be open season on the sovereignty of any nation that has enemies (last time I checked the USA has a few of those too).

The church's response to this has been especially absurd, claiming that the pope exercises only spiritual authority and not managerial control.

The Church is not a multinational corporation. The Pope does not sign off on everything that is done by bishops and priests throughout the world. It's more like a group of people with a common purpose (in theory) who collaborate but don't send every single thing up to the top for approval.

Then ask yourself what would happen to a priest or bishop who expressed doubts about the Vatican's teaching on abortion or divorce.

President of a Jesuit college? Call to Action? There are plenty of priests and bishops who actively oppose the Pope's teachings on pretty much every issue, and many of them are still saying Masses and passing off their ideas as the authentic beliefs of the Church. If the Church defrocked every priest who advocated for women's ordination or took a permissive stance toward birth control, then we'd certainly have a lot less priests. If anything, I think that it's harder to find a theologically conservative priest than a liberal one at least in the parishes where I've lived, although that does seem to be changing due to the aforementioned rise of orthodoxy among seminarians.

It was Joseph Ratzinger himself who invited Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson all the way from Argentina and back into the fold in an attempt to conciliate Catholicism's more reactionary wing.

This old lie is getting tired. Bishop Williamson's excommunication may have been lifted, which means that he can once again receive the Eucharist (just like Pelosi and Kerry and the other pro-abortion Catholic legislators), but he doesn't become a bishop in the Catholic Church because of it and as far as I know isn't even incardinated as a priest unless the Vatican says he is (which it hasn't). The Vatican has made it clear that he has to fully renounce his Holocaust denial in order to become a bishop, which he hasn't done. Even the SSPX has restricted his authority, in fact their superior general said that his beliefs were radioactive, so I don't think that the Pope is going to be giving him a position of power in the near future or probably ever.

Kagan and her colleagues should be made to feel the shame of this, as should the president, who talks so glibly about human rights and equality before the law.

I don't think that Obama should be hurt by what is said here, considering that it's said by a man who "talks so glibly about human rights" himself while supporting unjust wars and torture performed in the name of neo-conservative colonialism. Hitchens is a hypocrite, demanding that everybody ascribe to his shallow and cruel worldview while condemning those who he accuses of doing the same thing. Hopefully some day people will stop listening to him, although I'm sure there will always be people willing to listen when he tells them what they want to hear.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We, who are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the
Gentiles, (yet) who know that a person is not justified by
works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we
have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith
in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the
law no one will be justified. But if, in seeking to be justified
in Christ, we ourselves are found to be sinners, is Christ then
a minister of sin? Of course not! But if I am building up again
those things that I tore down, then I show myself to be a
transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, 19 that I
might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live,
no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the
flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given
himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if
justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Galatians 2:15-21

It has been said many times that Catholics reject this sort of thing, that we claim to be justified by law and work rather than by grace through faith. The fact that we hear these words on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time would prove that to be false. The Catholic Church does not claim salvation through works, as if our feeble human efforts could come close to meriting Heaven, but rather gives good works the position that they deserve as a sign of faith and a necessary result of the love of God. Jesus tells us that if we love him we'll keep his commandments, while St. James said that faith without works is dead. Works may not be the ticket that we use to enter Heaven, but we cannot sit back and live like pagans with the expectation that we'll have such a ticket when we pass from this life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Once again proving that liberal dissidents have no sense of causation or history

If opening the priesthood to women and married men would create a Church free of sexual abuse and less inclined to keeping secrets, then you would think that the proof would be shown in secular society or in the various religious groups that allow members of these two groups to become clergy. Alas, this is not the case. Married men have a rate of pedophilia that is no better than that of Catholic clergy, at least according to the sparse records that we have on groups other than the Catholic Church, and in fact oftentimes will abuse their own children which creates its own problems with reporting (Would a wife rat our her husband whom she loves and with whom she has built a life? Would a child rat out his own father?). As for women, the numerous Mary Kay Letourneau-type cases where female teachers abuse students would seem to indicate that they are no more trustworthy than men in this regard. Plenty of women are executives and even CEOs and Presidents of companies that do horrible things and cover up horrible things for the sake of profits.

The mere fact of being a celibate man doesn't make one a pedophile or a sexual predator, the fact is that many such pedophiles flock to the clergy of all religious groups as well as to teaching jobs and medical jobs because those jobs give them access to children in an atmosphere of trust. Allowing women and married men to become priests, just like allowing openly homosexual clergy to do so, would do nothing to increase transparency and decrease abuse, as all these groups commit abuse just as much as heterosexual men bound by a vow of celibacy. If anything the incidence of abuse among Catholic priests may be lower, considering that we hear about every unsubstantiated claim of abuse by a Catholic priest but there aren't statistics for non-priestly abuse cases that don't end in a conviction and therefore a Megan's Law registration. They don't keep abuse statistics that take into account how many teachers or coaches or doctors or police officers offend, they just keep statistics of the population at large and maybe male versus female offenders. Even other religious groups don't seem to have statistics available, which means that they are only counted as a percentage of the entire population. Only the Catholic Church has a comprehensive index of accusations, going back almost half a century, so for all we know the problem in other occupations may be even worse.

The motive of these protesters obviously has nothing to do with saving the children and everything to do with liberalizing the Church bit by bit until it becomes a less traditionalist version of Unitarian Universalism. They figure that they did such a good job with the Episcopalians, picking away a little at a time until a church once steadfast in support of tradition suddenly became a church without tradition and with no sense of what it believes in. They figure that if they can get us to acquiesce on women priests then we'll acquiesce on homosexual priests, and if they can get us to buckle on homosexual priests then they can get us to get rid of sexual morality in general. Unfortunately for them we are not the Episcopalians, rather we are a worldwide and truly universal Church that has no need to buckle to the agendas of small groups in individual nations. The media may make a big deal about this, but there have always been dissidents and heretics trying to undo the Church from within and the Church has always outlasted them. The whole idea that Austria is "at the forefront of demands for change" also strikes me as a bit disingenuous, as Cardinal Schoenborn only suggested a change to the rules on celibacy (which is a rule rather than a doctrine and could be changed at any time) and the other Bishop only said that allowing women to be priests was something that could be discussed "eventually" (certainly a dissent from Church teachings but not nearly as radical as the protesters would want). I also question the suggestion that Austria is a bastion of extreme traditionalism, considering that Cardinal Schoenborn has frequently shown himself to be mainstream among the Catholic hierarchy on abortion and even liberal on issues like using condoms. He may not be as liberal as a Cardinal Mahoney or Hans Kung, but he's certainly not a Cardinal Arinze or a Marcel Lefebvre either. The next time that Schoenborn says something in support of the hierarchy he'll be denounced by these same liberals as an ideologue, but for the moment he's saying something that helps their cause so they're acting like he's on their side.

Personally I wouldn't be upset if the Church allowed married men to be priests, I certainly wouldn't leave over it. It's an issue of discipline rather than doctrine, and so the Pope could change it at any time without any theological problems. I would caution against it though for at least a couple of reasons. Many parishes would find such a change to be an unbearable hardship, as they already struggle with finances and would have a hard time increasing pay for priests or purchasing larger houses for them and their families. Clerical celibacy is a time-honored tradition that gives the priest more time to serve his flock. While it wouldn't be the end of the world if this tradition was ended, at least as long as the Church made it easier on parishes to implement the change, it certainly shouldn't be changed because of the agitation of some liberals who won't be satisfied with it and will only look at it as a hole in the armor and a positive sign for their extreme liberalizing agenda.
Some people need to get their priorities straight

I can understand if you think that Mother Teresa did more harm than good (although it's not true) or that she's not important enough to merit the honor (although that's also not true), but if you can honor the other people and groups mentioned then you should certainly honor her. Regardless of how you feel about Mother Teresa's actions, she certainly didn't kill as many people as did Communist China and her motives behind her actions were far purer. As for her relevance, if you consider Mariah Carey and some dog show to be relevant then she should certainly fit the bill. I hate to agree with Bill Donohue, who usually brings more bombast than useful criticism, but this does seem to be a clear case of bias against her and against the Church in general. Obviously there is a great deal of animosity in popular culture against the Catholic Church, there's nothing new about that, and as for Mother Teresa specifically the "elites" started speaking ill of her before her body was even in the ground. Perhaps they took a cue from Christopher Hitchens, who has worked hard to sully her memory in order to validate his horrible belief that nothing good can come from religion. Still, one has to wonder what sort of morality these people are embracing if they consider Chairman Mao to be worthier of praise than Mother Teresa.

It is a depressing sign of the times that we are so quick to ridicule those who show signs of holiness in their lives. Mother Teresa worked in squalid conditions with few resources and even less assistance. People bring up the huge donations that she was given, but even a million dollars is not much when spread between all of the sick and dying of Kolkata. She didn't have access to the highest quality of equipment and medicine that would have been available in the West, all the money that she was given wouldn't have been sufficient to buy enough of those supplies for everyone. For that reason, the goal of her work was more palliative than curative. Many of the people she served would have died regardless of what she did, particularly the ones with AIDS, as they couldn't stay with her forever and had no access to good food and clean water outside of her clinics. If the secular West wants to complain about her actions then it should put forward the billions of dollars necessary to create world-class hospitals and improve quality of life in India, instead of just sitting back and clicking their tongues at those who do the little that they can to allow people in an inhuman situation to die with dignity. Until they're willing to do this, they shouldn't condemn the woman who gave her whole life when nobody else even wanted to acknowledge the problem.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Glorify the LORD, Jerusalem; Zion, offer praise to your God,
Who has strengthened the bars of your gates, blessed your children within you,
Brought peace to your borders, and filled you with finest wheat.
The LORD sends a command to earth; his word runs swiftly!
Thus snow is spread like wool, frost is scattered like ash,
Hail is dispersed like crumbs; before such cold the waters freeze.
Again he sends his word and they melt; the wind is unleashed and the waters flow.
The LORD also proclaims his word to Jacob, decrees and laws to Israel.
God has not done this for other nations; of such laws they know nothing. Hallelujah!

The Feast of Corpus Christi makes me remember longingly the Eucharistic processions that occur at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where the Solemn Mass at noon would end with a procession out of the building and then around to the entrance to the Crypt Church. Once inside the crypt there would be music and incense and a feeling of communal praise that I have missed since moving back to Jersey. Everybody has that one thing that feels right, this is what felt right to me. I would get impatient as the Easter season went on, counting the Sundays until Corpus Christi when I could experience that feeling again. Now that I am back in the suburbs we don't have this sort of thing, although processions will happen occasionally due to the large Brazilian and Portuguese community in the parish. I honestly don't know if they're having one tomorrow, it just doesn't feel the same here as it did down there. I hope that as time comes on I still feel a longing for that experience, a bit of nostalgia when Corpus Christi comes around. It's good to have a happy memory to look back on, to inform what comes after it and keep one rooted in the things that matter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reading this debate on illegal immigration from a religious worldview has brought up for me some thoughts about how as Americans our outlook on the issue is influenced by politics more than faith. How many Catholics, beholden to the Republican Party, turn their backs on their needy brothers and sisters in Christ and defend a nativist agenda that just 150 short years ago was used against their own ancestors by the same Protestant establishment that is driving the agenda in the present day? How many Episcopalians reject that bias of their ancestors in faith, driven more by their allegiance to the Democratic Party than any stirring of faith-based social justice? Just as with the issue of torture, our political leanings seem to matter much more than the churches and faith communities to which we belong when it comes to determining our positions on issues of great importance.

The indisputable fact, of course, is that things cannot continue the way they are now. Our current system not only creates an underclass that drives down wages for all laborers and violates the basic concepts of freedom upon which our nation was founded, but it also facilitates the entry of fugitives including violent criminals into our territory. Neither of these consequences is desirable to anyone who desires peace or justice. We must create a system that discourages illegal immigration while providing a just result for those who are here already. Many would argue that discouraging illegal immigration should be brought about by making it as difficult and painful to immigrate as is possible, to litter the desert with the corpses of failed attempts so that nobody will think of making the trip in the future. I would argue that the more humane solution is to eliminate the need to immigrate illegally at all. Our current immigration policy is backwards, it gives priority to those who don't have to leave their home countries in the first place while making the desperate wait much longer than they are able. The very fact that legal immigration can take several years would seem to remove it as a possibility for those who face imminent starvation or who flee violence or oppression. The ubiquitous image of immigrant day laborers in our cities and suburbs would seem to show that, if those in need were given a legal and fast avenue of immigration, they would show themselves to be industrious workers and would contribute greatly to our economic well-being. Removing these workers from the shadows, where they are easy prey for unscrupulous employers who force on them meager wages with the threat of deportation, would also solve the problem of wage deflation by allowing such workers to demand fair payment for their labor.

In contrast to the popular opinion, the Catholic Church's position on this issue is not motivated by self-interest. Many of the Latino immigrants into this country either arrive as Protestants or convert once they arrive due to heavy evangelization by those groups in urban areas, and there is also a growing Muslim population in the immigrant community. I'm sure there are also many Latino atheists and agnostics as well, due to the growing "evangelical" movement among the New Atheists. Even among those who remain Catholic, many are poor or at least not rich and after paying their bills and sending some money home to their families probably don't add enough to the collection plate to justify such claims of "self-serving" interest by the hierarchy. The Catholic Church is simply responding out of its concept of broad social justice, advocating for the dignity of the immigrant just as we would work to safeguard the rights of the unborn and the infirm.

We must work to create an immigration system that protects the territorial integrity of our nation while also safeguarding the dignity of those who feel no other choice but to flee their countries and enter ours. Perhaps we should focus on deporting those who engage in criminal activities, checking immigration status on those caught in police raids of gang organizations while allowing those who only desire a better life to live in peace. We are a nation of immigrants after all, and those who criticize Latino newcomers for not learning the language should remember that many of those who came in previous decades and centuries from countries like Poland and Italy also never learned it and left that aspect of assimilation to their children. Many of the children of Latino illegal immigrants understand English, learning it in their schools while their parents work multiple jobs to provide basic necessities and never have the chance at an education. We have a responsibility to our descendants to ensure that our country will be prosperous and safe in the future, but we also have an obligation to justice to ensure that our country will remain the "land of the free." This goal is not realized by turning our nation into a police state with identity papers and racial profiling, nor is it obtained by maintaining the status quo of second-class personhood and economic oppression. We must reform our immigration policy by making it more just, or else risk becoming a nation that will resemble those from which our immigrants are currently fleeing.