Friday, December 29, 2006

Blogfast until Sunday, maybe Monday

Folks, I'm taking a mini-family vacation and I am taking my family along. We'll be heading to the Washington, DC area where I am planning to do a slow, deliberate visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, catch Holy Mass, and spend the night. On Saturday, we might hit a couple of museums or even go to Baltimore to visit the newly refurbished National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We'll be back on Sunday and I may resume posting then or the day after. Please, enjoy the currently available contents.

Iraqi Christians embattled, persecuted, along other minorities

Folks, the following Op-Ed was published last Friday, December 22 in The Washington Times. Felice D. Gaer, who chairs the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and is commissioner and director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee, and the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver, were the authors.
Since 2003, more than 1.5 million Iraqis have fled their country, and a similar number are displaced within Iraq — a massive flight of more than one in 10 members of Iraq's prewar population of 26 million. This exodus has not only caused tragic hardships and uncertainty, but could mean the end of the presence in Iraq of ancient Christian and other religious minority communities that have lived on that land for 2,000 years.

Amid the widely publicized cycle of Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian violence in Iraq, members of non-Muslim religious minorities continue to suffer a disproportionate burden of violent attacks and other human-rights abuses. Minority communities, including Christians, Yazidis and Sabean Mandaeans, have been forced to fend for themselves, and are particularly vulnerable given their lack of a tribal or militia structure to provide for their security. The repeated targeting of Iraqi religious minorities in coordinated bombing attacks and other violence has forced many worshippers to cease attending religious services or participating in religious events. Moreover, they face a continuing climate of impunity.

As a result of these attacks, Iraqi ChaldoAssyrians and Sabean Mandaeans are fleeing Iraq in numbers disproportionate to their size. While they constitute less than 3 percent of the Iraqi population, they represent approximately 40 percent of those who have fled Iraq seeking refugee status over the past three years, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Numbering at least 100,000, these refugees are dispersed today in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Iran and Lebanon.
Please, read the entire piece here. You may need to subscribe to read it. Subscription is free.

Commentary. Our government is apathetic to take the complaints of religious persecution emanating from Iraqi refugees seriously because they represent a potential public relations disaster for the Administration. The untold human suffering endured by these religious minorities defy imagination and can be laid right at the feet of the U.S. intervention in Iraq. Ironically, when all is said and done, by having emptied its religious minorities, Iraq may become a more homogenous nation mostly populated by irritated Sunni and/or Shiite fundamentalists aching for a fight in the near future. The way I see it, the Iraq of the future will not be a friend of the United States.

The Administration is not doing a good job at containing the blowback from the Iraqi situation. Any review of Iraqi policy by President Bush must include a serious assessment and a realistic solution to the problems facing religious minorities in Iraq, and Iraqi refugees in peripheral countries. Current policy is overfocused in controlling the internal security situation while overlooking the plight of persecuted minorities and refugees. Understandably, the Administration doesn not want to fall into mission creep, but I can't see how persecution against religious minorities by Sunni and Shiite thugs can help build a pluralistic, tolerant Iraq. The imbalance impacts directly upon the internal security situation, as well as on the strategic "end-state" in Iraq. The U.S. should tie future aid to Iraq in part to the well-treatment of Iraqi religious minorities and aim to restore true religious diversity and tolerance to that embattled country.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Attention RSS subscribers: some old posts coming back

Folks, those of you who are RSS subscribers to Vivificat may be experiencing "deja vu all over again," when you see older posts rejoining the RSS stream. There's an explanation for that. As I fish out older posts for labeling or "tagging," I've discovered that some of them are missing title lines. Way back when, Blogger didn't have "title" fields and I created those entries before the field became available. So, I am adding the titles now, retagging, and when necessary, effecting editorial changes, and then re-posting. The result is that the refurbished posts rejoin the RSS stream. Sorry about the confusion and for those times where I overwhelmed the RSS stream with posts that are almost three years old.

We remember today the Holy Innocents, First Martyrs

Even before they learn to speak, they proclaim Christ

The Holy Innocents: that's the name traditional Catholic piety uses to refer to the children, 2 years and under, that Herod killed in Bethlehem, hoping by this to also kill the Christ Child. Eastern iconography portrays the event as "Rachel Weeping for Her Children," a reference to the Prophet Jeremiah (3:15-17) also echoed in St. Matthew's Gospel (2:16-18):



Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.
The Troparion of the Feast is very succint; it highlights the apparent contradiction of the tragedy:
As acceptable victims and freshly plucked flowers, as divine firstfruits and newborn lambs, you were offered to Christ who was born as a Child, O most pure children. You mocked Herod's wickedness: now we beseech you, unceasingly pray for our souls. (Source)
Bishop St. Quodvultdeus, in today's Office of Readings, provides another insight into the event:
A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace, so small, yet so great, who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out his own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the saviour already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.
(Source)
Finally, the antiphon to the Benedictus in today's Morning Prayer is most eloquent:
At the king's command these innocent babies and little children were put to death; they died for Christ, and now in the glory of heaven as they follow him, the sinless Lamb, they sing for ever: Glory to you, O Lord.
It is most appropriate that we also remember today the little babies killed in today's abortion mills. Let us ask their intercession for us, their mothers, and those who defend their deaths as the free exercise of an inalienable "right." May we repent, do penance, and turn to God for forgiveness as doers and enablers of this grievous sin.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We remembered today St. John, Apostle, Evangelist, and Theologian

St. John the Evangelist's iconFolks, today we celebrated the memory of St. John, the Apostle, Evangelist, and Theologian. He's called "the Divine" in the sense of the great theological depths and spiritual heights he achieved in his pilgrimage with Our Lord Jesus Christ. These depths and heights we can readily appreciate in his Gospel, his three letters, and his Apocalypse -- even though many deny the Johannine authorship of the latter one, including a few Fathers.

The Gospel according to St. John is a literary and theological jewel. I find the other Synoptic Gospels very informative for sure, and each one moves me at a different level, but only St. John makes me soar.

The Gospel according to St. John has such power that I have to drop it and start praying, seeking the communion with the Lord and Savior, pining for the same intimacy that John, the "disciple that Jesus loved" had with the same Lord.

St. John is our representative and it is through him that every disciple of the Lord becomes also a son or daughter of Mary, the Mother of our Lord. He was the disciple to whom the Lord entrusted her care and John received her as Mother. Therefore, all of us who want to be like unto "the beloved disciple" must also receive the Blessed Mother as our Mother.

The Orthodox Troparion of St. John the Evangelist teaches us to pray:
Apostle beloved of Christ our God, hasten to deliver a defenseless people. He Who allowed thee to recline on His breast receives thee bowing in prayer, O John the Theologian. Implore Him to dispel heathen persistence and to grant us peace and mercy.
Amen, amen to that. St. John, pray for us!

- To find out more about St. John the Evangelist, visit Catholic.org

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to showcase her faith at Mass

The problem is that she's a militant pro-abortionist.

Folks, this from the American Life League:
House Speaker-elect Nancy PelosiAs House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a pro-abortion legislator who claims the Catholic faith, prepares to celebrate her new role, American Life League is imploring Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. to intervene in an effort to prevent her from using the Mass for political gain. "Rep. Pelosi has been unwavering in her support for abortion and is downright defiant toward the Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life," said Judie Brown, president of American Life League. "It is shameful that Trinity College, a supposedly Catholic institution, has turned a blind eye to the heretical views Pelosi embraces."

On January 3, Rep. Pelosi is scheduled to attend Mass at Trinity College in Washington as an endorsement of her alma mater and her Catholic faith. Given Pelosi's outspoken support of abortion, Mrs. Brown has written to Archbishop Wuerl requesting that he do all in his power to stop the event. "Rep. Pelosi has a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for all human beings as the most powerful Catholic in Congress," said Brown. "Unfortunately, she continually supports the very act that destroys life rather than protects it. It is for this very reason that a Catholic institution should not condone or support her position as a legislator."

American Life League has consistently urged Catholic bishops to uphold Church teaching by denying Holy Communion to those public figures who condone the crime of abortion. "Allowing Rep. Pelosi to receive honor at a Catholic college sends mixed signals about what the Catholic Church teaches," said Brown. "The bottom line is, abortion kills a living human being created in the image and likeness of God and is therefore always wrong. Because of this truth, it is unconscionable for Rep. Pelosi to call herself a Catholic in good standing while supporting the heinous act of abortion. We are hopeful that Archbishop Wuerl will intercede in this situation and prevent Rep. Pelosi from adding to an ongoing scandal."
Commentary. Here we go again. Catholic-In-Name-Only (CINO) politicians get the upper hand, and then think that the will of the voters give them ample cover to make a mockery of one of the principal (and principled) moral demands of the Catholic faith, and that is the defense of the Right to Life for everyone, starting at conception. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states:
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," "by the very commission of the offense," and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
Formulating legislation that protects and/or expands the so-called right to an abortion, or resistance to modify, restrict, or abolish current legislation enabling abortion is "formal cooperation," and as such, whoever commits this crime is subject to excommunication.

If Ms. Pelosi is cuddled because of her status, these words will not be worth the paper they are printed on. We need to take a prophetic stance, from the humblest of believers to the most exalted prelate in our country that, in favor of the Culture of Life. Ms. Pelosi must not be allowed to use the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to earn political points.

- Check out Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's record On the Issues.

Monday, December 25, 2006

"God Made Himself Small So That We Could Understand Him"

Folks, this is an excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Midnight Mass. He says it all:
Pope Benedict XVI greets faithful as he appears from the velvet-draped loggia of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican to deliver his ''Urbi et Orbi'' message, Latin for ''to the city and to the world,'' Monday, Dec. 25, 2006. The pontiff urged a solution to conflicts across the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa, in a Christmas Day address that included an appeal for the poor, the exploited and all those who suffer. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito) God's sign is simplicity. God's sign is the baby. God's sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby -- defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will -- we learn to live with him and to practise with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him. The Fathers of the Church, in their Greek translation of the Old Testament, found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that Paul also quotes in order to show how God's new ways had already been foretold in the Old Testament. There we read: "God made his Word short, he abbreviated it" (Is 10:23; Rom 9:28). The Fathers interpreted this in two ways. The Son himself is the Word, the Logos; the eternal Word became small -- small enough to fit into a manger. He became a child, so that the Word could be grasped by us. In this way God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us. Let us pray this night that the brightness of God's love may enfold all these children. Let us ask God to help us do our part so that the dignity of children may be respected. May they all experience the light of love, which mankind needs so much more than the material necessities of life.
Merry Christmas to all!

- Please, read the entire homily here.

Christ is Born! Let us Adore Him!

The Christmas Kalend or Proclamation

Mount Angel Abbey Icons / Jubilee Ikon of the NativityIn the year 5199 from the creation of the world, from the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth; 2,957 years from the flood; 2,015 years from the birth of Abraham; 1,510 years from Moses and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt; 1,031 years from the anointment of David as king; in the 65th week of Daniel's prophecy; in the 194th Olympiad; in the year 752 of the foundation of Rome; in the year 42 of the reign of Octavius Augustus; the whole world being at peace; in the sixth age of the world: Jesus Christ, eternal God and eternal Son of the Father; wishing to consecrate the world through his most merciful Advent, having being conceived of the Holy Spirit, and having passed 9 months from his conception, He was born, He was made Man, from the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem of Judah.

On behalf of the Vega Family, have a happy and blessed Christmas Day!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Call to Action" grasping at straws regarding excommunication statement

News analysis.

Folks, following a personal request from a religious sister of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, I wish to comment on the latest response of the organization, "Call to Action," to the excommunication decree issued by the Most Reverend Fabian Bruskewitz, Bishop of said diocese, against a roster of organizations that included "Call to Action."

Background

Call to Action logoCall to Action is an organization that advocates for a variety of causes within the Roman Catholic Church. Call to Action's goals include women's ordination, an end to mandatory priestly celibacy, a change in the church's teaching on a variety of sexual matters, and a change to the way the church is governed." The organization originated in 1976 at conference called by the USCCB in Detroit, Michigan. At the conclusion of this three-day conference, the 1,340 voting delegates voted that the Catholic Church should "reevaluate its positions on issues like celibacy for priests, the male-only clergy, homosexuality, birth control, and the involvement of every level of the church in important decisions." They also called for an end to racism, sexism, and militarism in the United States. Since then, most bishops have disavowed the aims of the conference, which then created the current Call to Action lay organization.[Wikipedia].

By 1990 Call to Action leadership was growing impatient with their own lack of influence on Catholicism in the United States and decided to take more drastic action.

To motivate change, Call to Action founders Dan and Sheila Daley, both former religious, drafted a document titled “Call for Reform in the Catholic Church.”

In the statement, printed as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Ash Wednesday in March 1990, they chastised the Church for “ignoring” social issues like a threatened environment, growing poverty, increased drug abuse, and international conflicts. By contrast, the solutions they offered included ordination of women, an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy, popular election of bishops instead of papal appointments, new forms of liturgy, and the use of artificial contraception.

The group has also closely linked themselves to abortion providers and strong abortion supporters and more recently have begun supporting homosexual agendas and protesting the Church’s ban on openly homosexual clergy. (Source)

Excommunication by Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska

The Most Reverend Fabian BruskewitzIn March 22, 1996, the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, the Most Reverend Fabian Bruskewitz, issued a statement prohibiting Catholics in his diocese from belonging to several organizations which in his judgment are "perilous to the Catholic Faith and most often...totally incompatible with the Catholic Faith." Among the organizations listed were several masonic and pro-abortion groups, as well as Call to Action and Call to Action Nebraska. The statement published in the Southern Nebraska Register, the diocesan newspaper, was also meant to serve as a canonical warning. Bishop Brueskewitz added that:
Any Catholics in and of the Diocese of Lincoln who attain or retain membership in any of the above listed organizations or groups after April 15, 1996, are by that very fact (ipso facto latae sententiae) under interdict and are absolutely forbidden to receive Holy Communion. Contumacious persistence in such membership for one month following the interdict on part of any such Catholics will by that very fact (ipso facto latae sententiae) cause them to be excommunicated. Absolution from these ecclesial censures is "reserved to the Bishop."
This effectively excommunicated all Catholics in his diocese that are members of these organizations, including Call to Action. (Source).

Reaction

The bishop's action has been bitter medicine for the folks at Call to Action. The organization took a further blow when on December 8th, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops sent a letter supporting Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz’s decision "to excommunicate members of the dissonant group Call to Action in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Cardinal Re affirmed that, in the judgment of the Holy See, belonging to or supporting Call to Action is 'irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic Faith,' due to some of their anti-Catholic activities and stances." (Source).

Cardinal Giovanni Battista ReCardinal Re's letter itself was a response made by Call to Action Nebraska’s John McShane, for an “authoritative judgment of the Holy See,” regarding the aforementioned Bishop Bruskewitz’s statement published in the Southern Nebraska Register. (Source)

In a press release also dated December 8, Call to Action Nebraska says, among other things, that:
Bishop Bruskewitz continues to further alienate himself from the mainstream Catholic Church by trying to suppress the members of his own diocese from talking about matters of justice,” that “Approximately two-thirds of US Catholics want women’s ordination and the pope and every single bishop in the United States has permitted altar girls, except Bishop Bruskewitz. It is clear that he is out of step with the rest of the Catholic Church.” “How sad that the bishop will not stand up for justice when it comes to women and children in our church,” and “It is additionally disheartening that the bishop felt the need to use a medieval tactic, such as this excommunication threat, instead of just talking with us.” “For me, the current excommunication process conjures up the Inquisition.
Most recently, on December 18, Call to Action Nebraska secured an opinion from a canon lawyer which in their view diminishes the force of Cardinal Rea's letter:
Fr. James Coriden, a canon lawyer, casts doubt on whether Call To Action/Nebraska members have actually been excommunicated. He says that the letter from Bishop Re from the Congregation of Bishops appears to be “a private letter and not an action of the Congregation.” He also says that the letter “is certainly not an authoritative judgement of the Holy See.” Instead, what Bishop Re has done has affirmed “the bishop’s authority to issue the decree.”
According to an AP story, Nicole Sotelo, acting co-director of the group's national office in Chicago, said Call to Action is planning an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, which serves as the highest “court of appeals” in this case. (Source)

Relevant Canons

Canon 375, §1 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifically states:
By divine institution, Bishops succeed the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who is given to them. They are constituted Pastors in the Church, to be the teachers of doctrine, the priests of sacred worship and the ministers of governance.
Similarly, Canon 381 §1 states:
In the diocese entrusted to his care, the diocesan Bishop has all the ordinary, proper and immediate power required for the exercise of his pastoral office, except in those matters which the law or a decree of the Supreme Pontiff reserves to the supreme or to some other ecclesiastical authority.
Furthermore, the following canons and subsections are explicit and bear over the case at hand:
Can. 391 §1 The diocesan Bishop governs the particular Church entrusted to him with legislative, executive and judicial power, in accordance with the law.

§2 The Bishop exercises legislative power himself. He exercises executive power either personally or through Vicars general or episcopal Vicars, in accordance with the law. He exercises judicial power either personally or through a judicial Vicar and judges, in accordance with the law.

Can. 392 §1 Since the Bishop must defend the unity of the universal Church, he is bound to foster the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and so press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws.

§2 He is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the cult of the saints, and the administration of goods.

Can. 393 In all juridical transactions of the diocese, the diocesan Bishop acts in the person of the diocese.

Can. 394 §1 The Bishop is to foster various forms of the apostolate in his diocese and is to ensure that throughout the entire diocese, or in its particular districts, all works of the apostolate are coordinated under his direction, with due regard for the character of each apostolate.

§2 He is to insist on the faithful's obligation to exercise the apostolate according to the condition and talents of each. He is to urge them to take part in or assist various works of the apostolate, according to the needs of place and time.

Can. 1314 A penalty is for the most part ferendae sententiae, that is, not binding upon the offender until it has been imposed. It is, however, latae sententiae, so that it is incurred automatically upon the commission of an offence, if a law or precept expressly lays this down.

Can. 1315 §1 Whoever has legislative power can also make penal laws. A legislator can, however, by laws of his own, reinforce with a fitting penalty a divine law or an ecclesiastical law of a higher authority, observing the limits of his competence in respect of territory or persons.

§2 A law can either itself determine the penalty or leave its determination to the prudent decision of a judge.

§3 A particular law can also add other penalties to those laid down for a certain offence in a universal law; this is not to be done, however, except for the gravest necessity. If a universal law threatens an undetermined penalty or a discretionary penalty, a particular law can establish in its place a determined or an obligatory penalty.

Can. 1316 Diocesan Bishops are to take care that as far as possible any penalties which are to be imposed by law are uniform within the same city or region.
This list is neither all-inclusive nor necessarily authoritative. I present it for informational purposes only. I encourage you to access an Intertext version of the 1983 Code of Canon Law here.

In my lay opinion

Avatar for yours trulyI am not a canonist, but I can follow an argument. Take my opinion for whatever it's worth to you.

IMHO, Call to Action is grasping at straws. Even their interpretation of Fr. James Coriden's opinion is conceited, for Fr. Coriden himself states that Cardinal Re affirmed “the bishop’s authority to issue the decree.” In other words, the bishop acted rightly and according to the law. It seems to me that Cardinal Re and Fr. Coriden know their canon law well, but that's not enough for Call to Action.

Call to Action can't have the cake and eat it too. They were the ones who asked for an official opinion. They cannot dismiss it simply because they didn't like the answer. The facts are clear: one can't be a Catholic in good standing and at the same time be a member of the Call to Action organization.

Cardinal Re's concurrence has strengthened Bishop Bruskewitz's position, which is further substantiated by the canons. This is going to have a "dampening" effect throughout the U.S., as other bishops, clergy, and religious move to cut or diminish formal or informal ties with Call to Action. Any legitimacy that Call to Action had left after their open 1990 dissent has now been completely undermined.

The way back to the Church for current Call to Action members is clear: conversion, repetance, and reconciliation. Let us pray that the Lord strengthens Bishop Bruskewitz and all our bishops to face down those who, with the excuse of reforming the Church, seek to destroy her.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The hidden sacrament is revealed

From today's Office of Readings: St Hippolytus against the Noetic heresy

St. Hippolytus of RomeThere is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures and from no other source. Whatever things the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatever they teach, let us learn it; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as he wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify him; and as he wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet storming by force the things which are given by God, but even as he has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.

God, subsisting alone, and having nothing coeval with himself, chose to create the world. And conceiving the world in mind, and willing and uttering the Word, he made it; and at once it appeared, formed it in the way he desired. For us it is sufficient simply to know that nothing was coeval with God. Outside him there was nothing; but he, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality. For he did not lack reason, or wisdom, or power, or counsel. All things were in him, and he was the All. At a time and in a manner chosen by him he made his Word manifest, and through his Word he made all things.

St. Hippolytus - Russian IconHe bears this Word in himself, as yet invisible to the created world. He makes him visible, uttering the voice first, and begetting him as Light of Light. He presents him to the world as its Lord; and whereas the Word was visible formerly to God alone, and invisible to the world which is made, God makes the Word visible in order that the world might see him and be able to be saved.

This is the mind which came forth into the world and was manifested as the Son of God. All things came into being through him, and he alone comes from the Father.
He gave us the Law and the prophets; and in giving them, he made them speak by the Holy Ghost, in order that, receiving the inspiration of the Father’s power, they might declare the Father’s counsel and will.

Thus, then, was the Word made manifest, even as the blessed John says. For he sums up the things that were said by the prophets, and shows that this is the Word, by whom all things were made. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made. And later, The world was made by him, and the world did not know him; he came to his own, and his own did not receive him.

- Source: Universalis.com

Friday, December 22, 2006

Old-Calendar Orthodox monks about to be evicted from monastery at Mount Athos

Echoes of our own dissenters can be heard in the Holy Mountain.

Esphigmenou Monastery

Folks, for the last few days I've been tracking several news streams regarding the eviction of a number of monks from the ancient Esphigmenou monastery, located in the monastic republic of Mount Athos—also known as the "Holy Mountain"—in Northern Greece. Most Orthodox Christians see the monks residing in the various Athonite monasteries the theological trend-setters of their communion.

Background

The current dispute centers on ecumenism. The current residents of the Ephigmenou monastery refuse to recognize the Orthodox-Catholic rapprochement, of which the late visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Patriarch Bartholomew was a luminous example. In fact, the Patriarch recently visited the monastery and asked the monks to reconsider their position.

The monks at Ephigmenou wanted nothing to do with this and apparently did something that placed them at odds with the Greek Orthodox hierarchy and with their neighboring monasteries in the Holy Mountain. Although I am not exactly sure what did they do to rock the boat—Orthodox hierarchs must allow a certain degree of anti-Catholic suspicion to run in their Church, whether they personally agree with the attitude, or not—I speculate that the rebel monks crossed a few red lines that earned them the wrath of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Nevertheless, the dispute has caught the attention of our State Department, which has approached the issue from the viewpoint that the Greek government and the Patriarchate are violating the religious freedom of the rebel monks of Esphigmenou.
The intra-Orthodox doctrinal dispute between Esphigmenou monastery on Mt. Athos and the Ecumenical Patriarchate that administers the region under the 1924 Charter of Mt. Athos continued. Esphigmenou is an Old Calendarist monastery that does not recognize the authority of the Patriarchate. In March 2005, the Council of State declined to rule on the appeal of a 2002 eviction request by the Ecumenical Patriarchate against the abbot of Esphigmenou on the grounds that it was not competent, under the constitution, to judge the ecclesiastic and administrative jurisdiction of the Patriarchate over Mt. Athos, but the Government had not enforced the expulsion order. Approximately ninety similar appeals by other Esphigmenou monks were pending. In late 2005, the Holy Community governing Mt. Athos appointed a new Esphigmenou monastic order, recognized by the Patriarchate, to replace the existing order. An open dispute between the two monastic orders ensued in December. The Esphigmenou monastery complained about restrictions on access to supplies and medical care that it claimed threatened the survival of the monastery. Government and ecclesiastic representatives claimed they preferred to settle this dispute without eviction.
The dissenting monks of Esphigmenou have a copy of this State Department finding on their website.

Now, the situation has decayed enough for monks to arm themselves with "crowbars and sledgehammers." A number have been wounded. An eviction action is imminent.

Monks stake position against "the heresy of ecumenism"

Their website states the position of the monks of Esphigmenou as follows:
The fathers of Esphigmenou struggle against the heresy of ecumenism which states that there is no one church which possesses the Truth. The Orthodox Church believes, as the monks of Esphigmenou Monastery believe, that the Church has never lost the Truth or its unity. The Nicene Creed states the Orthodox Church’s dogmatic basis, “I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I believe in one baptism.” Ecumenism rejects these fundamental truths of the church by teaching that there are many churches and many baptisms.

The beliefs of ecumenism and the beliefs of Orthodoxy are mutually exclusive. You can either believe in the Creed or you can believe in ecumenism, not both. By embracing ecumenism Patriarch Bartholomew has embraced a belief in conflict with the teachings of the Orthodox Church. This is what the monks object to and what they wish to discuss with the Patriarch. There is not a single saint of the Church, ever, who believes in what Patriarch Bartholomew teaches and practices with regards to ecumenism, and this has caused great concern on the part of the monks. The Patriarch refuses to allay those concerns and refuses to engage in constructive dialogue with the monks. He has, however, demanded an apology in writing for questioning him.
A recent report also posted on the site states
Though praying with non-orthodox is strictly forbidden by the Holy and Sacred Canons of the church, Patriarch Bartholomew has once again demonstrated that things like the Canons of the church don't matter - he is a man above the law. To sin is to transgress God's law; to commit heresy is to change God's law. He'll decide what's lawful and what's not. Starving monks - yup, that's OK. Praying with non-orthodox, that's OK too.
When I refer on my ocassional posts on the subject to Orthodox "traditionalists" and "integrists" (this latter term not to be understood as derogatory) I have expressions such as the above in mind, and the ones who uttered them.

Christian Agape takes precedence and must prevail.

It also seems to me that in terms of their beliefs, attitudes, and interpretations of past and present canonical law, these monks are little different from our own schismatic "traditionalists" who stand in judgment of the Church and of the Successor of St. Peter, they being the only ones in the right and everyone else, wrong, by their own fiat.

There's an argument, a powerful one methinks, that the command to agape, that is, to LOVE, takes precedence over any fundamentalistic reading of the canons, such as these monks engage in, or our own "traditionalists" do in respect to the Mass of Pius V and the "Syllabus of Errors" of Blessed Pope Pius IX, to give two equivalent examples. Needless to say, our own schismatic "traditionalists" are as fond of the Orthodox Church as theirs are of our Church.

I think that "traditionalism" of this kind is legalistic and at its core, loveless and sterile. Traditionalists of the Christian East and West suffer from a deep-seated illness of the soul, one that moves them to presume that the Churches' only legitimate course of action is to submit to their own narrow interpretations, or else. It is the same sickly and deplorable attitude I see in militant Islamists and as such irrational and ultimately, unworthy of a disciple of Christ.

The present age demands a closer living of the Gospel in faith and love. The confrontation between the Eastern and the Western Churches undermines the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and therefore, the salvation of the world. There's a Greater Law than the canons--many of which are no longer enforced--to which all judgmental attitudes of the "traditionalist" sort must yield.

It appears to me that the monks in question are in a state of disobedience to legitimate canonical authority and when monks become disobedient, they lose any claims to their patrimony as a consequence—particularly since their patrimony is suspect in the first place. A sad truth they're going to learn the hard way.

Now, I am not sanctioning violence here of any kind, from any side, mind you. But it seems to me that, had religious obedience and humility prevailed here, this wouldn't have happened. Yes, I know, that's an obvious observation but angry people seldom heed obvious observations.

- Read the Excommunication Decree and Removal Notice written by Patriarch Bartholomew against the rebel monks of .

- Read the Wikipedia article about the Greek Old Calendarists and compare their outlook with the one shown by the SSPX

Thomas Merton Poem on Advent

Advent - Written in 1946

Thomas MertonCharm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect! Fly vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your full!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent,
holy spheres,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our
solemn valleys,
You skies: and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Toward the planets' stately setting,

Oh white full moon as quiet as Bethlehem!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cardinal O'Malley to start podcasting on Christmas

He already has a blog

Folks, Cardinal Seán O'Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, is about to start a regular podcast. According to CNN/AP:
Cardinal Sean O'MalleyBoston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley is going high-tech. He already has his own blog, now he plans to start podcasting to the masses, beginning with downloadable Christmas messages.

The video messages -- in English, Spanish and Portuguese -- are part of a broader effort by the Boston Archdiocese to embrace new technology as a way to spread the church's message.

The archdiocese is overhauling its newspaper and television Web sites, including offering the downloadable podcasts.

It has assigned e-mail addresses to all priests, a handful of whom have resisted using computers. It also has an intranet site that officials expect will replace the monthly mailings to clergy.

O'Malley, a Capuchin Franciscan friar who has taken a vow of poverty and is a frequent critic of consumer culture, is emerging as an unlikely technology pioneer.

His Web log, Cardinalseansblog.org, is already considered a hit by archdiocesan officials, who say they are getting positive feedback from around the world.

"The cardinal wants us to utilize the tremendous tools that we have at our disposal and to expand the reach of those tools, so that we can bring the message of the church and the good works of the church to the Catholic community," said archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon.

The cardinal's first downloadable podcast messages will be available Christmas Eve at Boston Catholic Television's revamped Web site.

They will be followed by regular video messages from O'Malley starting in the new year, Donilon said.
Comments. Fantastic! It's good to see a wired Cardinal. Cardinal Arinze already has a podcast. Other members of the hierarchy should follow suit. We in the Church should avail ourselves of every means at our disposal to share the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You may reach both blogs from the links I provide on my sidebar — although the link to the Cardinal Arinze podcast I show here is outdated. Please give me until tonight to fix it. The correct URL is http://arinze.familylandeurope.com/. (That also explains why my podcast subscription has fallen behind several weeks. D'uh!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A once prestigious Catholic award takes a plunge

Folks, according to LifeSite:
Notorious Pro-homosexual Catholic Dissident Named 2006 Mother Teresa Award Laureate

By John Jalsevac

Los Angeles, December 19, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Sister Jeannine Gramick, who became a notorious figure after she was ordered by the Vatican in 2000 to desist from all pastoral work involving homosexuals, has been honored by being named a 2006 Mother Teresa Award Laureate. The award was presented to Sr. Gramick this past November.

Begun in 2005, the Mother Teresa Awards were instituted to "recognize the achievements for those who beautify the world, especially in the fields of religion, social justice and the arts," according to the Awards website. In the past, the award, which is sponsored by the St. Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art, has been given to such prominent and orthodox Catholic figures as Mother Angelica, John Paul II, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel.

According to the Institute Sr. Gramick was named a Mother Teresa Awards Laureate, "for her role as American Human Rights Activist, especially in the field of Spirituality." In particular the Awards website mentions the fact that she co-founded the pro-homosexual, "social-justice" organization New Ways Ministry.

Sr. Gramick's public life has been dedicated almost exclusively to promoting the idea that homosexuality is a legitimate "alternative" lifestyle and is morally acceptable to the Catholic Church. On account of the nature of her "ministry", in 2000 Gramick - along with the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, Father Robert Nugent-was ordered by the Vatican to discontinue all ministry with homosexuals. The Vatican statement charged that Gramick's teachings on homosexuality "have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church."
Continue reading here.

Commentary. That's all pretty sad. I wonder what possessed the folks at the "St. Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art" to grant this award to a notorious and disciplined dissident, unless they want to become notorious dissidents themselves. It is sad to see them compromise so blatantly their Catholic principles in favor of the antivalues of our age. It is sad to see them become part of the problem and not a part of the solution of the problems besetting our society. It's sad to see them turn their backs to the moral demands of the Gospel in favor of a weak, powerless counterfeit. Finally, it is sad to see the dishonor they've brought to the name of Blessed Mother Theresa and to the previous recipients of this award, for having honored a clearly undeserving person to receive this "Catholic" award.

Yes, it is all very sad. If you want to share your disappointment with the folks behind the "Mother Theresa Award," please contact them here:
Mother Teresa Awards
St. Bernadette Institute of Sacred Art
PO Box 8249
Albuquerque, NM
87198 USA

e-mail: info@motherteresaawards.com
Please, do so respectfully.

The Veneration of the BVM in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Folks, ever since I read Graham Hancock's book The Sign and the Seal (take its claims with skepticism) I've kept an ongoing interest regarding the ancient rituals and iconography of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. Thanks to the Wikipedia, I found their site and also found a statement of their beliefs regarding the Holy Theotokos. Here it is:
Ethiopian Icon TriptychThe Church honors the Blessed Virgin Mary most of all the saints. She is venerated especially for her supreme grace and the call she received from God. It is believed that by the grace of God she committed no actual sin. St. Elisabeth cried and said: "Blessed art thou above all women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb . . ." (Luke 1, 39, 45). St. Gabriel said to her: "Be joyful, O thou that art full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou above all women" (Luke 1, 28). So we, receiving and believing these words of the Gospel, honor and praise her as the mother of our Lord, our Lady, a lady blessed, holy, exalted, honored and praised.

The Virgin Mother of God has a very special place in the Ethiopian cult, and devotion to our Mother holds the highest place. Ethiopia is known as the country of Mary, her protectress. Among the saints in heaven she is venerated in a special way. She is loved by her Son so dearly that He will grant her every prayer. Because of the mission she received from God, her life is most closely linked with the mysteries of Jesus Christ, and there is no one who has followed in the footsteps of the Incarnate Word more closely and with more merit than she; and no one has more grace and power over the heart of the Son of God, and through Him with the Heavenly Father. Holier than the Cherubim and Seraphim she enjoys unquestionably greater glory than all the other saints for she is full of grace, she is the Mother of God, who happily gave birth to the Redeemer for us.

She is a glorified human soul, more perfect and more lovable than any other. She is worthy of the highest place and the most exalted honor that a creature can attain to in heaven, for through God's choosing of her for the destiny of being His Mother, through abundance of grace which He bestowed upon her, and through her fidelity in corresponding with this grace, she has reached a degree of glory which place her higher than God's angels or His other Saints.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is constantly referred to in the Liturgy. Special prayer to her in the form of Ave Maria or Hail Mary is recited during the Liturgy immediately before the Lections:
Hail, O Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Pray and intercede for us with thy beloved Son,
That he forgives our sins.
Very moving is the prayer of the priest after the reading of the Acts of Apostles. Here it is:
"Rejoice, O thou of whom we ask healing, O Holy, full of honor, ever-virgin, parent of God, mother of Christ, offer up our prayer on high to thy beloved Son that he may forgive us our sins.

"Rejoice, O thou who didst bear for us the Very light of Righteousness, even Christ our God. O Virgin pure, plead for us unto our Lord that he may have mercy upon our souls and forgive us our sins.

"Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, very Queen; rejoice, O pride of our kind; rejoice O thou that barest for us Emmanuel our God. We ask thee to remember us, O true Mediatrix, before our Lord Jesus Christ that he may have mercy upon our souls and forgive us our sins."
Our Lady is commemorated every month and there are more than thirty feasts of Mary in one year. The name of Mary is the most popular, both for men and women. Innumerable churches are erected in her honour. The Nagara Maryam, or History of Mary, is a collection of stories about her life arranged for the twelve months of the year. There are two collections of homilies to be read on the Festivals of the Virgin, arranged for the different days of the week: the Praises of Mary (Weddase Maryam) and the Organ of the Virgin or Organ of Praises (Arganona Dengel, Arganona Weddase). One of the Anaphoras is called "Of our Lady Mary". Plenty of pictures of the Virgin are to be seen in the churches and sleeping places. Another important book we have in connection with the Mother of God is called the Wonders of Mary. Ethiopia is a daughter of Mary, her star in peace and war and her last resort in everything. Nothing can be taught to the Church in devotion and honor to the Blessed Virgin. Finally the Church teaches that our Lady was taken to Heaven soul and body where she prays for us until the last Judgement.
- To learn more about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, visit their website.

- Checkout some Ethiopian iconography here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shalom lakh Miryam

Folks, recently I was perusing some publications stored in the Association of Hebrew Catholic's website, when I stumbled upon the Hail Mary in Hebrew. As I read through the transliteration I was struck by its inner rhythm and coherence. It's poetic and beautiful. It is, in fact, probably as close as we are going to get to what the Archangel Gabriel actually said to the Blessed Mother – provided he didn't speak to her in Aramaic, which he probably did.

Here's the prayer in Hebrew:
Hail Mary in Hebrew
Here's the transliteration:
Shalom lakh Miryam habtulah hakdoshah m'leah khesed. Elohim imekh. At m'vorekhet beyn kol hanashim u'pri betenekh, Yeshua, m'vorakh. Miryam hakdoshah, eym Ha'Elohim, titpalli bishvilenu ashshav u'bsha'ah hamavteynu. Amen!
Miryam hakdoshah, eym Ha'Elohim, it's a word pattern I recognize. It's "Holy Mary, Mother of God." The word hakdoshah contains the root word k•d•sh or "kadosh" which means "holy." The angels before the throne in heaven, that's what they sing: "Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh!" or "Holy, holy, holy!"

There's a sense of primitive awe in these words, of expectancy, like the one a child feels early Christmas morning. The words conspire, as it were, to enfold us into the quiet, tender mystery of a God who pulled a mere creature so close to Him that she began to irradiate, just as Moses did when he talked to Him, centuries before. There's a sweetness and a silence surrounding the salutation — Shalom lakh Miryam or Peace with you, Mary! — as if Eternity had stopped for just a second, as God subsumed the young Virgin unto his Love and asked her a question, and then sudden start of time starting to flow wing again after she said her "Yes."

The word kadosh sounds like the "shh" we say when commanding silence and hakdoshah, is more than an adjective, it's an invitation to contemplate in awe-filled silence the delicate mystery of God loving Woman and becoming Man for love of Mankind. Neither God, nor Woman, nor Man, nor Mankind emerged unchanged from the Encounter. Our salvation was made possible by that Encounter. We've all been marked by the love flowing from the tender, silent Encounter that one day culminated on the Cross.

But before that happened, a babe was born and placed on a manger.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Waiting in Joyful Hope

Fr. Donald Raila, OSB

(Source: Newsletter of the Benedictine Oblates of St. Vincent's Abbey)

Fr. Donald Raila, OSBAdvent is a preparation for Christmas; but Christmas points to the Paschal mystery, which culminates in the Resurrection. We hope ultimately to share in Christ’s Resurrection on the Last Day. For now, “encounters with the risen Christ characterize Christian hope of resurrection. We shall rise like Christ, with Him, and through Him” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #995). Although “in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ,” this heavenly life “remains ‘hidden with Christ in God’” (Catechism, #1002, #1003 [quoting Col 3:3]). Thus we are called to wait in hope for that great day of resurrection and for all the graces that lead up to it.

However, we all tend to lose hope, especially when we feel burdened by insurmountable problems and weighty responsibilities. Death, heaven, and resurrection seem so far away, and our current pressured situation seems so urgent and immediate. Some months ago I received a heavy package in the mail, which was delivered to the Oblate Office. At first I could not imagine what was inside, especially since the return address did not look familiar. Since I had so much other work that day, I decided to leave the package unopened until evening. When I finally opened the container, I recognized the two wood carvings that Archabbot Douglas had commissioned (with me as an intermediary) several months earlier. I was eager to show the carvings to him, but he had recently left on a trip; so I had to keep the carvings for a while and restrain my desire. I also noticed that one corner of one of the carvings had been damaged, probably during shipping. That meant one more dreaded task for me: seeing our carpenter about repairing the broken edge. As it turned out, the next morning as I was walking to my office, I spotted the carpenter a short distance in front of me. When I hurried to catch up with him and told him about the problem, he took the carving then and there, carried it to his shop, and delivered a repaired carving to my office by evening. What a grace! My expected time of waiting was shortened immensely.

Far more important than the repairing of a wood carving is the repairing of human souls, badly damaged by personal sins and saddened external tragedies beyond human control. All of us, in a sense, are “damaged goods,” waiting to be repaired. Sometimes it seems that God, who heals and transforms, has abandoned us, and we are not sure how to find Him. On the one hand, we have all seen evidence of the Lord’s coming to our aid in marvelous ways; yet on the other hand, we grow impatient with long unresolved problems, physical ailments that only grow worse, moral flaws that keep resurfacing, and sinful tendencies that seem never to be overcome. It is then that we need to let go of our frail human hopes. It is then that we need to “place [our] hope in God alone” (RB 4:41) and to wait longingly for Him to redeem us in His way and at His time. It is then that we need to entrust our past to God’s mercy and to trust that God has a far better future in store for us that is literally beyond this world. We need to hear St. Benedict’s clear command, “Never lose hope in God’s mercy” (4:74). Why is it that we can keep waiting in joyful hope for the arrival of His mercy and saving love? It is because, as St. Benedict says, if we have used the “tools of the spiritual craft” that God has given us, we have God’s own assurance that “our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised: ‘What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love Him’ (1 Cor 2:9)” (RB 4:77). God indeed longs for us to attain to heavenly glory and then, ultimately, to the glorious resurrection of our bodies.

Please, continue reading here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Latest Dawkin's book suffers from lack of intelligent design

Folks, the Catholic Educator Resource Center reproduced an article by Robert Fulford, entitled From a brilliant mind, a silly book, which I invite you all to read. These are the first five paragraphs:
From a brilliant mind, a silly book

Atheists usually live and let live. If the Archbishop of Canterbury can bring himself to say a friendly word about Islam, and Israelis can endure the embrace of evangelical Christians, then atheists figure they should tolerate believers. But Richard Dawkins has recently created a surprising intellectual commotion by insisting that atheism still requires vigorous advocacy.

Many people, even some non-believers, speak with regret about the emergence of what's now often called "godless Europe." But for Dawkins, godlessness can't some soon enough. He thinks atheists should attack all notions of divine power. He argues in The God Delusion that religion has done incalculable harm to the world and, well, it's dead wrong. His book has lately sold so handsomely that it seems certain to end up next week under many Christmas trees while the birth of Jesus is celebrated.

In expressing his passionate view of religion, Dawkins writes with a confidence that rings false. Should an intellectual dealing with such a mysterious subject be as sure of anything as Dawkins is of everything?

Should an atheist worship Charles Darwin with more passion than most of the pious worship God? Dawkins seems to fear religion as much as Christians fear the devil; more, in fact, since the devil's polls show his status sharply declining. (Certainly the traditional churches have been glad to hand the Evil One over to the movie industry.)

When dealing with science, Dawkins exhibits literary brilliance. The title he gave his most important book, The Selfish Gene, published 30 years ago, evoked his splendidly original approach to evolution. From discoveries by hundreds of other scientists, Dawkins sculpted a coherent theory that notably advanced Darwinism. G.K. Chesterton said he found it hard to believe in God but harder to believe that a swamp, if left alone long enough, will eventually build Chartres Cathedral; Dawkins couldn't convert Chesterton, but he made evolution more credible to a large audience.
Please, continue reading here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Papal preacher urges fasting and penance to atone for clergy sex abuse

Folks, according to the Washington Post and many other news outlets:
VATICAN CITY, Dec. 15 -- Pope Benedict XVI's personal priest asked the pontiff on Friday to declare a day of fasting and penance to express the Roman Catholic Church's solidarity with the victims of clerical sex abuse.

In a strongly worded lecture, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa denounced the "abominations" committed inside the church "by its own ministers and pastors" and declared that the church has "paid a high price for this."

"The moment has come, after the emergency, to do the most important thing of all: to cry before God," Cantalamessa said in a talk delivered in a Vatican chapel. The pope was in the audience.

The Vatican said it had no immediate comment on the speech.

Cantalamessa suggested that the church "indicate a day of fasting and penance, at local and national level, where the problem was particularly strong, to publicly express repentance before God and solidarity with the victims."
Read the entire story here.

Commentary. I'll say that this is long overdue, but I will not join those who say that this is "too little, too late." It's never too little; it's never too late.

Clerics who abused children are guilty of the murders of these souls. The cost in human lives has been damn near irreparable and the material cost, unrecoverable. I estimate we have lost two generations of Catholics due to the scandals and the consequences. The moral stature of the Church has been compromised, a sore fact particularly when the Church's moral voice and prophetic stance is so necessary today, considering the temper of the times.

Every beginning is good. Fr. Cantalamessa's idea is a good idea. I look forward to see our bishops take the lead and carry on this day of fasting and penance as soon as possible.

Next Lent will be a good time. Ashes and sackcloth should be mandatory.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Book Review: Christ the Lord by Anne Rice

A towering achievement.

It is rare nowadays for a book aiming at substantiating the traditional theological understandings of the person of Jesus of Nazareth to see the light of day, much less to become a bestseller. The greater reading public, those who see themselves as believers, look skeptically at works by theologians and religious controversialists. Savvy readers often relegate these works to the realm of "belief," which in practice means "the ambit of the not-necessarily factual." What was needed was a person able to talk to this jaded audience and meet their doubts and objections frontally, ideally, someone who for most of her life herself embraced the post-modern "hermeneutics of suspicion" pervading academia and the media. To my delight, that person is Anne Rice.

Anne Rice is better known for her Vampire Chronicles series. Dark, gothic, deviantly erotic, and preternatural, Rice's "undead" were immortal understudies in the theater of humanity playing their parts in a tableau devoid of script, where morality is self-determined, and where it is better to be the hunter than the prey.

Of the Vampire Chronicles I've only read one book, at the urging of a coworker who knew my literary tastes on such things, and that's how I came to read Memnoch the Devil, a work that preserved most of Vampire Chronicles series' mystique. I found this work profound because of the breadth and depths of the questions she raised regarding the nature of good and evil, God and the devil, and the fog of uncertainty that human beings generate around ground-facts that tend to alter their meaning and contents. I found this novel's conclusion rather disturbing, because she seemed to be arguing that the reason why good and evil are so difficult to discern is because their agents are cooperating toward a common goal! In spite of this formulation, I found Memnoch the Devil vaguely Christian in the sense that it was thoroughly respectful of the Christian claims without camouflaging the egregious actions of these same Christians through history. If the work was disquieting, it was also "spiritual."

Then I read Servant of the Bones. This book is no longer connected to the Vampire Chronicles and its main character is another kind of immortal, a Jew exiled to Babylon during the time of Nebuchadnezzar turned into a sort of genie following a botched occult ritual. This Jewish man then became a witness to the history of his race and a vehicle for Rice to explore the unique persistence of the Jews as a peculiar people for over 3,000 years of recorded history. Again, Rice does not pull any punches against the historical treatment by the Christian Churches — Eastern and Western; Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant — of the Jew. Yet, Rice struggles to find a "meta-narrative" explaining the survival of the Jews and apparently finds it in the Providence of a personal God, whose personal character remains ill-defined both for the protagonist and for the writer. Christians and Jews can be redeemed together, according to Rice.

Servant of the Bones was a work of historical fiction which was also "religious." It was clear to me that Rice has become a willing theist when she wrote the final dot in this Servant of the Bones, but she left me asking myself, well, now what? Where is this path leading her? The answer is to be found in Christ the Lord.

Christ the Lord is a bold piece of historic fiction, if we are to consider the principal aim of this genre, aside from entertaining readers, that is: to render a narrative intertwining historical characters, places, and events that, although fictitious, is also plausible. Minutely researched, Ann Rice delivers a fictitious life of Jesus written in the first person, as Christ — that by itself is also bold. Rice wrote her narrative with great attention to the scholarly consensus about political, economical, religious, and living conditions in first century Egypt and Israel.

I've just talked about "plausibility." Skeptics and Christian minimalists are not going to like this work because the Jesus emerging from these pages is not "a marginal Jew," but a cosmopolitan, talented, and multilingual boy— a set of talents He acquired naturally, by the way—hailing from a lively, dynamic, and ancient culture located, not in the boondocks, but in the crossroads of the classical Roman world.

The Jesus Rice portrays in Christ the Lord is fully aware of his divine sonship at a subconscious level. This awareness invades his conscious self in waves, sometimes in dreams, sometimes by reasoning through various clues. He knows that the answer to the question of his identity lies within Him, but also He knows that He should learn the answer by natural, human means and not by drawing it out from his divine nature. This narrative line reminded me of these verses found in the Christological hymn recorded in Philippians 2, verses 5-11:
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.(NIV)
Rice's Jesus "ungrasped" his divine nature, voluntarily embracing for himself the human quest for knowledge acquired through experience, and therefore, evolutionary, and growing in time as He acquired even more experience. Rice acknowledges as much in her very detailed, highly personal afterword to her novel.

Jesus' experiential knowledge was fraught with the same uncertainties every human being faces as he or she grows up. Jesus didn't "cheat" nor did He took shortcuts in his quest for personal awareness. He knew pain, fear, frustration, and tears as well as love, compassion, and tenderness which He gave as well as received, particularly from His immediate family.

Rice gives us a Jesus fully integrated into an extended human family. Beyond the Jesus, Mary, and Joseph trio known to us all, Rice gives us a vision of Jesus' extended family as fully cognizant of "the secret" of Jesus' origin and messianic destiny. The extended family closed ranks around the holy three and were all instrumental in raising Jesus, each one possessing a piece of the knowledge Jesus needed to reconstruct the circumstances of his birth and the nature of his mission. If you ever wondered what kind of human beings took to raise the Son of God, you will find the answer in this book, and you will not be disappointed.

Finally, Anne Rice emerges from this book as a fully Catholic writer. This is probably the most amazing thing to me, that the vampire-storyteller-turned-theologian wrote something so rich, meaningful, and true. In this book, Anne Rice creates culture, that is, a new medium for exchanging ideas, potentially creating new artistic expression in cinema, music, and poetry, and ennobling and uplifting those who read it. That's what it means to be a "Catholic" writer, for a Catholic writer is not one that necessarily communicates or defends Catholic dogma, but one that, through her work creates new opportunities for cultural expression that is imbued with Christian values. I could say much more, but then I'll bore you. Buy, read, and pass around this book. You won't regret it. Christ the Lord is really a towering achievement.

*Update July 3o, 2010: Please read my post, Anne Rice Renounces Christianity.

...and the Word was God.

These are the starting verses, in Greek, from the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 1, Verse 1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." This is the clearest statement in the New Testament where we find Jesus, the Word Incarnate, refered as "God." Not "a god," but "God," as divine as the Father, yet, not "two" gods, but One.

Heretics past and present who deny the full divinity of Jesus Christ and his co-equality with the Father have crashed against this verse, pretending to ignore it or to reinterpret it, even rewrite it, in order to rob it from its strength and truth, but it is to no avail.

The Church has preserved the truth of Jesus' divinity since the Apostles became fully aware of it and all its implications after seeing the Risen Lord.

The divinity of Christ is central to the Christian faith. It is enshrined in the Bible and celebrated in sacrament. This is the faith of the Apostles, of the Fathers, and of the Church. Let us meditate on this as we conmemorate the birth of the Word in time from a virgin mother, He who has existed from the beginning.

- Check out the Greek text at The Greek Bible On-Line.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holocaust deniers meet in Tehran

A gathering of bigots and hate-mongerers.

Folks, this week, a cotterie of "academics" that included notable European Holocaust debunkers and from our shores, former Klanman David Duke, met in the capital of Iran at the invitation of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in order to examine the Holocaust -- Nazi Germany's organized effort to stamp out European Jewry -- "objectively."

I am not going to go into much detail of how deplorable this meeting of crackpots and pseudo-intellectuals really is, or how Ahmadinejad's demands for "freedom of speech" for these pathetic beings sounds hypocritical when compared to the deplorable state of individual freedoms in Iran.

I just going to point out how hideously evil the whole thing is, how disreputable and dishonoring to the Iranian nation in general is that Ahmadinejad has called for this travesty to take place in their country.

The Shoah is a historical fact and we cannot turn ourselves away from it. My thoughts are with the Holocaust's victims, the survivors, and their children. Ahmadinejad and company are but a bunch of hate-filled fools.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We celebrate today the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Nuestra Señora de GuadalupeGuadalupe is, strictly speaking, the name of a picture, but the name was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town that grew up around the church. It makes the shrine, it occasions the devotion, it illustrates Our Lady. It is taken as representing the Immaculate Conception, being the lone figure of the woman with the sun, moon, and star accompaniments of the great apocalyptic sign with a supporting angel under the crescent. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.

Its tradition is long-standing and constant, and in sources both oral and written, Indian and Spanish, the account is unwavering. The Blessed Virgin appeared on Saturday 9 December 1531 to a 55 year old neophyte named Juan Diego, who was hurrying down Tepeyac hill to hear Mass in Mexico City. She sent him to Bishop Zumárraga to have a temple built where she stood. She was at the same place that evening and Sunday evening to get the bishop's answer. The bishop did not immediately believed the messenger, had him cross-examined and watched, and he finally told him to ask the lady who said she was the mother of the true God for a sign. The neophyte agreed readily to ask for sign desired, and the bishop released him.

Juan was occupied all Monday with Bernardino, an uncle, who was dying of fever. Indian medicine had failed, and Bernardino seemed at death's door. At daybreak on Tuesday 12 December 1531, Juan ran to nearby Saint James's convent for a priest. To avoid the apparition and the untimely message to the bishop, he slipped round where the well chapel now stands. But the Blessed Virgin crossed down to meet him and said, "What road is this thou takest son?" A tender dialogue ensued. She reassured Juan about his uncle, to whom she also briefly appeared and instantly cured. Calling herself Holy Mary of Guadalupe she told Juan to return to the bishop. He asked the sign for the sign he required. Mary told him to go to the rocks and gather roses. Juan knew it was neither the time nor the place for roses, but he went and found them. Gathering many into the lap of his tilma, a long cloak or wrapper used by Mexican Indians, he came back. The Holy Mother rearranged the roses, and told him to keep them untouched and unseen until he reached the bishop. When he met with Zumárraga, Juan offered the sign to the bishop. As he unfolded his cloak the roses, fresh and wet with dew, fell out. Juan was startled to see the bishop and his attendants kneeling before him. The life size figure of the Virgin Mother, just as Juan had described her, was glowing on the tilma. The picture was venerated, guarded in the bishop's chapel, and soon after carried in procession to the preliminary shrine.

The coarsely woven material of the tilme which bears the picture is as thin and open as poor sacking. It is made of vegetable fibre, probably maguey. It consists of two strips, about seventy inches long by eighteen wide, held together by weak stitching. The seam is visible up the middle of the figure, turning aside from the face. Painters have not understood the laying on of the colours. They have deposed that the "canvas" was not only unfit but unprepared, and they have marvelled at apparent oil, water, distemper, etc. colouring in the same figure. They are left in equal admiration by the flower-like tints and the abundant gold. They and other artists find the proportions perfect for a maiden of fifteen. The figure and the attitude are of one advancing. There is flight and rest in the eager supporting angel. The chief colours are deep gold in the rays and stars, blue green in the mantle, and rose in the flowered tunic.

Sworn evidence was given at various commissions of inquiry corroborating the traditional account of the miraculous origin and influence of the picture. Some wills connected with Juan Diego and his contemporaries were accepted as documentary evidence. Vouchers were given for the existence of Bishop Zumárraga's letter to his Franciscan brethren in Spain concerning the apparitions. His successor, Montufar, instituted a canonical inquiry, in 1556, on a sermon in which the pastors and people were abused for crowding to the new shrine. In 1568 the renowned historian Bernal Díaz, a companion of Cortez, refers incidentally to Guadalupe and its daily miracles. The lay viceroy, Enríquez, while not opposing the devotion, wrote in 1575 to Philip II asking him to prevent the third archbishop from erecting a parish and monastery at the shrine. Inaugural pilgrimages were usually made to it by viceroys and other chief magistrates. Processes, national and ecclesiastical, were laboriously formulated and attested for presentation at Rome in 1663, 1666, 1723, 1750.

The clergy, secular and regular, has been remarkably faithful to the devotion towards Our Lady of Guadalupe, the bishops especially fostering it, even to the extent of making a protestation of faith in the miracle a matter of occasional obligation. Pope Benedict XIV decreed that Our Lady of Guadalupe should be the national patron, and made 12 December a holiday of obligation with an octave, and ordered a special Mass and Office. Pope Leo XIII approved a complete historical second Nocturne, ordered the picture to be crowned in his name, and composed a poetical inscription for it. Pope Pius X permitted Mexican priests to say the Mass of Holy Mary of Guadalupe on the twelfth day of every month, and granted indulgences which may be gained in any part of the world for prayer before a copy of the picture.

The place, called Guadalupe Hidalgo since 1822, is three miles northeast of Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost without interruption since 1531-1532. A shrine at the foot of Tepeyac Hill served for ninety years, and still forms part of the parochial sacristy. In 1622 a rich shrine was erected, and in 1709 a newer one even richer one. There are also a parish church, a convent and church for Capuchin nuns, a well chapel, and a hill chapel all constructed in the 18th century. About 1750 the shrine got the title of collegiate, a canonry and choir service being established. It was aggregated to Saint John Lateran in 1754. In 1904 it was created a basilica, with the presiding ecclesiastic being called abbot. The shrine has been renovated in Byzantine style which presents an illustration of Guadalupan history.

- Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia via Catholic-Forums.com

Monday, December 11, 2006

Milingo admits spiritual, financial debt to Rev. Moon

Folks, the Catholic News Agency reports the following:
Newark, Dec. 11, 2006 (CNA) - An excommunicated Roman Catholic archbishop attempted to ordain another two married men as priests on Sunday. The Vatican has not commented on these, the latest antics of the former Archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia or the separatist archbishop’s admission that his movement is largely funded and supported by a man who claims to be, "humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord, and True Parent."

Milingo was married in 2001 to a Korean acupuncturist chosen for him by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in a wedding performed by Moon's Unification Church. Moon, who himself is on his third marriage, is known for matching couples and marrying thousands of them in a single ceremony.

This weekend Milingo confirmed Moon’s continuing association with his organization. He announced this weekend that Moon’s American Clergy Leadership Conference paid for much of the conference and is also funding Married Priests Now!

“Today we are present as beneficiaries of Rev. Moon," Milingo wrote in a statement he distributed this weekend. "In order to ensure the success of our convocation he dedicated his key organizations to give their utmost support in every way needed to the Married Priests Now!"

"I have witnessed the zeal of Rev. Sun Myung Moon for the realization of the Kingdom for God," Milingo wrote. "His concern for the welfare of the whole world makes him not only a world benefactor, but more importantly a person whose vision, humility and saintly life has awakened our own courage and determination to organize and do what we ourselves know is right from God."

Milingo’s association with Moon has caused evermore concern among Catholics. According to the AP, Moon’s followers regard him as "Lord of the Second Advent" who is providing the "physical salvation" that Jesus was unable to accomplish because he was executed and didn't marry. Jesus gave only "spiritual salvation," Moon says.
Commentary. Well, finally we see Mr. Milingo's true colors. This man has clearly apostatized for having accepted as Savior a self-declared "messiah" other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord. By so doing, Mr. Milingo has formally abandoned, not only the Catholic Church, but also Christianity. In my opinion, it logically follows that all his "ordinations" as well as all other sacramental actions he may dare to perform are null and void, empty rites without meaning and grace. He can no more ordain a priest than a Zen Buddhist can, or a Muslim celebrate Holy Mass.

This should serve as a warning to all those who attend Mr. Milingo's functions: this man is a charlatan. Flee from this man or you will self-desintegrate along with him.

Update (sort of). You know, signs of this disaster were observed four years ago in "The Apologist's Eye" section of This Rock Magazine's November 2002 issue:
Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo says that Rev. Sun Myung Moon planned to create a schism in the Catholic Church, beginning in Africa. The revelations of Archbishop Milingo, the former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, appear in a book interview titled Fished Out of the Mud. The archbishop had been on a yearlong spiritual retreat after his Moon-managed "marriage" and subsequent reconciliation with the Church.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith-which is handling the case at the request of John Paul II-confirmed the schism plan. "Unfortunately, a schism is always possible when a bishop separates from the Church," the said.

After many hours of conversation with Archbishop Milingo, Archbishop Bertone believes that Moon's religious sect took advantage of the Zambian's generous spirit. "He is a simple man, of noble spirit, a man of prayer and charity," Archbishop Bertone said. "He would give everything to help someone who is desperate; this impetus of charity sometimes leads him to transgress the norms of the Church." Archbishop Milingo's staged marriage to Korean acupuncturist Maria Sung "was only a way to make himself thoroughly accepted [by Moon's sect] to try to evangelize it."

Reverend Moon allocated $5 million through his Unification Church to the abortive schism plan.
This conspiracy between Mr. Milingo and Rev. Moon's Unification Church to undermine the Catholic Church has been going on for a while now. It's just that Mr. Milingo aparently was able to resist at first, but then he finally fell under the sway of the false Korean messiah. How about that.

- Read a profile of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church at the Religious Movements Homepage.