Thursday, May 31, 2007

Trinity: Three Persons, One Creative, Energizing Reality

Traditional Icon of the Holy TrinitySt. Athanasius - Early Church Father

Used in the Roman office of Readings for Trinity Sunday, this is an excerpt from St. Athanasius' first letter to Serapion (Ep. 1 ad Serapionem 28-30: PG 26, 594-95. 599). Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, in the 4th century and was one of the most important of the Early Church Fathers. He is best known for his tirelessness proclamation of the full divinity of Christ during the troubled period of the Arian heresy, which denied Jesus' equality with the Father

It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consist of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being. It is a wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the holy Trinity is preserved. Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is above all things and through all things and in all things. God is above all things as Father, for he is principle and source; he is through all things through the Word; and he is in all things in the Holy Spirit.

Holy TrinityWriting to the Corinthians about spiritual matters, Paul traces all reality back to one God, the Father, saying: Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of service but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.

Even the gifts that the Spirit dispenses to individuals are given by the Father through the Word. For all that belongs to the Father belongs also to the Son, and so the graces given by the Son in the Spirit are true gifts of the Father. Similarly, when the Spirit dwells in us, the Word who bestows the Spirit is in us too, and the Father is present in the Word. This is the meaning of the text: My Father and I will come to him and make our home with him. For where the light is, there also is the radiance; and where the radiance is, there too are its power and its resplendent grace.

This is also Paul’s teaching in his second letter to the Corinthians (2:13): The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. For grace and the gift of the Trinity are given by the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Just as grace is given from the Father through the Son, so there could be no communication of the gift to us except in the Holy Spirit. But when we share in the Spirit, we posses the love of the Father, the grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Spirit himself.

- Source: The Crossroads Initiative.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

John Allen on the "Pope's Language Lesson"

Folks, Vatican correspondent John Allen wrote an outstanding Op-Ed piece published today in the New York Times. The piece, The Pope’s Language Lesson, is an exploration of the probable consequences of Pope Benedict's impending motu propio expanding the celebration of the Tridentine Latin Mass. Allen affects what I believe is a very balanced analysis of the consequences of such expansion, as well as a very perceptive assessment of Pope Benedict's true intentions:
Benedict, a quintessential realist, will probably be among the few who understand right away that his ruling is not terribly earth-shattering. Sources close to the pope I have spoken to say his modest ambition is that over time, the old Mass will exert a “gravitational pull” on the new one, drawing it toward greater sobriety and reverence.
Allen also speculates on possible media reactions. I think the article is worth reading. Please, do so here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How Bishops Assess Apparition Claims

In 1978 the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued standard guidelines for bishops to use in assessing claims of private revelation. "False claims can damage the Church greatly," a Vatican official said at the time.

The Congregation stresses that the local bishop is the first and the main authority in apparition cases. In the most difficult cases, the Congregation becomes involved as well. The Church's final judgment is whether the events are of a supernatural character or not; there is no mention of Mary. The following guidelines help the bishops weigh the evidence:
1. The facts in the case are free of error

2. The person(s) receiving the messages is/are psychologically balanced, honest, moral, sincere, and respectful of Church authority.

3. Doctrinal errors are not attributed to God, Our Lady, or to a saint.

4. Theological and spiritual doctrines presented are free of error.

5. Moneymaking is not a motive somehow involved in the events.

6. Healthy religious devotion and spiritual fruits result, with no evidence of collective hysteria.
Source: Catholic Update, May 1994.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized"

Folks, the document by the International Theological Commission regarding "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized" is now online at the Vatican's Website. This is the core finding:
The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation. However, none of the considerations proposed in this text to motivate a new approach to the question may be used to negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament. Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable— to baptize them in the faith of the Church and incorporate them visibly into the Body of Christ.
Please, read the entire study here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Podcast: Lectio Divina of the First Reading of Pentecost Sunday Mass, AD 2007

Coptic Icon of PentecostFolks, today's Pentecost Sunday! This is one of my favorite Church feasts. It is in fact, the celebration of the Church's birthday.

This year, in order to celebrate rightly, I want to share with you a Lectio Divina podcast/webcast of the First Reading of the Mass for Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:1-11).

You may either listen or download the 'cast from my OurMedia Page. I am no longer embedding the 'casts because it takes a lot of system resources and it doesn't download at a uniform speed because users connect at different speeds.

I also want to invite you to subscribe to Vivificat's Media Feed, so that you be among the first to know when one of my periodic 'casts come on line.

Enjoy this holy and blessed day and the long weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI vs. Native Americans – A Fabricated Controversy

Behind this so-called controversy hides a nefarious agenda

Folks, you've probably heard or read the news. At the end of his visit to Brazil to open the Fifth General Conference of Latin American and the Caribbean, a number of defenders of the rights of native peoples, as well as self-appointed "progressive" pressure groups, criticized the Holy Father for what he said about the relationship between the Church and native American cultures. This is what he actually said that caused so much of a ruckus:
Yet what did the acceptance of the Christian faith mean for the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean? For them, it meant knowing and welcoming Christ, the unknown God whom their ancestors were seeking, without realizing it, in their rich religious traditions. Christ is the Saviour for whom they were silently longing. It also meant that they received, in the waters of Baptism, the divine life that made them children of God by adoption; moreover, they received the Holy Spirit who came to make their cultures fruitful, purifying them and developing the numerous seeds that the incarnate Word had planted in them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel. In effect, the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbian cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture. Authentic cultures are not closed in upon themselves, nor are they set in stone at a particular point in history, but they are open, or better still, they are seeking an encounter with other cultures, hoping to reach universality through encounter and dialogue with other ways of life and with elements that can lead to a new synthesis, in which the diversity of expressions is always respected as well as the diversity of their particular cultural embodiment...

Ultimately, it is only the truth that can bring unity, and the proof of this is love. That is why Christ, being in truth the incarnate Logos, “love to the end”, is not alien to any culture, nor to any person; on the contrary, the response that he seeks in the heart of cultures is what gives them their ultimate identity, uniting humanity and at the same time respecting the wealth of diversity, opening people everywhere to growth in genuine humanity, in authentic progress. The Word of God, in becoming flesh in Jesus Christ, also became history and culture.

The Utopia of going back to breathe life into the pre-Columbian religions, separating them from Christ and from the universal Church, would not be a step forward: indeed, it would be a step back. In reality, it would be a retreat towards a stage in history anchored in the past.

The wisdom of the indigenous peoples fortunately led them to form a synthesis between their cultures and the Christian faith which the missionaries were offering them. Hence the rich and profound popular religiosity, in which we see the soul of the Latin American peoples:
  • love for the suffering Christ, the God of compassion, pardon and reconciliation; the God who loved us to the point of handing himself over for us;
  • love for the Lord present in the Eucharist, the incarnate God, dead and risen in order to be the bread of life;
  • the God who is close to the poor and to those who suffer;
  • the profound devotion to the most holy Virgin of Guadalupe, the Aparecida, the Virgin invoked under various national and local titles. When the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to the native Indian Saint Juan Diego, she spoke these important words to him: “Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and my gaze? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not sheltered underneath my mantle, under the embrace of my arms?” (Nican Mopohua, nos. 118-119).
  • This religiosity is also expressed in devotion to the saints with their patronal feasts, in love for the Pope and the other Pastors, and in love for the universal Church as the great family of God, that neither can nor ever should leave her children alone or destitute. All this forms the great mosaic of popular piety which is the precious treasure of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and must be protected, promoted and, when necessary, purified.
    Read the entire speech here.

    Activists pounced right away on the Pope's words: "It's arrogant and disrespectful to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs," said Jecinaldo Satere Mawe, chief coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab." "The state used the Church to do the dirty work in colonizing the Indians but they already asked forgiveness for that ... so is the Pope taking back the Church's word?" said Dionito Jose de Souza a leader of the Makuxi tribe in northern Roraima state." Father Sandro Tuxa, who heads the movement of northeastern tribes, also chimed in: "We repudiate the Pope's comments," Tuxa said. "To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening." (Source). Of course, that the Pope never said such thing is beside the point. In fact, I don't think that for Fr. Tuxa, the truth in this particular instance doesn't really matter.

    I maintain that this "controversy" was completely fabricated, that these pressure groups were scanning the Pope's words in search of an excuse to create such a controversy and ride the wave of publicity for all that was worth. The wave was sufficiently high that it forced the Pope to clarify his remarks but by then, these agitpropagandists had already inflicted their damage and gained the publicity they sought.

    Pope Benedict XVI has given a qualified support to the "inculturation" of the faith and has lauded it has a "legitimate aspiration." He also has acknowledged the "shadows" that befell Evangelization in Latin America and its effects upon native peoples. You can read it on the prologue he wrote in 2002, as a Cardinal, for his Introduction to Christianity What the Pope opposes, and now has reiterated, is any viewpoint that labels Christianity as "alienating" and that considers the ejection of Christianity from the reality of indigenous cultures as a just, fair, even medicinal imperative. The thought of yesterday's Cardinal underlies today's Pope.

    What the critics of the Pope are pursuing is precisely to excise the Christian foundational and constitutive elements found in all American cultures. Their interest is not to properly inculturate Christianity and native cultures, but to recast Christianity into a pagan or secular mould. What hides behind their demands for "justice" is their purpose of "punishing" Christianity by "retro-colonizing" it with indigenous religious elements, in order to weaken the central truths of Christianity and reinterpret them in accordance with indigenous mythology, "saving" in this way the "dignity" of these victim peoples and satisfying in this way their demands for "justice." Punished in this way, Christianity would then be displaced by the "innocent and pure" indigenous cultures who alone have the affirmative right to exist while Christianity only has left but the duty to wane and disappear.

    I see a nefarious agenda operating behind all this pithy self-righteousness.

    This "controversy" was manufactured by these agitpropagandists in order to serve their ends, by fiercely ideological groups in an eternal quest for "apologies" from organizations and institutions they have targeted as "enemies of the people" in order to accrue political credibility and with it, power. To seek the truth and to pursue it through calm, rational dialogue has never been their purpose. They are ready to use any tool, even native suffering, to achieve their nefarious ends.

    These "vanguards of the people" do not hide their overall strategic objective: to reduce the Church's moral authority, to silence her voice in the public arena, to expel her from public discourse or, failing that, to domesticate here, to make her meek and pliable and docile to their directives. These ideologues recognize that the Church is their only credible competitor in the pursue of a true social justice and now that, if they can't destroy her, they might as well attempt to subvert her from within.

    The sincerity of these "protests" should be taken with a grain of salt. They are not what they seem. In the meantime, we ought to pursue true social justice, based in the Gospel that tends to the spiritual wellbeing of peoples as well as their material and bodily welfare, outside of political ideologies and violent means.

    Let's pray for our Pope, that he remains steadfast in the preaching of the truth.

    Comments Widget under Repair

    Folks, once again the Haloscan Comments widget, the coding element which allowed the latest comments to appear at the right sidebar, is acting up. The problem is that it pushes the right margin to the right disfiguring the entire column. Strangely enough, the problem is only visible in IEx and not in Mozilla-based browsers such as Firefox and Netscape. I need to do some more research in CSS programing to see if I can correct the issue. Please, continue leaving your comments or better still, sign up for the Comment Feed!

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    USCCB Responds To 18 Democrats Critical Of Pope

    Folks, the 18 Democrats who recently criticized Pope Benedict XVI when he answered questions about Mexico’s legalizing abortion received a firm retort from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USSCB). The position was noted by Sister Mary Ann Walsh, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Director of Media Relations in a May 18 statement, which follows.
    Response to 18 Democrats
    Sister Mary Ann Walsh, RSM
    Director of Media Relations
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

    In an unfortunate May 10 statement, 18 of the 88 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks concerning Mexican lawmakers legalizing abortion. The Representatives’ statement misrepresents the Holy Father’s remarks and implies that the Church does not have a right to voice its teaching in the public square.

    The Holy See has made clear that neither the Mexican bishops nor the Holy Father have excommunicated any legislator. Rather, the Holy See reiterated longstanding Church teaching that anyone who freely and knowingly commits a serious wrong, that is, a mortal sin, should not approach the Eucharist until going to confession.

    “The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision of society.” (United States Catechism for Adults, p. 442) Consequently, every Catholic is obliged to respect human life, from conception until natural death.

    To suggest that the Church should not clearly voice its teaching and apply it in a pluralistic society is to attack freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The Catholic Church always will and must speak out against the destruction of innocent unborn children. The right to do so is guaranteed by the Constitution that all legislators are elected to uphold. Speaking and acting against abortion is not a matter of partisan politics. It is a matter of life and death.

    The bishops urge all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the Church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity.
    (Source)
    Comments. So, did you hear anything about it in the media? No? You don't say! Well, I should've expected that our "unbiased" media was not going to pick on this story. Maybe they are too busy in CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, even FOX, to take up this story. The MSM is loath to put their comrades on the spot.

    The behavior of these 18 Congressmen is deplorable, but understandable. They have come to understand that Church teaching never, EVER provided them with cover for their dissent. Now they have to hide behind the Constitution and, incredibly, patriotism and Americanism. For shame, people, for shame.

    - Read also CINO House Democrats yelp at Pope Benedict's Rebuke in Vivificat!

    Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

    Christ Jesus, before ascending into heaven, You promised to send the Holy Spirit to Your apostles and disciples. Grant that the same Spirit may perfect in our lives the work of Your grace and love.

    Grant us the Spirit of Fear Of The Lord that we may be filled with a loving reverence toward You.

    the Spirit of Piety that we may find peace and fulfillment in the service of God while serving others;

    the Spirit of Fortitude that we may bear our cross with You and, with courage, overcome the obstacles that interfere with our salvation;

    the Spirit of Knowledge that we may know You and know ourselves and grow in holiness;

    the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten our minds with the light of Your truth;

    the Spirit of Counsel that we may choose the surest way of doing Your will, seeking first the Kingdom;

    Grant us the Spirit of Wisdom that we may aspire to the things that last forever;

    Teach us to be Your faithful disciples and animate us in every way with Your Spirit.

    Amen.

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Perspectives on the Russian Orthodox - ROCOR Reconciliation

    An analysis by Teófilo de Jesús .


    The news has traveled already around the world. Four days ago on May 17, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) represented by Metropolitan Laurus, and the Patriarchate of Moscow, whose tenant is the Primate or First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, have healed a schism dating from the Bolshevik takeover in Russia in 1917, and the subsequent submission and humiliation of the Church by the Soviet State.

    We can all agree that the healing of a schism in a historic Catholic and Orthodox Church is always a welcome development. Wherever charity triumphs we can expect to find God, because God is Love. All schisms are particularly painful when they happen although, arguably, healing it is also painful, as all memories and slights, real or imagined, bubble up to one's waking consciousness where they threaten to reignite ancient animosities and rivalries once again. The Russian Church offers all Christians but particularly Roman Catholics an object lesson in this regard. Congratulations are in order and I humbly offer them.

    Canonical normalization

    Yet the work is not complete. According to Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff,
    the acceptance of the Act of Canonical Communion by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia places the Russian Church Abroad on a solid canonical foundation, making clear that she is a living and active part of the pleroma , or the fullness of the entire Orthodox Church. This is related to the recognition of her as lawful and canonical by all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as provided by this regularization.
    ROCOR's regularization will have the greatest impact upon the various canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States, but so far, the silence between them and ROCOR has been deafening.

    The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) is the highest pan-Orthodox consultative and coordination body in this hemisphere. "The purpose of the Standing Conference," according to their website, "is to create and foster ties of unity among the canonical Orthodox Churches and administrations for a stronger and more visible witness to the Orthodox Faith. The hierarchs meet semi-annually for discussion and decisions on inter-Orthodox and ecumenical matters, to review the work of its commissions and dialogues, and to plan future events." I reviewed their site today and I found no mention of the historic agreement reached in Moscow last week. No reaction, no joint statement, not even a news report. Nothing.

    A similar review of the Orthodox Church in America's (OCA) website, the one Orthodox jurisdiction with historical ties to ROCOR, makes no mention of the accord. Its FAQ Page on OCA and ROCOR remains unchanged in its unenthusiastic rapport with "The Synod." OCA has taken no public notice of the ROCOR-Moscow reconciliation. Google News searches on ROCOR and SCOBA, OCA, and/or ROCOR yielded no returns.

    Clouds on the horizon

    The question is, now that ROCOR is a recognized canonical body, will SCOBA recognize ROCOR? Would ROCOR want to join SCOBA?

    For the moment, I find no indication of ROCOR wanting to join SCOBA. This is due primarily to historical factors. Reader Andrei Psarev, in an extensive document entitled ROCOR's Attitude Toward Other Local Orthodox Churches and Non-Orthodox Christians, observes that
    ROCOR was invited to participate in the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops of America (SCOBA) established in 1960 at the initiative of Archbishop Iakovos (Patriarchate of Constantinople). In his reply, however, Metropolitan Anastasii stated that ROCOR would participate in the conference only if representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate were excluded, which was unacceptable to Archbishop Iakovos. At times, an uncompromising stand in regard to the communist government was, within ROCOR, as significant an issue as protecting the true Orthodox faith; in other words, resistance to communism was perceived as an inseparable part of protecting the purity of the faith.
    However, these political issues aside, matters of theological import also mar the relations between ROCOR and the other canonical jurisdictions in the Americas. In his “Nativity Epistle” of 1986, ROCOR's Metropolitan Vitaly stated that: “At the present time, most other Orthodox Churches have been shaken to the core of their being by two successive blows: the new ecclesiastical calendar and ecumenism. Despite their impoverished state, however, we do not declare and may the Lord save us from ever having to declare them as having lost God’s grace.” [Emphasis mine]

    On February 19 1987, according to Reader Psarev, the ROCOR's Synod of Bishops notified its clergy that the ROCOR was not in communion with either "New Calendarists" or "ecumenists." Therefore, beyond the political and protocolary reasons they stated in 1960, ROCOR also cites its opposition to the SCOBA churches' changes in the liturgical calendar and their pursuit of "ecumenism" as reasons to avoid integration with the canonical Orthodox churches. I would like to emphasize that ROCOR's problem is with the canonical Orthodox churches as institutions, not with individual, non-ROCOR Orthodox Christians, although ROCOR treatment of these varies from church to church.

    The participation by SCOBA-affiliated Orthodox Churches in the ecumenical movement represents a major stumbling block for communion in the eyes of ROCOR and, needless to say, much of this Orthodox ecumenism is aimed at improving relations with the Catholic Church. Simply put, ROCOR doesn't like us very much.

    Relations with the Catholic Church a stumbling block

    ROCOR's attitude to the presence of observers from the Russian Orthodox Church in the Second Vatican Council was ambivalent. According to Reader Psarev, whereas Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery saw the Second Vatican Council as "a step in the direction of global apostasy," other bishops saw the gathering as a "missionary opportunity" to "bear witness to the truth" and to "talk about the persecuted Russian Church." ROCOR's Metropolitan Philaret wrote a "Sorrowful Epistle" to Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople when he lifted the excommunication against Rome which started the East-West Schism. ROCOR also has banned ecumenical prayer in a liturgical context with the "heterodox" due to the "impermissibility both of religious relativism and any prayer with the heterodox in a liturgical context."

    According to ROCOR, non-Orthodox Christians, even Roman Catholics, are little better than Pagans—at least this is the way I interpret their stance because they receive converts from the Catholic Church through baptism.

    Reader Psarev tells us that "in 1971 the Russian Church Abroad crossed a serious boundary between historical periods in its relations with the non-Orthodox Christians. On 28 September 1971, the ROCOR Council of Bishops convened in Montreal determined that non-Orthodox were to be accepted into the Church only by baptism. In this manner, the traditional Russian practice (except during the period of 1620 to 1667) which did not require Catholics and some Protestants to be baptised was set aside, and the practice confirmed by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1765 was adopted."

    To the best of my understanding, and based upon my own experience in Orthodoxy, SCOBA-affiliated jurisdictions do not receive Roman Catholics into the Orthodox Church by baptism, but by Chrismation (the Sacrament of Confirmation). Implicit in this is the recognition by SCOBA churches of the objective validity of Roman Catholic sacraments, something ROCOR adamantly denies on theological, canonical, and historical grounds.

    Since ROCOR denies the existence of sacramental grace outside of Orthodoxy, they conclude logically that "ecumenism" is "heresy" and they have formally defined it as such. This has caused monumental liturgical and canonical problems for ROCOR, for almost every major Orthodox Patriarch participates in the ecumenical movement in terms deemed offensive and heretical by ROCOR. Their stance against ecumenism has isolated them even further from World Orthodoxy and the canonical Orthodox churches in North and South America.

    Now, suddenly, ROCOR's canonical status has been normalized, having become, by its reconciliation with Moscow, a full-fledged member of the recognized global Orthodox Church. Will ROCOR join SCOBA's team? Will ROCOR "play ball"?

    The Future.

    SCOBA and ROCOR will not get together at first. Once all behind-the-door meetings and consultations end—which I think is going on now and also explains the silence from SCOBA, ROCOR and the OCA in particular before the developments in Moscow—I foresee the creation of an intermediate organ similar to the G7+1 of the 1990's, composed of SCOBA and ROCOR delegates to study the issues still separating the communions and to identify areas where mutual cooperation, dialogue, and fellowship are feasible.

    The regularization of the ROCOR places a great deal of pressure upon prelates from both organizations. SCOBA cannot ignore ROCOR's normalization and it can be said that Orthodox canonical discipline almost forces ROCOR and SCOBA to talk to each other. But the fact remains that most SCOBA bishops will be reluctant to even consider the application of 18th century Russian solutions to 21st century American problems if, in their view, the global mission and even the very nature and existence of the Orthodox Church is to remain viable and coherent for men and women today. Many SCOBA bishops want to take their churches out of the self-imposed European cultural ghettos forged by their forebears when they arrived to this continent and look upon ROCOR with suspicion for daring to hold on to theirs.

    The failure of a SCOBA-ROCOR rapprochement will not affect the ROCOR-Moscow reconciliation, at least not immediately. Yet, we must recognize that, with all its idiosyncrasies and less-than-charitable relations with other Orthodox churches, the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia is different from the 18th century ideal ROCOR holds to. The Church in Russia has changed and its Primate, Patriarch Alekseii is attempting to open a space for his Church in global Christianity. The Moscow Patriarchate may consider the traditionalist approach adopted by ROCOR valuable as long as it is contained within its autonomous jurisdictions in the Americas, but more than likely the Patriarchate will ignore ROCOR's stances in favor of Orthodox pan-Christian engagement, as it simultaneously soothes ROCOR's misgivings with occasional grand gestures.

    The best that can happen is that ROCOR suffers its own aggiornamiento, by becoming a "tent" big enough for Orthodox traditionalists of every stripe—and every Orthodox Christians is a traditionalist by definition—to meet in fellowship. The worst that can happen is that ROCOR retrenches, reneges on her commitments to global Orthodoxy, or that the Russian Church grows impatient with her erstwhile child, and cuts them off altogether. ROCOR will then become little more than a quaint sect in the West's religious market.

    It is a cliché to say that "time will tell." But this is the case. "Time will tell" if the healing of this schism will hold. A lot gravitates against it. May God's grace prevail.

    - Read the ROCOR-Moscow Act of Canonical Communion.

    - Read a parallel discussion at the Free Republic's Religion Board.

    - Read Father John Whiteford's travel log on his blog. Fr. Whiteford is a ROCOR priest with whom I am personally acquainted.

    - For some ROCOR dissenters, ROCOR is now a "segianist entity."

    - Other blog posts regarding the merger.

    A Prayer to the Holy Spirit

    Father Richard Baker

    In the silent hours of night sweet spirit come to me
    When I drag this poor broken body before God sweet spirit hear the prayer of my heart.
    When my strength fails me and all I can do is look at the crucifix sweet spirit teach me to let go.
    Teach me to surrender all to God in obedience.

    When the darkness is around me and within me be my light to show me the way that I may walk in the truth.
    When my human strength has long passed give me the graces so I may press on to the finishing line.
    When I draw back from suffering sweet spirit comfort me.
    Help me pick myself up and hold the cross again.

    Spirit of God take me to the wounds of Jesus that I may kiss them.
    In kissing those wounds of love help me love God faithfully to the end .
    In kissing those wounds help me surrender my soul in total faith.
    Help me surrender to the God who awaits us all with the gift of eternal life.

    In my last hours sweet spirit come to me.
    I will not ask you for physical healing.
    When I lay on my deathbed take me to the tomb of Jesus.
    Spirit of God grant that I may lay in the tomb with dear Jesus .

    As I enter that tomb I joyfully will take my broken and worn out body with me .
    I will take the broken parts of my life that still need healing.
    I will look at Jesus and await the redemption of my body in joyful hope.

    When another priest has finished praying his last prayer I will not ask you to send me human comfort and companionship.
    Sweet spirit of God take me to a place where I will be alone before God.
    Let me then spend my Heaven alone before God.
    Let all my thoughts and prayers be directed to the face of God.

    Then I can spend my Heaven fulfilling the call to prayer.
    I will be able to look on the face of God and pray for all those I have left behind.
    In that eternity of aloneness before God sweet spirit let me obtain grace for those souls.
    Then we will all be saved souls together in the Father's House.

    Sunday, May 20, 2007

    Two questions and answers on biblical inspiration

    Folks, the following two questions and answers were part of a final test I just took on Introduction to the Scriptures, which I now want to share with you:

    1. Does God influence both the intellect and the free will of the human author of Holy Writ?
    Divine Inspiration - Click on the picture to enlarge it.Absolutely, but in a way that the resulting inspired writing remains both a free action of God and man. I think mystery would be the best operative and descriptive word here. Where does grace end and nature begin? It's not possible to know with certainty, but I don't think it would make any difference to know. Grace and nature are deeply intertwined in the process of Revelation and that's the way it's supposed to be.
    2. In biblical inspiration, does God dictate what He wants the human author to write or does He allow the human author to use whatever instruments he has at his disposal?
    God always allows the human author to use whatever instruments he has at his disposal, such as observation, intuition, and reasoning; but on occasion, particularly in the prophetic literature, it's clear that He also dictates the contents of specific revelations. An argument can be made that the men of those times lacked the modern psychological apparatus to distinguish between very human flashes of literary inspiration and intuition and God's dictation, yet the converse argument is also true: on occasion, God could've dictated his Word through very human flashes of literary inspiration and intuition. Again, it is very difficult to determine where and how grace and nature interact in the process of Revelation and it makes no difference to know with precision. God is always the primary Author of the Scriptures. In this sense, and only in this sense, all Scripture may be said to have been dictated by God.

    Saturday, May 19, 2007

    Unification Church's confused "theology"

    A last word to "Dadicated. "

    Folks, for those of you who have not been following the comment feed lately, you've been missing an exchange between me and a follower of Rev. Moon's Unification Church, which started shortly after my series of articles critical of ex-archbishop Milingo's schism and subsequent joining of said sect. This latest comment was too big for the Haloscan tool, so I am posting it here. This might be the last of the series.

    Dear Dadicated: for being a former Catholic seminarian your knowledge of the Catholic meaning of revelation is seriously lacking, particularly of the distinction between public and private revelations (Click on the links to see the pertinent articles on the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia), nor do you appear to possess a clear understanding of Apostolic Tradition.

    The Catholic Catechism teaches:
    66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

    67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

    Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations".
    (Source)
    The last paragraph seems to be aimed at people like you. There's no "surpassing" or "correcting" revelation apart from the one handed down once and for all to the Church. The Divine Principle ranks only as a private revelation and a false one at that, one coming not from God because it diminishes the stature, the person, and the finished work of Jesus Christ.

    I own a 1977 edition of The Divine Principle. On the chapter devoted to "Christology," on page 210, near the bottom, it says the following:
    As demonstrated above, Jesus, as a man having fulfilled the purpose of creation, is one body with God. So, in light of his deity, he may well be called God. Nevertheless, he can by no means be God himself.
    This statement is part of a paragraph of pseudoexegesis aimed at constructing a strange adoptionistic Christology designed to demote Christ from his equality to the Father and reinterpret the Incarnation into a Gnostic construct of emanations and adoption in time.

    Your attempt at ranking the Deposit of Faith of the Catholic as equal to posterior, private revelations and then as a preamble and justification to Rev. Moon's tortuous explanations flies on the face of reason. You are confusing and mixing mutually exclusive categories. You are playing with fire.

    Once again, you face a mutually exclusive choice between Jesus of Nazareth, who Is, Was, and Is to Come, and Rev. Moon. Choose. Now.

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    Tidbits from hither and thither

    Vivificat's irregular news roundup.

    Pope to unleash the Tridentine Mass. Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos told a meeting of Latin American bishops in Brazil this week that Benedict wanted to give all Catholics greater access to the so-called Tridentine Mass because of a "new and renewed interest" in the rite. Commentary. I think it is very significant that Pope Benedict chose the meeting of the Latin American bishops as a venue to share his intention to expand the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. It is also significant that Cardinal Castrillón has relayed the news. Obviously, Latin Americans are the targets of this message, a region where, to the best of my knowledge, has not been teeming with Tridentine Mass worshippers lately. I believe that what's happening is that the Pope is preparing the world for the unleashing of the Tridentine Mass. I think that the theory is: "if you unleash it, they will come." Fascinating liturgical times await the Church.

    Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Calls on Pope to Apologize May 18 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Pope Benedict XVI owes Latin America an apology for saying indigenous people weren't coerced into accepting Catholicism during the European colonization of the region. "You're terribly mistaken, your holiness,'' Chavez said today in a televised speech in Caracas." I beg your holiness to offer us an apology because what happened here was genocide.'' Commentary. Sure thing, Hugo. Right after you apologize for allowing drug traffickers to use your territory to poison the rest of us, because you think that it is a good foreign policy aim to sink large segments of the U.S. population into vice and degradation. Shut up, you hypocrite.

    Human Rights Watch includes Pope Benedict in its "Hall of Shame". They decry that "The leader of the Holy See has gone well beyond expressing the Church’s theological views on homosexuality. The Pope has intervened in politics in many other countries to condemn and threaten figures who support equal rights or any form of recognition for lesbian and gay families. After Spain legalized same-sex marriage in 2005, Pope Benedict’s Pontifical Council on the Family commanded Spanish officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples or even to process the paperwork if they tried to adopt a child." Commentary. The Pope could not have received better recognition for doing his job well and for undermining the myth that the gay lifestyle is somehow an inalienable, "human right" worthy of legal recognition. You need more proof? See how the folks at GayWired.com are celebrating Human Rights Watch's libel and tell me that what you see surrounding the news piece is "family friendly" material at all. (Caution: disgusting content).

    Bishop Expresses Reservations On Proposed Immigration Compromise But Calls For Legislative Process To Move Forward. WASHINGTON (May 17, 2007)—Saying that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently advocated for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Bishop Gerald R. Barnes expressed reservations about the compromise immigration proposal announced in the Senate. "Specifically, Congress should ensure that any final legislation contains a legalization program which is workable and includes family unity and a fair and realistic path to citizenship, a new worker program which provides participants a meaningful opportunity to obtain permanent residency, and the preservation of family unity as an integral part of the U.S. immigration system," Bishop Barnes said. "We intend to pursue changes in these important areas." Commentary. Many will oppose the bishops' approach because they consistently seem to ignore the security implications posed by untrammeled immigration and the stress the lack of border control and enforcement places on basic goods and services paid by and for citizens and legal residents. Citizens and legal residents are endowed with the same intrinsic dignity and deserving of the same respect as illegal aliens, but well-meaning, though often one-sided approaches to immigration reform seem to overlook this very important fact. In my humble, unsolicited opinion, the bishops' voice would carry better if they were to acknowledge these issues as well and work toward comprehensive solutions to address these pressing problems, by respecting the human dignity of all involved.

    In related news, the Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants campaign is urging the nation’s 63 million Catholics to pray and lobby for changes in U.S. immigration law May 20-26.

    The campaign also calls on Catholics to call their senators and educate the public on the U.S. bishops’ five immigration principles:
  • To make family a priority in immigration law
  • To insist the worker programs contain protection for U.S. and migrant workers
  • To allow for an earned legalization program for the undocumented in the country
  • To restore due process protections
  • To respond to the economic, political, and social root causes of migration.
  • Commentary. Again, these are all worthy goals, but the bishops need to acknowledge and address security problems in border communities and accept the Church's duty to inculcate unto the Catholic immigration population not only a sense of their rights, but also, of their civic responsibilities. Oftentimes church organs overlook speaking out about immigrant's responsibilities. The Church played this role during past waves of immigration and she should do it again.

    That's it! Blogging will resume on Monday!

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    List of Approved Marian Apparitions of the Modern Era

    Folks, in continued observance of May, the month of Mary, I want to share with you a list of the approved Marian apparitions of the modern era:
    Mother of Tenderness1531 - Guadalupe, Mexico. On a hill outside of Mexico City, the Blessed Mother appeared four times to a recent convert to Christianity, Juan Diego. Mary proclaimed herself "the Mother of the true God who gives life" and left her image permanently upon Diego's tilma or mantle.

    1830 - Paris, France. In the chapel of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Mary showed herself three times to novice Catherine Labouré (age 24). Labouré said she was commissioned by the Virgin to have the medal of the Immaculate Conception or "Miraculous Medal" made in order to spread devotion to Our Lady.

    1846 - La Sallete, France. Six thousand feet up in the French Alps, mary is believed to have come to Maximin Giraud (age 11) and Melanie Calvat (age 14) while they tended sheep. Her appearance in sorrow and tears called for conversion and penance for sins.

    1858 - Lourdes, France. At the Grotto of Massabielle, the Virgin showed herself 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous (age 14). Under the title, "Immaculate Conception," she called for penance and prayer for the conversion of sinners.

    1917 - Fátima, Portugal. While tending sheep, Lucía Dos Santos (age 10) and her two cousins, Francisco (age 9) and Jacinta Marto (age 7), reported six apparations of Mary, who identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary." Mary urged prayer of the Rosary, penance for the conversion of sinners and consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart.

    1932-33 - Beauraing, Belgium. Mary is believed to have come 33 times to the playground of a convent school to five children, (ages 9-15), Andreé and Gilberte Degeimbre, and Albert, Fernande, and Gilberte Voisin. Identifying herself as "the Immaculate Virgin," and "Mother of God, Queen of Heaven," she called for prayers for the conversion of sinners.

    1933 - Banneux, Belgium. In a garden behind the Beco family's cottage, the Blessed Mother is said to have appeared to Mariette Beco (age 11) eight times. Calling herself "the Virgin of the Poor," Mary promised to intercede for the poor, the sick and the suffering.
    - Source: Catholic Update, May 1994, "Mary's Appearances: Sorting Good Fruit from Bad."

    - Visit also: Marian Apparitions: Facts and Theological Meaning. at The Mary Page.

    I support the immigration bill now in the works

    Any plan seeking to make 12 million people accountable to the law by turning them into tax-paying residents, and also establish their whereabouts; a plan that makes their residence and ultimate citizenship 5-13 years down the road conditional; a plan that focuses scant law enforcement resources on persecuting the truly criminal among them while securing the border; will always be called “amnesty” by its detractors no matter what.

    Many—and I am neither saying nor implying that any of my honorable readers fit this bill—will not be satisfied until all of 12 million illegal aliens are rounded up, thrown into trains, and sent to detention camps with, or without due process rights, for deportation. This attitude represents the other, equally dangerous extreme opposite to the “let’s do nothing and throw the border open approach.” Both extremes are inimical to the moral health and unity of our country.

    The last country that trained around millions of undesirables to detention camps for deportation didn’t fare well in the annals of mankind. We need to stop and think what the consequences of a harsh approach against illegal immigrants would mean to our collective sanity. In opposing any compromise approach we need to ask ourselves what it is that we stand for and what will be the ultimate consequences of our chosen stance. If we don’t, the extremists on either side may win the day.

    Compromises are imperfect by nature. So far, I like what I’ve seen of this plan. At a time when we have so many external enemies, we need to create unity at home. We need to bring this people into the mainstream, tax them, assimilate them, and know who and where they are.

    Let’s jail or deport the truly bad ones; if these come back in, then let’s provide them with cramped accommodations for 5-10 years and then deport them again. Let’s secure the border—and let’s be clear we’re talking here about the southern border—and restore peace and tranquility to our border communities. I think this plan is a step in that direction. I will support it. President Bush has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. Good for him.

    Let the debate continue.

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord

    (some dioceses will celebrate this feast coming Sunday)

    From today's Office of Readings, a reading from a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop:

    No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven

    Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.

    Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

    Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

    He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

    These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body.

    Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.

    - Source: Universalis.com

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    CINO House Democrats yelp at Pope Benedict's Rebuke

    Folks, USA Today reported today that a group of 18 Catholic House Democrats publicly disputed Pope Benedict XVI's recent condemnation of politicians who support abortion rights, saying that "such notions offend the very nature of the American experiment." They also said that "the fact is that religious sanction in the political arena directly conflicts with our fundamental beliefs about the role and responsibility of democratic representatives in a pluralistic America — it also clashes with freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution." Included in the group are members who last year signed a "statement of principles" that sought to stake out territory for Catholic lawmakers who disagree with the church on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, among other controversial issues--according to USA Today. I covered the dissent of these Catholic-in-name-only (CINO) politicians in some detail before, as well as the little-publicized retort by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's retort.

    These CINO politicians are peeved that the space that the late Fr. Robert Drinan and the former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, once carved out for them no longer exists, if in fact, it ever did. The fig leaf has been taken away and they don't like their pudendae exposed.

    These politicians should stop hiding behind the U.S. Constitution to justify their dissent against Catholic pro-Life teaching and stop their material cooperation in legislating against the sanctity of life. The choice before them has become quite distinct and free from obfuscation. I hope and pray they choose wisely, for their own spiritual good and that of the Nation.

    - Read Vivificat's previous coverage on these CINO politicians.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Subscribe to the new comment feed!

    Folks, I have added yet another bit of functionality to the site. Now you can subscribe to the Haloscan comments feed! If you want to track what others are saying in Vivificat, you may want to subscribe to this feed. Just scroll down until you find the Comments Feed Symbol or click here to add the feed to your reader. Also, don't forget to subscribe to the Media Feed! I am trying to webcast once a week, mainly Lectio Divina on Gospel and other readings from the Mass and from the Liturgy of the Hours. Again, thank you for your patronage and keep this little ministry in your prayers!

    Jerry Falwell Dead at 73

    Folks, numerous newstreams flowing from YahooNews! report TV evangelist and Moral Majority founder Rev. Jerry Falwell died today at age 73. Although by tradition, training, and temperament, Fundamentalist Baptists like the Rev. Falwell are not friends of the Catholic Church, we still can pray for the repose of his soul; may the Lord comfort his family and friends at this difficult time.

    No more secrets from Fatima, Cardinal insists

    Welcome all new subscribers!

    Pilgrim Statue of the Virgin of FatimaFolks, first, I want to welcome all the new subscribers. I am humbled that you have seen this humble work as fit for your occasional review, reading, and attention. I hope you like what you see. I encourage active participation in the comments section. Please, feel free to leave your thoughts, opinions, and commentary because this is what this site is all about. Please, be prepared to be challenged and when you do challenge, do it charitably. Invoking the blessing of the Triune God over all of us, let's thus continue in His Name. According to Catholic World News:

    Fatima secrets fully disclosed, Cardinal Bertone insists

    Rome, May. 14, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (bio - news), the Vatican Secretary of State, has rejected charges that the Vatican is hiding some portion of the famous "third secret" of Fatima.

    With the Catholic world observing the 90th anniversary of the appearances by the Virgin Mary to three Portuguese children at Fatima, Cardinal Bertone admitted his frustration over the continuing popularity of theories suggesting that the "third secret" involves an apocalyptic prophecy that the Vatican does not wish to disclose.

    The "third secret" was part of the message the Virgin conveyed to the children at Fatima. While most of the message was made public soon after the apparitions, the "third secret" was confided to the personal care of the Pope, and remained hidden for decades.
    Please, continue reading here.

    Commentary. We've all heard about them and from them: these Fatima "Crusaders," people of good will in their majority, who refuse to believe the Holy Father when he says that the famous "Third Secret" has been fully disclosed, or dare to affirm that Russia was never properly consecrated to Mary's Immaculate Heart, and so on and so forth.

    People, get a grip! You need to understand a few things. First, the apparations of Fatima, with all due acknowledgement to the fact that the Holy See deemed them worthy of belief, no individual Catholic is under command to believe in them. That's because they are private revelations. We must remember this:
    There are two kinds of revelations: (1) universal revelations, which are contained in the Bible or in the depositum of Apostolic tradition transmitted by the Church. These ended with the preaching of the Apostles and must be believed by all; (2) particular or private revelations which are constantly occurring among Christians (see CONTEMPLATION). When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them. Speaking of such revelations as (e.g.) those of St. Hildegard (approved in part by Eugenius III), St. Bridget (by Boniface IX), and St. Catherine of Siena (by Gregory XI) Benedict XIV says: "It is not obligatory nor even possible to give them the assent of Catholic faith, but only of human faith, in conformity with the dictates of prudence, which presents them to us as probable and worthy of pius belief)" (De canon., III, liii, xxii, II). (Catholic Encyclopedia: Private Revelations)
    Assent to the apparations at Fatima "...is not obligatory nor even possible to give them the assent of Catholic faith, but only of human faith, in conformity with the dictates of prudence, which presents them to us as probable and worthy of pius belief." The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima do not set the agenda of the Catholic Church. Christ sets the agenda for the Church, which is the preaching of the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments throughout all the world for the salvation of souls. Inasmuch as the teachings received by the three children at Fatima fall in line with the call for universal evangelism and the cure of souls, they are to be heeded but only for that reason alone, not because of their particular contents.

    This obsession with Fatima must end. The Holy Father John Paul the Great did what he said: he consecrated Russia and he released the so-called "third secret" in full, as certified by Sister Lucia herself. Fatima Crusaders need to live their life according to the Gospel and not according to their fear-induced fantasies. There's too much to do and we can't afford to waste time chasing our own tails any more. The fields are ready for harvest and the workers are few.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    Feedburner AtomXML syndication and subscription functionality now fully integrated into this blog

    Folks, Feedburner's Atom-XML syndication and subscription functionality is now fully integrated into this blog. If you are using Internet Explorer 7, you will see on your toolbar above, by your tabs, this little symbol:

    Press on it and you'll be accessing the Feedburner's AtomXML syndication stream, with even more built-in applications. You may also choose to subscribe to this blog by clicking on "subscribe to this feed."

    I believe that other newer browsers also have this functionality. Enjoy!

    Sunday, May 13, 2007

    We will be judged on how we respect others

    As published today in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

    I often draw inspiration from my readers when the time comes to write another column. My readers’ own insights and criticisms are one of the prime motors impelling me to reflect on a given issue. This has been the case regarding my column two months ago, “Illegal immigrants should be treated with dignity and respect.”

    Many tell me that respect is something earned, that one should neither expect it instantly, nor grant it readily. Respect, seen under this light, is something of a commodity, a reward for good actions in which the giver of respect becomes a sort of creditor, and the receiver becomes an accumulator of moral credit who also, in some sense, is indebted to the creditor. This is a transactional view of respect, because the process of grant-ing and receiving it becomes a transaction, one in which the parties have something to gain or lose when respect is unearned, unrequited or lost.

    This is a very American way of looking at the concept of respect and, from the viewpoint of our history, one that generally has served us well.

    Since this way of granting respect is so ingrained in our culture, we don’t reflect on it much, and when we do, we recur to these business and financial categories to explain it.

    It’s easy to see why so many say that illegal aliens are unworthy of respect. Illegal aliens cheated when coming here; they violated the rules of fair play, they didn’t wait their turns, they jumped the lines. Their initial violation, critics tell us, makes illegal aliens unable to accrue moral credit.

    All their achievements are fruits of the poisoned tree of illegal entry.

    Hence, the only solution possible, critics argue, is the mass deportation or, at least ostracism, of illegal aliens by empowering the state, even the private sector, to enforce national immigration laws.

    Once the illegal aliens return home, they’ll be expected to wait in line to get back into our country or, better still, stay to improve their own countries. Everything will then be hunky-dory and our righteous anger appeased.

    Instead, I argue that this transactional way of looking at respect, though practical, is seriously flawed because it often overlooks a fundamental aspect of the human person: That human beings, for the mere reason of being human, have an intrinsic, inviolable and inalienable value.

    True respect is owed to every single human being, despite any lack of natural or economic endowments.

    In terms of the Judeo-Christian heritage forming the natural law basis of our jurisprudence, men and women are created in the image and likeness of God. From this fundamental fact we have come to know that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    This pursuit of happiness is transcendent and unique to each person.

    Man exists as a unique and unrepeatable being; he exists as an “I” capable of self-understanding, self-possession and self-determination.

    The human person must always be understood in this unrepeatable and inviolable uniqueness. A just society can become a reality only when it is based on the respect of the transcendent dignity of the human person.

    Respect for human dignity can in no way be separated from obedience to this principle.

    No principle overlooking the transcendent dignity of every human being may be enacted into public policy without our society becoming tyrannical in the process. Our transactional view of “respect” is flawed and incomplete, precisely because, in the end, we treat certain people as merchandise in the market of respect, by treating them the way we treat other “things” in our other markets: As objects to be appraised, weighed, acquired or disposed of according to our perception of their potential or actual utility value.

    We disguise our disrespect to their dignity by cloaking it under the mantle of moral outrage. We deceive ourselves by believing we are acting morally, when we are not. Otherwise, our individual conscience wouldn’t stop nagging us.

    I’ve never claimed to have all the solutions to our immigration and border security problems. I don’t always know what to do, but I know what not to do: I will not support the enactment of any law that violates the intrinsic dignity of the human person.

    I will not support any effort to empower businesses or individuals to marginalize real or perceived illegal aliens, and I will continue speaking out against these efforts at every opportunity.

    That’s how I define R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and I am convinced that our nation will be judged most severely if we fail to give it to those less fortunate generously, and unconditionally.

    - More discussion on The Conemaugh Valley Times, my blog on local issues.

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    Pope Benedict XVI: drug traffickers ripe for divine comeuppance

    Pope Benedict XVI in Brazil
    GUARATINGUETA, Brazil (AP via CNN) -- Drug traffickers will face divine justice for the scourge of illegal narcotics across Latin America, Pope Benedict XVI warned Saturday, telling dealers that "human dignity cannot be trampled upon in this way."

    Traffickers must "reflect on the grave harm they are inflicting on countless young people and on adults from every level of society," Benedict said.

    "God will call you to account for your deeds," he said before a cheering crowd of 6,000 on a sprawling lawn outside the "Fazenda de Esperanca," or "Farm of Hope," a drug treatment center founded by a Franciscan friar.

    The treatment center the pope visited claims an 80 percent success rate, giving addicts spiritual guidance as they milk cows, tend apple orchards and work as beekeepers.

    Benedict donated $100,000 to the treatment center and told more than 1,500 recovering addicts wearing white shirts with yellow sleeves, representing the Vatican's flag, that they must become "ambassadors of hope."

    "The Lord has given you this opportunity for physical and spiritual recovery, so vital for you and your families," the pope said. "In turn, society expects you to spread this precious gift of health among your friends and all the members of the community."
    Commentary. My feelings exactly. And not only drug traffickers will face divine wrath, but also the leaders of various countries aiding and abetting the production and transportation of drugs through their countries, claiming that the consumer countries are the one's at fault and therefore wash their hands on the whole business. They think that by poisoning the US they do the world a favor but conveniently overlook the ruin they bring to their own societies. These too God will hold accountable.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    The Interior Life of Atheism

    Folks, Mark Shea wrote a very interesting column in the National Catholic Register which I believe deserves your consideration. Here's an excerpt:
    Mark Shea…It should also be noted that this tendency of atheism to cling to dogma in the face of countervailing evidence reveals something even more important about the cramped ideology of atheism.

    Consider: The French novelist Emile Zola said he just wanted to see one person dip a cut finger in the waters of Lourdes and be healed. He got more than he bargained for. Zola met a woman dying of tuberculosis, whose face had been half eaten away with the disease and who was spitting up blood from her infected lungs. She washed at Lourdes and was presented to Zola immediately afterward, her face already covered in new, dry skin and her tuberculosis in dramatic retreat. “Ah no!” said Zola, “I do not want to look at her. She is still too ugly.” He left declaring, “Were I to see all the sick at Lourdes cured, I would not believe in a miracle.”
    Aren't atheists the most unreasonable people in the world? Many of them, like Zola, even dismiss their own tests and standards of evidence to cling dogmatically to the idea of atheism. Others, according to Mark, are deeply wounded individuals and many of those wounds have been caused by us, believers. An excellent article! Please, give it a whirl.

    - Interior Life Of Atheism, by Mark Shea.

    - A Spanish translation of this article made by yours truly is available @ ¡Vivificat! en Español.

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    Lou Dobbs, Doctor in Divinity

    CNN anchor and editorialist, Lou DobbsCNN anchor and editorialist, Lou Dobbs, in an online column published yesterday, entitled, A Call to the Faithful, makes some very interesting claims. He starts his column by saying:
    The separation of church and state in this country is narrowing. And it is the church, not the state that is encroaching. Our Constitution protects religion from the intrusion or coercion of the state. But we have precious little protection against the political adventurism of all manner of churches and religious organizations.
    As we know, Dobbs is in his own little jihad against illegal immigrants—I wanted to say "crusade" but that's neither appropriate nor politically correct. Therefore, he saves his salvoes against those who, based upon their faith convictions, see the situation differently and advocate solutions that Mr. Dobbs disagrees with. Said he:
    The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine put it this way: "If given the choice on this issue between Jesus and Lou Dobbs, I choose my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ."

    But before the faithful acquiesce in the false choice offered by the good Reverend, perhaps he and his followers should consult Romans 13, where it is written: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
    You know, we have to very careful on how we use the Bible to justify political positions, whether of the Left or of the Right. The Word of God cannot be caged into our pet ideologies. The Word of God will break out free and come back to bite us.

    Now, I am going to prove once again and old post-World War II truism: in any discussion regarding choices about right or wrong, good or evil, sooner or later Nazi Germany will be mentioned. This time, I assure you, is very apropos, because the Nazis used exactly Romans 13 to demand the acquiescence of the German Christian populace. The many who goose-marched to this tune should give us pause.

    I would ask Mr. Dobbs to consider this other verse:
    Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4: 18-20, NIV)
    Christians are to obey all legitimate authority until it conflicts with God's commands. Then, the choice is clear. We know what has precedence. Reverend Wallis more than likely had these verses in mind when he said what he said about Mr. Dobbs.

    Finally, Mr. Dobbs had this to say:
    A Zogby poll last year asked churchgoers if they supported the House bill that would make illegal aliens return home and reduce future illegal immigration by securing the border and performing checks on illegal employers. Seventy-five percent of Protestants responded that was a good or very good idea, 77 percent of born-again Christians also agreed, and 66 percent of Catholics also backed tougher enforcement measures.
    We could agree on the need to adopt various measures to secure the border and check on illegal employers, particularly those who are exploitative. Write a poll question open-ended enough and you'll create an artificial majority of people to agree with the proposition.

    My main concern as a Christian is how we are supposed to "make illegal aliens return home" when there are over 12 million of them without recurring to institutionalized persecution, violence, and intimidation. What will that make us as a nation? What this poll reveals to me is that many Christians today, in this country, are also willingly to goose-step at the tune of facile solutions to complex problems without considering what such inanity will do to our humanity.

    One more thing: there are three other Bible verses which I think are relevant:
  • Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)

  • Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

  • The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)
  • If you are going to start quoting the Bible, Mr. Dobbs, I suggest you expand your scope.

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    Podcast: Lectio Divina of Psalm 36

    Folks, I wish to share with you a Lectio Divina of Psalm 36, the first psalm of Morning Prayer for Wednesday of the First Week of the Psalter - which is today. It is one of my favorite psalms. You may read Psalm 36 here to follow along.

    I am pleased to report that I dedicated more time to post-production this time around than on the first one. Therefore, this is a smoother-sounding product. I think I eliminated the abrupt transitions that characterized the first podcast and that the music and one sound effect are blended better.

    I am also very pleased to report that media podcasts now have their own mRSS page. That means you can subscribe to them directly! This is the URL:

    http://www.ourmedia.org/mediarss/user/125009

    I am sad to report that my accent has not gone away and that I actually mispronounce a number of words. I apologize for that, and for being so self-conscious about it. Yes, it is vanity. Please pray for me.

    You may access the podcast from the following page:

    http://www.ourmedia.org/node/314197.

    You need to wait for a big segment of the podcast to download in order to listen to it without sudden halts. You'll know that the podcast is downloading because the slit in the bar will gray out to the left as the file downloads to your cache.

    Or, you may right-click here and save the target to disk, so that you can listen to it in your computer using your favorite MP3 software, or transfer it to your I-Pod or MP3 Player to listen to it while on the move.

    I will not embed the bar on the post any longer because I've noticed that it affects the overall downloading time of the blog into your browser.

    I appreciate your support and I welcome all constructive criticisms.

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Vivificat.org domain's back up!

    Folks, the Vivificat.org domain is back up and the site is now accessible via that domain. But, in the future, please add these URLs to your favorites to access the blog alternatively:

    http://vivificat.cybercatholics.com

    or

    http://vivificat1.blogspot.com.

    Thanks!

    Prayer of Suffering

    Fr. Richard Baker

    God as part of the divine plan can use suffering for us.
    If we remain calm through the most difficult hours we will begin to see this.
    In the first place we draw back from this movement and question God.
    The suffering does violence to our sensitive natures.

    We question why does God allow these hours of trial for us?
    If there is a God of love why does this pain come to us?
    It is because God loves our souls so much and desires our friendship He permits us to walk this most difficult path.

    Souls that seek union with God will always suffer.
    The rose contains the thorn.
    These things have always been the same in Gods kingdom.
    What is important is our attitude to suffering.

    Suffering which we do not humanly seek is a movement that can be used by God.
    It detaches our will from the things of this passing world.
    We are led to surrender our wills to a higher purpose.
    Sometimes in blind faith as we do not see or understand.

    While suffering in its first movement draws us away from God this is only a temporary movement.
    By uniting our small sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus this movement is reversed.

    We come closer to a loving God.
    Then we surrender our understanding humbly excepting that in His will is our peace.

    My friend the seceret is to go beyond the initial experience of suffering.
    We must learn to see it in its true perspective.
    It is but a tiny drop in the ocean of our eternity with God
    It is a place of both testing and learning in the spiritual life.

    It tests our love of God and calls us to a deeper commitment.
    Will we kiss the hand that both hurts and heals us?
    Will we abandon ourselves to Gods will when we are taken in a direction we would never choose for ourselves?

    Go on bravely bearing your suffering in these most precious hours.
    Your capacity to receive Gods life is being increased within you.
    Your soul is being led to become detached from the things of this world.
    Such hours mean so much for the increase of the spiritual life within us.
    In your worst moment simply look at the crucifix and silently say, " Yes" to God.

    Monday, May 07, 2007

    Vivificat.org Domain Down!

    Folks, for reasons I can't explain yet, the domain Vivificat.org is down. However, redundancy is the name of this game! You may access Vivificat! at http://vivificat.cybercatholics.com or http://vivificat1.blogspot.com. The site is up and running, please continue enjoy the contents.

    Sunday, May 06, 2007

    Vivificat! quoted at News with Views

    Folks, fresh from my military drill at the Nation's capital - where the day was gorgeous, by the way - I came home to find a whole bunch of visitors reflected from News with Views's writer, Thomas Horn, who had the kindness to quote my review of Anne Rice's bestseller, Christ the Lord. Something interesting he said:
    With humility, I believe I am qualified to say some things about the spirit that is increasingly passing itself off as "church leadership". For nearly 30 years, I held senior pastorates and executive positions in the largest evangelical institution in the world. During that time I spoke to hundreds of thousands of people from pulpits around the globe, both electronic and local. For several of those years I also worked in exorcism, which led to a certain appreciation for subtleties in morality plays like those in Anne Rice's books. Yet now I find an irony so thick I could drive a stake into its heart. While Anne Rice, the "evangelist of vampires" has discovered Jesus, many of those who occupy America's places of religious power and pretend to be the Lord's evangelists have become vampiric wordsmiths clothed in capes and rituals, hiding the need to maintain their existence by consuming the life-force of innocent living creatures, disguising themselves as mortals as they feed on people's faith, using and then disregarding innocent lives to maintain their Théâtre des Vampires.
    Then he proceeded to narrate a vile story of how certain "vampires", hiding under the cloth of religion, exploited the week and the powerless - and he wasn't talking about sexual predator priests either, but about a sad event that happened within the confines of an Evangelical Christian setting, in which a dying, elderly lady was taken advantage of by fellow Christians.

    In many instances the Catholic Church and the Evangelical churches share the same courtyard, where we both can join in a common outrage against sin and injustice and pray together to the same Lord for salvation, forgiveness, and healing. In that very moment, to borrow the words of a famous manifesto, Catholic and Evangelicals can be, and really are, together. Thank you Mr. Horn, for your kind reference. Welcome, all visitors!

    - Please, read New Testament Theology According to the Vampire Lestat, by Mr. Thomas Horn.

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Blogfast until Monday

    Folks, I'll be busy through the weekend. I'll next post on Monday. Please, enjoy the current contents.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico backs "shared unions"

    Archbishop adopts a "Solomonic solution" .

    Archbishop of San Juan, Roberto Octavio González NievesFolks, this is interesting. In Puerto Rico, an ongoing revision of the century-old Civil Code has raised the possibility that same-sex marriage and adoptions be recognized by law in the Commonwealth. The Archbishop of San Juan, Roberto Octavio González Nieves has, in turn, adopted a very interesting strategy that, if accepted by Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly, will sidestep the issue by creating something the Archbishop calls "a shared union."

    In a presentation he made in legislative hearings, Archbishop González stated that if the current language of the new Civil Code is left standing, "only two persons who living in an affective relationship under the same roof in a de facto union equal to marriage would benefit [from the law]. People who live under the same roof but joined, not by a relationship of an affective nature, but because of blood ties, or because of friendship and fraternity would be discriminated against."

    Archbishop González pointed out that "we object to the current [Civil Code] draft if the state's intention is to extend benefits and rights to a segment of the population by redefining marriage and creating new institutions equal to marriage and family by legislative fiat. Marriage is a central institution deserving every protection of the state since it is the only institution which has existed in every civilization in every age from time immemorial for its anthropological origins as an immutable natural right."

    The Archbishop of San Juan proposes that the "juridical concept of de facto unions be removed from the draft Code and be replaced by a new juridical concept which may be termed 'shared union'." He suggested that "shared unions" be defined as "one constituted by two or more persons, living under the same roof, sharing amongst themselves a set of rights and duties derived from their common life or from a expressed pact."

    When reminded by the presiding legislator that homosexual couples may take advantage of "shared unions" to legalize their relationships, Archbishop González replied that "the Church will not assume any position in that regard."

    Before you blast the archbishop as a "liberal," consider this: I have seen similar proposals from William Buckley and others in the pages of National Review. The logic is elegant. No law singling homosexual persons as a class and as recipients of special rights will make it into the books; no law redefining marriage or normalizing same-sex attraction will be enacted. What the archbishop and other conservative intellectuals propose is for state to assume a truly neutral position regarding various modes of social and familial groupings. This neutrality mostly will benefit extended families living in the same households, and close, non-sexual friendships, where there's a sharing of rights and responsibilities.

    Archbishop González has adopted a "double-effect" posture before the legislation. In pursuing the good of recognizing the rights and duties of extended families or fraternal "shared unions" living in the same household, he's willing to tolerate the lesser evil of same-sex "shared unions," as long as the state leaves traditional marriage and the family alone.

    A Solomonic solution deserving consideration by Catholics everywhere.

    - Read all source documents and links in Vivificat's sister site in Spanish.