Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The U.S. financial crisis could have been averted

Had all responsible actors followed the principles of Catholic Social Teaching

Folks, among the myriads that have been written about the recent vote in Congress that failed to approve the $700 billion bailout of the nation's financial system, I believe that this article by Howard Fineman of Newsweek, entitled, Ain’t Democracy Grand? explained it best:

  • A new generation of Republicans, coming of age since the advent of Ronald Reagan, refused to accept this vast expansion of federal power in the markets. The new GOP is in many ways a populist one, and not amenable to the wishes of Wall Street, and not eager to give more power to Washington.
  • President George W. Bush has zero credibility, even—if not especially—with his own party. He used it up in selling the war on terror. He tried to sell this measure, and the more he worked on it, the more damage he did to its prospects of passage.
  • There was a mismatch between the purpose of the plan, which is to get credit flowing again, and the language and numbers of the proposal: a $700 billion "bailout" of Wall Street. Voters never were convinced that they would get any money back, and they didn't like the idea of helping a herd of rich people. As a result, the measure—to the extent anyone understood it—was wildly unpopular with the most vocal of voters.
  • Democrats had their own objections—a lack of tough measures against the big boys—and in any case were not about to be the only party to vote in favor of an unpopular measure.
  • The measure drew only weak support from the presidential candidates, who have their own criteria. Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama was an eager participant in the sales job.
  • The rush-job nature of the entire process did not help. Call it the Iraq effect. It seemed to Democrats and Republicans alike that a colossal measure was being crammed down their throats.
  • Good old-fashioned partisanship. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an accusatory speech at the last minute that did not help; Republican leaders such as Newt Gingrich poured his own gasoline on the fire, by lashing out against the Bush administration's plan as biased "entirely in favor of the big banks and Wall Street."

I want to add that no one has satisfactorily explained to me yet where the $700 billion price tag came from, nor why I, stuck in a long-term, fixed-interest mortgage, having never missed a payment thank God, and a tax-payer, have to pay over $12,000 to protect the bad choices that buyers, lenders, and Congress have made for the last 10 years. I think it is unfair and bunch of hooey. If the measure was to be bipartisan, I can't understand why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended the debate by blaming the Republican President and Congress, when President Clinton shares in the responsibility for this debacle when he forced financial institutions to lend subprime loans so that people who otherwise would not have qualified for a loan got one. So much for "bipartisanship".

I am also weary of the no-strings-attached nature of this bill, of the powers it grants the Secretary of the Treasury, and can't help but to think that the golden retirements and other bonuses owed fat-cat executives would then be underwritten by us, the middle class taxpayers.

And please, someone tell McCain and Obama to stop promising "tax relief" for the middle class. There's not going to be any tax relief for anyone at our level of spending. It's all more lies. I am fed up with the lack of common sense and moral judgment demonstrated by all actors in this debacle.

But, what does the Church has to say about this, if anything. In fact, we have a lot to say about it, principled guidance that, if it had been followed, we would not find ourselves where we are today.

Relevant guidelines from the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church

338. Businesses should be characterized by their capacity to serve the common good of society through the production of useful goods and services. In seeking to produce goods and services according to plans aimed at efficiency and at satisfying the interests of the different parties involved, businesses create wealth for all of society, not just for the owners but also for the other subjects involved in their activity. Besides this typically economic function, businesses also perform a social function, creating opportunities for meeting, cooperating and the enhancement of the abilities of the people involved. In a business undertaking, therefore, the economic dimension is the condition for attaining not only economic goals, but also social and moral goals, which are all pursued together.

A business' objective must be met in economic terms and according to economic criteria, but the authentic values that bring about the concrete development of the person and society must not be neglected. In this personalistic and community vision, “a business cannot be considered only as a ‘society of capital goods'; it is also a ‘society of persons' in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company's activities or take part in such activities through their labour”.[707]

339. All those involved in a business venture must be mindful that the community in which they work represents a good for everyone and not a structure that permits the satisfaction of someone's merely personal interests. This awareness alone makes it possible to build an economy that is truly at the service of mankind and to create programmes of real cooperation among the different partners in labour...

349. The Church's social doctrine, while recognizing the market as an irreplaceable instrument for regulating the inner workings of the economic system, points out the need for it to be firmly rooted in its ethical objectives, which ensure and at the same time suitably circumscribe the space within which it can operate autonomously.[729] The idea that the market alone can be entrusted with the task of supplying every category of goods cannot be shared, because such an idea is based on a reductionist vision of the person and society.[730] Faced with the concrete “risk of an ‘idolatry' of the market”, the Church's social doctrine underlines its limits, which are easily seen in its proven inability to satisfy important human needs, which require goods that “by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities”,[731] goods that cannot be bought and sold according to the rule of the “exchange of equivalents” and the logic of contracts, which are typical of the market.

353. It is necessary for the market and the State to act in concert, one with the other, and to complement each other mutually. In fact, the free market can have a beneficial influence on the general public only when the State is organized in such a manner that it defines and gives direction to economic development, promoting the observation of fair and transparent rules,
and making direct interventions — only for the length of time strictly necessary [737] — when the market is not able to obtain the desired efficiency and when it is a question of putting the principle of redistribution into effect. There exist certain sectors in which the market, making use of the mechanisms at its disposal, is not able to guarantee an equitable distribution of the goods and services that are essential for the human growth of citizens. In such cases the complementarities of State and market are needed more than ever.

354. The State can encourage citizens and businesses to promote the common good by enacting an economic policy that fosters the participation of all citizens in the activities of production. Respect of the principle of subsidiarity must prompt public authorities to seek conditions that encourage the development of individual capacities of initiative, autonomy and personal responsibility in citizens, avoiding any interference which would unduly condition business forces.

With a view to the common good, it is necessary to pursue always and with untiring determination the goal of a proper equilibrium between private freedom and public action, understood both as direct intervention in economic matters and as activity supportive of economic development. In any case, public intervention must be carried out with equity, rationality and effectiveness, and without replacing the action of individuals, which would be contrary to their right to the free exercise of economic initiative. In such cases, the State becomes detrimental to society: a direct intervention that is too extensive ends up depriving citizens of responsibility and creates excessive growth in public agencies guided more by bureaucratic logic than by the goal of satisfying the needs of the person.[738]




Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

ISBN: 1574556924
ISBN-13: 9781574556926


Today we remember St. Jerome: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ"

From Today's Office of Readings
From a commentary on Isaiah by St Jerome

St. JeromeI interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of Gods, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.

No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvellous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Saviour of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah. Of these mysteries the author himself testifies when he writes: You will be given a vision of all things, like words in a sealed scroll. When they give the writings to a wise man, they will say: Read this. And he will reply: I cannot, for it is sealed. And when the scroll is given to an uneducated man and he is told: Read this, he will reply: I do not know how to read.

Should this argument appear weak to anyone, let him listen to the Apostle: Let two or three prophets speak, and let others interpret; if, however, a revelation should come to one of those who are seated there, let the first one be quiet. How can they be silent, since it depends on the Spirit who speaks through his prophets whether they remain silent or speak? If they understood what they were saying, all things would be full of wisdom and knowledge. But it was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears , but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says: It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father’, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.

Source: Universalis.com

Comments Feed Restored - Media Feed Lost - Google Shared Items Page Activated

Folks, I've restored the Comments Feed. You may now subscribe to the Comments stream via RSS/Atom. That means you are now able to follow all the comments that my readers leave in Vivificat and join in the conversation. Click here to access the new feed to subscribe or click on the symbol on the right above the "Comments Feed" caption.

Bad news: the Media Feed is dead. Ourmedia unceremoniously closed my account with all my audio files and three video files. I don't know if they ever attempted to contact me nor the reason for their decision. So...I am studying other options and will keep you posted. That was a lot of work which is now inaccessible. SadAngry

Vivificat! and Vivificat en Español are also available now via my Google Shared Items Page. I will share all my posts there as well as interesting posts from other blogs I follow that I think deserve wider dissemination. You may access my Shared Items Page here.

That's it for now!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Jesus is Lord!

Folks, this past weekend I had the undeserved honor of acting as a lector at Mass and also had the singular privilege of reading the Gospel - our Monsignor is legally blind and needs a huge magnifying glass to read the variable parts of the Liturgy, so he secured permission from the bishop to have the lectors read the Gospel, which he introduces and closes appropriately.

Nevertheless, the second reading for the XXVI Sunday in Ordinary Time, A Cycle, is a favorite of mine. From the Letter of St. Paul to the Phillipians, Chapter 2, verses 1 to 11:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(RSV)
Scholars see verses 6-11, starting on "...though he was in the form of God" until the end a New Testament hymn, sung perhaps in the Pauline communities, which the Apostle adapted for his Epistle knowing that his audience would be familiar with it. It is a clear case of Liturgy converging into Revelation!

The hymn speaks of the Mystery of the Incarnation with the technical language then available to Paul and his communities. Accordingly, Christ was spoken off as existing "in the form of God" ("hos en morphe theou") - a statement made of no one else in the entire Bible - He "emptied" Himself ("ekenoosen"), that is, without ceasing to exist in the form of God, he took our form, the human form, the form of a servant.

These verses confound the heck of those who go house by house ringing bells to tell you of their sublime discovery that Christ is not God but some sort of Angel; that his resurrection was not a bodily resurrection, and that only 144,000 will enter heaven to reign as "spirit creatures" with God.

I think this hymn, along with John 1:1-15 are the high marks of Christological teaching - the teaching about the Person of Jesus Christ - in the New Testament, for these verses clearly tell us that Jesus was One Person, fully God and fully Man. That's why his entrance into human history was and continues to be pivotal for all of us. That's why He and no other is "the end and seal of the prophets" because in Him, God himself revealed His nature and purpose to man. With all due respect to the angels - three of whom we honor specially today, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael - no angel did what God in Christ has done.

Finally, we are faced with the command that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The verse should be read in parallel with Isaiah 45:23,in which God, speaking through the prophet in the first person singular, says this:
By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. (NIV)
The adoration due to God alone is now to be rendered to Jesus "to the Glory of God the Father." Jesus is Lord - "kyrios" in Greek, the noun used to translate the Hebrew "adonai" reserved for God in the Hebrew Scriptures to be used in place of the Name "YHWH" who Paul now refers to as "God the Father"

Jesus Christ is Lord because He shares fully "in the form of God" in the nature of the inner life of the One God of Israel. This is the central claim of Christianity, what sets aside Jesus from anyone else.

He is the source of our felicity and joy. He and no one else. This is the main idea of this beautiful hymn which I've had treasured ever since I learn to understand it.

Yes! Amen! Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Democratic Analyst: Party Has Been Hijacked by Secularist Elites

Folks, this from the Catholic News Agency:

Denver, Sep 25, 2008 / 05:33 pm (CNA).- The Democratic Party has been hijacked by elites hostile to religion, said Mark Stricherz, author of the book "Why Democrats are Blue" and a Democrat himself, during the Casey Lecture delivered on Tuesday at the Archdiocese of Denver.

The Casey Series of Lectures was started by the Archdiocese of Denver in 2006 to promote Catholic thinking in political life, inspired by the life and political activism of the late Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey, a devout Catholic and a Democrat.

Stricherz, who has focused his investigation on the historical transition that turned the Democrats from a Catholic-friendly organization to the pro-abortion rights party it is today, explained the decisive role played in American politics by staunch Catholic Democrats like Gov. Casey, Robert Kennedy  and David Lawrence.

Read it all here.

Commentary. Fascinating and intriguing. I've been telling Democrats that I would be willing to engage them on some issues but only if they ditch their support for abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and other crackpot issues. But they insist upon doing an arithmetic of values such as this one:

"Democrat Candidate X may favor abortions rights but also social justice issues such as universal health care, s/he is antiwar, and shore up Social Security. That's three check marks on one column and a bad mark on another. Three trumps one, therefore, I will be voting for Democrat Candidate X."

Very slick!

This short-circuited moral logic simply won't do.

The Right to Life is the foundation of every single other right or social obligation. Building these other rights and duties upon something other than the Right to Life is to build on sand.

Congratulations Mark! You are on to something.

Bishop's address shocks gay and lesbian audience

Folks, this piece from the California Catholic Daily needs to be shared in toto:

“At least five members of the audience walked out”

Bishop Soto stuns national homosexual ministries conference

(Editor’s Note: For the complete text of the bishop’s speech, see related story in today’s edition, “It is sinful.”)

Bishop Jaime Soto - California Catholic Daily photo When two Catholics from Southern California learned that Sacramento Coadjutor Bishop Jaime Soto was to be the keynote speaker at the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries conference in Long Beach on Sept. 18, they decided to attend themselves to see and hear the talk in person. They say what they witnessed was a bishop who “courageously but gently” gave a clear presentation of Church teaching on sexuality.

[[Soto092608.jpg]]After California Catholic Daily reported on Bishop Soto’s plans to attend and speak at the conference (“Birds of a feather?” Sept. 15, 2008), many readers expressed disapproval or worry over how to interpret the soon-to-be Bishop of Sacramento’s decision. Bishop Soto will take over the diocese from retiring Bishop William Weigand on Nov. 30. The National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, based in Berkeley, is a network of local ministries that has the reputation of taking, at best, an ambiguous stance on the moral character of homosexuality and homosexual acts.

But there was noting ambiguous about Bishop Soto’s remarks to the group. “Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals, but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all,” Bishop Soto said. “For this reason, it is sinful. Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression."

At least five members of the audience walked out during the bishop’s address. When he finished speaking, there was general silence -- with only a very small number applauding.

The chairman of the conference then announced that the bishop would answer questions at a reception that would be held in another room. That led to widespread expressions of disapproval from members of the audience, who said they wanted to be able to express their responses immediately. It was agreed that those who wanted to speak would line up. The bishop was told twice by the chairman that he was free to leave if he wanted -- or to stay and listen. Bishop Soto stayed and sat quietly listening to every response.

A series of about eight speakers came to the microphone to express their unhappiness with what the bishop had said -- and what they felt he had not said. One woman said, in essence, "We know what the Church says. What we wanted you to talk about is the value of our lived experience as lesbian women and gay men."

Two speakers -- one man and one woman -- thanked the bishop for his address and voiced their agreement with what he had to say.

While the audience members were responding to the bishop’s remarks, a board member of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries came up to one of the tables in the room and said, "On behalf of the board, I apologize. We had no idea Bishop Soto was going to say what he said."

Commentary. My utmost support go to this courageous bishop who also will be the object of my most heartfelt prayers. Bishop Soto preached the Gospel "in and out of season" to an audience accustomed to receiving a free pass from other men and women "of religion".

If there were a "St. Paul Award" for courage in preaching, Bishop Soto would've earned it. Praised be Jesus for having given to the Church this courageous successor to his Apostles.

Intriguing mix of Gregorian chant and pop music

Gregorian is a German band, headed by Frank Peterson, performing Gregorian chant-inspired versions of modern pop and rock songs. Because it features both vocal harmony and instrumental accompaniment, the music cannot be considered true Gregorian chant. Here's a sample:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rabid Anti-Catholic arrested on suspicion of child pornography

Folks, this from CNN and numerous other news outlets:
Tony Alamo, evangelist and convicted tax evader, is seen in this Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008 booking photo released by the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, in Flagstaff, Ariz. Alamo, whose birth name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, has waived his right to fight extradition to Arkansas after his arrest on charges he took minors across state lines for sexual purposes. Alamo made a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Friday, Sept. 26, 2008. (CNN) -- Evangelist Tony Alamo was arrested Thursday in Flagstaff, Arizona, on charges related to a child porn investigation, an FBI spokesman said.

Tony Alamo is shown with his wife, Susan, in this undated photo from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries.

1 of 2 The 74-year-old founder and leader of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was arrested without incident at 2:45 p.m. (4:45 p.m. ET) as he was departing the Little America Hotel with his wife, said Manuel Johnson, spokesman for the FBI in Phoenix, Arizona.

The FBI, the Flagstaff Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety were involved in the arrest, he said.

Alamo was charged under a federal statute with having knowingly transported a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity, Johnson said.

Alamo, whose real name is Bernie Hoffman, was taken to Coconino County Jail in Flagstaff, where he is to have an initial appearance Friday in federal magistrate court, Johnson said.

Over the weekend, about 100 federal and state agents authorities raided Alamo's 15-acre compound near Texarkana, Arkansas, and took six children into temporary custody.
Commentary. Hoffman is a notorious Protestant Anti-Catholic of the rabid variety and ally of the infamous propagandist Jack T. Chick, author of hundreds of vile anti-Catholic tracts trusted by thousands of "Bible-believing" Christians whose mission in life is to steal souls from the One, True Church.

After so much raving and ranting by "Alamo," it comes as a supreme irony that he himself is suspected to be embroiled in the same kind of sins he was so eager and adept at accusing the Catholic Church of. I will not be surprised if he and/or his minions were now to accuse the Catholic Church of being behind the accusations.

Heck, since I am Catholic, and if there's such a "conspiracy," could someone please tell me where do I sign up for it?

The loud-mouths have a way of falling. Hard.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Political pendulum swings back to Obama

For now.

Folks, I continue my attempt at non-partisan political analysis during this election year by noting that, after the Palin craze of the last couple of weeks, the pendulum has swung back to Obama and that, once again, I believe he will win the election.

Regardless of what you think about this $700 billion taxpayer funded bail out we must recognize that when Americans start thinking with their pocketbooks, Obama benefits and that economic issues trump every other issue.

McCain's dramatic gesture of delaying the first presidential debate of the season in order to "work for the American people" is ultimately an empty gesture, IMHO, reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's stopping his campaign back in 1980 to "work for the release of the hostages." I remain highly skeptical when a candidate stops his campaign to go back and "work for us" when a crisis emerges. Since Carter this is invariably the mark of a loser.

McCain's selection of Palin as his running mate has made his candidacy competitive because of its symbolic cultural value. But that has receded into the background. Whether he was responsible in whole or in part of the economic policies that landed us where we are today, McCain will be blamed and the voters won't let him forget it.

McCain is running on his past, whereas Obama is running on fluff. Fluff will win out in the end because McCain's past is will be forever tied to the state of the economy while fluff still offers some hope to all.

Caveat emptor: my analysis may change again next week depending on what the candidates say or do in the next 72 hours.

P.S. Oh, and that "tax relief" offered by Obama and McCain? You can forget about it. We're all going to pay for the ineptitude and greed of many.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Meekness

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

It is indispensable to restrain our anger and to practice meekness. So too it is humility of heart that will make us gentle in our dealings with others. Only God can see the human heart. We can only see the exterior of other people. And they can only see us externally. Gentleness is love made manifest. Gentleness is charity shown. Gentleness is sincere love shown by the kindness that we manifest. There is such a thing as practicing charity all right by making the person realize that he or she is making an imposition on our “charity.” We can practice charity and actually make the person wither, over the way we practice what we condescendingly call charity. I believe one of the hardest lessons to learn in life is the fact that whenever we practice charity the person toward whom we show our love, hear it, is our benefactor. Do you hear it? Giving us the opportunity of proving and showing our love for God by practicing charity toward those whom God puts into our lives for this one fundamental purpose that by loving them we might prove to God that we love Him. All of these are powerful motives for not only being charitable internally but showing our love in kindness, gentleness, externally. And let me tell you what people want from us is not only our charity in meeting their needs but the manifestation of our charity in the kindness and gentleness we show them.

Before we go on I am willing to point something out that we are liable to miss because of the words misunderstanding of what gentleness and what meekness mean. I really believe for many people meekness is weakness and gentleness is cowardice. It is not too many people, surely not those who don’t share our faith, who realize that in order to be meek and gentle we must be strong. You won’t expect what I am going to say next. We are indeed to be meek and gentle, restrain our anger, show kindness, but remember it is not charity and it is not following the gentle Christ if we indiscriminately show meekness and kindness. Remember Jesus couldn’t have been more gentle or meek when He spoke to the scribes and Pharisees. Remember what He told them? Remember the way He drove the money changers out of the temple? Remember? In other words there is such a thing as righteous indignation and sinless anger. I mean it. Parents who have authority over their children it would be sheer folly on their parts to not reprove or reprimand and rebuke. Recall the occasion when Christ told Simon you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. Go back to the Gospel of St. Matthew. Read on the next few verses. The Savior foretold His passion the man who was just told he would be the rock on whom Christ would build His church told Jesus, Lord don’t do it. Don’t go to Jerusalem and have those Pharisees get hold of you. Do you know what Jesus told Peter? The man whom He had just called the rock, He called him, Satan. This is the gentle Jesus. There are some devastating crimes being committed in the world today. Crimes against God and against man in the degree to which we are in authority, have a right to do so and a corresponding responsibility we are indeed to be meek and gentle, but we are not to be afraid, to correct, and rebuke and in this too we are following Jesus Christ.

Please, continue reading here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Are Theologians Saying About Christology?

Word Incarnate

By Fr. Robert P. Imbelli

Pressed to choose but one New Testament verse to recapitulate the Good News, the Gospel within the Gospel, one might opt for the climax of the Prologue of St. John (1:14):

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

The Word, the eternal Son of the Father, who precedes and “pre-contains” all creation, became part of created reality, entered into human history, lived a complete human life, became one of us—even unto death.

So stupendous is this mystery that already in the first century some demurred. Surely it was unseemly for the divine to enter into the muck of humanity, confined in a body, subject to the indignities and torments to which flesh is heir. So began the perennial Gnostic revulsion against the flesh, and especially against the flesh-taking of the Holy, Immortal One.

The First Letter of John stands at the origin of the ecclesial tradition of discernment of spirits. It reiterates with insistence: “Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Messiah has come in the flesh belongs to God” (1 Jn 4:1-2). The incarnation of the Word is not adventitious to God’s saving action; it is the very heart of salvation.

The Letter to the Hebrews sealed the canonical New Testament’s incarnational conviction. “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb 5:7-9).

Almost 400 years later, the great Christological Council of Chalcedon articulates, in the language of its culture and time, this core discernment and persuasion of the New Testament. Jesus the Christ is “perfect [Greek teleion] in divinity, perfect in humanity, truly God and truly human, of a rational soul and body.” In a famous formulation the council confesses the one Lord Jesus Christ “in two natures with no confusion, no change, no division, no separation...the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being.” Here the mystery of the Incarnation is neither explained nor reduced, but confessed and celebrated. Chalcedon enunciates the “deep grammar” that governs the church’s preaching, catechesis and theological reflection.

Please, read it all here. (You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read it)

Bush Administration opposes UN Resolution on "Defamation of Religions"

Resolution will boost Islam at the expenses of Christianity in free societies while strengthening dhimittude in Muslim lands.

Folks, this was reported by Catholic Exchange:

The Bush administration Friday (Sept 19, 2008) strongly denounced Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) efforts at the United Nations to pass “defamation of religions” resolutions that undermine free speech and inter-religious dialogue, and lead to the criminalization of blasphemy laws.

“[W]e are concerned by efforts to promote a so-called defamation of religions concept, which has been the focus of numerous resolutions passed at the United Nations. Instead of protecting religious practice and promoting tolerance, this concept seeks to limit freedom of speech and that could undermine the standards of international religious freedom,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Friday on the release of the US State Department’s release of the 2008 Report on International Religious (click here).

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been in the forefront of groups actively opposing “defamation of religions” resolutions, said the U.S. government opposition to “defamation of religions” resolutions is welcome.

“The Bush administration has been working on this issue behind the scenes for sometime. This very strong public stand opposing the resolutions, while the General Assembly is in session, indicates the seriousness of the issue,” said Bennett Graham, International Programs Officer of the Becket Fund. “The Becket Fund heartily applauds Secretary Rice, Ambassador John Hanford and the Office of International Religious Freedom at the State Department for their opposition to the defamation resolution and for pushing this issue off the back burner and into the forefront of international diplomatic concerns.”

Mr. Graham said that he hoped President Bush would repeat the administration’s opposition to “defamation of religions” resolutions, when he addresses the General Assembly this week.

Ambassador Hanford laid out the dangers of the defamation of religions resolution in his remarks:

“We take issue with efforts by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and its members like Pakistan and Egypt, in promoting the problematic concept of defamation of religions at the United Nations,” he said. “This flawed concept seeks to weaken the freedoms of religion and expression by restricting the rights of individuals to share their views or criticize religions; in particular, Islam. The OIC’s approach to defamation of religions is inconsistent with international human rights law, and is an attempt to export the blasphemy laws found in several OIC countries to the international level.”

The Becket Fund, which has consultative status at the United Nations, has submitted legal analysis to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights on defamation of religion resolutions (click here).

The Becket Fund's issues brief explains the following reasons for their opposition to this resolution:

Major criticisms of the “defamation of religions” resolutions include: the protection of a religion (essentially an ideology) instead of an individual; the complete conflation of race and religion; the erosion of freedom of expression as a fundamental freedom in favor of protecting the sensibilities of listeners; the narrow focus on Islam; and overbroad and unclear language, including in the use of the term “defamation.” While religious intolerance and hatred against any religious group are issues that need to be addressed, the passage of “defamation of religions” resolutions at the UN actually restricts more freedoms than it protects.

Commentary. This is what I see: this resolution will empower Muslims in non-Muslim states to claim a grievance every time say, a Christian-Muslim apologetic exchange occurs in which the Christian party impeaches the prophetic credentials of Muhammad or the inspiration of the Koran, while continuing the ongoing dhimmitude of Christian in Muslim-majority societies, on the ground that "to tell the truth about Christ and Christianity is no defamation" or variations of this themes. In the end, the resolution is geared to guarantee the supremacy of Islam in Islamic society, and the criminalization of any kind of controversial speech against Islam in non-Muslim societies at the expense of individual freedoms and conscience.

It's good for the Bush Administration to trash this U.N. Resolution and I hope that the rest of the Free World also votes against it. This is an attempt by Islamic politicians to sneak a Meccan Horse in our backyards. Let me give you an example:

Let me state clearly and unambiguously that Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was not a prophet nor is the Koran the inspired Word of God. For that matter, Joseph Smith was not a Prophet either, nor is the Book of Mormon,, or Doctrines and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price, etc are the inspired Word of God either. Neither is Sun Myung Moon and his Divine Principles, nor Mary Baker Eddy and her Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and on and on. The list of people claiming to be "the Prophet" is quite long and undistinguished.

Holy Tradition, handed down in writing (the Bible) and orally (in the Liturgy and Sacraments) are the totality of Divine Revelation, sealed once and for all at the death of the last Apostle. That's it! No one else is needed to amplify, clarify, or add to the Word of God.

Were this U.N. Resolution to pass, and the U.S. become signatories, and the enabled into local law, I could be sued for libel and even thrown in jail. Not here, not now, not ever.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

There is no truth to the rumor . . .

 For the record:

Sarah Palin did not call dinosaurs ''lizards of Satan.'' Barack Obama is not a Muslim. That list of books that Palin supposedly wants to ban is a fake. Obama doesn't refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The picture of Palin wearing a flag bikini and hefting a gun is a fraud. Obama is, too, a U.S. citizen. Palin doesn't want Alaska to secede...

Commentary. Good, balanced piece by Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., entitled There is no truth to the rumor . . . He provides an antidote against thinking the worse about a political candidate without verifying the facts. The Internet has become a fertile ground for lies passing as verified facts and then forwarded enough times to become obvious "truths." Read the whole column here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to lose a Christian reader

By making light of their faith, that is.

Folks, Umar Lee, writing for IslamOnline.Net in his Muslim Letter from the American Heartland column, writes about his fears of Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism, because “If one were to look at the biggest haters of Islam in the leadership of American Christianity, the majority of them are Pentecostals.” He said so in his piece, Palin's Frightening Pentecostalism.

I won’t take issue with Mr. Lee’s characterization and fear of Pentecostals. I have my own theological issues vis-à-vis Pentecostals. But I do take exception to this statement:
Pentecostalism is only about a century old but it is the fastest growing branch of Christianity in America and throughout the world. Its hallmark is having a strict interpretation of the Bible and lively worship services in which believers speak in "tongues" after supposedly being anointed by what is known as the holy spirit.
It may be that Mr. Lee is unaware but Christians capitalize Holy Spirit because it is the proper name of a personal Being, namely God. The Holy Spirit is not a “what,” is a “Who.” This view is not exclusive of Pentecostals, but a core belief of historical Christianity.

Of course, I allow that Mr. Lee may be writing from his own “faith perspective” and I also grant that he’s not alone in minimizing the personality of the Holy Spirit. Jehovah’s Witnesses, like Muslims, are Unitarians when it comes to their view of the Godhead; they too minimize the Holy Spirit and in their peculiar translation of the Bible they render His name in lower case initials.

Let me give a counterexample. Perhaps I should write from my own faith perspective too about the “alleged prophet Muhammad, supposed seal of the prophets.” Muhammad’s prophetic credentials or lack thereof rather, are fully consonant with my Christian beliefs but I also know that at that point I will lose any Muslim reader, just as Mr. Lee lost me when he talked about the “holy spirit.” If my purpose is to convince and persuade, I will allow the readers to reach their own conclusions without having to hide my opinions behind various well-placed modifiers. I would refrain from using "red flag" terms in order to influence, convince, and persuade.

If Mr. Lee’s intent was to create bridges to others who fear Pentecostals, I submit to you that he failed. As a Catholic I have more in common with Pentecostals than with Muslims and I am not as skeptical of Pentecostalism as I am of Islam. Nor can I hold anything but a jaundiced view of those who make no effort to understand who the Holy Spirit is.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joseph Ratzinger Study Forum

Folks, Father Pablo Blanco Sarto is a theologian of the University of Navarra and a specialist in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI. he is also the creator and organizar of the del Foro de Estudio Joseph Ratzinger ("Joseph Ratzinger Study Forum) which makes available various sources so that its readers could become better acquainted with the thought of the German Pope. Most of the sources are in Spanish but there are some in English which I now list here. For the full listing of publications in Spanish, visit Vivificat in Spanish or the study forum's website:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Skeptic's Prayer

Dr. Peter Kreeft

"God, I don't know whether you even exist. I'm a skeptic. I doubt. I think you may be only a myth.

But I'm not certain (at least not when I'm completely honest with myself).

So if you do exist, and if you really did promise to reward all seekers, you must be hearing me now.

So I hereby declare myself a seeker, a seeker of the truth, whatever it is and wherever it is.

I want to know the truth and live the truth. If you are the truth, please help me."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"My God is hanging there"

Richard Leonard, S.J.

At the morning parade in Dachau on 22nd July 1943, six prisoners were found to have escaped. Retribution was swift and brutal. Randomly selected, 12 people were hanged. As the other prisoners watched their 12 fellow inmates gasp for breath, someone in the crowd cried out, "Where is God?" Silence descended on the yard. The 12 bodies were now in spasm, jerking and struggling for breath. As everyone watched, the voice came again, this time more urgently, "Where is God now?" "My God," another voice yelled back, "My God is hanging there."

This sort of faith is what today's Gospel is all about. Christianity is the only world religion that holds that God took our flesh, suffered, died and was raised to life.

It is certainly true that we have domesticated the scandal of the cross, even to the point that, these days, it dangles from various parts of people's anatomies. I often wonder, had Jesus been
electrocuted to death, whether we would have little golden chairs around our necks? But while we have tried to tame the reality of Jesus' tortuous hours in Jerusalem, the reality of the cross in each
of our lives cannot be so commercially soothed.

Christians are not meant to be smiling masochists. We are not meant to be lovers of pain - just bearers of it.

We are invited, by Jesus, to see the burden of suffering in our lives as an opportunity to be faithful to his example. It also gives us an opportunity to be in solidarity with all those who suffer in our
world. This is easier said than done. When we suffer in our daily lives, thoughts of others rarely come to mind easily, but it can be consoling to keep our suffering in context and know that we are not facing it alone.

We are encouraged to see that suffering can be an opportunity to grow in love. If we understand our crosses as our particular schools of love, then we learn more about ourselves and God and are able to help others carry their crosses as well.

Carrying our cross, however, is not just about bearing physical, personal, sexual, spiritual or emotional pain; it can also be in the sharing of our gifts and talents, our love and compassion. In every
gift there is a burden. Following Christ's example we are called to share our gifts heroically, with anyone in need, even to the end.

Some people complain these days that God is often presented as a big marshmallow, all sweet and soft. Today's Gospel shows the edge involved in being a follower of Christ. I don't know of a more
demanding vocation in our world than that of taking up the cross of being faithful, loving and selfless.

And while we are invited to take up our cross and follow Jesus, we never do it alone. If we have the eyes to see it and the humility to accept it, Christ, literally, hangs in there with us every step of the way.

So let's recall the first cross from which we take comfort as we bear our own crosses. "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Everyone has a place in the Church: a critical reappraisal of “traditional” Catholicism

What I owe to my Catholic “traditionalist” brethren.

Folks: that diamond among the charcoals at the National Catholic Reporter, journalist John Allen, has written a very interesting and balanced analysis of the Pope’s words regarding the place of so-called traditionalists in the Church, entitled Pope in France: Traditionalists deserve 'a place in the church' which I think you ought to read. He does a great job capturing the Pope’s intentions and the concerns of both the bishops, particularly the French bishops, and so-called traditionalist Catholics. Allen analyzed this key quote from the Pope’s Address to the French Bishops:

Liturgical worship is the supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, just as it is of catechetical teaching. Your duty to sanctify the faithful people, dear Brothers, is indispensable for the growth of the Church. In the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", I was led to set out the conditions in which this duty is to be exercised, with regard to the possibility of using the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) in addition to that of Pope Paul VI (1970). Some fruits of these new arrangements have already been seen, and I hope that, thanks be to God, the necessary pacification of spirits is already taking place. I am aware of your difficulties, but I do not doubt that, within a reasonable time, you can find solutions satisfactory for all, lest the seamless tunic of Christ be further torn. Everyone has a place in the Church. Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home, and never rejected. God, who loves all men and women and wishes none to be lost, entrusts us with this mission by appointing us shepherds of his sheep. We can only thank him for the honour and the trust that he has placed in us. Let us therefore strive always to be servants of unity!

Allen’s article has allowed me to rethink and reformulate my own stance before the “traditionalist” Catholic phenomenon.

Why do I refer to them as “so-called ‘traditionalists’”?

By the way, I refer to traditionalists as “so-called traditionalists” not because I question in any way their loyalty to the Holy See and the Latin tradition, or because I want to mock them, but because I consider the “traditionalist” label inexact as commonly applied. I consider myself a “traditionalist” without necessarily agreeing with all the points traditionally ascribed to the traditionalist agenda – pun fully intended.

For example, I embrace Vatican II lock, stock and barrel, that is Vatican II as expressed in the Conciliar documents and as interpreted by those charged to interpret those documents, the Pope foremost and principally, and then the bishops in union with him. The fact that I need to qualify my stance also says something, for I conscientiously reject any attempt at “renewal” that will compromise the Church with the spirit of the world, with theological and liturgical fads, and with the uncritical importation of polarizing ideologies such as post modernism, sexism, genderism and kindred ideologies in the name of the “spirit” of Vatican II.

The thing is, I embrace a wider notion of “tradition” which takes into consideration the sources of revelation and the full contribution of the Eastern Churches that many advocates of the Latin tradition are either hesitant to or unwilling to effect. In the paradigm in which I choose to operate, I see Tradition coterminous with “Divine Revelation”: its written channel is the Bible, its oral channel is the interpretative continuum that provides the Bible with its Catholic “sense” which is in turn found in the consensus of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the Magisterium, but even more immediately, in the Liturgy itself.

The Liturgy is for me “the fifth Gospel,” a separate revelatory channel in her own right and its structural core inviolable and unchangeable. But I’ll talk about this some other time because this needs some explanation. What I am driving at now is that I don’t reduce “tradition” solely to its Latin expression and then look for what the East says for confirmation. Rather, I want to know what the Christian East says on its own right and then see how both viewpoints engage and enrich each other. This endeavor is not a typical preoccupation in Latin traditionalist circles, but one that I feel rounds me up as a Catholic Christian.

There also seems to be a discontinuity in the way many Latin traditionalists — I am going to use that term from now on — receive the Second Vatican Council. Allen notes that many traditionalists are suspicious of Vatican II. I have observed this on occasion. This hostility often degenerates into a painstaking parsing and nuancing of the Conciliar documents to the point of making the Council unintelligible, unnecessary, and therefore as an irrelevant event in the Church. Some of them follow weird, unapproved “Marian apparitions” in which they find heavenly sanctions to their critique, or unwarranted reinterpretations of approved apparitions such as Fatima. I don’t buy into that and I am convinced that the credibility of traditionalists of this sort continues to suffer from this suspicion and from their attempt at setting Vatican II aside though pseudo-intellectual casuistry. Allen’s observation that “the resurgence of traditionalism here has sometimes been a source of heartburn for the French bishops, who privately complain that traditionalists are cantankerous and resistant to authority” also echoes here in the United States in the hearts of too many bishops, and that’s because of this very reason.

My one personal horror story and frustrations

To be charitable, we at least have to understand where this deep-seated suspicion, if not contempt, felt by Latin traditionalists comes from: it comes from the horror of years of liturgical “renewal” that often consisted in liturgical experimentation that often lacked a clear connection to what came before, accompanied by little or no catechesis, leading to extreme shortcomings in the celebration of the Holy Mass. If the traditionalists of this sort have taught me something, I owe them a heightened sensitivity to these disconnects, disorders, and abuses.

We all know the horror stories. Let me share one of my own.

In the early 1990’s I was stationed at a military base in San Antonio, Texas. I attended Mass regularly at the base chapel. One day a new priest arrived, an African American man I’ll call “Fr. Troy” – not his real name. His idea of “renewal” was to make the Mass “Afro-centric.” This entailed throwing everything out the window except for the Canon of the Mass which he left pretty much intact. For example, he replaced the Kyrie with Amazing Grace. If you feel that the hymnography put together by the OCP is banal and light, you ought to be thankful that they do not include songs by Whitney Houston. Some of her songs became staple post-communion hymns during Fr. Troy’s celebrations, often sung by guest singers from a local Protestant church’s choir. Fr. Troy himself at times discarded the Roman vestments that were indicative of his dignity as a Catholic priest, preferring to garb himself with the white robes of a Muslim mufti.

I was unable to verbalize a single protest against this priest’s actions for three reasons: I didn’t know how, I didn’t feel like it, and I didn’t feel I had any recourse. The Military Archdiocese is widespread and somehow reporting the priest to the Archbishop appeared to me as somehow short-circuiting the chain of command. What’s worse, I wasn’t well-educated on the origins, meaning, and end of the Liturgical Renewal, therefore, I thought this liturgical disaster was somehow a licit manifestation of liturgical renewal and that, therefore, I had no other resource but to go to a civilian parish off-base, which I did.

I went to St. Jude’s which had at the time a 4 PM Mass where the musical accompaniment was provided by a “mariachi choir”. It was very lively indeed, and culturally more intelligible to me. Yet I knew there was an inconsistency in my own thought, because, isn’t this “mariachi Mass,” I asked myself, but another valid manifestation of “inculturation” and of “diversity” within “unity”? In which way was this better than Fr. Troy’s “Afro-Centric” Mass? Then I answered myself that here, in this “Mexican Mass”, the priest did not violate the structure of the Mass, or changed the prayers, or dressed like an Aztec priest in order to reassert his “cultural heritage.” The choir responses captured the words of the prayers without modification. It was still a very recognizable novus ordo Roman Rite Mass.

On the other hand, Fr. Troy’s Afro-Centrism, besides his forays into Muslim dress, did not represent any given African culture, but African-American pop culture. The Mass at St. Jude’s captured the deeply-felt attitude of an entire Catholic nation, but Fr. Troy’s Mass was a pathetic effort to reshape the Mass into a pop culture psycho-drama which would then be “appealing” to a segment of the faithful long ignorant of the greater Catholic Tradition, East or West, Latin, Greek, or vernacular, or even truly African, and this is only if we focus on the material damage Fr. Troy inflicted upon the Liturgy, not to speak of the spiritual damage he inflicted upon others, the Church, and upon himself.

A critical reappraisal of “traditionalist” Catholics

My interactions with Latin traditionalists have made me want to reconnect with my Catholic roots, but that comes with a twist. You may be surprised to learn that I grew up attending the “new” Mass and that I did not attend what is now known as the extraordinary form of the Mass until my late thirties and even then I attended it more out of curiosity than of an unconscious need that I was somehow missing “something.” Today, my appreciation to the extraordinary form has increased and enjoy it thoroughly in the few occasions when I have been able to attend it.

The faith I reconnected with was the faith of my youth, which I first experienced within the post-Conciliar Church and the “new Mass”, ably led and celebrated by my local ordinary at the time, Bishop Juan Fremiot Torres Oliver of Ponce, Puerto Rico. I saw no abuses at Mass as I was growing up. Our bishop described himself as a “Vatican II conservative.” He had attended the last session of the Council, and although he placed no restrictions on the vernacular Mass, some things were clearly “leftover” and therefore, clearly connected with the usus antiquor. Under his leadership, the transition to the novus ordo was orderly and intelligible to me, more so than what I’ve found it in many places here in the U.S. Mainland.

Today, Latin traditionalists have helped me understand what a liturgical abuse consists of, and realize that the vague sense of uneasiness I felt when, say, Fr. Troy said his Mass, or when banal songs or hymns are used at Liturgy, or when I discovered that the sacred vessels were made of the wrong material, or when the church itself was rearranged in such a way that the Tabernacle was shoved into a corner and the altars were made into perfect squares and no longer occupied a central space in the Church; or when I heard the words of the Creed or of the prayers changed to satisfy a priest’s whim, that my uneasiness was justified, that I shouldn’t see all these things as somehow in accord with the post-Conciliar Liturgical Renewal, but that they were, and continue to be, clearly abuses. Foremost, I also became aware that I had recourse, that I had options, and that I deserved a hearing.

I owe to my relations with Latin traditionalists a more educated, more developed sense of a what a well executed Roman Rite ought to be in either of its two expressions, but even more so in the now “Ordinary Form” of the Missal of Paul VI. They have given me the conceptual apparatus and vocabulary from which I can critique shortcomings in the celebration of either expression of the Roman Rite.

In these my mature years I have become convinced of the wisdom of “say the black, do the red.” A simple obedience to this rubric would have made Fr. Troy’s liberties and in fact, all likely-minded experimentation, quite impossible.

That’s why I agree with the Pope that the Latin traditionalists need to be accepted and embraced as full Catholics, and not feared. We need to allow their spirit and finesse to reenter the entire Church. Of course, they have to wrestle with their own temptations and shortcomings too, as we have seen, but it will be better for them and for all of us that they do so within the Church and not in some schismatic outfit well outside of her.

Their effect is now being felt. I haven’t personally seen egregious abuses since the early 1990s during Fr. Troy’s experiments. But much remains to be done in terms of language, hymnography, music, and church architecture in order to bring to bear Pope Benedict’s idea of a “hermeneutic of continuity” in the full spectrum of the Church’s liturgical action.

True renewal will not be achieved without a living connection to what came before. I humbly submit to any one in a position of authority that Latin traditionalists have a just place in the Church, that they should not be discouraged, and that the full expanse of the Church’s treasures should be rediscovered and once again shared with all. Their contribution should be seen as an integral part of the Post-Conciliar renewal and not as something foreign or inimical to it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

We celebrate today the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) we honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts, beginning with the miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem -- the same day that two churches built at the site of Calvary by Constantine were dedicated.

The observance of the Feast of the Exaltation (probably from a Greek word meaning "bringing to light") of the Cross has been celebrated by Christians on September 14 ever since. In the Western Church, the feast came into prominence in the seventh century, apparently inspired by the recovery of a portion of the Cross, said to have been taken from Jerusalem the Persians, by the Roman emperor Heraclius in 629.

Christians "exalt" the Cross of Christ as the instrument of our salvation. Adoration of the Cross is, thus, adoration of Jesus Christ, the God Man, who suffered and died on this Roman instrument of torture for our redemption from sin and death. The cross represents the One Sacrifice by which Jesus, obedient even unto death, accomplished our salvation. The cross is a symbolic summary of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ -- all in one image.

The Cross -- because of what it represents -- is the most potent and universal symbol of the Christian faith. It has inspired both liturgical and private devotions: for example, the Sign of the Cross, which is an invocation of the Holy Trinity; the "little" Sign of the Cross on head, lips and heart at the reading of the Gospel; praying the Stations (or Way) of the Cross; and the Veneration of the Cross by the faithful on Good Friday by kissing the feet of the image of Our Savior crucified.

Placing a crucifix (the cross with an image of Christ's body upon it) in churches and homes, in classrooms of Catholic schools and in other Catholic institutions, or wearing this image on our persons, is a constant reminder -- and witness -- of Christ's ultimate triumph, His victory over sin and death through His suffering and dying on the Cross.

We remember Our Lord's words, "He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it." (Mt 10:38,39). Meditating on these words we unite ourselves -- our souls and bodies -- with His obedience and His sacrifice; and we rejoice in this inestimable gift through which we have the hope of salvation and the glory. (Source: Women for Faith and Family)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saint John Chrysostom, One of the Great Fathers of the Church's Social Doctrine

by Pope Benedict XVI

Source: Houston Catholic Worker

Apropos of his feast today.

Saint John Chrysostom The life and teachings of St. John Chrysostom, Holy Bishop and Teacher, resound in every century and even today elicit universal admiration. It can be said that John of Antioch, nicknamed "Chrysostom", that is, "golden-mouthed", because of his eloquence, is also still alive today because of his works. An anonymous copyist left in writing that "they cross the whole globe like flashes of lightening".

Blessed John XXIII, who underscored Chrysostom's deep under- standing of the intimate connection between the Eucharistic liturgy and solicitude for the universal Church, proclaimed him Patron of the Second Vatican Council.

He was born in about the year 349 A.D. in Antioch, Syria (today Antakya in Southern Turkey).

He was baptized in 368 and trained for the ecclesiastical life by Bishop Meletius, who instituted him as lector in 371.

After attending the A s ceterius, a sort of seminary in Antioch, he withdrew for four years to the hermits on the neighboring Mount Silpius. He extended his retreat for a further two years, living alone in a cave under the guidance of an "old hermit". In that period, he dedicated himself unre-servedly to meditating on "the laws of Christ", the Gospels and especially the Letters of Paul. Having fallen ill, he found it impossible to care for himself unaided, and therefore had to return to the Christian community in Antioch (cf. Palladius, Dialogue on the Life of St John Chrysostom, 5).

Intimacy with the Word of God, cultivated in his years at the hermitage, had developed in him an irresistible urge to preach the Gospel, to give to others what he himself had received in his years of meditation. The missionary ideal thus launched him into pastoral care, his heart on fire.

Between 378 and 379, he returned to the city. He was ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, and became a famous preacher in his city's churches.

For the 12 years of his ministry as a priest in the Antiochean Church, John deeply distinguished himself by his eminent skill at interpreting the Sacred Scriptures in a way that the faithful could understand. In his preaching, he strove zealously to strengthen the unity of the Church, reinvigorating the Christian identity in his listeners at a time in history when the Church was threatened both from within and without. He rightly intuited that Christian unity depends above all on a true understanding of the central mysteries of the Church's faith: the Most Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation of the Divine Word. Well aware, however, of the difficulties of these mysteries, John spared no effort in making the Church's Magisterium accessible to the simple people in her assembly, both in Antioch and later also in Constantinople. Nor did he omit to also address the dissenters, preferring to treat them with patience rather than coercion since he believed that in order to correct a theological error, "nothing is more effective than moderation and kindliness."

Please, continue reading here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Conversation with a New Atheist

Christopher Hitchens stared down – again

Folks, Michael Novak, writing for The Catholic Thing, share with us a number of objections raised by Christopher Hitchens in a live debate (now online) with Dinesh D'Souza which I think you all ought to read and/or watch. Here's an excerpt:

The burden of proof is heavier on believers who claim to know that God exists, who in fact know what God wants, and who are friends with the Guy.

Sorry, Christopher, the burden of discovering the truth about who we are falls equally on all human beings. No one escapes responsibility for deciding about that, and then living accordingly.

As for your second point, knowing what God wants is not too difficult, in a very general sense. The God of Judaism and Christianity asks us to love Him with full integrity: with all one's heart and mind and soul; and to love all humans, His children, with the same love. He also wants us to keep His Commandments.

Knowing what God wants in any particular instance, in this particular exchange or at this particular grave and insistent moment of decision, is by no means as easy. That is why most human beings pray – to compose themselves and to try to be as clear-eyed and self-critical as they can. In this way, they try to perceive and to interpret the subtle signals that are abundant in concrete reality itself. The first principle of morality, Pascal writes, is to think clearly. The second is to act according to what one sees…

Read how Dinesh defeats once again the hubris of a popular neoatheist preacher at the The Catholic Thing – and weep or cheer as the case may be.

Seven years

Today I remember the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, and over Pennsylvania of seven years ago.

Words cannot convey what I feel.

I can only come up with silence...and determination.

Let us pray for the eternal rest of all the victims and for the comfort of all the survivors and their families.

And for our country for it is in need of serious prayer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Russian Orthodox official supports Moscow’s neoimperialism

Folks, this according to Spero News:

A senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church has made a scathing attack on Western countries and has said they should not impose their standards on other nations. "We should have a strong State and a strong military, for we would then have the will and ability to repel any invasion against our way of life and interests, and our ability to influence events developing in the world," said the Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations.

In an interview broadcast on Russia's Soyuz television channel, the church official urged his country to defend "its free, original political choice" and reject Western models, "setting its laws and rules the way which is natural for our nation, its destiny, mentality and historical ways".

Please, continue reading here.

Commentary. This is a great example that shows why the Orthodox Churches are handicapped when it comes to self-criticism and to stand up prophetically in the world. This impediment is their propensity to surrender the universal to the particular, to become mere extensions of their homelands' regimes, to exalt the national at the expense of the Catholic or universal. Here we have an Orthodox churchman basically blessing the invasion and dismemberment of another country while blaming everyone else but themselves.

I find it obscene that a churchman whores himself so basely to the interest of the state – and I mean, any state, whatever the situation. Yet, the national character of each Orthodox Church makes them particularly vulnerable to this sort of temptation.

For the Church's mission is to preach the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom "not of this world." It is not the Church's job to be a cheerleader for secular governments. All governments, all policies, are to be judged by the standards set by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a legitimate role in shaping Russia's future, in the rechristianizing of its culture and national mores, and reviving what militant atheism did to them for so long. What they can't do is to cheer their government, right or wrong, much less at the expense of non-Russians. This is a lesson that our own bishops in the U.S. learned in spades during the Cold War. It is high time that the Russians learn the same lesson, something that will be very difficult for the Russian Orthodox Church to do since so many of them collaborated with the Communist Regime during the dark years of the Soviet State and none of them have been held accountable.

Fr. Chaplin, shame on you.

The late Jesuit Father Robert Drinan: the priest who absolved pro-abortion politicians

[Note: the following is a rework of Fr. Brinan's obituary published in Vivificat on January 29, 2007.]

He left behind a vast legacy of disobedience, scandal, and legally-sanctioned contempt for the life of the unborn.

Father Robert Drinan, S.J. (+2007) Father Robert Drinan was a lawyer, self-styled human rights activist, and one-time Democrat U.S. Representative from Massachusetts. He was also a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Fr. Drinan many accomplishments include filing the bill to impeach President Richard Nixon in 1973—although years later he would argue strenuously against the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. In the late 1990's, Fr. Drinan scandalized the Catholic world when he supported President Clinton's veto of the Partial Abortion bill, arguing that the brutal "dilation and extraction" method is sometimes medically necessary. Fr. Drinan went so far as to demand "that Congress include an exception to allow the use of the partial-birth procedure if a doctor deemed it necessary to preserve the "health" of the mother--a vague phrase which pro-lifers long ago realized could be used to justify practically any abortion."

The largest anti-abortion organization in the US, the National Right to Life Committee, has documented Drinan's virtually perfect pro-abortion voting record and the way in which his votes were used by other legislators to justify their own support of the practice. A fundraising letter mailed during Fr. Drinan's last congressional run by the National Abortion Rights Action League, denounced the pro-life movement in the strongest terms and cited Drinan as a friend whose re-election to Congress was essential to the abortion cause. Catholic World News has reprinted a detailed exposé written by Mr. James Hitchcock in 1996, back then a historian at St. Louis University, and a founder of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, in which he examined the thread of obfuscation, disingenuousness, and purposeful misunderstanding that enabled Fr. Drinan to tenuously justify his partisan election run and his dissent from his superiors.

According to Mr. Hitchcock, Fr. Drinan’s "departure from Congress hardly marked his departure from politics, as in due course he became president of the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and remained politically involved in other ways. His partisanship became increasingly shrill during the l980s, as he accused the administration of President Ronald Reagan of destroying American liberties and made strong personal attacks on the President’s character. He also became increasingly vituperative in his criticisms of the pro-life movement, and as head of the ADA sent out a fundraising letter specifically urging the moral necessity of electing pro-abortion candidates to Congress." Mr. Hitchcock wryly observed that "…progressive-minded Jesuits always hailed Pedro Arrupe as an enlightened man who was leading the Society precisely in these new directions. But as the Drinan case shows, even he could be ignored or defied when he did not live up to the expectations of the people he was supposed to be leading. Thus in making it possible for Drinan to run for Congress, his local superiors were also weakening the authority of the Jesuit General, a result which may have been more than merely incidental." Mr. Hitchcock concluded:

In l970 abortion had not yet become a partisan issue; there were many prominent pro-life Democrats. However, as the party moved toward an implacably pro-abortion position, and the number of pro-life Democrats steadily dwindled, Drinan's example was consistently cited as justification. How could any layman--especially one who was not a Catholic--be faulted for supporting abortion if the most prominent Catholic priest in public life did the same? Drinan bore heavy responsibility for making the Democratic Party the party of abortion. And he himself has come a long way down the same road, so that in 1996 he can dismiss opposition to late-term abortions--which he once characterized as homicide--as a merely partisan Republican trick.
These were, in my opinion, Fr. Drinan's real lifetime achievements:
  • Fr. Drinan was a pro-abortion priest whose support of the abortion cause whitewashed the consciences of numerous fellow "progressive" Catholic and Christian members of Congress and beyond, at all levels of public life.
  • Fr. Drinan's purported moral authority and penchant for nuance and pseudo-theological subterfuge, gave an aura of respectability to the pro-abortion stance and plenty of cover to many Catholic politicians.
  • Furthermore, Fr. Drinan emboldened the wing of the Society of Jesus that equated the preaching of the Gospel with the pursuit of political activism and of social justice so-called; these priests, in turn, openly challenged and ridiculed bishops and cardinals critical of the direction of the order and of Jesuit political activism that ended in their open insubordination to legitimate authority. A few of these priests continue to this day to dissent with the Church in matters of abortion, priestly celibacy, homosexuality, and liberation theology, thanks in part to the space Fr. Drinan opened up for them.
  • Fr. Drinan's fudging, intrigue, maneuvering, cajoling, and half-promises undermined the authority of the Jesuit Father General and brought the religious order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola into a state of disrepute not seen since the — unwarranted — suppression of said order back in the 18th century. I think that Fr. Drinan's deeds were partly to blame for the unprecedented papal intervention into Jesuit elections right around the time Fr. Drinan left Congress by order of Pope John Paul II.
  • In conclusion: Fr. Drinan's achievements rest upon the bodies of millions of aborted babies sacrificed over the altar of his peculiar understanding of "social justice." His legacy consists of the thousands of politicians, many of them "fervent Catholics" whose consciences he absolved through his words and example, and who continue to receive Holy Communion under grave sin without discerning the Body and the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Fr. Robert Drinan was called to account before the Lord on January 28, 2007, at age 86.

    - Read Father Drinan, lawmaker who defied Rome, dead at 86 and The Strange Political Career of Father Drinan at Catholic World News

    - Read Father Drinan's article in the Wikipedia.

    - Read also the Society of Jesus' Wikipedia entry.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2008

    U.S. Catholic Bishops respond to Biden comments

    Folks, our bishops continue their home run streak, this time clarifying comments made by Democrat Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden made in NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday. According to the Catholic News Service, this is the statement:

    WASHINGTON-Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the  U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman, U.S. Bishops Committee on Doctrine, issued the following statement:

    Recently we had a duty to clarify the Catholic Church’s constant teaching against abortion, to correct misrepresentations of that teaching by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on “Meet the Press” (see www.usccb.org/prolife/whatsnew.shtml).   On September 7, again on “Meet the Press,” Senator Joseph Biden made some statements about that teaching that also deserve a response.

    Senator Biden did not claim that Catholic teaching allows or has ever allowed abortion.  He said rightly that human life begins “at the moment of conception,” and that Catholics and others who recognize this should not be required by others to pay for abortions with their taxes.

    However, the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a “personal and private” matter of religious faith, one which cannot be “imposed” on others, does not reflect Catholic teaching.  The Church teaches that the obligation to protect unborn human life rests on the answer to two questions, neither of which is private or specifically religious.

    The first is a biological question: When does a new human life begin?  When is there a new living organism of the human species, distinct from mother and father and ready to develop and mature if given a nurturing environment?  While ancient thinkers had little verifiable knowledge to help them answer this question, today embryology textbooks confirm that a new human life begins at conception (see www.usccb.org/prolife/issues/bioethic/fact298.shtml).  The Catholic Church does not teach this as a matter of faith; it acknowledges it as a matter of objective fact.

    The second is a moral question, with legal and political consequences: Which living members of the human species should be seen as having fundamental human rights, such as a right not to be killed?  The Catholic Church’s answer is: Everybody.  No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not.  Even this is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will.  The framers of the Declaration of Independence pointed to the same basic truth by speaking of inalienable rights, bestowed on all members of the human race not by any human power, but by their Creator.  Those who hold a narrower and more exclusionary view have the burden of explaining why we should divide humanity into the moral “haves” and “have-nots,” and why their particular choice of where to draw that line can be sustained in a pluralistic society.  Such views pose a serious threat to the dignity and rights of other poor and vulnerable members of the human family who need and deserve our respect and protection.

    While in past centuries biological knowledge was often inaccurate, modern science leaves no excuse for anyone to deny the humanity of the unborn child.  Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice.

    Thank you Curt Jester for the heads-up.

    Less we forget...

    churchsign

    U.S. presidential race is now a tossup, IMHO

    Analysis

    Folks, I've been almost certain that the general election this coming November was going to be won by the Democrats. I based this analysis on the general sense of weariness toward the Republicans that I've been detecting throughout the country in many of my travels, as well as historical precedent. I was almost certain too that Senator Obama would select Hilary Clinton as his running mate, a combination I considered unassailable. Alas, things it didn't happen this way and the blowback for the Democrats has been both unexpected and unwelcome.

    in Joe Biden, Senator Obama selected a "safe person" as his running mate, a status quo Democrat apparatchik. The mismatch is noticeable, similar to that of the very senior Dick Cheney and the very junior George W. Bush back in 2000. In the event of an Obama presidency, the same criticism that many leveled against Bush could then be leveled against Obama: who is the senior partner here?

    To put it bluntly, will "The Man" be "in control" using Obama as a figurehead? I don't believe that anyone is going to have the gonads to ask that question aloud but I am pretty sure that I am not the only one thinking it. Obama's unimaginative selection of Biden cast doubts on his own decision-making ability.

    In my opinion. Obama's choice of Biden instead of Hillary was uninspired and, I think, a strategic mistake. Besides, I believe that people are starting to question the substance behind Obama's flowery rhetoric and lack of experience. Lots of fluff there, little substance.

    (Personally, I detest the way Obama says "Aw c'mmon!" every time he makes what he considers a point so obvious that whoever fails to see things as he does must be an idiot. His body language and intonation when he says it is the very image of condescension).

    Furthermore, the war in Iraq has sunk into the background; the "time horizons" for combat troops withdrawals formulated by the Bush Administration roughly coincide with Obama's timeline for unconditional withdrawals. Besides, Obama hasn't even bothered to define what a "responsible troop withdrawal" means. This is quite unsettling. Suddenly, he looks as if he has no clue of what he's talking about when it comes to national security issues. Not good. This is an issue that Obama no longer owns.

    On the other hand, John McCain's choice of Governor Palin as his running mate was inspired and bold. Palin is young - my generation - telegenic, and able. She's definitely also the junior partner in the duo but were McCain to win, she would have the best of mentors. She seems like a quick study. I am not worried about her ability to cope with the Inside-the-Beltway's rigors. Besides, she beats Obama in business and executive experience hands down. It doesn't take much to beat him anyway.

    Palin also appeals to the set of white women voters miffed at Hillary's defeat who remain unconvinced of Obama's credentials and skeptical of his rapid rise through the Chicago Democrat machine. They deeply resent Obama's playing the spoiler to Hillary's "rightful" aspirations. They resent Obama not wanting to wait his turn. Palin looks very attractive to them.

    The Democrats have been taken by surprise by McCain's selection of Palin and don't know how to react. They thought they owned the gender-equality issue and can't believe that this potent weapon has been taken away from them. They look desperate to me, as if they'd expected McCain to stick with a proven and traditional Republican WASP male and not someone like Palin, a young, attractive, up-and-coming, convincing Republican woman.

    Banning any major blunders from the McCain-Palin side, I declare this race now a tossup. I ain't got no clue at this time who is going to win in November. I am astonished, but I call them the way I see 'em and, at this time, I can't see 'em.

    When the dust settles, I'll try to make another prediction. We're 57 days away from the election and many things can happen to move the scale from one side to the other and back. This game is just starting.