NCR on CPL
The National Catholic Reporter has just done a review of Catholics in Political Life. Unsurprisingly, they are dead wrong. They agree with me that CPL represents a defiant and courageous stand of the majority of the bishops against a minority intent on imposing its political agendas upon the episcopal body. But for them, the minority was the 'tiny' corner of those who 'want to use the Eucharist as a political football,' who meet 'behind closed doors' while plotting how to import the Vatican curial agenda upon the U.S. democratic Church. I agree with NCR that "common sense prevailed over the extreme views of a tiny minority," but in my view that tiny minority was represented by the Interim Reflections of the USCCB Task Force, whose proposal for an open communion table was rejected by the full body of bishops.
As usual, NCR is blinded by their own conspiracy-theorizing paranoia, seeing Vatican bureaucrats behind very bush, and utterly incapable of realizing that the U.S. bishops are not the progressive laissez-faire humanists NCR wants them to be. Wake up, numb-wits, it's not the 60s anymore, and the Church doesn't belong to you anymore.
# posted by Jamie : 3:27 PM
Swimming in a sea of relativism, Bishop Morlino holds an eternal rope.
This is what I like to see in a shepherd of the Church.
Bishop Robert Morlino leans back in his chair, looking every bit the patriarch that he is: calm, confident, corpulent. He squints and looks out the window as he considers the question I've asked: Does he ever question the Church? A few seconds pass, and his look of concentration breaks. The bishop smiles.
"Not particularly," he says.
From Christine at Laudem Gloriae.
# posted by Jamie : 3:03 PM
Cardinal Dulles on the Denial of Communion
Dulles is sensible and to the point. But I have problems with this thinking:
Q: What are the practical steps a bishop could or should take to encourage a Catholic politician to forgo support for abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research?
Cardinal Dulles: The first step should probably be to make sure that the politicians understand the doctrine of the Church and the reasons for it. Many politicians, like much of the American public, seem to be unaware that abortion and euthanasia are serious violations of the inalienable right to life.
I doubt any politician is unaware of the Church's teaching on abortion and euthanasia. And here we're talking specifically about Catholic politicians. A Catholic politican who advances abortion legislation is not acting out if ignorance. Period. He is acting out of dissent. Let's stop soft-peddling this.
Here, also, I think Dulles misses the point:
Q: What should a priest do when confronted with a publicly dissenting politician who appears in the Communion line?
Cardinal Dulles: In that situation, the priest has limited options. Often, to avoid an ugly scene that would disrupt the ceremony, the priest will feel obliged not to refuse Communion. In the absence of some formal decree excluding a person from the sacraments, most priests will be very cautious about turning Catholics away at the altar.
The primary responsibility rests on those asking for Communion to examine themselves regarding their dispositions, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29. Only God can know with certitude the state of the communicant's soul at the moment.
The last paragraph blatantly ignores that the Church's legal tradition has explicitly acknowledged not only a priest's right to refuse communion to obstinate sinners, but his duty:
Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or the declaration of a penalty as well as others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to communion (c. 915).
Dulles here seems more concerned with public decorum than sacrilege. Given c. 915, how is a priest confronted with an obstinate sinner in a position where he has 'limited options'? I'm not saying he is obliged to deny communion -- this situation would most likely require a prudential decision on the part of the pastor -- but why would this course of action be in any way restricted, since it is explicitly acknowledged in canon law?
UPDATE: Oswald Sobrino at Catholic Analysis has a good defense of Dulles on this point. He highlights Dulles' statement that the bishop might order the politician not to receive holy communion (emphasis Sobrino's):
Dulles clearly indicates that it is appropriate to order the politician not to receive Communion after appropriate discussion with the politician at issue. This statement is a far cry from opposing denial of Communion. In fact, Dulles' words reasonably imply that the bishop who issues the order not to receive Communion is well within his rights in denying Communion to a politician who defies the bishop's order. It makes sense that, if an order is appropriate, then enforcement of the order is also appropriate.
# posted by Jamie : 12:08 PM
Ongoing Reflections on Catholics in Political Life
Sorry I've been a bit scarce here on Ad Limina. Here's a cross-post on my latest contribution to a discussion going on at Catholic Kerry Watch on an evaluation of the recent USCCB statement, Catholics in Political Life.
As my good friend Earl has noted below, my initial reactions to the bishops' statements - both Catholics in Political Life (CPL) and the Interim Reflections of the Task Force (IRTF) - were profoundly negative. Earlier this week, after returning to the documents, I revised my opinion, as I seemed to detect profound differences underlying the two documents, and I proposed that the CPL was a significant improvement on the IRTF. Due to this apparent about-face with regard to my earlier opinions, I thought it might be a good idea to outline my observations more fully, viz. on the perceived differences between the two documents, in order to further the friendly discussion on this and other blogs. Thus, let me point out what I see as a few differences between the two documents.
First of all, IRTF repeatedly allows the issue of abortion to become confused with other moral issues, especially those of social justice. At no less than eight points in the IRTF, the document hedges towards this sort of latitudinarian morality: "All issues are clearly not of equal moral worth - life comes first. But . . . . faith and family, education and work, housing and health care - demand our attention and action as well"; "preeminently by abortion, but also by euthanasia, cloning, widespread hunger and lack of health care, etc." He even finds time to dredge up "the war in Iraq [and] peace in the Middle East." The example of the Holy Father is called upon to demonstrate that "we are not a single-issue Church."
CPL, however, after briefly mentioning a spectrum of moral issues in the opening lines, thereafter remain narrowly and exclusively focused, appropriately, on "the killing of an unborn child." Never again does this issue become confused with peripheral or extrinsic concerns.
Secondly, CPL focuses in on the morality of the act of abortion in a way that the IRFT fails to do. This act is "always intrinsically evil and can never be justified"; "those who cooperate with it are guilty of grave sin and thereby separate themselves from Gods grace"; "to make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong"; "those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil." This is especially surprising given that some bishops and theologians feel that the issue of abortion is best addressed not by changing the laws, but rather by some broader movement to 'change culture.' CPL has no tolerance for such a position.
While the IRFT does express 'disappointment' with political leaders who 'ignore or contradict Catholic teaching,' and states in vague terms that "all life is precious and deserves protection," it - shockingly - never directly addresses the morality of abortion. The IRTF mentions the word abortion six times: once in a long list of actions (including the death penalty and world hunger) which 'threaten human dignity,' three times in summarizing the views of Ratzinger, and twice in summarizing the views of the Holy Father. The immorality of abortion, much less the obligation of lawmakers to directly and openly oppose all legalization of abortion, is never raised even once. I would never question whether the drafters of the IRTF oppose abortion, but clearly they want to avoid making this entire discussion revolve around that issue. CPL, as I have shown above, does exactly that.
Thirdly, the IRFT, at times, turns the entire matter into an exercise in self-accusation. It asks the bishops, 'How well have we shared our teaching,' etc. The statement, as a whole, reads like a laundry list of tasks bishops need to improve upon - teaching, dialogue, etc. - as if the bishops were the ones priimarily at fault here. He ends, "Is it not just politicians, but all of us who should ask are we worthy to receive the Eucharist . . . All of us are called to reflect on our worthiness, confess our sins and renew our lives." Such hand-wringing hardly contributes towards resolving the issue of child-murderers committing sacrilege in our churches.
CPL, however, never stoops to mea culpas. Rather than fault the bishops for not teaching clearly enough, it reiterates what has always been "the constant and received teaching of the Church," which is also "the conviction of many other people of good will." It simply asks bishops "to persist in this duty to counsel," to maintain teaching what the Church has always taught, putting the burden entirely on the shoulders of politicians to follow this teaching.
Fourthly, the IRTF does mention, as it must, that decisions in these matters are left to the diocesan ordinary. With regards to this, there should have been no question. As I've said before, it does not take a task force to determine this. This is the teaching of the Church. The role of the task force was to determine whether or not a particular policy should be proposed to the diocesan ordinaries in their arriving at a decision. And it states its task clearly: "Every bishop has the right and duty to address these realities in his own diocese. We were asked to consult broadly and offer advice and so we will. Here is our interim advice . . ."
And the IRTF does not pull its punches, nor does it leave any ambiguity, in offering the particular policy it proposes. Any outright Eucharistic sanction, says IRTF, 'would raise serious questions,' 'have a negative impact,' 'raises a significant concern,' 'would create great pastoral difficulties,' 'would encourage confrontations at the altar rail,' would 'create unmanageable burdens for our priests,' 'could turn the Eucharist into a perceived source of political combat,' 'could further divide our Church' and 'could have serious unintended consequences,' 'could make it more difficult for faithful Catholics to serve in public life,' would be 'counter-productive,' would 'push many people farther away from the Church and its teaching,' etc. Despite stating that this question is left to the ordinary, the IRTF has no problem proposing a concrete answer to this question: "Therefore . . . our Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion for Catholic politicians" (emphasis mine).
CPL, on the other hand, declines entirely from offering any proposal or policy. Not only does it avoid listing the apocalyptic woes that would result from denial of communion (no language of 'confrontations at the altar rail,' 'negative impact,' 'counter-productive' here), it does not even offer the slightest hint that such a policy would have negative repercussions. It simply states, quite forthrightly, that "such decisions rest with the individual bishop," that "bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action," etc., and entirely leaves the matter at that. IRTF's trumpet call for open communion is entirely and unceremoniously dropped.
The way these sort of statements work is this. The Task Force Committee would have presented the bishops with a draft statement which summarized their findings. The full body of bishops, in Denver, would have voted to approve or reject this statement. If they reject it, modifications are made, and the process continues until a draft is formulated which the bishops will approve. Assuming that the IRTF reflects roughly what the contents of the initial draft would have been, and comparing this with the CPL, it seems clear to me that the bishops did in fact reject the Task Force's initial draft. Modifications were made. And the final statement, the CPL - at least in my view - is vastly different. It would be a stretch to turn this into some sort of episcopal coup or mutiny on the Inverness Bounty, but its hard not to imagine some sort of large-scale dissatisfaction on the part of the bishops with what the Task Force was proposing.
Now, lets also look at the after-effects of the CPL. If CPL had been as big of a disappointment as many claim, our more conservative bishops would, without a doubt, feel as if they had been slapped in the face. But this is not what we've seen. Archbishop Hughes, before the statement was even released, stated that he would be happy if it left the decision to the bishop: "If the statement says that it's the responsibility of each bishop (to act) with regard to the legislators in his pastoral care - that's fine. I've said that repeatedly." This is exactly what Hughes wanted, because it approves of his prerogative to continue doing what hes been doing. I also noted with some satisfaction that, the day after I posted my last entry, the Culture and Life Foundation issued a news release which summarized my views almost exactly. Catholic World News, as Oswald has pointed out, also issued a release today which echoes CLF's piece. Both conclude, as I do, that the CPL represents a 'rejection' on the part of the bishops of the Task Force proposal. I am far from openly endorsing the CPL; I am simply pointing out that it does not represent a complete moral cop-out by the American bishops, as the IRTF (it seems to me) was proposing. Certainly, if I had written the CPL, if would have been different. But I did not; the bishops of our Church did. And, once things are put into perspective, all things considered, I'm still in a pretty good mood.
# posted by Jamie : 9:28 AM
Speaking of sterilisation . . .
Jimmy Akin of Defensor Fidei has just been kind enough to send me, upon my request, a copy of his most recent article for This Rock magazine, entitled "The Loss of Masculine Spirituality."
Without descending to sugary sentimentality (masculine spirituality, remember?), this is one of the finest articles I have read on the feminization of modern Catholic spirituality. Moving beyond the mere complaining that others have done, Akin actually lays out how this inadequate - or rather unbalanced - spirituality has made it impossible for us to correctly understand the theological meaning of suffering in the Christian life. Seriously, this article changed the way I look at God. I think converts from Evangelicalism -- like Jimmy and myself -- find this aspect of modern Catholic spirituality the hardest to stomach, and often yearn for the masculine, mission-oriented 'cowboy' approach to spirituality manifestd by American Evangelicals.
Unfortunately, it's not available yet on-line, though I'll be sure to link to it the moment it is. I highly recommend not only securing a copy of the June issue of This Rock, but of getting a year's subscription. Many thanks, Jimmy.
# posted by Jamie : 1:38 PM
Speaking of breeding themselves out of existence
This from Sanctificarnos.
These two statements compete for most disturbing sentences in an already-disturbing article:
The average age of female sterilisation in Britain was just 32, according to the survey (32?? Most women are just starting their families at 32 - how can you decide you're finished?)
Recent research has found that up to one in five women who are sterilised before they are 30 go on to regret their decision (no kidding, I'll probably regret most of the stuff I've done before age 30; but few things are as unretrievable as one's fertility.)
# posted by Jamie : 10:41 AM
Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul
What fairer light is this than time itself doth own,
The golden day with beams more radiant brightening?
The princes of God's Church this feast day doth enthrone,
To sinners heavenward bound their burden lightening.
One taught mankind its creed, one guards the heavenly gate,
Founders of Rome, they bind the world in loyalty;
One by the sword achieved, one by the cross his fate;
With laurelled brows they hold eternal royalty.
Rejoice, O Rome, this day; thy walls they once did sign
With princely blood, who now their glory share with thee.
What city's vesture glows with crimson deep as thine?
What beauty else has earth that may compare with thee?
To God the three in one eternal homage be,
All honor, all renown, all songs victorious,
Who rules both heaven and earth by one divine decree
To everlasting years in empire glorious.
This beautiful hymn from Lauds took my breath away. I would pay my life savings to hear that in Gregorian Chant by a full-blown choir.
I noted with interest that the text comes from Elphis (Elpis), who I discovered (with some web research) is the first wife of Boethius, and whose epitaph, written by him personally, is recorded in his Consolation of Philosophy. She wrote not only this but several other beautiful hymns, which all seem to revolve around Sts. Peter and Paul. The text for the above hymn, incidentally, was translated only in the twentieth century by the great Ronald Knox.
Also of interest, Elpis is the name of a Japanese Anglican-Episcopalian rock band.
# posted by Jamie : 8:25 AM
A slightly more sophisticated take on my 'Pro-Aborts will Breed Themselves Out of Existence" Theory.
# posted by Jamie : 2:34 PM
Clarification on 'Catholics in Political Life'
I've posted once or twice this week on the USCCB statement on 'Catholics in Political Life.' The message on a whole seemed confused and uneven to me, even self-contradictory at points. I was over in Catholic Analysis this afternoon and it suddenly became clear, and I don't know why I didn't notice it before.
All of positions I liked, or at least found agreeable, were in the official statement itself.
All of the positions I didn't like, or just found disagreeable, were in the Task Force's 'Reflections.'
Why is this relevant? Because, as Oswald points out, the former is the only one which has any authority. (Well, putting aside for the moment the question of whether the USCCB has any real authority at all, other than a general 'moral' authority). The latter is only a collection of 'reflections,' which lack even the pseudo-authority of the USCCB, and are simply the unambiguous 'reflections' of a couple of theologians.
More importantly, apart from the question of authority, is the question of whose opinions stand behind the statements. The former, the official statement, regardless of its authority or lack thereof, bears behind it the collective weight of the full body of American bishops, who voted overwhelmingly to approve this document. The latter is the opinion of one man, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and a couple of his buddies (no disrespect intended; simply a statement of fact), which were presented to this full body of bishops before the official statement was produced, in order to push them in a particular direction. Now that the dust has settled, and it hardly requires pointing out that the official statement is vastly different from McCarrick's reflections, it becomes all too clear that the full body of bishops has in fact rejected McCarrick's proposals. Not too draw the line too sharply, it's not a difference of black and white, but it is a difference -- McCarrick clearly advised, in no uncertain terms, against the denial of communion; the official statement left this option wide open. In short, the fully body of U.S. bishops seem not to have bought the McCarrick line.
The USCCB's publishing of the Task Force reflections after the official statement, and on the same webpage, confused matters horribly. We now have several contradictory statements, without any clear consensus. But once we look at things in this way, chronologically, we can see that the official statement has entirely supplanted the reflections, which were only intended to guide the formation of the latter, a task at which they seem to have utterly failed to do.
Perhaps I'm just reading way too much into this. But in any case, I suddenly find myself in a far better mood than I was this morning.
# posted by Jamie : 2:11 PM
Cardinal Arinze on Vocations
Link from P.P.:
"Young women do not want to join a group of old women who seem to be confused [about their mission]. Young men do not want to join a diocese where the priests seem to be angry."
He compared nuns who did not want to wear religious garb to a flight attendant for Alitalia who wanted to wear the uniform of American Airlines. "What do you think Alitalia is going to say? Let's dialogue?" he asked, to laughter from his audience.
Do you realize how many converts the Church would gain, especially among disgruntled conservative Anglicans in Africa, if this man became Pope? It boggles the imagination. In fact, if he does not become Pope, I'm becoming Anglican.
Young men are not attracted to the priesthood as an occupation, the way that they like the fringe benefits of military service, or the working hours of the hospitality industry, or the upward mobility of corporate careers. They join the priesthood when they are shown its moral, theological, and cosmological significance. They join the priesthood to manifest the very person of Christ, and like Him, to pour themselves out in sacrificial service to others. If you want vocations, point to the cross. Don't just lobby to have the bar lowered, the requirements relaxed, the standards watered down. That won't make priests. It'll just make you Anglican.
# posted by Jamie : 1:30 PM
Bishop Gregory endorses the FMA
The coalition of the willing now includes the Roman Catholics and the Southern Baptists. Which proves the theory I've propounded again and again, that Catholics and fundamentalists are the only two groups of people in this world who have any common sense.
On the other hand...
"Several other denominations oppose a constitutional amendment.
Twenty-six religious organizations, including the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Union for Reform Judaism, have together urged Congress to reject the legislation."
This really is a 'parting of the ways' between those who seek the 'narrow way' and those who seek the broad one. And you know where that one leads.
# posted by Jamie : 1:17 PM
St. Irenaeus and the Peace of the Church
In praying the Office this morning I couldn't help noticing that, in the feast of St. Irenaeus which the Church celebrates today, the theme of the 'peace of the Church' looms large. St. Irenaeus "made peace the aim and object of his life, and he labored strenuously for the peace of the Church.' Here is the prayer of the day:
you called Saint Irenaeus to uphold your truth
and bring peace to your Church.
By his prayers renew us in faith and love
that we may always be intent
on fostering unity and peace.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Now, I couldn't help but chuckle in reading (praying) that because, as anyone who has read St. Irenaeus' writings knows, they are anything but peaceful. His 'Against Heresies' is one of the most severe, tempestuous, and trenchant works of the patristic period. His purpose in this work is as follows: "Since this man [i.e., Valentinus] is the only one who has dared openly to mutilate the Scriptures, and unblushingly above all others to inveigh against God, I purpose specially to refute him, convicting him out of his own writings; and, with the help of God, I shall overthrow him" (27, 4).
The most memorable part of this work comes in chapter eleven, when our hero temporarily puts aside vindictive in order to focus on cynical parody of such devastating proportions that it probably had his readers rolling in the aisles, and his opponents red-faced with embarrassment. Valentinus, it may be remembered, delighted in speculating about the numberless 'aeons' ('Sophia,' 'Logos,' 'Monad,' 'Ogdoad,' 'Demiurge') which populated the cosmos, which formed the core of Gnostic belief and devotion.
Here is St. Irenaeus:
"But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus. For if it is fitting that that language which is used respecting the universe be transformed to the primary Tetrad, and if any one may assign names at his pleasure, who shall prevent us from adopting these names, as being much more credible [than the others], as well as in general use, and understood by all? (11,4).
For me, this was a reminder that the 'peace of the Church' is not always served by laxism or excessive toleration. More often than not, it is served by exposing error and foolishness for what they are. Would that every teacher of the faith today had the unique combination of gall and wit that marked this martyr. St. Irenaeus, ora pro nobis.
# posted by Jamie : 9:05 AM
RIP, Ave Maria University
Read this post today at Envoy Encore:
Only a week after the Board of Trustees of Ave Maria College reaffirmed its commitment to continue the Michigan college through 2007, and to explore options to keep the school functioning after that, Thomas Monaghan announced that he wants the school shut down in 2007.
It's not definitive yet (what is, at AMU?), but it's part of the ongoing progression of that University towards total internal self-combustion. I had been reading Ed Peters' stuff on AMU last week, but I had to stop, because I was getting too depressed. And just before that I was reading the New Oxford Review's acrimonious assaults on Scott Hahn on Against the Grain. Reminds me of T.E. Lawrence's words to the Arabs, but applied to faithful Catholics: "So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel, as you are."
UPDATE: Holy Links, Batman. Jimmy Akin has links aplenty.
# posted by Jamie : 8:12 AM
The true culprit behind clergy sex abuse discovered!
And boy, was I way off! Here I was thinking that the rampant man-boy molestation among the clergy had something to do with homosexuality. Turns out that all along, the true devil was homo-PHOBIA! And if the homophobic hierarchy would just "embrace homosexuality and allow practicing homosexuals to serve as priests," the problem would go away.
I wish David France would go away. He's like a bad dream.
# posted by Jamie : 3:48 PM
Vice President tells Senator Leahy to "f--- off"
Posting this inane political hullabaloo on my serious, religion-oriented blog is justified because the two were talking about Catholicism at the time:
"During their exchange, Leahy noted that Republicans had accused Democrats of being anti-Catholic because they are opposed to some of President Bush's anti-abortion judges, the aides said.
Cheney then responded, 'f--- off.'"
UPDATE: Apparently this had a soothing effect on the Vice President: "I expressed myself rather forcefully. I felt better after I did it," Cheney told Neil Cavuto.
# posted by Jamie : 1:52 PM
Thomas Aquinas on the Denial of Communion
Thomas of English Catholicism has just posted a review of St. Thomas Aquinas' position on the denial of communion.
I haven't seen this discussed in the Blogosphere recently, and I find it quite interesting. St. Thomas is largely concerned with the issue of 'secret sin,' i.e. that the priest's refusal of communion could unjustly expose the communicant to infamy, especially in the case of sin revealed in the confessional. But, thankfully, the Thomistic Distinction (TM) is introduced to make it clear that public (or 'notorious') sin is an entirely different manner:
"A distinction must be made among sinners: some are secret; others are notorious, either from evidence of the fact, as public usurers, or public robbers, or from being denounced as evil men by some ecclesiastical or civil tribunal. Therefore Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it."
Of course, this adds nothing to the celebrated canon 915. If anything, it is less clear, since it does not specify that the sin be 'obstinate,' as c. 915 does. Yet it is helpful to have the opinion of the Angelic Doctor made clear. It goes without saying, of course, that a politician who has publicly voted to legalize abortion would be the equivalent of a 'public userer' or 'public robber.' Note that St. Thomas' concern is to balance the just reputation of the communicant with the reverence due the sacrament. Whether or not the denial would constitute an undue incursion on the part of the Church into civil polity hardly seems to have crossed his mind.
On a related note, a priest over for dinner the other night made an interesting point about the perspective of clergy on this issue. A typical parish priest, he says, distributes communion on a daily basis to parishioners whom he knows to be in a state of grave sin, due to information received in the confessional. Yet, due to the seal of said confessional, he is unable to refuse it to the communicants, and is therefore morally obliged to cooperate in sacrilege. Because of this, priests often become 'immunized' to the crime of sacrilege, such that, after years of parish ministry, they hardly seem to notice it, much less does it evoke anything approaching moral outrage. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why laity seem much more agonized over this 'CommunionGate' scandal than our clergy.
# posted by Jamie : 12:24 PM
McCarrick summarizes contents of Ratzinger communication
In recent days, I have once again been in contact with Cardinal Ratzinger both by letter and telephone calls. He has offered some observations for our work which he specifically asked not be published, but which I wish to share with you. The first is a recognition that it is up to us as bishops in the United States to discern and act on our responsibilities as teachers, pastors and leaders in our nation. He expresses his respect for the role of our conference and the bishops in the United States in carrying out these responsibilities.
Having said this, Cardinal Ratzinger speaks about WHAT constitutes "manifest grave sin" and "obstinate persistence" in public life, stating that consistently campaigning for and voting for permissive laws on abortion and euthanasia could meet these criteria.
Cardinal Ratzinger outlines HOW a bishop might deal with these matters, including a series of precautionary measures involving a process of meeting, instruction and warning. This process involves meeting with the person and providing instruction on Catholic moral teaching. Cardinal Ratzinger suggests informing such persons that if they reject Catholic moral teaching in their public actions, they should not present themselves for Holy Communion until their situation has ended. Using the precedent of our teaching and practice in the case of a person in an invalid marriage, the Cardinal recognizes that there are circumstances in which Holy Communion may be denied. He also indicates that in these cases a warning must be provided before the Eucharist can be denied.
I would emphasize that Cardinal Ratzinger clearly leaves to us as teachers, pastors and leaders WHETHER to pursue this path. The Holy See has repeatedly expressed its confidence in our roles as bishops and pastors. The question for us is not simply whether denial of Communion is possible, but whether it is pastorally wise and prudent. It is not surprising that difficult and differing circumstances on these matters can lead to different practices. Every bishop is acting in accord with his own understanding of his duties and the law.
It is important to note that Cardinal Ratzinger makes a clear distinction between public officials and voters, explaining that a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil only if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate's permissive stand on abortion. However, when a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted if there are proportionate reasons.
Therefore, based on the traditional practice of the Church and our consultation with members of our conference, other episcopal conferences, distinguished canonists and theologians, our Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion for Catholic politicians or Catholic voters in these circumstances.
Now, although McCarrick spent 90% of his words repeating Ratzinger's emphasis on the prerequisite of teaching, warning, admonishing, etc. (which no Catholic with any sense would deny), it is clear as day that Ratzinger has given the 'green light' for a denial of communion. Yet here McCarrick goes way beyond the official statement released earlier this week, appearing to bring the Task Force down firmly on the side of not denying communion: "Our Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion for Catholic politicians or Catholic voters in these circumstances."
McCarrick's reflections here; some other reflections, which I haven't yet had time to read, here.
# posted by Jamie : 4:27 PM
The Anglican Communion's singular obsession . . .
To become, at all costs and by whatever means, a fad.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, 'spiritual leader' of 70 million Anglicans, who last month commissioned his seminarians with the solemn mission of watching soap operas, has seemingly grown dissatisfied with the pace at which he is "pushing [the Church] back a little bit towards the cultural mainstream" (which, incidentally, he views as the ultimate goal of his ministry as Archbishop). Thus, in two news items yesterday, he has simultaneously offered to play a role on The Simpsons, and endorsed a handy new version of the Bible which, among other things, nicknames Peter 'Rocky and Mary Magdalen 'Maggie,' and paraphrases St. Paul's advice as "There's nothing wrong with remaining single, like me. But if you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated."
That St. Thomas More would have lived to see the day.
UPDATE: I just have to re-post this comment by Jimmy Akin: "This is less surprising than one might think since the Anglican communion's recent history resembles episodes of The Simpsons."
UPDATE: For a fuller list of quotes, which will make you want to laugh and cry at the same time, try this.
# posted by Jamie : 2:24 PM
Politics, Morality, and Conscience
In his famous 'Pius XXIII quote,' John Kerry clumsily formulated his theory of a rigid demarcation between the autonomous spheres of politics and morality, any transgression of which runs up against the stalwart palisade of the 'primacy of conscience.' Kerry's hero is the 'man of conscience,' bravely taking his stand against the onslaught of all external foes, against the 'voices of the establishment,' standing firm upon the bulwark of his inner convictions. The 'man of conscience' is a martyr, a saint, willing to sacrifice life and limb to defend the sanctuary within the innermost depths of his being.
Today, June 22, gives the universal Church the opportunity to celebrate the life of one of her own saints and martyrs, St. Thomas More of England. The life of St. Thomas is well-known, and does not require repeating here. Above all, More embodies what it means to be both a statesman and a churchman; he carries himself about in both worlds with such singular grace and ease, as if, for him, they were the same world. He carried out the duties of state as a man led by his conscience, and his was a conscience formed above all by the ageless tradition of Mother Church, by the constant and unequivocal teaching of the Pope and bishops through the ages. In my favorite scene from Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, in a scene where More is being pressured by Cardinal Wolsey to abandon this same conscience in the face of the pressing duties of state, he responds, "When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their public duties, they lead their country by a short route to chaos."
Perhaps it was precisely this approach to the duties of state that the Holy Father had in mind when, in a Motu Proprio delivered four years ago, he solemnly proclaimed St. Thomas More the patron saint of statesmen and politicians. In this Motu Proprio, the Holy Father similarly highlights the primacy of conscience, "the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature." The conscience which the Pope has in mind, however, is always one rooted in the vision of man divinely revealed in Scripture and the tradition of the Church. Thus, St. Thomas is said to embody a particular "unity of life," in which the "everyday professional and social life" of the lay faithful is harmoniously integrated into communion with God and Christ, into which communion others are naturally invited. It is a lived "harmony between the natural and the supernatural" which most defines the personality of the English martyr, led by the "certainty of [a] judgment rooted in faith." At the close of his oration, the Holy Father propounds a statement which, as a concrete summary of the life of St. Thomas More, and as a standing dictum regarding Catholic political life, has resounded in the Catholic intellectual community like a crack of lightning: "What enlightened his conscience was the sense that man cannot be sundered from God, nor politics from morality."
For John Kerry, on the other hand, the primacy of conscience is at root a private confidence ("my oath privately between me and God"), the function of which is primarily to grant personal liberty with respect to public actions vis-a-vis objective moral laws ("[it] allows for freedom of conscience for Catholics with respect to these choices"). It is, at heart, a divisive instrument, which severs the public duty of a statesman from the moral dictates of divinely-revealed truth. "It is separate," he says, a chasm which no bridge can cross. It knows of no harmony, no unity, no integration with the natural law and its moral demands, only isolation.
St. Thomas More, for his part, knew that moral convictions are no threat to the political and civic realm. On the contrary, if this realm is not undergirded, quickened, and animated by the positive influence of the moral law, it will decay and ultimately commit moral suicide. For its very preservation, the political realm requires at its very heart the active incorporation of a human conscience - but not just any conscience: a conscience formed throughout by the person of Jesus Christ, who alone unites man and God.
The United States bishops know this also, and an awareness of this necessity is reflected, at least seminally, in the recent statement on 'Catholics in Political Life': "Catholics who bring their moral convictions into public life do not threaten democracy or pluralism but enrich them and the nation. The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices." The bishops, however, cannot play the part of statesmen. Their role is ultimately to teach and to persuade. In the end, the Church has need of statesmen - but not just any statesmen: statesmen willing to follow the lead of their patron, St. Thomas More - saint, martyr, and man of state.
# posted by Jamie : 1:23 PM
Cardinal Kasper on 'Eucharistic Hospitality'
Why open communion up only to pro-abortion politicians? Let's let Protestants in on the act too! To do otherwise would just be 'inhospitable.'
# posted by Jamie : 9:45 AM
Well, the short list just got a little shorter
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez has just been accused of pedophile-sheltering. Whether or not it is true, of course, is irrelevant. The fact is, he can cross the See of Rome off his wish list. It's a nasty era when you're damned if your name is so much as mentioned in the same sentence as 'sex abuse.'
# posted by Jamie : 4:24 PM
Regarding the canonical dimension of 'CommunionGate,' upon which much of Church policy largely depends, some of you may be aware of Fr. John Beal's recent article in America magazine, which appears in full here.
Beal, a close friend of mine, and whose credentials as a canonist no one dares dispute, demonstrates a few characteristics in the current conversation on this subject which I find troubling. As I hesitate to venture into a field in which I have absolutely zero training (though that's never stopped me before), I'm thankful that the equally-superb canonist Ed Peters has provided a response, which can be found on his blog.
Everything here hinges, of course, on the much-disputed Canon 915: "Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion." The problem in the contemporary conversation is that many canonists (and I think Beal may be included here) define 'obstinately,' 'manifest,' and 'grave' in terms which are so extreme that, as a result, one can include almost no one in this category (except, perhaps, a voracious serial killer, although some might dispute whether his crimes were appropriately 'manifest').
Beal, in his article, states, "For a sin to be manifest, it is not enough that it be public or even notorious; it must also be so habitual that it constitutes an objectively sinful lifestyle or occupation." A multiple-homicide could probably make a pretty good case that five or six murders hardly constitutes a 'lifestyle' or 'occupation.' Peters, for his part, makes an interpretation which bears much more the marks of common sense: "I suggest that 'manifest' here describes actions that are obvious, apparent, or otherwise quite clear to a community of observers."
And Peters includes a fine observation, in response to the tendency of many to put the blame upon the bishops for failing to teach Church doctrine adequately, which allegedly makes such politicians 'invincibly ignorant.' Says Peters, "For some decades, American bishops might well have been remiss in setting out Church teachings on many topics, but the right to life is not one of them. The presence of pro-abortion Catholic politicians signals, therefore, not the failure of Catholic bishops to teach, but the refusal of certain Catholic politicians to be taught."
# posted by Jamie : 1:24 PM
Well, here's what we've been waiting for...
Not the full report, but an 'interim' report from the USCCB Task Force on 'Catholics in Political Life.'
There's little that's surprising or unexpected. It reiterates the essentials of Catholic teaching, both on the immorality of abortion, the role of morality in the political sphere, the necessity of examination of conscience before receiving the Eucharist, and the primacy of the episcopal ordinary in decisions of disciplinary and sacramental practice, etc.
In short, it's vague enough, in every aspect, to justify nearly any interpretation. In sentence after sentence, just when you think they're gearing up for a punch ("The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms . . .") they qualify it with an arbitrary phrase which makes any disciplinary response or judgment utterly impossible (". . .which would suggest support for their actions").
One could have wished for something with a little more punch, but I suppose such a wish would have been unrealistic.
# posted by Jamie : 8:21 AM
R.I.P., Steven Oken
Now, on certain occasions, I admit, I am tempted to put a somewhat cheery face on capital punishment. My thought is not necessarily that it is the most effective way to diminish the number of capital crimes, since the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction. Rather, my thought is that the radical sense of justice which is embodied in a state execution -- by 'justice' I mean, the 'eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' sort of justice, the 'reap what you sow' sort of justice -- has a lot of potential for inculcating certain moral values in a valueless, relativistic society, even if these are only partial, incomplete values. The spectacle of a murderer being murdered has a certain moral resonance, no matter how you slice it. As I said, these thoughts only cross my mind on certain occasions.
But then, I read stuff like this:
"I want to thank God. This is finally over," said Betty Romano, Garvin's mother. "The only problem is Steven Oken died in peace. My daughter didn't have the luxury to die in peace, as I saw Steven Oken die tonight.'"
At one point during the execution, Oken's toe twitched a "mile a minute," Mrs. Romano said. She said she saw little else, commenting that her view of the inmate was his toes and his stomach. "He was aware until he got that first shot," she said. "I could tell by the reaction of his body."
Outside the state prison complex in Baltimore where the execution took place, a death penalty supporter announced on a bullhorn, "Mr. Oken has met his maker." The crowd cheered and threw streamers into the air.
"Justice has been served. This is justice for Pat, Dawn and Lori ... we're feeling good, we're elated," said Fred A. Romano, Garvin's brother.
Mrs. Romano thanked Ehrlich for refusing to grant Oken' clemency. "He stuck to his word, he kept his word," Mrs. Romano said. "He didn't wimp out at the last minute."
And I realize that this sort of spectacle is the last thing our society needs. If refusing to participate in this vengeful bloodbath is 'wimping out,' I'm wimping out with the Pope and cardinals on this one.
# posted by Jamie : 1:42 PM
France . . .
Setting the standard for the secularization of the New World Order.
# posted by Jamie : 9:32 AM
Update on Cardinal Ratzinger and U.S. Communion Debate
I mentioned last week that Cardinal Ratzinger had taken some action, hitherto undisclosed, regarding the U.S. debate on withholding communion from dissenting politicians. There's been more fallout on that recently. Although no one is disclosing the actual text of the letter, several bishops have given divergent reports regarding its content, and Catholic World News even claims to have a copy, although even they will only summarize its contents. Here's an article with some links. I doubt we'll ever see the actual text, but that hasn't stopped every catholic news outlet in the country from speculating.
UPDATE: Here's a piece of correspondence by Phil Lawler of CWN, implying that he has evidence that Ratzinger has NOT encouraged U.S. bishops to take a "soft stance."
"Several media outlets, and even a couple of US bishops, have reported that in private conversations Cardinal Ratzinger urged the American bishops not to confront politicians. Our Vatican sources indicate those reports are inaccurate; he said no such thing."
# posted by Jamie : 8:50 AM
Cool Chinese Catholics
Here's some authentic lay empowerment. We're not talking about some liberal parish in Massachussetts where the priest sleeps in on Sunday and an ex-nun does the communion service. These Chinese Catholics were physicallycut off from a priest, not to mention the universal Church, for 50 years, and flourished.
Of course, plenty of Catholics here would like to be cut off from the universal Church permanently, but that's another story. If they actually were, their faith would no doubt disintegrate into egotism and self-absorption in a week, rather than blossom forth in vibrant evangelization, new churches, and vocations.
# posted by Jamie : 8:29 AM
Liturgical Abuse of the Week Returns!
Once again, courtesy of Redemptionis Sacramentum.
This is one of my least favorite abuses, but perhaps the most common of those addressed by RS. Let's look at the text, then some commentary:
First, off, the name "minister of the Eucharist," and the office of administering Holy Communion, belong properly to bishops, priests, and deacons, who are the 'ordinary' ministers of communion (RS 154). The 'extraordinary' minister of Holy Communion is the formally instituted acolyte (RS 155). However, if "reasons of real necessity" prompt it, another layperson may be delegated, but this is to be done by the diocesan Bishop. Only, then, in "special cases of an unforeseen nature" can permission be given by the presiding priest (RS 156).
The following sections are worth quoting in full:
This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not "special minister of Holy Communion" nor "extraordinary minister of the Eucharist" nor "special minister of the Eucharist," by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened (Ibid.).
If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons (RS 157).
Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason (RS 158).
Now, why is this so essential? Is this just a nit-picky slap on the wrist of sincere laypersons who only want a chance to participate more fully in a liturgical service?
It is true that the widespread and habitual use of monstrous numbers of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) tends to blur the line between the ordained and the lay faithful, as do countless other abuses in the modern Church. But this is only half the story. Our goal should not be to create an unbridgeable chasm between the ordained and the lay faithful, and thus to eliminate all that the two vocations might have in common, which, besides beginning the inevitable descent to clericalism, also has the effect of eroding the ministry of both parties. Rather, the goal should be to cast light upon exactly what defines the roles and ministries of each vocation vis-a-vis the other. There are some ministries which both will share in common, due to the common baptismal vocation shared between them (e.g., the call to a life of self-giving charity); others are exclusive (e.g., representing Christ the High Priest in the liturgy); it is when these exclusive roles are obscured that the ministries themselves are rendered ineffective.
Thus, it is the role of the priest, precisely in the Eucharistic celebration, to function in persona Christi, to represent Christ the High Priest who sanctifies, teaches, and governs His people in the context of the Paschal Sacrifice. St. Augustine pointed this out most clearly in response to the Donatist challenge. When the ordained minister baptizes, it is Christ Himself who baptizes. When the ordained minister anoints, it is Christ Himself who anoints. And when the ordained minister gives to us the consecrated elements, it is Christ Himself who gives to us His Body and His Blood. To introduce a myriad of other persons, who do not and cannot share this role, obscures and diminishes the priest's ministry. It is not that Christ cannot act through the lay faithful in the liturgy, it is that the faithful are incapable, by the nature of their very status, of being 'acted through' in precisely this way. To be a bit earthy, when an army of middle-aged, overweight housewives assault the altar every Sunday like the beaches of Normandy, nearly bowling over the priest in the process, the faithful are prevented from witnessing the presence of Christ in the person of the minister. Like the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, the faithful are so eager to leap into the midst of the hubbub, to heal their loneliness by relentless activism, they miss the opportunity to contemplate the the very person of Jesus Christ who stands in their midst waiting to heal their wounds.
# posted by Jamie : 3:37 PM
See y'all on Wednesday
I'm off to Denver, Colorado for the bishops' annual meeting. I'm looking forward to it; I've always thought Colorado was one of the most beautiful states in the Union, and besides, I'll get the chance to schmooze with some of the bishops I've wanted to meet for a long time.
Say a few prayers for our shepherds this weekend. They'll need 'em.
# posted by Jamie : 7:55 AM
Kung accuses Pope of "personality cult"; wants his own
BERN, Switzerland (AP) - Hans Kung, a liberal Swiss Roman Catholic who was stripped by the Vatican of his right to teach theology, said Pope John Paul II's visit reflected a "personality cult" in the church.
The visit was a slickly orchestrated event "steered by the hierarchy and dominated by Rome-oriented charismatic groups" from throughout Europe, Kung told The Associated Press, in a phone interview from his home in Tubingen, Germany.
"That was no representative meeting of Swiss Catholic young people as I know them," said Kung after a mostly youthful crowd of 70,000 joined the pope Sunday at his open-air Mass.
The service and youth meeting the night before allowed for no questioning of Vatican policies ranging from celibacy to the secondary role for women in the church, Kung said.
On the pope's last visit to Switzerland 20 years ago, young people could ask critical questions, but this time they were only permitted to cheer, read greetings and devotedly kiss his hands, Kung said.
Such a "triumphalist personality cult" surrounding the pontiff is objectionable, Kung said.
"This pope, whose foreign policy of peace and justice in the world I fully support, still has no answers for the most urgent questions of internal church policies," Kung said.
Kung then stated, "But what really, really makes me angry, is that I do not have a personality cult like that. Why are no pretty Swiss youths lining up to kiss my hand? Why do the cheering throngs of adorers not follow me around in droves? I have written thousand of articles, spoken at a hundred conventions, and all I get is an occasional 'follow-up' interview from small, secular news journals in the aftermath of papal media extravaganzas, after all the good outlets have left."
Added Kung, "Have I told you the Pope took away my right to teach theology? In a personal letter? Do you want to kiss my hand now? Please?"
# posted by Jamie : 1:50 PM
One more thing Reagan and I have in common
We both hate the National Catholic Reporter.
My brother just posted this bit from an interview with William Buckley:
Q: Did he ever call you to express any special frustration?
A: Yes. One day, half way through his term of office, he called and said he had seen criticism all his life and understood it, but what he had read just now, printed in the National Catholic Reporter, was a bit much, an article by Alden Whitman which said that "President Reagan is bringing fascism to America as certainly as Mussolini did to Italy."
I told him the Catholic bishop in Kansas City was suing the National Catholic Reporter to make it remove the word "Catholic" from its logo, since the weekly had no connection with the Church. And I told him that Whitman, who wrote obituaries for the New York Times, had taken the Fifth Amendment when asked if he was a member of the Communist Party.
He said that information made him feel a whole lot better.
# posted by Jamie : 8:29 AM
Update on Ratzinger
A week ago I posted a news report from CNS regarding Ratzinger's interest in the communion debate in the U.S., which made it seem as though the CDF was to urge 'moderation.'
Yesterday LifeSite posted a somewhat divergent report, essentially calling into question the accuracy of the CNS report. The LifeSite report quotes Chaput's claim, upon his return from his ad limina visit to Rome, that Vatican officials are "positive and very supportive" of the more hard-line stance his diocese has taken on the issue.
It's hard to say who's overstating their case. Perhaps both are. Sheridan, who has taken an even more radical stance, earlier this week claimed he "had not received direct feedback" on the issue from his ad limina (though this, too, came from CNS). Time will tell.
# posted by Jamie : 8:09 AM
Uh oh, I'm in trouble
Someone else has an Ad Limina Apostolorum blog. And he's a bishop.
Actually, I think it's a cool idea. Nice to see the Church's shepherds in swing with the times. I wish my bishop had a blog like this. Don't you?
# posted by Jamie : 5:54 PM
Oh no, not again
To quote Abraham Foxman back to himself . . .
"Why do this when it will be painful to us?"
Why, Abraham, why? I thought all of this was over, that I could wake up in the morning and not see Foxman's name in the news.
So we have the usual unproven and undemonstrated overstatements ("Sister Emmerich's visions, as recounted in writings attributed to her, have 'fomented hatred and anti-Semitism'"), the perpetuation of Twilight-Zonesque conspiracy theories ("She speculated that because of the Pope's failing health, Sister Emmerich's beatification is being 'driven in a power vacuum by certain right-wing groups'"), and puzzling statements which betray a fundamental misunderstanding of Catholic thought ("If someone [like this] merits sainthood, it is a damaging signal and a setback for Catholic-Jewish relations") (Do we now determine who is and who isn't in heaven by polling the ADL membership roster?).
Here was the really confusing part. Tell me how this summary:
"The Catholic News Service reported that Peter Gumpel, a Jesuit in Rome who has championed her cause, said that in making the decision to beatify her, the Vatican ignored her writings."
Can be derived from this data:
"'She is being judged not on the basis of what she has written but, as always, on the basis of her virtues,' Gumpel was quoted as saying."
Because the fundamental criteria for sainthood is personal holiness, not literary ability, means that the Vatican 'ignored her writings'?
I say again, "Why do this when it will be painful to us?"
# posted by Jamie : 5:36 PM
A friend of the family just informed me of his online journal, Sequela, which has some good pro-life resources, and looks like it'll be a good website to keep an eye on.
# posted by Jamie : 1:55 PM
New Diocese in Virginia?
Interesting. I must have been way outside the rumour mill on that one.
Can you comment on the rumor that another diocese will be formed in Virginia?
The Richmond papers indicated that Bishop Walter Sullivan had actually proposed a division of the Diocese of Richmond and discussed it with his priests. Given that Bishop DiLorenzo just arrived, I would say that he would have to evaluate this proposal and, if he thinks that it would be a good recommendation, propose it to the Holy See. For the present, he is making his first priority to get to know the diocese.
Word of advice to DiLorenzo: Patch up Richmond first. Then worry about divvying it up.
# posted by Jamie : 1:48 PM
One of the first things I've seen Laura Bush do that I liked. With all due respect to the Gipper, someone had to put his wife in her place.
Link from GE.
# posted by Jamie : 12:18 PM
Just in time for this Thursday . . .
As we celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi this Thursday, America magazine has given us some devotional art upon which to reflect.
Says America's James Martin:
"We're trying to show the true role of women in Christ's ministry . . . the contributions of his women disciples have frequently been 'airbrushed' out of artistic representations."
"When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating . . ." (Mark 14:17).
"When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said . . ." (Matthew 26:20).
"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them . . ." (Luke 22:14-15)
Now who's doing the airbrushing?
# posted by Jamie : 4:18 PM
What the Cardinals really do in their top-secret phone calls
Hint: It's not discussing their papal electability.
# posted by Jamie : 12:23 PM
The bad news is that my little brother has excruciating, mind-numbing migraines on an almost daily basis.
The good news is, he won't face deadly roadside bombs and suicide attacks in Iraq.
I finally got word a couple of days ago that I am staying behind as my unit goes to Iraq. They left Monday and are scheduled to be back on the 15th of August. I am going to work at the Naval Hospital for that time period. The reason I have been left behind is that I have been getting frequent headaches of the migraine classification. I have been treated for about 8 months, 6 of which are at a neurologic specialty clinic that only deals with headaches.
# posted by Jamie : 12:13 PM
So that's it
I always wondered why all these people were cheating on their spouses. I always thought it had something to do with lack of temperance and self-control, inadequate formation in chastity, or just sin in general; turns out it was genetically programmed all along! What a relief.
Will people ever grow weary of finding new excuses for their misbehavior? (Thanks to JPawn again; I should just turn this blog over to him.)
# posted by Jamie : 11:59 AM
Theology of the Body makes the New York Times
Link from JPawn.
Christopher West is a good guy. He's done a lot to publicize the Holy Father's teaching. This article is a bit skewed in a few places ("West and other Catholics are increasingly using to present the church's prohibitions on sex in a more positive light" [?], as if this were 'damage control' or something, but hey, this is the New York Times, I'm surprised they didn't make half the article a refutation of West by Richard McBrien or Frances Kissling.
# posted by Jamie : 11:50 AM
In case you're having trouble deciding who to vote for in November...let the DNC do your thinking for you
(Warning: this article will lower your IQ by at least six points.)
Let's see, favors universal and unconditional right to abortion on demand, subtract one point. Ooh...favors "expansion of child tax credits" and "reduction in maximum mercury emissions"! Add two points!
"Santorum said Durbin's mistake was to impose a ranking system that weighted the bishops' positions on environment and workplace issues as heavily as their opposition to stem-cell research and abortion."
Santorum's judgment that this survey "has no value" is the understatement of the year.
I'll be scarce this morning. Back in the afternoon.
# posted by Jamie : 7:52 AM
Why do Catholics have to be so anti-science?
It's like they want to stay in the Dark Ages or something.
# posted by Jamie : 7:50 AM
Gerald Serafin linked to this article in Christianity Today about Brennan Manning.
My friends in college were in love with the guy. I heard testimony after testimony of changed lives, conversions, etc., people who first came to a real understanding of God's love and grace through this man's testimony. Christians of all sorts, especially hurt and wounded ones, were drawn to him like flies to honey. Rich Mullins and his legacy have always been formative for me; I listen to Rich's albums once a day, on average, and Rich's entire world was created ex nihilo by Manning. It's hard to call into question the integrity of a man who leaves that kind of spiritual heritage in his wake.
But I have, and I do. I have never been impressed with Manning. If anything, I am embarrassed by him, if for nothing else for his pretenses to be Catholic when everything in his life and teaching repudiates the Church. A seminary dropout who couldn't take the 'rigorous' lifestyle of the seminarians, Manning wandered into a more laxist Franciscan order (in which, incidentally, he used to teach at Steubenville until then-President Michael Scanlan got tired of his antics), then abandoned the Franciscans and spent a few years dabbling in yet another religious order in Europe, until ultimately he found celibacy itself too much of a burden and got himself 'married' (and thereby defrocked as well, since he never bothered to regularize his canonical status), until that fell apart in a divorce; and when life as a campus minister didn't give him "the affirmation he craved" (imagine that), he lapsed into alcoholism and self-pity. Among his credentials: "He spent six months in a remote cave in the Zaragoza desert in Spain" (vomit), and "Members of U2 read Manning's books" (wow!).
Of course, my ad hominem attacks are rendered entirely ineffective, since Manning is actually proud of his failings. For Manning, the manifest grace of God's love is shown precisely in the fact that it is given to us in spite of our sin, or rather, in the midst of our sin. The mystical climax of the Christian religion, for Manning, is the moment of self-acceptance; his is a faith of self-affirmation. For Manning, repentance is not necessary to receive forgiveness -- this condition would compromise the absolute gratuitousness of divine grace. God's love for the sinner is not conditioned upon the sinner's abstinence from sin, God loves the sinner 'in his sin.'
"experiencing God's love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved."
"You may be insecure, inadequate, mistake, or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted."
"God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don't need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept my ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness."
"The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace."
Well, you get the idea. When E. Michael Jones wrote his Degenerate Moderns: Modernity as Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior, his chapter on theology was a biography of Brennan Manning. His theory (very much implied) was that Manning's theology of 'grace-without-repentance' was, consciously or not, an apologia for his own life.
Even worse, Manning continually markets himself as a 'Catholic priest,' or better, a 'Franciscan priest,' despite the fact that he has doubly severed himself from the Catholic Church, through his apostasy from orders and invalid marriage while in orders, not to mention his flagrant repudiation of Church teaching. In his talks and books, he never ceases chiding the Church for obliging celibacy upon her priests, and accuses the Church of heresy for encouraging prayer to Mary. Worst of all, he blames his Catholic upbringing for blinding him to the 'truth' of the loving mercy of God for so many years. Manning, as you can imagine, rocketed to the top of the evangelical speaking circuit due to the cumulative psychosis of the thousands of ex-Catholics who make up the evangelical community in America, most of whom have a bizarre love-hate relationship with the Catholic Church. They despite the Church's teaching, especially its moral demands (many of these are divorced-and-remarried folks), but they retain a morbid fascination with all things Catholic. He's their Cinderella, trumpeting 'relationship over institution' at every corner, wearing a Franciscan habit but telling them what they want to hear:
"We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly."
Ugh. That Evangelicals at large, and especially such a mouthpiece as Christianity Today, would continue to uphold their uncritical allegiance to this man, defies all reason.
# posted by Jamie : 11:48 AM
Here's a more likeable convert
Cool pro-life activist becomes Catholic.
And, he added, "The question among some of the bishops and cardinals I've met is, "We're not sure what to do with you.' "
# posted by Jamie : 9:59 AM
Another way to be pro-choice in Oregon
Link from JPawn.
"In surveys and conversations with counselors, many patients say that what they want most is a choice about how their lives will end, a finger on the remote control, as it were."
Hmm...this attitude sounds strangely familiar . . . where have I heard that rhetoric before?
"A third lesson is that for most of those who seek assisted suicide, the greatest concern appears not to be fear of pain but fear of losing autonomy, which is cited by 87 percent of the people who have taken their lives with the drugs."
Choice, autonomy, determing for oneself . . .
Ah, yes, that's it - Satan.
The height of arbitrariness and injustice is reached when certain people, such as physicians or legislators, arrogate to themselves the power to decide who ought to live and who ought to die. Once again we find ourselves before the temptation of Eden: to become like God who "knows good and evil" (cf. Gen 3:5). God alone has the power over life and death: "It is I who bring both death and life" (Dt 32:39; cf. 2 Kg 5:7; 1 Sam 2:6). But he only exercises this power in accordance with a plan of wisdom and love. When man usurps this power, being enslaved by a foolish and selfish way of thinking, he inevitably uses it for injustice and death (Evangelium Vitae, 66).
# posted by Jamie : 8:54 AM
Here's another person I didn't know was Catholic, or rather, has apparently experienced a pretty radical conversion. Anne Rice, of all people. This odd gem is buried deep in the reeking stomach of this hideously, wretchedly boring article:
"It seemed of crucial importance to me to take several steps which no one, perhaps, except me, was expecting: I returned to the Catholic faith wholeheartedly. And at my request, Stan, my husband of 39 years, agreed to a full and official Catholic marriage in the huge venerable old parish church of my childhood."
# posted by Jamie : 8:04 AM
Keeping people safe from religion, morality, and values since 1920.
# posted by Jamie : 8:00 AM
More good news from Australia
How did I miss this? At the same time the Rainbow Sash Gestapo was dividing the U.S. bishops last week, the Iron Man (a.k.a. Archbishop George Pell of Sydney) was standing as strong as, well . . . iron, against the RSG Down Under. Quoth the Iron Man, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, and important consequences follow from this." Cardinal George's men at least gave the RSG a blessing. Not so the Iron Man, not so. His response, as recorded in this article, almost makes me want to move to a certain recuperating British prison colony. Almost.
By the way, since when is it 'lashing out' to refuse to give the Holy Sacrament to a bunch of rainbow-wearing yahoos cavorting through your cathedral in a childish and vain attempt at moral protest?
(Um, I think this came from...oh yeah, Earl at CKW.)
# posted by Jamie : 3:50 PM
Introducing . . .
The Man With Black Hat. I've had a link to his blog (on the right) for a couple days now. David Alexander is a friend and fellow parishioner, and an all-around decent fella. He's got a couple of interesting entries on what he calls the 'Ave Maria Chronicles,' which I briefly mentioned yesterday.
# posted by Jamie : 3:29 PM
More on Tony Blair and Communion
Robert Duncan at Sanctificarnos, who started me talking about this issue, has kindly clued me into another interesting facet of this discussion -- rumours in the back alleys that Blair is in fact a closet Catholic. He's linked to many of the rumer-mongerers here.
Don't have a strong opinion myself. Given Blair's record in England, if he is Catholic, he's certainly not really 'in the loop' as far as Church teaching goes. But that doesn't rule out the possibility of his being a closet Catholic, though. It is certainly true that, if he were Catholic at all, he would have to stay in the closet, since Catholics are persona non grata in UK politics.
# posted by Jamie : 3:24 PM
I didn't know Princess Diana's mother was Catholic.
# posted by Jamie : 2:36 PM
Only in Africa
Does abortion carry a penalty of 14 years in prison, does the Catholic prelate call for Catholics to "vote out politicians who support abortion, does the head of the nation's nurse's association call abortion a "great social evil," does the head of the nation's phamaceutical association reject all efforts to legalize it, and when a prominent Anglican bishop calls for its legalization, the country's Minister of Health calls his views "morally repugnant and completely unacceptable."
FYI: The article, coming as it does from the BBC, is reeking with bias. And its content is kind of gross, too. But it does imply the national context, which is encouraging.
(Thanks to JPawn for the link.)
# posted by Jamie : 2:26 PM
Interesting article about religion and the polls
Thanks to Heather. This is my favorite line, because it captures the inescapable irony of the 2004 election:
"When John F. Kennedy made his famous speech that the Vatican would not tell him what to do, evangelicals and Southern Baptists breathed a sigh of relief," says Gary Bauer, a Republican presidential contender in 2000 who now heads a conservative group called American Values. "But today, evangelicals and Southern Baptists are hoping that the Vatican will tell Catholic politicians what to do."
# posted by Jamie : 2:18 PM
Pope Spanks Bush
Here's a report on their meeting today.
# posted by Jamie : 2:15 PM
This country has the worst case of schizophrenia I've ever seen
A small, simple cross on a California county seal, which represents the deep and rich influence of Spanish missions in the area's history, violates the separation of Church and State and constitutes "an impermissible endorsement of Christianity."
Meanwhile, for a Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast at earsplitting decibels across a Michigan town five times a day, over the vociferous protests of that town's largely Polish Catholic demographic, is unquestionable.
# posted by Jamie : 2:05 PM
Good to see my Alma Mater hasn't entirely succumbed to the virus of political correctness
I guess two black student groups isn't enough for the four black students at CUA? But it's a good sign that the administration is highlighting NAACP's blatant pro-death record. I heard they're picketing across the street as I'm writing. Seriously.
UPDATE: Open letter from President of CUA.
# posted by Jamie : 2:00 PM
Addicted to mediocrity
Sorry I've been scarce all morning. I'll get to some interesting current events later on in the day, but first I've got to get this off my chest. I should have known better than to read Commonweal, but I did and the damage is done.
In particular I'm looking at an article 'Denying Communion to Politicians' by Frans Jozef van Beeck, who teaches at Loyola in Chicago (June 4, not yet available on the internet).
Like all theological articles in liberal Catholic journals, van Beeck traces everything back to 1968:
"Ever since Humanae vitae . . . the Catholic bishops of the United States have suffered a critical loss of pastoral and magisterial authority . . . on matters pertaining to marriage and sexuality."
Careful, now. Loss of credibility I could see, although this loss would be unjustified; but how does supporting a controversial papal encyclical in any way reduce a bishop's 'pastoral and magisterial authority'? Doesn't the latter come directly from Christ, through the charism of apostolic succession? To suggest that it is in any way lessened by pastoral failings (or perceived pastoral failings) is nothing less than Donatist.
But here is my main point. Let me quote two passages further down in the article:
"Humanae vitae taught that contraception is an intrinsically immoral act; hence it cannot be commended as 'a positively good and human thing to do.' Importantly, though, the encyclical stopped short of teaching that every act of marital intimacy blemished by contraception is mortally sinful. Several bishops' conferences saw this almost immediately, and welcoming the teaching of Humanae vitae, they referred the married to their consciences -- a common Catholic way of suggesting that there is room for venial sin in the practice of sexual intimacy in marriage."
"The answer, deeply frustrating at the time, was Humanae vitae, which called contraception immoral. Unfortunately, what fell between the cracks was the question: How immoral? As I have indicated, Humanae vitae implied, without saying so directly, that contraception was not necessarily mortally sinful."
This section made me bristle. With regard to the Christian moral life, have we become so gravely depraved that we are now asking, with regard to an act which has been authoritatively declared to be intrinsically immoral -- "Well, okay, so it's immoral - but how immoral is it?"
We often hear quoted the passage from Lumen Gentium, from the Second Vatican Council, speaking of the 'Pilgrim Church':
"While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled knew nothing of sin, but came to expiate only the sins of the people, the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal" (LG 8).
This is often invoked as overturning, or at least mitigating, the centuries-old doctrine of the Church's intrinsic holiness, as if that teaching ever implied that the members of the Church were impeccable. The same document laid forth a bombshell teaching on the universal call to holiness (though this, too, was hardly novel), giving the lie to any previous intimation that the laity were called to a lower standard of holiness than the hierarchy. LG, again, does not pull any punches:
"Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness . . . The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without distinction: 'You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect' (Mt. 5:48) . . . . The followers of Christ, called by God not in virtue of their works but by his design and grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, have been made sons of God in the baptism of faith and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified. They must therefore hold on to and perfect in their lives that sanctification which they have received from God . . . It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society" (LG 39-40).
The call to holiness, perfection, sanctity of life is the crown of the baptismal priesthood, the vocation of all the faithful who are anointed into Christ's threefold office of Priest, Prophet, and King. This is the radiance of the saints, the lifeblood of Mother Church, the beating heart of the whole world. It is the call to holiness that makes us agents of change in the world, of 'joy and hope' in the modern age. If there is one trumpet blast which blares from the Second Vatican Council, it is this, that faithful are called to share in the holiness of the Triune God through the mediation of Christ, and thenceforth to invite the world to share in this same holiness.
And yet, van Beeck and his kind, like Esau, are eager to trade this birthright for a mess of pottage. They complain again and again whenever the teaching authority of the Church calls out of the pigsty of sin, to share in the glory of Christ by being transformed by His divine law. They cry that Mother Church is not sympathetic enough with their sinful condition, is asking for too much holiness, more than their meager, emaciated wills can bear. Where is that hunger for holiness, that eager embrace of sanctity, which shone forth from so many of the martyrs, confessors, and saints? When did any of these, when confronted with the demands of the Law of God, pause to ask -- 'Well, if I were to break this one, would that be mortal or venial?' 'Is that sixth one really mandatory, or is that just sort of an ideal?' I mean, that we should be perfect, 'as our Heavenly Father is perfect' -- is that really realistic, Jesus?
The pastor who presided over my marriage, when I asked him in a counseling session, whether or not he normally discusses the evil of contraception with engaged couples (he certainly didn't with us), answered thus: 'Well, I used to, but now, I'm starting to realize . . . I agree with the Church's teaching on that . . . but I just don't think that everyone is called to that.' The glorious inheritance of Vatican II has come to this.
# posted by Jamie : 7:38 AM
Ratzinger 'wants to talk' to USCCB Task Force
This just in from CNS. Unfortunately, from Bishop Pelotte's report, it seems that the CDF is going to urge a more 'cautious' stance. I'd like to think it's just a rumour, though.
# posted by Jamie : 10:57 AM
Phoenix Diocese Making a Comeback
A reader, Hacken, writes in from Phoenix:
"I wanted to take a moment to thank you for posting truth . . . I understand truth...and as a Catholic I love to see it bravely spoken.
I am in the Diocese of Phoenix...one of the most liberal and troubled Diocese in America, and recently we've experienced a slight return to Orthodoxy with a new Bishop who came on board after our prior Bishop being charged, and later convicted, with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. It has been as stange path we have followed here...going from public shame to a private movement back to unification with the Magisterium."
I wrote on Bishop Olmsted a while ago, who made quite an impression on me when he came in. Incidentally, he made the newspapers again today, in a rare demonstration of episcopal spine, by suspending from ministry a priest who refused to recant from his signing of a gay activist declaration (after repeated warnings, mind you). Thanks to Polish Prince for the link, and let's all say a prayer for the good Catholics in Phoenix.
# posted by Jamie : 8:45 AM
Trouble in Ypsilanti
For those paying attention, there's been a rush of on-line activity recently from folks connected to Ave Maria University. In late March, of course, there was the fiasco with the new cathedral plans (yes, JPawn, I know you think it'd be cool to have a church visible from space). Now there's apparently some backlash against millionare financier Tom Monaghan's decision to transplant the college to Florida, and the parents of some of the students have started their own website in protest. To make matters worse, there are rumours that Monaghan is planning on merging AMU with a local pseudo-Catholic college in a financial maneuver, which he apparently has a history of doing. One never really knows who to believe here, especially when Michael Rose is involved, but it is sad to see a beautifully-conceived Catholic institution descend into muck-racking and name-calling. (Note that the canonist-blogger Ed Peters, who has a kid at AVU and is a bit riled up, is quoted in Rose's article.) (With help from the indomitable Jimmy Akin.)
# posted by Jamie : 8:18 AM
More on Rainbow Sash Gestapo
Where does the buck stop? No one wants to take the heat for turning away the RSG. Cardinal George says he was only following directives of the USCCB, but the USCCB says it was only following directives of Cardinal McCarrick, McCarrick says he was only following directives of his predecessor, and it doesn't matter anyway because McCarrick says the practice of denying communion is now "unwelcome in his diocese."
With regard to the first link, it turns out that Archbishop Flynn and others, who elected not to turn away the RSG, may be viewed with a little sympathy. They were apparently promised in writing that the group was "not in protest of the church's teachings." Obviously a lie, of course, but the bishops don't follow the blogosphere as closely as they should, or they'd know better.
UPDATE. Cardinal George pulls punches.
# posted by Jamie : 7:55 AM
Nice Bush Interview
Interview with Deal Hudson, Russel Shaw, Richard J. Neuhaus, etc. Published by Christianity Today; link stolen from my old man.
Dweeb though he is, I like him. About 90% of it is Newspeak, but in the 10% where his actual personality comes through, I really think I like him.
# posted by Jamie : 3:46 PM
Pope to Spank President Bush in Papal Audience
"It's a good thing that he is coming because the pope has to tell him a few things," Cardinal Pio Laghi said in an interview."
"I love America but I could never have imagined that this kind of folly was possible," Laghi said.
# posted by Jamie : 1:51 PM
Back to square one on partial-birth abortion
Heather sent me this story. I heard everyone talking about it yesterday, but never got around to posting it, simply because we all knew it was coming, and we all could have guessed where it was coming from. Rabid pro-aborts cannot stand for even the slightest, most minute limitation on their right to kill. I mean, if a bill banning blatant infanticide can't even survive one year, how is the overturning of Roe v. Wade anything more than a pipe dream? Of course, it's not exactly 'back to square one' -- the juridical process will go on, onwards and upwards, becoming ever more convoluted and compromised at every step. By the time it meets a resolution everyone will have forgotten what the purpose of the bill was to begin with.
It's Wednesday...someone break me out of my decadent pessimism.
# posted by Jamie : 8:08 AM
Who dares question the Rainbow Sash Gestapo?
Get back in line and don't speak until you're spoken to.
# posted by Jamie : 7:57 AM