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Word to the wise.

November 15, 2012

Having faith in the Lord is not something that solely involves our intelligence, the area of intellectual knowledge; rather, it is a change that involves our life, our whole self: feelings, heart, intelligence, will, corporeity, emotions and human relationships.

- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience (October 17, 2012)

Like “Jesus said to them, my wife” and stuff.

September 29, 2012

A recent finding of a manuscript (entertainingly) shows that Jesus Christ was married. But scholars are divided to its authenticity. After all, it was written in the 4th century; methinks it ought to be recognized as gnostic. From Reuters:

“Substantial reasons would lead one to conclude that the papyrus is indeed a clumsy forgery,” the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said in an editorial by its editor, Gian Maria Vian. “In any case, it’s a fake.”

[...]

“It’s really pretty unlikely that it’s authentic,” University of Durham Professor Francis Watson told Reuters after he published a paper arguing the words on the fragment were a rearrangement of phrases from a well known Coptic text.

Watson, who has previously worked on identifying forged gospels, said it was likely to be an ancient blank fragment that was written over in the 20th or 21st century by a forger seeking to make money.

Watson argues the words on the fragment do not fit grammatically into a larger text.

“It’s possible to get hold of an old bit of un-written on papyrus and write some new stuff on it,” Watson said. “There is a market for fake antiquities throughout the Middle East … I would guess that in this case the motivation might have been a financial one.”

I do hope the fragment of Jesus Christ as the first hipster surfaces. That would be. Like. Totes rad.

The HHS Mandate Begins…

August 3, 2012

Cardinal Dolan writes in his blog The Gospel in the Digital Age:

One part of the HHS mandate sadly goes into effect today.

You probably know all about the mandate by now.  It’s the decree from the Secretary of Health and Human Services that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employer health care plans to include contraceptive services for women, including drugs called abortifacients. Although, in America’s finest tradition, the bill allows an exemption for religious reasons, it presumes to define just what a church’s ministry must be to qualify, a dramatic and unprecedented intrusion into the integrity of all faiths.  My brother bishops and I – in welcome collaboration with other religious leaders – think that this mandate is wrong and misguided and have tried to work with the Administration to correct it.

What’s most troubling about the HHS mandate is that it carves out a religious exemption that is so narrowly drawn that most Catholic agencies – including Catholic Charities, hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and potentially many others – would not qualify.

How does a Catholic or other religious entity qualify for this exemption?  It must be a non-profit organization under certain IRS guidelines, and must meet all of the following criteria:

  1.  The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization;
  2. The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization;
  3. The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.

Got that?  The federal government is graciously allowing your parish church to consider itself Catholic.  But, not much else would qualify.

Consider:

A Catholic hospital founded and still sponsored by nuns, striving to carry out our Savior’s command to care for the sick?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, its purpose is not the inculcation of religious values, and it hardly asks for a person’s religion before admitting a patient.

A Catholic Charities homeless shelter, providing a bed, a shower, and a nutritious meal?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, it serves all seeking help, regardless of their religious beliefs.  (Would the government prefer us to turn away anyone who can’t produce a baptismal certificate and recite the Nicene Creed?)

A Catholic high school founded and still run by a religious order, which has proudly educated young men, preparing them to succeed in college, in the work place, as husbands and fathers?   Sorry, not Catholic enough.   No religious freedom here!  After all, the student populations is more than 50% non-Catholic.

Yes, the Archdiocese of New York has joined dozens of others in filing a lawsuit against the administration and HHS, arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional.  And, yes, the administration has granted a one-year reprieve to religious agencies whose conscience would be violated by this mandate.  (That’s right – the government acknowledges that this will be a problem for many religious agencies.  But their response is, essentially, “too bad.”)

What will happen when the year is up?

Read the rest here.  

China’s War on Catholic Priests

July 27, 2012

Nina Shea at National Review reports on the Chinese government placing Catholic priests under house arrest:

As widely reported, Catholic Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin has not been publicly seen since July 7, the day he was ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai and the day when he dissented from state religious policy. Catholic sources report that the 44-year-old Bishop Ma is now being detained under a form of house arrest, cynically described as a “retreat” by state religious authorities.

At his ordination mass two weeks ago, Bishop Ma avoided the imposition of hands by a bishop unapproved by the Vatican and publicly announced his resignation from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPA), an oversight body established by the state to register and regulate all Catholic worship, teaching, and practice within the country. He quit the CPA, he declared, because it was an obstacle to his leadership within the Catholic Church. According to a transcript, toward the ceremony’s close, invoking the words of the Jesuit St. Ignatius, he said:

In this present moment, in this place, we have to choose a way that will serve God with greater glory. . . . In the light of the teaching of Our Mother Church, as I now serve as a bishop, I should focus on the pastoral work and evangelization. It is inconvenient for me to take on certain responsibilities. Therefore, from this day of consecration, I will no longer be convenient to be a member of the Patriotic Association.

To openly renounce the CPA is rarely heard of these days. It prompted an emotional response. The Catholic Asia News reported that this declaration brought prolonged applause and tears among many in attendance, which included over 40 Chinese priests and bishops.

It also brought state reprisals. Father Bernardo Cervellera, a veteran journalist for the Catholic press, reports that the state is now retaliating against Bishop Ma: “The Religious Affairs Bureau [of the Chinese government] did not like this perfectly aimed blow and has confined him to house arrest in the Sheshan seminary, for a forced period of ‘rest.’”

Bishop Ma is courageous. By boldly renouncing the CPA regime, he witnesses and glorifies God as the sole judge. If truth does exist (and I’m asking rhetorically) then one needs to stand up for it, even risking imprisonment. Bishop Ma echoes the actions of Socrates, Jesus Christ and the saints.

Today’s responsorial in Mass was Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall not want.” How appropriate at this time (at all times). The Chinese government fails to realize that physically detaining a Christian behind closed doors means nothing–his soul remains free and with God. To clarify, the Chinese government are materialists, thinking only of matter and controlling it with earth bound power, which at the end, is useless and futile. They should get a clue from history that Catholics in Poland flourished amidst Nazi and later, Communist occupation. In God’s time, perhaps China’s human rights violation on religious freedom will crumble just like the Berlin Wall (a material object made by human hands).

Same Sex Marriage Cannot Prevail

July 21, 2012

Robert P. George harmoniously  links the intellect together with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love on Marriage, Religious Liberty, and the “Grand Bargain” at Public Discourse, excerpt:

The lesson, it seems to me, for those of us who believe that the conjugal conception of marriage is true and good, and who wish to protect the rights of our faithful and of our institutions to honor that belief in carrying out their vocations and missions, is that there is no alternative to winning the battle in the public square over the legal definition of marriage. The “grand bargain” [that same sex marriage is not harmful] is an illusion we should dismiss from our minds.

Of course, with sexual liberalism now so powerfully entrenched in the established institutions of the elite sector of our culture (and, let us not kid ourselves, fully embraced by the President of the United States and the leadership of the Democratic Party), some view the defense of marriage as a lost cause. I think that is another mistake—one that sexual liberals have every reason to encourage their opponents to make, and ample resources to promote. We’ve all heard the argument (or taunt): “The acceptance of same-sex marriage on a national scale is inevitable. It’s a done deal. You had better get on the right side of history, lest you be remembered in the company of Orval Faubus.”

Of course, this is what we were told about a “woman’s right” to abortion in the mid-’70s. But it didn’t turn out that way. A greater percentage of Americans are pro-life today than in the 1970s, and young people are more pro-life than people of their parents’ generation. The idea promoted by the abortion lobby when their cause seemed to be a juggernaut—that “the American people will inevitably accept abortion as a matter of women’s rights and social hygiene”—proved spectacularly false.

Or, speaking of “social hygiene,” think back to the 1920s and ’30s when eugenics was embraced by the elite institutions of American society—from the wealthy philanthropic foundations, to the mainline Protestant denominations, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Affluent, sophisticated, “right-minded” people were all on board with the eugenics program. It, too, seemed like a juggernaut. Only those retrograde Catholics, joined by some other backward religious folk, resisted; and the thought was that the back of their resistance would soon be broken by the sheer rationality of the eugenics idea. The eugenicists were certain that their adversaries were on “the wrong side of history.” The full acceptance of eugenics was “inevitable.” But, of course, things didn’t quite turn out that way.

Note that my point here is not to say or imply that redefining marriage is morally just like abortion or eugenics. There are obvious and important differences. My point is about the claim by progressives and some others in each case that the triumph of the cause was “inevitable,” and that those who declined to go along were “against progress” and had placed themselves on the “wrong side of history.”

Does that mean that the reverse is true, that the conjugal conception of marriage will inevitably prevail in law and culture? No. There is nothing inevitable in this domain. As the left-wing—but anti-Hegelian—Brazilian legal theorist Roberto Unger used to preach to us in courses at Harvard Law School, the future will be the fruit of human deliberation, judgment, and choice; it is not subject to fixed laws of history and forces of social determinism. As the Marxists learned the hard way, the reality of human freedom is the permanent foiler of “inevitability” theses. Same-sex marriage and the assaults on liberty and equality that follow in its wake are “inevitable” only if defenders of marriage make their adversaries’ prophecies self-fulfilling ones, by buying into them.

Remarkable commentary from Mr. George! Same sex marriage cannot prevail without the people consenting. There is a dire need to bring our heart and intellect to work with one another, to see the obfuscations of arguments led by same sex marriage proponents. But to do so always with charity because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. What good is our actions, arguments, and will without love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13)? From Sacred Scripture and experience, no matter how intelligent, coherent, and reasonable a man is, without love, his words fall on fruitless soil. Furthermore, action without prayer is like running a marathon without preparation (months of training, eating well, adequate sleep etc.). So in the marriage debate, and with other issues that concerns humanity like abortion, prayer and action must be always entwined in faith that God will give strength to preach the Gospel unwaveringly, as love provides a shelter that can endure all things; and hope, the fertile soil from which all things grow and blossom.

Is the Catholic Church Conservative or Liberal?

July 18, 2012
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

photo: Adoremus in æternum by Father Lawrence OP

Bishop Farrell of Dallas wrote a great piece “The Church and Politics” that ought to be read and shared with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. At this time we are in a quagmire due to President Obama pushing forth the HHS mandate on Catholic private businesses and institutions to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs. This is against the First Amendment and one’s conscience.

The media and others would like to frame this issue as political: conservative versus liberal, Catholics for contraception (I can do whatever with my body because it is my right) versus Catholics who respect the body as a gift (Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, anyone?).

However, as any intelligent person living in objective reality can see, the HHS mandate is against religious freedom. Certainly there are people on both sides of the issue that politicize the HHS mandate for power, control, and what have not–Bishop Farrell points to this. The Catholic Church remains, neither Conservative or Liberal, always proclaiming the Gospel, as Bishop Farrell witnesses:

Catholicism is neither conservative nor liberal. It is committed to proclaiming the saving message of Jesus Christ contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture which flow from one sacred deposit of the word of God. (Dei Verbum 10)

 During the more than 2000 years since its establishment by Jesus, the Church has lived under myriad political systems, sometimes thriving, sometimes suffering, but never compromising the sacred message with which it is entrusted.

Because the Gospel compels the Church to concern itself with respect for the dignity and freedom of all people it addresses itself to the human condition particularly in the areas of “marriage and family, human culture, life in its economic, social and political dimensions, the bonds between the family and peace.” (Gaudium et Spes 46) When the Church addresses violations of human freedom and dignity or Gospel principles in these areas it is not engaging in political action but fulfilling the mandate of Jesus “to love your neighbor as yourself.”(Mt 22:34-40). And who is our neighbor? Anyone who needs our help and whom we can help. (Deus  Caritas Est 15)

At different times and in different places political movements have co-opted various elements of the Church’s message to further their own ends, and members of the Church, weakened by their human condition, have distorted and even betrayed the Holy Gospel for personal or political gain. Such occurrences have frequently been used to subvert, misrepresent and negate the efforts of the Church.

Nevertheless, as the Church continues its pilgrim journey, in spite of vilification and persecution and always in need of purification, it will continue to proclaim the Good News to all men and women in season and out of season.

Can we have an “Amen”? And if you have not done so already, please read the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty document on Our First, Most Cherished Liberty A Statement on Religious Liberty.

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16, 2012

Today we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I’m attracted to her because she is the patroness of the Carmelites, who were inspired to embrace the love of God and to contemplate the Word in the purifying silence. Elijah, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of The Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa Benedicata of the Cross and others throughout the ages have witnessed, under the patron of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that the soul can rest in the mystery of Christ and his Sacred Heart and find peace, joy, and happiness which the world cannot give. I wear the Brown Scapular that she gave to Saint Dominic; to evangelize the world of her loving embrace as she points to God, and for our salvation.

Pietro Novelli Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Pietro Novelli (1641); Wikipedia Commons

Pope Benedict XVI gave an address celebrating the 450th anniversary of two occasions: the founding of St. Joseph’s monastery and St. Teresa of Avila’s reform of the Carmelite order. His message upholds that prayer is an integral part of our life, just like breathing:

“The reform of the Carmelite Order, the anniversary of which fills us with inner joy, arose from prayer and tends towards prayer. In promoting a radical return to the original Rule and abandoning the mitigated Rule, St. Teresa of Jesus sought to create a form of life which favoured a personal encounter with the Lord, finding ‘a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us. Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest’”.
“St. Teresa presented a new way of being Carmelite in a world which was also new. Those were ‘difficult times’ in which, according to that Mistress of the spirit, … ‘the world is on fire. Men try to condemn Christ once again. They would raze His Church to the ground. No, my sisters, this is no time to treat with God for things of little importance’. Does this luminous and engaging call, written more than four centuries ago by the mystic saint, not sound familiar in our own times?”
“The ultimate goal of Teresa’s reform and the creation of new monasteries in a world lacking spiritual values was to protect apostolic work with prayer, proposing a form of evangelical life that would act as a model for people seeking the path of perfection, on the basis of the conviction that all authentic personal and ecclesial reform involves an ever more faithful reproduction of the ‘form’ of Christ in our own selves. … Today too, as in the sixteenth century, in the midst of rapid transformation, it is important that trusting prayer be the heart of the apostolate, so that the the redeeming message of Jesus Christ may sound our clearly and dynamically. It is urgently important for the Word of life to resound harmoniously in peoples souls, with sonorous and attractive notes”.
“The example of St. Teresa of Avila is of great help to us in this exhilarating task. In her time the saint evangelised unhesitatingly, showing tireless ardour, employing methods free from inertia and using expressions bathed in light. This remains important in the current time, when there is a pressing need for the baptised to renew their hearts through individual prayer in which, following the guidance of St. Teresa, they also focus on contemplation of Christ’s blessed humanity as the only way to reach the glory of God”.
“The power of Christ will lead to a redoubling of efforts to ensure that the people of God recover their vigour in the only way possible: by finding space within ourselves for the feelings of the Lord Jesus, and in all circumstances seeking to live His Gospel to the full. This means, above all, allowing the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Master and to mould us to Him. It also means accepting all His mandates and adopting in ourselves criteria such as humility of conduct, renunciation of the superfluous, not harming others and acting with simplicity and humbleness of heart. Thus those around us will perceive the joy that arises from our adherence to the Lord; they will see that we put nothing before His love, and that we are always ready to give reasons for our hope”.

The rest can be read here. Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us!

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