Thursday, November 30, 2006

Papal Coronation of Blessed Pope John XXIII

Over at the blog Valle Adurni, which "is the blogspot of the tired Parish Priest of the Adur Valley in Sussex", you will find many, many photographs of the Papal Coronation, yes, you read it correctly, Coronation, of Blessed Pope John XXIII, like the photo accompanying this post.

These post are the last few in a long series, but enjoy pictures of what was the second-to-last pre-Vatican II Papal Coronation:

Papal Coronation 30
Papal Coronation 29
Papal Coronation 28.
All-in-all a very good and informative blog.

This post show the very last papal coronation. Paul VI later sold the papal tiara, only to have it purchased and given back to him. The post includes the history of the tiara after Paul VI gave it up.
Paul VI and his tiara

Pope Benedict XVI's to Patriarch Bartholomew

Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I during their prayer together in the Patriarchal Church of St. George in the Phanar, Istanbul.

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps 133:1)

"Your Holiness,

"I am deeply grateful for the fraternal welcome extended to me by you personally, and by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I will treasure its memory forever. I thank the Lord for the grace of this encounter, so filled with authentic goodwill and ecclesial significance.

"It gives me great joy to be among you, my brothers in Christ, in this Cathedral Church, as we pray together to the Lord and call to mind the momentous events that have sustained our commitment to work for the full unity of Catholics and Orthodox. I wish above all to recall the courageous decision to remove the memory of the anathemas of 1054. The joint declaration of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, written in a spirit of rediscovered love, was solemnly read in a celebration held simultaneously in Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and in this Patriarchal Cathedral. The Tomos of the Patriarch was based on the Johannine profession of faith:
'Ho Theós agapé estin (1 Jn 4:9), Deus caritas est! In perfect agreement, Pope Paul VI chose to begin his own Brief with the Pauline exhortation: 'Ambulate in dilectione' (Eph 5:2), 'Walk in love.' It is on this foundation of mutual love that new relations between the Churches of Rome and Constantinople have developed.

"Signs of this love have been evident in numerous declarations of shared commitment and many meaningful gestures. Both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were warmly received as visitors in this Church of Saint George, and joined respectively with Patriarchs Athenagoras I and Dimitrios I in strengthening the impetus towards mutual understanding and the quest of full unity. May their names be honored and blessed!

I also rejoice to be in this land so closely connected to the Christian faith, where many Churches flourished in ancient times. I think of Saint Peter's exhortations to the early Christian communities
'in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia' (1 Pet 1:1), and the rich harvest of martyrs, theologians, pastors, monastics, and holy men and women which those Churches brought forth over the centuries.

"I likewise recall the outstanding saints and pastors who have watched over the See of Constantinople, among them Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom, whom the West also honors as Doctors of the Church. Their relics rest in the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, and a part of them were given to Your Holiness as a sign of communion by the late Pope John Paul II for veneration in this very Cathedral. Truly, they are worthy intercessors for us before the Lord.

"In this part of the Eastern world were also held the seven Ecumenical Councils which Orthodox and Catholics alike acknowledge as authoritative for the faith and discipline of the Church. They are enduring milestones and guides along our path towards full unity.

"I conclude by expressing once more my joy to be with you. May this meeting strengthen our mutual affection and renew our common commitment to persevere on the journey leading to reconciliation and the peace of the Churches.

"I greet you in the love of Christ. May the Lord be always with you."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stewardship, not devastation

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, with whom Pope Benedict XVI is visiting in Istanbul and celebrating the feast of St. Andrew, the patron of Constantinople, is known for his concern for the environment. Because of his concern and writing about our stewardship of creation, Bartholomew is known as "the Green Patriarch". To that end, I read something today that causes me deep concern. Before getting to what I read, I get tired of hearing so-called conservative commentators say things like, wealth creation is not a zero-sum game. I agree up to a point. However, insofar as wealth creation and economic growth are dependent on natural resources, there is a limit to what we can sustainably produce. Hence, while not a zero-sum game exactly, there are limits to wealth creation.

A recent report by the World Wildlife Fund, Living Planet Report, that the demands made by human beings on the earth's natural resources has increased so fast that, even when it comes to renewable resources, the planet is unable to keep pace with our consumption. I was alerted to this report by the 27 November 2006 issue (Vol 195, Number 4754) of the Jesuit newsweekly America. The WWF report calls this state-of-affairs "serious ecological overshoot" and tells us that human beings are "no longer living off nature's interest, but drawing in its capital". A rising tide may lift all boats, as supporters of global capitialistic consumerism like to say, but an ever-rising ocean engulfs (all?) inhabitable land. According to the report, humanity began drawing on nature's capital in the 1980s and has accelerated since then to the point that humanity's demand on the earth's resources has exceeded, presumably renewable, supply by 25%. The global economic inequities are reflected in consumption patterns. Whereas, Africa and Asia have been using less than the world average per capita in biocapacity, North America and the European Union that have far exceeded what can be called excessive development, defined as using the earth's resources at a pace faster than the earth can renew them.

In a post on bi-polar morality, which I removed, care for the environment, along with peace and justice, is identified by Pope Benedict XVI as a neglected but important part of the Church's proclamation that makes up one side of the split. On the other side are the issues of the sanctity of human life and marriage, along with a proper understanding of human sexuality. The Church, in her proclamation, must seek to bridge this gap and show that these two parts, like the bi-polar human psyche, are actually part of one whole.

This weekend, having just received it from Netflix, we'll be watching
An Inconvenient Truth.

Well done, Archbishop Niederauer!

The Holy See announced on Monday, 27 November 2006, that the former Bishop of Salt Lake City, George H. Niederauer, currently Archbishop of San Francisco, and, as such, is still Salt Lake City's metropolitan archbishop, was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The primary reason for his appointment, besides his being a master communicator with a Ph.D. in English literature, is that he is the incoming chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for Communication.

A tidbit from the Archbishop's Baccalaureate speech this past Spring at Stanford, where he began his college education before returning to his native Los Angeles and entering the seminary:

"The journey is one of the oldest images for a human lifetime. Is it trite? Perhaps, but in our lives we do move from experience to experience, from place to place, from idea to idea, from one cluster of companions and relationships to another. Tomorrow's graduation from Stanford leads to the rest of your journey.

You are very likely grateful for the gifts given you until now: life, family, youth, a fine education and the community of your friends here. At the same time you are anticipating the journey ahead, with all its promise, changes and surprises. What now?

Of course you have your plans. I've often heard people say—not always cynically—'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.' Of course promises do get fulfilled, plans do work out, but almost always there are surprises, unforeseen choices, adjustments and alterations.

As you navigate those twists and turns, does it help to choose an image for the journey you hope to take? Maybe so. As I look around at the cultural scene we share, two metaphors for a life journey occur to me. One is ancient, the other fairly recent. They are the ocean cruise and the pilgrimage. These images are not literal but attitudinal. You will behave differently if you believe you are on a cruise or on a pilgrimage."

Being our brothers' keepers

Since we are praying this week for the Church to once again, using John Paul II's metaphor from his Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, "breathe with two lungs", the reunification of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, I want to introduce you to an association that is very dear to me: Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association. More particularly, here is a link to a fascinating and wonderful article in CNEWA's current issue of their magazine One entitled Orthodox Alaska, by Yereth Rosen.

I urge you all to consider donating to this wonderful Pontifical agency, founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926. It is so very vital to support Christian communities in the lands where our faith began. After supporting your own parish and diocese, this is an agency worthy of your support.

Praying Together

In my box at the Cathedral on Sunday I found a complimentary copy of a very nicely hard-bound book entitled The Words of John Paul II: An Inspiring Collection of His Thoughts and Prayers, published by Liberia Editrice Rogate. So, I brought it home and have been praying with John Paul II this week. This morning I came across a prayer for community, which I am working hard to foster in our parish. It spoke to the hurts and disappointments I know that several in our parish are presently enduring. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit led me to this wonderful prayer by a true mystic, pastor, and father who, without doubt, continues to intercede for us and for his successor, collaborator, and dear brother, Pope Benedict XVI. He is no doubt interceding in a most fervent way this week, as Pope Benedict makes his pilgrimage in Turkey and on this day in particular, on which Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass in the house of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ephesus, where, we have little reason to doubt, she ended her earthly pilgrimage and to whom Karol Wojtyla was totally and completely dedicated (Totus Tuus). Undoubtedly he will be asking the Blessed Mother to foster trust and understanding, which leads to peace between Christians and Muslims, joined by the martyr, Fr. Andrea Santoro. We can be certain that John Paul II will be joined in heavenly intercession to the Blessed Virgin, Theotokos, by Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, and Patriarch Athenagoras for full and visible communion between the Churches of the East and the West. Dear friends we must make his prayer our prayer, on both a universal and local level. Therefore, let us also pray for our parishes and commit ourselves to building truly Christian communities of agapé, truth, peace, that foster unity and community among all people in our respective cities, towns, and communities.

"Let us pray God,
who in Jesus Christ wished to unite all men
in a single community of salvation,
to grant that his disciples may bear witness
to unity in our time.
Let us therefore repeat:
Blessed are you, O Lord.
Lord, you sent your Only Begotten Son
to redeem and save all humanity.
Blessed are you, O Lord.
You gave us your Spirit,
you gather us in our communities.
Blessed are you, O Lord.
You wish all people to be your holy people;
you dispense gifts and talents
and call
[us] to the unity of one body.
Blessed are you, O Lord.
Grant, O Lord, that we may turn to you
with confidence as the Father,
and say with one heart: Our Father".

A Litany for the week:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
St. Joseph, pray for us
Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us
St. John, Beloved Disciple, pray for us
St. Andrew, pray for us
St. Bartholomew, pray for us
St. Stephen, pray for us
St. Basil, pray for us
St. Gregory Naziansus, pray for us
St. Gregory of Nyssa, pray for us
St. Benedict, pray for us
St. Martin of Tours, pray for us
Sts. Francesco and Chiara, pray for us
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Little Flower, pray for us
Blessed Pope John XXIII, pray for us
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us
Pope Paul VI, pray for us
Patriarch Athenagoras, pray for us
Pope John Paul II, pray for us
Fr. Andrea Santoro, pray for us
All holy men and women, pray for us

Monday, November 27, 2006

For what it's worth and an addendum

In anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage I offer links to all my University of Regensburg lecture commentary and few that are a bit peripheral.

The Gap:

Christians & Muslims must Worship God and "promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values for the benefit of all humanity"

Observing the gap through a literary prism

Observing the gap Through Real-Life

Observing the gap through the prism of sexuality

Regensburg commentary:

"German Intellectual meets soundbite media"

Islam's Unreasonable Response to Benedict's Call to Dialogue on the Basis of Reason

La fin de l'affaire de Paleologus

Benedict's Prophetic Message: Speaking the Truth in Love

Regensburg Lecture- the Holy See's definitive version

Faith and Reason/Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis/Logical(Scientific) Positivism/Ludwig Wittgenstein and Joseph Ratzinger


I offer an addition to the bibliography I offered in my post
Middle Eastern Sources. The book is entitled, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950 , written by Mark Mazower. I am just finishing it, but do not hesitate to add it to my list.

On the Eve of the Holy Father's Apostolic Visit to The Republic of Turkey

During yesterday's Angelus, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in anticipation of his 28 November-1 December 2006 trip to Turkey, said: "I ask all of you to accompany me in prayer, so that this pilgrimage will produce all the fruits that God desires". Well, actually, he said, in his German-accented Italian, "A tutti voi domando di accompagnarmi con la preghiera, perché questo pellegrinaggio possa portare tutti i frutti che Dio desidera." Turkey is a country very near and dear to my heart, a land I have visited many times and in which I have many friends. I was heartbroken and bereft when, after arriving home from the region last winter, Fr. Andrea Santoro was tragically murdered while praying in his parish Church by a very confused and fanatical teenage young man in Trabezon, Turkey on the Black Sea coast, East of Istanbul. Of course, in light of his terribly misunderstood University of Regensburg address, the Holy Father needs our prayers.

In accompanying Pope Benedict XVI in prayer, let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos, who ended her earthly sojourn in Ephesus. Also pray to St. Andrew, patron of the Orthodox Patriarchate, on whose feast, in the Patriarchal Church of St. George, the Holy Father will attend the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy at which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will preside. We must also invoke Sts. Peter and Paul. Let us ask the martyr, Fr. Andrea Santoro, along with the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, also shot by a Turkish national, for their heavenly intercession. We must not fail in invoke the help of Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who, in Jerusalem in 1964, mutually revoked the centuries old excommunications and started the process of reunification that has been underway ever since. Let us not neglect to ask Blessed Pope John XXIII, who, for ten years, was the Holy See's Apostolic Delegate in Turkey, for his celestial aid. (For a great take on Blessed Pope John XXIII's Turkish legacy, link over to Rocco's post Amico dei Turci.)

An easy and wonderful way to accompany the Holy Father in prayer is to use the cards, generously provided by the Knights of Columbus, that we distributed after all masses at The Cathedral of the Madeleine yesterday and daily pray the prayer, composed by Bishop William Lori, bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT and Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. For those of you who are not Cathedral parishoners, or who did not take a card home (shame on you), you can download the Spiritual Pilgrimage card in printable .pdf format from the Knights' website. Pray specifically for the Pope in his role as Pontifex Maximus, which means supreme bridge builder, in his efforts to close the gap between the West and the East and to successfully rebuild the necessary connection between faith and reason. Pray also that this visit to the Phanar on the Feast of St. Andrew will be a big step toward achieving not only full and visible communion between the Eastern and Western churches, fractured in 1054 AD, but in uniting, in the words of John Allen, "all religious believers in a common struggle against secularization and the progressive exclusion of religion from public affairs, especially in Europe". After all, what is more Westernizing than secularization?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Year B-Vespers-Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Feast of Christ the King

Reading: Revelation 1,5-8

Glory and power forever and ever to him "who loves us and has made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father", writes St. John in the Apocalypse. Just what does it mean to be priests? Before answering this question directly it is important to realize that there is only one priesthood, the priesthood of Jesus Christ. We participate in this priesthood through our baptism. Hence, the ministerial, or ordained, priesthood is at the service of the one priesthood of all believers. To answer the question directly, priests offer sacrifice. Therefore, I urge you my dear brothers and sisters, to use the words of St. Paul, "to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship" (Rom 12,1). How do we make ourselves sacrifices to God, the Almighty Father? First, it is only through participation in the sacrifice of Christ that our offering is in any way acceptable to God. Second, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices by not being conformed to this age, but by being transformed by the renewal of our minds in order that we may discern what is God’s will, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12,2). We are transformed by what we do. In turn, what we do is informed by what we believe and what we believe in are the values of God’s Kingdom taught to us by Christ, our King.

There is nothing more countercultural in our day, or any age, than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The values of God’s kingdom are given us very clearly by Christ in the beatitudes (Matt 5,2-12) and the two Great Commandments (Lk 10,25-38). These two commandments are to love God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Who is our neighbor? Just as Cain was to be his brother’s keeper, our neighbor is every other human being, most especially those with whom we would typically have the least to do: the widow, the orphan, the person suffering from HIV or full-blown AIDS, the starving, the drug addicted, and the mentally ill cast out into the street. Christ the King tells us elsewhere in the Apocalypse that he stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3,20). When we answer the door, who do we see? Do we see the haloed and glowing figure of what can best be described as Jesus of Norway? No, when we answer the door at which Jesus Christ knocks, we see him in his distressing disguise as a hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and imprisoned human being. It is through his distressing disguise that our Lord makes his royal power known. It is in the hungry person we not only feed, but with whom we break bread, that Christ enters our house and dines with us.

If our Eucharist is to have meaning, it must lead us to make of ourselves priestly people in and through our everyday sacrifices. If we fail to do this Eucharist becomes an empty gesture, a meaningless ritual in which participate an hour so each week. God used the prophets to chastise Israel for scrupulously observing the ritual law, but neglecting the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among them. If we are truly to belong to this priestly kingdom we must live in such a way that each day we do our little bit to bring about God’s reign on earth. Because his kingdom is not of this world, God’s reign cannot be made to happen through mere political power, but through humble acts of generosity, the giving our time, talents, and wealth for the building up of God’s Kingdom, by working toward a more just and equitable society, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our King, Jesus Christ.

Truism: Wherever you are, that's where you're at

This morning I was reading through the current edition of Commonweal, a lay-run Catholic bi-monthly that provides me with an inexhaustible source of spirit- and thought-provoking writing. Two of my favorite Commonweal contributors are John Garvey and Luke Timothy Johnson. Anybody who has heard me teach has heard me cite "Catholic biblical scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson". But John Garvey, an Orthodox priest who lives in the borough of Queens in New York City, is another favorite of mine. Just as I open First Things each month to the back to read Fr. Neuhaus' The Public Square first, I open Commonweal and look for a John Garvey article. Anyway, as many of you know, we moved out of the city last summer and I miss it terribly. As I drove into the city for yesterday's big game, it dawned on me all the more how much I miss the place and why I miss it.

Writing about a recent fire in his row house, Garvey ruminates on place, its importance, and our attachment, but not without discussing some of the spiritual implications of attachment: "Toward the end of his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes, 'I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.'

I learned recently, the hard way, how far I am from that state of being."

Then, as to place, he also looks to scripture:

"Psalm 103: 'As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; / for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, / and its place knows it no more.'

"That idea of being known by a place struck home. There was a kind of dialogue between me and this place that I had become used to, and it was more important to me than I knew. It had to do with the silence of morning, with the freedom I have to read and write in these rooms, with views of clouds and a red maple from these windows. Four days in a hotel room got in the way of that, and I found myself resenting it."

Personal geography is important. I love the schema Michael Mott uses in his biography of Thomas Merton, the title of which is a play on Merton's autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, which is, of course, an allusion to Dante's Inferno, not Purgatorio or Paradiso ; The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton (how's that as an example of Derridean inter-textuality?). Given the temporal nature of mortal life, are you content? Have you grasped the importance of being content and are you learning?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The result

Final: BYU 34 Utah 31 in the most exciting game I have ever seen live. BYU won by scoring a touchdown, they were down 31-27, with no time left on the clock. As my toughest coach used to say, "Gentlemen, we play the game because it's fun. Now, I don't know about you, but I have more fun when I win." My wife always tells me blowouts are boring. I respond by telling her that she's never played. However, today's game was one for the ages.

I'm hoarse, but I am glad I saw that game live. A big thank you to Brian and Jennifer for the tickets! I truly relish watching really great football. No sour grapes. Congrats to the Cougs and their fans. I hope we return the favor in Provo next year. I will add one bit of commentary, if my Utes had been able to put any pressure at all on BYU quarterback, John Beck, we would've won. So, good job BYU o-line. Keep your heads up Utah!

Game Day- Utah vs. BYU

My son and I will be leaving in a little while to attend the annual Utah/BYU rivalry game, courtesy of some generous parishoners. I always love rooting for my alma mater. I grew up dreaming of moving to the capitol city and attending the U. I came to faith in God, met and married my lovely wife, and studied Philosophy and History all at the U. Back in my days as an undergrad and graduate student we stunk at football. Just after I left the school, Ron McBride took the program over and turned it around. Back in the day our cry, at least as far as football was concerned (we ruled in b-ball), was "The game isn't over until we've lost our dignity!"

Today is is the Utes' last chance to show that they're a decent football team. They take on the 8-2 Cougars, undefeated in conference play and MWC champions. The Utes are 7-4, with non-conference losses to UCLA and Boise State, as well as conference losses to Wyoming and New Mexico. In other words, apart from New Mexico, Utah has beat the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams who were supposed to beat them. Kyle Whittingham does not have an overachieving bunch à la Urban Meyer. The great thing about a rivalry is that all bets are off. Plus, today's game is being played in our own Rice/Eccles Stadium. So, all together now like we mean it:

I am a Utah Man, sir, and I live across the green,
Our gang it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.
Our coeds are the fairest and each one's a shining star, (This actually used to be a line about raising our beers and lagers, but then we went coed and, probably in the hopes of getting a date, we made some concession to the coeds)
Our yell, you'll hear it ringing through the mountains near and far!
We're up to snuff, we never bluff, we're game for any fuss.
No other gang of college men dare meet us in a muss.
So fill your lungs and sing it out and shout it to the sky,
We'll fight for dear old crimson for a Utah Man am I!

And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row,
And arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go.
No matter if a freshman green, or in a senior's gown,
The people all admit we are the warmest gang in town.

We may not live forever on this jolly good old sphere,
But while we do we'll live a life of merriment and cheer,
And when our college days are o'er and night is drawing nigh,
With parting breath we'll sing that song:
"A Utah Man Am I".

Who am I, sir,
A Utah Man am I!
A Utah Man, sir,
Will be 'til I die.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pope Benedict, Msgr. Klaus Gamber, the Universal Indult and the Reform of the reform

After a lunchtime discussion yesterday with several people who know far more than I do about the sacred liturgy, I re-read the late Msgr. Klaus Gamber's book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background. This book is really two books co-published together in English by Una Voce and The Foundation for Catholic Reform in 1993 and distributed by Roman Catholic Books, which has some relationship with Ignatius Press.

In reading a translated excerpt then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote for the French edition of the book, it is impossible not to see the significance of Gamber's writings for his own thinking about and writing on the liturgy. Another connection is that while Herr Doktor Joseph Ratzinger was teaching theology at the University of Regensburg and his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, was liturgy and music director at Regensburg's Cathedral of St. Peter (pictured to the left), Msgr. Klaus Gamber, who passed away in 1989, headed the Liturgical Institute in Regensburg. "What happened after the Council," writes the then Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in his introduction, was that "in the place of the liturgy . . . came fabricated liturgy". According to the pre-Benedictine Cardinal Ratzinger, the "organic, living process of growth and development over centuries" was abandoned and replaced by "a manufacturing process", that produced "a banal on-the-spot product". In this same introduction, he writes, "Gamber, with the vigilance of a true prophet and the courage of a true witness, opposed this falsification" and "taught us about the living fullness of a true liturgy".

It is my belief after re-reading Gamber's book last night, that it gives us a road map for what Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict XVI, hopes to accomplish in his reform of the reform of the Sacred Liturgy during his pontificate. He is in an ideal position to accomplish this reform because, after the promulgation of Liturgiam authenticam in the latter years of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and, for English-speaking Catholics, the establishment of Vox Clara to oversee the work of ICEL in the translation of the editio typica of the sacred rites, which are always in Latin, there is currently underway a new translation Missale Romanae into several modern languages.

There are three reforms that the Holy Father seems eager to accomplish. The first has already effectively been done. It is the correct translation of the institution narrative of the eucharistic prayers of the Latin pro multis, which in the 1969 missal was rendered for all. Last Friday, 17 November 2006, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments communicated that, at the "direction" of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, the rendering of the Latin "pro vobis et pro multis", which, in the current missal is translated "for you and for all so that sins maybe forgiven" in the liturgical consecration of the cup, is, in all future translations of the Missale Romanae to be rendered "for you and for many". On page fifty-five of The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Msgr. Gamber writes, "Pope Paul VI saw fit to alter the words of Consecration and Institution, unchanged for 1,500 years - a change that was neither intended by the Council nor of any discernible pastoral benefit. Truly problematic, in fact truly scandalous, is the translation of the phrase pro multis as 'for all,' a translation inspired by modern theological thinking but not to be found in any historical liturgical text." Lest the theological point Gamber is making here be misunderstood, there is an important footnote, number 65, to which we must attend: "In his exegesis of Heb 9,28, St. John Chrysostom explains quite succinctly: 'He was offered but once to bear the sins of many. Why does he [the author of Hebrews] say "of many," and not "of all"? Because not all had faith. Although He died for all, as far as He is concerned, to save all, His death voiding the downfall of all mankind, yet He did not take away the sins of all, because they themselves did not want Him to do this'." Gamber readdresses this whole issue later in an addendum to the book, that runs from page 185 to page 193, and is entitled "The concept of the Sacrifice of the Mass in the Early Church: Or, Why the Translation of 'For You and For All' Is Wrong".

The second reform, which seems to be in the works, is the granting of the universal indult for priests to celebrate mass according the missal of 1962, which was not the last approved Latin missal, the last was what Gamber sees as the missal containing the authentic reform called for by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council, with the mass still in Latin, in 1965 (a very good year). Granting of the universal indult to celebrate mass according to the 1962 missal would supercede the current indult, granted by Pope John Paul II, that ended the suppression of the Latin Mass allowing its celebration only at the discretion of the local bishop. Granting such an indult universally would effectively accomplish what Gamber called for in a chapter of his book entitled "Attempting to Resolve the Problem". The best way to resolve the problem, according to Msgr. Gamber, is to allow the co-existence of two distinct rites in the Western Church. The first is what he calls the ritus modernus, or modern rite, also known as the novus ordo, the new order, which is the rite we use now. Gamber does not challenge the validity of the novus ordo, but he does challenge whether its creation, or, to stick with Ratzinger's term, the "fabricated liturgy", and its promulgation was licit. In other words, he does not believe Pope Paul VI had the authority to either promulgate a new ordo missae, or to supress the Latin mass.

He rests his case on the Constitution of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, by insisting that in this constitution the Council fathers did not authorize what Pope Paul VI did. Rather, Gamber insists, what was called for by the Council fathers in Article 50 of Sacrosanctum Concilium was "a revision of the traditional Ordo Missae". What Gamber questions most of all, is whether what Pope Paul VI did was pastorally necessary or in any way prudent. Gamber, conceding that what is done cannot be completely undone, concludes that the ritus modernus should exist in the Latin Church along with the ancient ritus Romanus. The ritus modernus, according to this proposal, should exist only on an ad experimentum basis in order to see if, over time, it "is here to stay". It is difficult to see how this could be carried out without creating problems greater than those Gamber seeks to rectify. These problems that Gamber, as a liturgical scholar and not a canonist, theologian, let alone a bishop, ignores arise from the ecclesiological implications, theological, juridical and pastoral, of such a co-existence. This is no small problem as the concerns recently raised by the French bishops to the possibility of a universal indult shows.

The third change, which would be far more difficult, if not downright impossible, to accomplish given the money and effort spent on changing churches to accomodate the novus ordo of 1969, which turned the priest to face the congregation, is turning the priest back away from the congregation. Such a change would also lead to a lot of resistance and reignite divisions among Roman Catholics. Nonetheless, if Gamber's book offers a roadmap of what Pope Benedict XVI hopes to accomplish in his reform of the reform, which is my thesis, this uncalled for and destructive innovation is so grave, that turning the priest back around would also apply to the ritus modernus. The Holy Father, prior to becoming pope, wrote about the necessity of doing this in several of his published works. There continue to be a stream of books by young scholars advocating a return to the tradition on this matter. Gamber is most persuasive in his arguments against the priest saying mass versus, that is, facing, the people. Gamber makes a persuasive case against this innovation and shows that there seems to be no liturgical historical precedent and no theological or pastoral justification for such a radical departure from the traditon. "Concerning the fashionable altar 'facing the people,'" writes Benedictine abbot, F. Gerard Calvet, in his "Preface to the English Edition", "let us emphasize with Cardinal Ratzinger the serious theological mistake it communicates". He then quotes Ratzinger from his introduction to the French edition of Gamber's book: "We risk seeing the assembly turning itself into a closed circle, in the name of community life. Liturgical education will have to work most vigorously against the concept of autonomous, self-sufficient assembly. The assembly does not converse with itself, but sets out unanimously towards the coming Lord."

Of course, there are good arguments to be made for the other side of the issue, but a debate is not what I am conducting, as I am simply not qualified. What this post constitutes is my take on what we can expect during this pontificate as pertains to what number 10 of Sacrosanctum Concilium tells us "is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper"- the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. Posting will be light to non-existent this weekend. I thought I'd give all of you a chance to catch up.

Psalm 86
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all day long. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication. In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. O God, the insolent rise up against me; a band of ruffians seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the child of your serving girl. Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Borat and my belated birthday

Last evening, as a belated birthday celebration with one of my closest friends, I went to supper at the Mandarin restaurant in my new town of Bountiful, Utah. I highly recommend it! I patronize locally owned establishments and this resturant, owned by the Skedros family, who offer true Mediterranean-style hospitality, as the Chinese chefs cook delicious Chinese food, is locally owned. However, there is no lack of Mediterranean meals on the menu. Since I cannot pass on lamb, that is what I had last night. Anyway, there are many restaurants called Mandarin, but that is all that is common about this place.

After eating we went to see Borat's Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Bottom line up front: I liked the film a great deal. Appreciation of Sacha Baron Cohen's movie, however, requires no small amount of cultural awareness, as well as a tremendous sense of irony. The film, as might be expected, and probably not totally unintended, is uneven. There is a lot to please adolescents, but there is also enough social satire and cultural commentary to make Cohen's outrageousness have a point. My main concern about Cohen's edgy film is articulated well by the Jewish Anti-Defamation league: "that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry." I can imagine Cohen's response, "But that is the joke!!!" If my assessment is even close to being accurate, I have to side with what I imagine Cohen's response to be.

For those of you who don't know, in this film, British comedian, Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to be a reporter from the former Soviet Republic of Kazkhstan, named Borat Sagdiyev, who is sent to the United States by his country's ministry of information to make a documentary. Most, if not all, of the people in film with whom Borat interacts (i.e., interviews, with whom he lodges, conducts business, hitches a ride, etc.) really believe Cohen is Borat a Kazkhi reporter making a documentary. Therefore, what you see and hear people say and do, thinking it is real, would be horrifying were it so not funny. Examples of the horrifyingly funny include a jingoistic, homophobic rodeo promoter, the Southern couple who hosts a dinner party to which they invite Borat and their pastor, the drunken frat boys in the RV, the gun seller who suggests a gold-plated .45 as a good weapon with which to kill Jews. Then, of course, early in the film, prior to Borat's leaving Kazkhstan, there is the uproariously funny, yet deeply disturbing, "Running of the Jew".

As an exposé of life in "U.S. and A" Borat is stinging. I have to admit, in a very gulity way, that I very much liked the episode in the Pentacostal storefront Church, in which Borat gets saved. This vignette speaks volumes about what all too often passes for religion in our country. I probably like this episode so much because it reinforces my belief that much religion in he U.S. is bad, vacuous, and shallow religion. This film is not for the squeamish. It is funny, but not laugh-out-loud, slap-your-knees funny. Rather, it is a way of using humor to expose some of the dark underside of life in the U.S. and A, along the lines of "I'm laughing, but should I be?"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hans Urs von Balthasar

It is time to introduce yet another member of my community of the heart. Yesterday I mentioned that the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar was the cornerstone of my own theology. There are a couple of reasons for this: First, Balthasar was not a professional theologian, his academic background, was in Litertaure and Philosophy; mine in Philosophy and History. I am an unusual student of Philosophy in the United States in that my study, reading, focus, and writing is in Continental Philosophy, a serious engagement with Hegel, Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Nietzsche, even Derrida, to name just the most recognizable. Yet, I do not remain unschooled in the ways of the English analytical tradition, or American pragmatism. I see the Philosophy of my dear Wittgenstein as very much a synthesis of these varying strands. Secondly, he was the first theologian whose writings I seriously engaged. There were several years, both before my marriage and early in my marriage, when I spent every spare hour engrossed in Balthasar's books. I remember working in an antique store while in college and, during a particularly slow Saturday, reading all of Balthasar's little book My Work in Retrospect. One memorable Holy Week I read his early work Origen: Spirit and Fire.

Much can be gleaned from Balthasar's smaller works, of which there are many. In the words of Edward Oakes and David Moss, editors of the The Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar, "One reason for Balthasar's relative isolation- perhaps even alienation- from the guild of professional theologians is that he does not come out of, or represent, a prior school of thought". Balthasar, during his long career, "more or less single-handedly heaved up a huge mountain range of theology."

Recently, a doctoral candidate from the Domnican school in Rome, the Angelicum, the alma mater of young Karol Wojtyla, in her doctoral dissertation accused Balthasar of being a material heretic as regards his exposition of the article of the Apostles Creed, "he descended into hell". On this issue there is an exchange between this newly minted doctor of theology, Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, and Fr. Edward Oakes, S.J. in the current issue of First Things, entitled Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy. It bears mentioning, especially for those unfamiliar with Balthasar, that, going all the way back to his early anthology of Origen's writings, struggled with the form of universalism expounded by Origen, known as apokatastasis, which is idea that God will eventually abolish hell and redeem the whole world, including the devils. Of course, Balthasar rejected this formal heresy. However, he also rejected the idea that Christian faith antecendently rules out universal redemption. Fr. Oakes uses a brilliant example from Wittgenstein in his response to Pitstick, an example that shows why one should not be surprised that many of W's best students, the most notable of whom was G.E.M. Anscombe, were committed Catholics. The example is used in a passage that is critical of Balthasar's take on hell: "When one of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s graduate students allowed how much he regretted the Church’s condemnation of Origen’s doctrine that God would eventually abolish hell and redeem the whole world (including the devils), the philosopher shot back: 'Of course it was rejected. It would make nonsense of everything else. If what we do now is to make no difference in the end, then all the seriousness of life is done away with.'" The exchange is well worth reading and pretty accessible. Despite her failure to convict Balthasar of material heresy, Dr. Pitstick has a bright future in Catholic theology. If nothing else, she has provided a lot of grist for the mills of graduate papers in theology.

Balthasar is certainly a provocative thinker, a master of the tradition, which means that he is duly and respectfully critical of the tradition. Two quotes are important to keep in mind when considering Balthasar, who remains the consummate ecclesial theologian. The first quote is his description of his Jesuit formation, "My entire period of study in the Society of Jesus was a grim struggle with the dreariness of theology, with what men had made out of the glory of revelation. I could not endure this presentation of the Word of God and wanted to lash out with the fury of a Samson: I felt like tearing down, with Samson's own strength, the whole temple and burying myself beneath the rubble. But it was like this because, despite my sense of vocation, I wanted to carry out my own plans, and was living in a state of unbounded indignation". Over the course of his long career, he certainly carried out his own plans. The other quote is from Origen, which Balthasar uses as the epigraph for his anthology "I want to be a man of the Church. I do not want to be called by the name of some founder of a heresy, but by the name of Christ, and to bear that name which is blessed on the earth. It is my desire, in deed as in spirit, both to be and to be called a Christian. If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and throw me away."

I am surprised Pitstick, in her rush to convict Balthasar, who died just before the consistory during which Pope John Paul II was to create him a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, overlooked this epigraph, which Balthasar applied to himself at a young age, just as he was embarking on a career that would be marked by the composition of such provocative books as Dare We Hope "That All Men Be Saved"?: With a Short Discourse on Hell, in which he deals with apokatastasis and Razing the Bastions: On the Church in This Age.

Thirty-third Tuesday in Ordinary Time: Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This morning I once again had the privilege of filling for one of our priests who was picking up relatives in town for Thanksgiving. This homily bears more than a passing resemblance to my last Sunday homily. Nonetheless, it is different enough not to be an exercise in pointless repetition.

Readings: Rev 3,1-6. 14-22; Ps 15,2-5; Lk 19:1-10

Our first reading today is a foreshadowing of what we will hear more about during the season of Advent, which we are rapidly approaching. In anticipation, we should heed John the Revelator when he says, “Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 3,6). To heed these words means to ask, What is the Spirit saying to the Church of Utah, to our parish, to us gathered here this morning? I do not think what the Spirit tells us is all that different from what the Spirit said through St. John, while in exile on the isle of Patmos, to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea.

The Spirit hears the church of Laodicea say, not so much in word, but in deed, "‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev 3,17). We live in the most materially wealthy society that has ever existed in the history of world. The concerns we have about our material well-being pale when compared to the concerns of most people with whom we share the earth. Especially in a week during which we celebrate our rich abundance by feasting, the Spirit calls us to realize that it is not in spite of, but precisely due to our wealth, that we are "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" when we, who are rich and affluent, who have need of nothing material, ignore those who lack even the basic necessities of life. By ignoring the poor and suffering, we become spiritually impoverished and not in the way Jesus calls blessed, but in the wretched, poor, and pitiable way described in Revelation.

Nonetheless, despite our wretchedness, Jesus still stands at the door and knocks. When we answer the door, who do we see? Do we see the haloed and glowing figure of what can best be described as Jesus of Norway? No, when we answer the door at which Jesus Christ knocks, we see him in his distressing disguise as a hungry, thirsty, sick, naked, and imprisoned human being. It is in his distressing disguise that our Lord desires to enter our house and dine with us. Only if we answer the door and invite in Jesus the beggar, the cast-off, the prisoner we will be the victors who sit with him on his throne.

In the narrative of St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus makes only trip to Jerusalem. Therefore, he passes through Jericho only once. Jericho sits about 15 miles to the East of Jerusalem, along the West Bank of the Jordan River. Jesus is one of a stream of Jewish pilgrims to pass through Jericho on the way to Jerusalem to observe Passover in the holy city. Of course, in the narrative shared by the three synoptic gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke), this trip ends in our Lord's passion, death, and, resurrection. It was customary for the people of Jericho to line the streets of the town to wish the pilgrims well on their way to Jerusalem. Furthermore, rabbis walked with what, in our day is called an entourage, or, a group of disciples. It was rabbinical practice for such teachers to teach as they walked. So, as a rabbi, whose fame had spread beyond his native Galilee, due his healings and casting out demons, not to mention his direct challenge to the religious authorities, word of Jesus approaching the town would have caused a great deal of excitement. The disciples surrounding Jesus would have appeared a bit strange because they were both men and, scandalously, women!

Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho, Luke tells us, "was seeking to see who Jesus was." So, as Jesus entered Jericho, because he was short, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a glimpse of this Galilean miracle worker, perhaps hoping to witness the working of some spectacular miracle, such as an instant cure. Of course, in St. Mark’s parallel account of our Lord’s passage through Jericho, we read of the cure of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus. But the miracle, in this instance, was nothing so dramatic. It consisted in nothing less than the restoration of a notorious sinner, which begins with Jesus calling Zacchaeus, by name, down from the sycamore tree in order to stay at his house.

What was miraculous about this action of Jesus? Well, as the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus would have been considered not only a traitor, a Roman collaborator, by his fellow Jews, but ritually unclean. Nonetheless, Jesus chooses to stay at his house. In our first reading, our Lord reveals through John that "Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise." It is certainly through Zacchaeus that the Lord reproves and chastises the faithful of Israel. Yet Jesus says of Zacchaeus, whose encounter with Lord caused him to repent and make amends for his extortions and dishonesty as a tax collector, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham." He tells Jesus that he is going to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay "four times over" what he has extorted. This is how Zacchaeus receives our Lord with joy, and by acting justly. It is in bringing about this change in the chief tax collector that the Son of Man seeks and saves what was lost.

The point of this story, just like the connection between today's readings, is obvious- Jesus calls us by name; he stands at the door and knocks. Do we, like Zacchaeus, receive him with joy by allowing our encounter with him to give our lives a new horizon and a decisive direction? The horizon towards which we walk is the same as that walked by Jesus, toward Jerusalem. In our case it is toward the new and everlasting Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, ushered in by the advent of Christ the King, whose kingdom consists of those who heed his call and follow him, becoming his disciples. May we, like Zacchaeus and those "few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments" and who walk with Jesus "dressed in white," walk with Jesus toward God's kingdom, seeking usher in God's reign. Our path, like that of our Master, is a via delarosa. Let us bear our sufferings without becoming lukewarm. Moreover, let us act in solidarity with those who truly suffer want, being hot and not cold. In order to do this, again, using Zacchaeus as our example, we must rigorously examine our consciences in order open ourselves to the transforming power of God's kingdom, a kingdom that is within us.

On this memorial of the Presentation of Mary, the Mother of God, let us recognize what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta used to say when questioned by non-Catholics about the importance of the Blessed Virgin, "No Mary, No Jesus." Taking a cue from a man who, like Zacchaeus, is notorious, we can also say Know Mary, know Jesus.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bill Simmons rushes in where angels fear to tread

A friend e-mailed this to me this morning. Bill Simmons over at Stylus magazine has U2 and REM go head-to-head.

"The Match-Up: U2 formed in Dublin in 1976, releasing their debut album Boy in 1980 and quickly became superstars in their home country. By the mid-80s, this stardom had spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to America, and by the time of 1987’s The Joshua Tree, U2 were arguably the biggest band in the world, with a pair of #1 singles and the first of a series of gigantic world tours under their belt. U2 recoiled somewhat from their fame in the 90s by trying on a series of different, experimental skins, some of which complemented the band better than others, but by the end of the decade, they were ready to return to their arena-rock roots and quickly regained their status as one of the biggest bands in the world, especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, for which their music was often used as an inspirational backdrop.

"R.E.M. formed in Athens, GA in 1980, and released their debut album Murmur in 1983, quickly becoming college radio favorites. They released a series of critically acclaimed and increasingly commercially successful albums through the mid-80s, leading up to the 1987 breakthrough of Document, which gave the band their first top ten hit. At the turn of the decade, they were arguably the second biggest band in the world, releasing a series of commercially successful and critically adored albums, but hit a brick wall with the “return to rock” release of 1994’s Monster, from which the band never really recovered. After the departure of drummer Bill Berry in 1997, R.E.M. turned in a softer, more production-driven direction, but found neither much commercial or critical success, each album of theirs selling less than the one before it."

See the results of Simmons' brave endeavor U2 vs. REM.

Observing the gap through the prism of sexuality

Over on the First Things blog, Fr. Edward Oakes, S.J., who, as frequent readers of my blog know, is a favorite philosopher/theologian of mine, and who is a leading expositor of the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar (he wrote the masterful Pattern of Redemption: The Theology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar), whose theology is the the cornerstone of my own, in his usual cogent manner, addresses some of the issues I have been grappling with since last Thursday on sexuality and the body (what Balthasarian-long sentence!). He focuses on recent magisterial teaching, drawing special attention to Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, which is a profound articulation of the human body and sexuality.

Fr. Oakes' comments are very timely for me because last evening, just before retiring, I read a rather predictable, but nonetheless troubling article, which appeared in the Opinion section of yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune. The article, entitled Hatred and bigotry are immoral, homosexuality is not, was written by a member of the University of Utah's Philosophy faculty, one of the few Philosophy professors who was on the faculty during my days as both an undergraduate and graduate student with whom I did not study. Like Prof. Chaterjee, I, too, believe hatred and bigotry are immoral. I also believe homosexual acts are immoral, but being a homosexual is not. I also agree with the good professor when he writes that cynically exploiting moral issues "for political expediency has no place in public life." I think one reason behind the results of the recent election, in which many evangelicals voted for Democrats, is the recognition by Christians and many other people of faith that they had been exploited by the cynical use of moral issues by the Republican right. However, he fails to mention the fundamental role of the family as the basic unit of all human societies. It is concern about this, along with other legitimate concerns, not cynicism or immorality, that cause voting citizens in many individual states of these United States to overwhelmingly affirm that marriage is between one woman and one man. He also fails to make a distinction between these concerns and how they are expressed by the democratic will of the people in this country and how people, despite their inability in a growing number of states to gain legal status for their same-sex arrangments, are free to live their lives in the private sphere, which most people do not want to legally regulate. In other words, sexual freedom is maintained as consenting adults, even in states that constitutionally prohibit legal recognition and benefits for same-sex couples, remain legally free to pursue sexual relations with other consenting adults and even to order their domestic arrangements in the way they see fit. My question for Professor Chaterjee is, riffing off Dylan, How many strawmen must a man kick down before he can call his argument fallacious? The answer is one.

Just so we identify empty, misguided propoganda when we read it, I pass along this little gem from Professor Chaterjee's article: "The religious gurus, with their morbid fear of sexuality and a pathological unease toward the body, have given us a misguided morality by putting undue emphasis on regulating sexuality. In the process, they have robbed morality of its substance by denying autonomy to women, homosexuals and any others who evoke fear in them." This may be an apt description of some "religious gurus", but it certainly does not describe my position, or the position of the Catholic Church, as articulated by Sacred Scripture, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope John Paul II, or the U.S. Catholic Bishops, and certainly not Catholic thinkers, like Fr. Oakes, or the position of many other thoughtful, respectful religious thinkers and believers, both Christian and non-Christian.

I'll let Fr. Oakes' post stand as not merely a rebutal, but a definitive refutation of Chaterjee's less than philosophical fulminations about morality, in which he is all too eager to merely dismiss the worldview of most of the earth's population as primitive if not unhealthy. By so doing, he widens the gap identified by Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg address.

So, in order to whet your appetite, I offer the opening of Fr. Oakes' post:

Reports that the South African Parliament has approved gay marriage, and that the U.S. Catholic bishops have reiterated Church teaching on the disordered nature of homosexual acts, once again recall the line about the real reason for the culture wars: 'It’s the sex, stupid.'

"Part (but only part) of the problem, as crystallized so distinctly in these two news reports, comes from the understanding of the term nature that is implicitly operating in these two assemblies. Among secularists, gay activists, liberal politicians, and the like, it is taken for granted that homosexual urgings are 'natural,' in the sense of being innate (the word nature comes from the Latin natus, 'to be born' as, in fact, does the word innate); and since the urges are natural in that sense (or so goes the claim), what’s wrong with satisfying them? For the Catholic Church, however, nature always carries a teleological implication, and since the sex organs are also called reproductive organs, it represents an abuse of their function to make use of them in ways that violate their reproductive purposes."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dies Domini- Christus Resurrexit

The Lord's Day is now ended. We press forward, as Jesus always calls us to do, to a new week full of promise. As for me, I am tired, but feeling alright as I seek to rest this evening after a busy day and the tipped-over-bunny cage incident. Trust me, you don't want to know. This week is our national observance of thanksgiving, the Greek word is eucharist. Let us be mindful, not in a jingoistic, nationalistic, or exceptionalistic way, of all for which we are thankful. Moreoever, let us be mindful of the grave inequities that exist our world and (re)commit ourselves to overcoming them in practical ways. In other words, let's give humble thanks and recognize that where much is given, much is expected (Lk 12,48).

All praise and thanks to God, the Father, now be given/
The Son and Spirit blessed, who reigns in highest heaven/
Eternal, triune God, whom earth and heaven adore/
For thus it was is now and shall be evermore

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Year B 6th Sunday of Easter- What's Love Got To Do with It?

Scott S. Dodge
Homily- Year B 6th Sunday of Easter
The Cathedral of the Madeleine
20-21 May 2006
Readings Acts 10,25-26.34-35.44-48; Ps 98,1-4; 1 Jn 4,7-10; Jn 15,9-17

“God is love,” St. John tells us in today’s second reading. The way God revealed his love to us, John explains, was by sending his only begotten “Son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4,10). We acknowledge this truth profoundly during the Eucharistic prayer when the priest intones: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.” To which we respond by singing one of several responses, such as: “Dying you destroyed our death and rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.” Our Holy Father summed this up well in his Easter proclamation: “Christ is resurrected because God is Love!”

To grasp love, John tells us, we must understand that love does not consist in our decision to love God, but God’s decision, from eternity, to love us. This beautiful truth constitutes, at the very deepest level, the mysterium fidei. For love is constitutive of God’s very being; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hence, love is the answer to the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s ontological question, why does something exist rather than nothing?

Left to ourselves, we would be incapable of understanding what love truly is. So, in order to come to knowledge of the truth, we need revelation. Divine love is mysterious because we simply cannot understand a love as deep, true, and faithful as the love who is God and whom we call Father. Because he is the Son of the Father and, by virtue of his incarnation, is also our brother, Jesus Christ loves us. He says as much in today’s Gospel. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you” (Jn 15,9). For true love is both divine and divinizing. Love is divinizing because to truly love God and neighbor is to be Christ-like. Agapé is the Greek word used in the New Testament to describe our vocation. Agapé, a word used by Jesus seven times in today’s Gospel, “expresses the experience of a love that involves a real discovery of the other.” Agapé is “concern and care for the other.” It is not “self-seeking.” Rather, it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes self-renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice (DCE, 18).

True love always calls us beyond ourselves. This is summed up well in the motto of our Cathedral Choir School, which quotes St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, “Caritas Christi Urget nos”- the love of Christ compels, or urges, us. Paul writes in this passage: “For the love of Christ compels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor 5,14-15a). In today’s Gospel, our Lord gives us a commandment and tells us how to fulfill it. “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you,” he says. Then, he tells us how to live this commandment, when he says “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15,12-14).

Our Lord himself gives us an even deeper look into the content of our faith when he tells his disciples: “Remain in my love” (Jn 15,9). Ninety-four times throughout St. John’s Gospel and three letters we encounter the words and expressions that tell us of the necessity of remaining, or abiding, in Christ. Jesuit exegete, Fr. Ignace de la Potterie, points out that most of the time, in the Johannine texts, the verb “remain” means to “remain within”. These formulas, as found in John’s letters, are invitations to the disciples to dwell within him, to remain in his word and to live in his love (30 Days in the Church and in the World, No 3, 1995, pgs 10-12). This need to remain ties directly into the importance of God first loving us, which is the fundamental definition of grace: the unearned and unearnable love God gives each one of us as a free gift.

Because, despite our best efforts, we often fail- which is to say that we sin: sin being nothing more than loving other people, things, or activities more than we love God- we experience the absolute necessity for God’s love to have priority. If God did not love us first, last, and always, our situation would be hopeless. Jesus himself tells his disciples: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (Jn 15,16 ). What Fr. de la Potterie says of Jesus’ original disciples, applies to Christians always and everywhere: “Remaining is the condition that identifies Jesus’ disciples. They are not the best of men, the most religious or most moral. They are simply the men who remain with him and dwell within him” (30 Days in the Church and in the World, No 3, 1995, pgs 10-12). Our remaining and dwelling in God, through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit is most completely accomplished in and through the eucharist and, flowing from the eucharist, the other six sacraments, not least of which is the sacrament of penance, which restores sanctifying grace, lost through sin, to our wounded and sick souls. Because the Church herself, by virtue of being Christ’s mystical body, is the sacrament of salvation in and for the world, belonging to and participating in this eucharistic fellowship is vital to our remaining and dwelling in Christ.

If the Church is, indeed, the very Body of Christ, into which, by virtue of our baptism, confirmation, and being brought into full communion, we are incorporated as members, then it stands to reason that if we are cut-off from the Church, we will whither and die spiritually. Cut-off from the source of life, we will die just like the branches from last week’s Gospel when severed from the vine. Just as the branches receive the life-giving sap from the vine, we receive the bread of life and the cup of salvation. Like the cut-off part of the body or separated branch, the individual Christian cannot survive alone. Our Holy Father writes in his recent encyclical: “I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become . . . his own. Communion draws me out of myself toward him, and thus also toward unity with all Christians. We become ‘one body,’ completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself” (DCE, 14).

In Christ Jesus, “the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Ps 98,2). The late Rich Mullins wrote beautifully of this:

“We didn’t know what love was until He came and He gave love a
face and he gave love a name and gave love away like sky gives the
rain and sun. We were looking for heroes and He came looking for
the lost. We were searching for glory and He showed us the cross. Now we
know what love is because He loved us all the way to kingdom come.”

"When we in our weakness believed we were strong"

One major concern I have about my last several posts is that I might seem to be placing too much emphasis on our own efforts in living our faith. So, I want to pick up on one sentence from yesterday's post and use that as the basis for this morning's message: "For most of us, the movement of grace is driven by the cycle of sin and forgiveness; when we are weak, then we are strong, as God's strength is made known to us through our weakness" (2 Cor 12,6-10). This was the summary sentence of my paragraph on conversion and how God changes us, which is through His grace, His sharing of Divine life with us. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, or unholy, or guilty because you are not living up any number of the rules we accept out of love as Catholic Christians, if you feel unworthy and far from God, if, after reading what I have written you come to realize how high the bar is set for us as we seek sanctification, that is, holiness, and feel a bit hopeless and despairing, I have one word for you: RELAX! The fact that our love is not yet perfect should not concern us. One of the reasons we are called into community, into communion, as followers of the Lord Jesus is exactly for the purpose of perfecting our love. It is true, one person is no person. We need each other as much as we need God, which is why it makes no sense to hypocritically reject people because they do not live up to our standards. None of us live up to God's standard! So, a desire to perfect our love is all we need to bring before God and to Church. God can and does work with such paltry offerings, which is all any of us are capable of bringing. It is a scary thing, to paraphrase eighteenth century Jesuit spiritual writer Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, to abandon oneself to divine providence, to entrust oneself completely to God's perfect love.

Feelings of guilt, despair and hopelessness arise from an over-reliance on ourselves. To open ourselves to God, we have get over ourselves. We are our biggest hurdles. Something that is used in the recovery community applies to us when catch ourselves feeling unworthy: "Let go and let God". God loves us and has already redeemed us; nothing we can do will ever change that reality. As St. Paul writes, "we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works of law" (Rom 3,28). Therefore, our hope is in God, not our own efforts. We are where we are and God loves us right here, as we are, right now.

However, we must use these harsh realizations to rigorously examine ourselves to further open ourselves to God's transforming power, which is not only the most powerful force in the universe, it is the power that made the universe, it is the power that constitutes at its deepest level the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, that power is not just a power that God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has, it is what God IS. What is this power? The power of LOVE. "Deus Caritas Est,"; God is love (1 Jn 4,8). In no way is divine power made more manifest than in Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world," we read in St. John's Gospel, "that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him"(Jn 3,16-17).

On this Saturday morning, pray. Do not cut yourself off from God. We must come to experience that it really is through our manifold weaknesses, which are easy to despair about, that God's power is made known. If you are feeling down use this scripture as a basis for your prayer and meditation "'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 'Submit yourselves therefore to God.' Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." Finally "[h]umble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." (Jas 4,6b-8b.10). In the Letter to the Hebrews we read "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12,29). Let us use words from Jennifer Knapp's song, All Consuming Fire, as our prayer.

"Alpha and Omega
Prince of Peace
O, my king of Kings
The Great I Am, Jehovah Jireh
Who cares for me
The Holy One, the Holy Father, the Blessed Trinity
All Consuming Fire burn in me."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Where the rubber meets the road

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. said recently at a Catechetical Convocation held in his diocese something that applies to the two issues addressed in my three previous posts: "It is difficult to call people to an understanding of the unchanging nature of revelation and the ability of the Church to bind people in conscience when they do not have an understanding of the antecedent nature of revealed truth and, therefore, moral norms." Recognizing the antecedent nature of revealed truth means coming to recognize that the truth preexists us and remains the truth despite our response to it. It also means coming to see that any proper understanding of ourselves as human beings inevitably leads us to an understanding and acceptance of the moral norms that naturally and logically flow from revealed truth. Why? Because accepting and seeking to conform our lives to the truth is the way to true happiness, it is the way to fulfill the end for which we are created.

Accepting these objecive moral norms is one thing, ordering our lives in accord with the truth is another. The latter being far more difficult and frustrating than the former. The difficulty and frustration we experience when seeking to order our lives according to objective moral norms leads us to periodic reconsideration of these norms. Such a movement, even at times when we may try to reject or ignore the claim of the truth on us, if we do not give up on God, leads us deeper into the truth. Grace, as Bonhoeffer pointed out, does not come cheaply.

Part of the solution to this disjunction lays with accepting objective moral norms out of love; love of God and love of neighbor and not merely seeing them as externally imposed rules. If living the truth amounts to nothing more than trying to live by imposed rules- white-knuckle obediance- we will fail and perhaps just give up and try to find fulfillment elsewhere. The biggest realization we have to arrive at in order to live our lives in accordance with the truth is the realization that the Truth, as well as the Way, is a person, Jesus Christ. Knowing and loving Jesus Christ is what leads us to live our lives in accord with the truth because in the same way we seek to please others we love, we want to please the Lord. As Jesus tells his disciples, "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (Jn 15,10) and, more directly, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (Jn 14,15) Every, single objective moral norm boils down to loving God with all our heart, might, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Lk 10,27). The first step in coming to know Jesus Christ is coming to the realization that we need a Savior. This means facing the difficult truth about ourselves. It means recognizing our faults, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, our brokenness.

Conversion is on-going, it is not usually accomplished in a lightening flash. Even after we come to know and love Christ and consciously set about following him, like St. Paul, we experience in our bodies "another law at war with the law of [our minds]." This law of sin, at war with the law of God, that we have received and accepted, makes us captives (Rom 7,23) . Therefore, we must have the patience to grow grace by grace, allowing the Truth to free us, to liberate us from all that holds us captive and prevents us from realizing the end for which we are created, communio. As the Holy Father wrote in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." For most of us, the movement of grace is driven by the cycle of sin and forgiveness; when we are weak, then we are strong, as God's strength is made known to us through our weakness (2 Cor 12,6-10). On this Friday, remember that your name is written on the palm of His hand.

Binding consciences is a serious business. Too often, the Church, in seeking to bind consciences, puts too much emphasis on human effort. Furthermore, in recent years, in the wake of the child sex abuse fiasco, that has lead to a diminishment of credibility, what Jesus says of the Pharisees seems all too fitting: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them" (Matt 23,2-4).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another delicate matter

NOTE: I apologize for how piecemeal and sloppy this post has been. I started it, got in a crunch, had to abandon it, tried revising it late when I was too tired. I finally was able to complete it this morning. I should have used the Save as Draft function and posted this morning. So, with no further tinkering or tightening, here is my take on the bishops' document Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care.

In their most recent document on homosexuality, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care, promulgated 14 November 2006, the United States Bishops break no new ground. Such a statement is important because, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which the bishops' document quotes extensively, the "number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible" (CCC 2358). I also have to restate up-front what I wrote in my response to Julie's comment yesterday; I think the decision not to include homosexuals in the preparation of the document, as they quote married couples in their document Marriage and the Gift of Life, is a mistake because without consulting those who are the subjects of the document, like Luciani's criticism of Colombo, the document runs the risk of remaining too abstract because it does not take into account their real-life struggles.

By breaking no new ground I mean the teaching, rooted in canon 1055 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, that "sexual desire is to draw man and woman together in the bond of marriage, a bond that is directed toward two inseparable ends: the expression of marital love and the procreation and education of children." Therefore, a sexual act "that takes place outside the bond of marriage does not fulfill the proper ends of human sexuality." Now, this understanding of human sexuality also bears on the discussion of contraception. According to this understanding, sexual intercourse between spouses in which an artificial method of contraception is employed cannot fulfill one of the two natural ends of human sexuality, namely procreation. Such acts, because the complementarity of the sexes is maintained and the act takes place between married persons, still fulfills the unitive end of human sexuality except, arguably, in cases where a condom is employed because the genital contact is not direct. On this understanding of human sexuality, homosexual acts can fulfill neither of the two ends of human sexuality.

I do find the tone of the bishops’ document warmer than the Vatican documents on this subject, which the bishops quote extensively. What is warmer is they situate homosexuality properly and seek to show that we are all only human, fallen and sinful, but loved and redeemed. The three main Vatican documents referenced by the bishops in Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination are: Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, and Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. In addition to putting homosexuality into the larger context of Church teaching, they synthesize all that the Church teaches succinctly and well. In other words, they do not put homosexuality out there by itself, as something so heinous it bears no resemblance to any other disorders to which humanity, and Christians, as a subset of humanity, is subject. They do this by discussing chastity, virtue, and what it means to be objectively disordered.

Quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the bishops assert that sexuality is morally disordered whenever sexual pleasure is sought for itself, "isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes." They go on to list many of the ways in which sexuality can be morally disordered: adultery, fornication, masturbation, and contraception, all of which "violate the proper ends of human sexuality". Intrinsically disordered sexual acts are acts that violate one of the two proper ends of human sexuality, unitive or procreative. Helpfully the bishops point out that for a sexual inclination to be properly ordered, it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for it to be heterosexual. In fact, "any tendency toward sexual pleasure that is not subordinated to the greater goods of love and marriage is disordered."

"The homosexual inclination is objectively disordered", the bishops write, like all objectively disordered inclinations it "predisposes one toward what is truly not good for the human person." An important moral distinction needs to be made with regard to what is objectively disordered. Intrinsically disordered applies to acts, not inclinations. An objectively disordered inclination is also called (this is a term that causes a lot of consternation- for obvious reasons- and is easily misunderstood) intrinsically evil. That which is intrinsically evil (i.e., objectively disordered) is that which is never morally permissible under any circumstances. In other words it is contra naturam against nature. By contrast, there are those inclinations, staying in the realm of sexuality, like an inclination to have sex with someone of the opposite sex other than one's spouse, which are said to be accidentally disordered, or inclinations that are not "properly ordered by right reason" and, therefore, fail "to attain the proper measure of virtue". These inclinations are contra rationem, against reason. So, rightly, we heterosexuals are not let off the hook, as we, too, have disordered sexual inclinations.

Objective disorders, which result from fallen human nature and post-baptismal concupiscence, insofar as they are beyond one's control, are not sinful. In other words, a male who is involuntarily attracted to other men sexually certainly experiences lustful thoughts about some men involuntarily. If such a person voluntarily entertains those thoughts or, worse yet, acts on them, it becomes sinful. This is also true of accidental disorders across the spectrum of human sexuality. As a heterosexual male I may have lustful thoughts about women other than my wife. Insofar as these lustful thoughts are involuntary I am not morally culpable. Again, if I voluntarily entertain or act on them, these thoughts become sinful. It is recognized that a "considerable number of people who experience same-sex attraction experience it as an inclination they did not choose". Hence, it is not sinful to be a homosexual.

The bishops are skeptical about therapy because there is "no scientific consensus on the cause of homosexual inclination." Hence, there can be no certain therapy. In other words, it is not necessary for a homosexual person to become what s/he is not (i.e., a heterosexual person) in order to be faithful. This is one of several areas in which the voices of homosexual persons would have really strengthened the document.

I am the first to admit that all of this is very abstract and far removed from the experiences of homosexual persons. There is a reason for this, however. The document's audience is those who are engaged in ministry to homosexual persons at the diocesan and parish level. Through Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care, the bishops are giving guidance and setting guidelines for these ministries. A far more pastoral and down-to-earth statement on homosexuality is the U.S. Bishops' previous document on the subject Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children.

Most importantly the bishops discuss the need for all Christians, married and single, homosexual and heterosexual, to acquire the virtue of chastity. In this quest grace is necessary because failure is almost certain at times. Too often we think of grace as the help God gives us by strengthening our will to do good and weakening our desire to do evil as we white-knuckle our way through life hoping to attain heaven. While I certainly believe God, over time and with our cooperation, graciously strengthen our wills, we cannot see that as grace in its totality. Even with God's help, building such strength is a gradual process that requires our cooperation when faced with temptation, it requires us working through the issues we need to work through to deconstruct our false selves, most of all it requires brutal honesty that oftentimes comes only at the price of failure and restoration, which bring true humility. We must always be humble because we never really arrive; we remain broken, fragile, sinful, and susceptible to sin. In this life of grace the sacraments are indispensable.

Defining grace only in terms of the strengthening of the will is dangerous because when we see our brothers and sisters struggling and failing, when we struggle and fail, we become Job's friends who think God has abandoned that person, or that person has abandoned God, or, worst of all, we despair and believe God has abandoned us, which God will never, ever do. When will we come to see that Christ is present to us in a powerful way in and through our suffering and struggles? Like St. Paul, we must be "content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ". We must recognize that when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor 12,7-9). More importantly, we must be Church, Christ's Body, and understand that when "one member suffers, all suffer together" (1 Cor 12,26) and stand willing to assist others to bear their burdens and be humble enough to acknowledge we need help with ours.

Most of all we must not see sex as the only the moral issue, or even as the main one. Given the tremendous vulnerability we all have in this area, we should cut each other a lot of slack and encourage each other always. It should not surprise any of us that those who rail loudest about sexual sin are, more often than not, blatant sexual sinners. We must also realize that everyone is invited to join God's family and all who are members are welcome. As children of God we must be ourselves, not who we think God or anybody else wants us to be. Of course, becoming our true selves requires breaking through our false selves. We need each other's help and support to do this. We also must aid each other in overcoming a fear we all have. The fear is that if people really knew me, they wouldn't accept or like me. Silly? Perhaps, but absolutely true! If we can't or won't accept each other, what's the point of Church, which is a hospital for the ailing, not a resort for the spiritually together?

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hosea 2:16.17c.18.21-22; Ps 145:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26 Our Gospel today is Saint Matthew’s version of events first written about ...