Friday, November 30, 2007

Credo = I believe

On this hopeful Friday- Spe Salvi- Rich Mullins, his memory, in sticking with our Franciscan theme from last week, is this is Friday's traditio:

I still cannot believe that Rich is dead (ten years last September). As the Eastern Christians pray for their beloved dead: May his memory be eternal!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A few hierarchy notes

The German news agency DPA, according to my good friend Rocco over at Whispers, describes Bishop Reinhard Marx, who is expected to be named on Friday to be the next archbishop of Munich and Freising, the archbishopric held by the Holy Father from 1977-81, as politically "left-of-center," while being "moderate conservative" on matters doctrinal. He sounds like a person with whom I have a lot in common.

I want to offer one final note on the recent consistory held in Rome, a note from John Allen, who is NCR's Rome corespondent and author of its web feature All Things Catholic. Allen takes the right tone after such ceremonial, which I love and think very vital to the life of the Church, but it can cause us to lose our focus a bit. So, here it is:

"As a final footnote, while admission to the Vatican for the courtesy visits is free, my evening wasn’t. As I walked home, I bumped into a cook from one of my favorite Roman restaurants. Initially I thought he might have been on hand for the Vatican festivities himself, but instead he had been visiting the nearby Santo Spirito hospital, where his wife is awaiting the birth of their first child. Because he’s not working this week, and because undocumented cooks in Roman kitchens generally don’t have health insurance or paid parental leave, I offered him the few Euro I had in my pocket to help make ends meet.

"Listening to my friend describe both his joy and his anxieties at the birth of what he hopes will be a healthy boy seemed, perhaps providentially, to offer an important bit of perspective. While the glitz of a consistory is always a treat, real life continues to go on outside those Vatican halls … and unless the new princes of the church can find ways to make the gospel they are now charged in a new way to pronounce and defend relevant to real life – relevant, for example, to faithful Catholics like my Lebanese immigrant friend, struggling to hold his family together in a new land – the pageantry of last night will ring a bit hollow.

"That's perhaps something to think about, and to pray on, during today's Ring Mass."

Reading Allen's remarks reminded me of Archbishop Niedrauer's closing talk given at a supper on the evening of Bishop Wester's installation after three wonderful days of celebration, which I can only paraphrase: It is time for us now to conclude our celebration and and get on with being Church. Extraordinary times of celebration are great, but it is really in the ordinariness of everyday life in Christ that we live and move and have our being, making Christ present to all we meet. It is kind of like the dimissal at the end of Mass that sends us forth to live what we have celebrated: Eucharist.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Year C, Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King

For a limited time you can watch the entire Mass of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King, including this homily, courtesy of our diocesan newspaper The Intermountain Catholic.

Readings: 2 Sam 5,1-3; Ps 122,1-5; Col 1,12-20; Lk 23,35-43

Today, the last Sunday of this year of grace, we mark the solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ the King. Our readings present us with three very different views of kingship. In our first reading, taken from 2 Samuel, we read about earthly kingship, about David’s anointing at Hebron as the King of Israel, to replace Saul, who was anointed Israel’s first king by Samuel the prophet because of the hard-hearted demands of God’s People, who were to have no king except the Lord God (1 Sam 8,6-9). Of course it is in reference to our Lord Jesus Chris that Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, sings in the Benedictus, which we recite at Lauds every morning: "He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David" (Lk 1,69) Our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, tells us of a cosmic ruler, of the everlasting Son of the Father, who "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation," in whom "were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible" (Col 1,15-16). Then, in our Gospel, Jesus’ kingship is denoted by a sign, meant to be an insult both to Jesus and to the whole nation of Israel, which was nailed with him to the Cross: "This is the King of the Jews" (Lk 23,38).

In our time and culture kingship is a difficult concept, one that we by-and-large and for very good reasons reject. We tend to equate it with absolute power, which we are told from grade school on, at least here in the United States, corrupts absolutely. We need look no further than scripture, than to either King Saul or King David, to confirm this axiom. We see David’s corruption most manifest in his defilement of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, with whom David forcibly committed adultery before arranging to have Uriah, his faithful soldier and servant, killed on the battlefield (2 Sam 11). But, our Lord Jesus Christ is a very different kind of king who rules in a very different way, over a very different kind of kingdom. Every earthly kingdom will eventually pass away, regardless of how strong or vibrant it may seem at any point in its history. By contrast, Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. In the introduction to his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul gives us some insight into the earthly seed from which Christ’s everlasting kingdom will grow, the Church. This brings us to our second view of kingship.

The Church is no mere earthly construct invented by the apostles after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Because "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together," Christ "is the head of the body, the church" (Col 1,17-18). The body of which he is the head is His own mystical Body, of which you and I, by virtue of our baptism, our anointing as His royal, priestly, and prophetic people with Sacred Chrism, and our sharing in this Eucharist, are incorporated as members. It is by means of the Eucharist that all things are held together in Christ. During this weekend of Thanksgiving, it bears pointing out that Eucharist is merely the Greek word for thanksgiving. So, in a very real and non-trivial sense, for us Christians, everyday is thanksgiving day, especially the Lord’s day, as we gather around His Table from East to West so that a perfect offering can be made to the glory of God's name. The perfect offering is God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the King of time, space, and dimension, of all that is, and who is also the victim whose death reconciles us to the Father, the King whose death gives us birth as children of God and enables us, with Him and with each other, to call God our Father.

This brings us to today’s Gospel, in which we encounter the concrete and existential realization and synthesis of these different ideas of kingship, one very worldly and the other very other-worldly. Our Christian faith is rooted in real events that actually occurred in human history. We reject any form of Christianity that "wants only the word, but not flesh and blood" (Ratzinger Jesus of Nazareth 243). We reject any faith in which Jesus’ body and death plays no part, for without Jesus’ Incarnation, His birth, His life, and His death, "Christianity becomes mere doctrine, mere moralism, and an intellectual affair" that "lacks any flesh and blood" (243).

St. Luke gives us not merely a glimpse, but a very comprehensive view of the kind of King Jesus Christ is in a mere nine verses. The meaning that the various episodes from the life of our Lord, relayed to us in the Gospels, have for us depends to a very large degree on the people in these episodes with whom we identify. Maybe too often we identify with the protagonists of the various stories and events, perhaps in St. Luke’s Gospel, which we have recited this liturgical year, we are too quick to identify with the Good Samaritan, with the tax collector humbly praying in the precincts of the Temple, with Lazarus, instead of with the priests who left the man to die in the ditch, with the Pharisee, who thanks God that he is not like the tax collector, or with the rich man who ignores the man dying outside the gate of his house, whose sores are licked by dogs. Well, in today’s Gospel, we can and should identify both with the demanding thief, known in Tradition as Gestas, and the so-called good thief, who is known to Tradition as St. Dismas.

In these two condemned men we see a portrait of all humanity in that we, in the words of the good thief, "have been condemned justly" because of our sins, whereas Jesus, though condemned, "has done nothing criminal" (Lk 23,41). It is by recognizing the justness of his punishment that the good thief is able to make his simple request: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23,42). To which the King of kings responds, as he hangs dying an ignominious criminal’s death, "today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23,43). Observed from a certain point-of-view, this promise seems laughable. After all, what good is the promise of a man who seems so powerless, so unable to make good on the claim for which He was condemned, namely His claim to be "the Messiah, a king" (Lk 23,2)? In light of all this does not the request of the demanding thief seem more reasonable? That we see his demand as more reasonable is reflected in the fact that such demands are far too often what constitute our prayer life, when confronted with life’s difficulties we demand, maybe even with a quiver of anger and resentment in our voice, "Are you not the Christ?" "If you are, save me," and by salvation meaning, "Make what I want happen and now"! The person we most often need saving from, as this state-of-affairs indicates, is the dreaded self. Paradoxically, it is in this that the liberation of the Cross becomes apparent: that we, in imitation of Him, "take up [our] cross daily" and lose our lives for His sake, recognizing that it is only by dying to self and loving others that we truly live (Lk 9,23-24).

So on this weekend of Thanksgiving, we gather for a Eucharistic feast at the invitation of the King of kings whose strength is shown in His manifest weakness, whose kingdom is already and not yet, a kingdom that is within us both individually and corporately, but in neither one exclusively, a kingdom, precisely because it is not of this world and is at odds with this world, that will last forever, having been established from before the foundation of the world. By our acceptance of His invitation, we freely subject ourselves to this King who beckons us to come lose our lives for him. In so doing we will have the faith of His first followers and we, like the good thief, Jesus Christ Himself, and the white-robed multitude of those who have survived the time of great trail, will feel the pain of the Cross, which is the only road to the Kingdom of God.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Eastern Catholic Churches revisited

From my good friend Rocco over at Whispers who is in Rome for the consistory, in a post regarding Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III, comes another bit of Eastern Catholic information that makes a nice addendum to my earlier post Eastern Catholic Churches: An extended hierarchy update:

"By decree of Paul VI, Eastern patriarchs are numbered among the cardinal-bishops, the six senior members of the papal senate who are honorarily given title to the suffragan sees of Rome. While every Latin-rite cardinal is given the care of a Roman church -- in token of the college's place as the historic descendants of the city's first clergy -- the patriarchs simply hold the title of the church over which they preside."

Whispers is a great place to follow the consistory.

"So come lose your life for a carpenter's son"

The best St. Francis song ever written, excepting the Canticle of the Sun and the ever present Prayer by Brother Francis himself! Michael Card's God's Own Fool is our Friday traditio for a thankgiving weekend on which we observe the Feast of Christ the King. A king whose kingdom is within us, not individually, but corporately, and is not of the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Eucharist is merely the Greek word for thanksgiving. So, in a very real and non-trivial sense, for us Christians, everyday is thanksgiving day as we gather around the Table of the Lord from East to West so that a perfect offering can be made to the glory of God's name. Writing about the communion of saints, today is the memorial of St. Cecilia.

God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The need for lies (re: fetal stem cells) done away with!

This is big news, indeed: Embryonic Stem Cells and Those Pro-Science Pro-Lifers, by Joseph Bottum. No more whismical death-dealing! I am tired of negotiating about the right of people to exist, to live! Without the right to life, which our founding fathers correctly explicated in the Declaration of Independence, all other rights are kind of meaningless. No wait! All other rights ARE absolutely meaningless! You have the right to free speech, unless you're killed before birth, during birth, or shortly after being born. Besides, fetal stem cells to date have produced ZERO therapies, not that that would make it moral.

Proponents of fetal stem cell research are either victims of a dupe, or are downright dishonest. This was much the same with those who tried to convince us that partial birth abortions were sometimes medically necessary. We can safely say that on the basis of reason alone, the harvesting of fetal stem cells from embryos and fetuses is intrinsically evil, as is the creation of embryos for that very purpose. This makes the Colbert exchange with Prof. Silver all the more relevant.

The new epigraph of the Ironic Catholic is apropos here, a quote from our dearly departed Flannery: "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Hierarchy news

It is official, Bishop Michael Warfel was named this morning as the new bishop of Great Falls/Billings, Montana. Since 1996 His Excellency, Bishop Warfel, has been serving as the bishop of Juneau, Alaska.

In the bigger scheme of things, there are still nine vacant dioceses in the United States, with the appointment of a new bishop the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings comes off the list and the Diocese of Juneau gets added to the list.

Barring any big news, like a Utah victory over BYU, posting will be light for the remaining ten days of this month, consisting only of a Thanksgiving Day post, our Friday traditio, and my homily.

Eastern Catholic Churches: An extended hierarchy update

I wrote yesterday of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States, mentioning Eastern Catholic hierarchies in this country only in passing. Only nine of the twenty-one Eastern Churches in communion with Rome are well enough established in the United States to have either archeparchies or eparchies (i.e., archdioceses and dioceses). Eastern Catholic Churches are autonomous particular churches in full communion with the Bishop of Rome and recognize his universal authority over the Church. The form of ecclesial governance among these churches varies somewhat, with there being four basic forms: patriarchal, major archepiscopal, metropolitan, and other sui juris, a Latin phrase that meaning "of one’s own right," churches. Patriarchal, major archepiscopal, and metropolitan churches are governed in much the same way as Eastern Orthodox churches, which are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome, having a synodal form of ecclesial government. The Pope does not directly appoint bishops of such churches, he merely ratifies, or accepts (he can reject) the appointments made according to their canonically established mode of governance.

Eastern Catholic Churches, along with Eastern Orthodox Churches, have married priests and deacons. Only celibate priests, however, can become bishops. If priests or deacons are married, they must be married prior to receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders. Otherwise, they must vow celibacy. Of course, this is the rule for permanent deacons in the Roman Catholic Church. This means that if we are widowed or otherwise find ourselves no longer married after ordination, we are not free to re-marry without a Papal dispensation.

Christ Icon in the Dome of St. John's Cathedral, the seat of the Ruthenian Metropolitan- Pittsburgh, PA

Of the nine Eastern Churches sufficiently formed in the U.S. to have a hierarchy, only two, the Ukrainians and Ruthenians, have established archeparchies. In both of these instances the archeparchy covers the entire country. In the case of the Ukrainian archeparchy, located in Philadelphia, PA, there are three suffragan eparchies, one in Parma, Ohio, one in Chicago, IL, and one in Stamford, CT. The Ruthenian archeparchy, with its offices in Pittsburgh, PA, has subordinate eparchies in Parma, OH, Passaic, NJ, and Van Nuys, CA. Of the remaining seven churches, all have eparchies, with the Maronites and Chaldeans having two each, that cover the entire country. These are the Armenian eparchy, with headquarters in New York, NY, the Syrian, with diocesan offices in Uniondale, NJ, the Melkite, located in Boston, the two Maronite eparchies, one in Brooklyn, NY and one in Los Angeles, CA, the Chaldean with its two eparchies, one for the East with headquarters in Detroit and the other located in San Diego, CA. Both the Romanian and the Syro-Malabarese Churches have eparchies in the U.S., with the Romanian being located in Canton, OH and the Syro-Malabarese in Chicago, IL. All eparchies that do not belong to an archeparchy are immediately subject to their respective patriarchs, major archbishops, or metropolitan archbishop.

The Chaldean, Syrian, Maronite, Armenian, and Melkite Churches are patriarchal churches. The Chaldean patriarch, who will be created a cardinal in this week’s consistory, Emmanuel III Delly, is located in Baghdad, Iraq. The Syrian Catholic and the Armenian Catholic patriarchs reside in Beirut, Lebanon. The Maronites, being of Lebanese origin, have their patriarchate in Lebanon's Bekka valley. The Melkite patriarch resides in Alexandria, Egypt. The Ukrainian, Romanian, and Syro-Malabar Churches are major archepiscopal churches with their major archbishops in Kiev, Ukraine, Blaj, Romania and Kerala, India respectively. The Ruthenian archeparchy has neither a patriarch nor a major archbishop. So, the Ruthenians in the U.S. constitute a sui juris church in their own right. A major instrument of communion with these churches of the East and Rome is the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The current prefect is Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who, along with the Chaldean patriarch and twenty-two others, will be created a cardinal by our Holy Father during the consistory being held this Saturday, 24 November.

Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir is a cardinal, though a super-annuated member of the Sacred College, due to his being over 80. However, at 87, he still serves as Maronite patriarch. Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III will enter the Sacred College at age 81. Stéphanos II Ghattas, who is both a patriarch emeritus of the Coptic Catholic Church and a member of the Congregation of the Mission, the religious order founded by St. Vincent de Paul, is another cardinal from an Eastern Church who is over 80. Ignace Moussa I Daoud, formerly the Syrian Catholic Patriarch and pro-prefect for the Congregation for Oriental Churches, and Lubomyr Husar, major archbishop of Kiev, Ukraine, are the only cardinals of the Holy Roman Church from among the Eastern Churches who are below the age of 80. Both participated in the conclave of 2005.

Eastern Churches have their own unified code of canon law (i.e., one code for twenty-one churches) separate from the Code of Canon Law that governs the Roman Catholic Church. This unified code was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1990 and went into force in 1991. Unlike the Code for the Roman Church, bishops in Eastern churches submit their resignation to the patriarchal synod, or other appropriate authority, not directly to the Pope, who must confirm the decision to accept the resignation or not. Like Roman Catholic bishops, they must submit their resignations at age 75, excepting patriarchs, who can serve for life should they choose to do so.

The current picture posed by the Eastern Catholic hierarchies in the U.S. shows that Bishop Andrew Pataki, Ruthenian Bishop of Passaic, New Jersey, who is 80, and Bishop Manuel Batakian, ordinary of the lone Armenian Catholic eparchy in the U.S., who is 78, are both past retirement age. This makes two of seventeen Eastern bishops who are over the age limit. Among all the various Eastern archeparchies and eparchies in the U.S. there are no vacant sees.

Here in Utah we have only one parish of an Eastern Catholic Church, St. Jude Maronite parish in Murray, which belongs to the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. This means that this parish falls under the jurisdiction of His Excellency, Robert Shaheen, ordinary of this eparchy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hierarchy update

Today it was announced, as Rocco over at Whispers indicated last Friday, that the Holy Father has appointed Archbishop Timothy Paul Broglio, who is 55 years old and currently serves as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic and apostolic delegate to Puerto Rico, as archbishop of the Military Archdiocese for the United States of America. His Excellency, Archbishop Broglio, succeeds Archbishop Edwin O'Brien who was named archbishop of Baltimore, the premiere see of the United States, earlier this year and installed on 1 October. Archbishop O'Brien succeeded Cardinal Keeler, who retired. Archbishop Broglio is a native of Cleveland, Ohio.

So, the episcopal picture for the Roman Catholic hierarchy (i.e., not including the Eastern Rite Catholics) in the United States shows that there are nine vacant dioceses: Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Des Moines, Iowa; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Shreveport, Louisiana; Great Falls/Billings, Montana; Little Rock, Arkansas; New Ulm, Minnesota. The number of ordinaries serving beyond the mandatory retirement age of 75 is once again at ten, with Bishop D'Arcy of Ft. Wayne/South Bend having reached the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignations since the last update. Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans turns 75 on 2 December. This number also includes Cardinals Maida and Egan of Detroit and New York respectively. Other ordinaries now serving beyond 75 are Bishops Leibrecht of Springfield/Cape Girardeau, MO; Mengeling of Lansing, MI; Yanta of Amarillo, TX, Murray of Kalamazoo, MI, Moynihan of Syracuse, NY, as well as Archbishops Lipscombe of Mobile, AL and Curtiss of Omaha, NE. According to my good friend from Philly, tomorrow the the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings will have a newly appointed bishop. If this prediction proves correct, tomorrow's appointment will create yet another vacancy- in Juneau, Alaska.

It is also time I give due credit to the absolutely wonderful resource Catholic Hierarchy. This is the resource for researching anything and everything having to do with hierarchy of the Church.

Another development since the last update, mentioned only briefly when it occurred, is the naming of Bishop Jaime Soto, who until today served as an auxiliary to Bishop Tod Brown in the Diocese of Orange in California, as co-adjutor (i.e., an auxiliary bishop who will succeed the ordinary when he retires) to Bishop William Weigand, who was the seventh bishop of our fair diocese, in the Diocese of Sacramento. His Mass of welcome is today in the beautifully renovated Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

In other news, the new-look Ironic Catholic reports on a strike called for among Catholic bloggers demanding "better working conditions and pay". The group calling for the work stoppage is known as "The Other CCC: Cantankerous Catholics Casuists."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More on conscience and politics

I don't want to make this a partisan post, but I probably will not succeed. So, let me state up-front that when it comes to electoral politics among Catholics we agree on ends, but we sometimes differ as to means, which simply boils to down to the exercise of prudent judgment. Of course, we must avoid doing evil that good may come from it, or, put in a more recognizable way, ends do not justify means. We must also always seek to do that which is good and avoid that which is evil.

I think it a fair assessment, using recent history as our guide, to state that Republicans have sought, though often half-heartedly and ineffectively, to restrict abortion and Democrats, by-the-large, but with some exceptions, have sought to expand it. However, I think this an over-simplification that does not reflect a recent shift in the politics of abortion, as regards both parties, with Democrats becoming more willing to oppose the unrestricted abortion license and Republicans not feeling compelled to continue seeking bans and restrictions on various procedures, especially in their flirtation with Giuliani. By politics of abortion I am not using politics as a pejorative term, but as a way of answering Aristotle's question, posed again recently by Fr. Neuhaus.

The hot topic of abortion, to which I add those of the environment and marriage, is easy fodder for the cannons of cynical politicians of both parties, who shamelessly pander to the party's faithful while seeking nomination. Needless to say, in an age of party non-affiliation, neither the Democratic nor the Republican faithful are reflective of the citizenry at large- this is why tri-angulation, Dick Morris's (in?)famous strategy, is now the strategy of all presidential aspirants, though they must all reject the term tri-angulation. As in all things, there are exceptions, one in each party: Tom Tancredo and Dennis Kucinch. It is because these candidates have the courage of their convictions that we know what they really stand for and it is because what they really stand for is known that they won't, thankfully, get the nomination of their respective parties.

It has been a Republican electoral strategy for years to pay lip service to restricting abortion and defending marriage, while using this as a cover for their more unpalatable enterprises, defending the horrible status quo vis-à-vis health care, reckless foreign policy, undertaking highly quetionable military actions, and being fiscally irresponsible to the detriment of the common good in ways that benefit the rich and corporations and widen the gap between the rich and everyone else. The Democrats, for their part, have all too readily played the perfect foil by taking extremely radical stances on abortion, marriage, and the environment, the latter of which they use in much the same way Repubicans, heretofore, have used abortion, to pick just three.

I think with the 2006 elections, however, the Democrats learned something, which the Republicans are now in danger of jeopardizing by flirting with nominating the personally opposed, but in-favor-of-the-unrestricted-abortion-license Mayor Giuliani. The lesson Democrats seemed to have learned is that U.S. citizens, who are nothing if not pragmatic, favor placing restrictions and bans on abortion. In other words, short of rape, incest, and the life of the mother, citizens of our land do not like abortion. Of course, as Catholics, we are morally opposed to abortions in cases of rape and incest. Therefore, at least to my mind, this is where "the art of the possible," comes into play. It also bears noting that the partial birth abortion ban, which was thankfully upheld by the Supreme Court, was passed in a fairly bi-partisan manner.

Democratic candidates for president in this election speak far more carefully about abortion. An article that I introduced into a thread over on dotCommonweal gets it about right. It is by Dennis O'Brien, it appeared in America magazine entitled No to Abortion: Posture, Not Policy. O'Brien, at the behest of Peggy Steinfels, also posted on the Commonweal blog.

One final observation is that when one looks back on how successfully the Republicans have reduced the definition of being pro-life to mean only opposing abortion and how they have wielded abortion as club, both against pro-choice opponents and against Christian voters, in order to keep them in line and voting Republican, it is difficult to see how they can possibly maintain credibility and nominate Giuliani with a straight face and tell us that, in the absence of a Republican candidate who opposes abortion, it is now alright to use proportional reason when voting, especially since in the past all the argumentation has been of the absolutist variety, with an eye toward turning millions into single issue voters.

All of this before getting to the vexing issue of fetal stem cells, the harvesting of which seems to enjoy bi-partisan support, whereas human cloning is opposed by a majority in both parties.

Ironic brilliance

Colbert has, sadly, withdrawn from the presidential contest, but, as he did with Richard Dawkins, Prof. Silver gets his philosophical lunch eaten by Stephen. Of course it helps when your opponent is unskilled in the art of debate. Ignore the "This video is no longer available" sign, it is.

As a Saturday twofer, here is the Dawkins replay, since it was taken away from youtube, but made available on Comedy Central.

A diaconal bow to the Ironic Catholic for the Silver vid!

I would put Peter Berkowitz' boilerplate editorial as to why many people have an adverse reaction to our current president in neither the brilliant nor the ironic category. It is nice to unlock the secrets of my motivations via another Murdoch-controlled media enterprise. I think I read several variations of this same article written by Democrat ideologues during the Clinton years. I'll save you the trouble of reading it: If you don't agree with me you are either crazy or evil. There is a third possibility- you're both! What silliness.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Women who rock the world

This, dear friends, for our traditio this week, we return to Green Day, who will then be on a long hiatus.

When listening to this song I think of our Blessed Mother, of St. Mary Magdalene, of St. Jean d' Arc, of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (a.k.a. Edith Stein), of St. Gianna Molla, and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. All of my thoughts about the song are just that, my thoughts, these particular thoughts are very subjective.

Something new

Charles Péguy

Yesterday marked the beginning of a new collaboration among a few of us, Cahiers Péguy: the drama of Christian humanism, which is a weblog "In the tradition of Charles Péguy's Cahiers: a journal vrai, the most beautiful thing in the world, a friendship and a city and a perfectly free association of men who all believe in something." A journal vrai is a truth-journal. This is a collaboration between myself, Sharon who composes Clarity Daily, Alex, the author of Vitus Speaks, and Frederick who writes Deep Furrows.

It is a collaboration in Communion and Liberation, me being not even the neophyte of the bunch. It will be fun and (hopefully) interesting to see how this develops. Καθολικός διάκονος is not going anywhere.

The new blog begins with a dicussion of politics, which, with the USCCB's most recent document on Catholics and our duty as citizens to vote, which is a "moral obligation," Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, we begin to focus on next year's election.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On the radio

This morning while driving to work and listening to X96’s Radio From Hell, as is my habit, I heard an installment of RFH's “Ask a . . .” feature. Today it was “Ask a Nun.” The religious sister featured was Sr. Stephanie, a Benedictine from the Mt. Benedict Monastery in my native Ogden. Among the various hats Sr. Stephanie wears is the director of pastoral care at Ogden Regional Hospital, formerly St. Benedict Hospital. I have the great privilege of praying with some of these same Benedictine sisters whenever I preside at weekday communion services at Holy Family Parish, which I have the joy of doing when their pastor is out-of-town. The segment was great to listen to and Sr. Stephanie was very kind, enthusiastic, and informative. You do not need to take my word for it, you can listen for yourself by clicking on the link to the show.

Listening reminded me that several years ago Kerry, Bill, and Gina, RFH co-hosts, would periodically have Fr. Cummings, a priest of our diocese, on the program. His appearances always made for fun listening, as did today's segment.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sorry, I couldn't resist

Like Sharon, I could've saved myself the trouble. Like Fred, it had something to do with my ideal vacation consisting of much "culture and a few unsavory activities." Alex who, because he brings the party with him, is reponsible for starting this whole damn thing!

Your Inner European is French!

Smart and sophisticated.
You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.

Is that a clown at the base of the Eiffel Tower? I certainly hope so because mimes are scary!

Faithful Citizenship: A quadrennial instruction and exhortation

As many of you know the annual meeting of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is taking place this week. Last year's meeting spawned two posts worth reconsidering: Another delicate matter and Marriage and the Gift of Life: Some Diaconal Observations. Re-reading my post on marriage, I dislike my tone. I suppose this issue hit too closely to home, both my personal life and my ministry. So, as you read or re- read this post, please ignore my lack of humility.

This year being the last meeting before our quadrennial presidential election, as has been their tradition for several election cycles, they have issued a statement on political participation and responsibility. Actually, there were two documents, the main document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States, as well as a summary document.

"Our nation faces political challenges that demand urgent moral choices. We are a nation at war, with all of its human costs; a country often divided by race and ethnicity; a nation of immigrants struggling with immigration. We are an affluent society where too many live in poverty; part of a global community confronting terrorism and facing urgent threats to our environment; a culture built on families, where some now question the value of marriage and family life. We pride ourselves on supporting human rights, but we fail even to protect the fundamental right to life, especially for unborn children.

"We bishops seek to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with the truth, so they can make sound moral choices in addressing these challenges. We do not tell Catholics how to vote. The responsibility to make political choices rests with each person and his or her properly formed conscience."
These are the first two paragraphs from the summary document.

Additionally, John Allen has a summary of a press conference given right after the public release of the documents in which Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, answers questions put to him about the document. I think Bishop Lori’s candid answers also serve as an excellent summary to the very vexing issue that voting has become for many faithful Catholics in the United States. The first thing in Bishop Lori’s response I am interested in addressing is when he says that "One possibility is the extraordinary step of not voting." Indeed, to not vote is an extraordinary step. Of course, we are free to vote or not to vote, but we cannot abstain from voting today in our country in good conscience. As the document goes on to point out, "In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation." So, it would need to be a set of extraordinary circumstances that would allow one to morally justify not voting.

Bishop Lori also speaks eloquently to the complexity of moral thinking involved in being a committed Christian and a responsible citizen when he says that "The main point of the statement," is that in many cases it is not easy to choose a candidate for whom to vote. Choosing is made more difficult because, if we apply a well-formed conscience to our personal deliberations, our decision cannot be made solely by preferring "one party over another, you can’t reach it because in addition to everything else the candidate is going to make you feel better. It can't be because of economic advantage." Cutting to the chase, Bishop Lori said, "You really have to go through some hoops to come to that conclusion," but he adds, "I think that the more who go through those hoops, the better off we’re going to be." I certainly agree.

In addition, here are some thoughts worth reading from two very intelligent U.S. Catholics, one of whom, based on the content of his blog, may well be a genius:

From Deep Furrows American politics 2007, then the response from Clarity Daily A Criterion for Politics: My Opinion.

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Yesterday marked the memorial of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, the first U.S. citizen to be raised to the altar. She was an immigrant to this great country of ours, coming here from her native Italy. Mother Cabrini was a tremendous inspiration for another holy woman, Mother Mary Teresa of Calcutta, who, like Mother Cabrini, was an immigrant to the country in which she served. Mother Teresa's desire to become an Indian was inspired by Mother Cabrini's becoming an American. Of course, St. Francis Xavier, a man, a Jesuit priest, was a great missionary to the Far East.

Holy Mary, Mother of God- pray for us
St. Francis Xavier- pray for us
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini- pray for us
Bl. Teresa of Calcutta- pray for us
All holy men and women- pray for us

Let us today pray for all missionaries, servants of Jesus Christ, who work faithfully, often in dangerous conditions, to spread the news of God's love throughout the world, in accord with the Great Commission: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matt. 28,19-20)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Something you have to see . . .

a beautiful picture taken and posted on Clarity Daily of San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, which features a stained glass window of Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, in the rain. Thanks for the lovely b-day gift, Sharon!

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum- the Pope is coming to the U.S.

It's official, after months of speculation and hints, it was announced today that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, will be making an Apostolic visit to the United States 15-20 April 2008. This joyous news was announced at the beginning of the annual fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who serves as the Holy Father's representative in this country, during the nuncio's annual address to this assembly of our country's bishops.

The Holy Father will only visit New York City and Washington, D.C. While in the Big Apple he will speak to the United Nations' General Assembly on 18 April. I am quite certain we can expect another Benedictine tour de force. The day prior he will say Mass in Yankee Stadium. While in the city he will also visit Ground Zero. In our nation's capitol he will say Mass in the brand new home of the Washington Nationals baseball team and give a lecture at The Catholic University of America similar in format, if not content, to his magnificent Regensburg address. The audience for this address will be professors and presidents of Catholic universities. While in this country he will also visit with priests, diocesan educators, and young people.

Deo gratias!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Below are just a few of the countless people who entered the world on this day:

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor- 1050

Abigail Adams- 1744

Fyodor Dostoevsky- 1821

Kurt Vonnegut- 1922

Carlos Fuentes- 1928

Senator Barbara Boxer of California- 1940

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua- 1945

Stanley Tucci- 1960

Demi Moore- 1962

Calista Flockhart- 1964

Scott Dodge- 1965

Leonardo DiCaprio- 1974

It is also the Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, who died on this day in 311 and who is the patron saint of Martin Luther, who was born 10 November, as well as of

St. Bartholomew of Grottaferrata- Abbott and

St. Mina, an Egyptian saint who died around 309

It was interesting (at least for me) to look at my b-day post from last year. I still ask for prayers for my comrades in arms on this day "and ask St. Martin of Tours, whose feast is today, along with St. Stephen, my baptismal and confirmation patron, one of the seven deacons chosen by the apostles in Acts, a martyr, to intercede for all serving the cause of peace in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us ask them to intercede for their safety, to comfort their families, and for [conversion of heart of all who see violence as means to accomplishing ends, be they political, religious, or personal and for the repose of the souls of all who have died, U.S., Iraqi, Afghani]. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Peace, ora pro nobis. St. Stephen, ora pro nobis. St. Martin of Tours, on this, your feast day, ora pro nobis."

I conclude with a quote from Dostoevsky, which serves as the epigraph of Clarity Daily: "Beauty will save the world"!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A second note on preaching

The great English poet, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, convert to the Church of England from Roman Catholicism, John Donne, wrote:

"Christ spoke Scripture . . . Christ was living, speaking Scripture. Our sermons are text and discourse; Christ's sermons were all text: Christ was the Word".

For those of us who preach, our homilies are discourse on the sacred text. Whereas, what Christ spoke and was is all text, all Scripture. Not surprisingly, Donne wrote it better than I ever could. Deo gratias! I think my earlier point is that discourse matters.

Many thanks to Deacon Owen Cummings, our retreat master, for instilling in us that, if liturgy is first theology, poetry is second theology. Sadly, I tend to be a plodding prosaic sort of writer.

Kristallnacht remembered

I missed a very important observance yesterday. This omission was brought to my attention by a parishioner, Lucia, who is German and who remembers living through this horror as a young girl. Sixty-nine years ago yesterday the pogrom, known to history as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, occurred. On this night, in a coordinated campaign of violence and terror, the National Socialist government, abnegating the greatest responsibility a government has, to protect its citizens, unleashed elements of the Nazi SA and the SS who, along with some civilians, attacked and ransacked 8,000 businesses owned by Jewish citizens and many thousands of Jewish homes across Germany and in parts of Austria. Buildings were destroyed with sledgehammers and many Jews were beaten to death. On this night some 30,000 Jewish men were carted off to concentration camps. Additionally, close to 1,700 synagogues were attacked and over 250 set on fire.

This night marked the beginning of the six year nightmare. I am sorry for having omitted mention of this annivesary yesterday, but grateful that it was remembered to me by a woman who, as a young girl, lived through it and the years that followed. We must never forget. This is all too easily said, as we forget whenever we fail to stop genocide, as we are failing to do in Darfur right now!

I want to end on a hopeful note, which I picked up via Clarity Daily, the story of a German Catholic priest restoring the scrolls of the Torah back to a Cologne synagogue.

Norman Mailier 1923-2007

Norman Mailer is dead at age 84- rest-in-peace.

My first experience with Norman Mailer was reading his first book, the WWII novel that made him famous, The Naked and the Dead. Then there is his novel about Utah's own Gary Gilmore, The Executioner's Song. But the Mailer novel that made the deepest impression on me and that came out just after I finished The Naked and the Dead, is Harlot's Ghost. Harlot's Ghost is a big, wide, meandering novel about the CIA and is not regarded as one of his best. It may even be out-of-print. He also wrote a book on the life of Jesus, The Gospel According to the Son: A Novel, which is a surprisingly straightforward account of the life of the man from Nazareth and superior to Kazantsakis' The Last Temptation of Christ. Mailer was Jewish and was always fascinated, not so much by religion, but by God, faith, and religious ideas. In a strange way, in an idiosyncratic manner, Mailer was a man of faith, but, like all wise men, he understood the dangers inherent to religious belief, the destructive force of bad religion.

I have been planning to read his last novel, The Castle in the Forest: A Novel, a fantastic tale of the conception and early years of Adolf Hitler, as well as On God: An Uncommon Conversation and will do so now from a whole new perspective. Mailer was at both his best and worst as a writer in writing from the realm of the fantastic. When at his best, his writing style was very muscular and unmistakably masculine. He could make the tallest tale, like Hitler's conception by the devil in his last novel, a passage I heard him read on the radio, sound absolutely believable. Like all truly interesting people, Mailer had some wacky ideas and was quite forceful about relaying them. Politically, Mailer and I had a lot in common, not everything by a long stretch, and I always enjoy listening to his lectures and speeches, as well as reading his essays, especially on political, social, and cultural issues. He was undoubtedly a political radical. Norman Mailer also bore a striking resemblance to my maternal grandfather, with whom I was very close and who died when I was ten.

Those who write about Mailer from a Catholic P.O.V. over the next few days will have little good to write about him. Therefore, I do not mind declaring that I admired him while often vehemently disagreeing with him. He was one of those people with whom I would have loved to stay out all night drinking, conversing, and arguing. His advice to young writers was "Avoid booze, pot, too much sex, too much failure in one's private life." Mailer was married six times and has nine children.

Friday, November 9, 2007

A note on preaching

When the Gospel reading is a parable told by Jesus, why do some preachers feel compelled to tell a story about a story? In my experience, most Catholics can certainly use and many desire expository preaching, which requires some exegetical work. Put simply, more substance, less style. There is nobody less interesting or funny than somebody trying really hard to be interesting or funny.

I know I am in for an ordeal when after reading, say, the parable of the Prodigal Son, the preacher begins his homily with something like this: "Last Thanksgiving, as we gathered around the table, I asked my nephew, who had earlier that day lost the television remote, to say grace . . .". Of course I am exaggerating to make a point, but not by much judging merely from my own experience. Though well-intended, such stories usually wind up in some moralistic platitude, like it is important to forgive others. Now, I agree that it is important, even crucial, to forgive others, but quite often it isn't easy and I don't want to. Jesus is certainly saying more in this particular story than that! It is the preacher's role to try and communicate what else it is that our Lord is telling the communio, to move beyond the most obvious meaning. The preacher who refuses to do so becomes merely a MODO- a master of detecting the obvious. Put simply, if we preachers do not at least try to move beyond the most obvious meaning of Scripture, there is no value added by our preaching.

"Endless talking, Life rebuilding"

Atmosphere- "Don't walk away, in silence." Joy Division.

Today's geo-political quiz:

If Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency in Pakistan to combat the forces of Islamic radicalism, such as the Taliban, why is he arresting all the people in his country, Benazir Bhutto being just the latest, who stand against the radicals and for democracy and progress?

Today's commentary on the times, such as they are, albeit a few weeks late, comes from Dr. Christine B. Whelan's Pure Sex, Pure Love column, which you can read on the Paulist site Busted Halo, entitled Slutoween.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

From the "What the frickin' heck" (an uniquely Utah locution) files :

I made this post a bit of a lark because it marks my 365th post of 2007!

First from my dear friend Rocco over at Whispers:
From the Late-Night Desk, then

from Grant Gallicho, editor of Commonweal, which is one of the best Catholic magazines going, on their dotCommonweal blog, Abuser Priest Released on Bond, not to mention

the number two at the Holy See's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, saying in a recent speech that bishops opposed to the new norms were being "used as instruments of the devil". Perhaps the Holy Father should fly to France, call a plenary session of the entire French episcopate, who not only opposed the motu, but passionately pleaded with the Pope not to promulgate it, for the purpose of an exorcism. Too bad they recently concluded their deliberations at Lourdes. Okay, I am being extreme, but some days . . .

Now, back over to Rocco for some very good news. In a rare act of good sense and wisdom, President Bush has appointed Professor Mary-Ann Glendon of Harvard, who also serves as president of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, as United States Ambassador to the Holy See.

I am taking a risk here. After all, doesn't love require risk? For tomorrow's traditio it is either Joy Division in honor of the release this weekend of the film Control, which I hope to see at Brewvies after being on retreat that morning, or The Cure. In addition to which group, which song? The comment line is open. I am being authoritarian, not authoritative, by limiting the choices to The Cure or Joy Division to the point of even excluding New Order.

In other news, the intermonk, who writes from a post-evangelical perspective, like Καθολικός διάκονος, is not scared of atheism, namely The Golden Compass movie, which features the Catholic, Nicole Kidman.

Finally, I put this randomness to rest with this from Matthew Lickona.

"Razing the Bastions"

The title of this post is the title of a little book written by Hans Urs von Balthasar prior to Vatican II calling upon the Church to engage the world instead of remaining aloof, locked away in a dusty, Medieval room. The whole title is Razing the Bastions: On the Church in This Age. The fortress mentality of the Church was definitively blown away by the Second Vatican Council, but not without opposition from the "prophets of doom". Lest there be doubt, here is an excerpt from Gaudium et Spes, of which then-Karol Wojtyla was a primary architect:

89. "Since, in virtue of her mission received from God, the Church preaches the Gospel to all men and dispenses the treasures of grace, she contributes to the ensuring of peace everywhere on earth and to the placing of the fraternal exchange between men on solid ground by imparting knowledge of the divine and natural law. Therefore, to encourage and stimulate cooperation among men, the Church must be clearly present in the midst of the community of nations both through her official channels and through the full and sincere collaboration of all Christians-a collaboration motivated solely by the desire to be of service to all.

"This will come about more effectively if the faithful themselves, conscious of their responsibility as men and as Christians will exert their influence in their own milieu to arouse a ready willingness to cooperate with the international community. Special care must be given, in both religious and civil education, to the formation of youth in this regard."

I love that this extract, along with a few others from the constitutions of Vatican II, appear from time-to-time in the Office of Readings. With that I link you to Let’s Sit Out World War IV, by Steven LaTulippe. Once again, it is thanks to Alex, who daily finds such wonderful things and also performs acts of charity by keeping me straight, that I came across LaTulippe's insightful article.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In case you're interested

I know several of my local readers are curious about Communion & Liberation, which we are preparing to establish here in Salt Lake City. God willing we will begin meeting this month. So, if you are interested in coming and seeing, please leave a comment on this post and we can work from there. Anyway, the head of CL in the U.S. is Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete. Msgr. Albacete spoke on 6 October 2004 in Seattle. So, with no further adieu, I send you over to Deep Furrows where Fred has posted the video of his talk, which is entitled if you sin, let it be original.

Some more magisterial thoughts

A post from a couple of days ago over on our parish RCIA blog has caused me to reflect a bit more on the subject of Church authority. In discussing Church authority there is a distinction taught me by a Dominican priest about fifteen years ago. It is the distinction between authoritative and authoritarian. When stating that the Church aims at being authoritative and not authoritarian, it becomes important to discuss this distinction a bit more. In his wonderful homily while still Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals given at the Mass just prior to entering into the conclave at which he was elected Pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about "the dictatorship of relativism," an authoritarianism that, by denying truth, allows for just about anything. It is important to note that he does not propose that this dictatorship be replaced by something like the dictatorship of truth, which would require the kind of religious fundamentalism he castigated in his Regensburg address. In order to grasp the truth one has to be free, it cannot be coerced. Because the truth is a person and not a set of abstract propositions, responding to truth means answering the question the resurrected Jesus put to Peter, "Do you love me?" Love can never be forced because true love requires true freedom.
Exodus, by Marc Chagall
To this end, Pope John Paul II wrote "On her part, the Church addresses people with full respect for their freedom. Her mission does not restrict freedom but rather promotes it. The Church proposes; she imposes nothing. She respects individuals and cultures, and she honors the sanctuary of conscience" (Redemptoris Missio par. 39). Just as there is vast difference between authoritative and authoritarian, there is an ocean between proposing something and imposing it. Now, there have been eras in its history during which the Church sought to impose. This same Pontiff, John Paul II, as part of observing the beginning of the third millennium of the Incarnation, issued apologies for many of these failures. Apologies aside, being authoritative requires being credible and credibility means being believable and not being what is popularly known as hypocritical, saying one thing and doing another. The word for saying what one means and acting accordingly is integrity. Even in the Church's darkest days there have always been women and men of holiness and integrity. For example, St. Francis received his mandate from the resurrected Lord to "rebuild my Church" in a particularly dark time. In short, it is typically saints, not popes and bishops, who have been the Church's catalysts, just as the prophets were Israel's. Of course, holiness always has a prophetic dimension.

It is precisely because the Church has failed and continues to fail (I am writing here about the child sexual abuse scandal and cover-up among other problems) that it lacks credibility with a lot of people, which is certainly understandable in many cases. This brings us to the nature of the Church itself. Like our resurrected and risen Lord, the Church has both a human and a divine nature. Unlike our Lord, in our human dimension the Church is not sinless. If nothing else, I know the Church in her human dimension is not sinless because I am a member. It is also important to remember that God's light shines, maybe even brighter, through our weaknesses. The Lord said to St. Paul who was grieving over his weakness: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." To which Paul responded: "I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me" (2 Cor 12,9).

The Church is God's People. God's People are and have always been a pilgrim People. The Church at times no less than the ancient Israelites, has gone a wanderin' in the desert.

Monday, November 5, 2007


I want to draw attention, especially those of you currently in RCIA at The Cathedral of the Madeleine, to a post on our RCIA blog entitled You, Me, the Pope, and our Bishop. This post is in response to some questions and queries on a recent class. There is also another post on our Blessed Mother.

Writing about the Church's magisterium, Bishop Wester, the bishop of my diocese, Salt Lake City, on The Intermountain Catholic website, has two new podcasts up. This is a great service as it allows our bishop to speak directly to us in His Own Words.

"Blessed are they who . . ." (Matt. 5,6)

This is a great reflection for a Monday morning, from the Ironic Catholic, Theological Rant 1.0: Will You Just Let Me Be Religious Already?. To whet your appetite, it begins: "Excuse me, I know you're just trying to live your life and be sensitive and thoughtful and all, but will you just let me be religious already?"

Indeed, as the Ironic Catholic insists, "heroic virtue is worth striving for." To that end I turn to a person who also thought a life of holiness was the only life worth living, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa's motto, the cornerstone of her order, are Jesus' words from the Cross "I thirst" (Jn. 19,28). What Jesus thirsts for, according to this holy woman, is us, for you and me, for all humanity. So, it must be our task "to quench the infinite thirst of a God made man." Mother Teresa also manages to encapsulate something that has been pointed out in these pages many times before, it is drawn from the wisdom of others and my own, admittedly limited, experience: "Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you - you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him" (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light pgs. 41-42). In the end the ones who will be filled are those "who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matt. 5,6). To that end, in a turn of phrase worthy of Jude Simpson, with the I.C. "I want beatitudes, not platitudes."

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Rendering service "to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity"

All things Latin American seem to coalescing since my Ché post. I know that post was probably too long and tortured for anyone to read, judging from the total lack of interest the post generated. Long-time readers know, however, that I have a peculiar fondness for my misbegotten children. So, it remains of interest to me for several reasons. In addition to our dear Cathedral being visited by Guatemalan First Lady Wendy Widmann de Berger yesterday, John Allen wrote once again about the region for his All Things Catholic weekly Friday article: Signs of Life in Latin America.

This article highlights well the current situation in Latin America today vis-à-vis Church and State. Of course the large, looming figure of Hugo Chávez is noted, along with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, but there are other significant voices that Allen strives to hear, such as Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Bolivian President Evo Morales, who, like Chávez, Correa, Lula da Silva, and Fernando Lugo, a bishop who vacated his See to run for the presidency of Paraguay, is Catholic and who said back in July that "the Catholic bishops had 'historically damaged the country' by functioning as 'an instrument of the oligarchs'".

Towards the end of his article Allen summarizes a book written by Fr. Edward Cleary, OP entitled Conversion of a Continent. According to Allen, "Cleary argues, recent Latin American experience confirms what believers in the United States have long understood -- an open religious marketplace, unfettered by an established church, is healthy for churches all the way around". While I am inclined to agree with this statement (i.e., that the increasing religious diversity in the region is actually good for the Catholic Church, which has often been moribund), I really loathe talking about faith and religion using marketplace terms. The reason I dislike it is that it reduces people to religious consumers. The problem with this, at least from a Christian standpoint, is nothing less than a complete evisceration of the Gospel. If we are nothing more than religious consumers, then our basic approach to joining a community is rooted in what we personally get out of it. Nothing could be more unChristian or anti-Christian. Now, that is not to say that most of us are looking for something. This something often remains quite nebulous, even unidentifiable until we encounter it. In the encounter we discover that this something is a someOne. Facilitating such an encounter is what evangelism is all about, which is why I will plug, yet again, Papa Montini's Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, in which we read, quoting from a speech given to the Sacred College that "it is only in the Christian message that modern man can find the answer to his questions and the energy for his commitment of human solidarity" (par. 3). It follows that "it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible" (par. 3).

Such an endeavor, Pope Paul continues, requires a two-fold fidelity "to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact". In order to be faithful we must answer "three burning questions":

- In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man's conscience?

- To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?

- What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?"
(par. 4)

Friday, November 2, 2007

"After my picture fades . . ."

Cyndi is still just amazing! This song, because it is unapologetically sentimental, creates a memorial flood for me, which is appropriate for a day of remembrance. I hope you, too, dear reader (all 15 of you) find it equally reminiscent.

All Souls Day

All Souls Day, by William Bouguereau (1859)
Following immediately on the heels of All Hallows Eve and All Hallows Day (i.e., All Saints Day) is All Souls Day. On this day we commemorate all our dead, especially our departed family members, friends, and members of our parishes. It is yet another way of acknowledging, of living, of calling to mind and making present this great communion of saints to which we belong. Hence, it is a way understanding that, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, life does not end at death, but continues forever and that eternal life begins at Baptism, or that life, at least for those who die in the friendship of Christ, is not the last breath, merely the last smile on this side of the door to our Father's house where we hope to dwell and be happy forever.

To make a secular comparison, All Souls is something like a religious memorial day. It is very appropriate to visit the graves of loved ones, to visit the graves of those who do not have anybody to remember them, most especially priests and religious. If unable to visit graves, pray for our beloved departed, ask them to pray for you, for us. Above all, attend Mass. While All Souls is not, like All Saints, a holy day of obligation, it is an important feast. Besides, this year, it falls on a First Friday. This gives us that much more impetus to go to Mass, to gather as God's People, to make present in the world, in our various communities, this great communion, to show we are Christian by our love for God and one another.

I will post our weekly traditio later this afternoon or this evening. It never hurts to build in some anticipation. One last note, in my litany for yesterday I failed to invoke the intercession of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. So,

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity - pray for us
St. Thérèse of Lisieux- Little Flower- pray for us

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints

St. Stephen, deacon, my patron

Over on our parish blog, The People of St. Mary Magdalene, starting last week and continuing through the early part of this week, in anticipation of All Saints, I posted a series on holy people:

The Divine Witness of a Humble Woman

The Divine Witness of a Humble Pope

The Divine Witness of a Humble Bishop

The Divine Witness of a Humble Man

A litany:

Holy Mary, Mother of God- pray for us
St. Joseph- pray for us
St. Mary Magdalene- pray for us
St. Stephen- pray for us
St. Philip- pray for us
St. Lawrence- pray for us
St. Martin of Tours- pray for us
Sts. Francis and Clare- pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross- pray for us
St. Gianna Molla- pray for us
Bl. Pope John XXIII- pray for us
Bl. Teresa of Calcutta- pray for us
Bl.Franz Jägerstätter- pray for us
All holy men and women- pray for us

In order that we, too, might attain beatitude "we must above all seek the prayers of the saints. Thus, what is beyond our own powers to obtain will be granted through their intercession" (From a sermon by St. Bernard of Clarvaux, abbot, taken from the Office of Readings for the Solemnity of All Saints [a.k.a. All Hallows]).

Good Pope, bad assessment

No sooner do I post an article praising the wonderful legacy left by Bl. Pope John XXIII, especially his calling of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, than does he come in for criticism from no less than Giacomo Cardinal Biffi, archbishop emeritus of Bologna, Italy. Cardinal Biffi has long been known for his feistiness, his keen intellect, good humor, as well as for clearly speaking his mind in public and private. As he approaches his eightieth birthday, he has published a memoir entitled Memorie e digressioni di un italiano cardinale (Memories and Digressions of an Italian Cardinal). In his book, as one might well imagine, published as it is just prior to his superannuation as member of the Sacred College and a few years after his retirement as Bologna’s shepherd, Cardinal Biffi pulls few punches. Among the punches he does not throw, according to Sandro Magister, on whose peerless webpage Chiesa, excerpts of His Eminence’s book appears, Biffi, adhering to the axiom we all learned from our mothers, says almost nothing rather write anything terribly critical about his former archbishop, whom he served as an auxiliary in Milan, the great biblical scholar, Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, SJ, a man with whom Biffi has little in common, personally, theologically, or pastorally. It is interesting to note that Cardinal Martini was the only challenger to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in the conclave of 2005.

It may surprise some to learn (not those who know me personally) that I am in agreement with many conservative critiques of the post Vatican II Church. The two reforms of the Council I am least open to criticisms of are the definition of the Church as the People of God and the reform of the liturgy, which gives concrete form to this crucial definition of the Church. I am also pretty committed to the Church’s engagement with the world, which Cardinal Biffi often sees, sometimes accurately, as Church capitulating to the world. Engagement with the world is tricky and does mean often challenging the world, especially on ethical and moral issues. In the not too distant past I posted a critique, taken from Romano Amerio’s book Iota Unum on the anthropology of Gaudium et Spes, particularly the new man. So, it was with a small sense of irony (i.e., using it in both positive and negative ways) that I used the first line of this one and only Pastoral Constitution, which makes it a strange and unique canonical document, the status of which remains a matter of debate, for my post on Ché, who was himself committed to the creation of the new socialist man.

Good Pope, good teacher, bad interpreter
When it comes to John XXIII Biffi seems to be content to set up and kick over straw men, assuming the excerpts web-published by Magister are accurate. In the first instance Cardinal Biffi, in a section entitled John XXIII: a good pope, a bad teacher equates the prophets of doom referred to by Il Papa Buono in his great address called Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, given to open the first session of Vatican II, with the prophets of the Bible, including Jesus himself, who gave warning first to Israel and then to the Church about the consequences of deviating from the Truth revealed by God. But, it is most helpful to point out that the Pope is not speaking to or about those who we might revere as prophets in our day. Rather, he tells his audience that he is referring to those who see in our day "nothing but prevarication and ruin. They say that our era, in comparison with past eras, is getting worse, and they behave as though they had learned nothing from history, which is, none the less, the teacher of life. They behave as though at the time of former Councils everything was a full triumph for the Christian idea and life and for proper religious liberty". It helps to point out that Pope John XXIII, as an academic historian and professor of Church history prior to entering the Holy See’s diplomatic service, knew whereof he spoke. His special area of expertise was the Council of Trent, focusing on the greatest figure of that great Council, St. Charles Borromeo, who Biffi, as a native of Milan, the diocese for which he was ordained first a priest and then a bishop, prior his becoming the ordinary of Bologna, greatly reveres.

In a further section Cardinal Biffi first praises and then criticizes Pope John's maxim "Distinction must be made between error and the person in error". This is to say that a distinction must be made between sin and the sinner, between heresy and the heretic, etc. His criticism takes the form of saying that when condemning error, which the Church has continued to do even after Vatican II, the Church does not condemn an abstraction, but also the person who teaches error. What is puzzling is that Biffi himself ends this correction with these words: "The Christian people must be put on guard and defended against those who actually sow error, without ceasing to seek out his true well-being, and without judging anyone's subjective responsibility, which is known to God alone". This is puzzling because it merely re-states what Pope John XXIII said and meant in the first place. So, it seems to me, based on reading these excerpts, that perhaps Cardinal Biffi could have been a bit more generous in reading and interpreting the words and pontificate of Pope John XXIII. Another odd thing about all this is that Biffi seems to be playing to his public persona, something Cardinal Martini, who is in many ways his nemesis, also gets accused of doing.

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 ...