Saturday, June 29, 2002
and was thoroughly underwhelmed. For my taste there could have been more math, and more on exactly how Nash beat the schizophrenia. I was also bothered by the fact that the movie is portrayed as a true-to-life story, when it is clearly fictionalized. But what bothered me most about the movie is that somehow it beat out Lord of the Rings for best picture, when LOTR was clearly superior in every way.
Of course, I am still upset that Silence of the Lambs beat Beauty and the Beast.
Thursday, June 27, 2002
you simply must learn to read Latin. Now, I think Mass in English is fine, but unfortunately, we Latin rite Catholics are forced to endure stultifying, bowdlerized, inane, banal, and paraphrased translations. Go look at Fr. Rob Johansen's site for examples and some good news. Apparently, the ICEL (the International Committee on Everything but Latin, the group responsible for translating the liturgy for all English-speaking countries) has had an end-run done around it. The pope has created a group called Vox Clara (clear voice) to facilitate the translations of the new Missale Romanum.
If, like me, you can't wait for good translations, you need to get a book with the text of the Mass in Latin and English. Try this one. Then work through one of the Eucharistic Prayers with a Latin dictionary, and see how much beauty and spirituality is left out of the current translations.
I can't recommend too highly this Latin dictionary that gives you the meanings as well as the forms. The program is called WORDS. Go download it here.
Trust me, if you spend the time on EP I in Latin, you will be pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church really is.
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
I was sitting at daily mass this morning when during the intercessions, the priest asked that we pray for our faith community. This word "community" has become very common in recent years, almost to the point of being devoid of meaning. One can speak of the Christian community, the school community, the world community, the Arab community, the Black community, the Italian-German-Irish-American community, or perhaps even the community community. The word means almost nothing. It is placed after a group name in order to communicate that there is some sort of commonality. Usually the commonality is purely accidental, since the members of the "community" have little in common. For example, at mass this morning the only thing I had in common with the other people there was that I attended daily mass today. We don't even know each other. So to speak of the "faith community" is to say little more than that we all happened to go to church.
So why not just say "church?" The English and Spanish words for "church" have much more meaning than the vague and over-used word "community." The English word "church" comes from the Greek word Kuriakos by way of the German Kirche, meaning "house of the Lord." When we say "church", we mean the house of the Lord! Isn't this much more packed with meaning than "community"? The very name of the building is a reminder to us why we are there, We go to church to receive Christ our Lord, and so we go to the Lord's house. The Spanish word Iglesia comes from another Greek word, ekklesia, which means an assembly of people called out by someone. (The preposition ek means "out": if you are ecstatic, you are standing outside of yourself.) But who calls us? The Lord! The very name of the church in Spanish reminds us that we are there for a purpose, because God has called us and destined us for salvation, as long as we don't screw it up.
So please don't worship in a faith community. Go to a church! Worship in an iglesia. When you say these words, remember what they mean, and rejoice when you enter the Lord's house.
I have had a paper of mine accepted for publication, which doubles my published output as a philosopher.
Sunday, June 23, 2002
RecentlyI mentioned the priest I saw at a wedding. I want to add something to my praise. Apparently, after the rehearsal on Friday, he instructed the wedding party that he was going to go sit in the confessional if any of them wanted to receive the sacrament. Bravo Fr. O'Hara!
The Devil and Sumner Redstone
I had the opportunity yesterday to hear Sumner Redstone give the commencement speech to MBA students at Northwestern University, since my lovely and talented wife was one of the students. In case you don’t know, Redstone is a billionaire, and the owner and CEO of Viacom, which also owns Paramount, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Blockbuster, among others. In his speech he gave some good advice on how to become a billionaire. He made three main points: 1) opportunity never knocks, 2) follow your instincts but stick to what you know, and 3) it’s not about the money, it is about winning.
Numbers 1 and 2 are not a problem, but number 3 is problematic. Redstone encouraged the new MBA’s to spend long hours and all of their energy on the chase of the big deal. The summum bonum is victory; he said that the greatest satisfaction in his life had been the twenty hour workdays that he spent in negotiations. Notably absent was any mention of friends or family. He doesn’t make money to spend it, but to use it for more negotiation victories.
Redstone did say that although he is driven to win, he won’t cheat, as did Enron. He said that a deal that is not a “win-win” deal is not really a victory. One must deal fairly and honestly, he said. However, this attachment to morals seemed only to be an aesthetic
consideration, something like Captain Hook crying “Bad form, Peter! Bad form!” In other words, he refrains from dirty deals not because they are dirty, but because winning is more fun without dirty deals.
His message was the exact wrong thing to say to business students, who need little encouragement to neglect the good life in order to give up all for the sake of “success.” But the main problem is with his notion of victory. It is impoverished, and in fact if we look at a bit of Redstone’s career, we can see it for the sham-victory that it really is.
Sumner Redstone is the owner of MTV. If you are unfamiliar with this station, turn it on and watch for a while. MTV makes money by pandering to the lowest desires of it’s viewers. Here are a few sample lyrics from current hits: Nelly sings “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.” The girls respond “I am getting to hot, I wanna take my clothes off!” Tweet has a hit out now which talks about how much she enjoys masturbating. They broadcast a show called “Elimidate” which consists of two contestants doing their best to convince the third that they are easy lays. There is more, but limitations of time prevent me from giving a full catalog.
He has made billions from providing this sort of entertainment. This is what he considers a “win-win” deal, but is it true that all sides win? The person from whom he bought MTV wins, and he wins, but the viewers lose. This is akin to drug-dealing: the one who makes the cocaine wins, the one who sells it wins, but the one who uses it loses. He is a victor certainly, but only in the contest for best panderer. He is the king of the dung heap. He is a parody of a real man, and has taken his commission to be a co-creator with God and perverted it. Edith Stein has described him perfectly: rather than being a true image of God in the world, Redstone “seeks to exploit [the world] greedily to the point of destruction or to senseless acquisition without understanding how to profit from it or how to enjoy it.”
He has made a large part of his money and has spent much of his eighty years of life encouraging evil, and I am sure that the devil is more than happy to work with the likes of Sumner Redstone. If he is not careful, he may become a board member of Hell. God help him, and all of us too!
Friday, June 21, 2002
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Is God a Sexist Part III: How Men and Woman are Different
Preface: Don’t Blame Me, Blame St. Edith!
I have waited to write this part because I wanted to get it correct. I am going to
be making statements that will lead many of you to knee-jerk reactions that I am sexist. I
will say things like “Women are like X, therefore God didn’t choose them to be priests.”
The reaction will probably be: “How dare you say women are like X? I’m a woman and I am
not like X!” I must ask you to be patient. It will all become clear if you keep reading.
To insulate me from criticism, I am not going to use my own private theories of the
differences between men and women, but am going to draw from the writings of Edith Stein,
AKA St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce. (All quotations will be taken from Woman, by Edith
Stein, Institute of Carmelite Studies: Washington 1996.)
Are Male and Female Souls Different? Yes they are. It is quite simple.Stein says
that only those who are blinded by controversy would deny that women are different from
men, and that they are fitted by nature for a particular vocation: “The clear and
irrevocable word of Scripture declares what daily experience teaches from the beginning of
the world: woman is destined to be wife and mother.” (45) Woman is both spiritually and
physically determined for this job. More on this later.
Ok. If women are physically and spiritually different, and we agree with St. Thomas
Aquinas that the soul is the form of the body, giving rise to all physical and spiritual
differences, then it is clear that women have different souls than men. Stop and think
about this, because it is important. Yes, men and women are both human, but we are
fundamentally different, and it is not just a difference of upbringing. We are different
in our inner core, in our souls. Furthermore, this intrinsic difference is willed by God
from the beginning, since we are created male and female.
So what are male and female souls like? Stein gives more detail on feminine souls,
but there is enough to sketch out the souls of man and woman.
The soul of the man:Man is to master the world: “Hence his body and soul are
equipped to fight and conquer it, to understand it and by knowledge to make it his own, to
possess and enjoy it, and, finally, to make it in a sense his own creation through
purposeful activity.” (71) Men are designed to take on projects outside of them and by
hard work and sacrifice are to conquer things that need conquering, understand things that
need understanding, and to preserve and defend where necessary. They are fitted to
abstract thinking and in concentrating every ounce of power on one goal.
Evidence of the particular nature of man can be seen in the way men tend to go
wrong. Rather than being masters of the world for God’s purposes, men tend to seek mastery
for its own sake. Rather than subduing the world for the sake of the development of God’s
people, “man seeks to exploit it greedily to the point of destruction or to senseless
acquisition without understanding how to profit from it or how to enjoy it.” (71) Further,
in marriage, the normal headship of the man becomes violent subjugation.
Here is how Stein describes the ideal man: “To be a finite image of divine wisdom,
goodness, and power would mean that man would seek to know within the form and the limits
ordained by God, to enjoy gratefully the glory of God as manifested in God’s creatures, to
help perfect creation in a free human act as God intended.” (73)
The soul of woman: In contrast to man, “her body and soul are fashioned less to
fight and to conquer than to cherish, guard, and preserve.” Women are directed toward the
living-personal whole. They are directed to cherish growth and advance the life of the
creatures around them. Facts, abstract work, total dedication to some task are not ends in
themselves for women. They seek the whole person, and so don’t subjugate any part of the
total person to any particular aspect.
These natural characteristics of woman are directed towards her role as mother. The
complete development of the family requires that women be sensitive to the total range of
personal development, and to nurture and cherish each aspect of the other members.
Evidence for this particular nature of woman can be seen in the way women tend to go
wrong, says Stein, getting lost in sensuality, in meddling in others’ lives, in gossip,
and in attempting to force growth to go in certain ways, rather than allowing the family
to flourish as it will. Consider as an example the almost inevitable clash between mother
and daughter over planning the wedding: all too often the mother has difficulty in
stepping aside and allowing the daughter to shine, but rather wishes to dictate the
wedding preparations herself.
Ordination of Men or Women?
At this point I am going to apply what Stein says to the problem of women’s
ordination. Is there anything in these sketches of masculine and feminine souls that would
be a reason for God to choose only men for the priesthood? I think there could be.
Consider one aspect of the job of the priest/bishop: the preservation of the deposit of
faith given to us by Christ. This magisterium or teaching office is not just teaching, but
defense, a constant fight against those who challenge and attempt to destroy or distort
How does having men be the bishops help? Part of the nature of man is his obsessive
interest in getting the facts right, and defending to the death even the most apparently
trivial things. Some examples: imagine a couple of guys sitting around discussing
baseball. One says to the other, “Stan Musial is third all-time in hits.” The second guy
disagrees, saying “You won’t believe this, but it is Hank Aaron!” “It can’t be,” replies
the first, “Aaron was just a home-run hitter.” They continue this discussion, with the
words getting more and more heated. Before they can come to blows, their wives come back
to the table, and say “Why are you fighting about that? It doesn’t matter!” The women
cannot see why it would be important that Aaron is third (3771) and Musial is fourth
(3630) in hits. It is a truly trivial fact, something that has nothing to do with daily
life. So why bother? The women’s concern is with the concrete, the here and now, what will
help us to enjoy life at this moment. The men’s concern is with truth in the abstract,
with getting the facts right, and they are even prepared to fight to defend the truth.
Ok. Transpose this discussion to Nicea in the fourth century. The question is
whether Christ is truly God or whether he is a creature. One guy (Arius) says that Jesus
is a creature, begotten of the Father before the dawn of time, but a creature nonetheless.
Another guy, Athanasius, says that Jesus is God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
There is a terrible fight over this abstract point, and even wars. St. Nicholas even
punches Arius in the nose! Finally they decide that Jesus is in fact “God from God, light
from light, true God from true God. . . of one substance with the Father.” Now imagine if
the wives walked into the council of Nicea: can you imagine them saying “What’s all the
fuss about? Why is this important? Most people won’t even understand what you are talking
about. How will this affect concrete day to day life?”
The feminine genius for seeking the good of the whole person is wonderful in family
life: it prevents people from becoming overly one-sided, or seeking one human good to the
detriment of all the others. But this tendency to seek conciliation and balance is only
good in situations where conciliation and balance is important. In the defense of the
faith what is needed is a fighting spirit and a commitment to one particular human good,
the truth. I suggest that God may pick men alone for the priesthood partly because of the
need to defend, define, and develop the fine points of the faith.
(Here is another example: if any of you watched the recent show, American Idol, you
may have seen the three judges they have deciding if the kids have any talent. Simon and
Randy tell the often brutal truth to the contestants without concern for their feelings.
(That is part of the appeal of the show.) Paula Abdul, on the other hand, always tries to
console those without talent, telling them that if they work harder or get lessons they
might succeed. She is telling little encouraging white-lies to safeguard the self-esteem
of the young performers. Simon and Randy have no such scruples. Thought experiment: If you
have seen the show, would you rather have Pope Simon or Pope Paula?)
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
I have discovered a new law. Here it is:
If the minimum is allowed, the minimum becomes mandatory.
Let me give just a few examples:
1. The Church specifies that Catholics are to abstain from meat on Fridays, or do some other equivalent penance. Result? Catholics all have Friday hamburgers.
2. The Church allows different versions of the Eucharist prayer, instead of just having EP I, the Roman Canon. Result? Most masses have EP II or EP III, because they are shorter. In fact, parishioners get upset if Father says the long one, even though the Roman Canon is the prayer used by the Church for 1500 years, at least.
3. The Church specifies that the mass can be in the vernacular, but that Latin is to be preserved. Result? Latin has vanished completely, without even an occasional Sanctus or Agnus Dei.
4. The Church specifies that the tabernacle may be in a place different from behind the main altar. Result? All tabernacles in new churches are placed in anterooms or broom closets.
I am sure you can come up with more examples of how the minimum becomes the mandatory. If you send them, I will post them!
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Go look at Fr. Sibley's site. I have added him to my bloglist over on the left. Let me know if you would like to be listed also; it is quite difficult to keep up with the new bloggers, so I might miss you.
Fr. Fessio back from exile!
The Jesuits had egregiously transferred Fr. Fessio to a nursing home chaplaincy for daring to teach the Catholic faith. It appears, however, that the Jesuits have relented. Ad Maiorem Gloriam Dei
Monday, June 17, 2002
If you attended daily mass last week, or if you follow the daily cycle of readings, you may have noticed something. The readings for Wednesday told the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenges them to have Baal come down and consume the sacrifice. The prophets shout and dance, and even cut themselves to make their god take notice, but of course nothing happens. Then Elijah makes a simple prayer, and God consumes the sacrifice in fire.
If you read the readings for the next day, you should notice something missing: 1 Kings 18:40! It reads, in case you have forgotten, "Then Elijah said to them, 'Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!' They were seized, and Elijah had them brought down to the brook Kishon and there he slit their throats."
I consider this the best verse: Elijah slaughters the false prophets. Those who determine the cycle of readings (whose authority I am not challenging) have decided to skip this verse. Perhaps they worried that such violence in the Old Testament scadalizes modern sensibilities. Perhaps you have heard the claim that the Old Testament god was a god of vengence, but the New Testament God is nice and loving. I encountered this form of Marcionism in a local church bulletin last week. It is an ancient heresy. We Catholics must on the contrary acknowledge that the God of the Old Testament is identical to the God of the New Testament, and we also acknowledge that all of the Old Testament is the inspired word of God, even the violent parts.
The violent parts of the OT can help us to understand a very important theological point. The false prophets richly deserved what Elijah did to them. After all, they were false prophets, and were making a profit out of lying to the Canaanites about their god. Such thieves deserve death. This is justice. In fact, and here is the theological point, as a result of sin we all deserve death. I think Frank Sheed said that the rule that sin requires punishment is as much a law of the universe as the law of gravitation. We all have sinned, and we all deserve death for this sin.
But we have someone who died for us. Jesus died on the cross to redeem us. The word "redeem" means to pay the penalty that we owed: have you ever redeemed a coupon? It is the same meaning. Jesus makes it possible for us not to have to die. The punishment and death that we so richly deserve occured to the Messiah in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
The scandal is not that the false prophets were punished by death, but that we are not. Without the love and grace of God, we would be in the same fix as they were. But as it is, we can be forgiven. Praise God!
Sunday, June 16, 2002
In the spirit of this article from National Review Online, I want to tell you about the wedding I attended this weekend. The entire church is one big blue stone toad (Emily Stimpson's word for liturgical absurdities), and the music chosen by the wedding party was not at all sacred. So imagine my surprise when the priest who officiated did so with solemnity and reverence, following all of the words and rules of the liturgy, with careful attention to informing the largely unchurched crowd when they should sit, stand, and kneel.
Furthermore, the homily was splendid: he began by noting that love is what man was created for, and expanded on it by pointing out that the model for our love is the love that Christ showed us by dying on the cross for us. He then instructed the couple and all who attended that the surest way to protect our married, sacramental love from the evil activity of the devil (Yes, he mentioned the devil! Screwtape would be upset) is to cling to the sacraments. He mentioned specifically the eucharist and frequent confession as aids to living out our vocation to love, since the love that is required is supernatural charity; we need grace from God to bring it about.
So I say, bravo to Fr. O'Hara, who resides at St. Bronislawa parish in Plover, Wisconsin. He is a brand new priest, a product of the Josephinum in Columbus. I am going to be optimistic and say that Fr. O'Hara is a testimony of good times to come.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
I will be unable to blog much if at all this weekend. I am traveling to central Wisconsin for a wedding (not mine) and a birthday party (also not mine). I will be back Sunday night or Monday. Part III of the "Is God a Sexist" post is coming soon. Thanks for reading!
Please only read the next post once. I am having trouble deleting the duplicate.
Anthony Marquis has a lengthy post questioning the practice of clerical celibacy. Now, it is a legitimate topic for question, since it is after all a discipline of the Church and not a dogma. I think celibacy is needed as a prophetic witness against a sex-crazed and debased culture, but I recognize that it is a reasonable thing to discuss.
However, I must take issue with something Anthony said:
The problem lies squarely in the Institutional Church's willful misunderstanding of human sexuality. The Church (and this pope) has created an antagonistic dualism that forces human nature to a neglected subservience to the human spirit. This is a situation ripe for an unhealthy presbyterate and for a passive-aggressive laity. No wonder we are in a bind. The physical dimension of human sexuality wants its due. The only way for human nature get noticed is to act out in ways to gain attention.
The practice of the Church sets human nature in competition against the human spirit. It is a purile view of human sexuality that allows the Church to spit upon priests who marry, married couples who use birth control, Catholic who divorce and remarry, and on gays just for the sake of being gay. The Institutional Church is interested in complete and total control of its members, and the best way to do this is grab everyone by the short ones.
I believe that a fair summary of Anthony's position would be that the Church has an incorrect understanding of sexuality, and that it is based on a false dualism between body and soul, and further that it sets body and soul at war with each other. A correct understanding of sexuality would see that it is integral to the human person, and that the problem with celibacy is that doesn't recognize the necessity of sexual expression to a healthy human person.
Problem: the incorrect and "antagonistic dualism" that Anthony sees in the Church is not only a part of the tradition of the Church, it is also evident in the inspired Scriptures of the Church, as well as in the teachings of Christ himself. Here are some examples:
- Look at Matthew 5:27-30: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Christ has extremely high standards for sexual morality. Indeed, we are not even to lust in our hearts! Furthermore, what pastoral advice does he give? If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out! The Church, in fact, moderates this teaching by assuring us that Jesus is not speaking literally, but rather of the necessity of cutting out occasions of sin from our lives. We don't have to go the way of Origen, thank God! So the sexual teaching of the Church has its roots in Christ.
- Look at Matthew 19:1-12: Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Jesus says that there is no possibility of divorce and remarriage. His teaching is very strict, much more so than Mosaic law or current US law. The disciples are amazed, and say that it would be better not to get married at all. Note that Jesus doesn't disagree. It is in fact better not to marry. There are eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, and theirs is the best state, since Jesus doesn't contradict his disciples statement. So the best state is the life where one does not act upon sexual desire. This will involve a constant battle, as we will see from the next quote.
- Romans 7:15ff: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.
Anyone who has tried to live up to the sexual teachings of the Church will recognize this struggle. One can know what is right, and still not be able to do it. The antagonistic dualism is there, whether we like it or not.
Now, Anthony has difficulties with dualism, as do I. We are body-soul creatures, and our bodies really are us. But we are also in a state of sin. As a result of the sin of Adam, we are disordered. We are at war with ourselves, and our desires don't always follow what is good for us. Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or go on a diet knows this: we know what is good, but we don't do it. This is a result of sin. In fact, it is an undeniable aspect of human experience. Jesus understood this, as well as St. Paul. The way to recovery, to becoming what humans were meant to be, is to overcome the desires that lead us away from the good. Yes, it is difficult, but with grace, all things are possible. The betrayal is not to try and fail, it is to fail to try.
response to Veni Sancte Spiritus
Anthony Marquis has a lengthy <a
questioning the practice of clerical celibacy. Now, it is a
legitimate topic for question, since it is after all a discipline of
the Church and not a dogma. I think celibacy is needed as a prophetic
witness against a sex-crazed and debased culture, but I recognize
that it is a reasonable thing to discuss.
However, I must take issue with something Anthony said:
The problem lies squarely in the
The practice of the Church sets human
I believe that a fair summary of
Anthony's position would be that the Church has an incorrect
understanding of sexuality, and that it is based on a false dualism
between body and soul, and further that it sets body and soul at war
with each other. A correct understanding of sexuality would see that
it is integral to the human person, and that the problem with
celibacy is that doesn't recognize the necessity of sexual expression
to a healthy human person.
Problem: the incorrect and
"antagonistic dualism" that Anthony sees in the Church is
not only a part of the tradition of the Church, it is also evident in
the inspired Scriptures of the Church, as well as in the teachings of
Christ himself. Here are some examples:
- Look at Matthew 5:27-30: "You
have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I
say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already
committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes
you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you
lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into
hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw
it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that
your whole body go into hell.
Christ has extremely high standards for sexual morality. Indeed, we
are not even to lust in our hearts! Furthermore, what pastoral advice
does he give? If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out! The
Church, in fact, moderates this teaching by assuring us that Jesus is
not speaking literally, but rather of the necessity of cutting out
occasions of sin from our lives. We don't have to go the way of
Origen, thank God! So the sexual teaching of the Church has its roots
- Look at Matthew 19:1-12: Now when
Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and
entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds
followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him
and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife
for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he
who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and
said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they
are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined
together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Why
then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to
put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of
heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the
beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his
wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."
The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with
his wife, it is not expedient to marry." But he said to them,
"Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it
is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and
there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are
eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom
of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Jesus says that there is no possibility of divorce and remarriage.
His teaching is very strict, much more so than Mosaic law or current
US law. The disciples are amazed, and say that it would be better not
to get married at all. Note that Jesus doesn't disagree. It is in
fact better not to marry. There are eunuchs for the kingdom of
heaven, and theirs is the best state, since Jesus doesn't contradict
his disciples statement. So the best state is the life where one does
not act upon sexual desire. This will involve a constant battle, as
we will see from the next quote.
- Romans 7:15ff: I do not understand my
own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I
hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.
So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within
me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my
flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do
the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I
do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which
dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do
right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in
my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the
law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells
in my members.
Anyone who has tried to live up to the sexual teachings of the Church
will recognize this struggle. One can know what is right, and still
not be able to do it. The antagonistic dualism is there, whether we
like it or not.
Now, Anthony has difficulties with dualism, as do I. We are
body-soul creatures, and our bodies really are
us. But we are also in a state of sin. As a result of the sin of
Adam, we are disordered. We are at war with ourselves, and our
desires don't always follow what is good for us. Anyone who has tried
to quit smoking or go on a diet knows this: we know what is good, but
we don't do it. This is a result of sin. In fact, it is an undeniable
aspect of human experience. Jesus understood this, as well as St.
Paul. The way to recovery, to becoming what humans were meant to be,
is to overcome the desires that lead us away from the good. Yes, it
is difficult, but with grace, all things are possible. The betrayal
is not to try and fail, it is to fail to try.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Check them out!
One of my uncounted legions of readers makes some comments:
1. You said a few days back that the only intellectually reasonable
positions were Atheism and the Roman Catholic Church. I disagree as I think
Atheism is fundamentally irrational. It's a belief in the non-existence of
something else. Seems fruity to me. Agnosticism seems more reasonable -
that is to say that there might or might not be a God but that you have no
evidence to know.
Which is more irrational, atheism or agnosticism? I agree that atheism, defined as unbelief in the existence of God, seems silly to me. The heavens show forth the glory of God, as the psalms say, and the existence of God seems obvious. But it is possible that for someone with a morbid temperament, the existence of God is not so obvious. I am thinking of Sartre, who saw nothing but darkness when he looked at the world. For him, atheism was not irrational, but was a reasonable response to the way he saw the world. Perhaps he should have lightened up, or found a more cheerful girlfriend than Simone De Beauvoir. I don't think he was irrational to be an atheist, since the judgment fit his experience. Atheism is always a mistake, but isn't always irrational. I agree that if someone were to say "there is no God, and I can prove it," he is as foolish as I would be if I said "There is a Trinity, and I can prove it." But simply to say "I don't believe there is a God" is not irrational.
Agnosticism is a different story. The agnostic claims not to be sure of the existence of God. The way I see it, there are two sorts of agnosticism, the first of which is reasonable, and the second of which is the worst kind of silliness. One could not be sure of the existence of God, but be actively trying to figure out the truth of the matter. Such a person recognizes the importance of the question, and is working to solve it. This is an admirable state. But there is the agnosticism of those who don't know and don't care if there is a God. They are not sure, and use their lack of surety to justify their failure to search out the truth. In effect, they are saying that it doesn't matter if there is a God or not. This is a very silly state to be in. Pascal says somewhere that such people are like lemmings running towards a cliff. Isn't it crucial to how you lead your life whether there is a God or not?
Monday, June 10, 2002
Some thoughts about the 1961 document on seminary formation.
This document, which was supposed to be binding (and was never abrogated), was never enforced. Everyone knows that it prohibits homosexuals from being ordained. But among the other things that will disqualify a seminarian is that he "shows himself certainly unable to observe religious and priestly chastity, either because of frequent sins against chastity or because of a sexual bent of mind or excessive weakness of will, is not to be admitted to the minor seminary and, much less, to the novitiate or to profession." So those who screw around are not to be admitted, and those who are obsessed with sex are not admitted either.
Also, "any candidate who has a habit of solitary sins and who has not given well-founded hope that he can break this habit within a period of time to be determined prudently, is not to be admitted to the novitiate. Nor can a candidate be admitted to first profession or to renewal of vows unless he has really amended his ways." So those men with a habit of masturbation cannot be ordained.
Ok, stop and think about this. Men who are obsessed with sex, who can't keep it in their pants, or who cannot conquer habits of masturbation are not to be ordained. Ask yourself: how many men do you know who can pass these tests? You can look up statistics on these various behaviors yourself, since I don't want to link to the "self-love is good" websites that give out the statistics. But the percentage of men who engage in the "solitary sin" is very high.
My question: do we have any men left who can be ordained? Or rather, have we allowed the pool of potential vocations to be drastically reduced by our over-sexualized society? Try an experiment: flip channels once around the dial and see if it is possible to do it without coming across some borderline pornographic image. Try listening to a top-40 radio station for twenty minutes without hearing obscene lyrics. If you are a man, try driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on a summer day without having distracting thoughts about the women walking by.
We live in a world that presents sexual pleasure as the highest good. It is in the air we breathe. The question is, in such an environment, is it possible not to have a vocations shortage? The men who can navigate the minefield of modern culture without developing some sort of unchaste habits are probably quite rare. It is no wonder we don't have lots of vocations, and that we have lots of priests who are unable to live chastely: why should we expect them to be able to do what so many of us cannot do?
What can we do? I think that it is vital for those of us with children to guard their chastity. I think a good first step (we will see if I can do it) is to get rid of the television. Boys especially should be kept on a short leash. I don't think, for example, that boys ought to have their own rooms, since it is a breeding ground for unchaste behavior. Girls should be encouraged to dress modestly on account of boys' weakness, and should have drummed into their heads that having sex with boys won't make the boys love them. Change will be slow, but the vocation shortage can be conquered if we have a renewal of holiness. Part of that renewal of holiness is a renewal of chastity as a virtue, since without it we won't have a pool of candidates to be ordained.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us!
Sunday, June 09, 2002
and can't think of anything in particular to say. So I am going to give you a prayer from the end of the Paraclisis, which is a Byzantine liturgical prayer for times of great distress. I believe that recent months certainly suffice. The Byzantine Daily Worship book says that this office "consists in hymns of supplication to obtain consolation and courage. It should be recited in times of temptation, discouragement, or sickness." The last few months certainly are a time of discouragement for me, and I imagine it is true for many of you as well. Here is the concluding prayer:
Gracious Virgin, victory will come to those who put their trust in the strength of your arm, for we sinners who stoop with the wight of our sins have none before God to plead for us but you.
O Mother of God most high, we bend our knee to you: deliver your faithful servatns from every kind of trouble.
You are joy to the distressed, you are strength to the oppressed, you are food to those who sink into despair.
You console all the strangers, you support all the blind, and you come and visit all the sick. You are shelter to the weary, you are comfort to the crushed, you are heavenly assistance to the orphans.
You are the Mother of God most high, and so we pray to you: hasten, O immaculate one, and save your faithful servants!
In you is all my hope, O Mother of God: place me under the wings of your protection
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
If you are interest in the whole Office of Paraclisis, you can look here. It is an Orthodox monastery in England, and they appear to have a large collection of liturgical texts there. To make the prayers Catholic, just pray for the pope when the litanies pray for the bishop and patriarch.
Saturday, June 08, 2002
As you may know, I spent the last year teaching scripture and physics at a girls' high school. I am going to spend the next year attempting to write and publish some philosophy articles, so as to get a job teaching at a college. Getting the Ph.D. was the easy part!
One thought about high school students: character is about a million times more important than native intelligence. The students who want to learn almost invariably will learn, no matter what their intelligence. Those who don't want to learn won't, no matter how smart they are. So, although I am not yet a father, let me give some parental advice: try to be interested in learning. If you aren't interested in learning, pretend! Your kids desperately need to develop habits of inquisitive thought. They need especially to learn to read books. So turn off the television and read to them, or at least let them see you reading.
Thursday, June 06, 2002
I haven't written much about the Scandal recently, and don't intend to much in the future. The reason is mostly because it is a profoundly depressing subject, and I would rather find more cheerful topics to write about. It is also depressing to hear Catholic laity, some 90% of whom ignore Church teachings on sexuality and most other subjects, complaining about bishops and priests not being perfect, and offering "solutions" to the crisis, most of which would screw the Church up more. Remove the beam from your own eye! It is simply not the case that the laity are to any great degree better than the clerical class. We are probably worse! Calls for democratization of the Church are just silly.
Also, hopes are being fanned that somehow, Rome will "do something." The bad bishops and priests must be rooted out! But who is going to do it? Assuming the pope had the energy to devote himself to a crisis affecting 6% of the Church, disciplining bishops and excommunicating obstinate ones, what would happen? Schism, that's what! For all the complaints about the pope telling Catholics what to do or think, that is really all the pope can do. He can tell us what we ought to think or do, but he can't make us do it. And that applies to bishops as well. The disciplinary stick that the pope carries is a twig. To expect something dramatic to happen is probably a mistake.
A sense of Church history also makes the Scandal fade in importance a bit. Yes, it is a crucial issue for our times, but anyone who has read history knows that this is not the worst time ever for the Church, not even by a longshot. How would you like to have most of the bishops be heretical? Or the French Revolution outlawing the Church and confiscating all the property? Or three popes at once? Or a schism with half of Christianity leaving communion with the Vicar of Christ? Or the fall of Christendom in the Protestant Reformation? None of these scandals or catastrophes killed the Church, and this one won't either. Jesus promised the gates of Hell wouldn't prevail. This doesn't mean things won't be bad; they will. But keep calm. Christianity is like a book when one has read the last page first. We know that no matter what happens, God wins. So don't let the Scandal get you down or make you lose faith.
How will we get out of this problem? I don't think that anything dramatic is going to happen, or that someone will wave a magic wand and whisk us back to times when priests were good and the laity pious. It isn't going to happen that way. The only way out of this Scandal is through holiness. We need saints (another word for holy ones). But this doesn't mean waiting around for a new St. Francis. Look in the mirror: the saint we need is you. We all must cling closer to God, learn our faith, frequent the sacraments, raise our children up to God, pray, and defend the true teachings of Christ. We must be prepared to defend the faith whenever challenged, even when the challenging is done by a bishop or priest. Act in all charity, but remember that it is not charity to let falsehood go unanswered. If we are all saints, then the Church will shine like a jewel.
Concretely what does this mean? I will give a few examples. Encourage men to consider the priesthood. Don't just encourage the men who happen to be unmarried and pious at age 35: "You're not married, maybe you should be a priest." Rather, encourage the best of men to think about it, the ones that you think would make wonderful husbands and fathers. That is just what we need, men like the apostles who will evangelize the world, not milquetoast bachelors who got ordained because they can't do anything else. Also, when wacky things happen in your parish, stop them! Join committees, attend meetings, and speak up for the way things are supposed to be. When so-and-so says that we need to have dancing girls handing out lollipops at communion for the little kids, speak up. Lots of silliness happens at meetings that no-one attends. So make sure you attend. (This is a real white martyrdom, by the way.) Finally, evangelize the world. The Scandal is a golden opportunity: lots of people are talking about the Church who probably haven't talked or thought about religion for years. Use this chance to tell them about God, the sacraments, sin, grace, and redemption.
These are a few of my solutions. But since they aren't instant, and will take twenty years or more to bear real fruit, I have little to blog about concering the Scandal. So I am going to avoid the topic, at least until the meeting in Dallas.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
I was browsing in the Pauline Books and Media store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and had a nice conversation with Jose and Julio, who are entering the Franciscan order based at Marytown in Mundelein. The neat thing, in this age of late vocations, was that they were 20 and 21 years old.
They said they would pray for me, so I got that going for me.
Monday, June 03, 2002
Taking the girlfriend for a test drive hurts the prospects of a marriage, which would come as no surpise to anyone, except that our society has gone completely mad on the subject of sex.
Everyone, repeat after me: "Sex is not the ultimate good of human life."
Go look at Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish. Especially look at the pictures. If you ever in the Chicago area, stop on by. Liturgy starts at 10:00 am on Sunday. Drop me a note and I will show you around.
In part I I tried to show that sex differences are both essential and willed by God. Now I will try to show what consequences arise from the fact that God became a man.
Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, that he has two natures, a divine nature that is shared by the three persons of the Trinity, and a human nature which is proper to him. (In fact, the proper way to do the sign of the cross for Eastern Catholics is with the thumb, index, and second finger together to represent the Trinity, and the pinky and ring finger pointed back into the palm to represent the two natures of Christ.) But what does it mean for Christ to have a human nature? It means he was like us in all things but sin (Heb 4:15). So it is a theological rule that everything that is true about ordinary human beings is true about Jesus, except for committing sin. So what can we conclude? We all have a human intellect; so also does Jesus have a human intellect. We all have a human will; so also does Jesus have a human will. We all are subject to pain and death; so also Jesus was subject to pain and death. And so on. But there is an important and essential aspect of humanity that he also shares: every human being has a biological sex; so also for Jesus.
When we say "The Word became man" we don't mean that the second person of the Trinity put on a human suit, sort of like we can put on a gorilla suit. No, we mean that God became a man, a particular, historical, flesh and blood man. Not an androgynous hominid, but a human male, with all that this entails. The incarnation is a great mystery, but we cannot minimize it. Jesus became a man, born to Mary according to the flesh, of the tribe of Judah, descendant of King David. He had a particular height and weight, had teeth, skin, hair, internal organs just like any other man. In addition, he had male sexual organs. He was (and is, since he lives now) a human, but a human man.
The earliest and most dangerous heresies all tried to deny the incarnation. The question is "who was Jesus Christ?" The answers given were that he was a human given lots of grace from God (Arianism) or he was God wearing a human suit (Nestorianism) or that he didn't really have a human nature (Monophysitism) or a human will (Monothelitism) or that he wasn't the son of God at all, but was merely a great prophet. The way to distinguish the true Catholic faith throughout history is that it always teaches that Christ is both God and man, without minimizing either the divinity or the manhood.
So what does this have to do with the ordination of men only? A priest is one who takes the place of Christ, who acts in persona Christi in the mass. Now, of course all Christians when they are baptized have put on Christ, and should be living images of Christ. But the priest is a representative of Christ in a special way, because he is the one who "do[es] this in commemoration of me." The priest takes on the role of Christ in the Last Supper, and makes present the saving sacrifice of Christ at every mass. He is a sacramental symbol. As a child I was taught that a sacrament is an efficacious (effective) sign of grace. The priest in the mass is such an efficacious sign, but an efficacious sign of Jesus. He doesn't just symbolize Christ in the way that you or I can, in that we represent the love of Christ to others in our actions, but the priest represents Christ effectively, making him really and truly present, so that the bread and wine are no longer bread and wine, but the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.
Now, symbols must be congruent with the reality they represent. We don't baptize in peanut butter, but in water, since water is an appropriate symbol. It represents the life-giving Spirit of God, as well as dying to sin (the original baptismal fonts looked like graves: one walked in one side, was submerged, died to sin, and rose up the other side, alive in Christ), washing, Noah's ark and the flood, crossing the Red Sea, and crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. The symbol is appropriate for the reality it represents. Similarly, a mass celebrated with Oreo cookies and milk just won't work, since it is bread and wine that symbolize and actually miraculously become the reality they symbolize, the body and blood of Christ.
In the mass, the priest is an efficacious sign of Jesus. So he must be appropriate to the reality he represents. But the reality is Christ, who is a human male, not a human female or an androgynous hominid. So it is more fitting that Christ be represented by a man. To say that a woman can act in persona Christi in the sacrifice of the mass could be seen as a denial of the masculinity and hence a denial of the incarnate humanity of Christ. Now, of course women put on Christ in baptism just as men do, but the conformity to Christ of the ordinary faithful is not the issue. It is the specific performance of a sacramental role in the liturgy that is at issue. To say that the sex of the person presiding at the Eucharist doesn't matter is like saying that we could baptize in ice cream, have cookies and milk instead of bread and wine at mass, or have a marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. To have priests be men is a continuous affirmation that God became man, that the Word was incarnate in a human being who was like us in all things, including having a biological sex. To have women priests would perhaps lead to a minimization of the incarnation, since it would be tantamount to saying that Christ's humanity is not important, or at least that a significant chunk of his humanity, his sex, is not important.
I want to sound a great big caveat lector. I am arguing by using the age-old theological technique of determining what is "fitting." It seems appropriate or fitting to have human males represent God, who became a human male, in the liturgy. But this is an a posteriori way of arguing. We must remember that human beings do not decide what the symbol for the sacrament is. It is God who decides. If humans could decide, then maybe we could baptize in soap, or peanut butter, or Chanel No. 5. We use water because Jesus told us to, in John 3:5. We marry men and women to each other because God told us in Genesis that man and woman cleave together and become one. We use oil for confirmation because oil is the traditional symbol of the Spirit of God, going back to the anointing of kings. So also we ordain men because Jesus ordained only men, and so did the apostles who followed him. We have to take the fact as given by God. All we can do as theologians (and I am an amateur theologian, at that) is try to explain why God did this. So there is no way I could start from scratch and give you a list of premises that lead to the conclusion: therefore only men can be priests. Rather I take the fact that God himself chose only men, and then try to figure out why. One reason why God may have done what he did is the appropriateness of having men symbolize Christ the man.
As always, comments, corrections, or disagreements are always welcome. More will be coming, including a reflection on the essential differences between men and women. (Hey Old Oligarch, I will be including Edith Stein.)
Saturday, June 01, 2002
1) It is an entertaining and well-written book.
2) You should know that Crocker is not a historian. He doesn't read any original sources, but quotes other historians' work. If he quotes Leo the Great, for example, he won't cite the exact document of St. Leo, but rather will cite it "as quoted by so-and-so." So-and-so is usually Will Durant.
3) Ok, I will admit that the patriarch of Constantinople has spent most of his time either in heresy or schism over the centuries, but isn't there anything good to be said about the eastern Church? What about St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene, St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Gregory Nanzianzen, the desert Fathers, the Jesus prayer, the beautiful liturgy? When Crocker speaks of Vladimir choosing the Byzantine church for his people, he neglects to give the quote from his emissaries, who had visited the divine liturgy in Hagia Sophia: "We didn't know if we were in heaven or on earth." The liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil are by themselves enough for us to speak well of eastern Christianity, no matter how schismatic and heretical it is.
4) The fall of Christendom was probably the greatest tragedy ever.
5) I remain convinced that if one thinks clearly, there are only two possible religions: atheism and the Catholic Church. Who that knows the history of Christianity could be a protestant?
Don't forget to pray for peace in India and Pakistan!