Tuesday, August 20, 2002

David Alexander responds to Voice of the Faithful

There is a new policy statement from the president of VOTF, available here.. In it, Jim Post makes a number of claims to the effect that the VOTF is neither liberal nor conservative, but is only Catholic. Never mind that liberal and conservative are not proper labels to apply to the Church. The real problem is between faithful and unfaithful. Is VOTF faithful?

I want to point out three statements that are incompatible: We accept the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.
We have taken no position on the many other issues that divide Catholics in 2002.
We do not advocate the end of priestly celibacy, the exclusion of homosexuals from the priesthood, the ordination of women, or any of the other remedies that some have proposed.

They accept the teaching authority of the Church (do they accept the governing authority of the Church? That's part of the teaching authority. See Lumen Gentium). They do not advocate the end of celibacy, the restriction of orders to heterosexual men, or the ordination of women. So far so good. But look at that middle statement: What are the other issues that divide Catholics in 2002? It is just those issues that they say they don't advocate! The only things one could add would be questions of sexual morality. Further, how can one accept the teaching authority of the Church and not take positions on the issues that divide us? If one accepts the teaching authority of the Church, one must accept what she teaches. There is no "not taking a position." Open up a catechism and see what your position is supposed to be.

There is no such thing as a "centrist" Catholic. There are only faithful Catholics, who believe what the Catholic Church teaches, and non-faithful Catholics (also known as non-Catholics) who don't believe what the Church teaches. There is no middle road.

David Alexander makes the same point in much more concise language on his blog.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Is it worse to rape children or to kill them?

Somebody ask Cardinal Maida this question. You may have heard of the situation at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, where the extremely pro-abortion Democratic gubernatorial candidate is a parishioner, lector, and active member. One of the priests wrote a note in the bulletin supporting the pro-choice position, and the candidate was allowed to distribute her campaign literature at the doors of the church.

This is an outrage, an abomination, and a crime that cries out to heaven. Here are some good quotes from one of the brave souls that is picketing the parish: Matt Bowman, a Catholic demonstrator from Ann Arbor, compared the situation to the sexual abuse scandal. "Despite overwhelming complaints, Father Sullivan won't retract the abortion rhetoric voiced August 4 by Father 'Doc,'" he said. "Both priests should withdraw from active ministry where they might have contact with abortion-bound girls until this matter is thoroughly addressed," demanded Bowman. "Cardinal Maida must enforce a 'Zero Tolerance' policy for 'abortophile' priests." The parish is part of Cardinal Adam Maida's Archdiocese of Detroit.

The article may be found here. The Cardinal's email may be found here. May I suggest that if Cardinal Maida does not do his duty as a shepherd and correct this problem, he may have Hell to pay.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 should be required reading for all bishops: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked man that he shall surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked man from his way, he (the wicked man) shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked man, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.

Why are blogs so wonderful? Ask Chesterton!

"Then we had talked for about an hour about politics and God; for men always talk about the most important things to total strangers. It is because in the total stranger we perceive man himself; the image of God is not disguised by resemblances to an uncle or doubts of the wisdom of a moustache."

---G.K Chesterton, The Club of Queer Trades

Sunday, August 18, 2002

More bad theology in the Chicago Tribune

I came home from Mass in a marvelous mood, rejoicing at the growth of my church, where we just today dedicated a large icon of the Mother of God, when I started reading the Chicago Tribune. I came to the Perspective page, where there is an article called “A woman’s place is behind the altar,” by Kathleen Whalen FitzGerald, an ex-nun.

Such theological offerings are commonplace in the Tribune, which regularly gives space to those who disagree with Catholic theology. I wonder if they would give me space to write about how wrong Muslim or Jewish theology is? They have published many screeds from the pseudo-scholar Gary Wills, and their paper would be better served if they gave space for rebuttal to Cardinal George. Or even me, for that matter. But FitzGerald’s piece is more of the same. These articles usually show bad theology, illogical thinking, and a lack of understanding of the ancient apostolic teachings of the Church.

It is a depressing task to refute these things line-by-line, not because it is difficult, but because the same old errors are made over and over. However, FitzGerald’s piece is such a fine example of bad thinking that perhaps it can serve as a blueprint for future refutations.

She starts by recalling with approval words of a dead priest, who said “Soon the altars of our church will be filled with women and men, single or married, straight or gay. And that is the way it should be.” The issue is never just the ordination of women: it is always the ordination of women and the change of the celibacy rules and a recognition of homosexuality as normal, and usually also is tied with support for contraception and abortion. I would be much more inclined to look favorably on the calls of the ordain-women folks if they were faithful in other aspects.

She then talks about how she and her fellow nuns did all the work, while the priests got all the credit. “We did all the work and they got all the glory. They were called ‘Father’ and we were ‘Sister.’ We were prisoners and they were free.” Note the focus on power. She wants glory, not holiness. She resents the recognition that others get. This attitude is at the basis of most who call for woman’s ordination: they want power. They want to rule the Church, to make changes, to get to stand up front in church. There is no recognition of the fact that the priesthood is not a right, but a gift, and it is a gift at the service of others. Are there priests who have abused their power? Of course, but just because they have abused power does not mean that women should be ordained so that they can abuse power as well. The priesthood is not about power at all: Christ, though he was God, took the form of a slave and died on the cross. He didn’t seek power, though he had right to it. We who don’t have a right to power shouldn’t seek it either.

FitzGerald claims that the reason the Church doesn’t ordain women is because of Aristotle. She follows on the horrible scholarship of Gary Wills, who claims that because Aristotle thought a woman was biologically speaking a misbegotten man, Augustine followed in his low opinion of women, and then Aquinas took up the same opinion. “Then Augustine, who had spent his youth whoring about, agreed with Aristotle. Then Aquinas, who had chased a naked temptress out of his cell with a flaming timber, agreed with Augustine. Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas were the big three who made the greatest impact on Catholic philosophy, theology, and canon law.”

This is a nice theory, but it is wrong. First of all, no-one who reads Augustine’s writings about St. Monica will think that he hates women. Second, it is not possible for Augustine to have taken over Aristotle’s thoughts on the biology of women for the simple reason that the only Aristotle he ever read was the Categories: the other books on biology weren’t available. Third, Aquinas deals with this very question very clearly in Question 92 of the first part of the Summa: Was it fitting that women be created? Yes, St. Thomas Aquinas does accept Aristotelian biology: the active principle comes from the man, and the woman provides the matter. So perhaps a woman is a accidental male. But this isn’t a defect from the point of view of God: “On the other hand, as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten, but is included in nature's intention as directed to the work of generation. Now the general intention of nature depends on God, Who is the universal Author of nature. Therefore, in producing nature, God formed not only the male but also the female.” God intends both men and woman. We are equal in the order of salvation.

FitzGerald makes another blunder when she claims that it is because of Aristotelian biology that woman can’t be ordained. But it is not because of Aristotle, but because of Jesus Christ. Jesus ordained twelve men. The men he ordained only ordained men. We have an unbroken tradition that holy orders is to be reserved to men. Aristotle has nothing to do with it. The proof of this can be found in all the other apostolic churches that don’t read Aristotle, such as the Byzantine, the Orthodox, the Coptics, the Malabars, the Chaldean Catholics, and even the Nestorians and the Monophysites. All of these churches don’t ordain woman, and none of them made Aristotle the basis of their theology. It is only those churches that broke apostolic succession and separated themselves from the traditions of the early Church that ordain women.

Finally, FitzGerald makes the claim that Mary was a priest, since “She ate bread and drank wine and turned them into the body and blood of Jesus.” Mary was a priest because Jesus lived for nine months within her womb. But this argument is bogus, as can be clearly seen by a reflection on biology: after conception, the woman does nothing to make the food she eats into the child she carries: it is the child itself that digests the food and grows in the womb. Christ took the food given to him in the womb and formed himself. It wasn’t a power within Mary. If FitzGerald’s argument is true, then everyone who ever gave Jesus a bit of food was also a priest, for they are doing as much to form his body and blood as she did.

But as greatly as we esteem Mary, the Mother of God, who is blessed among woman, whom all generations will call blessed, she wasn’t given the gift of priesthood. We presume that Jesus, being God, knew what he was doing when he chose not to ordain her, or Salome, or Mary Magdalen, or any of the other women disciples. We follow Christ, not Aristotle, not Aquinas, and not the trends of the age.

Friday, August 16, 2002

Husband and Wife, God and Us

Today's gospel reading is from Matthew, and in it, Jesus describes the permanence of the marriage bond. "Have you not heard 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?' So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matt 19:4-7) This was joined with a reading from Ezekiel 16 about the covenant between God and his people, described in terms of a marriage. This image is a common theme in scripture. Marriage and the relationship between God and us are used to explain each other, notably in Ephesians 5. So it is clear that marriage can act as a symbol of God's love and care for us.

But I want to make a point about symbolism. In a symbol, one reality is used to illuminate another reality. So my wedding ring symbolizes the bond with my wife. The lesser reality generally serves as a symbol of the greater: no-one would prefer the wedding ring to his wife. The lesser symbol only has meaning by virtue of the greater reality it symbolizes. If there were no marriage, what would be the point of a wedding ring? We understand the symbol by looking at that which it symbolizes.

Marriage is used in the Bible as a symbol of Christ's love for us. So how do you go about understanding marriage? We need to study God to understand marriage, just as we need to study marriage to understand the wedding ring. God creates us, protects us, gives us everything we need, and accepts us back whenever we return with repentant hearts. God so loved us that he sent his only Son to die on the Cross so that we may have life. He shares his very flesh with us. How does this apply to marriage? The husband and wife must strive to be Godlike to each other, "creating" each other by helping each to grow to true sanctity. They must protect each other from the dangers of sin by being patient, kind, and loving. They must give of each other without thought for reward, just as God gives us all of creation with no benefit to himself. Husband and wife need to forgive each other (although the wife probably needs to forgive more than the husband!), and both must be prepared to sacrifice all for the other, without counting the cost.

Marriage is often viewed as a contract. This is the wrong model. Rather, marriage is a microcosm, a small version of the relationship of God to his Church. But you don't just have to take my word for it. Look at these words of Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio.

13. The communion between God and His people finds its definitive fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom who loves and gives Himself as the Savior of humanity, uniting it to Himself as His body.

He reveals the original truth of marriage, the truth of the "beginning,"(27) and, freeing man from his hardness of heart, He makes man capable of realizing this truth in its entirety.

This revelation reaches its definitive fullness in the gift of love which the Word of God makes to humanity in assuming a human nature, and in the sacrifice which Jesus Christ makes of Himself on the Cross for His bride, the Church. In this sacrifice there is entirely revealed that plan which God has imprinted on the humanity of man and woman since their creation(23); the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ. The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart, and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ has loved us. Conjugal love reaches that fullness to which it is interiorly ordained, conjugal charity, which is the proper and specific way in which the spouses participate in and are called to live the very charity of Christ who gave Himself on the Cross.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Favorite Lord of the Rings Characters

I asked recently for you to send a not telling me who your favorite LOTR character was, and why. Here are the results:

Donna Marie and my father both like Samwise, for his simplicity, humility, and courage. My dad says that he especially likes Sam because of what he will do in the future, but I don't want to spoil the stories for you. Donna says My favorite line in all of Tolkien is spoken by him...'I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves, and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard !'

Andrew Hughey likes Bilbo, and writes a wonderful reflection on him here. He says Through Bilbo's eyes, I saw the wonder of Middle Earth. This seemingly average stay-at-home hobbit wanted more. He didn't want to just hear stories of the elves, he wanted to meet the elves. He wasn't content to just sit at home and watch the world go by. When luck and providence provided him with opportunity, he didn't turn his back on it but grabbed hold for dear life. And, of course, there's always that sense about Bilbo that something else is helping him out and guiding his actions.

"You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!"

My wife likes Legolas, because he is cute.

My favorite character in LOTR is Boromir, the soldier of Gondor, who has spent his life protecting the rest of Middle-Earth from the evil of Mordor. He has done a thankless job: the hobbits who are able to sleep comfortably because of his vigilance don't even know where Gondor and Mordor are. Boromir doesn't seek thanks, but only looks for a means for victory. After years of fighting, he wants peace.

When confronted with the ring, it is Boromir who cannot resist the temptation. He can see no hope for victory without the ring, and no hope for success in destroying it. He tries to take the ring by force, and so destroys the Fellowship. At this point I relate to him very much. The world seems to me to be lost. I see people living without any knowledge of God or of grace, doing tremendous harm to themselves and each other through lives of casual sin. I see a Church that has been brought to its knees by a sex scandal. Is there any hope? There is a great temptation to despair, and to give in to the expedient and easy. I have been Boromir many times.

But what does Boromir do immediately after he falls? He repents. He knows that he has failed, and that he probably has doomed the mission. All hope is lost, and one would expect Boromir to follow in the footsteps of Judas, to despair completely. He gets up and dives into a hopeless battle to protect his friends Pippin and Merry from the orcs, in fact giving his life for them.

We cannot always see any reason to hope. But even if we can see no reason, hope endures. Help may come that we could never foresee. As a friend of mine said to me once, we cannot ever despair of victory, because the war was won 2000 years ago on Easter Sunday. Battles are still being fought, but God has already won. Boromir is my favorite character because he shows the greatest faults and greatest strengths of humans. We can and probably will fail, but we must fight as if victory is possible, no matter what the odds.

Happy Assumption!

Make sure you get to church. In times like these, we can't afford to let any opportunity for grace go by.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

You may wish to fast or do some sort of penance today

The bishops are doing penance today for their sins and to intercede for the Church. A short reflection on the moral state of most Catholics in America should show you that we all need to do penance as well as to amend our lives. Some suggestions: say a rosary for the Church, fast and abstain as if it were Good Friday, or give money to the poor.

And don't forget that tomorrow is the feast of the Assumption, a holy day of obligation. You can probably find a vigil mass tonight.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

A story on my old parish priest

This is courtesy of Amy Welborn's blog: an accuser has come forward against my deceased former pastor. Read the story here. Then read my comments, as I posted them on Amy's blog: I'm comment #3. Or you can read the following.

Fr. Ruffalo gave me my first communion and heard my first confession, and prepared me for confirmation.

He was my parish priest until I went to college. I remember the Komp family as well, although I am not sure if I ever met Jim Komp--he is a bit older than I am. I think I remember him serving as MC up on the altar.

Here are my memories: Fr. Ruffalo liked to lead the good life, for sure. We all knew he went to Vegas for vacations, and we did figure that his family must have had money. He was unfailingly orthodox in his teaching from the pulpit, and gave wonderful, concise, and insightful homilies.

Both of my brothers and I were altar boys, and never experienced anything weird from Fr. Ruffalo.

I note that only one accuser is named in the story, and that he only came forward when Ruffalo was dead, and that he is estranged from his family because of the accusations. Like I said, I don't know Jim, and I don't know what really happened at St. Mary's in the 70's and 80's, but it is very easy to kick a dead body. Perhaps this dead body deserves to be kicked, but it would have been better to come forward while he was alive.

If in fact the stories of Ruffalo's misbehavior are true, I pray that he repented and was forgiven by God. But we never caught a whiff of it while we were there.

Mrs. Malaprop will serve as lector today. . . .

At daily mass this morning, as Ezekiel received the scroll from the Lord, I was startled to hear that on the scroll was written "Laminations and wailing and woe."

This woman needs a bigger imagination!

There is a couple that is planning to clone the wife in order to have a child. You can read the transcript of the interview here, if you want a primer on how to be absolutely selfish. But of interest is the bad theology displayed by the woman:

KATHY: No, no, I don't think there is any immaturity here. I mean, come on, this is the future, and you know something? If God didn't want us to learn how to do all these things, then God would not have enabled the scientists to be able to move on and learn and do.

GUILLEN (voice-over): In fact, Bill and Kathy believe it's their divine destiny to have a cloned baby.

KATHY: I think that God really wants us to do this, that it is the next step. I can't imagine any other reason why we haven't had a child, other than this is what we were meant to do.

She can't imagine any possible reason why God wouldn't give her a child, except that God wants them to have a clone. Let me give you some suggestions, honey: God may not give you a child because you and your husband are selfish jerks, who have already killed several children through your attempts at in-vitro fertilization (they make more embryos than they need, and discard the excess), who are quite willing to abort the clone if she doesn't turn out just right, who apparently have never considered the possibility of adoption.

Monday, August 12, 2002

While you are waiting

for my tome on Why Artificial Contraception is a Bad Thing, you can go look at Tim Drake's writing on Natural Family Planning.

A Letter from Cardinal George--Bishops will pray for forgiveness on August 14

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

In the midst of summer, the Church celebrates the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Mary is the mother of Jesus Christ and, because we are members of Christ's body, the Church, Mary is also our mother. Jesus is not jealous of his mother. He gives her to us to love us and protect and pray for us (Jn. 20: 26-27).
Mary not only protects us as our mother, she also goes before us on the path of discipleship. Mary points us to Jesus (Jn. 2:5). If you really want to know a son, you should get to know his mother. Because she knows Jesus so well, Mary knows what it means to strive every day to take up the cross and follow him. She followed him more perfectly than any other of his disciples. She has completed the path we are still on. Christ promised all his disciples that they would rise from the dead on the last day, as he rose from the dead after his crucifixion. We live in that promise. The Blessed Virgin Mary, alone of all Christ's disciples, has already been assumed bodily into heaven. The Church celebrates this mystery of faith on August 15. Mary's assumption should give us the courage to live fully, until our last day, as Christ's disciples in his body, the Church.

Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is part of every Catholic's life. The rosary is a chain which unites us from generation to generation (Lk. 1:48), meditating on the mysteries of Christ's life, death and resurrection, uniting ourselves to Christ in our prayer to his mother. If your children do not know the "Hail Mary" by heart, this August 15 is a good time to teach them. Other prayers that are part of our lives are the Angelus, the Memorare, and the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On August 14, the vigil of the feast of the Assumption, the bishops of the United States will pray and do penance to atone for our sins and to intercede for the Church. We will ask the Blessed Virgin to protect the children of the Church and to "pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death." From seven to nine p.m. this August 14, the auxiliary bishops of Chicago and I will be in Holy Name Cathedral, praying to Mary to heal the Church. I invite you to join us, if that is possible; but I would ask you, no matter where you attend Mass this August 15, to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, assumed into heaven, to make of us a holy people, better disciples of her divine Son.

You and those you love are in my prayers; please keep me and our Archdiocese in yours.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Francis Cardinal George, OMI

Archbishop of Chicago

[Boldface mine. KCS]

Mea culpa

Last night I posted that the outrageous situation at a parish in Michigan was in the diocese of Lansing. I was wrong: it is in Detroit. I have fixed the previous blog.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Our Lady of Good Counsel must be crying

If you haven't heard about the pro-choice, pro-late-term abortion gubernatorial candidate for governor of Michigan who is also a member in good standing at a Catholic church in the diocese of Detroit, you should go look at this blog. The pastors at the parish have been supportive of her, indeed have written letters in the bulletin supporting her pro-choice position, and have been very hard on the pro-life protestors who are protesting at the church.

Yes, you heard me right. Pro-life protestors are protesting a CATHOLIC CHURCH!

Now is a time for bishops to stand up and be counted. Where are you, Cardinal Maida?

Friday, August 09, 2002

Deal Hudson summarizes the case against Voice of the Faithful

Check the link here.

Natural Family Planning

Kathryn Lopez over at National Review has a nice article on NFP: there is a Protestant couple who have written a book saying, in essence, the Pope isn't crazy, and that artificial contraception is indeed a bad thing. I'll post on this topic one of these days. Nutshell version: I agree. The only thing artificial contraception has helped are men who wish to behave like teenage boys wish they could behave.

What if Bertie Wooster were a bishop?

Over at Disputations there is a very funny parody of P. G. Wodehouse. (You might have to scroll around to find the installments.) I eagerly await further chapters. If you haven't discovered Wodehouse yet, you are in for a treat. I find his writing to be hilarious, with a good-natured and gentle humor. Also, Wodehouse wrote the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, "Bill." (He's just my Bill, an ordinary guy. . . .) You can probably find an anthology of the Jeeves and Wooster stories at your bookstore. In a nutshell, Wooster is a dimwitted but unfailingly good hearted upper-class Brit who is saved from repeated deadly encounters with marriage-hungry women and wicked Aunt Agatha by his brilliant butler Jeeves.

Happy St. Edith Stein Day!

As you may or may not know, I did my doctoral dissertation on Edith Stein, and so feel a duty to blog about her today. Most people know something about her life, but I will summarize. She was born and raised a Jew in 1891, and by her teenage years had decided that God did not exist. A brilliant girl, she decided to go to college to study psychology, but she became disgusted with the lack of scientific rigor in that science. (A problem that remains today: As Walker Percy points out, every method of psychotherapy works about as well or as poorly as every other one. And a recent study showed that Prozac works almost as well in curing depression as sugar pills.) Edith read a book called Logical Investigations by Edmund Husserl, and decided that she needed to study philosophy. Husserl was the founder of a major philosophical school of thought known as phenomenology.

The motto of phenomenology is "Back to the things themselves!" Philosophers had been too much cut off from the genuine and primary experiences of reality, according to Husserl. Sciences were developing that had no original founding insights, like psychology, or that were unclear as to what these insights were, like mathematics. Husserl thought that all science could be grounded and clarified by a careful, rigorous inventory and description of the content of human consciousness. For example, a scientist might say that we see by means of light waves bouncing off an object into the eye, where they form an image on the retina that is interpreted by the brain. A phenomenologist will say that we see by means of the immediate presentation of an object. We don't interpret light waves, we see objects. The light wave explanation is certainly true, but it is not what we do, it is only the material condition for what we do. We see things!

Stein studied under Husserl, following him from Gottingen to Freiburg (a beautiful town, by the way) and working as his first graduate assistant (a post later held by a guy named Martin Heidegger). She graduated summa cum laude, and published some very good phenomenological works on empathy (quoted by Scheler) and on the relationship of psychology and the humanities, as well as the phenomenology of the state.

She had a dear friend named Adolf Reinach, a philosopher of note himself, who died in the trenches in World War I. Stein went to visit his widow in order to gather his papers for posthumous publication, and she dreaded the visit. Edith thought that it would be horrible to be around a grieving widow. But amazingly, Frau Reinach was peaceful, almost cheerful. She was a Christian (later Catholic) and had faith in the resurrection. The death of her husband was not the end, and she was peaceful. This gave Edith for thought, and while visiting a friend's house she cae across St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography. She stayed up all night reading, finished the book, and said "This is truth." Shortly after this she became a Catholic.

I have named Edith Stein the patron saint of philosophy Ph.D.'s seeking jobs, because despite having her doctorate with highest honors from Edmund Husserl, she never got an academic position, and taught high school until she entered the Carmelites. Being Jewish and a woman in Germany made it very difficult. But she continued to write. She did a German translation of Newman's letters, translated Aquinas' De Veritate into German (quoted by Karl Rahner), and continued to write and think, especially about the problem of the meaning of being.

Her final major philosophical work was Endliches und ewiges Sein, or Finite and Eternal Being, a large and difficult book that is an attempt to ascend to the meaning of being. It is noteworthy because it is a phenomenological and Thomist ascent. Stein uses all of the tools at her disposal, from Husserl and Hering to Aquinas, Aristotle, and Augustine, in order to get closer and closer to an understanding of what it means to be. She begins with the being of consciousness itself, and shows how this consciousness is contingent and dependent on sources outside itself for both its being and the meaning that fills it. She then gives a detailed analysis of how meanings can be reduced to basic units of meaning. So the first Being is seen as both the source of being and meaning, which finally leads her to conclude that the first Being must be not only the Prime Mover or the Demiurge, but is rather a Person. Since Being itself (God) is a person, we have a basis for understanding God: persons can be asked about themselves. So the second half of the book examines the relationship of the divine person to human persons, which turns out to be an intimate indwelling in the core of each human being.

But, as I said, this is a difficult book. If you want to more you could look up my dissertation, "Faith and Reason in the Philosophy of Edith Stein."

Edith Stein and her sister Rosa (who had converted as well) fled Germany to a Carmel in Echt in Holland to avoid the Nazis. In an episode that should give pause to the many modern critics of Pope Pius XII, the bishops of Holland issued a pastoral letter condemning the deportation of Jews. In retaliation, the Nazis rounded up all of the religious in Holland of Jewish origin and sent them to Auschwitz. Stein and her sister were arrested and taken from their convent, and were murdered on or around August 9, 1942. From the little we know of the last days of her life, it is apparent that Edith showed heroic compassion in comforting and caring for her fellow passengers, much as did another saint of Auschwitz, Maximilian Kolbe.

Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1998, and she is now St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (her religious name). Pray for us!

(Unfortunately, few of her philosophical works have been translated, but her spiritual writings and her work on the nature of women are well worth reading, and are available here. In fact, I made use of her thought in my blog on the ordination of women.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Yet another study confirms the obvious

A recent study says that fathers with religious convictions spend more time with their children. This is surprising to no-one except to W. Bradford Wilcox, the researcher, who says "Evangelical Protestant fathers, including Southern Baptists, are very involved with their children, which I found surprising, given their tendency to embrace traditional gender attitudes." See, by traditional gender attitudes, what the researcher really means is that religious men are more likely to say to the wife "Wyleen, take care of Billy Bob, Bobby Sue, Cletus, and little Boo, while I abandon you to go drink beer, hunt, and listen to George Jones with my buddies."

In order to explain the paradox that such men actually spend more time with their children, Wilcox attributes it to scheduled church functions. Perhaps. But it is much more than that. What they need to understand is that if there is no God, children are no longer a blessing to be treasured, but an annoyance to be avoided. Religious men see their children as a sacred trust, given by God to be raised up as saints. Non-religious men see children as a threat to their free time and money.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Slip of the lips at AP

Look at the headline for this story about the woman who recently won the right to abort her child over the objections of the father. Abortion Case Winner Loses Her Baby.

When she wanted to abort the baby, it was a "fetus." When she lost it in a miscarriage, it became a baby.

I have a bit of a blogging block

I apologize. This is a hazard of blogging: some days one just doesn't have anything to say. I will blog more tomorrow, I promise! Meanwhile, if you'd like to send me your favorite Lord of the Rings characters and why, I would like to read them.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

One more thought on the Transfiguration

If you have the New American Bible, take a look at the footnote to Mark 9:1. In the verse, Jesus says "Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power." The footnote says that this is "more likely, as understood by others, a reference to the imminent parousia." Parousia means the second coming of Christ at the end of the world.

There is a constant thread in scripture scholarship that says that the writers of the New Testament got it wrong: they expected Jesus to return almost immediately, but then had to regroup when he didn't come back. This verse Mark 9:1 is used to support this position: none of the apostles are alive anymore, and Jesus hasn't returned. Therefore the gospel writers must have been wrong.

But look at what comes immediately after: the Transfiguration! Peter, James, and John indeed do see that the kingdom of God has come in power. Mark 9:1 seems clearly to refer to the Transfiguration. The gospel writers were right, as usual.

I got my copy of Lord of the Rings today!

Tolkien, as you may or may not know, was a devout Catholic and daily communicant whose faith shines through every page of his work. He didn't work by allegory, as his friend C.S. Lewis did in Narnia (Aslan=Christ in Narnia, but nobody=Christ in Lord of the Rings), but through the recognition that the only real drama in the world is the drama of sin, grace, and redemption. If a story is to be written that truly captures hearts, it will be a story of the eternal drama of salvation, even if it is about hobbits, elves, and orcs.

I have a request from you, my loyal readers: If you haven't seen the movie or read the books, do so. If you have, drop me a line and let me know who is your favorite character (one whom you identify with) and why. I will post a few of these later, and tell you who my favorite is. Or you could try to guess.

I follow the Welborn protocol here, and will feel free to post your email with name included unless you tell me not to.

Transfiguration in the Eastern Catholic Church

I had the pleasure of going to my home parish for daily Mass (we call it Divine Liturgy) today, and got to hear some of the lovely hymns about the transfiguration from the Byzantine tradition. Byzantine hymns are invariably doctrinal, so that even if the priest doesn't give a homily, you get one, just from the music. Let me give you a few samples:

[At vespers] O Lord, when You were transfigured before being crucified, Mount Tabor was made to resemble heaven, for a cloud was extended as a canopy and the Father bore witness to You. Peter, James, and John were present there, the same three apostles who were to be with You at the time of Judas' betrayal, so that having seen You in glory, they would not be dismayed at the time of your suffering. Likewise, O Lord, makes us worthy to recognize You as our God in these same sufferings You endured in your great mercy, and to adore you.

This hymn answers the question: Why transfigure? Jesus showed some of his divine glory to the apostles in order to prepare them for the horrible suffering that would befall his human nature. One could very easily have doubted Christ seeing him suffer, unless one had seen a foretaste of his risen glory on Mt. Tabor.

[At Divine Liturgy] You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ our God, and your disciples beheld as much as they could of your glory, so that when they would see You crucified, they would understand that You suffered willingly. They would preach to the world that You are truly the reflection of the Father.

This hymn tells us more: we know that Christ suffered willingly, for surely one who becamed transfigured as Christ did, talked to the dead heroes of Israel (Moses and Elijah), and had God the Father say "This is my beloved Son," could have come down from the cross or given the Jews the slip when they tried to crucify him. Jesus suffered on purpose, for our sake, and the Transfiguration is evidence of that.

The Transfiguration: the Miracle of Laundry?

With the recent discussion on the catholig blogs (Mark Shea and Amy Welborn)about priests who say the multiplication of loaves and fishes is the "miracle of sharing," I wonder if anyone is bold enough to say that the transfiguration never happened, and the reason that Jesus' clothes became dazzlingly white is because he did his laundry. Washing clothes is a rare occurence in the water-poor Middle East, and so his disciples were startled by the cleanliness of his clothes and recorded it as a miracle.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Ethics does not equal compliance

I was browsing the job listings for philosophers at the Chronicle for Higher Education, and I saw an ad for a Director of Ethics Policy at the American Medical Association. I quote:

Ethics: Director, Ethics Policy. American Medical Association is seeking qualified applicants for the position of Director, Ethics Policy in Chicago. Qualified applicants must possess a JD degree, or its equivalent, and at least 5 years' work experience in a position requiring the practical application of medical ethics.

Notice that they don't look for someone with a philosophy degree in ethics, but rather for someone with a law degree. This is a big clue that what they mean by ethics isn't what most people mean by ethics, that is, what humans ought to do. The AMA, like many in the business world, view ethics as what one can get away with. Why else would you need a lawyer to direct your ethics policy?

Stories of Martyrdom

This weekend I was reading some history of the early Church (I really am a church nerd), and came across a description of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp. He was the bishop of Smyrna, was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist, and was burned at the stake as an old man. I had heard the story before, but something struck me this time:

St. Polycarp asked that they not fasten him to the stake! He just stood there, unrestrained, as the fire burned. Imagine this. He could have been safe if he would just sacrifice to the Roman gods, but rather than do that, he willingly stood in place as they burned him.

Consider your own faith. Would it stand up to this? True faith always involves a death, a death to sin. This is why old baptismal fonts look like graves. We must be willing to give up everything for Christ. Meditation on the deeds of the martyrs is can allow us to realize that clinging to life rather than embracing the Lord of Life is silly. Anything that we may need to give up for Christ will be given back to us.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Voice of the Faithful Unmasked!

They have taken to silencing anyone who questions the direction of the organization. Lately, discussions of Deborah Haffner, the speaker who is a past president of SIECUS, have been deleted. For detail on this, go to Peter Vere's blogspot.

If any of you gave any money to Voice of the Faithful, your penance is to listen to "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who ten times at full volume.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Is Voice of the Faithful Faithful?

The group invited a woman named Deborah Haffner to speak at their recent conference, on how to make parishes a sexually safe place. Haffner is a past president of SIECUS, an organization that promotes sex education. You should take a look at their website to see what sort of organization it is. It is certainly not Catholic, and in fact opposes the teaching of the Catholic Church on such issues as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and masturbation.

Make up your own mind. Also check out the message board on their website, where David Alexander has been doing wondeful work pointing out the problems with the organization.

I've added a few blogs to my list on the left.

As you may know, Catholic blogistan is growing so quickly that it is very difficult to have a complete list. Fortunately, Gerard Serafin has been keeping track here.

I've added Cacciaguda, who was kind enough to link to me, and who is a fellow Wagnerian as well, Shawn Tribe, who is a fellow Byzantinophile, and Chris Hart, who has the best URL.

Welcome to my blog!

If you are new here, welcome. I hope that you find my stuff interesting and enjoyable. Be sure to check out the archives, as well as my list of favorite articles on the left. Also check out the links to other bloggers. Feedback is always welcome.

There is story on St. Blog's in the Chicago Tribune

Go here to see the story (link requires registration). If you get the print edition, you can see my picture!

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Karl’s Practical Guide to Finding a Priest to Hear Your Confession

Earlier I wrote a plea that priests would offer confessions more often than half an hour on Saturdays. Today I want to give a practical guide for those of you who may have a need for the sacrament on Sunday or Monday, and might not know how to go about finding a priest to hear your confession. If you are unsure if you need to go, find a good examination of conscience. I recommend this prayer book from Scepter Press, but National Catholic Register has an online version. Read the examination of conscience in humility, and realize that generally our actions are a lot more sinful (sometimes mortally) than we realize.

The first thing to realize is that if you make an appointment with a priest, you likely won’t be able to go anonymously. The priest is going to see your face and watch you as you confess. I realize that this is a deterrent, but it is necessary. If you wish to retain some degree of anonymity, you will have to travel to a parish that is not your own.

Next, do a little research. There may be some parishes or religious organizations that offer confessions throughout the week. I live in Chicago and can give you some examples. St. George in Tinley Park offers confessions on Thursday nights at 7:00pm, although there is usually quite a line. St. Mary of the Angels in Bucktown hears confessions twenty minutes before each Mass. In fact, I have stopped at St. Mary of the Angels many times, and have never found a time when there wasn’t a priest in the confessional. Holy Name Cathedral offers them before the 5:30 Mass on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, as well as on Saturday from 3-5pm, from 6-7pm, and after the 7:30pm Mass. St. Peter’s in the Loop has confessions during the day from 7:30am to 6:00pm, and on Saturday from noon to 4:30. So if you are willing to travel, you may be able to find a place to go. When I lived in Albany, the Franciscans had a chapel in a shopping mall. One could go to Mass there and could also go into the confessional, ring a bell, and wait for a priest. It was very nice.

In addition, monasteries generally will provide someone for you. They exist to serve the spiritual needs of their communities, and as long as you give some warning and don’t show up during lunch or liturgy, they should be able to find a priest. There are two monasteries that I know of in the Chicago area: St. Procopius in Lisle, and a Benedictine monastery near Comiskey Park (www.chicagomonk.org). You may have similar resources near you. (If you do, you should go hear Vespers sometime.)

If you don’t have these options, you will have to find a parish priest. The first thing to try is to go to morning Mass. Get there early, perhaps half an hour. When you see the priest, say “Father, I wonder if you might have time to hear my confession?” If you give him plenty of time, he likely will not refuse you. He may ask if you can wait until after Mass, since he does have to prepare himself.

If this isn’t possible, then call the rectory. Say “I was wondering if there is anyone who can hear my confession sometime in the next day or two?” Be polite, and be understanding if the priest’s schedule is too busy. They have many responsibilities these days. What you want to do is to be flexible, and give the priest options when he can see you. Fr. O’Neal points out in a letter to me that you just can’t expect a priest to hear your confession instantly. The only time that you can’t possibly wait a few hours to go to confession is if you are dying. If you are dying, then by all means insist that you need to see a priest as soon as possible. Otherwise, be willing to wait a little bit.

Confession is one of the greatest sacraments, and is certainly the least appreciated. Think what you can get: your soul can be wiped clean of every stain of sin, as pure and as innocent as a newly baptized child. If you sin, and we all sin, you’ve just got to go. Don’t let the restriction to a half hour on Saturdays keep you away.

Shameless Self Promotion

Dear readers,
You may be interested to know that I will be slightly famous on Friday. The Chicago Tribune is running an article on Catholic bloggers and the scandal. I am told the story will be in the Metro section, on the religion page. They took pictures of me, so you might get to see what I look like. The byline should be Darlene Stevenson.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

How many scandals are too many?

I had this thought the other day, and since I have a blog, every thought must be published! Here it is: there have been lots of people recently who claim that they just can't belong to a church which has so many abusive clerics. But what if there were only one priest who abused a child? Would that be enough to get you out of the Church? How about two? Three? If not three, then maybe ten? How about fifty? If one isn't enough, then how come fifty or a hundred is enough? Where is the limit? If one scandal is not enough to destroy your faith, but a hundred is enough, then we can put a value on your faith. John Doe's faith is strong enough to withstand 49 scandals, but no more. Mary Jane's faith can only withstand 10 scandals.

But faith is not a deal made with God: "I'll believe in You and follow You as long as less than 49 of Your ministers don't betray me!" It is a personal relationship with God which involves putting all of one's eggs into God's basket. We accept the free gift of salvation from God. But like all gifts, we can't put conditions on it. We can't say to Grandma that she can give us Christmas presents as long as it's an electric train and not a sweater. We just have to accept what we are given. We can't have faith in God and then reject it if difficulties arise. It would be bad manners. It wouldn't really be faith.

Juan Diego is to be canonized today

You can watch it on EWTN. Deo Gratias!

Further evidence we live in a warped culture

The new Reader's Digest describes Susan Sarandon (age 55) as "Still sexy as ever!" If I were a 55 year-old woman, I would much rather be recognized for intelligence, wit, charm, perhaps beauty, hopefully sanctity, but not "sexiness."

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Upon reflection

Perhaps my post on Leon Panetta is a bit shrill in tone. Maybe the bishops have some good reason for appointing pro-partial-birth abortion politicians to their National Review Board. I wish someone would explain it to me.

What are you doing reading me when Emily Stimpson has this wonderful post?

Raider Girls and Human Nature

I got up this morning and flipped on ESPN to check out baseball trade reports. My favorite team, the White Sox, are currently conducting a fire sale. While I was watching, commercials for a show called "The Season" came on, in which a bunch of scantily-clad young lovelies bounced across the screen. ESPN will be showing a documentary on women who try out to be Raiders cheerleaders. I needed to avert my eyes. There have also been commercials on Fox for a new series that consists of nothing, so far I as I can tell, other than fast cars and softcore pornography.

In philosophy classes I would bring up the sexual content of television and ask whether it was a good thing or not. I argued that due to the fact that human beings have settled dispositions of character, or habits, which are acquired by the actions we do, that watching such things could be damaging. In other words, if chastity is a virtue, one needs to act chastely in order to make that virtue a habit, to become chaste. The constant exposure to sexually licentious material can be very damaging to one's character. If I sit and watch Raider girls, I am likely to do more than experience aesthetic appreciation of their dancing skills; I am probably going to start thinking unchaste thoughts.

The response from the students in class was something like this: "You can't blame TV for how people act. People are going to do what they want to do. TV doesn't make people bad." In other words, the content of entertainment has no effect on character. This is why someone like Britney Spears can produce explicit teasing videos but still can preach virginity to teen girls: the videos don't affect the behavior of the girls, Miss Spears probably thinks. People will do what they do, and what they see won't change that. Very few of the students were willing to admit that some content should be censored, and they defended their opinion by erecting a brick wall between entertainment content and human behavior.

But this wall can't stand. I asked the students how many of them wore Nike shoes. About 75% of the class raised their hands. Did they research shoes and find out that Nikes were the best? Of course not. They saw Nike advertisements, and the content of the ads changed their behavior. If Nike ads can change behavior, then why not a sexually charged music video or a documentary on Raiderettes? Advertising clearly works, which is why so many millions of dollars are spent on it. What we see does affect what we do.

The consequence of this is that those who work in the entertainment industry ought to exercise restraint. Yes, one can make more money by showing a bit of skin, but there will be damage done to the viewers.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Leon Panetta? Shame on you bishops!

Kathryn Jean Lopez has written an article on the appontment of pro-late-term abortion Leon Panetta to the U.S. bishops' oversight committee. She quotes a letter that Panetta wrote to a constituent on the subject of abortion. Panetta relies on an old Jesuit ethicist named Austin Fagothey, who said: A state, especially the pluralistic state of today, must operate within the framework of popular consensus. The argument for the immorality of abortion, the theory of rights on which it rests, and the philosophy underlying the ethics there outlined is not accepted by a large part of the population. I can be convinced of it beyond the shadow of a doubt and steer my own life by it, yet be unable to convince my fellow citizens of my views. Do I then have the right to impose my philosophical convictions any more than my religious convictions on others who disagree with me? I think not, and this is the reason why I think there should be no laws on abortion. I believe the best way to cope with abortion is not by punitive legislation but by a persuasive program of moral education aimed at building up a respect for life.

This is blatant idiocy. We are supposed to refrain from legislating about certain things because not everyone agrees that abortion is wrong. How many people have to agree that a law is needed before we can make a law? 100%? If we need to wait until 100% agree that abortion is wrong, we won't need the law. How about 51%? 43%? 10%? When does it become permissible to make such a law?

The idea that we can't legislate morality is also ludicrously stupid. We legislate morality all the time: there are laws against murder, fraud, perjury, and any number of other morally bad acts. Fagothey and Panetta are working from the notion that morality is a simple matter of taste, something like preferring vanilla to chocalate ice cream. Who am I to impose my love for vanilla on the chocalate-lovers? But destroying life in the womb is not a matter of taste. There is an objective reality here: the child who is killed, the mother who kills her child, the doctor who takes her money to kill it, and the father who approves. These are moral realities, and no difference of opinion on the rightness of abortion can make these terrible acts right. Wrong actions have bad effects whether we know they are wrong or not. A child who sticks his hand in a fire will be burned, whatever his opinions on the power of the fire to burn him. Those who participate in the abortion will be terribly damaged, whether or not they know the wrongness of the act. Legislation to prevent abortion is not the "imposition of philosophical views," but is an act of charity to prevent people from ruining their lives by committing a horrible crime that will affect their lives for the worse forever.

Fr. Fagothey should have had his teaching faculties revoked for this sort of poppycock that allows pro-abortion Catholic politicians to take cover. This is what Ex corde ecclesiae would have stopped, were it ever implemented. Perhaps the fact that Panetta is on the panel gives a clue why the bishops won't reign in the Catholic schools: they don't want to! Too many of the bishops do not accept the authoritative teachings of the Church, and so see Leon Panetta, notorious abortion promoter, as a perfectly acceptable person to be on a panel to protect children.

Note to the bishops: if you need practicing Catholics to serve on a panel to make sure that you are complying with your policy on priestly sex abuse, may I nominate Amy Welborn or Emily Stimpson or any of the numerous members of St. Blog's?

Friday, July 26, 2002

The Holy Spirit isn't the only spirit that speaks

Garry Wills has been ubiquitous recently, promoting his new book Why I am a Catholic. Generally his arguments are that since a sufficiently large number of the Catholic laity believes X, then the Church ought to teach X. For example, in a recent interview in the Boston Globe, he says Catholics have now reached a very large consensus that on certain things, the Vatican is simply nutty. To say that women cannot be priests because they don't look like Jesus is nutty. It's nutty to say, as the Vatican does, that a husband who is HIV-positive, and loves his wife, cannot use a condom. Catholics have no problem recognizing that it is nutty, and that hasn't disturbed their faith over the last 30 years, so I don't think their faith will be disturbed now. In other words, if enough people think it is crazy, the Church ought to change. In another recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Wills claimed that women would be ordained soon, because "The Spirit is talking."

His thinking is based on a false understanding of a theological concept called the sensus fidei, which Lumen Gentium explains:"The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals." Folks like Wills and his allies take this to mean that if the body of the faithful shows general consent on something, such as the use of contraception or women priests, then this consent must be evidence of the supernatural sense of the faith, or in other words "The work of the Holy Spirit."

But notice the definition is more restrictive than that. All it means is that the whole Church won't fail, and that if the whole Church believes something, we can be sure it is true. Pope John Paul II has a wonderful explanation of this concept of sensus fidei in his exhortation to Christian families, Familiaris Consortio. According to the Pope, the sense of the faith gives the Church the ability to discern the truth about theological matters. But this discernment doesn't come from a mere taking of a poll: it is the work of the whole Church according to the diversity of the various gifts and charisms that, together with and according to the responsibility proper to each one, work together for a more profound understanding and activation of the word of God. We don't count heads (64% for birth control? Then repeal Humanae Vitae!), but we use discernment, judgment done by the appropriate people in the appropriate ways. The pope adds, and this is most important, Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion. Yes, opinion polls can be useful tools for bishops, but they are not the ultimate determinant. Rather, we always discern according to the rule of faith, and the most proper guardians of the faith, despite all their failings, are the bishops.

It is a very grave mistake to take majority opinion to be the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit talks, certainly, but he always speaks through the Church Christ founded. The spirit that speaks through majority opinion may very well be the spirit of the age, the rince of this world, who Jesus says was a murderer from the beginning.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Two Old Priests

I was watching EWTN today and saw the pope speaking to the young. As he was speaking, a little river of saliva dripped out of his mouth. Without stopping his speech, the pope reached up with a cloth and wiped his face, while he continued. He looked like any other 82 year old man. He should have been at home resting, but here he was in Toronto, bringing the hope of Christ to the world. No-one would blame him if he stayed in Rome. But he has a duty to fulfill, and he is doing so, heroically.

I saw Fr. Ray at daily Mass today. Fr. Ray recently celebrated his fiftieth anniversary as a priest. He is a small, frail, old man. Today he concelebrated and read the gospel. After reading the gospel, the priest or deacon is supposed to lift the book and say "The gospel of the Lord." Fr. Ray cannot lift the book easily. In order to lift it, he has to pull the book down a little over the edge of the lectern. Then he pushes down with a sharp movement in order to rotate the book off the lectern. Quickly he has to shift his arms to get them underneath in order to have leverage to lift the book. The entire procedure looks painful. No-one would blame him if he left the book on the stand. But there is a right way to do things, and Fr. Ray is apparently willing to sacrifice his comfort in order to say Mass correctly.

I think the witness of both these old priests speaks for itself.

My wife is reading the Little Flower's book

Her reaction so far to St. Therese's writings is, "I'm nothing like she is."

Me neither.

Voice of the Faithful is all about power, power power

VOTF has set up a fund, the Voice of Compassion, to allow Catholics who don't like Cardinal Law to donate money to the poor without going through the diocesan administration. On the surface this may seem to be a good thing--after all, who wants his money to go to paying abuse settlements? But upon closer view, this becomes clearly a power grab.

Just the other day, the VOTF brought their money to the archdiocese, and said, in effect, "You can have this money, but you can't spend it on administration, development, or indirect costs of the charities." In other words, there are strings attached. Here are the details from their website:

- 90% of net donations will be distributed, on a quarterly basis, to the Archdiocese of Boston to support ministries traditionally funded by the Cardinal’s Appeal. The distribution will occur after receipt of detailed information regarding the expected allocation of the funds, which will be in the same proportion that the total cost of each program is to the total cost of all supported ministries. However, the funds will be applied only to direct costs of these ministries, not to their indirect costs or to development or general administrative expenses of the Archdiocese.

- The Archdiocese will be asked to provide to NCCF an accounting of the use of the distributed funds. If adequate information regarding the use of the funds is not made available, distributions will instead be made to Catholic Charities. If Catholic Charities does not accept the donation, NCCF, in consultation with VOTF, will determine the distribution of the assets to Catholic programs in the Archdiocese such as lesser-advantaged parish schools and programs for women religious.

So the archdiocese can have the money as long as they don't spend it on the costs of running the archdiocese. It reminds me of the old western: "I'll let you live, but you gotta dance first. Now dance! " The cardinal quite properly rejected the money. Imagine what would happen if Cardinal Law did take the money: there would be a precedent of targeted donations. Who wants his or her donation to be used to pay administrative costs? We all want our money to go directly to the poor. Nobody wants to pay for salaries. If we can all earmark our donations, we all would, and there would be no money to run the diocese. Whatever you think of Cardinal Law, he has a duty to the archdiocese and to his successor not to make it impossible to run the archdiocese.

There is no need for this Voice of Compassion fund. If you don't want to give to the Cardinal's Appeal, don't. Give your money directly to the charities themselves. Don't take a bag of money to the cardinal and say "You want it? You can have it if you surrender power to us!"

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Giving compliments where they are due

Recently I have been running to morning Mass. It is about 2.5 miles away, and so makes for a good 5 mile run. The priests at the parish, St. George in Tinley Park IL, have tended recently to take their homilies from the Office of Readings. If you don't know, the Office of Readings is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church. All priests and deacons are obliged to say this prayer, which consists of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer (Vespers), Daytime Prayer, Office of Readings, and Night Prayer. The various "hours" consist of psalms, antiphons, scripture readings, intercessory prayers, and the Our Father. The Office of Readings has longer readings from Scripture and from Church Fathers and the saints. The laity are also encouraged to pray these prayers, which have their root in the temple prayer of the Jews. Aquinas called the psalms the gymnasium of the soul, and Jesus himself prayed the psalms daily. We have evidence in his words on the cross, "My God My God why have you forsaken me?" which is from Psalm 22. If you want to get started saying the prayers, you can buy the books in a Catholic book store, or you can get started at the Universalis website. It is a bit complicated, but well worth the effort.

Back to St. George: they have been taking daily mass homilies from the Office of Readings. This is a wonderful practice. There is so much treasure in the teachings of the Church, many of which are present in the daily office. Today, for example, is the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden. The office includes her wonderful prayerful reflection on the passion of Christ. So the priest mentioned the life of Bridget and the prayer she wrote in the homily. On the way out of the church, the assistant pastor was handing out xeroxed copies of the prayer. What a wonderful thing! The priests care so much about the spiritual life of their parishioners that they take the time to make copies of a prayer of a great saint and hand them out.

Bravo to St. George parish.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Should the faithful vote for bishops?

Sure! But who are the faithful?

Bishops such as Augustine and Ambrose were named by popular acclaim in their cities, and both turned out to be giants of the Church. But here is the problem: in those days, membership in the Church was still somewhat of a scary and dangerous thing. The pagan persecutions of the past had recently been overcome, but the Arian heretics still had political power. Being a Catholic was perilous. What this means is that the faithful, those who self-identified as Catholic, were much more likely in the fourth century actually to believe what the Church teaches, and therefore were also more likely to be good judges in who would make a good defender of that faith. Why would you be Catholic if it could get you killed or exiled (as Athanasius was) if you didn't believe the Catholic faith?

But now, there are no persecutions or political pressure on Catholics. You can call yourself Catholic without any fear of public reprisal. You also don't need to believe anything in order say you are a Catholic, as the Church enforces no penalties. There are lots of Catholic politicians and entertainers who push for abortion rights and sexual "freedom." Less than one quarter of Catholics believe in the teachings of the Church. Would you be comfortable with them voting for a new bishop?

If Voice of the Faithful was really the voice of the faithful, it would be fine. However, if the group represents a cross-section of average Catholics in America, then we should be leary of it.