If you are one of those who think that Bishops shouldn't criticize politicians,
you must not like John the Baptist. Friday is the memorial of his martyrdom for telling a politician what he didn't want to hear.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us!
Excuse me, Master Thomas? Where did this example come from? The teeth of an Ethiopian? Some strange analogies were current in 13th century Paris, apparently.
I must say that I'm inclined to agree. I'm even going to subscribe to Communio. Now is not the time for the Church to be singing happy-happy joy-joy songs that never mention sin or repentance. We should be on our knees in the ashes, begging God for forgiveness for the terrible mess we've made of our Church.
Homework assignment: read the Book of Lamentations, slowly, with attention, and with sorrow for what we've all done.
Reading Aquinas is similar. The temptation when reading the Summa Theologica is to read it like eating at a salad bar. We scan the table of contents, and read only the specific question and article that concerns us. But to do this is to miss the beauty and power of the work, since the entire work has an order designed for the purpose of teaching sacred doctrine. In the introduction, Master Thomas informs us of his purpose in writing the book: we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners. We have considered that students in this doctrine have not seldom been hampered by what they have found written by other authors, partly on account of the multiplication of useless questions, articles, and arguments, partly also because those things that are needful for them to know are not taught according to the order of the subject matter, but according as the plan of the book might require, or the occasion of the argument offer, partly, too, because frequent repetition brought weariness and confusion to the minds of readers. Aquinas has planned out the whole work in order to make learning easier. To pick and choose articles to read is to miss out on this planning.
If you do read it sequentially, as I am currently doing with the Prima Secundae, is like playing chess against a computer. You will find that Thomas examines every possibility and closes off every avenue of escape, and that his conclusions approach with the inevitability of sunrise.
I highly recommend reading the Summa in order. It takes effort, but it's surely much more worthwhile than wasting time watching television, and it's the only way truly to appreciate St. Thomas Aquinas' genius.
But is this what Christ had in mind? I don't think so. Today in the Byzantine church we heard the parable of the unforgiving servant, Matthew 18:23-35: That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
Note that the servant, who owed "a huge amount"--the Greek for this gospel makes it clear that the debt owed might as well have been infinite, for all the hope the servant would have of ever paying it off--is not condemned for any failure of feeling. Perhaps he felt warm feelings about his fellow servant. Perhaps it was just business. But the wicked servant was condemned eternally (since his debt was so great it could never be repaid) because of actions that he did. Forgiveness is not a matter of feeling but a matter of action.
So, how can a Christian truly forgive from his heart? He needs to act forgivingly. So, if someone hurts me, I need to love him despite the hurt. By love, of course, I mean "do actions for his own good." Love isn't a feeling either, but a matter of action. We must love those who hurt us. That's forgiveness.
Think about this the next time you are tempted to sue someone.
After such a beginning, one expects some sort of evidence of this malicious, ignorant, stereotyping scapegoatery. There is none. McClory gives this presentation of the opposition to the gayification of the world: "Meanwhile in Rome, the Vatican's Congregation for the Defense of the Faith, with Pope John Paul II's full approval, issued a statement declaring that gay unions are in clear violation of the natural moral law and that Catholic politicians worldwide have a serious obligation to oppose such unions and to bar gay couples from adopting because these adoptions do "violence" to the adopted children.
No debate here, no indication of any division on the matter among Catholic people, bishops or theologians, no evidence of any discussion with anyone outside the Vatican.
No, indeed. No debate, no attempt by the author to confront the evidence of scripture, the writings of the Fathers, or the true nature of the Catholic Church's reasoned opposition, which could be found in summary in the very Vatican document he mentions. McClory knows nothing of the nuptial meaning of human sexuality, of the ordination of sex towards procreation, of the inevitable exploitation of the other that occurs when sex is divorced from its procreative ordering, which can be seen in the transitory nature of most homosexual and contraceptive heterosexual unions. Rather, McClory gives this argument for his position: "The fact is, the designation of homosexuality as unnatural and intrinsically immoral has been and is being challenged by responsible experts in a variety of fields, including biology, psychology, anthropology, and both moral and biblical theology. What seemed perfectly obvious to our grandparents is not so obvious anymore." This is the famous argumentum ad aestum historiae, the argument from the tide of history: see, history is tending gay, therefore the Church should get on the side of history. If only we weren't so backward, we would see that our Church should get with the times. Thoughtful people, after all, are courageously overcoming their prejudices.
Bunk. It's all a load of feces. History is not only now tending towards homosexuality: homosexuality has been around for millenia, and was quite common in ancient Greece. In fact, as I have said elsewhere, the shocking thing wasn't that Socrates had a crush on his young male friends, but was that he never acted on these urges. This stuff is nothing new, and isn't the result of some cultural enlightenment. It is rather a regression to an early type, a type that was previously superceded by Christianity.
Furthermore, note that McClory makes no actual arguments. He mentions the great unnamed horde of academics who now think that gay sex and gay marriage is perfectly fine, but he never even attempts to show how such declarations can be squared with the evidence of scripture and the 2000 year tradition of the Church. In fact, he never mentions Jesus Christ at all and the bible only as something to be overcome.
McClory gives a list of things that the Church has supposedly changed her mind on, in order to show that the Church really isn't unchanging. He misrepresents the Galileo episode, and then speaks of "the condemnation of the Jews; the long, official approval of slavery; the prohibition against lending money at interest; and the doctrine of no salvation outside the Church." Needless to say, he never gives any citation of the supposed official condemnation of the Jews. He neglects to mention that slavery was extinct in Europe for a thousand years because of Christianity (it still flourishes in Islamic countries). Usury is still a sin, and there still is no salvation outside the Church, which is nothing more than to say that salvation only can come through Christ, something he himself said.
McClory finishes with this warning, commending the Episopal church for its recent actions: "its leaders obviously see no other choice but to take the risk. Catholic leadership at this point prefers to repeat old formulas. But that is an even more risky, dangerous course; it can only lead to intellectual stagnation and the loss of any church's most valuable asset." First, note that the Church is not merely repeating old formulas, but is carefully passing on the Tradition handed down from the apostles, who got it directly from God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. One would be lucky to be able to repeat old formulas from such a source. Further, McClory talks of intellectual stagnation, when there is never anything intellectual about arguments for homosexual marriage. The only argument ever made goes something like this: "Lots of people engage in gay sex. These people aren't so bad. Therefore gay sex is wonderful! Further, if you weren't so backward, you'd realize how wonderful it is too!" This is not intellectually rigorous.
Finally, McClory says that we risk "the loss of any church's most valuable asset." He doesn't specify what this asset is, but I will tell you what he means: the Church risks losing its standing in polite society. How gauche of it to insist that, darn it, some things really are sinful! People might not like the Church anymore. Well, Mr. McClory, the Church has never been loved by the world, but in this we follow a noble tradition. Christ, after all, was nailed to a cross. It is only right that we who follow him should suffer similar ridicule. But we do have a valuable asset that the Episcopal church has sold for a mess of pottage: we have Christ.
I was browsing through the Orthodox theology books in my wonderful parish's library, when I noticed this line in a book by noted scholar Fr. Meyendorf: "One should not reject Humanae Vitae just because it is papal." Ha! That's almost as funny as Charles Curran's line "We are not able to say that all cases of masturbation are morally good." Good for you, Charlie!
P.S. I promise at some point in the future I will explain what I see to be the flaws in the Orthodox position on contraception. But I need time for research.
However, as a high school teacher once told me, the job of a philosophy or theology teacher is not to be comprehensive. There is no way it can be done. Rather, he says, we should try to make our classes "dizzyingly seductive," so that the students will see some of the wonder that things are.
I will do my best.
Get the picture yet? I could have added many more quotes to this list. Jesus warns us not to fear. Why not? First we should consider what fear is. Aquinas says that "fear regards a future evil which surpasses the power of him that fears." (I-II 41.4c) We fear some evil that will come to us that is stronger than we are. But what do we fear? We fear the loss of some good (that, after all, is what evil is: the privation of some good). Thus what we fear will be determined by what we love. If you love your job, you will fear losing it. If you don't love your job, losing it would be pleasure.
Fear can be a mortal sin: "fear is a sin through being inordinate, that is to say, through shunning what ought not to be shunned according to reason." (II-II.125.3) If we fear things we shouldn't fear, and do bad things because of it, we sin. Aquinas continues thus: "For if a man through fear of the danger of death or of any other temporal evil is so disposed as to do what is forbidden, or to omit what is commanded by the Divine law, such fear is a mortal sin: otherwise it is a venial sin." For example, if through fear of being outcast from my friends I were to seek to "score" with the ladies (who weren't my wife), such fear would be mortally sinful, since I fear something silly (loss of approval from my friends) to the extent that I do something gravely evil.
So, how does fear make us all atheists? Because it shows a lack of faith in God. Now that we have been baptized and claimed as heirs of the kingdom of God, is there anything that we should fear? Should we fear loss of money or job? Mat 10:31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Should we fear loss of pleasure? 1Co 2:9 But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him," Should we fear the coming persecutions? (They are surely coming. In Canada, preaching the gospel is a hate crime.)
Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Fear motivates all sorts of wrong actions: fear of loss of security motivates theft, lying, cheating, as well as taking part in the culture of death. Certainly we must contracept, one says, since we won't be able to afford a child (and our big house and cars and vacations). Fear of solitude can motivate all sorts of self-destructive behaviors, from drinking to pornography to drug use. Fear of the disapproval of others is quite insidious, causing us to go along with all sorts of things to keep up with the culture: when is the last time you did something as simple as make the sign of the cross and say grace before a meal in a public restaurant? God forbid! Finally, fear of being found out is the worst, because it keeps us from the medicinal sacrament of confession, where we can be reconciled to God.
The only thing worth fearing is the loss of God. Everything else is small potatoes, and to fear the loss of such things shows a lack of faith. If God exists, we have nothing to fear but loss of Him. Therefore, fear of anything else is sublimated atheism.
Here is the text from the anaphora: "Moreover, we offer to You this spiritual sacrifice for those who departed in the faith: the forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every just spirit made perfect in faith." So we pray for the saints. But there is more: "We offer this spiritual sacrifice especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary." We even pray for Mary, the mother of God! How can this be? Aren't the saints already in heaven? What do they need our prayers for?
To answer this question one must look at the nature of eternity and time. Time is the succession of change in things susceptible to change. Eternity is, as Boethius calls it, the simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life. This can perhaps best be understood by comparing it with time. You and I live in time, which means that we don't experience our lives all at once. I am typing this blog now, at 6:27 in the morning. I remember what I was yesterday, and I anticipate what I will be tomorrow, but yet I am not yesterday or tomorrow, but only now. Edith Stein describes the now as the peak of a wave through
which the future runs to the past. The now is present, but it is never complete, since what is in the past can only be remembered but not lived again.
In other words, as Bilbo Baggins would put it, our lives are stretched like too much butter on toast. We don't have all the butter at once, but only that little bit which the now touches.
God lives all at once. He is in complete possession of his entire essence now. There isn't a past or future. It would be like living all of your 30-40 years of life (I'm guessing) at the same moment. This sounds strange, but is actually an improvement. To live partially, stretched from moment to moment, is not as perfect as to live completely, concentrated, without passage of time.
Further, if God experienced time, that would mean he was imperfect. Time is a measureof duration, of things that happen to you. In order for things to
happen to you, you must have some capability of being affected by things. God, however, is totally perfect, and hence can't be changed or affected by things.
God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In order for this to be true, he must be outside of time. How can we picture such a thing? Imagine an ant crawling on a map. The ant can only see what is in front of it, as it crawls. This is our perception of time, bit by bit as we crawl through it. God is like you or me standing over the ant, seeing the whole map all at once.
So much for the eternity of God. What about the saints? What good could our action here do for the saints in heaven? Certainly they share somewhat in the eternity of God, since they are given eternal life. But, and here's the thing to think about, are they without change? Aquinas seems to think that in fact they are without change. In I.10.3 of the Summa he says: Some again, share more fully than others in the nature of eternity, inasmuch as they possess unchangeableness either in being or further still in operation; like the angels, and the blessed, who enjoy the Word, because "as regards that vision of the Word, no changing thoughts exist in the Saints," as Augustine says (De Trin. xv). Hence those who see God are said to have eternal life; according to that text, "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God," etc. (Jn. 17:3). The saints, according to him, have both eternity of life, since they will never die, and unchangeableness in operation, since they do nothing but contemplate God. So the saints do share in eternity.
But think what would have to be true for this contemplation of God to be unchanging, which is the true measure of eternity: the saints would have to be perfect. In other words, their work of contemplation would have to be complete--they would have to have exhausted the subject of God. But how can this be? God is infinite, and we are finite. How could we ever be done thinking and loving God? Rather, in heaven we will indeed enjoy eternity of life, and unchangeableness of operation (contemplation of God), but that contemplation could never be complete. So heaven, according to the Byzantine understanding, is a constant process of becoming closer to God. Theosis doesn't stop when we die, but continues throughout eternity. Consider the image of heaven from C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle: the continual progression into the joys of heaven is a very Byzantine thought.
So, the liturgies we offer here are offered so that the saints too will grow in love. An interesting thought, don't you think?
Darn it, she's right! If these people continue loudly to proclaim their Catholicity while just as loudly supporting killing children, then we must have public excommunication, for the sake of their immortal souls, since as long as they aren't, they and many others will think that one can be pro-child-killing and still a good Catholic.
Lord, please grant courage to our bishops.
Anyone care to forward this article to your bishop? The USCCB web site has a list of phone numbers and addresses by diocese.
P.S. Thanks to Mark Shea for the link. You know, I'd really rather post about obscure goodies found in Byzantine liturgy, but this stuff needs to be answered, even if only at my small website.
This image that we have created of Jesus is false. Jesus talks about sin and damnation many times, six times in such "warm and fuzzy" passages as the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, it is an essential part of his message: yes, the Kingdom of God is here, but also repent and sin no more!
So, in the interest of getting rid of warm and fuzzy Jesus, I propose that you reflect on the following passage (Luke 13): At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"
Note that the passage does not say that the Galileans didn't die for their sins; he says that they weren't worse than anyone else in Galilee. In fact, those killed by Pilate and by the tower falling were guilty, according to Jesus, but no more guilty than everyone else. The message that is often preached in reference to this passage is that misfortune is not caused by sin--in other words, we can't assume that those who die in disasters were great sinners. But that isn't the point Jesus is making: they are sinners, but so are you, and you better repent! In other words, the fact that towers haven't fallen on you doesn't mean you aren't a great sinner. Don't feel secure, but work out your salvation in fear and trembling.
Here's the headline the Sun-Times ran last Friday: "Pope Launches Global Campaign Against Gays." You can read all about it at the Sun-Times website. Note these words from the editor: Sun-Times editor in chief Michael Cooke and vice president of editorial John Cruickshank said, in a statement, that the headline, when read in its entirety, "accurately reflects the church's view on same-sex marriage and the role the church requires Catholic politicians to play in this issue."
"When the pope urges all peoples to unite in denying homosexuals a specific civil right--the right of civil marrage--to refer to that summons as anti-gay is justified," the editors said.
Apparently the Sun-Times has decided that homosexuals should marry, and that anyone who opposes this right is to be libeled. In fact, granting legal sanction to homosexuality would be the truly anti-gay action, since it would continue the illusion that homosexuality is just another lifestyle. Forthright, well-reasoned opposition such as the Vatican's is in fact an act of love that treats homosexuals as human beings, rather than reducing them to the bearers of a proclivity.
If you live in Chicago you may have noticed a particularly bad headline from the Sun-Times on the new document about gay marriage; the headline read something like "Pope hates gays." Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much.
My pastor, my wonderful pastor, took the opportunity to teach. The Catholic faith is never presented fairly in the media. Doctrine is distilled to sound bites, and reasoned argument based on the fundamental nature of man is reduced to a charge of intolerance, or even worse, being "old-fashioned" or "behind the times." No reporter will ever attempt to understand the teachings of the Church; no, rather he will simply cast the gospel of Christ into the old conservative vs. liberal Procrustean bed, chopping Jesus into a 15-second spot for the evening news.
As a result, one can never assume that anyone, let alone Catholics, knows what the Church teaches. People don't generally read encyclicals and catechisms--they watch the news or read the paper. My pastor (have I mentioned that he is wonderful?) said "Not in my church!" He preached what Christ's Church teaches, without apology, and then gave us all copies of the recent decleration on gay marriage so we could read it at home.
A note to any priests who may happen upon my blog: if you don't teach the Faith, somebody in the media will be happy to fill the gap. Do you trust them? Please, please, please, for the love of God, teach!