Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday News

*Most Americans believe that abortion is "almost always a bad thing". Another poll showing the shift of americans to a more pro-life stance.

*The stand-off with North Korea could get real ugly soon. Please say extra prayers for peace in that region of the world.

*The Pope says the "Gospel must be proclaimed by a credible witness"


He also says the laity must share responsibility in the Church.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

News and Such

*In California a minor cannot do the following:
-Vote / Take an aspirin at school / join the military / drink alcohol

But, a female minor can get an abortion (with the help of public school officials) and they do not need parental notification.

*Talk about a waste of money. Chicago atheists started bus advertisements that say "Man Created God" and in South Bend (home of Notre Dame) they say "You can be good without God." This helps Christians, because it gets more people thinking about important things.

*San Diego County is just plain wrong in this one:

World's Oldest Primary School Student Baptized

What a great story!
The world-record-breaking oldest primary school student, a Kenyan great-grandfather, was baptized after he learned to read the Bible.

Kimani Ng'ang'a Maruge, the Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest person to enter primary school at age 84, was baptized Sunday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Kariobangi, east of Nairobi, Ecumenical News International reported Monday.

Now 90 years old, Maruge chose the baptismal name "Stephen" as he stated, "I commit my life to God, from now until the end."

"I decided to be baptized after reading the Bible," he explained.

In a wheelchair due to stomach cancer, the new Catholic added: "I read the Bible and came across the name Stephen. This is a name for those who have endured hardships like me."

Father Paulino Mondo, Holy Trinity pastor, affirmed that the schooling helped Maruge to read and understand the Bible, and pass all his catechism tests.

Maruge enrolled in school due to the government's introduction of free primary education in 2003. Two of his 30 grandchildren attend the same school.

He addressed the U.N. Millennium Development Summit in Sep. 2005 in New York on the importance of free primary education.

Maruge continued schooling despite being forced to a refugee camp due to post-election violence in 2008, and later relocation to a senior citizen retirement home.

The Kenyan's story will be told in a Hollywood-produced film, titled "The First Grader," which is currently being produced.

Janet Smith Answers Schindler

Recently I commented on David Schindler's criticism of Christopher West. Now, someone much much more qualified than me has also commented - Dr. Janet Smith. I recommend reading both articles in full. I have added emphasis and a few coments below:
Christopher West’s interview on ABC’s Nightline has sparked some terrific discussion on the Internet. An impressive amount of the interaction is intelligent and illuminating, even some of that which is seriously wrong. One of the better responses is that by Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers and the follow-up comments to his blog.Here, I want to offer a brief, partial, response to Prof. David Schindler’s assessment of West’s work. The fact that Nightline got a lot wrong about West’s work is not surprising. In fact, it is surprising how much it got right. Those of us who work with the media know that potential martyrdom awaits us at the hands of an editor. West has likely been suffering a kind of crucifixion over the past week. What is puzzling is that an influential scholar chose this moment to issue a sweeping, negative critique of West in such a public forum. I have great respect for the work and thought of Schindler and realize that it must be difficult to be on the
receiving end of criticisms of the work of one of their most high profile graduates. I wish, however, he had found another occasion to express his reservations about West’s work.
I think we should be very careful in our evaluation of the work of someone who is on the front lines and who is doing pioneer work. Virtually every pioneering author and presenter has had severe detractors in his own time. Some of them have been disciplined by the Church and eventually exonerated. I would like to give examples and mention names, but I don’t want to ignite a firestorm of "how can you compare Christopher West to X, Y or Z?"!

I want to add my voice to those who are enthusiastic about the West/Theology of the Body phenomenon. I think it is important to keep in mind, as Akin does, who West’s audience is. It is largely the sexually wounded and confused who have been shaped by our promiscuous and licentious culture. People need to think long and hard about the appropriate pedagogy for that group. Yet, as West himself knows, his approach is not for everyone. An analogy that pushes the envelope may be "offensive" to one person and may be just the hook that draws another person in. West has adopted a style that appeals to a large segment of that population—and even to some who are “pure and innocent.”

It is not hard to find hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who will testify that they have come to love Christ and his Church, and better understand and live the Church’s teaching about sex because of the work of Christopher West. Cohabiters separate, contracepters stop contracepting, and men cease looking at pornography—and that is the short list. Countless young people are now taking up the study of the Theology of the Body because of West’s work. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

Schindler objects to the language used in a list of comments made by West and dismisses them as "vulgar," "in bad taste," and "silly." Was Schindler careful to verify those comments and take into account the context in which they were made? Let me defend two matters mentioned by Schindler, “praying over genitals” and anal sex, that might seem peculiar if not properly understood. I hesitate to draw further attention to these subjects because I do not want to give the impression that West’s work focuses on tangential and sensational issues of sexuality. It does not. West focuses on making John Paul II’s vision of our creation as male and female accessible to the common person in the pew. But people deserve answers to their honest questions, and West is charitable in his willingness to meet people where they are.

A friend of mine who was sexually abused often finds it difficult to engage in the marital embrace (trying not to offend!). A very orthodox Catholic therapist recommended that her husband pray over her reproductive organs (being delicate here). Since he has been doing that, she has experienced some healing, and her enjoyment of the marital embrace has improved considerably. One has to ask why praying over throats is fine while praying over other parts of the body wrong or silly? It would be Manichean to suggest that some parts of the body are good (e.g., the throat) while others (e.g., the reproductive organs) are not.

I never like to talk about anal sex (sorry, I don’t know a good euphemism). As one of my friends has observed about my sensitivities regarding sexual matters, "You would censor Shakespeare!" (I would.) But the fact remains that Catholic couples in today’s world have questions about such issues. Many cannot understand why anal sex could possibly be appealing to anyone (include me and, indeed, West in that group), while others seem to find the act attractive. Certainly there isn’t any “Church teaching” about this action at a magisterial level, but few seem to know that there is a tradition of approval of such behavior as foreplay to intercourse (not to be confused with the biblical condemnation of sodomy which replaces intercourse) by orthodox Catholic ethicists. The principle generally invoked is that consensual actions that culminate in intercourse are morally permissible.

People are free to challenge the "tradition" on this point, but it should be acknowledged that West is not a maverick concerning this issue. Indeed, his position is perhaps more "conservative" than that of the "tradition." In his book Good News About Sex and Marriage, West clearly discourages the practice. Perhaps it is time for ethicists to work on the question, but what Schindler failed to mention is that West’s position is precisely (or even stricter than) what priests have been trained to teach married couples for a very long time.

In the second portion of his article, Schindler provides a list of his objections to West’s theology without citing one text to substantiate his charges. I would be very interested in seeing a more sustained presentation of Schindler’s critique. As it stands, I do not find that his concerns correspond with what I have read in West’s work or heard in his lectures. (I have not found this either, but would be interested in seeing the texts if they exist) I believe a thorough discussion of the issues Schindler raises would enrich our understanding of the Theology of the Body.

But for those whose lives are not spent in the academic world, a world in which minutiae can take on epic proportions, let me note that disagreements of the sort that Schindler has with West are an everyday occurrence in the world of academia. That is, we scholars disagree not only with our archenemies but also with our closest and dearest allies. And not just about small matters; Thomists disagree with other Thomists about serious issues of interpretation of Thomistic texts; Thomists and phenomenologists who both are entirely faithful to the Magisterium can have fierce disputes on all sorts of issues. Prof. William May and I once debated on the best way to defend Humanae Vitae.

My point is this: The fact that the dean of the John Paul II Institute in Washington D.C. has issues with West’s approach should not discourage anyone from reading West’s work or attending his lectures. Schindler has serious disagreements with other reputable, orthodox theologians, including professors on staff at the John Paul II Institute. West’s extensive commentary on the Theology of the Body, Theology of the Body Explained, was reviewed for the imprimatur for the Archdiocese of Boston by Prof. May, a longtime colleague of Schindler at the John Paul II Institute, who gave it a glowing endorsement. (I also reviewed and strongly endorsed it.) Several times in his piece Schindler refers to West’s “intention” to be orthodox which could imply that he has not necessarily achieved orthodoxy. We should be clear that West’s works have been given an imprimatur, an ecclesiastical judgment that a work is completely theologically sound.

Again, I would be very interested in reading a sustained critique of West’s work by Schindler because of his own tremendous knowledge of the Theology of the Body. Yet, until he substantiates them and we have a response from West and his supporters, we will not be able to evaluate the validity of Schindler’s evaluation. West has been giving his presentations for over a decade now; he has shown spectacular docility and humility in reworking them in response to criticisms. (I have seen this myself from West) I suspect that as a result of this recent dust-up West may want to adjust some of his approach (or he may not!), but I also am confident that onlookers will find that many of the criticisms against West are without foundation. Some are erroneous because the critics are not sufficiently acquainted with West’s work. Others are not sufficiently acquainted with John Paul II’s work. Sometimes differences are not about substance but about emphasis or semantics. When dealing with a subject as fraught with distortions and sensitivities as sexuality there are surely going to be differences between people of good will.

Scholars and graduate students will be studying and arguing over the proper interpretation of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body for centuries to come. I think West has already made a very worthy contribution to that discussion. Others are free to differ with him, but I am sure that, in the end, West’s influence will not be found to be a pernicious one. Rather, I expect we will all have an immense debt of gratitude to him.

Obama Picks Ambassador to the Vatican

Obama continues to strengthen his ties with Catholics on the political left with this pick:
Washington D.C., May 28, 2009 / 01:35 am (CNA).- In a surprising move, President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday evening that Miguel H. Diaz, Ph.D., a 45 year old lay Liberation theologian born in Havana (Cuba) is his pick to become the United States Ambassador to the Holy See.

An associate professor of theology at St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, Diaz, a strong Obama supporter and father of four, earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Thomas University in Miami, Fla., and his master’s and doctorate in theology from the University of Notre Dame at Notre Dame, Ind.

He taught previously at Barry University, Miami Shores, Fla.; St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach, Fla.; University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio; and the University of Notre Dame. He also served as the academic dean at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and is fluent in Italian, Spanish and French.

Diaz serves on the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America, is past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, and is a past member of the steering committee of the Karl Rahner Society.

He is also a theological consultant to the Catholic Association of Teachers of Homiletics and was appointed to the task force overseeing the review and revisions of the accrediting standards for the Association of Theological Schools.

Diaz is author of the book "On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives" (Orbis Books, 2001); Co-Editor of "From the Heart of Our People: Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology" (Orbis Books, 1999;) and author of numerous articles and book chapters inspired in the Latino and Black liberation theology, such as the forthcoming “The Life-Giving Reality of God from Black, Latin-American, and U.S. Hispanic Theological Perspectives,” “Otherness in Black Catholic and Latino/a Catholic Theologies and the Otherness of God,” and “Outside the Survival of Community there is no Salvation,” in Building Bridges, Doing Justice: Constructing a Latino/a Ecumenical Theology (Orbis Press, 2009.)

Diaz is currently working on two future books: "Cuban-American Catholics" (Paulist Press) and “Migrating Across Theological Borders: The Essentials of Theology from U.S. Hispanic Theological Perspectives" (Orbis Books.)

His body of work, which includes some controvesial positions on “inclusivity,” has gained him significant praise from the Catholic left, and his nomination was immediately hailed by pro-Obama Catholics such as “Catholics United” and “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good,” as well as from Prof. Douglas Kmiec.

Read more.

Liberation theology can be dangerous. It started in poor countries as a response to totalitarian governments, but went too far. When it reaches radical strains it becomes militant in the response to these governments and advocates violence in order to gain justice. Some other strains become Marxist in their approach to answering the problems of society.

He is an interesting pick, to say the least.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fr. Barron - The Trinity

Fr. Barron is doing great videos. Here are three new ones on the Trinity.





Tip O' The hat to CMR.

Catholic New Media Awards

Aggie Catholics (Mary's Aggies) got nominated for several awards in the Catholic New Media Awards for 2009. Thanks for everyone that nominated us - though I would dispute some of the categories fitting us, we appreciate it.
  • People's Choice Blog
  • Best Blog by a Man (While I do 98% of the posting, we are supposed to be a "group" blog)
  • Best Group Blog
  • Best Written Blog (depends on who is writing)
  • Most Informative Blog
  • Most Entertaining Blog
  • Best Overall Catholic Website (there are better "overall" websites)

Christianity in Europe

PBXVI is very concerned about Christian faith community in Europe, especially the loss of faith in traditionally Christian countries (e.g., Spain, France, Italy, etc.).


Science is Never Wrong



Tip O' the Hat to Mark.
Tip

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage Ban

Good News:
The California Supreme Court upheld today a voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage, a decision being welcomed as respect for voter rights.

The possibility of same-sex marriage in California has been going back-and-forth, particularly in the last year.

Today's decision was welcomed as "the culmination of years of hard work to preserve marriage in California," according to a statement released by Andrew Pugno, general counsel of ProtectMarriage.com.

Pugno said that "hundreds of thousands of volunteers worked diligently to uphold the institution of marriage."

He explained: "Twice, voters have decided that marriage in California should be only between a man and a woman. We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court has acknowledged the right of voters to define marriage in the California Constitution. The voters have decided this issue and their views should be respected."

In 2000, Californians voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman. But last May, the state's high court overturned that vote and approved same-sex marriage. Some 18,000 gay couples were quick to take advantage of the new prerogative.

Then California citizens rallied support to put the issue to vote again in November. With slightly more than a 52% majority, same-sex marriage was again made illegal in California.

That measure was known as Proposition 8 and it added to the California Constitution the following clause: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Bad News:
The court's decision today upholds the ban, but does not "un-marry" the 18,000 gay couples who wed between May and November.

There are now five states in the United States that allow same-sex marriage: Iowa, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

New Priests - Class of 2009

The USCCB has a "class of 2009" page up that gives details about the new priests for 2009 from around the country. Included in this front page are short tidbits on the wide range of priests that features men from different orders and dioceses.

Three priests from the Diocese of Austin are featured, including one of our Aggies, (soon to be) Fr. Will Straten as well as Fr. Jonathan Raia, who was assigned to St. Mary's this past year.

There is also some interesting stats included in the data released, including:
  • Ordinands have been active in parish ministries, with between about half and three-quarters indicating they served as an altar server, lector, and/or Eucharistic minister.
  • About two-thirds of ordinands report having full-time work experience before entering the seminary, most often in education.
God Bless our new priests and those about to be ordained.

Catholics and The Economy

The USCCB has a new website on Catholic Teaching on Economic Life. There is some good stuff on it. It contains documents from the Church, policy issues, ways to get involved, a quiz, and more. There are also 10 principles that are very good:

1. The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.

2. All economic life should be shaped by moral principles. Economic choices and institutions must be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of the human person, support the family and serve the common good.

3. A fundamental moral measure of any economy is how the poor and vulnerable are faring.

4. All people have a right to life and to secure the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe environment, and economic security.

5. All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, to decent working conditions as well as to organize and join unions or other associations.

6. All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide for the needs of their families and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.

7. In economic life, free markets have both clear advantages and limits; government has essential responsibilities and limitations; voluntary groups have irreplaceable roles, but cannot substitute for the proper working of the market and the just policies of the state.

8. Society has a moral obligation, including governmental action where necessary, to assure opportunity, meet basic human needs, and pursue justice in economic life.

9. Workers, owners, managers, stockholders and consumers are moral agents in economic life. By our choices, initiative, creativity and investment, we enhance or diminish economic opportunity, community life and social justice.

10. The global economy has moral dimensions and human consequences. Decisions on investment, trade, aid and development should protect human life and promote human rights, especially for those most in need wherever they might live on this globe.

First Things Has a New Website

Very nice - check it out.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More West Criticism

The Christopher West criticism's continue. This particular article gets specific with the problems that David L. Schindler (Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family) has with West's theology.

I have no big issue with most of his comments, because most of what Schindler writes would be bothersome with me as well. But, I have never heard West emphasize or talk about any of the issues Schindler raises, with one exception - the reference to Mary's breasts.

As for the Nightline segment and Hugh Hefner, I think Schindler doesn't have the full story and makes the same mistake that others have.

I stand by my earlier comments and also urge you to read Jimmy Akin's sober analysis of this whole controversy.

Jimmy's article starts with this:
This post is going to be about the current dustup in the blogosphere regarding Christopher West and the recent ABC News piece on him.

Before I get to the controversial stuff, though, let me say a few words about the task Chris is undertaking.

Christopher West has a difficult job. As a chastity speaker, he's got to juggle several things at once:

1) He's got a very sensitive subject
2) On which different audiences have different sensibilities
3) The audience that most needs his message is very hard to reach
4) Part of the reason why they're so hard to reach is that they have a pre-existing stereotype of Christian sexual morality that they think gives them a license to tune out anything a Christian says on the subject
5) To reach this group you have to effectively batter your way past this anti-Christian prejudice and get them to take you seriously while simultaneously
6) Not offending the sensibilities of those who already take Christian sexual morality seriously
7) Some of whom have rigorist views on the topic

That's a tall order. It is humanly possible to juggle seven things at once (SEE HERE), but it's not easy.

Sometimes the task is especially treacherous, such as when being interviewed by the mainstream media, which is going to try to sensationalize every subject it deals with, but especially the subject of sex.

They'll also selectively edit the stuffing out of an interview with you and leave the audience with carefully chosen, out-of-context quotations.




Memorial Day

God Bless our Troops and their families.
Thank you to all who are serving and have served in the military.
Here is a bit of history of Memorial Day.
Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Local Observances Claim To Be First Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Susan Does It Again

Not as good as the first performance, but very nice.

I just wish they would stop describing her as "frumpy".

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The World in His Hands

IgniterMedia does nice work:



Here is one of their older videos that reminds us what going to church is about:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

V - Trailer

V was a mini-series back in the 80's. They have re-made it and it is coming out soon. The way they put this trailer together has an interesting mix of the wrestling with three virtues faith, hope, and love.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Um K

Sometimes people (and cats) have too much time on their hands. So, in memory of the nest of baby birds that the cat got this morning, I want to remind everyone that cats are made by God to do such things.

They are NOT made to yodel:

Tip o' the Hat to Mark.
Though I am hoping he doesn't want credit.

Pentecost

Pentecost is in nine days. This means that today is the day to start a pentecost novena. You can get info on the Novena at EWTN or at The Weight of Glory, which also has created a calendaring file that you can add to your electronic calendar.

Say a prayer for me while you are at it.

Pope2You Online

Check out the Vatican's new initiative - Pope2You.

Like the Pope says in the video below, "bear witness to your faith through the digital world!"

Friday News

*Catholic hospitals in Boston bid on a big government contract and then some others point out that they might have to refer for abortions. Conflict ensues.

*New leadership for the Russian Orthodox and the Catholic Church helps bring the two together. Pray for unity.

*States that fund abstinence-only sex ed have fewer teen abortions.

*A radical pro-homosexual marriage group is trying to get the Catholic diocese of Maine's tax-exempt status revoked. They will fail to do so, but this won't be the last time something like this happens.

*A hate crimes bill in the US House has protections for 30 different kinds of "sexual orientations". I guess the representatives supporting this bill don't realize that God made only two sexual orientations - male and female. FYI - the origin of the word "sex" comes from the sexual difference between males and females.

*The Archdiocese of St. Louis has issued a statement about the Susan G. Komen Foundation and their support of Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quote of the Week

The following quote of the week came from an employee at Jason's Deli, who responded to a question on an employee chalk board, introducing employees to customers:
My goals are: To get some goals.

Two Items

1 - Carl Olson writes a phenomenal response to Fr. James Martin. The two have been charitably debating the Notre Dame / Obama scandal. I highly recommend it. A snip:
The reason many Catholics are upset is because they believe, rightly, that the talk of dialogue was a smokescreen for what was actually happening: the most famous Catholic school in the U.S. was honoring the most famous abortion rights advocate in the U.S.
and one more:
The logic here is both quite simple and unavoidable: the reason Notre Dame would never honor a racist—even if he was President of the U.S.—is because Notre Dame knows, along with everyone else, that racism is sinful, evil, and contrary to both Catholic teaching and basic morality derived from commonsense and the natural law. So why is abortion different? After all, it is evil. It is sinful. It is contrary to Catholic teaching. It is contrary to basic morality derived from commonsense and the natural law. So why is it different? Because it has been rendered legal by the Supreme Court? Because many people accept it as a legal right? Because it has somehow been magically turned into a private choice and a "woman's right"?
Just go read it all already.

2 - The Jesuit-run Seattle University is hosting a discussion on "reproductive justice". You won't believe it, but as Dawn Eden states -
the "thoughtful conversation" on "reproductive justice" at the Jesuit-run university consists solely of pro-abortion speakers.
Shameful.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Awards Season

A reminder that the Catholic New Media Awards will be taking nominations until May 25th. If you feel so inclined, why don't you make your way over there and nominate your favorite blog, even if it is not the one you are currently reading.

After nominations are compiled, voting to begin on June 1.

Cardinal Arinze on Catholic Higher Education

Cardinal Arinze, the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, gave a speech at St. Thomas More College in N.H., in which he talked about what a Catholic College or University is all about:
He said that a Catholic college that adopts an attitude of "courageous creativity and rigorous fidelity" contributes much to promoting a "healthy synthesis between faith and culture in society," the Cardinal Newman Society reported.

Cardinal Arinze contended that a Catholic institution of higher learning should teach its students "to appreciate that moral rules of right and wrong apply also to science, technology, politics, trade and commerce, and indeed to all human endeavors."

"In the complicated world of today, where all kinds of ideas are struggling for the right of citizenship, a university student needs a clear and viable orientation on the relationship between religion and life," he continued. "The Catholic college or university is ideally positioned to help him see the light and equip himself for a significant contribution in society."

The cardinal recognized that universities need to offer premium intellectual formation, but he affirmed that formation in upright behavior is also a need.

"But what does it profit us if a student is an intellectual giant but a moral baby," he asked, "if he or she can shoot out mathematical or historical facts like a computer but is unfortunately a problem for the parents, corrosive acid among companions in the college, a drug addict and sexual pervert, a disgrace to the school, a waste-pipe in the place of work and 'Case No. 23' for the criminal police? It is clear that intellectual development is not enough."

The former Vatican official acknowledged that defending morality can bring difficult consequences. "A person who holds that certain actions, like direct abortion, are always objectively wrong, is regarded as 'judgmental,' or as imposing his views on others," he said.

But, citing the teachings of Benedict XVI, the cardinal added: "The exercise of freedom in pursuit of the truth is very much a part of integral education. If a Catholic college or university does not help in this way, should we not say that it has failed in one of its important roles?"

"If a Catholic college or university answers to its vocation in the ways outlined above, then it will be educating, forming and releasing into society model citizens who will be a credit to their families, their college, the Church and the state," the cardinal stated. "It will prepare for us members of Congress or the Senate who will not say 'I am a Catholic, but ...' but rather those who will say 'I am a Catholic, and therefore ...'"

Pope on Facebook Soon

From Rocco:
In keeping with tradition following the Second Vatican Council, this weekend's Seventh Sunday of Easter likewise sees the global church's 43rd World Communications Day.

This time around -- in keeping with its 2009 theme of "New Technologies, New Relationships" -- the Holy See will roll out Pope2You, a Web2.0 platform (Facebook and iPhone application) intended to get a better penetration for B16's message, both unfiltered and with video.

All that said, however, the pontiff himself took time to make a special "appeal" to the church at the close of today's General Audience... giving it not in Italian, but English:
This coming Sunday, the Church celebrates World Communications Day. In my message this year, I am inviting all those who make use of the new technologies of communication, especially the young, to utilize them in a positive way and to realize the great potential of these means to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity that can contribute to a better world.

The new technologies have brought about fundamental shifts in the ways in which news and information are disseminated and in how people communicate and relate to each other. I wish to encourage all those who access cyberspace to be careful to maintain and promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish.

Young people in particular, I appeal to you: bear witness to your faith through the digital world! Employ these new technologies to make the Gospel known, so that the Good News of God’s infinite love for all people, will resound in new ways across our increasingly technological world!
A project of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the networking initiative was designed by Fr Paolo Padrini -- the Italian priest behind iBreviary, the popular iPhone/iPod touch app containing the whole of the Liturgy of the Hours and daily Mass readings in five languages (Latin included) and, for the Milanese, the Ambrosian rite.
Nothing on the Pope2you website yet, but this could be very good if done in the right way.

May

Mary's Month.

Tip o' the hat to Amy.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

then you can have your baby baptized by the Georgian Orthodox Patriarch - read more here:
Two years after having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, Georgia is enjoying something of a baby boom, following an intervention from the country's most senior cleric.

At the end of 2007, in a move to reverse the Caucasian country's dwindling birth figures, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, came up with an incentive. He promised to personally baptise any baby born to parents of more than two children.

There was only one catch: the baby had to be born after the initiative was launched.
The results are, in the words of the Georgian Orthodox Church, "a miracle".

The country's birth rate increased by nearly 20% during 2008 - a rate four times faster than the previous year.

Many parents say they took the decision to have another child on the basis of the Patriarch's incentive.
Tip o' the hat to Mark.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dogma vs Doctrine

Q - What is the difference between a dogma and a doctrine? Are some optional? How am I to respond to the different kinds of Church teaching? I am confused.

A - Thanks for the question. Let us define our terms.

Doctrine = (from Jaroslav Pelikan) "what the Church believes, teaches, and confesses on the authority of the Word of God"
We need to break this definition down.
Believes means the ways in which the Church worships, lives, and prays.
Teaches means the explicit, day-to-day teachings of the Church.
Confesses means the solemn confession of faith including creeds and dogmas.

Dogma = Truths officially proposed by the Church as being part of or necessarily connected to Revelation in a binding, definitive way. They are infallible and are tied to the deposit of faith.
So, all dogmas are a sub-set of doctrine and in this way of defining doctrine, dogmas would fall under what the Church "confesses".

Another difference between the two is the level of authority the Church uses. When a dogma is formally confessed, the Church uses all of her authority.

Because there are different levels of authority that the Church uses, there are different responses that we are obligated to have.

To know what level of authority a doctrinal statement of the Church has, we must understand how the Church teaches. So, we must look for:
1 - Kind of document and manner of the wording used in the teaching. For instance, are they setting forth a dogma formally or rather an instruction or discipline that is less formal.
2 - Frequency of repetition is a clue. Has the teaching consistently be taught through the ages, in different documents or proclamations?
3 - The object of teaching is a clear clue. Is the teaching on faith or morals? Is it about a discipline? Is it about culture? etc.

Based on these different kinds of teachings we are called to have different responses. Here are the basics:

1 - INFALLIBLE DOGMA - We must hold all these truths with "divine and Catholic faith" (CIC 750) and if we hold "obstinate denial or obstinate doubt" (CIC 750) on these matters, then we commit heresy. In other words, we must hold these teachings as true.
Examples include Christ is both true God and true man (Nicea) and that Mary is assumed into heaven body and soul (Pope Pius XII).

2 - DEFINITIVE STATEMENT - These are matters that are closely connected to revealed truth. These must be "firmly accepted and held...when the magesterium proposes 'in a definitive way' truths concerning faith and morals, which even if not divinely revealed are nevertheless strictly and intimately connected with revelation." (Dupuis - "The Christian Faith" 181).
Examples include canonization of Saints and the canon of Scripture.

3 - ORDINARY TEACHING ON FAITH AND MORALS - these must have "religious submission of intellect and will" (CCC 892). They cannot be dispensed with just because they are not taught with more authority. This cannot just be an external conformity.
Examples include statements on when a human is considered "dead" and most of the teaching in Vatican II.

4 - ORDINARY TEACHINGS ON DISCIPLINE - Requires external conformity. In other words, even if we have an internal difficulty, we still need to follow the rules.
Examples include rules about fasting, married priests in the Latin rite and how Bishops are elected.

I hope this helps clear up some of the ambiguity, though I might have just thrown another wrench into the works.

Missing Link

In an amazing discovery of a new fossil, scientists say they have found the "missing link" of evolution.

What one should not conclude from a find like this is that the fossil makes Darwin's theory of evolution complete in all of it's variants. This is because Darwin's theory, as a scientific theory, is one thing. But, Darwin's theory as a philosophical model of human origins is another. What do I mean by this?

Science cannot prove that man has an eternal soul, nor can it disprove it.
Science cannot prove that man's origins came from the hand of a providential God, nor can it disprove it.

Science can only answer certain question about nature, not spirit. The limitations of science should not be broadened to include eternity, spirit, and philosophy - all because a monkey lemur fossil is found. An amazing find like this should not be made a pawn in a game of "I told you so" by atheists who want so badly to be right.

Chaput on Notre Dame

I think Archbishop Chaput is one of the clearest thinkers in the American Episcopacy today. Example #1 (emphasis added):

Archbishop Chaput on Notre Dame and the issues that remain

"I have found that even among those who did not go to Notre Dame, even among those who do not share the Catholic faith, there is a special expectation, a special hope, for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world."

~ Reverend John Jenkins, C.S.C., May 17, 2009

Most graduation speeches are a mix of piety and optimism designed to ease students smoothly into real life. The best have humor. Some genuinely inspire. But only a rare few manage to be pious, optimistic, evasive, sad and damaging all at the same time. Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, is a man of substantial intellect and ability. This makes his introductory comments to President Obama’s Notre Dame commencement speech on May 17 all the more embarrassing.

Let’s remember that the debate over President Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame was never about whether he is a good or bad man. The president is clearly a sincere and able man. By his own words, religion has had a major influence in his life. We owe him the respect Scripture calls us to show all public officials. We have a duty to pray for his wisdom and for the success of his service to the common good -- insofar as it is guided by right moral reasoning.

We also have the duty to oppose him when he’s wrong on foundational issues like abortion, embryonic stem cell research and similar matters. And we also have the duty to avoid prostituting our Catholic identity by appeals to phony dialogue that mask an abdication of our moral witness. Notre Dame did not merely invite the president to speak at its commencement. It also conferred an unnecessary and unearned honorary law degree on a man committed to upholding one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history: Roe v. Wade.

In doing so, Notre Dame ignored the U.S. bishops’ guidance in their 2004 statement, Catholics in Political Life. It ignored the concerns of Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Notre Dame’s 2009 Laetare Medal honoree – who, unlike the president, certainly did deserve her award, but finally declined it in frustration with the university’s action. It ignored appeals from the university’s local bishop, the president of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference, more than 70 other bishops, many thousands of Notre Dame alumni and hundreds of thousands of other American Catholics. Even here in Colorado, I’ve heard from too many to count.

There was no excuse – none, except intellectual vanity – for the university to persist in its course. And Father Jenkins compounded a bad original decision with evasive and disingenuous explanations to subsequently justify it.

These are hard words, but they’re deserved precisely because of Father Jenkins’ own remarks on May 17: Until now, American Catholics have indeed had “a special expectation, a special hope for what Notre Dame can accomplish in the world.” For many faithful Catholics – and not just a “small but vocal group” described with such inexcusable disdain and ignorance in journals like Time magazine -- that changed Sunday.

The May 17 events do have some fitting irony, though. Almost exactly 25 years ago, Notre Dame provided the forum for Gov. Mario Cuomo to outline the “Catholic” case for “pro-choice” public service. At the time, Cuomo’s speech was hailed in the media as a masterpiece of American Catholic legal and moral reasoning. In retrospect, it’s clearly adroit. It’s also, just as clearly, an illogical and intellectually shabby exercise in the manufacture of excuses. Father Jenkins’ explanations, and President Obama’s honorary degree, are a fitting national bookend to a quarter century of softening Catholic witness in Catholic higher education. Together, they’ve given the next generation of Catholic leadership all the excuses they need to baptize their personal conveniences and ignore what it really demands to be “Catholic” in the public square.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George has suggested that Notre Dame “didn’t understand” what it means to be Catholic before these events began. He's correct, and Notre Dame is hardly alone in its institutional confusion. That's the heart of the matter. Notre Dame’s leadership has done a real disservice to the Church, and now seeks to ride out the criticism by treating it as an expression of fringe anger. But the damage remains, and Notre Dame’s critics are right. The most vital thing faithful Catholics can do now is to insist – by their words, actions and financial support – that institutions claiming to be “Catholic” actually live the faith with courage and consistency. If that happens, Notre Dame’s failure may yet do some unintended good.

I have no further comment.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jesus Cheeto

This is just cheesy.
Preston Hollow resident Sara Bell recently stopped by this newspaper’s office with a unique discovery: a Cheeto that she thinks looks like Jesus.

Bell came across the strange snack a few weeks ago while she and her husband, Dan, were driving home from Houston. He bought her a bag of Cheetos in Jersey Village, she said, and everything was normal until she was about a third of the way through it.

“Then Jesus appeared,” Bell said with a laugh.

Until she decides what to do with the Cheeto, Bell is keeping it safe, wrapped in tissue inside a box that once held a wristwatch. Pic - © Preston Hollow News

Here is what her friends advised her to do.

Some friends have told Bell to put her Cheeto on eBay. Others told her to try to get it on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.
eBay sounds like a good idea, but if someone wanted me to be on Ellen, they wouldn't be my friend anymore.

Anyhoo, it doesn't look like Jesus, it looks like St. Joseph.

Be on the lookout for others if you live in Houston:
Apparently, Bell isn’t the only person to eat Cheetos slowly enough for a divine experience. In the past 15 months, there have been media reports about similar finds by a Missouri woman and a Houston man.
Here is the Houston story - his Cheesus looks like he is still in Mary's womb, but with a mullet.
Jesus keeps appearing in food. Some of my other favorites:
-Jesus Tortilla
-Jesus Pancake

Notre Dame Commencement Commentaries

Carl Olson, at Insight Scoop, has a post with every link you could desire in regards to Obama and Notre Dame, but if he misses any, the Opinionated Catholic has it.

There is no lack of opinions on this matter, so here are a few I think are excellent:
-As is usually the case, Amy Welborn has good commentary here.

-Russ Shaw has three lessons we should learn from this flap.

-George Weigel hits another one out of the park with his comments.

Obama and Notre Dame Wrap-Up

President Obama gave his commencement speech to the class of 09 at Notre Dame yesterday. He certainly didn't avoid the abortion issue, but took a pro-choice centrist position. What I mean by this is that he decided to say that he supports the "right to choose" to abort a baby, but that we can all be nice about it and we should all try to reduce the number of abortions, because it is a hard decision to make.

The immediate question I had (and others as well) is why? Why does someone who doesn't think this is a baby or who thinks it is a baby, but doesn't have rights, want to reduce the number of abortions? Why? I don't understand.

The next thought I had was that he believes he is on the winning side of the debate and wants everyone to "get along" so that abortion doesn't become a divisive issue for voters. If we all are playing nice, then the issue becomes a back burner one and other issues that Catholics can agree with him on can come to the front burner.

This quote caught my attention that at least the president is being intellectually honest:
"the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable"
This is absolutely true. Either we have a human life worthy of life or we do not. But, then he said this which sounded as if he wants to reconcile the camps somewhat:
"Those against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life."
The problem is that ALL life is sacred, not just those who have been born. I just don't get it. There really were no suprises with President Obama's speech. Even the pro-Obama Catholics didn't think his speech made much of a splash.

What was suprising was the arrogance of Fr. Jenkins, the Notre Dame president.

Fr. Jenkins decided that anyone, including every US Bishops who commented on the scandal, did not want to have a "dialogue" with the President about difficult and divisive issues, because of their resistance to giving the President an honor. This is just a straw man argument and it is just like many other straw men arguments surrounding the abortion debate and the Catholic Church.

It is not that there can't be dialogue, civility, hospitality or the like. But, when the Catholic face of higher education in the USA, Notre Dame, decides to honor a president who supports the worst evil in our culture today, there is a big problem. It is the same problem that has infected so many of our parishes, dioceses, and our wider Church - it is a disconnect between what we say we believe and how we live. When a Catholic priest ignores the Bishops of the Church on a fundamental tenet of the faith, we have this lived out.

Yes, we can work with those we disagree with on issues we do agree with them on.
Yes, we can have a dialogue about very serious issues where we disagree.
But, we ought not honor someone with whom we differ with on a fundamental human rights issue that undergirds all others - the right to life.
Read Archbishop Burke's recent address to the National Prayer Breakfast on just that - living out our faith.

I will give the final word to Archbishop Chaput who said the following during a speech about Catholics and culture. Read several times and absorb this:
Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies.

We need to stop over-counting our numbers, our influence, our institutions and our resources, because they’re not real. We can’t talk about following St. Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and get honest about what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves and to God by claiming to ‘personally oppose’ some homicidal evil -- but then allowing it to be legal at the same time.
Amen.
Pray for Notre Dame and our leaders.

Nice Videos

New Moment New Ideas Company TV commercial for the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, Ministry of Education and Science. Social campaign (series of commercials) aimed at promoting education.

Headline of commercial: Religion is knowledge, too. Bringing religion back to school. Headline of campaign: Knowledge is power.



Tip o' the hat to CMR

Then this one:

and this one:

Check out all of his videos.
Tip of the hat to AmP.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Angels and Demons - Fr. Barron

Spoilers in the video - but since I won't see it anyway, I really didn't care.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Celibacy Debate

CNN has a Pro / Con debate about celibacy in the priesthood.
Fr. Donald Cozzens argues against it, with what I consider a weak argument, the gist of which is:

The church even holds that marriage (including spousal lovemaking) is a sacrament -- something sacred that contributes to the sanctity of husbands and wives. In light of this official teaching, it is dawning on many Catholics that mandatory celibacy for priests, a canonically imposed discipline of the church, is precisely that -- a discipline.

They are asking, "How is it that a discipline of the church has been allowed to trump a sacrament of the church?" In effect, the church is saying that should God call a man to the priesthood, God will not, at the same time, call that individual to the sacrament of marriage. It's right to ask, how does the church know this?

Public opinion surveys indicate that most Catholics, priests included, believe the discipline of celibacy needs a serious review. Recently the retired archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, observed that obligatory celibacy is open for discussion. It is not, Egan noted, a matter of dogma.

First of all, truth is not determined by public opinion or a vote (thank goodness). Second, just because the history of the Church (and don't forget the present - with Eastern Catholics) allows for married priests, means that it is a good idea for it to be part of the universal Church. Third, because sex is "good" does not mean it has to happen all the time for everyone. In fact, the sacrifice of giving it up is made greater because it is something worthy of sacrifice.

Fr. Robert Barron argues for celibacy:

Even as we reverence everything that God has made, we must let go of everything that God has made, precisely for the sake of God.

This is why, as G.K. Chesterton noted, there is a tension to Christian life. In accord with its affirmation of the world, the Church loves color, pageantry, music and rich decoration (as in the liturgy and papal ceremonials), even as, in accord with its detachment from the world, it loves the poverty of St. Francis and the simplicity of Mother Teresa.

The same tension governs its attitude toward sex and family. Again, in Chesterton's language, the Church is "fiercely for having children" (through marriage) even as it remains "fiercely against having them" (in religious celibacy).

Everything in this world -- including sex and intimate friendship -- is good, but impermanently so; all finite reality is beautiful, but its beauty, if I can put it in explicitly Catholic terms, is sacramental, not ultimate.

In the biblical narratives, when God wanted to make a certain truth vividly known to his people, he would, from time to time, choose a prophet and command him to act out that truth, to embody it concretely.

For example, he told Hosea to marry the unfaithful Gomer in order to sacramentalize God's fidelity to wavering Israel. Thus, the truth of the non-ultimacy of sex, family and worldly relationship can and should be proclaimed through words, but it will be believed only when people can see it.

This is why, the Church is convinced, God chooses certain people to be celibate. Their mission is to witness to a transcendent form of love, the way that we will love in heaven. In God's realm, we will experience a communion (bodily as well as spiritual) compared to which even the most intense forms of communion here below pale into insignificance, and celibates make this truth viscerally real for us now. Though one can present practical reasons for it, I believe that celibacy only finally makes sense in this eschatological context.

I think Fr. Barron easily wins, but with one caveat. He forgot his audience and his argument will be lost on many who read it, because there are few sound bites.

UPDATE: for more on the question of celibacy, see these related posts:
Celibacy, Vocations, and the Priesthood
Why Wasn't Christ Married?
Why Wasn't Christ Married - Part Deux

Swine Flu Restrictions Lifted

From the Diocese of Austin:
May 11, 2009

To: Clergy, Religious and Laity of the Diocese of Austin

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

After appropriate consultation, I am pleased to inform you that effective this weekend Holy Communion can be offered under both species, that is the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and the Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic chalice.

People who are sick or are not feeling well can abstain from drinking from the cup in a spirit of charity to others. Likewise, when we are ill the obligation to celebrate Mass with the community on Sunday is not mandatory.

I am very appreciative of the people who have been patient and understanding during this time of caution regarding the swine flu virus.

Please join me in continued prayer for those who have been affected by the virus and for those whose lives have been taken by the virus.

The Sign of Peace should be given as usual. For those who are ill or do not believe that it is safe for them to exchange the Sign of Peace, a verbal greeting is acceptable and people who make such decisions should be respected.

May we continue to grow in a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Each time we celebrate Eucharist we continue to fulfill that command of Jesus, “Do this in memory of me.” In communion we receive the Body and Blood of Christ and we become his body going forth from our celebration to bring him and his message to the world. May we continue to be a Eucharistic people.

Wishing you God’s blessings in this Easter season and with the assurance of my prayers, I am
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond
Bishop of Austin

Pope Going Back to Rome

The Pope has ended his visit to the Holy Land. His last stop was a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site venerated as the place of Christ's crucifixion and where Jesus was buried.
In a speech afterward, he told those gathered in the church not to lose hope - a central theme during a visit in which he addressed the Holocaust, Israeli-Palestinian politics and the shrinking number of Christians in the region.

"The Gospel reassures us that God can make all things new, that history need not be repeated, that memories can be healed, that the bitter fruits of recrimination and hostility can be overcome, and that a future of justice, peace, prosperity and cooperation can arise for every man and woman, for the whole human family, and in a special way for the people who dwell in this land so dear to the heart of the Savior," he said.

With those "words of encouragement," he said, "I conclude my pilgrimage to the holy places of our redemption and rebirth in Christ."

More Americans Pro-Life Than Pro-Choice

Gallup has a very interesting poll out:

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion and 42% "pro-choice." This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

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The new results, obtained from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs survey, represent a significant shift from a year ago, when 50% were pro-choice and 44% pro-life. Prior to now, the highest percentage identifying as pro-life was 46%, in both August 2001 and May 2002.

The May 2009 survey documents comparable changes in public views about the legality of abortion. In answer to a question providing three options for the extent to which abortion should be legal, about as many Americans now say the procedure should be illegal in all circumstances (23%) as say it should be legal under any circumstances (22%). This contrasts with the last four years, when Gallup found a strong tilt of public attitudes in favor of unrestricted abortion.

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Gallup also found public preferences for the extreme views on abortion about even -- as they are today -- in 2005 and 2002, as well as during much of the first decade of polling on this question from 1975 to 1985. Still, the dominant position on this question remains the middle option, as it has continuously since 1975: 53% currently say abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances.

When the views of this middle group are probed further -- asking these respondents whether they believe abortion should be legal in most or only a few circumstances -- Gallup finds the following breakdown in opinion.

Americans' recent shift toward the pro-life position is confirmed in two other surveys. The same three abortion questions asked on the Gallup Values and Beliefs survey were included in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 12-13, with nearly identical results, including a 50% to 43% pro-life versus pro-choice split on the self-identification question.

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Additionally, a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center recorded an eight percentage-point decline since last August in those saying abortion should be legal in all or most cases, from 54% to 46%. The percentage saying abortion should be legal in only a few or no cases increased from 41% to 44% over the same period. As a result, support for the two broad positions is now about even, sharply different from most polling on this question since 1995, when the majority has typically favored legality.

Links

Two links worth looking at. Both from Amy.

1 - The Monday Project. A pro-life initiative in response to Notre Dame and Obama.

2 - The Catholic summer reading program from Aquinas and More Books.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pope in Bethlehem

40,000 joined the Pope for Mass in Bethlehem. This is a huge number considering that most Christians have left the Holy Land.

Welcome NRO Readers

To all the National Review readers who have stumbled onto our humble blog about the Christopher West controversy and want to know more about the largest campus ministry in the country - click here.

Christopher West Controversy

Several bloggers, writers and other Catholics have written critical commentaries on Christopher West's Nightline segment - and this is understandable because his message was cut short and ABC certainly sensationalized it. (here are a few links for commentary, warnings, and discussions on the issue - Fr. Angelo Geiger, Mark Shea, AmP, Ignatius Insight, Jimmy Akin). But, after Alice von Hildebrand made her comments, the issue has exploded. I would like to add some thoughts to the discussion below.

My take on the issue is somewhat nuanced, so it will take me some time to spell it out.

1 - After first watching the Nightline segment, I gave it an A-. I think that grade has fallen to a C- for me now. Why the change? Because I was watching through my own interpretive lens. I know how West finishes his arguments and thoughts, so I was finishing themn for him in the interview, though he didn't get a chance to do so. But, when I look at the interview more critically, I can see how the average Catholic, or non-Catholic, who has little to no knowledge of the Theology of the Body (TOB) can misinterpret the issues raised.

I have had several emails asking about West from students who have seen him live and studied his books. They don't have enough knowledge to finish his statements from the interview and thus they are confused and a few are asking if he is trustworthy. My answer is yes. I don't doubt that Christopher had every good intention, though he could have been more prudent. I am sure that his thought process saw a grand opportunity to spread the message he is passionate about quickly. But, he wasn't prudent in examining how the message would be handled once it got into the editting room. This is his biggest mistake - and one we should all remember is forgivable.

2 - I think a point is being missed in this conversation, it is that our culture has no prudence AT ALL about issues regarding human sexuality. When we are trying to help those caught in the culture which is over-sexualized (which is a majority of Catholics), sinful, pornified, and fallen, we need to make the counter-argument, which contains the truth about sexuality, relevant and applicable as well as faithful. For the most part, West is doing this.

He is by no means perfect, but I have had the opportunity to get to know him some. He is open to correction and has changed his presentations based on good honest feedback. This shows that he is humble enough to accept a criticism made out of charity. But, he is pointing out facts we need to be discussing, not blushing about and then just sweeping under the rug. The fact is that about 80-90% of young men and teenage boys are using porn (including faithful Catholics).

Our Church has swept sexual issues under the rug and (for the most part) responded by teaching a "just say no" approach. This hasn't worked. The evidence is legion - priest scandals, cohabitation, sexual addictions, broken marriages, Catholics using contraception, etc. JPII knew it hadn't worked and based his teaching (which I have studied, written on, and speak about) on practical experience - phenonenonlogy. I don't think West is perfect in his content yet (and neither am I or anyone else), but he at least has many people exploring, thinking about, and questioning the lies that the culture has sold to us all. He is also trying, as best he can, to do this in an approachable manner that is relevant to the person far from Christ and in the midst of this culture's approach.

For that, he should be commended, not thrown under the bus. You shall know a tree by it's fruit - and he has helped harvest much fruit.

3 - The fact is that the TOB was JPII's greatest catechetical work. We are still just on the tip of the iceberg in finding the depths to which it will lead us.

The TOB is an exploration of the Incarnation, humanity, the Trinity, and love. These are the basic truths of Christianity and it is all wrapped into language that can help modern man find God. Nothing bad in that at all. But, we also need good interpretive models to help get the message out. JPII is not easy to read - in fact, many good theologians struggle with some of his writings. West is helping get the message out.

Yet, my biggest criticism's of West lie in the fact that his approach is not broad enough for my tastes, but this is a mild criticism. When he teaches TOB, his focus is on the spousal union. But, I think a better approach is base it on our sexuality - but not so much the sexual act as important as it is - but rather sexuality as the differences and complimentarity between male and female.

I don't think West has the greatest analogies, methodology or interpretations every time...but he is more effective than most others teaching TOB right now and for that he should be praised.

The focus of TOB (or catechetics) should not only be about sexuality either. TOB is centered on the truth of the Incarnation and that our bodies reveal the Trinity and therefore the truth about human nature. This is especially true within our sexuality - being made male and female and this is an important part of what our culture needs, but not everything our culture needs.

4 - there needs to be a careful nuance and prudence when teaching on sensitive matters such as this. But, nuance and prudence should not give way to fear. What I mean is that if we fear our sexuality too much (which many in our culture do) then we will never find any part of the true freedom that JPII (and of course Christ) has taught we are all called to - though the fullness of freedom will never be found in this life.

5 - Don't stop critically analyzing West or any other speaker, author, or public Catholic figure. But, make sure it is true analysis of the issues and not ad hominem attacks. Also, let West's own words factor in here. I have already posted video of a talk which gives a little more context to what he was trying to say. Also, he has posted clarifications on his website about the interview and these should be heavily considered.

My thoughts are my own but I hope they help any students or others that are trying to wrap their minds around this issue.

John Paul II pray for us all!
Here is the Nightline piece that has caused all the controversy.

Angels, Demons, and Humans

**Mark Shea has written an answer to "Angels and Demons". If you want to read it - click here.

**I heard about this a while back, but didn't post it then because I thought it was just a rumor. Now, there is more substance to it. The man who attempted to assasinate John Paul II, Mehmet Ali Agca, now says he wants to be a Christian. Some have their doubts - but I will quote Mark on this one - "I figure Christ will take 'em anyway he can get 'em. It's not my job to adjudicate whether a conversion is "real" or not." - agreed.

**George Weigel has a good article about the politics involved with the Notre Dame scandal. He asks - "Which Church does Notre Dame belong to?"

**Notre Dame alums have withheld over $14 million. While that is small change in their annual budget, even Notre Dame can't lose that and be happy about it.

**Great story about how a mother sacrifices her chances for recovery from cancer for her unborn baby.