Thursday, May 27, 2004

Emory Law Professor questions "Same-Sex Marriages"

My friend, Adam Draper, asks: "Is this Witte's reiteration of "Stop, children. What's that sound? Everybody look what's goin' down . . ."? John Witte, Jr., who is Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and Director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion at Emory University, offers this editorial opinion on the hot topic of "same sex marriage." Obviously, much more needs to be said, but Witte's historical cautions are welcome.

Democrats in Congress assail denial of Holy Communion

Church Being Used for Partisan Purposes, They Tell Cardinal McCarrick. This from ZENIT:
WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 20, 2004 ( Forty-eight Catholic Democrats in Congress sent a letter to Cardinal Theodore McCarrick saying the indications by some bishops to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians were "deeply hurtful" and counterproductive.

The letter is the first organized response by Democratic legislators since a number of Catholic bishops declared that they would withhold Communion from politicians who favor "abortion rights," the New York Times reported today.

The letter's signers, including at least three House members with strong pro-life voting records, said the bishops are "allowing the Church to be used for partisan purposes.
Isn't it amusing that these politicians accuse the BISHOPS of "allowing the Church to be used for partisan purposes," when the likes of Senator John Kerry has been pawning himself off in Catholic constituencies as the "only Catholic presidential candidate"!
They also question why these bishops made abortion a litmus test while ignoring politicians who voted counter to the Church by endorsing the death penalty and the war in Iraq.
Another red herring. Who makes the abortion issue a "litmus test" at every turn if not the Democrats? Isn't THAT the litmust test that was applied to Robert Bork, Clarance Thomas, and nearly every other conservative nominee for the Supreme Court in the Senate nomination hearings? Ye gads, what hypocrisy!
Cardinal McCarrick is the chairman of a bishops' task force asked to devise recommendations for U.S. prelates on relations with Catholic politicians.

Recently, Coadjutor Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, Florida, asked that those in public office who support abortion to refrain from receiving Communion.
And now note the choice words of the Orlando bishop . . .
"Today, some self-identified Catholic politicians prefer to emulate Pontius Pilate's 'personally opposed but unwilling to impose' stance," he wrote in a statement.

"Perhaps, they are baiting the Church, daring an 'official sanction' making them 'bad Catholics,' so as to gain favor among up their secularist, 'blue state' constituencies," the coadjutor bishop added. "Such a sanction might turn their lack of coherent Catholic convictions into a badge of courage for people who hold such convictions in contempt."
And note this humdinger:
Bishop Wenski went on to say, "You cannot have your 'waffle' and your 'wafer,' too.
Wow! Now there's a memorable zinger!
Those pro-abortion politicians who insist on calling themselves Catholics without seeing the contradiction between what they say they believe and their anti-life stance have to do a lot more of 'practicing' [holiness]. They need to get it right before they approach the Eucharistic table."

Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Oregon, also recently asked those in public office who support abortion to refrain from receiving Communion.

That prompted a prominent donor in the Colorado Springs Diocese to threaten to revoke a $100,000 pledge to his parish's building project and to enlist others to take similar steps, the Denver Post reported Wednesday.

In a scathing "open letter," businessman Ric Kethcart contended that Bishop Sheridan's stance hearkens back to McCarthyism.

Peter Howard, Bishop Sheridan's executive assistant, said the diocese is willing to sacrifice dollars to stake a moral claim, the Post reported. Already, some Catholics in the 10-county diocese who support Bishop Sheridan's leadership have increased their giving, Howard said.

News you won't hear on the networks

May 22, from Fallujah (The Green Side). In related news, see the post entitled "Marine sees what defeatists don't" posted by Christopher on May 20, 2004.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Vatican support for traditional Latin Mass promoted

From the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club discussion group comes a notice about a site advocating the establishment of a Traditional Apostolic Administration for the purpose of regularizing the status of the Traditional Rite in the Church. The author of the post notes that Cardinal Ratzinger is very much involved in this matter as a member of the Pontificial Commission in charge of "Ecclesia Dei." In the Apostolic Letter, Ecclesia Dei (July 2, 1988), the Holy Father called for the "wide and generous application" of the indult (traditional Latin) Mass. Supporters are asked to sign on to a petition requesting Pope John Paul II to erect Personal Apostolic Administrations for the Traditional Rite online at this link. Related links include:

Site devoted to promoting beatification of Pope Pius XII

A contributor to the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club discussion group sent the following link to a site devoted to promoting the beatification of Pople Pius XII. He writes:
I have been told by Sister Margherita Marchione, that the propositio has been completed, and will soon be presented. This is the next to last step in granting beatification to Pope Pius XII.
Sr. Margherita Marchione is a leading scholar on the life of Pope Pius XII, this Italian-American nun has led the fight to defend Pius against charges that he did little on behalf of Jews during World War II.

Christopher Blosser has one of the most informative links I've seen the controversies centering on Pope Pius XII: the page is entitled Pius XII, the Catholic Church and the Holocaust.

Yawn . . . Poll confirms liberals dominate media

May 23, 2004 -- New York. Editor & Publisher staffers announced Monday that a new Pew Research Center survey confirms the widespread assumption that liberals dominate media:
At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.
The survey of 547 media professionals, which was completed this spring, is reportedly part of an important study released today by The Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Committee of Concerned Journalists, which mainly concerns more general issues related to newsrooms (an E&P summary will appear Monday).

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Geneva Convention and morality of wartime executions

Christopher relates the following:
Interesting how pictures can deceive -- you never know the full story:

Remember this picture? The general was executing somebody who they had caught killing a policeman and his family.

Interesting discussion on the morality of executions in wartime by Eric Johnson, a veteran of Iraq, at Catholic Light (not Catholic 'Lite')!
Thanks Christopher!

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Thomas Howard's classic back in print!

Peter Kreeft's favorite book by Tom Howard, and mine, Chance or the Dance? is back in print (thanks to Ignatius Press)! In my opinion, there exists no other book, which so accessibly presents the sacramental view of life that is the substance of the medieval and Catholic worldview. For a general sampling, click here; for a selection on sexual topics, like promiscuity, homosexuality, and autoeroticism, click here, here, and here, respectively.

Pope celebrates 84th birthday

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II (search) marked his 84th birthday Tuesday with publication of his new book, Get Up, Let Us Go, which "mixes memories from his native Poland, a touch of self-criticism and a defense of priestly celibacy" (Fox News, May 17, 2004). According to one reviewer, the book contains a few candid revelations--that he has never felt "lonely" despite a life of celibacy but also that he questions whether he perhaps has not been strict enough. The book is likely to be a best seller. His 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, has sold more than 20 million copies. His royalties will go to charity. (The Age, Entertainment/Books)

Transsexuals cleared to compete in Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Transsexuals were cleared Monday to compete in the Olympics (search) for the first time. Yes, you heard correctly (Fox News, May 17, 2004).

The myth that the medievals believed in a flat earth

In his Crowhill Weblog (5/17/2004), Greg Krehbiel references an interesting article on "The myth of the flat earth," which was apparently presented originally as a paper at a conference of the American Scientific Affiliation at Westmont College on August 4, 1997, by Jeffrey Burton Russell, Professor of History, Emeritus, of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

It turns out that the myth of widespread medieval belief in a "flat earth" was propagated by two contemporaries, a Frenchman and an American (though no connection has otherwise been established between them). the Frenchman is the antireligious Antoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), and the American is the storyteller, Washington Irving (1783-1859). Both of their fictionalized accounts of history have misled many modern scholars and continue to mislead contemporaries.

I grew up believing the Washington Irving myth-- in Irving's fictionalized account of Columbus as the "simple mariner," appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate. But then I came across the following passage in my study of the thirteenth-century theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas' SUMMA THEOLOGIAE (in the opening article of the very first question, reply to objection #2):
Sciences are differentiated according to the various means through which knowledge is obtained. For the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion--that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics(i.e., abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself. (emphasis added)
Ever since, I have found myself increasingly skeptical of contemporary assumptions about the past. In fact, I have thought about compiling a list of "modern myths" that continue to be widely held in our own times. These might include the pervasive acceptance, still, of (1) Darwinian macro-evolution, (2) belief in global warming, (3) moral relativism, etc.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Sarin, Mustard Gas Discovered Separately in Iraq

May 17, Fox News.

Snot from the nose of the Great Buddha

"I'm not making this up," says Jimmy Akin, who posted this notice from Fox News. It seems a A gooey candy is being sold in Japan that would seem guaranteed to offend almost everyone. The packaging reads--yes, it's true--"Snot From the Nose of the Great Buddha" -- and the accompanying illustration shows a stylized Buddha with his finger up his nose, reports London's Daily Telegraph. Nevertheless, tourists visiting the giant Buddha statue in the town of Nara in western Japan are gobbling it up. For anyone who enjoys this kind of humor, I (being of rather perverse humor myself) can can be of some service: permit me to direct you to the funniest Japlish humor site in the universe: Browse the site for a few minutes, and I guarantee you will land on your ass in hysterical convulsions.

Decisive victory behind the scenes in Iraq

On Wednesday, May 12, Amy Reidenour's National Center Blog posted an email from Army Spc. Joe Roche on the front in Iraq: "I ask that the American people be brave."

Massachusetts begins marriage mockery

May 17, 2004 (Doug Patton). As President Bush's ratings fell 42 percept over the continued media feeding frenzy over the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal, Drudge reports "Karry daughter shows cannes" (Druge Report), and Gay couples began exchanging marriage vows in Massachussetts on Monday.

Judie Brown & American Life League under fire

When silence gives consent, it's time to shout! (Thanks to Earl for his heads-up.)

Ave Maria University's disastrous chapel design

Ave Maria University's proposed design for its new chapel, projected to be the largest Catholic church in the United States, looks to be a disastrous repetition of the appalling Bauhaus architectural styles that have become nearly normative since the 1970s. Already back in March, Michael Rose urged the university to "return to the drawing boad but quick!" ( Rose included in his discussion examples of much preferable examples of successful building projects that incorporate the best from both tradition and modern architechtural technology. In the latest issue Adoremus Bulletin, Editor Joseph Fessio features a number of articles addressing the issue of contemorary Catholic church architecture, and Michael Rose is author of a feature article offering a substantial critique of the Ave Maria proposal (click here). Michael Rose writes:
Decidedly abstract and modernist in its architectural vocabulary, the proposed design markedly breaks with the historical continuity of two millennia of Catholic church architecture. Yet far from being a new "break", the huge chapel's retro style of the 1960s is but another example of the persistent disregard for history that has characterized most church architecture of the past half-century: in other words, outdated "novelty".
A massive loss of public enthusiasm and financial support for the university over the current chapel design is a definite (and understandable) possibility.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Church to remove Moor-slayer saint

My friend John Bell loves drama. He loves the drama of history and the bravado of heroism. So when he heard about the story of Santiago de Matamoros ("St. James the Moor Slayer") who came to the rescue of Spanish Christians beseiged by the Moors in the battle of Clavijo in AD 844, his heart was duly warmed. He read up on Santiago, St. James the Apostle, who, according to Spanish legend, preached the Gospel in Spain, returned to Judea where he was put to death by order of Herod, upon which his body was miraculously translated (transported) to Compostela, Spain, where it is buried. When he heard about the month-long pilgrimage, in which pilgrims walk by foot from the French border at the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain's north west coast, he immediately wanted to sign up. He read about the famous battle with the Moors in which, at the last hour before certain defeat, St. James appeared on a white charger and came sweeping through the Moorish ranks, weilding a sword with which he cut the heads off Moors left and right, saving the day. As things turned out, John and I had the opportunity to travel to Spain, but not for a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, for which we didn't have time. Instead we visited Andalucian region of Spain, where we saw the remains of the Moorish architecture such as Alhambra in Grenada, as well as Sevillia, Cadiz, and the beautiful small coastal town of Rota where my son was stationed in the Navy.

But now it seems that the Cathedral authorities in the pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela are caving in to public pressures. BBC announced (May 3, 2004):
A statue in a Spanish cathedral showing St James slicing the heads off Moorish invaders is to be removed to avoid causing offence to Muslims.
Of course, one can understand the authorities' concerns. The Baroque image of a sword-wielding St. James cutting the heads off Moors is not a very sensitive or evangelical image that many would find fitting to the teachings of Christ. That, at least, is the prevailing sentiment behind the public pressure. But there are doubtless many who would willingly point out the widespread ignorance underlying that public sentiment--ignorance of Spanish history, of the Islamic conquest of the Iberian peninsula, of the treatment of Catholic subjects under Muslim law, of the slaughter of thousands of Catholics during the Spanish Civil War, etc.

Admittedly, there are "kinder, gentler" devotions stemming also from the time of the war between the Catholics and Moors in Spanish history. One of these is the devotion to El Santo Nino de Atocha (The Holy Child of Atocha). The devotion to El Santo Nino de Atocha probably originated with Our Lady of Atocha, in Madrid, Spain, who is mentioned in the "Cantigas" of King Alphonse the Wise in the 13th century. During medieval times, when the Moors held large areas and battles between the Christians and Moors were commonplace, the Moors invaded the town of Atocha. Following a certain battle, the victorious Moors held a great many Christians captive, and prevented the adult villagers from visiting as well as bringing the prisoners food or water. Fearing for the lives of the prisoners, their families stormed heaven with prayers for relief. One day, a child appeared, dressed as a pilgrim of that period, carrying a basket of food and a gourd of water. The Moors allowed the child to bring food and water each day. The prisoners were fed, but the basket and gourd remained full. The child was not known to the Christians nor to the Moors, so the people concluded that the child Jesus, disguised as a pilgrim, had come to their rescue.

Such devotions are dying out, not only because public sentiment is growing against their politically "insensitive" aspects, but because the younger generations of Catholics are increasingly oblivious to their significance. Prevailing sentiment among Western Catholics does not bode well for the preservation of these sorts of devotions, because they are increasingly dismissed as worthless legends or superstitious and prejudiced ancestors. Yet loss of these devotions would be a loss, not merely of more fodder for anti-Muslim prejudices, as many may feel, but the loss of a living legacy of faith by which generations of Catholics kept hope alive through their darkest hour.
The world is changed. I feel it in the earth. I feel it in the water. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, no longer is. For none now live who remember it.

Gas prices top $3.05 in Bridgeport, California

Bishop: Democrats need not apply

DENVER (May 14, 2004) -- Catholics who vote for politicians in favor of abortion rights, stem-cell research, euthanasia or gay marriage may not receive Communion until they recant and repent in the confessional, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Colorado Springs, Bishop Michael Sheridan, said. (Fox News)

Vatican Warns Catholics Against Marrying Muslims

May 14, 2004 (Reuters).

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Bishops with or without spines: nota bene!

With considerable delight, we take notice of a new blog, appropriately entitled: "EPISCOPAL SPINE ALERT!" No less amusingly, the author adds the note: "Charting the evolution and evidence of backbones among comtemporary Catholic clergy."

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Why global warming is a modern urban myth

You won't believe this until you read it. (Duncan Maxwell Anderson's article in Crisis, Feb. 2004)

Billy Sunday on feminized, sissified Christianity

In the early 20th century, the popular evangelist Billy Sunday prayed:
Lord, save us from off-handed, flabby-cheeked, brittle-boned, weak-kneed, thin-skinned, pliable, plastic, spinelss, effeminate sissified . . . Christianity.
See Thomas Hibbs' review of Stephen Prothero's American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon in CRISIS magazine, April, 2004 ("America's Buddy Christ")

Video shows US civilian beheaded in Iraq

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 (Source: BBC)

'The worst thing about dying is ... '

FALLUJAH, Iraq, May 11, 2004 (CNN). Karl Penhaul was the pool reporter for U.S. networks covering the fighting in Fallujah when he filed this report.

Light on the Rumsfeld nonsense

Whenever a person becomes the object of a media feeding-frenzy, look beneath the surface. More is going on. David Frum's Diary.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Study shows nation divided along religious lines

In an incisive and timely analysis entitled "The Politics of Partisan Neutrality" published in First Things, Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio, two political scientists at Baruch College of the City University of New York, explore the "God gulf" in current partisan politics. The results of their analysis (using the Lexis-Nexis database) of how the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post wrote about the culture wars between 1990 and 2000 show overwhelmingly not only that the public media have ignored the significance of the religious issue but that they have concealed the extent to which an ideology of anti-religious secularism has itself become a significant player on the political stage.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Newman society exposes unfaithful "Catholic" colleges

MANASSAS, VA (April 28, 2004) - Cardinal Newman Society has issued a shocking new report on scandals at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities that is certain to reignite concerns about the colleges' religious character.

The 56-page report, "The Culture of Death on Catholic Campuses: A Five-Year Review," documents inroads made by advocates of abortion, contraception, premarital sexual activity, and physician-assisted suicide onto Catholic college campuses since 1999. It is the most extensive evidence of problems in Catholic higher education ever compiled in a single source-and yet it only scratches the surface, relying primarily on media reports and college websites.

The report is available at the website of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization intent on restoring fidelity to the campuses of historically Catholic colleges and universities. (Thanks to Oswald Sobrino of Catholic Analysis.)

Top 10 Arab conspiracy theories (no joke)

The number one winner:
After the bombing in Yunbu, Saudi Arabia, on May 1, Crown Prince Abdullah stated: "Zionism is behind terrorist actions in the kingdom. I can say that I am 95 percent sure of that."
For the Full Monty, click here.

The Da Vinci Code comes under heavy fire

from two broadside critiques--two by Amy Welborn and one by Steve Kellmeyer:
  • Amy Welborn, The Da Vinci Code: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Bestselling Novel
  • Amy Welborn, De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of the Da Vinci Code
  • Steve Kellmeyer, Fact and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code
The problem is that so few people who read the original novel will read these critiques, and will be left to rest comfortably in their sloughs of ignorance. For a deal on on three books, check out this site.

ABC's response to Ted Neugent no hoax

On April 5, 1999, Ted Neugent wrote to ABC to protest their portrayal of homosexual issues on their program called "The Practice." What he objected to was, in his words, that ABC "picked the 'dufus' of the office" to cast in the role of the one who had problems with his mother being a lesbian, making him look like a "whiner" and thus presumably casting aspersion on anyone with anti-homosexual convictions.

The next day (April 6th), the ABC Online Webmaster replied:
How about getting your nose out of the Bible (which is ONLY a book of stories compiled by MANY different writers hundreds of years ago) and read the Declaration of Independence (what our nation is built on) where it says "All Men are Created Equal"-and try treating them that way for a change!?

Or better yet, try thinking for yourself and stop using an archaic book of stories as your crutch for your existence.
Subsequenly, Neugent's correspondence was forwarded to countless others until it acquired the reputation of some sort of hoax. However, it was no hoax. On April 12, 1999, Jim Neugent, a member of Dallas Avenue Baptist Church in Mena, Arkansas, received an apology from ABC for the e-mail remarks by an ABC employee. According to Neugent, the employee has been terminated. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published these e-mails on Monday April 26 and an editoral about them on April 27, 1999. Jim Neugent has since been interviewed by American Family Radio, a radio station in Pensacola, Florida, and Dr. James Dobson Organization. Jim Neugent can be contacted by e-mail at (Source)

NJ community renames itself after a rum drink

No kidding, Mojito, New Jersey, is one happy community!

Saddam's WMD Have Been Found

In an investigative report posted April 26, 2004 in Insight on the News, Kenneth R. Timmerman writes:
In virtually every case - chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles - the United States has found the weapons and the programs that the Iraqi dictator successfully concealed for 12 years from U.N. weapons inspectors.

The Iraq Survey Group (ISG), whose intelligence analysts are managed by Charles Duelfer, a former State Department official and deputy chief of the U.N.-led arms-inspection teams, has found "hundreds of cases of activities that were prohibited" under U.N. Security Council resolutions, a senior administration official [told] Insight.
Both Duelfer and his predecessor, David Kay, who reported to Congress that the evidence they had found on the ground in Iraq showed Saddam's violation of UN Security Council resolutions, declared that Iraq had
a clandestine network of laboratories and safe houses with equipment that was suitable to continuing its prohibited chemical- and biological-weapons [BW] programs.
Read more:

Advice on mixed marriages (continued)

Sara continues:
If the Church forbids mixed-marriages, why did my parents support three of my siblings' mixed-marriages that took place with the approval of the Catholic Church?
The answer, of course, is complicated by the fact that there is a great deal that seems confusing today about the Church's position on such matters, largely because priests and bishops have not always been willing to clearly state that position. Hence, my answer:
First of all, I'm not sure your parents had much choice but to support your siblings' mixed marriages. In many cases, devout parents may initially try to discourage their children from marrying non-Catholics. But this is often difficult. Frequently, by the time parents learn about their children's romantic involvement with non-Catholics, the emotional enmeshment has progressed so far that it's very difficult, if not impossible, for them to be objective about the matter.

Why, then, did the Church allow a priest to be present at your siblings' weddings, in some cases, even to participate, even to have the wedding in a Catholic church? Doesn't this imply "approval"?

Not at all. Rather, Mother Church finds herself in much the same sort of situation that Catholic parents typically do. Once it becomes clear than there is no stopping their son or daughter from marrying a non-Catholics individual, they usually relent in their opposition and "come around" to a position of "support." It's not that they "approve" of marrying outside the Catholic Faith. Rather, it's that they love their children and don't want to "lose" them emotionally. They don't want their children to think that opposition to their marriage meant personal rejection of them. Furthermore, usually the parents console themselves with the thought that "at least they're both Christians," or "at least we can pray that someday the Lord will bring them to share in the Catholic Faith." But they often are aware that this may be wishful thinking, that the other spouse may never convert, that their grandchildren may be raised in a home with divided religious commitments, that their son or daughter may abandon the Catholic Faith for the sake of unity in the marriage, and even he or she perseveres as a Catholic, it may be a long and lonely road of practicing the Faith in a solitary way without any support from spouse or friends.

Secondly, the fact that the Church "tolerates" mixed marriages, just like many Catholic parents have, does not mean that she approves of them in any shape or form.
Here is a quotation summarizing traditional Church teaching on the matter:
By tolerating or permitting mixed marriages the Church does not approve them; on the contrary she strongly disapproves of them and she insists so forcibly on the children being brought up in Catholic faith, because this is the main object of matrimony. It has already been shown that the chief end of marriage is to train up children in the knowledge and fear of God; the aim of the Christian parent should rather be to leave behind him inheritors of the kingdom of heaven than heirs of his earthly possessions. Consequently it is the first duty of a Catholic, who has wedded one who does hold the faith, to insure his child's salvation in as far as he can. How deeply is that parent to be commiserated who destroys the soul of her offspring, by allowing the poison of error to be instilled its mind! "When the first glamour of an ill-regulated affection fades away, and conscience again makes its voice heard, the path of wedded life is beset with thorns. The birth of the first child, which ought to be an occasion of glad rejoicing, is a source of anxiety to the mother for she fears that it will be taught to regard the true faith with hostility. How her conscience reproaches her! And each successive child, which ought to be welcomed as a blessing from the hand of God is a fresh accuser, calling to mind her treachery.

The Catholic party is also bound to bring the non-Catholic to the knowledge of the truth, not by coercion or persuasion, for proselytising only adds to number of nominal Catholics, not of the loyal children of the Church, and is abhorrent to the Catholic Church, who only desires the erring to be brought to her fold of their own free will, and through full conviction. Let them be won by prayer and good example: “Let the unbelieving husbands be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Pet. iii. 1). If the Catholic wife is seen to be modest, yielding, patient, faithful, etc., the non-Catholic husband will be led to reflect, and consider whether he may not judge of the tree by its fruits. At any rate he will gradually divest himself of all his former prejudices against our holy religion. He must not be pressed with arguments and instructions, but rather every word should be carefully avoided that might wound his susceptibilities. For those who are outside the Church are not to blame because they have not had the privilege of being born and brought up in the true faith.

Furthermore the Catholic party must fearlessly observe his or her religious duties; the other will respect such observance. A man who is not devoid of good feeling will have no wish to oppose the pious practices of his wife; he will know himself to be a gainer, not a loser by them. Some times Protestants assert that they agree with Catholics on the fundamental truths of religion, and only differ in non-essentials; this is utterly false. What the Catholic holds most sacred, the Protestant despises; witness the holy sacrifice of the Mass, which Protestants regard as an act of idolatrous worship. In the face of differences so deep-rooted all idea of unity is a mockery. (Source)
If a Catholic marries someone who is not even Christian, the difficulties are compounded. If a Catholic marries, say, a Muslim or an agnostic, a priest is not permitted to be present at the wedding. Why? Think about it: if the non-Catholic spouse were to secure a divorce, the Church would not require the Catholic to secure an annulment in order to marry another Catholic. Why? Because the earlier relationship is not recognized as a sacramental marriage by the Church. In the eyes of the Church, they weren't married.

Why then, does the Church "dispense" Catholic parties so that they can contact such marriages and yet remain in good standing and in communion within the Catholic Church? Again, I would say it's similar to the case of parents whose children marry outside the Christian Faith. It wasn't their wish that they did so. In fact, it went against everything they would have advised. But now that they've done so, they are going to be as supportive as they possibly can. They love their children regardless of their choices. Furthermore, it is true that God can work miraculously to bring about unexpectedly felicitous results from whatever choices we make.

Back to your case of your non-Catholic but "good Christian" boyfriend. It is sometimes said by some Catholics that God, if He so desires, could communicate all the graces available to Catholics through the Sacraments (in principle) to non-Catholics apart from the Sacraments. Certainly the fruit of the Holy Spirit's influence can be seen in the lives of many good Protestant Christians. There's not even anything stopping God from bringing salvation to a morally upright and truth-seeking atheist if He so willed. But I would stress that it would be playing Russian Roulette with your soul to bank on that possibility. First of all, God has clearly revealed the means by which He intends us to avail ourselves of His grace through His Church and her Sacraments. These are the ordinary and regular means of grace He has made available to us. Secondly, to consciously turn our backs on these means of grace that He has made them available in our lives is basically, as I see it, to give God the finger.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Adviced on mixed-marriages

"Mixed marriages," in Catholic parlance, typically refers to marriages between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians. Recently a young Catholic career woman wrote to me about a young Christian she's been seriously dating. She was very excited about this fellow and went to some lengths to assure me that, even if he wasn't a Catholic, he was in any case a very good Christian. This, after all, she wanted to stress, is all that really matters. Of course, this puts a committed Catholic in a tight place, because the position of the Church on the matter is very simple, even though very many these days would like to sweep it under the rug or at least keep it from seeming very clear.

The young lady, let's call her Sara, wrote:
This guy is head over heals in love with Jesus and it shows not only in how he talks about Jesus like He is his best friend, but how humble he is and how lovingly he treats other people. Those have always been more important to me than whether a person believes that the Catholic Church is It.
How to reply? I wrote:
Please understand that I want to be supportive. I'm thinking, though, that "support"--in the sense of people affirming whatever you want to do--is something you likely have an ample supply of these days (though tell me if I'm wrong). What I'm assuming you may need is someone uninvolved with you who can play the role of a constructive skeptic. Understand that nothing I say is meant in anyway to reflect negatively on your friend, since I have never met him and don't know him. It's meant only to help, for whatever it's worth, with your own reflection on your impending decisions.

Religion is easy to manipulate. It's especially easy, if you know the ropes, to pass yourself off as a deeply spiritual person in conservative evangelical (Baptist, Presbyterian) circles. All you've got to know is the "language." It's also easy to perceive what we want to perceive in people, and to accommodate ourselves to what we want them to want from us. Of all people, I'm sure you know what I mean.

The first stage is the "I love pizza, you love pizza stage." He says I love pizza." You say: "Oh, really? Why, that's amazing! I love pizza too!" and you both express your amazement at how well your tastes coincide, suggesting miraculous compatability.

On an only-slightly-subtler level, however, if a guy really likes a young hottie like you, it's the easiest thing in the world for him even uncounsciously to censor certain aspects of his vocabulary and self and set forward other aspects. The "Master's of Suspicion" teach us to look for a subtext: Freud(it's really only about sex), Nietzsche (it's really only about power), Marx (it's really only about money), etc. In this instance, this guy's being "head over heels in love with Jesus" might be the manifest meaning of a subtext which reads: he's "head over heels in love with young hottie." It's easy acting like a model Christian and exhibiting the behavior of a perfectly caring and com-passionate gentleman if it will help impress a young lady. "Jesus? He's my BUDDY!" becomes a smoke signal for Austin Powers: "Do I make you horny, baby!? Do I make you R-A-N-D-Y!!?"

A subjective perception of a guy's "love of Jesus" is something much less reliable than the Catholic Faith. The latter gives you a defined understanding of who God is, what "Jesus" stands for, so that you can truly know Him. On the other hand, subjective impressions of "what Jesus means to me" are a dime-a-dozen and about as reliable as jr. high romantic commitments. I once met a young man from India who accompanied me on a one-mile walk back to a hotel after a lecture in Switzerland. En route, he started telling me how much he loved Jesus. As we continued, he told me that Jesus had been so good to him that he had brought this girl into his life. In fact, she was waiting at the hotel for him, where they would have glorious sex together that night. Uh, sure. You can be sure that that relationship was headed for a glorious future. Even if it could have made it as far as the matrimonial altar (a snowball's chance in hell), you could bet your life it would end before long in the divorce courts.
But let us listen to what else Sara had to say:
He behaves in ways far more humble and loving than many Catholics I know who do believe in all of the teaching and doctrines of the Catholic Church. He cares more about being a loving witness or example for Christ than whether or not he is following the correct religion. I agree, a "both/and" would be nice, but he has the right priorities and I don't expect him to be perfect. I'm pretty sure that God is okay with someone loving Him and all His people but not believing that purgatory exists. I am confident of the fact that my hormones are not the ones making my decisions in this case because I would not even find the man physically attractive if it wasn't for me asking God for it...he is physically not my type and I thought he was unattractive when I first met him.
How to reply? I wrote:
I agree with you that evangelical Protestants often put to shame Catholics by their godly lives, their knowledge of Scripture, etc. A Lutheran pastor friend of mine often likes to point out Protestants that are "more Catholic" than most Catholics either of us know. But this misses a crucial, simple point: this doesn't make any of them a Catholic. The temptation is construe this as only a minor matter-- a question of which church you hang your hat in on Sunday mornings, to think of it as just a minor matter of "formal membership" that is just an "organized religion thing" and that what REALLY counts is what's in your heart. But this view of the matter is very Protestant, secular, and wrong. It misses the interior meaning of what it means to be Catholic. The most biblically illiterate, unloveable Catholic still has something that no Protestant has: he or she is literally incorporated into the Body of Christ as He intended them to be.

I know that in today's Protestantized ethos, these may seem little more than empty words. But they're not. Catholicism doesn't teach that we're saved by believing in Christ (even demons do that), imitating Christ (since He did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves: die for our sins), or being externally "covered" with Christ's righteousnes (the way a pile of dung, according to Luther, is covered by clean white snow: that would still leave us pretty smelly on the inside)! Rather, the Church teaches that we're saved by being incorporated in to Christ through incorporation into His Body (=Church). The Eucharist is how we become "partakers in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4); and no Protestant church has the real Body and Blood of Christ.

All of this is as hard for the secularized modern mind to see as it is for society today to see that sex belongs only in marriage, that "same-sex marriage" is an oxymoron, or that contraception is stupid. It is all so "counter-intuitive," people will think. And this is because people today have lost their ability to see the spiritual "inscape" of things, the internal meaning of things. If they saw Jesus today, they would see only a mortal man. If they examined the Bible today, they would see only a flawed, human book. If they examined the Church today, they would see only an imperfect human organization. Thus, they would miss the divinity of Christ, the divine revelation in Scripture, and the divine life of the Church which has the Holy Spirit as her soul.
Sara continues:
I really appreciate that you care about me and my happiness. I am not trying to avoid all suffering at all costs (which we know is impossible). I am aware of other people's fears based on their own personal experiences or the experiences of watching those they love suffer. I don't have any of those fears and do not plan on developing any...I'll just trust in God...especially because I know that both this man and myself are trying to do His Will.
I reply:
Your digressive strategies are showing: only that would have led you to try to pin the locus of the difficulty on "other people's fears based on their own personal experiences" here! Ha! Of course it's true that I've been divorced, like half the populations these days. But my personal experiences have little to do with the objective realities we're talking about here. The objections to mixed-marriages aren't something that can be psychologized away. If I was standing in the parking lot across the busy five-lane road from St. Aloysius Catholic Church, and I told you that was going to walk across the five lanes of traffic in order to go to Mass, and, furthermore, that I wasn't going to look either way to see if any traffic was coming, just because of other people's fears based on their personal experiences, but that I would simply close my eyes and step out across those five lanes of traffic and trust in God . . . what would you say to me? You ought to slap me silly and tell me I'm out of my mind!

What are the objective facts here?
  1. The Church forbids mixed-marriages (with non-Catholics).
  2. The Church tolerates (but does not approve) mixed marriages for grave reasons where both parties promise to raise the children Catholic, etc., and a special dispensation is granted.
  3. Catholics who contracts a mixed marriage before a Protestant minister contract no marriage at all, commits a mortal sin and in principle should not be admitted to the Sacraments. Catholics who act thus are declared to be guilty of mortal sin, because they sin through disobedience, by refusing to conform to the precepts of the Church; they give great scandal, and deny the Faith; they turn their back upon the sacraments of the true Church and receive the rites of a Protestant sect. (Source.)
Don't let anyone tell you that the Church has "changed it's position on these matters. It hasn't, even though you'll find few people willing to tell you the hard truths. Here's Pope John Paul II's own declaration on the matter: (Matrimonia Mixta)

While all of this may seem negative at the moment, hopefully you will at least understand that these strictures surrounding marriage, just like the Church's prohibition of so-called "same-sex marriages," are intended for the protection and wellbeing and ultimate happiness of her children.

Three last things: first, these are "ecumenical" times, in which we like to stress what we have in common with other Christians, which is a good thing. But the danger is that we can easily lose sight of what we don't have in common and what is at stake in turning our backs on the Catholic Faith. Call to witness the hundreds of Catholics who went to their cruel deaths in England, hung, drawn-and-quartered, disemboweled, crushed with heavy weights (like Margaret Clitherow). All of these embraced death before they would accept a state-imposed religion (Anglicanism) that is very much more like traditional
Catholicism than any other Protestant religion today. Why did they do this? Why DIE rather than be Protestant? They could have saved their lives, their homes, kept their families intact, only by agreeing to go to a non-Catholic Christian Church! Why? Because they saw and understood something that we today are in danger of losing altogether: our understanding of our Faith.

Second, if you accept a difference of religion into your marriage, you don't accept a minor difference in preferences, like a difference in culinary tastes or even preferences for political parties (which is a great deal more significant). Rather, you are accepting a difference at the very heart of your marriage, in the area of those things that you trust and treasure most. At precisely that point you are saying: I am willing that in the most inimate part of our married life, there should be something alien and unreconciled between us.

Third, God "leads" us in different senses. Even though Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, God used this later to bring blessing to his brothers when they were starving and came down to Egypt to find food. God thus works all things together for good, or, if you prefer, "writes straight with crooked lines." Still, although we can see in retrospect that God used this evil act of betrayal on the part of Joseph's brothers to bring good out of it, we cannot say that those brothers were "led by God" to commit that act of betrayal. In doing that, they were not following the Lord's leading. Rather, they were spurning it. Hence, if we believe the Catholic Church has the authority of Christ behind it, it would be hard to ignore her teachings and simultaneously claim to be following Christ's will for us.

Now you're REALLY no longer going to want to have anything to do with me!!!

Have you read Sheldon Vanauken's love story, A SEVERE MERCY?

Heterosexuals=joyless? Theists=dull?

In the latest issue of New Oxford Review, editor Dale Vree reflects on a new linguistic trend, following the earlier shift in semantic meaning of "gay" from "joyful" to "homosexual." It seems that atheists have now begun describing themselves as "bright." Connotatively, then, if homosexuals are "gay" and atheists are "bright," it would seem that heterosexuals must be "joyless" and theists must be "dull." Uh, right. Sure.

I've often wondered what it would be like to introduce myself to my philosophy classes each semester with a little speech like this:
Hello, I am your instructor and there are a few things you should know about me. Like some of you, I have a disability. Only, unlike those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder and other such disabilities that can be treated medically, my own disability is untreatable. You see, I have this cognitive defect that prevents me from perceiving reality quite accurately. It isn't usually a problem, but once in a while you may notice that I seem incapable of accepting certain things about the real world that most intellectually sound, healthy 21st century people have no trouble with. Like the scientific fact that the world is just this physical universe, for instance, and no more--that there is no hidden metaphysical meaning "behind" things, let alone any unseen world of angels and demons, with God in heaven and hell below us, and so on. Yes, I know: this is the 21st century, and this must be quite hard for you to fathom! Any well-adjusted, intelligent person today knows that there is no such thing as life after death. But for some reason, my mind just prevents me from recognizing that. It's as if my mind is infected with some sort of virus that invades my psyche with all sorts of ancient superstitions and medieval associations of things like extra-marital recreational sex, abortion, homosexuality with sin and guilt. It's an awful burden to live with, really. I would like nothing more than for some new medical discovery to announce a cure for my condition. Then I wouldn't go around so glum and dull-minded all the time, and I could be bright and healthy like all of you. In the meantime, however, I trust you will be patient with my disability and my occasional lapses that betray my flawed condition.
Of course, if Alvin Plantinga is right in Warrant and Proper Function (Oxford University Press), then the shoe is on the other foot. Then the fact that some of us find ourselves believing in God under the right empirical conditions is no sign of malfunction but of the proper functioning of cognitive faculties as God designed them to operate. One might ask, then, whether it isn't the atheist who suffers the defect, whether it isn't the theist who is "bright"; and whether it isn't also the homosexual who, after all, isn't sufficiently "gay."

Italian priest goes on strike over absent flock


Musical talent

Though the muse seems to have by-passed me, a great deal of musical talent runs in the family, it seems. My sister Rachel's family is simply amazing. Now each of her daughters is a member of vocal groups that have come out with impressive CDs-- one, Katie Derstine's group, Shekinah, with a glorious traditional sound; the other, Liz Derstine's Nova Child, with a contemporary rock sound and audio samples here.

Kerry "Unfit to Be Commander in Chief"

Hundreds of former commanders and military colleagues of presumptive Democrat nominee John Kerry are set to declare in a signed letter that he is "unfit to be commander in chief." They will do so at a press conference Tuesday (May 4th) in Washington. (Source.)

When political correctness endangers national security

An April 26 headline on the front page of the New York Times reads: "MILITANTS IN EUROPE OPENLY CALL/ FOR JIHAD AND THE RULE OF ISLAM." The lengthy dispatch speaks of young Arab militants, beginning with one representative group in Luton, England. Some of its members are quoted: "They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street." They go on, like other Muslim militants quoted in the story, to "swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law.... They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the 'Magnificent 19.'" These are not playboys of the kind who merely talk about terrorism. One of the Muslim clerics quoted in the story is accused of having coached Richard Reid, the Brit who boarded a trans-Atlantic flight carrying explosives in one of his shoes. One knot of Muslim extremists, last March, was intercepted with 1,200 pounds of ammonium nitrate. Five of these Pakistani-Britons have been charged with trying to build a terrorist bomb. When organizations such as ACLU, anti-profiling laws, and liberal public sentiment--all motivated by misguided goodwil--protect such groups as these, they fail to protect the very people who defend their freedoms. (Source.)

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Japan to Spain: let those with no balls pull out of Iraq

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reiterated Wednesday that the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will not withdraw from Iraq after several nations (including Spain, who has 1,300 troops in Iraw) have announced pullout. Japan has more than 500 troops posted in Iraq's southern city of Samawah to provide reconstruction assistance. (Source.)

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far"

Delicious Teddy Roosevelt quotes.

  • "I have a perfect horror of words that are not backed up by deeds." (Oyster Bay, NY, July 7, 1915)
  • "There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility." (Abilene, KS, May 2, 1903)
  • "Alone of human beings the good and wise mother stands on a plane of equal honor with the bravest soldier; for she has gladly gone down to the brink of the chasm of darkness to bring back the children in whose hands rests the future of the years. " (The Great Adventure, 1918)
  • "No man can lead a public career really worth leading, no man can act with rugged independence in serious crises, nor strike at great abuses, nor afford to make powerful and unscrupulous foes, if he is himself vulnerable in his private character." (An Autobiography, 1913)
  • "I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well." (Des Moines, Iowa, November 4, 1910)
  • "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." ("Citizenship in a Republic," Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)

Thousands rally for traditional marriage in . . . San Francisco

Thousands of Christians from more than 180 churches in the Bay area came together last Sunday to rally in support of traditional marriage. In this widely recognized bastion of gay and lesbian activism, where traditional Christians are often seen as a marginalized minority, the spectacle was extraordinary. Chinese, Korean, African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Filipino and Vietnamese people from the San Francisco Bay Area lined the streets and held signs that read, "Honk for Traditional Marriage," sending a strong message to the California Legislature and Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) that a large percentage of California residents still consider marriage the union of one man and one woman. According to Pastor Kwong, the event organizer, the rally boosted morale and emboldened traditional Christians to take a stand for their beliefs. (Christian Family Coalition)

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . ."

One of the principal challenges facing us in the Church today is the problem of ignorance and confusion. It is no longer a matter of large numbers of rank-and-file Catholics (lapsed or "practicing") rejecting Church teachings or "dissenting" from them; many of them have not the vaguest knowledge of what those teachings are. And, ironically, the more widespread the ignorance about Catholic teaching, the greater the prejudice against the Catholic Church. The fact that "the truth is out there" somewhere, in encyclicals and historical documents of the Church seems of little avail when one is staring priests and catechists in the face who don't believe in hell or purgatory, and who deny the importance of sacramental confession, observance of holy days of obligation, rubrics of Mass, or importance of knowing the Bible. It may be that writers such as David Palm are wrong about this or that detail in their interpretation this patristic or that encyclical. But my interest is with what animates their concern in the Church today, which I do not think can be easily dismissed as a matter of misreading this Church Father or that encyclical. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . ." (Hosea 4:6)