Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gregarious and Orthodox?? No Way!

I was just looking at some news coverage of the appointment of Archbishop Dolan to NYC in USA Today and PBS. Most folks, as might be expected, are happy to have him because by all accounts he is a pleasant, "gregarious" guy. However, there are some critics (surprise!) despite that. One commenter says:

Now the Vatican wants to play the “can’t we all get along” PR spin. I do not believe for one second there is an about face with the current ulta-conservative leadership in the vatican.

I just laughed out loud. It's hard for people to imagine a nice guy who is also orthodox? These types only know how to respond in their own frame of reference--it must be deception. Talk about stereotyping. It's like we jolly orthodox types don't fit in the little box of the mean person who just tells them what they can't do.

The truth is that Dolan is a more accurate representation of the Gospel lived. You live and speak the truth--you will be a happy person. Pope Benedict is another great example of that, despite how his opponents try to paint him.

You want hate, fear, and anger? For that, you'll have to look to the other side of the debates. Have you seen the news in California since Prop 8 passed (example)? Have you seen how folks have been attacking Pope Benedict lately? Read the words--the loathing, the half-truths, the fear, and most of all, the anger. It's on display for the world to see.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Petition to Encourage our Bishops

Today, Fr. Z pointed us to this post by canon lawyer, Edward Peters, examining a petition to withhold communion from those who publicly and actively "promote policies and legislation that undermines, opposes and contradicts the Church on these serious moral issues" because they cause a grave scandal (leading others to believe that such things are acceptable actions and positions).

I signed. It's not because I'm mean-spirited and want to hurt these people. Pelosi is a good example of the kind of person the petition has in mind. She publicly misrepresented Catholic doctrine on national TV last year on Meet the Press; she firmly supports the Democratic party's bulwark of pro-abortion politics and legislation; she's been exhorted not only by her own archbishop but also by the Pope himself, and yet she so far has shown no indication she will change. And why should she, if there are no consequences and she can keep claiming to be an "ardent Catholic"?

By allowing her and other public Catholics like her to continue to receive communion, it sends a message to all Catholics that it doesn't matter what the Church teaches--you can ignore it without consequence. That is bad because it endangers people's souls--leads them into a potential state of sin and false sense of sinlessness. In short, it makes them sick without notable symptoms until it is, potentially, too late. Serious. Bad. Stuff.

Some on Fr. Z's blog have suggested the petition is bad because it may seem that we are trying to "instruct" our pastors. I don't see it that way at all. I see the petition as a way to help en-courage our bishops. I signed for the same reason I sent Archbishop Chaput and others who stood up in the public square last year a note of appreciation and letting them know they’re in my prayers. The Archbishop actually replied and said thanks. I was surprised and touched. Heck, I was surprised he published his email. I wish my pastors did that...

Our bishops need to know that we would back them up for taking a stand that would doubtless cause some bad press/feelings.

Another way to look at is why wouldn’t a bishop do this? Probably because he's concerned about negative backlash. If he knows there are more supporters, it might help to allay such concerns. I hope enough people sign to provide that kind of reassurance to our pastors.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Things are Afoot

I have a newfound respect for Bishop Fellay, the leader of the SSPX. In reading parts of a recent interview, I was impressed by his tone as well as the content. I look forward to see what comes of the dialog between the SSPX and the Holy See. I thought these closing remarks were particularly poignant and worth quoting:

Bp. Fellay: If we look at the way these excommunications were surprisingly lifted; if we especially look at the undeniable link between this fact of the decree remitting the excommunications and the unbelievable turmoil aroused just after and based upon an incident that had nothing to do with the Faith, we cannot but see that there are forces let loose there which are not human.

I have heard from several cardinals that they believe it was the Devil that was let loose. And whenever the Devil rages with so much violence and uproar, it is a good sign. We may not yet realize all that it means. But for us, it is an invitation to pray, and sacrifice more.

The Church is a supernatural being essentially, and we cannot fully explain the Church, or even the fruits and consequences of human acts performed in the Church if we look only at the human side.

The head of the Church is, and remains, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The soul of the Church is the Holy Ghost Himself. Our Lord promised that His Church would be indefectible. So let us do our best, be faithful to our duty of state, pray to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and pray our rosary.

And then, everything will end well.

[emphases mine]

Some would consider talk of the Devil as crazy. I think it would likely be those same types who are reacting so vehemently against the Holy Father and others in the Church who are working to restore some semblance of Catholic Truth and identity in the Church. Some examples:

  • Of course, those in the media, politicians, and even clergy who have attacked and or distanced themselves from the Pope in relation to the just lifting of the SSPX excommunications (that had absolutely nothing to do with Bp. Williamson's opinions).

  • The rebellious priests in Austria who pressured Bp. Wagner to resign and then criticized the Pope for appointing him.

  • Fr. Kennedy in Australia who has led so many astray and endangered souls through invalid sacraments.

  • The so-called theologians who endanger the souls of so many through their misrepresenting the Faith or outright heresy (yes, I said heresy); these same types are the ones attacking the pope more openly as of late.

  • The parishioners at St. Stephen's in Minneapolis who are breaking away from the Church because a real shepherd is finally trying to lead them back to the straight and narrow.

  • The muddyheaded O'Brien and those like him (Pelosi, Biden, et al) who endanger both souls and persons by public scandal and misinformation about the faith related to abortion.

The list could go on, but I do see Light in all this. For the most part, things are really moving in a positive direction, the right direction, and I agree with Bishop Fellay in that I think all this backlash is further evidence that we are heading the right way. The forces who have been working to dismantle the Faith from the inside are scared now that we have our German Shepherd guarding the Church.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day, Anyone?

I guess I need to say the Office for a few more years before I get used to the fact that we don't actually celebrate St. Valentine's day in the current Roman (Catholic) calendar. It was a pleasant surprise, though, when I opened the Liturgy of the Hours on Saturday morning to be greeted by the memorial of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who were 9th century missionaries to the Slavic peoples. And you guessed, they created what would come to be known as the Cyrillic alphabet. Pretty cool, huh?

Of St. Valentine himself, we know basically nothing. Actually, there is more than one St. Valentine that we honor as an early martyr, but that's about all we know about their lives (which is enough, really). The various legends surrounding him are just that, and as far as I can make out, the correlation of St. Valentine with the lovey-dovey originates thanks to Chaucer who, using typical poetic license, noted St. Valentine's day's correspondence with certain birdly springtime activity.

I'm not saying we shouldn't celebrate it in the popular fashion of being extra sweet to our beloveds. I'm just pointing out that we have even more to celebrate (saints and martyrs) than just our feelings for each other.

In any case, I'm rapidly approaching my tenth anniversary, so Valentine's day is not such a big deal around here. This year, as it was two years ago, it was the official date of getting new phones. Two years ago, the wifey got a pink Razr, this year, a pink(-cased) iPhone. And flowers, of course. Can't get away without those, even after 10 years... :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Another Rabbi Who Gets It

For most stuff, I've been just updating my other post on the subject of the sad overreaction and dishonesty surrounding the recent lifting of the SSPX bishops' excommunication. But this one deserves it's own post. Via Fr. Z, this article reports on an Orthodox Rabbi Yehuda Levin, whom the site reports is head of about 800 Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. and Canada. This rabbi understands more deeply than most outside of the Church what is really going on and what is at stake.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I wouldn't even classify myself as a "traditionalist" these days, though I do consider myself a friend of the Extraordinary Form. It's not unfair I think to suggest that those in traditionalist communities tend to frame things in an Us vs. Them (Right vs. Left; Conservative vs. Liberal; Traditional vs. Progressive; Right vs. Wrong; Mature vs. Childish, etc.). That's not to say these communities have not been persecuted. Far from it, and it continues today, even despite Summorum Pontificum. However, being a centrist of sorts I am more inclined to look for the good in both sides (in as much as they are presented as "sides"). So I get a little antsy when folks just start tossing labels around and promoting this kind of dichotomy.

At the same time, I don't think that what the Rabbi is talking about is one of those cases. I can't help but observe that there are very real differences within the Church in terms of how the faith is understood and practiced. When my daughter comes home and tells me, for instance, that the teacher in her religious ed class said that killing bugs is a sin, that we don't know who created God (my 7-year-old daughter rightly scoffed, saying that nobody created God--he is uncreated), that the teacher said she hopes [one of the kid's] dogs is in heaven, and that they should pray for [the dog], and when I see prominent individuals like Stephen Colbert belittle the protection of natural marriage, and when I hear Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden saying totally wrong things about abortion and sponsoring birth control in legislation, and when I see a priest who has an Obama sticker on his car, and when I read of one who supports ordination of women, and when I hear of a priest who doesn't baptize in the Trinitarian formula, and when I see a video of some odd youth's mass where there are spotlights and band music and balloons (with a cardinal present, no less), and when even Catholic friends whom I'd expect to know their faith ardently defend relativism... well, I just can't help but note that there are indeed real and serious differences within the Church.

It seems to me that the vast majority of these stem from our culture, a religious apathy, a lukewarmness. Some of them are more pecuniarily motivated--people like politicians and other public personalities giving up the faith because it is expedient for their careers. Some, like the priest and friends I mentioned, I think are more concerned with more anthropocentric concerns--the here and now--having peace in the family and in the parish; giving people salves for their malformed consciences instead of redressing the true malady of the soul.

And yet there are those who are very conscious and deliberate in their positions, who actively and intentionally work to undermine the Faith. These are, especially, the theologians and priests and doubtless even some bishops and cardinals who knowingly and willfully advocate what can only be called apostasy, those who before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council have abused the Council and worked to advance an agenda of rupture with Catholic Tradition. These are those who are fully aware of our venerable Tradition and who have chosen, despite that, to reject It in favor of fashionable philosophies and theologies that are incompatible with the Apostolic Faith that the Church has held, passed down, defended, and refined throughout Her history.

These are they who are largely responsible for the broader slough of apathy we find ourselves in today, and it is they who continue to actively work to undermine the Faith. It is they more than any who can rightly be accused, as Rabbi Levin does, of destroying the faith. And they're not just destroying the Catholic Faith, as the Teacher points out--the tremendous influence of the Church across the world means that these destructive tendencies in the Church have a "trickle-down effect to every single religious community in the world."

Of course, no doubt some will point out that as an Orthodox leader, he will naturally support the corresponding orthodox (traditional) "side" in the Church. That may be true by way of serendipity, but it only further supports what he is saying--the same kind of in-kind support can be found outside of the Church for those working within the Church to undermine the faith, which is sadly the majority of the mass media and politicians. These destructive forces in the Church have been very well-supported and successful these past fifty years or so!

It is these forces working (consciously or not) hand in hand with the media and politicians who have good reason to be nervous about the work of our Holy Father in reconciling traditionalists, even those with fringe opinions on very sensitive issues like the Holocaust. The important points to reiterate are that the reconciliation is not complete (they are still under suspension) and that the reconciliation has no causal or logical link with Bishop Williamson's speculations but is, rather, part of His Holiness' plan to restore Catholic identity through a deeper understanding of both the contents and the practice of our faith.

This restoration indeed involves a restoration of Tradition to its rightful place--the same Tradition (for the most part) that those in the SSPX are so devoted and attached to that they risked schism and, in the case of the bishops, excommunication. Thus Rabbi Levin is very astute in his observations--this first step in the reconciliation of the SSPX, along with Summorum Pontificum, Dominus Iesus, and countless other acts and works of the Holy Father, herald the slow crumbling of the kingdom of legerdemain that the apostates have worked so hard to establish this last century.

Kudos (again) to Rabbi Levin both for his perspicacity, his honesty, and his courage to speak out on this subject!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Church and Science Fact

I'm a big science fiction fan, but I'm not a fan of the fiction surrounding the relationship of science and faith. I swear, if I hear one more person snidely allude to Galileo or Columbus as if they are some indisputable proof of the silliness of religion and its attempt to restrict "free inquiry," I'll just barf. Or maybe I'll throw something. So beware!

Thus, I'm always glad when things like this conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame, and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture. Every little bit that goes toward dispelling the myths about the Church, religion, faith, and science is good as far as I'm concerned.

Never mind that the actual treatment of Galileo in the popular mythos bears little semblance to the reality (as is the case with most treatments involving the Inquisition). Never mind that pretty much everyone in Columbus' time and before knew the earth was spherical (and that Columbus was actually the one in scientific error). While we're at it, never mind that the Church has never condemned the theory of evolution as such. Never mind that the Church was the cradle of modern science and protector of Western civilization with its invention and cultivation of monasteries and universities and hospitals. Never mind, in short, that what the popular imagination presents as the relationship between Church and scientists, faith and reason, is pretty much totally fictitious and fabricated by enemies of the Church.

Never mind all that. Let's allow that certain Catholic Church leaders in history may have been overzealous in their prosecution of scientists, pioneers, and even heretics. Even allowing that, I have to ask, is that so bad? I mean, stick with me here, the motivations (namely, paternal and pastoral care and concern for the good of souls and humanity as a whole) behind prohibiting certain kinds of inquiry or publication of certain works are more weighty and noble than whatever incremental advances in science that people theorize about.

In the case of Galileo, what is the great advance for mankind that we've seen from his work? A trip to the moon? And in any case, were not his works eventually lifted from censure by the same "oppressive" authority? Is not Galileo praised today even by that same authority? Are we so worse off that the Church approached the issue with caution due to its concern for the fullness of human life? We can only speculate that we'd be any better or worse off.

On the other hand, consider when the Church's voice and role in society is oppressed. In those cases you get things like fascism, Nazism, communism. You get things like reigns of terror, the Holocaust, death marches, gulags, unnatural famines, killing fields, and world wars. You get Dr. Mengeles, Hitlers, Stalins, and Maos. You get Rwandas, Czechnyas, Darfurs, Madagascars, and the like. You get the slaughter of millions upon millions of unborn. In short, you get destruction and disregard of human life and dignity on unimaginable levels.

That brings us to today. Today the Church is the leading voice defending human dignity and life on all levels and on a global scale. The Church is a leading provider of health care worldwide. The Church is a leading provider of charitable aide worldwide. And the Church takes an integral understanding of humanity to include the spiritual and is the leading provider of spiritual care across the globe. From its humble beginnings 2000 years ago, the Church has spread to become this leading light for all of humanity, ever with the holistic care of humans as its motivating force--ever learning, ever improving, ever guiding humanity towards its ultimate end.

It is from this core of love that the Church speaks, even when it speaks to restrain. It is with this ancient dedication to the fullness of human life--in which we see the image of God--that the Church speaks to end abortion, to prevent euthanasia, to stop embryonic stem cell research, to reinforce procreative marriage, to encourage the restraint of the passions that denigrate our human dignity, and to promote a life of charity, of love of neighbor and of God.

The Church is no enemy of science or progress. On the contrary, the Church has long been the foremost champion of authentic human progress. The Church is no enemy of reason. On the contrary, we see the heights of reason attained in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and the many, many other Christian theologians and philosophers to come after and before. The Church has dogmatically declared:

Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds. (1st Vatican Council)

Even if (and as far as I'm concerned that's an almost insurmountable if given our refined understanding of things today) the Church were wrong in speaking out against certain areas of scientific inquiry or practice, it is not an oppressive restraint opposed to progress, as the enemies of faith and the Church would have people believe. Rather, the Church simply seeks progress that does not come at the expense of the fullness of human life or dignity. The Church wants us to proceed not just based on what we can do but on what we should do both for the good of the individual and the good of all, which leaves me asking:

So what if it takes us a little longer to get there because we're trying to do the right thing? Just imagine what kind of real progress we could make if all people were so devoted to such laudable ideals.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Support our Holy Father

I, like many faithful Catholics, have been watching the recent developments around the lifting of the SSPX bishops' excommunication with concern, even dismay. I've thought about blogging a few times, but not sure what to say without just adding to the noise. However, things have just gotten way out of hand on this one, and I can't remain silent any longer.

Anyone who is a rational person of good will can clearly see the truth of the situation. The Holy Father is acting like a real shepherd--trying to bring the lost sheep back into the fold. His lifting of the excommunications is for that reason alone.   It obviously has absolutely nothing to do with the errant Bishop Williamson's flawed thinking around the Holocaust. The pope, his spokesman, the SSPX leader, Bishop Fellay, and many other prominent Catholic leaders have reiterated this on numerous occasions. Sadly, those who have axes to grind with our Holy Father, the SSPX, "traditionalists," and even the Church in general are taking unscrupulous and dishonest advantage of these unfortunate circumstances to grandstand (as in the case of the US congresspeople, the German chancellor, et al) for their own political and/or ideological gain.

I expect that of politicians and extremist ideologues, but what is more shameful is that some priests, bishops, and even cardinals are also using this as an opportunity to advance their own agendas because they disagree with our Holy Father's rightful defense and promotion of traditional Catholic worship, piety, and identity.

I usually consider myself to be a reticent and understanding person of unusual good will, especially as regards our pastors, but I cannot help but be blunt in this case. To all those who are taking advantage of this situation for their own gain:


As for me and my house, we wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand by our chief shepherd, the vicar of Christ, in this difficult time. He needs our prayers and support. He has done nothing but defend the faith and act as our Lord would in being a gentle but firm Good Shepherd, as is his duty.

Let us also pray for the conversion of these shameless opportunists who are attacking or abandoning him and the Church. May God give them a new heart and place a new spirit within them.

UPDATE (4 Feb): A ray of light.. some sanity. This rabbi gets it. Thank you, Rabbi Kula.

UPDATE (6 Feb): More sanity and here. And a great statement by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

UPDATE (11 Feb): Fr. Z has a good write up in plain ol' English explaining what is going on.