Analysis by Oswald Sobrino, J.D., M.A., who has published in New Blackfriars (U.K.), Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Answer, New Oxford Review, CatholicExchange.com, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He is a lay graduate student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. © 2002-06 Oswald Sobrino.
"There is much in Christianity which can be subjected to exact analysis. But the ultimate things are shrouded in the silent mysteries of God." --Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
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Saturday, May 29, 2004Next Major Update: Tuesday, June 1, 2004
Due to the Memorial Day holiday, the next major update will be on June 1st. Short news-related updates are always possible.
Defeatism, Original Sin, and Emotional Pacifism
On this Memorial Day weekend, the reality of war in our history confirms the presence of war in our present. We are in a War on Terror begun, like Pearl Harbor, with a spectacular attack on American soil. The government tells us what we already knew: that more such attacks on American soil are being planned. The President has taken the offensive by removing the Al-Qaeda controlled regime in Afghanistan--an enterprise which the media falsely viewed as a quagmire in the making based on a false comparison with the earlier British and Russian experiences in that country. The President took the offensive and removed the mad Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq which had chemical weapons and had numerous links with Al-Qaeda-- not to mention the dictator's genocidal policy of massacre and his penchant for mutilation. Recall that in the process of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, the media also claimed that we were bogged down. Contrary to the media's reflexive defeatism, Baghdad fell in a matter of days.
Today, Iraq remains the central battlefield in the War on Terror. It is a magnet for terrorists that would otherwise be busy elsewhere, including our own shores. The emergence of a civilized regime in Iraq has the potential to transform the dynamic of tyranny and terror that has prevailed for too long in the Islamic Middle East and spawned savage fanaticism focused on killing the innocent worldwide. As usual, the media is playing its defeatist role by questioning every turn of events in the most negative terms possible. As we remember World War II, we should also remember that there were dark days in 1942 when the Axis seemed unbeatable. If our present-day media had been active then, surely, true to form, they would have questioned everything the Allies were doing and echoing pessimism as they are doing today.
In the end, the Iraqis themselves will set the course for their own society. All the United States and its allies can do is create the conditions for success and aid with security. Whether Iraq ends up in civil war or with a united, civilized government will depend on the Iraqis themselves. Neither the United States nor anyone else can do it for them. Their failure to create a civilized government that avoids civil war would be their own failure, not that of the United States or anyone else. After World War II, Japan and Germany began a long process of becoming civilized democracies. They were homogeneous countries not divided by ethnic hatreds as Iraq is. Japan and Germany had been powerful industrial countries with a high standard of living. They recovered. Whether the Iraqis can rise to the occasion remains to be seen. But it is ultimately their challenge, not ours. When we leave Iraq, we will have accomplished the removal of a mad and highly dangerous dictator who was a bitter enemy of the United States and given millions the opportunity for freedom. Those were goals worth going to war for.
Yet, in these times, there seems to be a knee-jerk emotional pacifism which sees nothing worth fighting for. In a world of original sin, Christians should be the last to be surprised that wars occur and are sometimes necessary. Christians should be the last to be surprised at the need for a strong military, just as our own cities cannot survive without a strong police presence. Danger lurks everywhere. Baghdad is dangerous, but so are Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C., from the presence of our own homegrown criminals--just ask any shopkeeper in those cities. Judaism and Islam do not believe in original sin. Christianity does and should be the last to suffer from the delusion of emotional pacifism. In my opinion, a lot of mental illness is due to our inability to face the reality of evil in our world. We desperately try to escape to a place of complete safety and peace and thereby subject ourselves to endless frustration because there is no such place on this planet. Mental illness means being out of touch with reality. Emotional pacifism tends in that direction.
Life is conflict. Incessant conflict even marked the life of our Lord and ended with his brutal suffering and death--the product of intense hatred toward perfect good. There is conflict within families, neighborhoods, cities, and nations. There is conflict between nations, and between nations and terrorist organizations. In the inevitable conflict between good and evil, the forces of good should not and must not be embarrassed to fight back.
I quote, as I have done before, the words of C.S. Lewis which he broadcast during World War II in an England that knew the anxiety of coming close to actual defeat:
C.S. Lewis, Christian Behaviour: A Further Series of Broadcast Talks (N.Y.: Macmillan, 1950), pp. 41-42 (originally published in 1943)(bold emphasis added).
There are many addicted to the emotional "half pacifism" described by Lewis. We even have presidential candidates catering to this trait. Our succumbing to the paralysis of emotional half pacifism is the only way the terrorists can win. Unfortunately, some who want to be President fit the temperament of the half pacifist marked by reflexive indecision and excessive caution.
Friday, May 28, 2004More Evidence on the Justice of the Iraq War: Al-Qaeda Links
A new book published by major publishing house HarperCollins documents the links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda. One link has to do with the manufacture of chemical weapons. You can read the details about this newly published book in a new article in the Weekly Standard ("The Connection," by Stephen F. Hayes, 6/7/04 issue). Al-Qaeda members were active in Saddam Hussein's police state. They could only be active in Iraq with the consent of the regime. It makes sense that these two bitter enemies of the United States would naturally seek to work together. As I have said before, years from now historians will wonder at the reluctance by so many to see the obvious threat.
So now we have two pieces of the puzzle: both sarin and mustard gas have been found in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was cooperating with Bin Laden. Add the two pieces together, plus September 11th, and you have a clear and present danger. The President was right to overthrow Saddam Hussein. We are safer today without the existence of that regime. History is the ultimate poll, and history will favorably judge the much maligned George W. Bush.
Newsweek Religion Writer Opines on Abortion Controversy
Newsweek's religion writer Kenneth Woodward publishes today an opinion piece in the N.Y. Times (free reg'n required) discussing the coming clash between pro-abortion politicians and Catholic bishops ("A Political Sacrament," Opinion section, 5/28/04). Woodward clearly does not favor denying the Eucharist to these politicians. Yet, there are signs that the debate on this issue has focused the issue and advanced the defense of life even among those like Woodward who shrink from the obvious and long overdue need to deny the Eucharist to those pro-abortion celebrities who obstinately persist in propping up legal abortion.
The first positive sign is that Woodward eventually points out--after an initial erroneous description of papal teaching-- that the abortion issue cannot be put on a par with issues like the death penalty and the Iraq War:
But this line of reasoning [the much misused "Seamless Garment" line of reasoning] is fraught with peril. For the pope, the bishops and — if polls are to believed — for most practicing Catholics, abortion is the taking of innocent life and therefore violates the most fundamental of human rights. By contrast, the pope's opposition to capital punishment is conditional, not absolute, and the church's application of just war principles is open to reasoned debate. When it comes to abortion, there is far less room for discussion.
Source: Kenneth L. Woodward, N.Y. Times, 5/28/04.
Not only is there far less room for discussion when it comes to abortion--there is no room for discussion as to a Catholic supporting abortion. In a culture that shrinks from any absolutes--except maybe when it comes to the evil of tobacco or "homophobia"--the Catholic Church announces that direct abortion is intrinsically evil. That is the source of the conflict because our culture finds any absolute, non-negotiable moral stand intolerable.
Woodward also reports that the U.S. bishops may release their task force report on the issue of pro-abortion politicians earlier than anticipated because of the controversy. An early release would be a sign that our opinions do count. When you write a letter to the editor or e-mail a bishop, your voice can have an impact on evolving events. Woodward in the paragraph quoted above faces the reality of Catholic teaching, instead of hiding behind the misuse of the Seamless Garment argument that falsely puts abortion, the death penalty, and war on the same moral level. They emphatically are not on the same moral level. The death penalty targets convicted criminals, not the innocent. The decision to go to war in Iraq was motivated by Saddam Hussein's defiance of the U.N. on disarmament. The Iraqi dictator was also a genocidal tyrant who routinely engaged in torture, mutilation, and massacre as an open and official instrument of state policy directed at innocent civilians.
From reading Woodward's column, it appears that he anticipates that the task force may favor telling the pro-abortion politicians to voluntarily refrain from receiving the Eucharist. The task force may even recommend imposing some lesser sanctions such as barring such politicians from making speeches at Catholic institutions. That is some progress, even if it fails to live up to the full moral imperative. Yet, no committee or task force can tie the hands of a courageous bishop. Some bishops will continue to be bold and apostolic on this issue. They will continue to move the ball down the field even if all we get is a field goal.
The truth is making progress when even someone like Woodward recognizes the moral problem of pro-abortion Catholic politicians and the sophistry of the excuses made in the past by such luminaries as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Yet, Woodward himself has room to grow. He refers to the stand of Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs as "eccentric" for calling on Catholic voters who vote for pro-abortion politicians to refrain from the Eucharist unless they repent and go to confession. Sheridan just stated the obvious, but the obvious becomes "eccentric" when compared to the timidity of many other bishops. It reminds me of one Catholic biblical scholar who refers to Jesus as a "Marginal Jew." I guess Bishop Sheridan should take comfort that on this issue he is the "Marginal Bishop." He has good company in his so-called "eccentricity."
In addition, the title of Woodward's piece "A Political Sacrament" is vaguely offensive, if not outright blasphemous. The Eucharist is not a political sacrament in spite of the best efforts of pro-abortion politicians to make receiving the Eucharist a false public statement of their standing as Catholics. The Eucharist is, like all sacraments, an Ecclesial Sacrament. It is a sign of unity and communion with the Catholic Church. And that is the source of the problem for the politicians. On this Memorial Day weekend, it is good to recall the famous World War II saying, dating from Pearl Harbor, to "praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition." Keep praying and keep speaking out. The truth is our ammunition.
Thursday, May 27, 2004A Puzzling Statement by Another Bishop
The Catholic News Service is reporting that Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl spoke recently to a Catholic audience and stated that denying the Eucharist was not part of the "pastoral tradition" of the Church. My initial reaction is that canon law clearly envisions denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians, as canonists have pointed out (see, for example, this analysis by Dr. Edward N. Peters). Does pastoral tradition nullify the explicit words of canon law? In my humble view, if it is in canon law, it is part of the pastoral tradition of the Church. Canon law reflects the pastoral tradition of the Church, and cannot contradict it.
The Pope's own words in promulgating the current Code of Canon Law bear witness to this organic and close relation between canon law and the pastoral practice of the Church by noting the purpose of canon law:
Source: Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, available at this link (scroll down document).
Canon law, theology, and pastoral practice are intended to reflect the same truth. If American pastoral practice contradicts the carefully redacted text of canon law duly promulgated by the Pope, then it seems to me that something is amiss in pastoral practice in the United States (see Canon 24).
The Diocese of Pittsburgh website provides the entire text of the bishop's address on May 25, 2004. Most of the address is an eloquent affirmation that abortion and voting to keep abortion legal are both grave evils. The surprising problem is that the bishop fails to draw the logically required conclusion from his own eloquent statement of the relevant premisses! Instead, when you think he is about to concur that politicians who obstinately persist in supporting abortion should be denied the Eucharist, he pulls back citing concerns about Church interference in politics. The bishop puts forth three inadequate reasons for pulling back from the conclusion required by his own statement of Catholic teaching on abortion:
1. That the issue of supporting legal abortion is on a par with other issues such as the death penalty--but he himself states earlier in his remarks that the right to life is "the most fundamental of all human rights";
2. That we have to consider under what circumstances we would deny the Eucharist to any Catholic--but the issue, as he himself earlier pointed out, focuses on the peculiarly public position of politicians, not on the situation of unknown Catholics;
3. And that the Church recoils from judging the "state of the soul" of those presenting themselves for Holy Communion--but canon law does not require such a subjective assessment but merely a determination that the individual is in an objective state of grave sin, and certainly the Church makes that sort of determination in her rule barring divorced and remarried Catholics from the Eucharist without delving into the reasons for their marital situation.
In addition, the bishop states at one point that the recent Vatican document on Catholic politicians does not say that it is a grave sin for Catholic politicians to vote for pro-abortion legislation:
Source: Bishop Wuerl's address at diocesan link above (6th paragraph in the section entitled "Discipline and Holy Communion").
I respectfully disagree with his conclusion. Here is the basis of my disagreement based on the same text that the bishop himself refers to:
Source: Vatican website, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, Section 4, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 11-24-02 (emphasis added).
If it is a grave obligation to oppose such laws, I submit that to violate that obligation is a grave matter and so a grave sin. As such, the bishop's comments on this particular point miss the point. In my view, the Doctrinal Note is not talking about formal grave sin but about material grave sin. For formal grave sin you need to find subjective fault. For material grave sin, all that is needed is that the objective behavior itself is gravely sinful, not a determination of the subjective state of the person engaging in the objectively sinful behavior. The bishop fails to make this traditional distinction clear and speaks ambiguously and broadly of "personal grave sin" only and thus ignores the crucial issue at the heart of denying the Eucharist under canon law.
Yet, in spite of this misstep, the important point is that the rest of the bishop's own analysis begs for the conclusion that pro-abortion politicians should be denied the Eucharist. His eloquent statement of the foundations for that conclusion lead me to hope that he will, sooner or later, come to the manifestly required conclusion.
Update: Catholic World News for May 31, 2004, has an article in which the top Vatican canon law cardinal speaks about the role of canon law as an aid to evangelization. The article reinforces the above comments.
New Addition to Blog Roll: Kausfiles
Mickey Kaus has a political weblog at Slate.com. He has a knack for seeing what the liberal media tries so hard to hide. He is a balm for those of us who can now say that we are not alone in scratching our heads over the obtuseness of the old media. Once you read his commentary on coverage of the presidential campaign, you will realize how much the prestigious liberal media garbles, distorts, and falsifies the campaign news. An example is the liberal media's distorted presentation of President Bush's recent speech on Iraq in which he called for Iraqi elections no later than January. The words struck me as significant as soon as I heard them while listening to the President's speech Monday night. You don't have to be a careful lawyer or political pundit to see that these words mean that the administration is open to holding Iraqi elections earlier than January as originally envisioned. Yet, as Kaus shows, the N.Y. Times gets this highly significant part of the President's speech exactly backwards. And so you are left wondering what the so-called "newspaper of record" is recording: objective fact or its subjective projections? Kaus also gives an insightful analysis of the latest election polling that will be of comfort to pro-life voters. You will find the link to the Kausfiles here and at the blogroll in the side margin.
Ratzinger on Open Communion
"Open communion" is the term, common in Protestant circles, for the practicing of admitting anyone to partake of the Lord's Supper. My impression is that those Protestant denominations practicing open communion usually require only that one be a baptized Christian regardless of denominational affiliation. I would not be surprised, given the collapse of any semblance of Christian orthodoxy among liberal Protestant denominations, that even this minimal requirement is disregarded by some. In Catholic circles, the term refers to the push by those liberal Catholics who seek "intercommunion" whereby Protestants are free to receive the Catholic Eucharist. Not too long ago, a Catholic priest in Germany was disciplined for actually putting the idea into practice. Curiously, among some strict Baptists, the debate on open communion is about whether one has been baptized by immersion or not. Some of these Baptists will bar anyone who has not been baptized by immersion. The topic of open communion is particularly relevant because of the controversy over pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
In the United States, the inside cover of most Catholic missals states the rules for admission to the Eucharist by various groups:
Source: United States Catholic Conference (1996).
But what happens when someone who is known to fall into one of these categories approaches anyway? If these rules have any real meaning, then the minister of Holy Communion--whether priest, deacon, or lay--must deny the Eucharist. Surely, the minister of communion must deny the Eucharist if he or she knows the status of the person approaching. The same would hold in the case of someone who is obviously drunk approaching the Eucharist. Denial would be in order.
Yet, what is being argued by pro-abortion Catholic politicians and their supporters would overthrow the current rules of the Church. They are conscious of grave sin because the Church has told them again and again that abortion and the support of abortion are grave sins. They do not agree with the teaching, but they are undeniably conscious of it. Given the recent press coverage, they certainly are by now conscious of it. Some present hypothetical situations where supporting Roe v. Wade may not involve grave sin. These strained hypothetical situations are not persuasive and moreover have an air of fantasy about them. And, of course, the same politicians make no act of perfect contrition or bring their support of abortion to the confessional because they have no contrition to begin with and in addition have no intention of amending their behavior. So clearly, the pro-abortion Catholic politician falls into a category of exclusion from communion as much as the non-Christian.
But if we nevertheless admit such Catholic politicians to communion, then the path to open communion is clearly marked. Why then deny the Eucharist to non-Catholic Christians at all? Some of these non-Catholic Christians may, after all, in fact, be pro-life, unlike the politicians. Is it their fault that they were born into and raised in another Christian tradition and cannot in good conscience accept all of the teachings of the Catholic Church? And as to non-Christians, if in their conscience they cannot in good faith declare a Christian faith in Jesus, why deny them closeness to Jesus that may bring them to future conversion and if God's grace is somehow already manifested in their current level of religious faith and practice?
The pressure to admit non-Catholics and even non-Christians will focus on the fact that, like the pro-abortion politicians, they are just honestly following their consciences as best they can at this time in their lives, and that it would be wrong to bar them from approaching Jesus. And especially today, given the trend in the theology of world religions to view all world religions as equal paths to the divine, the basis is being laid to make open communion the logical and standard practice. I assure you that there are some, if not many, liberal Catholics who see no problem with such expansive open communion, especially given that some do not even hold to the divinity of Christ, much less believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as traditionally taught in the Catholic Church.
In such controversies, it is good to go below the rules, so to speak, to the underlying theology. As usual, a good guide is Cardinal Ratzinger. Ratzinger addresses the idea of open communion by looking at how some propose viewing the Eucharist:
Ratzinger, God is Near Us (Ignatius Press, 2003), p. 59 (bold emphasis added).
And so you can see that the theological push for open communion, even for the unbaptized, is a real force today. You cannot logically ignore this reality when evaluating the controversy over pro-abortion politicians. Ratzinger makes clear that this idea of open communion is fundamentally mistaken:
Ratzinger, pp. 59-60.
Ratzinger notes that the Eucharist presupposes the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. Notice that today many like to speak of the Eucharist as itself imparting forgiveness of even mortal sin. The Church teaches that in the Eucharist our venial sins are forgiven, but mortal sin must be absolved in the Sacrament of Penance. But most of those who emphasize the Eucharist as effectively replacing the sacrament of reconciliation have long ago abandoned as quaint any distinction between mortal or venial sin. Certainly, most Protestants make no such distinction. Ratzinger gives us his conclusion:
Ratzinger, p. 60.
That voluntary entering into the mystery of Jesus Christ means we have broken with mortal sin. And that is all that is being asked of the great and mighty of the political world. To fail to deny the Eucharist to those who have broken with Christ is to practice open communion, an open communion which knows no logical limit.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004Blogs: Economic Theory at its Best
Recently, weblogs or blogs have been receiving some attention. Bill Gates hailed blogs as a useful tool superior to the traditional website (calling a website "traditional" shows how fast technology evolves!)(see BBC story for May 21, 2004). Most newspaper websites now have associated news blogs. Every presidential campaign has a blog. Families use them. Businesses use them. Catholic blogs are having an impact, as noted even by their theological opposites at the liberal journal Commonweal founded in 1924.
In my view, blogs are an example of democracy at its best because they provide access to those who would otherwise be kept silent and isolated. If you look at the cable channels, some of the hosts of different news or talk shows are downright strange. Chris Matthews at MSNBC is a one-man, hyperventilating attack machine on anything Republican who barely lets his guests get in a word. You have odd "hip" newshows with blaring, jarring theme music. The selection of stories is clearly biased on most television news outlets and their internet adjuncts.
Now comes the weblog that is a direct pipeline to what people really think without the inhibitions of commercialism or the Beltway or liberalism. The stereotype of the blog is that it provides merely the stream of consciousness musings of one unknown individual. The truth is that many blogs provide links to news sources thus saving time for readers who don't have the leisure to extensively search the internet everyday. Blogs also provide book reviews and quote interesting portions of books, old and new, to whet the reader's interest.
Blogs also serve the social function of bringing logic to the fuzzy musings of the great and powerful. The on-going controversy about pro-abortion politicians and the Catholic Church is a prime example. Comments on this issue by the pro-abortion Democrats and even by some high-ranking clerics have betrayed outrageous illogic, incoherence, and even just plain ignorance. Blogs have exposed this incoherence, something that the old media seems incapable, unwilling, or unqualified to do.
In addition, blogs require creative talent. The blogger must provide content, not just reprint articles from other sources. They require, at their best, an attempt to synthesize the chaotic flood of news on the internet. Blogs propose a perspective. The blogger is judged by the quality of his or her presentation, not by job title or curriculum vitae. With low barriers to entry, access is democratic.
And yet, this democratic access is combined with a meritocratic result. The good blogs keep their readers. The lesser blogs do not. It is a market of virtually perfect competition in which there are many "sellers" or providers of information and many "buyers" or consumers of information. It is easy to switch to another blog when one disappoints. Substitution is always possible and makes the consumer of content sovereign. It is the economist's ideal of perfect competition in which the consumer rules.
Yet, there is one apparent difference from the economist's conventional model of perfect competition. In Economics 101, a perfectly competitive market is one with many buyers and sellers so that no single party can control or significantly alter the price for anyone else. In blogdom, the "price" is the time spent by the reader. Only the reader controls that. No other reader and no blogger can control that "price." But the economics textbook also assumes that the products offered in a perfectly competitive market are perfectly identical, as in a market for wheat. But in blogdom, the products are very different. Each blog has its own personality, perspective, design, style, and content. Each is its own brand.
So, in this particular area, blogs modify traditional economic theory: we can still have virtually perfect competition even with products that are in effect unique brands. The reason is that reading one blog does not keep one from reading others. Usually, for a person, with a limited income, buying, say shoes, means choosing a particular brand and thereby necessarily foregoing some other brand. For most of us, buying a particular brand excludes another brand. Not so with weblogs. Readers can consume many different brands almost contemporaneously at the click of a mouse. The convenience of technology enables the consumer of information to choose one brand without excluding other brands. And so we have to modify the description of a perfectly competitive market that we got in Economics 101.
In other words, blogdom is not a zero-sum game, as shown by the widespread practice of blogrolls or links to different blogs appearing on most blogs. There is a recognition that you don't have to rob Peter to give to Paul. Brand diversity is non-threatening.
An intelligent reader can follow current events quite reliably by just accessing blogs and thereby escape the mediocrity and underlying bias of the old media. In addition, the reader will not get hidden bias, but an open stand on the issues. The reader can easily "change the channel" to sample an opposing perspective. The father of economics, Adam Smith, would be proud.
But what does this economics excursion have to do with Catholic analysis? The Catholic view is that truth is one and that all truth reflects the Creator who is Truth. So when we use our rational nature as persons created in the image of God to shed light on God's universe, whether in economics or physics, we are approaching, however imperfectly, the perfect Truth who is God.
Nothing genuinely intellectual is alien to Catholicism. The Council of Trent made this clear:
Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth."
Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 159.
Vatican II reaffirmed this Catholic outlook on human knowledge:
Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 159.
Those who have read Adam Smith's 1776 classic The Wealth of Nations will see an echo in Vatican II's reference to the "hand of God" of Smith's famous allusion to the "invisible hand" of God (see link on Adam Smith).
Postscript for Economists: Some will say that the blog market is more like what is known as a "monopolisitcally competitive" market in which there are many sellers as in perfect competition, but in which the differences among the products offered allow sellers to somewhat control the price. I do not think this market model applies to blogs because the price of using a blog is not a money price but time. And technology makes the cost of time to access a blog the same for all blogs. For more on this economic terminology, see the glossary provided by the well-regarded U.K. magazine The Economist at this link (scroll down for the entry on "monopolistic competition").
Congratulations to Blogger Lane Core
Another blogger laboring in the vineyards marks his second anniversary at Blog from the Core. See this link for details on the growth of this blog in just two years. Commonweal was at least right to take notice of Catholic bloggers--it is a growing apostolic opportunity. Lane's experience is evidence of that.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004Iraqi Weapon of Mass Destruction Confirmed
The Associated Press is reporting that lab tests have now confirmed that the chemical weapon sarin was in fact present in an unmarked Iraqi shell recently discovered by American troops. Therefore, Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons in his possession, contrary to what he told the U.N. before the war began.
But many will close their eyes to this fact by saying that Saddam just inadvertently overlooked destroying this particular old shell in the process of earnestly cleaning out his arsenal of chemical weapons. As some have pointed out, some anti-war ideologues will likely end up saying that American soldiers just happened to have stumbled on the only sarin-filled shell in Iraq or on one of only a handful of such shells that exist. The ideologues will keep raising the hurdle by saying that no massive stockpiles have been found.
In the end, either you believe that Saddam lied or that he acted in earnest good faith. His past record leads me to believe that he lied to the U.N. And so the war to overthrow Saddam was indeed a just war, justified by, among other reasons, Saddam's refusal to comply with U.N. demands for disarmament. I, for one, believe that future historians, far removed from the emotionalism and politics of the moment, will so view it. They will scratch their heads wondering why anyone kept betting on Saddam's good faith. Fortunately, President Bush did not take the risk of trusting in Saddam's good faith.
Commonweal Notices St. Blog's Parish
A recent issue of the unabashedly liberal Commonweal-- unabashedly because its website logo is emblazoned with the word "Liberal"--takes notice of St. Blog's Parish, and, of course, criticizes the conservative (read: authentic) Catholic tilt of the vast majority of Catholic blogs. (As an aside, how typical of liberal hubris and condescension that the journal is happy to call itself "Commonweal"!) The author of the article, a librarian from Boston, the citadel of heterodoxy, mourns that too many Catholic blogs are trying to separate the wheat from the tares. Needless to say, bloggers like me will disagree and say that we are not separating the wheat from the tares but rather trying to separate truth from falsehood so that more wheat will grow, and, maybe, by the grace of God, some of the tares will be transformed into wheat. Speaking the truth is a spiritual work of mercy, not a work of uprooting and discarding people.
Yet, the article is mild given its appearance in a liberal journal. Catholic blogs are making their contribution to the kingdom, however humble. They are small things done with great love. It is good to see that even cafeteria Catholics are noticing. Some of them may not be the same after frequenting St. Blog's. Here is the article link ("St. Blog's Church: America's most vibrant parish?", by Rachelle Linner, Commonweal, 2/27/04).
The Rest of the Story
Below is a Republican analysis of one of the latest election polls. Why does a Catholic blog present this? The Democratic analysis--or better the anti-Bush analysis--is automatically presented by the three traditional major TV networks and by the giant liberal newspapers in our major cities (for further proof of the liberal bias, see these new survey results reported in today's Washington Times under the headline "Poll shows liberal tilt escalates in newsroom," by Jennifer Harper). Blogs serve the interest of truth by presenting the whole story when the mainstream or old media refuse to do so. For Catholics, presenting the whole truth is a moral good. Here is the rest of the story:
Source: Bush website (data tables at source link).
The Eucharist is the Feast of Life
In the book God is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life, we have a collection of talks and sermons by Cardinal Ratzinger on the Eucharist. One homily from 1978 is entitled "The Wellspring of Life from the Side of the Lord, Opened in Loving Sacrifice" and apparently formed part of a series of sermons entitled "The Eucharist: Heart of the Church." These titles capture a reality of the Eucharist missing from the practice of many: the Eucharist is the heart of life and the Church. Yet, the way the Eucharist becomes the heart of life and of the Church is through death.
The Cardinal said it in striking fashion:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God is Near Us (Ignatius Press, 2003), p. 44 (emphasis added).
As Ratzinger later notes, the Eucharist is "the presentation of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the Cross," the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb (p. 44). By means of this sacrifice, life overcomes death. This overcoming of death in the Resurrection is present "at the same time." And so he calls the Eucharist "the feast of life." The Eucharist leads us on "an upward path to life."
And so abortion--the continued direct killing of the innocent--is the direct opposite of the Eucharistic path. Man continues to crucify the innocent like lambs in spite of the sacrifice of the innocent Christ which has already opened up the way to life with the Resurrection. In abortion, man replaces the feast of life with the routine of death for the innocent--a feast of death-- by choosing freely and without necessity to directly destroy innocent life. Christ's sacrifice, present again in the Eucharist, has defeated death. Yet, we continue to make the unnecessary death of the innocent a matter of legal right.
The sinless God-Man has died to bring us life in the Eucharist. We cannot come to the feast of life if we continue to crucify the innocent in defiance of that feast. By doing so, we mock the sacrifice of Christ which, once and for all, has set us on the path of life. Abortion is the feast of death in which we choose to make death victorious. It is a blasphemy against the feast of life which has already defeated death. The deeper you go theologically, the less tenable and the more outrageous are the excuses and rationalizations given by those who are pro-abortion but yet seek to participate in the feast of life. Such participation is a lie and contradiction.
Monday, May 24, 2004Phoenix Bishop Issues Welcome Statement
The bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix has issued a strong statement relating to the issue of pro-abortion politicians and the Eucharist. In my view, the statement clearly implies that such politicians who continue to receive the Eucharist may very well face some sort of disciplinary action. I have highlighted certain crucial portions of the statement. Here is the statement as received from the Diocese of Phoenix, through a Catholic Analysis reader:
Eloquence from a Letter Writer
All of the letters to the editor in today's Detroit News deal with pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The newspaper chose to publish five letters supporting a hard-line against such politicians-- including one letter from a Lutheran pastor calling on pro-abortion Catholic politicians to stop being hypocrites. There are also five letters taking the liberal line. Covering all bases, the editors included one pro-life letter that seems to favor prayer over denial of the Eucharist as the remedy for this scandal. We don't know how the letters actually received by the newspaper stack up on the issue. The symmetry of the published letters leads me to conclude that the editors intentionally balanced the numbers on each side of the issue. In any event, it is gratifying to see so many letters taking a stand against pro-abortion politicians in a very Democratic urban area with a strong union presence.
One letter is particularly eloquent and should be read far and wide. No prestigious pundit or humble blogger that I am aware of has said it better. Here it is:
Put fetus on trial
Source: Detroit News, Letters section, May 24, 2004.
That is a great letter: concise, logical, and irrefutable. The truth has an irresistible force that can only be met by conversion or by looking the other way as the pro-abortion politicians do. Liberals love due process. It appears to be one of the few values, along with "choice," that many of them would be willing to even come close to treating as an absolute. Why not appoint a guardian to represent the unborn child in a legal proceeding to determine if the child should be killed? Of course, it will never happen. For such a proceeding to be convened would require recognizing that the child is a legal person with legal rights. The great liberal lie is that the unborn or partially born child is not a person. So while everyone else gets due process, the most innocent get none. And they wish to lecture pro-life Catholics on social justice!
The Future Can Look Like the Past
Near the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Canada, there is, in a topsy-turvy geographical twist, a piece of Mexico. The neighborhood is called Mexicantown for obvious reasons. It was formerly an enclave for European Catholic immigrants, which must have included Lithuanians given the inscription on one old building. Today, it is an enclave of Mexican Catholic immigrants--although the descendants of the European immigrants are not altogether absent. On a Sunday, in which most of midtown Detroit is sullenly empty, the main street of Mexicantown is bumper to bumper traffic with sidewalks full of pedestrians. Young, old, and in-between go from store to store. Some corners are a bit seedy, but others show off recently constructed and gleaming Mexican supermarkets. Portions of the main street need a litter pick-up, but a large, leafy park was, as far as I could see, surprisingly litter free given its location in an inner city neighborhood. In other inner city neighborhoods I have seen, such a large park would have been inevitably choked with refuse. But the predominant impression in Mexicantown is of a vibrant, slightly chaotic immigrant neighborhood with a vigor that reminds one of descriptions of the old immigrant neighborhoods of New York in the early 1900s.
Just off the main street, there is a large Catholic church, one of those massive brick complexes that served the earlier waves of European immigration. The church is intact, that is, its original high altar is still in place, the tabernacle is at center stage on the old altar, even the altar rail is there, gracefully surrounding the sacred space. Saints proliferate. And, of course, there is a large icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe looming over a side altar. The candles are burning. Across from the church, there is a religious goods store. Along the main street, there was at least one shop prominently advertising first communion dresses. I did not see any Protestant churches. The bilingual church bulletin prominently announced a class in Natural Family Planning led by a Hispanic physician--a fact that would make the Catholic Lite crowd shudder.
Some tell us that, sometime during this century, Hispanics will form the majority of American Catholics. That prediction is believable given that one estimate is that Hispanics now account for 39% of American Catholics (see recent estimate by U.S. Bishops' Conference). European immigrants built a solid, loyal Catholicism in America that had no time or desire for imitating liberal Protestantism. From what I saw in Detroit, the Mexican immigrants are on the same path. I could not help but wonder who had the better deal: the affluent suburban Catholic attending a liberal parish housed in a sleek modern church with a hidden tabernacle, or the poor Mexican who attends a distinctively Catholic church that grandly celebrates the Catholic difference. In the long run, my bet is with the Mexican.
Further Sign of Panic Over Catholic Revolt Against Democratic Elite
In further confirmation that pro-abortion Democrats are in a panic over the revolt by a few Catholic bishops against the traditional code of silence over pro-abortion politicians, the wife of Senator Edward Kennedy, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, pleads in the Washington Post (5/23/04) to take politics out of the Eucharist. Of course, her plea is a great lie. The truth is that it is the pro-abortion Democrats, like Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy, who politicize the Eucharist by seeking to make reception of the Eucharist a public political statement that a Catholic who is pro-abortion is in good standing. They are the ones politicizing the altar by daring to approach the Eucharist even when they lead the crusade to keep the killing of innocent children legal.
In the column, Mrs. Kennedy attempts to wash her hands of the slaughter of the innocent by claiming that, as a pro-abortion Democrat, she is just voting to allow a woman to make the private decision of abortion. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review Online quickly quashed that argument by comparing it to someone saying that they are not responsible for the slaughter of Italians although they consistently vote to support keeping the slaughter of Italians legal:
Source: National Review Online's The Corner (5/23/04).
The Church has always taught that abortion is a grave evil. The ones politicizing the altar are those like Mrs. Kennedy who seek to use the public reception of the Eucharist to change and adapt this teaching to match the politics of the national Democratic Party. Her plea is like that of a burglar who claims that the homeowner has no right to eject him from the homeowner's invaded home. Like the homeowner, a few bishops are acting in self-defense of Catholic teaching against the aggressive theological revisionism of Mrs. Kennedy's fellow pro-abortion Democrats. Their reception of the Eucharist under false pretenses is akin to theft--to taking what they have no right to take. It is time for the pro-abortionists like Mrs. Kennedy to stop acting like burglars and respect the altar they talk so much about.
Sunday, May 23, 2004Ascension of the Lord: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53
One homilist put it simply: Jesus returned to the Father when his mission was completed. Note that the "his" in the previous sentence is appropriately equivocal: Jesus' mission was the Father's mission. It was given to Jesus by the Father. Jesus and the Father are one. And so we too will be taken up to heaven when our missions are complete. We ourselves will not be the judges of when that mission is complete. We ourselves may not even be able to tell exactly when our mission really began. Most likely, we will become aware of our mission in medias res, in the middle of things, just as the great heroic epics of literature begin--in the middle of the action. We will become aware of that mission by the grace of God--by the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus hints at the apostolic mission: to preach "in his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem." Clearly, the apostles did not grasp this mission until much later, although it already began with the discovery of the empty tomb. In Acts, Luke again records how Jesus again gave the mission: "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." In both cases, Jesus tells the apostles they will receive power from on high through the Holy Spirit for that mission. At that point, the apostles will finally fully grasp their mission, although the mission actually began years ago in their dusty travels with Jesus.
In Ephesians, St. Paul invokes a blessing on his auditors: that they may receive the Holy Spirit--"a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him." This Spirit will allow them to "know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among his holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might [emphasis added]."
The Greek word for "call" used above is the same word Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 7:20, but which the Revised Standard Version translates as "state": "Every one should remain in the state in which he was called" (emphasis added). Here, Paul uses the Greek word for "call" to mean one's occupation or social station when converted, as made clear by the verses following 1 Cor. 7:20. So our "call" from God has connotations of an occupation. Our mission from God is our true profession, our true occupation, our inheritance for which we are destined.
That mission will lead us to glory, as it led Jesus, the pioneer of our faith, into the glory of the Ascension. And the Holy Spirit allows us to know our true occupation and gives us the power to complete its mission.