Thursday, October 28, 2010

AP Article: Catholic bloggers aim to purge dissenters

Don't know how I missed this article that came across the AP wires on Sunday, but it's well worth reading.  I guess we orthodox Catholic bloggers are starting to get notice, from outside the Church if not so much from within.

Catholic bloggers aim to purge dissenters

The article was fair, for the most part, with the exception of one word association that it could just as well have gone without.  Associating vocal and faithful Catholics with the Taliban may be how some view us--as intolerant radicals--but our tactics of communicating the Love and Truth of the Church couldn't be more different.  It left a very bad taste in my mouth.

But, for the rest of the article...

As Michael Voris pointed out in his commentary on yesterday's Vortex (video below; the article is centered around quotes and his efforts at RealCatholicTV), the vitriol expressed in the comments posted to some of the news outlets is breathtaking.  Still, it is hard to believe that there are as many who truly hate the Church as there are who hate what they misunderstand about her or who have had run-ins with heretical or less-than-charitable clergy or are downright confused by the false witness of less-than-faithful Catholics.  That's why it's up to us, faithful Catholics, to pray and to be about the work of the New Evangelization; to awaken our fellow Catholics from their slumber, to correct and admonish the "Catholics-in-name-only," without fear of the inevitable division it will cause, and to do exactly as Christ instructed us: to take the Love and Truth of his Gospel to the whole world and set hearts ablaze.

This program is from


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Being, Not Doing

It seems like my planned "Philosophy Fridays" are turning more into "Philosophy weekends."  Life is making demands, but I'll try to do a better job of scheduling posts for the next week.  In the meantime, for this week I just wanted to share a little bit of a follow-up to my previous post about Abigail, A Father's Joy.

We've had her for six weeks now.  I can't believe time has gone by so quickly.  I have this secret hope that life will somehow slow down, that she won't grow up and take off into the world, but I've lived enough of life to know that just isn't the case.  If anything, it'll feel like it's continuing to speed up.

This little girl, who can't speak, has a very limited vocabulary for communicating her needs (i.e. crying), and cannot even regulate her own bodily functions, has taught me a very important lesson in those six weeks:  Life is about being, not doing.  What I mean by that is, we humans, created in the image and likeness of God, don't derive our inherent worth and dignity from anything that we think, say or do; we get it from who we are and how we were created, not by what we do.

In a strictly utilitarian sense, Abigail cannot do anything for us.  She cannot produce.  She cannot contribute any novel, creative thoughts or ideas, art, music, or feats of engineering.  She cannot serve others or make conscious acts of faith or love (at least, I don't think she can, but she has an uncanny way of staring longingly at the crucifix, and reminds me that I need to do more of that), and only now is she beginning to be able to express glimpses of pleasure.  All that she can do is communicate her needs, in complete dependency, and rely on us to figure out what she needs and provide for her.  The utilitarian mindset would argue that she does not give at least as much as she takes and therefore has no worth as a human being.

I knew that utilitarian worldview was completely wrong.  In her, I have been given an even deeper glimpse into just how evil and self-interested it is.  It is what leads many to believe that, until a child in the womb can experience consciousness, it is not a human being, or that an adult who, through illness or injury, is no longer able to "contribute" to society, ought to be able to end their own life or have someone else make the decision to do it for them.

Now, being a father--even for only six weeks--I have had the chance to see a little bit more deeply how our Father in Heaven sees us, and how he created us to see each other, as beings with infinite worth from conception until natural death.  Thank goodness His is not a utilitarian view; if it were, we would be seen as rebels, waging war against His kingdom in our sin, instead of loving and allowing Him to love us. As a saying I heard a few months ago goes, "There is a reason we are called human beings, not human doings."

We are created to live in a relationship of love from from the first moment of our existence in our mother's womb, until He decides that our time in this life has come to a close and sends his messenger to carry us before His throne.  Sometimes that relationship of love is only one way, from Father to child, and it is that love alone that brings us into and holds us in existence.  That's right, without God's constant love for us, we would cease to exist.  Thank  God--that His love is infinite and suffices, even when we cannot, or choose not to, return it.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning with the Father's love for us, have mercy on us when we fail to love as you have created us to love.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thank You Archbishop Burke!

Finally, some words of crystal clarity, thrown down like a gauntlet by one of the highest officials in Rome (who, ironically, during his time as the Archbishop of St. Louis, was much-derided by Catholics of the shall I say this...liberal bent). As the sitting Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Burke (Cardinal-designate Burke as of yesterday, to be installed November 20) holds the highest judicial authority in the Church after the Holy Father himself.  He delivered a keynote address to a major congress in Rome last week hosted by Human Life International, in which he derided so called "cafeteria Catholics" who give into the temptation "to view the magisterium in relation to his individualism and self-pursuit.He held nothing back, calling out first and foremost bishops who have given into such temptation and left their flock to be scattered by the wolves of a society that teaches us to "believe what is convenient and to reject what is difficult for us or which challenges us."

He also left no doubt about the hypocrisy of so-called Catholic politicians and others who publicly disobey and refuse to live according to the magisterium in every day life:

"We find self-professed Catholics, for example, who sustain and support the right of a woman to procure the death of the infant in her womb, or the right of two persons of the same sex to the recognition which the State gives to a man and a woman who have entered into marriage. It is not possible to be a practicing Catholic and to conduct oneself publicly in this manner.”

He lamented the scandal that it as wrought, "that many have become confused about 'the most basic truths,' namely the inviolable dignity of innocent human life from conception until natural death, and marriage of one man and one woman 'as the first and irreplaceable' source of life and society."

We have been looking for these words from Rome for a long time, since we are not hearing them from many of our own pulpits.  Even better that they should come from an American.

Read the article: A Plea for Life, Truth, and Obedience (


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hearts According to God's Own

Yesterday was the feast of Saints Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf, and companions, French Jesuits who were martyred in the mid-17th Century while carrying the Gospel to the natives in the New World.  Last night as I was reading through the account of their missionary experiences, frought with pain, captivity, and frightful torture at the hands of the people who they came to bring the love of the Gospel to, I could not help but wonder:  what did these men possess that enabled them to endure such suffering and hardship, and to do it with such great joy?  They were willing to preach the Gospel and try to negotiate peace with a nation who came to despise them as sorcerers, and they returned literally again and again.

Contrast that with today, when we Catholics (myself included) are so hesitant to speak the name of Jesus and share Him with those around us who do not believe, for fear that we might be shunned socially, professionally, or worse by our own families.  Why?  What's holding us back?

Some members of the Church throughout the world face the same kind of suffering and "martyrdom of the red" today, where the Church is physically persecuted, but most of us do not face the threat of physical hardship for the faith.  Unfortunately, in many ways it seems the Church in America has allowed itself to be lulled into a hazy, sleepy faith, where many do not even know the faith, let alone being able to proclaim it.  We end up more bored in the presence of Christ than burning with grateful love for the fact that God himself came to live with us and share in our suffering and death so that we might be raised up into His eternal life.

It would do us well to rediscover the stories of many of the martyrs and tell them to our children, but first and most especially to meditate on what their lives and deaths point us to: the love Christ poured out for us (literally) in His passion, death, and Resurrection.  Let us pray for the reality of that burning love to be driven deep into our hearts and light them on fire.  Let the words of Saint John de Brebeuf in a letter he wrote encouraging would-be French missionaries to come to the New World, ring just as true to us today, as we are faced with a "brave new world" of radical secularism and indifference:

"We have learned that the salvation of many innocent souls, washed and whitened by the Blood of the Son of God, is stirring deeply the hearts of many men, inflaming them with fresh desires to leave Old France and come to the New.  May God be forever blessed!  By this means he has showed us that he has finally opened up to these tribes the depths of his infinite mercy.  Far be it from me to chill the ardor of the generous resolutions of those noble souls who aspire to become missionaries.  Theirs are hearts according to God's own, and we are eagerly awaiting for them...
It is true that "love is strong as death" (Sg 8:6); that the love of God has power to do what death does--that is, detach us entirely from creatures and even from ourselves!...
When you reach the land of the Hurons, you will indeed find our hearts full of love.  We will receive you with open arms as we would an angel from paradise."
 Saint John de Brebeuf (+1649)


Monday, October 18, 2010

Dr Alveda King's Blog

My apologies for not having much time to type out a good post lately.  However, I did want to point you all to a new blog that I can't believe it's taken me this long to come across.  Dr. Alveda King, neice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a staunch pro-life advocate and associate of Priests for Life.  Her blog highlights the abortion struggle as exactly what it is, a civil rights issue.  No, more than that: the civil rights issue.  Until we right this wrong of millions of unborn children being ripped (literally) from what ought to be the safest place to begin growing, until we stop denying the most innocent and voiceless among us the most fundamental right to live and exist as the human being that they are, all other "rights" and policy issues ought to pale in comparison.  We cannot get them right until we get this one right.  God does not compromise in creating life, so we cannot compromise in protecting it.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fact and Feelings: Objective Truth vs Subjective Experience (Part 2)

Last week's post addressed the question posed by Pontius Pilate of Christ, What is truth?

The question that flows from that, even if we accept that there is objective truth, is, How can we know the truth when we find it?  Can we rely on our consciences, our "moral compasses," so to speak, to tell us when we have found it?

Well, first the short answer: no, we can't.  Our compasses have been contaminated and no longer reliably point toward north.

Of course that answer deserves some explanation.  Our intellects have been darkened and wills weakened by original sin to the point that they are unreliable when it comes to identifying truth on our own.  In fact, not only are we not able to recognize truth on our own, we also cannot accurately tell how far from the truth we have strayed (i.e. we cannot even recognize the existence or degree of our own sin).  This is a concept that is largely lost on our society today, which tends to discount the possibility of sin altogether and explain our suffering under the human condition "as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc." (CCC 387).

Saint Augustine, in his Confessions, admitted that even once he recognized and conceded that there was evil, he could not discern where it came from.  This "mystery of lawlessness" as he referred to it, was only resolved by his conversion to the "mystery of faith."

So then, if we cannot recognize our own sin, what good is our conscience?  Doesn't it play a role?  Isn't our ultimate responsibility not to violate our conscience?

I tend to think of our conscience as being like one of those old cassette tapes (you remember those, don't you?).  The quality of the recording depended on two things: the quality of the cassette receiving the recording, and the clarity with which the original recording was transmitted to it.  In the same way, our consciences are only as good as we allow them to be by: (1) disposing ourselves--through an attitude of humility and obedience--to the source of truth and the grace by which we receive it; and (2) Seeking out that authentic truth as He has revealed himself to us, and not as we would intend him to be.  Just like a cassette tape whose fidelity quickly fades when it is re-recorded from itself or other tapes instead of the master, so it is with our consciences; their fidelity quickly fades when not frequently and properly oriented to the source of righteousness and goodness.

So, yes we do have a grave responsibility not to sin by violating our conscience, but that is only half of the equation.  The other half lies in our responsibility to form our consciences to be like the mind of Christ; in other words to have no tolerance to what he has defined as sin and to act as he has commanded us to act.

Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explained this idea in his essay, Conscience and Truth, which is included in the compilation Values in A Time of Upheaval:

It is true on this level of judgment (conscientia in the narrower sense) that an erring conscience obligates.  The rational tradition of Scholasticism makes this proposition absolutely clear. As Paul had affirmed (Rom 14:23), no one may act against his own convictions.  But the fact that one's conviction is naturally binding at the moment one acts does not mean a canonization of subjectivity.  One who follows the conviction at which he has arrived, never incurs guilt.  Indeed, one must follow such a conviction.  But guilt may very well consist in arriving at such perverse convictions by trampling down the protest made by the anamnesis of one's true being.  The guilt would then like on a deeper level, not in the act itself, but in that neglect of my own being that has dulled me to the voice of truth and made me deaf to what it says within me.

So, the ability to recognize the truth and live according to it--wisdom--is not something that comes organically from within us, at least in our fallen state.  Rather it has existed from the beginning of creation (cf Proverbs 8:22-36) and is given to us as a gift, to correct, untwist, and reorient us back to the purpose for which we were created, to know, love, and serve God.  To go with the early compass analogy, the grace and gift of wisdom frees our compasses to swing back toward north, so that we are able to live lives oriented toward the Truth--toward Christ--and not toward ourselves and society.  It cannot be obtained by grasping at it, only by submitting ourselves to His loving authority, as has been handed down to us in His Church.  Then we are able to do as St. Paul commends us in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, To avoid the deception of the "man of lawlessness" (cf 2 Thess 2:3-10) and to "stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thess 2:15).


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Guardian Angels

(I intended to write this post yesterday, on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, but as frequently happens the busyness of the weekend catch-up got in the way.  The good thing about feast days is they are celebrations and reminders, not due dates of prayer.  So, better late than never.)

When was the last time you prayed to your guardian angel?  Or to your spouse's and childrens' guardian angels, in thanksgiving and acknowledgement of carrying on their protection and guidance (especially spiritual protection) where you cannot?  When was the list time you were still in adoration, either at mass or Adoration (with a capital "A"), praying consciously the perpetual prayer of worship offered by the four living creatures of Revelation 4:8, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"

I found myself asking those questions as I thought about the feast yesterday.  My answer: not enough.

It's easy to forget about them sometimes, since they operate mostly invisibly and imperceptibly.  Nonetheless, the reality remains: our loving Father has appointed these spiritual "bodyguards" (I guess "spirit-guards" would be the proper term) to carry out the same promise of protection he made to the Isrealites as he led them out of Egypt:

"Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice" (Exodus 23; capitulum ad Laudes).

And so, perpetually, day and night, as our guides and co-servants of the Lord, they carry out their three-fold office: (1) to praise God, (2) to act as his messengers, and (3) to watch over us mortal men during our exile on earth.

So, just a friendly reminder: take a minute before you start your day, and at its end, to spend some time in conversation with your angel and the angels of the ones you love.  It'll be a minute (or two or three) well spent.

Angel of God, my guardian dear
To whom God's love commits me here
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard,
To rule and guide.  Amen.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Fact and Feelings: Objective Truth vs Subjective Experience (Part 1)

Welcome to the first installment of "Philosophy Fridays!"  In the interest of all of our very precious blog time, let's get right down to it.

"What is truth?" Pontius Pilate's words as recounted by St. John (18:36) tell us just as much about the man who asked them, and are just as much a searching of his own troubled heart, as they are about the God-man, Jesus Christ, who stood accused before him.  Pilate, in his questioning of the accused and the accusers (the Jews), became even more troubled when, after he had Christ scourged, found out exactly why the Jews were so violently adamant about having this seemingly innocent man not only scourged and publicly humiliated but executed in a way reserved for the most horrible of criminals: crucifixion; "by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God. When Pilate heard these words he was even more afraid" (John 19:7-8).

In a way, Pilate's searching and questioning are a microcosm of the great question of the broken human condition:  What is truth?  Where can we find it?  How do we know it when we find it?  These are the the great questions that philosophers and theologians have pondered for the entirety of recorded human history.  In today's world, sadly, it seems that we have become surrounded by so many distractions and "creature comforts" that many are numbed by the droning on of everyday life and do not even bother to ask the questions any more.  Where we do, just as many others have become convinced by what Pope Benedict XVI has referred to as the "dictatorship of relativism," that truth is whatever we experience and believe it to be, and changes just as fluidly as societal norms.  When that happens, we begin to put feelings and sensory experiences above the truth that they are meant to point us toward.  Our feelings and experiences begin to take the place of faith and become idols in themselves, to the point that fact and truth become like flags waving in the wind instead of a firm foundation. This topic, the meeting of subjective experience with the objective, unchanging Truth that was at the heart of Pilate's question, is what I'll start on here and get more into in the weeks ahead.

Catholic Professor and Theologian Peter Kreeft, in his recent book Jesus Shock, retells a story by the Chinese Christian writer Watchman Nee that I think captures the properly ordered relationship between fact, faith, and feelings and what happens when that relationship gets out of whack:

Fact, Faith, and Feeling are three men walking on a wall.  Fact goes first, Faith second, and Feeling third.  As long as Faith keeps his eyes ahead on Fact, all three stay on the wall and make progress.  But as soon as Faith takes his eyes off Fact and turns around to see how Feeling is doing, Faith falls off the wall, and Feeling follows, while Fact walks on.
"The point is obvious," Kreeft adds, "the object of our faith is not feeling but fact, not subjective experience but objective truth." That, in a nutshell, is what it's all about.

Whether it is pop psychology, science, or what I like to call "feel good faith," the world offers so many ways (and so-called experts) to boost that subjective experience by giving us temporary, here-and-now answers, but do any of them ultimately satisfy our deepest longing for that eternal, outside-ourselves Truth?

Well, let's look at it with another analogy.  Imagine a play.  The key actors, in the hundredth or two hundredth casting and finding themselves somewhat removed from the original casting of the play, begin to wonder what the point of the play was in the first place.  Why was it written?  What message was it meant to convey? In other words, what is the point?  Assuming the playwright/producer/director is still alive and very much active in the play, although not in a way that the actors can explicitly perceive, wouldn't it make sense for the actors to take those questions to him?  What if they didn't?  What if they instead began to ask the question of each other (through speculation), of the set (nature), or even of the script (history) that has been lined out, crossed through, and highlighted in odd places by previous performers?  Could they reliably turn to any of these sources for the answer to the question that only the author himself can answer?

That turning inward and refusal to take the question to the author (and take his word for it--literally, since he sent his Word to us in the flesh) is exactly what we do when we refuse to take our longing to God and instead fill the desire that he leaves with other "stuff."  We substitute our own limited experience, perceptions, thoughts, etc. that leave us unsatisfied--our "truth"--for the Truth that never fails to satisfy.

Pilate probably didn't realize that the question he asked, he may as well have asked on behalf of an entire human race desperate to know the Truth.  He probably also didn't realize that the Truth was right there, standing right before him, who had already declared that "I am the way, and the truth, and the life..." (John 14:6).  His question had already been answered, and in a manner so generously, infinitely inconceivable that it could only be perceived with the eyes of faith and not feelings or the senses.

To be continued in Part Two.