Friday, February 29, 2008

Spring Maine?!?!

Contrary to every reasonable expectation, I'm actually going someplace colder for Spring Break. My girlfriend's family lives in Portland, so we will be there for the next week. Of course, you know what that means: even less posting then I've already been doing! If you promise not to leave me altogether, I promise to make cameo appearances over the break and give you just enough to keep you coming back.

Deal? I hope so.

Also, I won't be keeping up with the "Daily Dose" while I'm away, but not to worry. There's still a way for you to read each day's entry. For the G. K. Chesterton quote of the day, go here. For the Catholic Tradition quote of the day, go here.

Finally, don't forget that nominations are over and now VOTING for the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards begins on Monday, March 3, 2008 at 12:00 Noon CST and end on Monday, March 17, 2008 at Noon. Please don't forget about me while I'm aware. If you need a reminder as to why I'm worthy of an award, just check out the selection of posts in the Topical Index at the top of my blog.

Pax Christi,

ps: As if this could actually be an after thought, please pray for Amy and I as we drive 12 hours through intermittent snow and inclement weather.

Operation Outcry Needs Your Help!

The following is a must-read from Fr. Euteneuer of Human Life International. Please pass this along to everyone you know and post it on your blogs. The entire Catholic blogosphere needs to get behind this project.

Pax Christi,
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Spirit & Life®
"The words I spoke to you are spirit and life." (Jn 6:63)
Human Life International e-Newsletter
Volume 03, Number 09 Friday, February 29, 2008

Operation Outcry

In every country where abortion is being promoted, the insistent mantra of the abortion promoters is the lie that "unsafe (i.e., illegal) abortion" is damaging women's lives and should be replaced by "safe and legal" abortion.

The transformation of abortion from illegal to legal is supposed to make it - magically - safe for women. That was but one of the many lies about abortion that the US Supreme Court swallowed in 1973 when it legalized this killing procedure. While the abortion industry itself admitted that most of the illegal abortions were done by trained doctors in the comfort of their offices, very few arguments were as persuasive as the one that said women would be served by eliminating "back-alley" abortions and replacing them with abortion on demand. This pernicious lie is still a favorite argument of the abortion industry around the world, and they must marvel at how easily people fall for it.

Well, we know how to undo that lie. The same way we undo any lie: we defeat it with the truth. We are quick to acknowledge that abortion is never safe for unborn children, but 35 sad years of destruction has taught us that it's also a lie to think that legal abortion is safe and pain-free for women. Post-abortive women everywhere are the best witnesses to the truth about abortion, and that truth is very simple - there is no such thing as a safe abortion! Period. This testimony is valid both for our own fight here in the United States to overturn Roe as well as for our fight to keep this evil out of abortion-free countries. We need to join that fight as best we can and we now have a way to do that.

I have recently discovered a most worthy project for post-abortion testimonies called Operation Outcry. I am impressed by the scope of their work and the goal that they have set for themselves. This project is sponsored by the Texas Justice Foundation, the group that brought Norma McCorvey (the Roe of Roe v. Wade) back to the Supreme Court to let her story be heard. They want to collect one million "declarations" of post-abortion stories which will be entered into the public record when abortion comes back up before the Supreme Court. They are relying on various pro-life organizations to get the word out to post-abortive women and men who can declare, in a fully confidential manner, that abortion is not the salvation that it was promised to be in 1973 or ever.

In the face of the Supreme Court's ongoing commitment to Roe, the ones who have had real experience of those negative effects are able to testify to the highest court in our land something that we have always known: that abortion is a damaging, degrading and desperate procedure. It robs babies of their lives and women and men of their dignity. We think the Supreme Court needs to hear this message. In fact, the Texas Justice Foundation was the only pro-life brief that was cited in the recent partial birth abortion decision, and so we think there is a fighting chance.

Please do consider looking at the website of Operation Outcry and join in the effort to get declarations from one million women and men who have been affected negatively by abortion. The lie has to be countered by a strong witness to the truth, and after 35 years of abortion on demand, many people certainly have a strong witness to offer. There is no time like the present to use it!

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
President, Human Life International

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/29/08

Note: There was no available quotation from G. K. Chesterton for Feb. 29, so today's "Daily Dose" is strictly from Catholic Tradition

Prayer is the spiritual offering that has replaced the ancient sacrifices. What good do I receive from the multiplicity of your sacrifices? asks God. We learn from the gospel: The hour will come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is spirit, and so he looks for worshipers who are like himself.

We are the true worshipers and the true priests. Praying in spirit we offer prayer to God as a sacrifice. Prayer is an appropriate and an acceptable sacrifice to God. It is the offering he has asked for and the offering he expects.

We must make this offering with our whole heart. We must fatten it on faith, prepare it by truth, keep it unblemished by innocence, spotless by chastity, and we must crown it with love. We must escort it to the altar of God in a procession of good works to the sound of psalms and hymns. Then it will gain for us all that we ask of God. What can God refuse to prayer offered in spirit and in truth, when he himself asks for such prayer? How many proofs of its efficacy we read about, hear of, and believe!
-- Tertullian of Carthage, De oratione 28-29: CCL 1, 273-274

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/28/08

The wise man will follow a star, low and large and fierce in the heavens, but the nearer he comes to it the smaller and smaller it will grow, till he finds it the humble lantern over some little inn or stable. Not till we know the high things shall we know how lovely they are.
-- G. K. Chesterton, William Blake

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Make light of the world and of yourself and of all earthly pleasures. Hold your kingdom as something lent to you, not as if it were your own. For you know well that life, health, wealth, honor, status, dominion—none of these belongs to you. If they did, you could own them in your own way. But just when we want to be healthy we are sick; just when we want to be alive we die; just when we want to be rich we are poor; just when we want to be in power we are made servants. And all this because these things are not ours, and we can keep them only as much and as long as it pleases the One who has lent them to us. So it is really foolish to hold as if it were our own what belongs to another: it is, in fact, a thievery worthy of death. This is why I am asking you to act wisely, as a good steward, holding everything as lent to you who have been made God's steward.
Catherine of Siena, "Letter 78," from The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena, Suzanne Noffke, O.P., volume 1, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1988, 238

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oops! My Bad

I just realized that my numbering is off for Poll-Release Monday. This week's poll should be #44, not #45. As a result, I need to go back through and renumber all of my previous polls. For those of you who read my blog via my blog feed or receive updates via email, I apologize.

UPDATE (2/27/08, 8:20 PM): Fixed the numbering in the title of each "Poll-Release Monday" post, as well as the numbering for the "Poll-Release Monday" Archive.

Pax Christi,

Scripture Passages for Anxiety and Depression

Someone recently asked me for some Scripture verses that would be comforting in times of anxiety or depression. Here's what I found:

Exo 14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.

Psa 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for thou alone, O LORD, makest me dwell in safety.

Psa 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Psa 29:11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Psa 46:10a Be still, and know that I am God.

Psa 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul.

Prov 1:33 but he who listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of evil."

Prov 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Isa 32:2,17-18 Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a covert from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. 17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever. 18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Isa 35:4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Isa 41:10 fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Isa 43:1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine."

Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa 54:10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Isa 60:20 Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.

Mt 6:25-34 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Mt 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Jn 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Jn 16:33 I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Rom 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rom 15:13,33 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Eph 2:14-17 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;

Phil 4:6-7 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

2 Thes 3:16 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all.

Heb 4:9-11 So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; 10 for whoever enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.

1 Pet 5:6-7 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. 7 Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.

1 Jn 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.

Do you know of any other passages that I should add to the list? Leave a comment and let me know.

Jesus, Prince of Peace ... have mercy on us.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace ... pray for us.

Pax Christi,

Phatcatholic Q&A Rampage

WikiAnswers just had to tempt me. From midnight (EST) on Saturday (late Friday night), March 1, 2008 until midnight (EST) on Monday (late Sunday night) March 3, there will be a WikiAnswers AnswerThon. Whoever can answer the most questions wins a $500 Amazon gift certificate. I'm all about that! I'd sit and answer questions all day if I didn't have fifty-billion other things to do.

I got excited and answered a few questions before the contest begins. Here's what I've answered so far (it took me about 30 minutes):
  1. Who is the patron saint of logan?
    • While it is unclear who or what "logan" is, perhaps this will answer your question.

      There is a "Logan County" that is a part of the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, who's patron saint is Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. There is a "Logan County" that is a part of the diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, who's patron saint is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Finally, there is a "Logan County" that is a part of the diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, who's patron saint is Our Lady of the Assumption.

  2. What is the English translation for Gaudeamus?
    • Gaudeamus is Latin for "Let us rejoice."

  3. What happens to those who hurt or tempt God's children?
    • The synoptic Gospels of the Bible tell us that "whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Mt 18:6; cf. Mk 9:42; Lk 17:2). Matthew's Gospel also tells us, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" (18:10). Finally, Paul tells us, "Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak" (1 Cor 8:9). While he was referring specifically to the eating of certain foods, I think the principle can be applied generally to anyone who is still young, new, or immature in their faith or who's spiritual development is in our care. This, of course, would include children.

  4. How many times does the word grandmother appear in the bible?
    • I am aware of only one instance of the word "grandmother" in the Bible. It is in 2 Tim 1:5, where Paul says, "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lo'is and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you." The Greek word being translated here is mammh. It means:
      1. mother (the name infants use in addressing their mother)
      2. grandmother

  5. How many Christians are living in the UK?
    • The webpage reports that there are 51,230,000 Christians in the United Kingdom as of 1997. See this page.

I could totally get addicted to this. How many questions can you answer? We'll see who wins on March 3rd.

Pax Christi,

The Mass and the Forgiveness of Sins

I had to blow the dust off of this question, it is so old! On 11/21/07, Christina emailed me the following question:
There is an argument out there that since the mass is a representation of the cross of Christ and, as the Roman Catechism puts it, "is truly a propitiatory Sacrifice, by which God is appeased and rendered propitious to us", we have no need of confession. Further from the Roman Catechism on this point:
  • "If, therefore, with a pure heart, a lively faith, and affected with an inward sorrow for our transgressions, we immolate and offer this most holy victim, we shall, without doubt, obtain mercy from the Lord, and grace in time of need; for SO delighted is the Lord with the door of this victim that, bestowing on us the gift of grace and repentance, He pardons our sins. Hence this usual prayer of the Church: As often as the commemoration of this victim is celebrated, so often is the work of our salvation being done; that is to say, through this unbloody Sacrifice flow to us the most plenteous fruits of that bloody victim."
There are also several popes who've said the same thing. I've been having difficulty coming up with a response to the statement that because of this Confession is superfluous. Can you speak to this?

Well, first of all, we find the passage you quoted in the section of the Roman Catechism on the Sacrament of the Eucharist, under the subheading "The Mass: A Sacrifice of Praise, Thanksgiving and Propitiation." I suggest reading the entire section.

Now, when it speaks here of sins being pardoned through the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, it is important to note that the sins in question are venial, not mortal. Farther up, under the subheading, "The Eucharist Remits Venial Sins," we read, "It cannot be doubted that by the Eucharist are remitted and pardoned lighter sins, commonly called venial."

We know that the Roman Catechism is not asserting that mortal sins are remitted by the Mass because, farther down, in the third paragraph under "Preparation of Soul," it states:
  • We should, in the next place, carefully examine whether our consciences be defiled by mortal sin, which has to be repented of, in order that it may be blotted out before Communion by the remedy of contrition and confession. The Council of Trent has defined that no one conscious of mortal sin and having an opportunity of going to confession, however contrite he may deem himself, is to approach the Holy Eucharist until he has been purified by sacramental confession.
Now, it is true that the One Sacrifice of Christ, made present in the Mass, is the source of the forgiveness of mortal sin. All grace comes from the Cross. But, the grace necessary to forgive us of mortal sin is given to us, not in our celebration of the Eucharist or by our presence at Mass but in the Sacrament of Confession. It is there that God desires to take the santifying grace won for us through the Sacrifice of Christ and cleanse us of all sin, including mortal sin.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/27/08

Aman must be partly a one-idead man because he is a one-weaponed man -- and he is flung naked into the fight. In short, he must (as the books on Success say) give 'his best'; and what a small part of a man 'his best ' is! His second and third best are often much better. If he is the first violin he must fiddle for life; he must not remember that he is a fine fourth bagpipe, a fair fifteenth billiard-cue, a foil, a fountain-pen, a hand at whist, a gun, and an image of God.
-- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World
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If, having been made in the image of God, you wish to be like him, follow his example. Christians, whose very name is a profession of love for everyone, should imitate the love of Christ.

Consider and wonder at the wealth of Christ's love for us. When he was about to show himself to us in our own nature, he sent John the Baptist to preach repentance by word and example. Before John he sent all the prophets. They too were to teach people to amend their lives. Then he came himself and with his own voice cried out: Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. And how did he receive those who listened to his call and followed him? He readily forgave them their sins, instantly relieving them of all their cause for grief. The Word made them holy, the Spirit set his seal on them. Their old self was buried in the waters of baptism and a new self born; their youth was renewed by grace. And the result? Enemies of God became his friends, strangers to him became his children, idolaters became worshipers of the true God.
-- Asterius of Amasea, Hom. 13: PG 40, 355-358.362

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/26/08

It is neither blood nor rain that has made England, but hope -- the thing all those dead men have desired. France was not France because she was made to be by the skulls of the Celts or by the sun of Gaul. France was France because she chose.
-- G. K. Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw

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Our Lord Jesus Christ nourishes us for eternal life both by his commands, which teach us how to live holy lives, and by the eucharist. He in himself therefore is truly the divine, life-giving manna. Anyone who eats it will be exempt from corruption and will escape death, unlike those who ate the material manna. That type had no power to save, but was merely an imitation of the reality.

God sent down manna like rain from above, and ordered everyone to gather as much as necessary, those who shared a tent gathering together if they wished. Gather it, each of you, he said, with those who share your tent. Let none of it be left over till the morning. That is to say, we must fill ourselves with the divine teaching of the gospel.

Christ indeed gives us his grace in equal measure, whether we are great or small, and bestows life-giving food on all alike. He wishes the stronger among us to gather for the others, working on behalf of their sisters and brothers, lending them their labor so that all may share in the heavenly gifts.
-- Cyril of Alexandria, Glaphororum in Exodum 2, 3: PG 69, 456-457

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poll-Release Monday #44

It has certainly been a long time coming, but here is your new poll for the week:

True or False?: "A repentance motivated by a love of God above all else obtains forgiveness of mortal sin."
  • True
  • False
In RCIA, we recently discussed the Sacrament of Reconciliation more in depth, and this is one of the issues that came up. What do you say? Vote in the poll in the sidebar and let me know.

That said, here are the results from the previous poll, which is now 3 weeks old, but only ran for a week and a half:

"What do you think of the new topical index at the top of my blog?"
  • Yay: 27 (84%)
  • Nay: 5 (16%)
Most of you all liked the index where it was, before I even made it so that you could hide or reveal it (by clicking on the button at the top of my blog). So, I'm guessing it's a hit now, and I hope that you all are using it.

Finally, nominations end this Friday (the 29th) for the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards, so make sure you nominate me before it's too late! Remember, I'm shooting for two awards this year: "Best Apologetics Blog" and "Best Designed Blog." Feel free to nominate me in both categories! I know my apologetical content has been down these last 2-3 weeks, but I plan on upping it here shortly.

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/25/08

Nothing is important except the fate of the soul; and literature is only redeemed from an utter triviality, surpassing that of naughts and crosses, by the fact that it describes not the world around us, or the things on the retina of the eye, or the enormous irrelevancy of encyclopaedias, but some condition to which the human spirit can come.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Introduction to "The Old Curiosity Shop"

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We might suppose a path pointed out by God would be a smooth and pleasant one, free of obstacles and requiring no effort from the traveler, but in fact God's way is an ascent, a tortuous and rugged climb. There can be no downhill road to virtue—it is uphill all the way, and the path is narrow and arduous. Listen also to the Lord's warning in the gospel: The way that leads to life, he says, is narrow and hard. Notice how close the agreement is between the gospel and the law. In the law the way of virtue is shown to be a tortuous climb; the gospels speak of the way that leads to life as narrow and hard. Is it not obvious then, even to the blind, that the law and the gospels were both written by one and the same Spirit?

And so the road they followed was a winding ascent, an ascent surmounted by a beacon. The ascent refers to works and the beacon to faith, so that we can see the great difficulty and laborious effort involved in both faith and works. Many are the temptations we shall meet and many the obstacles to faith that lie in store for us in our desire to pursue the things of God.
-- Origen of Alexandria, Hom. in Exodo 5, 3-4: Edit. Maurist. 2, 145-146

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/24/08

It is constantly assumed, especially in our Tolstoian tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is -- Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the Church attempted; that is the miracle she achieved.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
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For us who have been called to live a life of holiness through faith the true lamb has been sacrificed, the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. To this sacrifice we must add a food that is spiritual, wholly good, and truly sacred, a food typified in the law by the unleavened bread, which we now understand in a spiritual way.

In the divinely inspired scriptures yeast always signifies wickedness and sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ, warning his holy disciples to be on their guard, said: Beware of the yeast of the scribes and Pharisees. And Paul in his great wisdom wrote that those who have once been sacrificed should put far from them the yeast of impurity that corrupts mind and heart. Purify yourselves of the old yeast, he urged, and become a fresh batch of bread, since you really are unleavened.

This urgent plea prompted by concern for our well-being shows that spiritual communion with Christ the Savior of us all is not only a benefit to us but also a real need. It also shows how important it is for us to keep our minds pure by refraining from sin and washing away every stain. In a word, we must avoid everything that defiled us in the past, for it is then, when no fault of ours bars the way and we are wholly free from reproach, that we shall open the way to this communion with Christ.
-- Cyril of Alexandria, Paschal Homilies 19, 2: PG 77, 824-825

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/23/08

The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

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Perseverance in faith, devotion, and virtue is assured by three things: prayer, fasting, and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting gains entrance, mercy receives. These three things, prayer, fasting, and mercy, are all one and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them, for this is impossible. If we have only one of them, if we have not all three together, we have nothing. Whoever prays, then, must also fast; whoever fasts must also show mercy. If we want our own petitions heard we must hear the petitions of others. God's ear will be open to us if we do not turn a deaf ear to other people.

When we fast we should understand what it means to be really hungry. If we want God to take account of our hunger we must feel for the hunger of others. If we hope for mercy we must show mercy. If we look for kindness we must show kindness. If we want to receive we must give. Only a shameless person would ask for himself what he refused to give to others. In showing mercy this should be the rule: show it in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness as you would wish it to be shown to you.
-- Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 43; PL 52, 320

Friday, February 22, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/22/08

Of a sane man there is only one safe delinition: he is a man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head
-- G. K. Chesterton, Tremenlous Trifles

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Now that divine power has been made manifest in the assumption of human weakness, there must be no sadness among the faithful to cast a shadow upon the paschal solemnity, no sorrow in recalling the events of the past, since our Lord could so use the malice of his enemies that their evil intentions served the purpose of his mercy. At the time of the exodus, Israel's freedom was restored through the blood of a lamb and the wrath of the destroying angel was averted through the sacrifice of a beast. And if this deliverance was marked by the institution of a solemn festival, how great should be the joy of Christian people, for whose sake the almighty Father spared not his only Son! He delivered him up for us all, so that the death of Christ might become the true passover and unique sacrifice, no longer saving a single people from subjection to Pharaoh, but delivering the whole world from bondage to the devil.
-- Leo the Great, Sermo 9 de passione 2: PL 54, 343

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Apologies

I feel like I should apologize to my readers for the lack of original content on this blog over the past two weeks. I really feel a sense of responsibility to you all, to make this blog as helpful and beneficial as it can possibly be. But, I guess I've been feeling a little burnt out here recently, b/c the "Daily Dose of Discernment" has been coming late and I don't even have a poll for this week!

Hopefully you all will hang with me through this down time. The spark of creativity and inspiration is never fully extinguished within me.

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/21/08

If Americans can be divorced for 'incompatibility of temper,' I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.
-- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World

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If those who believe in Christ are one, then through the mystery of the sacrament the entire body is present where bodily eyes see but a single member. Solitude prevents no one from speaking in the plural; nor is it inappropriate for the multitude of believers to speak in the singular, for through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is present in each and fills all, it is clear that the solitude is full of people and the multitude forms a unity.

Our holy Fathers regarded this intimate relationship and communion of believers in Christ as so certain that they included it in the creed stating the Catholic faith, and commanded us frequently to call it to mind along with the other basic elements of Christian belief. For immediately after we say: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church," we add: "the communion of saints." Thus in the very act by which we bear witness to the God in whom we believe, we also affirm the communion that marks the Church which is one with him. For this communion of saints in the unity of faith is such that, because they believe in one God, are reborn in one baptism, and are strengthened by the one Holy Spirit, they are admitted, through the grace of adoption, into the one everlasting life.
-- Peter Damian, Liber Qui Dicitur Dominus Vobiscum 6. 10: PL 145, 236.239

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dailly Dose of Discernment: 2/20/08

Now the reason why our fathers did not make marriage, in the middle-aged and static sense, the subject of their plays was a very simple one; it was that a play is a very bad place for discussing that topic. You cannot easily make a good drama out of the success or failure of a marriage, just as you could not make a good drama out of the growth of an oak-tree or the decay of an empire. As Polonius very reasonably observed, it is too long. A happy love-affair will make a drama simply because it is dramatic; it depends on an ultimate yes or no. But a happy marriage is not dramatic; perhaps it would be less happy if it were. The essence of a romantic heroine is that she asks herself an intense question; but the essence of a sensible wife is that she is much too sensible to ask herself any questions at all. All the things that make monogamy a success are in their nature undramatic things, the silent growth of an instinctive confidence, the common wounds and victories, the accumulation of customs, the rich maturing of old jokes. Sane marriage is an untheatrical thing; it is therefore not surprising that most modern dramatists have devoted themselves to insane marriage.
-- G. K. Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw
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We are soon to celebrate the passion of our crucified Lord. It is therefore in keeping with our commitment to him that we should crucify ourselves by restraining the desires of the flesh. As the apostle says: You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all your self-indulgent passions and desires. Such is the cross upon which we Christians must continually hang, since our whole lives are beset by trials and temptations. Not for us, as long as we live, to be rid of those nails we read of in the psalm: Pierce my flesh with the nails of your fear.

Flesh means the desires of our lower nature; nails, the demands of God's justice and holiness. With these the fear of the Lord pierces our flesh and fastens us to the cross as an acceptable sacrifice to him. In a similar passage the apostle Paul appeals to us by the mercy of God to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
-- Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 205, 1

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/19/08

There are two rooted spiritual realities out of which grow all kinds of democratic conception or sentiment of human equality. There are two things in which all men are manifestly and unmistakably equal. They are not equally clever or equally muscular or equally fat, as the sages of the modern reaction (with piercing insight) perceive. But this is a spiritual certainty, that all men are tragic. And this, again, is an equally sublime spiritual certainty, that all men are comic. No special and private sorrow can be so dreadful as the fact of having to die. And no freak or deformity can be so funny as the mere fact of having two legs. Every man is important if he loses his life; and every man is funny if he loses his hat, and has to run after it. And the universal test everywhere of whether a thing is popular, of the people, is whether it employs vigorously these extremes of the tragic and the comic.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens
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To preserve men and women from sin and from being unworthy of himself God commanded them to love him and taught them to be just in their dealings with other people. By the Ten Commandments he prepared them to live in friendship with himself and in harmony with one another. This was simply for their own good and it was all God asked of them. It conferred great glory on them and gave them the friendship with God they had lacked, but it did not benefit God, for he had no need of their love. The need was all on their side: they needed the glory of God and could obtain it only by serving him. This is why Moses said to the people: Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him. In this your life consists.

And so God has abolished the laws which were given as a sign of their servitude but has amplified the natural laws which are of universal application and befit people who are free. This he has done in his generosity by freely making us his children, so that we might know him as our Father, love him with our whole heart, and unswervingly follow his Word.
-- Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haer. 4, 16, 2-5: SC 100, 564-572.

Monday, February 18, 2008

More on Clinton in Steubenville

To my great surprise, when I made this post, I was one of the first (if not the first) blog to break the story of Bill Clinton's visit to Steubenville and the protest that was organized by FUS students. For that, I received an "AmP Shout-Out" from the American Papist! Thanks Tom!

This story is actually receiving some pretty good coverage from major news sources and throughout the blogosphere. Apparently Bill, like John Kerry, couldn't take the heat. Here are several videos that provide all or part of Clinton's outburst. First, from YouTube:

Three different videos of the local news coverage all add a little bit more than what you see in the YouTube video. The first one shows the number of students protesting outside of the event (b/c they weren't allowed in). The second video shows a large sweep of the audience, and, at the end, two students praying the rosary with their back to the former president.

The third video gives reaction from Hillary supporters at the event. It also reports that there was in fact room for more people in the gymnasium, which is interesting considering that almost all of the FUS students were kept from entering because organizers said the event was full. I think they meant there was no room for protestors.

This video, from WRCB in Chattanooga is the clearest recording of the entire tirade.

For more news coverage from across the internet, see the following links:In case you're wondering, the protester who instigated Clinton's response was David Vogel, who, contrary to the implication made by most reports, is not an FUS student. See Jill Stanek's blog post for Vogel's reaction to what took place.

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/18/08

There are some people who state that the exterior, sex, or physique of another person is indifferent to them, that they care only for the communion of mind with mind; but these people need not detain us. There are some statements that no one ever thinks of believing, however often they are made.
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant

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God's will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God's desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness, and it was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God's heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and that he died, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God the Father when we were at enmity with him, and to restore us to the life of blessedness from which we had been exiled. He healed our physical infirmities by miracles; he freed us from our sins, many and grievous as they were, by suffering and dying, taking them upon himself as if he were answerable for them, sinless though he was. He also taught us in many different ways that we should wish to imitate him by our own kindness and genuine love for one another.
-- Maximus the Confessor, Ep. 11: PG 91, 454-455.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/17/08

Some people do not like the word "dogma." Fortunately they are free, and there is an alternative for them. There are two things, and two things only, for the human mind -- a dogma and a prejudice. The Middle Ages were a rational epoch, an age of doctrine. Our age is, at its best, a poetical epoch, an age of prejudice. A doctrine is a definite point; a prejudice is a direction. That an ox may be eaten, while a man should not be eaten, is a doctrine. That as little as possible of anything should be eaten is a prejudice; which is also sometimes called an ideal.
-- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World
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The paschal celebration is especially characterized by the rejoicing of the whole Church in the forgiveness of sins. This forgiveness is given not only to those then reborn in holy baptism but also to those already numbered among God's adopted children.

Although we receive new life in the first place by our rebirth in baptism, we all need a daily renewal to make up for the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and no matter how much progress we have made, every one of us is called to greater holiness. We should therefore make a real effort not to let the day of our redemption find us still falling into the same old sins.

What the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater zeal and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be observed not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.
-- Leo the Great, Sermo 6 de Quadragesima 1-2: PL 54, 286

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/16/08

Our fathers had a plain sort of pity: if you will, a gross and coarse pity. They had their own sort of sentimentalism. They were quite willing to weep over Smike. But it certainly never occurred to them to weep over Squeers. No doubt they were often narrow and often visionary. No doubt they often looked at a political formula when they should have looked at an elemental fact. No doubt they were pedantic in some of their principles and clumsy in some of their solutions. No doubt, in short, they were all very wrong, and no doubt we are the people and wisdom shall die with us. But when they saw something that in their eyes, such as they were, really violated their morality, such as it was, then they did not cry "Investigate!" They did not cry "Educate!" They did not cry "Improve!" They did not cry "Evolve!" Like Nicholas Nickleby, they cried "Stop!" And it did stop.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Introduction to "Nicholas Nickleby"
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While Jesus was surrounded by a large crowd because of the many miracles he performed and because of his gentle doctrine, he, the lover of solitude, again withdrew to a secluded place where, after being useful to his neighbor, he could freely return to prayer and contemplation.

It is a good, indeed necessary, thing for people who are much embattled to take refuge from the fray within themselves, to cultivate themselves, and in their innermost, care-filled hearts to fix their gaze on the divine realities and ask God for what is essential for the guidance and progress of all people. In this way they help with silent prayer those whom they have instructed in the faith, to give them the power to understand, so that the word of God may not fall on the empty air.
-- Simon Fidati of Cascia, O.S.A., De gestis Domini Salvatoris IV, 7

Friday, February 15, 2008

Clinton in Steubenville?

Usually I don't make posts about politics, but I just had to mention this. Check out this little item from the Wheeling News-Register:
  • STEUBENVILLE — The Ohio For Hillary Clinton campaign announced Thursday that President Bill Clinton will campaign for Hillary in Steubenville on Sunday.

    John Abdalla, Jefferson County Democratic Party chairman, said former President Clinton could make a stop in the city Sunday evening to campaign for his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.

    Abdalla said he was awaiting word from state Democratic party leaders.

    Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said he has been contacted by the Secret Service concerning a possible appearance by President Clinton around 5-9 p.m. Sunday. The sheriff said the Secret Service may be in the city Saturday to confirm a location and work on security issues.

    According to the Ohio for Hillary campaign officals, the former president will campaign in Steubenville as well as in other Ohio cities including Toledo, Canton and Marietta on Sunday.
I'm sure she sent good ol' Bill to Steubenville to talk to the steelworkers. After all, Democrats like to appeal to the workers' unions. But, apparently Hillary forgot that one of the centers of Catholicism in America happens to be in this little town and, well, we tend to be just a tad conservative (to put it lightly). I think she might have also forgotten that when John Kerry tried to campaign for the presidency here, we ran him out of town.

Anyway, we shall see what type of reception Hillary receives here. I hope it's more of the same.

UPDATE (2-16-08, 1:32 AM): Bill Clinton will appear from 5:00 PM to 5:45 PM at Steubenville High School downtown. The address is 420 N. Fourth St., about 1.5 miles away from campus. Everyone please meet in the circle (on campus) at 3:45 PM to get your signs and a ride. Drivers, please pull up to the circle and pick up as many students as possible. Finally, if you haven't already, invite more people to the event. Less then 1,000 students have been invited so far.

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/15/08

London is the largest of the bloated modern cities; London is the smokiest; London is the dirtiest; London is, if you will, the most sombre; London is, if you will, the most miserable. But London is certainly the most amusing and the most amused. You may prove that we have the most tragedy; the fact remains that we have the most comedy, that we have the most farce.
-- G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

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We have only to recall past generations to see that the Lord has always offered the opportunity of repentance to those willing to return to him. This was the burden of Noah's preaching, and all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed; they repented and their pleas for mercy placated God's anger and saved them, even though they were not of his chosen people.

The ministers of God's grace have all been inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak of repentance. The Lord of the universe himself has spoken of it with an oath.

Thus, by his own almighty will, God has ratified his desire to give all his loved ones the chance to return to him. Let us bow then to that sublime and glorious will, throw ourselves on his mercy, and humbly beseech his goodness and compassion. No more energy must be wasted in the wrangling and jealousy that can only lead to death.
-- Clement of Rome, First Letter to the Corinthians 7-9.12.19: Funk I, 71-73.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/14/08

The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to the opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a joke mysteriously imposed on mankind by the devil, instead of being as it is a yoke consistently imposed on all lovers by themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black v. white contradiction in two words -- 'free love' -- as if a lover ever had been or ever could be free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover with an ill-favoured grin the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as the old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants.
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant
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There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all believers may be of equal value even when their means are not. Nothing can ever so obstruct the love we owe both God and other people as to prevent our having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed not only with the virtue of charity but also with the gift of peace.

The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.
-- Leo the Great, Sermo 6 de Quadragesima 2: PL 54, 287.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Highs and the Lows of Christology

Christina recently left the following comment:
I have a question about low vs high Christology. I was once in a debate with someone where I mentioned that Jesus was a man as well as God and was accused of low Christology. In his response I got the impression that high Christology was, in essence, the belief that Jesus was not man (or ignoring that part of him). I've since been under the impression that low Christology was a focus on Christ's humanity and high Christology a focus on Christ's divinity, at the expense of the other. I've asked if there was an orthodox middle Christology, but was told that high Christology is the orthodox one and I'm most puzzled. Can you shed some light on this?
First of all, here is what an orthodox Christology must declare:
  • Jesus is fully man
  • Jesus is fully God
  • The human and the divine nature of Jesus Christ are united in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity
  • Both natures co-exist without confusion, admixture, separation or the creation of a tertium quid, or "third thing"
  • The two natures are distinct but not separate
  • Jesus has a divine will and a human will
  • Jesus has a divine intellect and a human intellect
  • Jesus has a human soul
Anything contrary to this is heresy.

Now, let's define what a "low Christology" is and what "high Christology" is.

A low Christology takes as its starting point and its foundation all that we know about Jesus as a human being, a historical figure. It is supremely indebted to historical-critical research of the Gospel accounts, which provides for us much of the information regarding Jesus' life on earth. This type of Christology is also called an "ascending Christology" because it starts with the human being Jesus and then rises upwards towards God as it contemplates the relationship between Jesus and He who is entirely "other-wordly" and "other than." There's no reason why a low Christology cannot also affirm the true divinity of Jesus Christ, but I've also never found a low Christology that didn't weaken Jesus' divinity in some way.

A high Christology takes as its starting point and its foundation the pre-existent Logos, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The quintessential, high christological statement comes from John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (Jn 1:1,14). This type of Christology is also called a "descending Christology" because it starts with the Second Person of the Trinity and moves downward as it contemplates the Incarnation, when God took on a perfect human nature. I suppose certain Christological heresies of the first 5 centuries (such as Gnosticism, Docetism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism) could be called high Christologies that deny the full humanity of Christ, but most high christologies that I come across today are good about affirming both the full divinity and the full humanity of Jesus.

That said, I would like to respond to each point that you made in your question.

I was once in a debate with someone where I mentioned that Jesus was a man as well as God and was accused of low Christology.
That person was wrong to say that you were a proponent of low christology just b/c you affirmed that Jesus was a man. It is the teaching of the Church that Jesus was fully man, and I think that you can make such a statement no matter where you start in your inquiry about Jesus.

In his response I got the impression that high Christology was, in essence, the belief that Jesus was not man (or ignoring that part of him).
A high Christology could lead to a denial of Jesus' full humanity (as with the heresies I previously listed), but I don't think that it need necessarily result in such a conclusion. I think a high Christology can still affirm the full humanity of Christ. There is nothing inherent to that system of understanding that would prevent someone from declaring that Jesus had a true human nature.

I've since been under the impression that low Christology was a focus on Christ's humanity and high Christology a focus on Christ's divinity, at the expense of the other.
They do have a difference in emphasis, but again, I don't think that either one has to necessarily lead to heresy. I think that even a low Christology could be redeemed, but it is also true that most of the proponents of low Christology today hold to certain presuppositions that do in fact prevent them from affirming that Jesus IS God. Such presuppositions include a denial of the miraculous, an agnosticism regarding the inner life of the Trinity, and a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding anything that cannot be scientifically or empirically verified.

I've asked if there was an orthodox middle Christology, but was told that high Christology is the orthodox one and I'm most puzzled. Can you shed some light on this?
Basically, whether you start with Jesus as a human being or His pre-existent Personhood, as long as you affirm that Jesus is fully man and fully God, and properly understand how these two natures come together in the hypostatic union, then you're ok. Where we start in our inquiry is not as important as coming to the proper conclusions.

I hope that helps. For more on God and Jesus Christ, see the God/Trinity topical index page, as well as the following entries from New Advent:Pax Christi,

New Look for the Topical Index

I probably should have waited until the week was up and the voting was finished on the current layout, but I was just too excited :D So, I decided to make a slight change to the Topical Index chart and put it in a button, like I did with the links in my sidebar.

Now, if you want to see the Topical Index, just click the button at the top of my blog. If you don't want to see it, you don't have to. I think doing it this way makes my blog look a little cleaner and less cluttered up top. It also keeps you from having to scroll down to read the first post. I also like it b/c I now have more room at the top for special reminders, such as my link to the Resources for Lent 2008.

Overall, I think it's a good change. I hope you all like it too. Leave a comment and let me know. I closed the current poll.

Pax Christi,

Nominate Phatcat in the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards

It is that time of year again: time to vote for your favorite Catholic blog in this year's Catholic Blog Awards. Last year I did rather well, with 7 top-25 finishes, 2 of which were in the top-10:
  • Best Apologetics Blog: 6th place
  • Best Designed Blog: 8th place
  • Smartest Blog: 13th place
  • Best New Blog: 13th place
  • Best Overall Blog: 17th place
  • Best Individual Blog: 18th place
  • Best Written Blog: 22nd place
This year, I want to do better, particularly in the "Best Designed Blog" and "Best Apologetics Blog" categories. I'll give you my sales pitch later. For now, all I need is your nomination.

Nominations for the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards will open this year at 12:00 Noon CST on Friday, February 15, 2008 and close on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 12:00 Noon CST. Voting will begin on Monday, March 3, 2008 at 12:00 Noon CST and end on Monday, March 17, 2008 at Noon.

I think I surprised a lot of people last year, particularly when I tied with Mark Shea in the "Best Apologetics Blog" category, and beat blogs like A Catholic Life, Cor ad cor loquitur (Dave Armstrong's blog), and Bonfire of the Vanities. Let's do it again this year!!

Remember, you can nominate my blog for more than one category!

Pax Christi,

Stephen Colbert on the Problem of Evil

I saw this episode last night and I was blown away. Watch Stephen Colbert put the theological smack-down on this guy. It's starts to get good at about the 3:30 mark. Also, as a word of caution, there's a curse word that they have to bleep out at the end:

Stephen Colbert never ceases to amaze me. For more of what makes him great, see The W├śRD: A Colbert Blog for Catholic It-Getters.

Pax Christi,

Daily Dose of Discernment: 2/13/08

Let it never be forgotten that a hypocrite is a very unhappy man; he is a man who has devoted himself to a most delicate and arduous intellectual art in which he may achieve masterpieces which he must keep secret, fight thrilling battles and win hair-breadth victories for which he cannot have a whisper of praise. A really accomplished impostor is the most wretched of geniuses: he is a Napoleon on a desert island.
-- G. K. Chesterton, Browning

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In God's plan the poor serve the advantage of the rich, for the rich are saved by the poor when no other door to salvation is open to them. The rich do not fast, they do not toil, they are not persecuted, they do not endure harsh conditions, and they do not pray, being ensnared by their interests. The Lord therefore takes thought: What else is there? What is left for you? Give alms, and, behold, everything is clean for you; and the wise man says: The rich and the poor have met; the Lord is Creator of them both. He created the rich for the sake of the poor, and the poor for the sake of the rich. To the rich he has given riches that they might feed the poor, and for this reason too he often multiplies and increases their wealth. To the poor he has given neediness, sores, and hardships, that they might move the hearts of the rich and so the rich might be saved.

Love the poor, therefore, you who are rich, for they are your brothers and sisters, your redeemers, your helpers, since theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Give what is temporal that you may receive what is eternal.
-- Thomas of Villanova, O.S.A., Sixth Sermon after Pentecost 5-6: Opera Omnia III, 119.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's Wrong with What's "Normal"?

Thanks to the new Topical Index, some of my old posts are getting new attention. For example, an anonymous reader recently left the following comment in response to a post from last year on the sinfulness of masturbation:
That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Masturbation a sin? Not at all! It is perfectly normal behaviour, and everyone should learn about and enjoy their sexuality! And there is no need to go "confess" to anyone about it. You have done nothing wrong, it is normal behaviour. Use your own judgement people!!
Notice that this person basically has two reasons for approving of masturbation:
  1. it is "perfectly normal behavior"
  2. "everyone should learn about and enjoy their sexuality"
He ends with the implication that anyone who thinks that masturbation is sinful is simply not thinking for himself (cf. "Use your own judgment people!!"). He seems particularly adament on that last point. Let's disect what this person is saying.

As for his first argument, which he says twice, I think we need to first define what "normal" means. If by "normal" we mean "what most people do" then yes, masturbation is "normal." But, if by "normal" we mean "what all people are meant to do" then masturbation is not normal; it is in fact very abnormal. The account of mankind before the Fall gives us a clue as to what normal life is supposed to be.

When God made man and woman, He made them for each other, and the sexuality given to Adam and Eve was meant for the marital embrace, in which two become flesh in a fruitful union (cf. Gen 1:28; 2:18-25). Notice that it was not until they disobeyed God that their attention turned inward, they became objects to each other, and they were filled with shame (compare Gen 2:25 with 3:7,10-12; cf. JPII's "Theology of the Body", audiences #11-18). I posit that masturbation is systomatic of that turning inward and that objectifying of the opposite sex that infected human sexuality after the Fall.

Two do not become one in masturbation. It is not a gift of self to another to whom you are deeply committed. It is neither unitive nor fruitful. Basically, masturbation is none of the things that are supposed to characterize the normal sex act, as revealed by the Genesis account. Thus, by this standard, masturbation is not "normal."

Of course, even if masturbation is normal by the first definition ("what most people do"), that does not necessarily make it right. There are actions that many people do every day that are in fact wrong, such as lying or cursing or taking the Lord's name in vain. An action simply is not right if it happens to be "normal," at least by the common definition of the word "normal."

His second argument was that "everyone should learn about and enjoy their sexuality." To that I say AMEN! It is good to learn about ourselves as sexual beings, to know what it means to have certain sexual urges and how these urges and the actions that derive from them should be properly ordered. It is also good that sexual acts bring us enjoyment. That joy is what compels us to be fruitful as God commanded, and it confirms the marital embrace as the greatest act of love between two people, the act that brings unity to mankind and a taste of Trinitarian love.

But, learning about and enjoying our sexuality does not mean acting on every sexual impulse and having sex however and whenever we want. Our sexuality, which is a good, can be abused, as any good can. What was first a good can be used for evil if we do not use it as it was intended to be used. Masturbation is a misuse of a good, and is in fact "a grave moral disorder" (cf. CDF, Persona Humana, no. 9).

Finally, the implication was made that people who are of one mind with the Church in declaring masturbation to be sinful are not thinking for themselves or using their own judgment. Of course, I can't speak for anyone else, but I can assure you that my own condemnation of masturbation is neither robotic nor mindless or haphazard. I have actually considered this subject a great deal (since it is a problem with which many men struggle), and I hope that my response here is evidence of a very reasoned position on this matter. The Church's position simply makes sense, and Her stance against masturbation is actually one that leads to freedom, not oppression or bondage under the hands of some cold and prudish body of old men who don't know how to have any fun.

For more on human sexuality and masturbation, see the following resources:Blessed Mother, most pure....pray for us.
St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse....pray for us.

Pax Christi,

Responding to the "Haight"-ers

An anonymous reader left the following comment in response to this post (also see Parts 2 and 3), in which I announced that my Christology professor was preparing us to critically engage and respond to the weaknesses and doctrinal errors in Haight's book Jesus Symbol of God:
I have not read Haight but I believe that low Christology in the style of Hans Kung is basically the most credible Christology today, and that it can rejoin the essence of Christian orthodoxy. I think that Haight's critics are uncritically applying the categories of St Athanasius and St Cyril and Aquinas in a quite different epistemic context, failing to assess those categories themselves with a view to their adequacy to deal with the human, historical Jesus as understood in contemporary theology and scriptural study.
As the Sobrino notification shows, the CDF is very likely to be influenced by an atypical coterie of very conservative theologians such as Jean Galot.
I would like to say a few things about this. First of all, you really need to read Haight if you are going to respond to my comments on it. That's just the intellectually honest thing to do.

Secondly, I don't see how you can say that a "low Christology in the style of Hans Kung is basically the most credible Christology today." I've never met a low Christology that wasn't weak on the Trinity ad intra, and Jesus' divinity and resurrection. Roger Haight denies that we can know anything about the inner life of the Trinity. That there are Three Persons in One God is utterly ridiculous to him.

Of course, the very title of Haight's book tells you what he thinks about Jesus' divinity, with the definite article conspicuously absent. According to Haight, Jesus is just one of many symbols that mediate the presence of God to us. Haight's theology of symbol is such that he simply cannot and will not say "Jesus IS God." And, since he only believes in an economic trinitarianism, the two natures of Christ are not united in the pre-existent Word. There's no such thing as the "pre-existent Word", just people experiencing God as Logos through their relationship with Christ.

It's all utterly absurd and heretical, and you simply will not find it in any of the official teachings of the Church, no matter how hard you try to reappropriate the language that She uses in Her documents (as Haight has tried to do).

Thirdly, why is it that every time someone criticizes Haight's book we are accused of being "uncritical," as if the proponents of Haight's Christology are the only ones enlightened enough to even engage in dialogue on the subject? I know I don't have a PhD or anything, but I'm still a grad-level theology student. I read the entire book, all 491 pgs, and many of the chapters multiple times. I read three other books in preparation for reading Haight. My paper on his book was considered for this year's Theology Colloquium, and I tutored my fellow students in preparation for the midterm and the final for our class.

Basically, I'm not an idiot. I've done the research, and I find Haight's Christology to be severely lacking. The CDF did too, and last time I checked, Joseph Ratzinger was no slouch. Could it be that the reason the CDF takes the "very conservative" position is b/c it is the only orthodox one? That you would implicitly question the CDF's stance on this matter tells me that Christology is not your only problem.

St. Athanasius, defender of the Catholic faith....pray for us.

Pax Christi,
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