Sunday, December 29, 2013

Libido Redux: SSM

As is well-known, sex, marriage, children, and familial relationships are the most universal cultural classifications in history. Rapid and radical changes in these areas, as we seem to be experiencing at present affect us all. Western culture is built on thousands of years of understanding marriage, sex, and family life in traditional ways. To assume that we can redefine these understandings without radically affecting the culture is naive.
Codification of same-sex marriage is tantamount to codified endorsement of homosexuality. From the standpoint of the Catholic Church this affirms in their disorder people suffering from same-sex attraction, eliminating the stigmas that might have stymied the more introspective souls from fully giving themselves over to it. Indeed, thinking on the low percentages of homosexual couples actually marrying where “same-sex marriage” has been legalized, and the derision for traditional marriage witnessed in the writings of homosexual activists and academics, perhaps this endorsement may be seen to be the main end of backing for such “marriage.”
In Church teaching, people with same-sex attraction suffer from an intrinsically disordered orientation and stand in need of healing. When by power of law the state affirms the disorder, it creates conditions that risk escalating the number of those who will succumb to it. A question worth pondering: How will making homosexually-oriented souls into adoptive parents, idolizing their condition in school curricula, the media, etc., impact the culture, the sum of the ideas that shape us, the product of the health, virtue, and truthfulness of the people who live in it?
Here are some potential/actual short-term legal ramifications: Suppose one does not desire to attend a gay pride celebration in one's office? Suppose one does not wish rent a room in one's establishment to a homosexual couple, or bake a cake for a gay wedding? Increasingly proponents of same-sex "marriage" appear comfortable with the prospect that such coercion could (should?) happen..
At present the Catholic Church and many Christians must live an uneasy peace with the sexual revolution. Christianity and sin are always incompatible, but increasingly our culture is one of sin normalized, institutionalized; no longer do we need to be saved from it.  How will same-sex marriage reduce this tension? The state and the culture increasingly say two persons of the same sex can marry; the Church says they cannot. This condition can’t last indefinitely. The Church’s position is an obstacle to "sexual liberation", of which homosexuality has become the current popular icon.
When the state and the rule of law posit that Catholic teaching on marriage is bigoted, how will this affect Catholics? Here are some interesting scenarios. Catacombs anyone? 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christus natus est!


Show forth, we pray thee, Lord, thy power and come, and with thy great strength assist us, so that by the aid of thy grace, the work that is hindered by our sins may be hastened by thy merciful forgiveness: who art God, living and reigning with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.   —Opening Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 1962 Missal

Monday, December 23, 2013

Clericalism? Or Holiness?

I have been most impressed over the last decade with the formation of priests emanating from the Archdiocese of Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, though many  Catholics with whom I am acquainted would disagree. Of these I suspect a sampling of their concern would go something like this:

"They appear to be more concerned about titles, clerical attire, fancy vestments, distance between themselves and their parishioners, and they focus more on what makes them distinctive than on their vocation to wash the feet of others (Jn 13:14–17), to lead with humility and to show the compassionate face of God to all.
What concerns people, in other words, is clericalism."

Could there be an initiative to denigrate many young priests in the  Church from within the Church itself, even from fellow priests. by accusing them of clericalism? Pope Francis himself  in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. has spoken out against careerism and ambition among some of the clergy, particularly within the Curia, and against clericalism. But is this what is really occurring here? 
For most of the the People of God, who possess not an anticlerical agenda but poor formation, the passage of time will remedy things. Hence let us just pray that people who should know better seek to catechize the faithful instead of scandalizing them with false charges of clericalism.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Will the Real Pope Francis Please Stand Up?

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis has plainly defended the absolute nature of Catholic Dogma and Tradition, i.e., the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Apostolic Deposit of Faith. He comprehends the collegial nature of the See of Peter without sacrificing universal jurisdiction, infallibility, and indefectibility set down in Vatican II. I see him calling the Church back to the radical center of the Gospel in furthering the New Evangelization in order to save souls. Perusal of cyberspace reveals that Francis is forcing the heterodox to confront their heresy while challenging the radical traditionalists to contemplate excessive legalism while sometimes ignoring the missionary call of the Body of Christ.

In the ever-increasing secular world, with materialism, commercialism, hedonism, occultism, individualism, and atheism legion, the Body of Christ is called to bring the joy of the Gospel to souls. The Apostolic Deposit of Faith as preserved and interpreted by the Catholic Church is not liberal or conservative. It is Catholic. The full Gospel of Jesus as handed on by the Catholic Church annihilates the political verbiage that produces a false contrast between left and right.

Due to original sin every human soul is wounded in some way and hungers for healing, for mercy. In response, Pope Francis beckons the Body of Christ to return to the Beatitudes, to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, to the theological and cardinal virtues, and to pursue the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, and uses the means of social communication to portray 
the authentic pastoral, evangelical, and missionary vision of Vatican II and its continuity with Tradition.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Libido Redux

Did you ever notice that when people take issue with Catholic teaching, those things with which they take issue bear directly or vicariously on their sexual lives — homosexuality, same-sex “marriage,” premarital sex, adultery, contraception, masturbation, population control, abortion, divorce, remarriage, in vitro fertilization, etc. Remember Our Lord’s words on this: "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." Let us now add to this list readily available pornography. My advice to those who still doubt in our sexually-befuddled world and its iniquitous offspring, pornography is that it is a fatal error not to observe “how Lucifer actually works and why he is so intent on perverting our sexuality.”  Indeed, a Catholic understanding of human sexuality gives us “a glimpse of the ‘great mystery’ of God’s plan to unite all things in Christ.” The danger is the reality that some among the followers of Christ succumb to using the world’s categories to judge the Church instead of the reverse. With this in mind, go and buy this book.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

On Following Jesus

I began my book noting the ignorance of Catholics about what the Second Vatican Council really teaches, and concluded with one final such teaching:

…a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace.

Our Lord commands us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." The slothful Catholic risks a terrible consequence for failure here: “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” With so many in the world waiting to hear of Jesus, let us go with urgency, unafraid even of death to deliver glad tidings, running the race hard, fighting the good fight to win, looking forward to the finish line, meeting and spending eternity with the Church Triumphant, made perfect by the Lamb’s blood. Marana tha!

 In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but Pope Francis asks us to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel. On this note, here is a great new book!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Pope for Our Times?


AS I have noted in these posts, one of the brightest stars on the Catholic front is NYT Times columnist Ross Douthat. Ross writes of late that full Catholics, those who adhere to the teachings of the Church, all of them, can maintain their faith vs. modernity “only to the extent that you separate yourself from the American and Western mainstream,” or submit to the culture at large. He sees no middle position, which in my mind describes most Catholics today, cultural “cafeteria” Catholics who attend Mass when it behooves them, have “issues with Catholic teaching,” and do not live so as to distinguish themselves all that much from what Ross styles the “mainstream.”
Ross argues that it is in this present situation that the Holy Father is relevant, as the exhilaration around his papacy is a reply to Francis’ desire to engage the “lapsed-Catholic, post-Catholic and non-Catholic world.”
In the Church the Holy Father’s desire centers around the “new evangelization,” a “new springtime” for Christianity — nothing new here. I have tried to show in my blog posts that Francis has focused his message more bellicosely to a world that, for reasons I discuss in my book having to do with a spiritual war, has not heard the sublime teachings of his predecessors. Thus, it is a transparent papacy, and one in which the most serious moral issues of our day—abortion, gay marriage among them—are put on the back burner (not taken off the stove) in favor of the new evangelization, the success of which should move the moral issues back to the front burner.
Ross further notes that noted “Vaticanwatch” man John Allen Jr. has labeled the Pope a “pope for the Catholic middle,” (again we are obsessed with using political terms to discuss the Faith) which lies between the church’s orthodox and the heterodox who wish the Episcopalianization of the Catholic faith.
I am praying for the Pope in his determination to be heard by the majority of Catholics today who are the ones the popular media has given emphasis in their coverage of the Pope ( finally, a pope who doesn’t harsh our buzz”). As Ross notes, Francis has gotten media responsiveness, but “wonders whether the culture will simply claim him for its own without being inspired to actually consider Christianity anew.” Where I take issue with Ross is in the following:
In the uncertain reaction to Francis from many conservative Catholics, you can see the fear that the second possibility is more likely. Their anxiety is not that the new pope is about to radically change church teaching, since part of being a conservative Catholic is believing that such a change can’t happen. Rather, they fear that the center he’s trying to seize will crumble beneath him, because the chasm between the culture and orthodox faith is simply too immense.
It is not so much “conservative Catholics” and the “center” as it is those who have been evangelized, catechized and endeavor to be authentic disciples in the world, accompanied by the flesh and the Devil, and those Catholics who are sitting on the fence, who do not yet know the Lord Jesus, and so will be the target of the New Evangelization. As I discuss in my book, many of these Catholics came of age in the 1970s, with its focus on social justice, liturgical deviance and situation ethics, when bishops failed to take seriously their jobs as shepherds. The results were a Church which, until the pontificate of John Paul II failed to be heard by modernity and largely surrendered to what Ross aptly terms “’Me Decade’ manifestations — producing tacky liturgy, ugly churches, Jonathan Livingston Seagull [I would add Kahil Gahbran] theology and ultimately empty pews”.

I agree with Ross that PopeFrancis, who often warns us against the Prince of this world (just search "the Devil" on this blog), is aware of the Devils’ machinations in this regard— think on his warnings against a “N.G. O. Church,” or his reference to "Cosmos Bath" Nuns.” What to watch for is Francis’ leadership in inaugurating what George Weigel has termed an “Evangelical Catholicism,” centered around dissemination of the fruits of the synod on evangelization. The rubric for bearing fruit? Ross states it well: “Will his style just win casual admirers, or will it gain converts, inspire vocations, create saints? Will it actually change the world, or just give the worldly another excuse to close their ears to the church’s moral message?”