Saturday, September 27, 2014

Will She, or Won't She?

As the synod approaches, defenders of traditional marriage may take heart: the Church will uphold Her teaching on marriage and family vs. the onslaught of a secular understanding of the institution, this is the face of growing speculation that the bishops--and ultimately the Pope--will change certain rules, in particular, allowing divorced Catholics who have remarried without first getting an annulment to receive Communion. Nor is She likely to allow for a non-celibate clergy....

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The 21st Century Must Come Into the Church

Continued from September 14....

Through the Church’s teachings, God has also revealed his truth on how humanity can live happily. What is so little understood by Catholics and Christians is that doctrinal revelations that come through the Church come out of God’s very Self. They are not tied to culturally constructed norms! Read Vatican II’s Dei Verbum: “by divine revelation God wished to manifest and communicate both himself and the eternal decrees of his will concerning the salvation of humankind.” Our Lord’s Church derives its basic vision not from mere human speculation, which would be tentative and uncertain, but from God’s own testimony—from a historically given divine revelation.  Thus Catholics believe that just as God himself is immutable, so, too, are His teachings as revealed through the Church because they come from him.

As I discuss in my book, although the Church does not change its central teachings, we do see the theological principle of “development” that Blessed John Henry Newman discussed in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine: “the bodily structure of a grown man is not merely that of a magnified boy; he differs from what he was in his make and proportions; still manhood is the perfection of boyhood, adding something of its own, yet keeping what it finds.” Here a caution: to say the Church “develops,” is not to say the Church “changes.” What is true about God’s teachings revealed through the Church 2,000 years ago is just as true in the twenty-first century.

We can now see why modern secularists are so contemptuous and spiteful toward the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church. They do not understand Her fundamental assumptions, and so utter foolish questions such as, “When will the Catholic Church come into the twenty-first century? Foolish because this question itself is permeated with a postulation about progress toward perfection that does not make sense to the Catholic worldview. The more appropriate question? What has God revealed to us about what it means to live a healthy life, and how do we best live that life? The answer, according to Catholicism, is that we should conform our lives to those timeless truths revealed through the Church in order to enter into a rightly ordered (not disordered) relationship with God.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

On Prideful, Utopian Thought

(Continued from September 13
The Church believes that we can change. She teachs that all sacraments, but most importantly the Eucharist, can and do change our lives. This belief in the power of the Eucharist is manifest in Thomas Merton, the great twentieth-century Catholic mystic: “the grace of the Eucharist is not confined to the moments of thanksgiving after Mass and communion, but reaches out into our whole day and into all the affairs of our life, in order to sanctify and transform them in Christ.” Change, conversion through the Eucharist does not happen overnight. But the Church believes at her core that Her sacramental life, over time, leads us towards holiness, the call of Vatican II.

At the same time, we as Catholics scrap the idea that as a society we will ever arrive at a Morean utopia. To cite only one example, Jesus said: “you always will have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). Pope Paul VI, about whom I wrote my book, stated in his 1971 encyclical Octogesima Adveniens, that “the appeal to a utopia is often a convenient excuse for those who wish to escape from concrete tasks in order to take refuge in an imaginary world.” America may progress technologically, medically, and scientifically, and, individually, we may (or may not) choose to make progress through the sacraments; however, this growth will never convert into heaven on earth.

The Catholic Church, in contrast to the secular position discussed above about secular law, has taught from the beginning that Church doctrines are tied to God’s revelation of Himself, not cultural norms, though She has been cautious about constructing too many official statements about God (how can one say anything final about He-Who-Transcends-Our-Finite-Intellectual-Capacities?) God is: eternal (Psalm 90:2), omnipotent (Matthew 19:26), omniscient (I John 3:20), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7), and, most importantly for our contemporaries to understand, immutable (Malachi 3:6). Although beyond human intellectual abilities, God has not remained far distant from his creation, as asserted the Enlightenment Deists. Reasonably, God has reveals Himself to his creatures. Dei Verbum, one of the most important documents from Vatican II, has listed the many ways that God has revealed himself to us and how this revelation has been communicated down through the centuries: through the created world, the prophets, the Apostles, bishops, sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, the magisterium, and Christ Himself. Pridefully we oten make the mistake of pretending to really know God's stane on cultural matters merely from our own finite intellects, a temptation which Adam and Eve first succumbed to.... (To be continued).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

On the Gender Identity Phenomenon

“When will the Catholic Church come into the twenty-first century?” is a sentiment often expressed in the media these days, suggestive of a set of issues that are known to Christians: same-sex “marriage,” contraception, and divorce (to name only a few). Because the teachings of the Church on these subjects are at odds with the increasingly secular culture, non-Catholics—and even many Catholics—are left frustrated, even angry as to why the Church doesn’t finally come to the same conclusions as does the secular worldview.

Historically, since the Enlightenment western secular culture has presumed (erroneously) that we are progressing slowly toward a perfected humanity. They believe that, given enough time, willpower, money, technological advancements, and scientific breakthroughs, it is believed that we will be able to dig our way out of our brutal past pockmarked by wars, poverty, disease, and social injustice to arrive at a just society.

Another presumption has to do with modernity’s understanding of secular laws. The idea that stature laws are dictated by natural law (which had been the standard belief for centuries) is mostly dismissed today. Natural law is the truth that an intelligible and consistent order exists independently of human opinion or construction, and that this order is a source of moral restriction and command for human beings. Since the 1960s, the dependence of secular law on natural law has increasingly been replaced by the idea that there is no independent, objective moral order; in other words, moral and immoral are categories that are subjectively and culturally constructed.

In sum, a secular worldview believes that the progress of the human person over the centuries has led to changing cultural norms that must become codified in statute law. As cultural norms change, so, too, our laws do and must change. To cite the most media-obsessed example, it is argued that our society has progressed over the centuries to come to understand that relationships between people of the same gender are morally acceptable, and therefore our laws should be changed to allow homosexual marriage.

In the fifth century the Church addressed similar claims concerning the perfectibility of man. Sts. Augustine and Jerome fought a theological battle with Pelagianism. Pelagians rejected the notion of the sinfulness of humanity, embracing the view that we have an unconstrained free will. Because they rejected the idea of original sin (as would the Enlightenment philosopes), the Pelagians concluded that one could arrive at a perfected state of sinlessness. This position was ultimately condemned by the Church because of its erroneous, overly optimistic understanding of the human person.

Thus far, the reader must be wondering: if the Church rejects the idea of inevitable progress towards perfection, are we just terrible sinners who cannot make any progress in this life at all? Catholic docrine makes two claims simultaneously: yes, we can change, and no, we cannot change. (To be continued....)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dancing with Mr. D: Bullying Catholic Schools: the Wave of the Near Future

The Archdiocese of Vancouver is celebrating educational diversity in new ways, all because a family and their lawyer believe in celebrating diversity — and if you object because of your Catholic faith, they will sue you until you are forced to comply.
In a joint statement the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese and the family of Tracey Wilson, an 11-year-old diagnosed with gender dysphoria who had attended a Catholic school, announced the CISVA approval of a new policy that accommodates gender expression and students with gender dysphoria.
The Wilson family is applauding the CISVA for paving the way towards accepting gender expression and gender dysphoria in youth. It will be the first Catholic school district in Canada to have such a policy.
The new policy was developed after Tracey, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, filed a human rights complaint because her school did not accommodate her request to be treated as a girl.
The human rights complaint was resolved after the CISVA approved the Gender Dysphoria and Gender Expression policy and paid to the Wilsons an undisclosed sum.
The Wilsons took the child out of Catholic school over this, and put her in public school, but still sued the Catholic school system under Canada’s human rights law, and ended up not only getting the Catholic school to pay, but forcing this change on a private school system that she doesn’t plan on returning to.
It is thought that this will serve as a template for other Catholic school districts everywhere. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Homosexuality a Sin?

I am very tired of hearing that Our Lord's Church regards homosexuality as a sin. Let's be clear--as a result Original Sin and our fallen, wounded nature, we are afflicted by all kinds of disorders that are not of our own making—physical, mental, emotional, sexual, you name it. In Catholic teaching, what governs whether something is naturally disordered is whether or not it is working according to its proper end, whether it is properly ordered to its natural purpose. If it is not, we call it “disordered”. Inclinations with respect to any of our faculties which make us want to use those faculties in a way inconsistent with their proper end are not sinful; they simply reflect our own disorder, our lack of perfect integrity.

Such predispositions often become major temptations, and if we continue to indulge an inclination to act in a manner inconsistent with the relevant proper ends, we sin. The Church does not hold a homosexual inclination (orientation) to be sinful—it is merely disordered—but the Church does regard homosexual activity as sinful, in keeping with the clear witness of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Several Hundred people do Not Lie!

At present many Catholics and non-Catholics like have little to no understanding of the emotional causes of homosexual attractions and behavior, largely due to spiritual laziness or lack of will to do extensive research into causes of the disorder. 

Nor is there an awareness of the powerful role that Catholic spirituality can play in the healing of this disorder. In fairness, the reasons for this state of ignorance include the scant literature available on the value of the Catholic Faith and the sacraments in the resolution of homosexual attractions and acts, this in spite of the hundreds of success stories for those seeking to resolve the disorder--hence this blog post. Furthermore, traditional therapy has failed to resolve homosexual behavior, because by definition there is an all-powerful divine element excluded from the process. Add to this the views within the media and educational, social service, health and political fields, and the matter grows more complex. It is no secret, as Pope Francis reminds us, that due to the influence of pernicious spiritual forces unbeknownstto the secular psyche, there are many factions within the Church herself that are opposed to and are attempting to undermine traditional Catholic moral doctrine on this issue.

This failure to understand the actual causes of homosexuality influences those who counsel teenagers and adults with this disorder. Therapists repeatedly tell those seeking help that the Our Lord’s teaching on homosexuality is insensitive to homosexuals, unscientific, and erroneous! They are advised to accept themselves as being created homosexual by God. This is an abject falsehood. Unfortunately, those giving such counsel usually have little mindfulness of the emotional conflicts leading to homosexual attractions, nor of the healing power available with forgiveness and Catholic spirituality.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fools in the World

In his daily homily on Thursday, Sept. 4, Pope Francis spoke on the importance of having an encounter with Christ, saying without it one becomes lukewarm and unable to evangelize.

“If a Christian is not able to feel themselves a sinner and saved by the blood of Christ, this crucified one, they are a half-way Christian, a tepid Christian,” Pope Francis told mass attendees.

“When we find decadent churches, when we find decadent parishes, decadent institutions, surely the Christians who are there have never encountered Jesus Christ or have forgotten about this encounter with Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis took his cue from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians in the first reading when he says that “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”

In my experience there are many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who all-too-readily consider themselves wise in this age, when in reality they display foolishness in God’s eyes in violation of His rights, all while proclaiming to know how he views what amounts to “foolishness”. This is most clearly seen in the current assault on traditional marriage by many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

There are many Catholics and non-Catholics who claim to know what Francis thinks, and feel he will be an agent of change. Let them heed the Pope's words. Speaking to those gathered in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff referred to how the apostle tells us that “the power of the Word of God, which changes the heart, which changes the world, which gives us hope, which gives us life,” is not found “in human wisdom.” There are many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike who have never really repented of their selfish, presumptuous airs, and changed their hearts, as their faith in their own wisdom, rooted in pride, precludes them from thinking as God thinks.

“It's not a nice talk or to say nice things with human intelligence. No. This is foolishness,” the Pope said. “The strength of the Word of God comes from another part.”

Drawing attention to how St. Paul himself states that “I can only boast of my sins” and “I can only boast in Christ and this crucifix,” Francis explained that to say this “is scandalous.”

“The strength of the Word of God is in that encounter between my sins and the blood of Christ, which saves me,” he said, “and when there is no encounter, there is no strength in the heart.” For many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, this personal encounter is woefully lacking

“When we forget that encounter that we had in life, we become worldly, we want to speak about the things of God with human language, and this is not good: it doesn't give life.”

Pope Francis then turned his attention to the day’s Gospel reading, taken from Luke, in which Peter tells Jesus “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man” following the miraculous catch of fish. It is precisely in this moment, the Pope explained, when Peter finds salvation.

“The privileged place for an encounter with Jesus Christ are precisely our sins,” he observed, stating that “If a Christian is not able to feel themselves a sinner and saved by the blood of Christ, this crucified one, they are a half-way Christian, a tepid Christian.” There are many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. They claim to know how God views their foolish thinking and feeling, and in this, they are fools. Pope Francis concluded his reflections saying: “The strength of the Christian life and the strength of the Word of God are precisely in that moment were I, a sinner, encounter Jesus Christ.” “And that encounter renews my life, changes my life...and gives me the strength to announce salvation to others.” There are many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, to whom God in His wisdom, love and infinite mercy calls to this repentance….