instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Semper reformanda

The homilist today preached that what the Church calls the Seven Deadly Sins (which are really the Seven Capital Vices, but what are you going to do?) are the principal thorns in the flesh that people experience. Then he said:
"Pride, jealousy, greed, anger, gluttony, lust, and sloth. These are the seven major sins of the Church."
Ain't that the truth, Father?


Lumen Gentium on prophesy and gifts

12. The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name.(110) The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One,(111) cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" (8*) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God.(112) Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints,(113) penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.

It is not only through the sacraments and the ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the people of God and enriches it with virtues, but, "allotting his gifts to everyone according as He wills,"(114) He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the words of the Apostle: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit".(115) These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be presumptuously expected from their use; but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good.(116)

110 Cf. Heb. 13:15.
111 Cf. Jn. 2:20, 27
112 Cf. 1 Thess. 2:13.
113 Cf. Jud. 3
114 1 Cor. 12:11.
115 Cf. 1 Thess 5:12, 19-21.
116 Cf. Jn. 11:52.
(8) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl Divinum illud, 9 maii 1897: AAS 29 (1896-97) p. 6S0. Pius XII, Litt Encyl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp 219-220; Denz. 2288 (3808).S. Augustinus, Serm. 268, 2: PL 38 232, ct alibi. S. Io. Chrysostomus n Eph. Hom. 9, 3: PG 62, 72. idymus Alex., Trin. 2, 1: PG 39 49 s. S. Thomas, In Col. 1, 18 cet. 5 ed. Marietti, II, n. 46-Sieut constituitur unum eorpus ex nitate animae, ita Ecelesia ex unil atc Spiritus.....


Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Triune God is love

The homily I heard on Trinity Sunday, after the traditional bad analogies, wound up here: "Because God is love, there can be no instance of love in which God is not present."

This got me wondering about what people who don't believe God is love believe about love. Such people would include straight-up atheists as well as folks with all sorts of incorrect conceptions about God (e.g., God as a cold-hearted rule giver, an indifferent watchmaker, a capricious cosmic vending machine, a god of culture war, an affirmer of human will).

And then we had the "#lovewins" explosion. I offered a positive view of that here, but a negative view might suggest it signals just how far our society -- and, let's not kid ourselves, that includes a lot of practicing Catholics -- is from a right conception of love, and therefore from a right conception of God, and therefore from a right conception of that creature whom He created in His own image and likeness.

I'll add, unoriginally, that one thing needed is the recovery (or reintroduction) of the sense of sin. I don't mean of the fact that this or that specific behavior is sinful, but the fundamental realization that there is such a thing as sin, that we are capable of it, and that we ought not do it. For there to be sin, there must be something objective, outside our own will, to which we are and ought to be accountable. There is a right relation to God and to each other that we can know but we can't define by our own authority. We can choose to live according to that right relation, or we can choose otherwise, but we can't invent it.

If we believe that -- I mean we, those who don't think #lovewon on June 24, or on a whole sequence of dates on which our society moved incrementally further from the common good -- we can learn to explain it to others, by teaching and witness. And we can evolve, in their eyes, from hate-filled lunatics to well-meaning lunatics, maybe even to error-prone thinkers. At some point, not of our choosing, Love will win.


Friday, July 03, 2015

While I'm at it

Two quick notes on the other two readings from last Sunday:

The Second Reading, 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15, ends a bit obscurely:
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.
The reference is to Exodus 16, in which the Israelites are commanded to gather one omer (about 9.3 cups) of manna per person.
Some gathered a large and some a small amount. But when they measured it out by the omer, the one who had gathered a large amount did not have too much, and the one who had gathered a small amount did not have too little. They gathered as much as each needed to eat.
St. Paul is relating the wealth of the Corinthian Christians to the manna the LORD supplied the Israelites in the desert. That seems to play out to an extraordinarily radical view of wealth, but in its source -- provided by God, lying their on the ground for you to collect -- and its destination -- to be given to others until everyone has as much as each needs to eat (in these lax days, we might say "to live in dignity").

Exodus 16 goes on to say:
Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.”
But they did not listen to Moses, and some kept a part of it over until morning, and it became wormy and stank.
A word to the wise about the hoarding of riches.

Of course, manna also prefigures the Eucharist, so 2 Corinthians indirectly intertwines the Sacrament and "the ministry of charity [that is] part of the fundamental structure of the Church."

What jumped out at me when listening to the Gospel proclamation were these words of Jesus, to the woman who was healed of the hemorrhage:
"Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."
He said this after she was healed. This wasn't like the lepers who were healed on their way to the priests. This woman's miracle of healing had already occurred.

But she had spent the previous twelve years being ill. Her time, her money, her attention had all been consumed. What I got out of hearing those words of Jesus is that He was telling her to live as a person who has been cured by Him. The remaining years of her life were not to be consumed by memory of the illness, or sorrow over all she lost during that time, or resentment at the doctors who bumbled their way through her money. She was freed from the prison of her illness, and she was not to remain in the cell after Jesus opened the door.

On the other hand, to be cured isn't the same as to never have been ill. Gratitude for being cured is part of being cured, as well as humility and a readily acknowledged dependence on the One Who cured her.

"Go in peace and be cured of your affliction" seems like what Jesus says as we leave the confessional, too.


The wicked with hands and words invited death

There was some harrowing language in last Sunday's First Reading (Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24). In particular, the conclusion:
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.
"They who belong to his company"? How's that for a matter of fact description of the damned? Another translation has "they that do hold of his side," which makes it sound like they not only happen to belong to the devil, they hold onto him.

That's even without getting into the fact that these people experience death, in a way that, by implication, those not belonging to the devil's company do not. The inspired author isn't writing about physical death, or at least not principally.

You'll note that the reading skips from 1:15 to 2:23. If they had included 1:16, it might really have made the people listening sit up straight in the pew:
It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death,
considered it a friend, and pined for it,
and made a covenant with it,
Because they deserve to be allied with it.
That's some unsettling stuff. Inviting, befriending, pining for death? What is wrong with these people?

Oh, right. They're "the wicked."

Here's a question: Does this verse, in associating the wicked with such awful behavior, make wickedness a narrower notion or a broader one? That is, is it saying that, unless you invite and pine for death, you aren't really wicked? Or is it saying that even low-level wickedness -- which, in a creation of a jealous God, is anything that isn't sanctity -- is a deserved covenant with death?


Not really a red meat kind of guy, my bishop

"Defiant" isn't a word I usually associate with the USCCB, but Archbishop Kurtz's statement on Obergefell v. Hodges has a touch of firebrand in it:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare.... Obergefell v. Hodges ...will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. ...profoundly immoral and unjust....a tragic error....
Not so Cardinal Wuerl's statement. The Cardinal is a teacher, a catechist, who treats the Supreme Court decision as a settled fact, more a circumstance in which teaching occurs than a subject of teaching in itself:
The law of the land affirms that “marriage” in civil law may now include two persons of the same sex. While this is not the Church’s understanding of marriage, it is a definition confirmed by the Court....
These reflections come with the hope that we try clearly to respect the law of the land and its implications and at the same time we are equally clear on our understanding of marriage and what it means in the light of the Gospel.
On the day the decision was announced, I found Archbishop Kurtz's words much more to my liking. When the common good takes a hit like that and the majority cheers, it's time for good old fashioned bold speech, some clarifying parrhesia and confident encouragement from our bishops. Compared to some red-blooded episcopal responses, Cardinal Wuerl's phlegmatic take comes off as anemic, maybe even submissive.

As we get on with things, though, Cardinal Wuerl's even tone doesn't seem so out of place. If his statement doesn't buoy us up for the fight, it does give guidance for the conversations we might have, when people are open to at least hearing the opinions or beliefs of others. If he is talking more to his flock than to the media, then his repeated point about respecting those who do not accept Church teaching, while leaving out anything about deploring the Supreme Court decision, makes sense. People who already deplore the decision don't need to be told to deplore it, but they do need to respond in a manner that bears witness to Christ.

I might also point out that the Archdiocese of Washington issued a separate press release, which echoes the Cardinal's blog post but, leaving out the counsel to the faithful, reads as a clear and firm statement of faith -- and history and nature too:
Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is a truth that predates courts and constitutions. This understanding transcends cultures, religions and all time – it is the foundation of civilization. More than just a bond between people who love and are committed to each other, marriage is also about creating and nurturing the next generation – something that requires both a man and a woman with their distinctive and complementary gifts. This is the reason that civil governments have given marriage special recognition throughout all of human history. Men and women are not interchangeable. Marriage is not ours to define.  History, nature and revelation all profess these truths.
Both the Cardinal's blog post and the Archdiocese's press release bring up the risk of conflict between Church teaching and civil law. I know Cardinal Wuerl has a reputation in some circles for being something of a squish, but when push comes to shove and actual conflict with civil authority arises, he stands firm in maintaining Catholic identity and teaching Catholic faith. He won't deny Communion to Nancy Pelosi, but he smacks her down as soon as she claims her nonsense is consistent with Catholic teaching. He is criticized because "he neglects to mention what the sin is" that we are supposed to hate while loving the sinner, but years ago he shut down archdiocesan foster care and adoption services rather than conform to the District of Columbia's SSM law. He doesn't fight when, where, and how a lot of people want him to, but he does fight.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spoiler alert

In some circles it's a commonplace to observe that "gay marriage" is not the goal, it 's just a stepping stone to the real goal: the complete destruction of marriage and/or the Church. That may well be true, for some activists.

Still, my impression is that the majority of folks who have been using the "#lovewins" tag over the last several days really do think love won, and that -- along with the immediate corollary that hate lost -- is pretty much the end of it. While that leaves them susceptible to further dubious arguments about what love winning is, it has some encouraging implications too.

For one thing, it means they're open to love winning. Not so much, I suppose, in an abstract sense. People pay a lot more attention to what they're shown of love than to what they're told of love. Each picture of a gay couple holding a marriage license on the steps of a courthouse was worth dozens of essays about natural law and the rights of children.

But that's okay. We can show them love too, right? The love of a husband for his wife and of a wife for her husband, natural loves that are supernaturally infused with Christ's love of perfect sacrifice for the beloved, a love that by its nature is fruitful and spreads to children, family, neighbors, and all those in need.

Love is the Christian's thing. We should be all over it.

Once we're less bashful about shining the light of our love on those around us, we'll just see where that takes us.

The even better news about all the people cheering "Love wins!" is that, in point of fact, Love has won. Love won on the cross at Calvary, the results were confirmed two mornings later, and Love is now taking a victory lap so people can cheer Love winning and win themselves.

Granted, rejoicing over "gay marriage" is not equivalent to salvific faith in Jesus Christ, but it does show a natural desire that, we know by faith, can only be fulfilled supernaturally in Jesus. "#lovewins" means they still want what we still have, which is the good news about Who they want whether they know it or not.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Re-Education President

The Examiner reports that, in his Obergefell v. Hodges speech, President Obama "said Americans need to change their religious views to be accepting of gay marriage."

I don't find any words of compulsion directed toward anyone's religious views in the speech. Obama is unreserved in his enthusiasm for the Supreme Court decision, and can't say enough good things about homosexuality, but here he's not as artless in his convictions as Hillary Clinton has been.

Obama does, though, offer this bit of troubling moralizing:
Shifts in hearts and minds is possible.  And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them.
Two words are particularly concerning: "responsibility" and "help."

How can we say we have good government if it doesn't help its citizens fulfill their civic responsibilities? In some cases -- say, in the case of a responsibility that the president just invented -- it may even need to empower us. A citizenry that meets its responsibilities is a good citizenry, and what decent, loving human being could oppose that?

Ordinarily, when a president speaks of American citizens helping each other, it's the sort of moral suasion and encouragement a president ought to offer. In this case, though, he wants American citizens to help other American citizens abandon reason, human tradition, and the word of God. That's not helping. At best, it bodes the sort of woman C.S. Lewis mentioned who "lives for others -- you can always tell the others by their hunted expression." At worst... well, how can we say we have good government if it doesn't help its citizens?

Nor is it comforting when you try to get inside the mindset of those who would cheer this speech, who think love won on Friday. From that perspective, we ignorant hateful bigots aren't just sitting at home thinking our ignorant hateful bigot thoughts, we are actively injuring decent and good people who just want to be who they are. Why wouldn't they work to stop us? Why wouldn't you work to stop a hunter from shooting through some bushes at a playground, whether or not he could see that those moving shapes are actually children?

The new evangelization proceeds apace.


President Barack Obama is a lying sack of dog shit

In his speech on the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, President Obama said:
We are a people who believe that every single child is entitled to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 
No, Mr. President. You don't believe that.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

I have l'esprit de l'escalier[1]...

... when everyone else is taking the elevator.

I came up with "Laudato Si', Magistra No" [2] to describe the attitude among politically conservative Catholics in the United States to reject -- often sight unseen -- Pope Francis's latest encyclical. Then I noticed Michael Sean Winters used it days earlier.

Then I came up with this to describe the attitude among ultramontantist Catholics who seem to think Pope Francis's latest encyclical makes global warming a matter of settled Catholic doctrine:
"I suppose it would be sort of warming spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it."
Oh well..

1.L'esprit de l'escalier: See, because I'm slower than others with the witticisms.
2. A reference to the infamous "Mater si, Magistra no" response among politically conservative Catholics in the United States to Mater et Magistra


Vector Check


Thursday, June 25, 2015

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

June 25, 2015
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Your Holiness,

In light of the Holy Year of Mercy that you have decreed to begin this coming December, please show mercy to the poor sinner who writes to you, and hire an English translator who knows the difference between "which" and "that."


Tom Kreitzberg