instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our Magic Bishops

In a blog post on U.S. Catholic, Scott Alessi contrasts statements on poverty from the Archdiocese of New York and the bishops of New Jersey with the lack of such from the USCCB at last week's general assembly:
Had the entire body of America's bishops made a similar statement last week, it would have called national attention to the serious moral concerns that surround the country's economic troubles.
And I have to ask: Would it?

Is there anyone currently unaware of the serious moral concerns that surround the country's economic troubles who would become aware of them through a statement made by the USCCB at its fall general assembly?

Even if such people exist, I don't think the USCCB should pitch its semiannual agenda at a handful of oddballs.

More generally, I don't think episcopal statements -- at the diocesan, state, or national level -- magically make their way into general cultural consciousness to effect public policy. Scott Alessi would no doubt object strenuously to that "magically," but by what other process would episcopal statements work? The U.S. Catholic blog is itself full of bitching at bishops who don't do or say what the bloggers want them to (the post I quoted from being an example of the "more in sorrow than anger" type). Where comes the power of the bishops' words when they happen to align with the opinions of bloggers for U.S. Catholic?

Still, as I've said before, you really can't lose by talking episcopal woulda-coulda-shoulda.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The unreasonable opposition

You will have noticed, I'm sure, that the readings for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King present images of a very pastorally minded king.
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Ours is, moreover, a King who doesn't mind associating with commoners:
And the king will say to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
Which, when you think of it, is a pretty broad-minded attitude for He Who Is to adopt toward we who are not. (Or a deep-hearted attitude for He Who Is Love.)

And yet, it's not uncommon to find people who are deeply offended by the idea that the Almighty, Eternal LORD should speak of us like sheep. "Who is God," they ask, "to disrespect us like that?"

Of course, at other times they're likely to say things like, "Humans are nothing but curiously organized dust, random bits of chemicals evolved to create similar bits of chemicals."

Kind of odd to brag about being nothing, then feel disrespected. Though I suppose both the bragging and the indignation feed a sense of superiority, so it makes sense if not reason. More sense, arguably, than our Lord Jesus Christ the King loving us as a shepherd love his sheep.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A twist on irreverence

This post on a doomed Canadian attempt at irreverence reminds me of this post on a doomed Canadian habit of sacrilege. Where there is no cause for reverence, there can be no irreverence, only offensiveness.

A stock response to such stories -- beyond mockery at the manufactured implications of edginess in offending Christians -- is to say, "If they really want to be edgy, they'll do an 'irreverent' comedy special on Mohammed."

But such people can no more be irreverent toward the holy things of Islam than they can be toward the holy things of Christianity. We have to ask, where is their cause for reverence?

Look! Here it is:

If they really want to be irreverent, if they really want to be edgy, they'll put on the Internet a list of their corporate sponsors, including all the retail products made by those corporations, and title it something like, "A Partial List of Companies Who Support Public Expressions of Contempt for Christianity." When they mock their own god in a way that invites a smiting, then I'll call them irreverent.


Monday, November 14, 2011

A balancing act

"Children are innocent and love justice," Chesterton wrote, "while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy."

I'd amend that to, children love justice for others, and most of us adults prefer mercy for ourselves. Few children are overly keen on dispassionate justice for themselves, and plenty of sufficiently wicked adults object to mercy for others.

Children and adults: not so different.

It takes some maturity, I think, to see the relationship between the need for mercy for oneself and the desire for mercy for others. Heck, it takes some maturity to see the need for mercy for oneself in any but a superficial sense.

Once we properly desire mercy for others, the justice we desire for them is not merely punitive, but restorative and even healing. Someone at that level of maturity should then see the need to endure healing justice himself (and please let me know when you get there if that "should" holds).

Extending the circle of concern.

(This post uses "mercy" and "justice" from the perspective of the wrongdoer. We can also speak of mercy toward and justice for the innocent, whether us or others, but somehow that's an easier balance to reach.)


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Well, that makes sense

Luke 16:8b-9 are Jesus' words following the Parable of the Dishonest Steward:
"For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."
If on Friday you had asked me for my thought on this passage, I would have said something like, "Oh, you know, sometimes Jesus is inscruitable. Semitic idioms, and all that."

Now, though, I'd be ready for you. "Have you not read," I would reply with butter-won't-melt sincerity, "the notes on these verses in the NAB and the Douay Rheims?"

The NAB says:
The...conclusion recommends the prudent use of one's wealth (in the light of the coming of the end of the age) after the manner of the children of this world, represented in the parable by the dishonest steward.
The DR, which has "mammon of iniquity" instead of "dishonest wealth," says:
Mammon signifies riches. They are here called the mammon of iniquity, because oftentimes ill gotten, ill bestowed, or an occasion of evil; and at the best are but worldly, and false; and not the true riches of a Christian.
As for the friends made, the DR notes that they are
the poor servants of God, whom we have relieved by our alms, [who] may hereafter, by their intercession, bring our souls to heaven.
The solution, then, presents itself once you allow "prudence" and "wisdom" to be generic terms, that can be used relative to either temporal, human ends, or eternal, divine ends.

The dishonest steward was prudent, in this generic sense, because he did something that would accomplish his end of having people who would feel obliged to look after his temporal needs. Jesus tells His disciples to be prudent in doing something that will accomplish the end of having people who will look after their eternal needs.

And it so happens that both the children of this world and the children of light can use plain old everyday money -- dishonest and iniquitous, at the very least, in the sense that sooner or later it will fail to get you what you want -- to set themselves up for the future. What Jesus is saying, in part, is that the children of this world know this and the children of light do not.

In short: Have you tried almsgiving?