Thursday, May 31, 2007

Books Meme

Anita at V-ForVictory tagged me a few days ago with this, and I only just saw it... I was going to post from Iota Unum but will include the rest of this book meme as well!

How many books do you own?

Rather than count splines, I got the tape measure and measured filled shelf space. Since there was no qualifier, I discovered that I have

10’ of cookbooks
18’ of general titles not relating to faith
31’ of Catholic books

This does not include Catholic books loaned out, borrowed, or taken to the Chapter House, of which there is probably 1.5’ of shelf space dedicated to pre-1950 Catholic hymnals alone. It also doesn’t include about 12’ of shelf space at my office of books related to my profession, or many boxes of geology texts that I have kept for nostalgic purposes.

What books are you reading now?

1. Iota Unum, by Romano Amerio. This book has risen to the top of the food chain. His vision is so clear, with such insights as this comment on Mgr. Leclercq’s (professor emeritus of moral theology, Univ. of Louvain) opinion on the uselessness of Catholic schools:

“Precisely because we are in a pluralistic world, Catholic universities become normal: one cannot be in favor of pluralism in the abstract, while rejecting an actual plurality in teaching by asserting that a particular teaching cannot be part of the plurality.”

2. Divine Intimacy, by Fr. Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. This is the third year I have read this book of daily meditations, and it now qualifies as my second “most re-read” book. There is wonderful material here, and TAN books always sells out their reprints quickly, so get yours!

3. Christ the Life of the Soul, by Dom Marmion. Hat tip to Simon-Peter for this gem. Must be read VERY SLOWLY and with a Douay-Rheims to look up the scripture citations (and there are many), if like me you don’t read Latin.

4. God: Conferences of Pere Lacordaire. OK, I’ve not picked it up since starting Iota Unum, but I will finish this delightful book, and the other two in the series.

5. 100 People who are Screwing up America, by Bernard Goldberg. Great one page toilet reading. Many thanks to Anita for loaning me this and

6. Trumpet for Reason, Leo Rosten. Reading is interrupted at the time being because I’ve asked my son to transcribe it for the internet. Like what I’ve read so far.

7. Dominican Tertiary’s Manual (1952 , Province of St. Joseph). Random readings in this little gem, which I have yet to finish in a linear fashion.

8. The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Etienne Gilson. Still working through this slowly. Staffan in Sweden is my secret helper in understanding what this is all about. Tall task.

Current reading also includes the periodicals:
Homiletic and Pastoral Review
Social Justice Review
This Rock
Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate

Books of note I’ve read recently:

Humbert of Romans, Treatise on Preaching: see side bar under books

Henri Lacordaire, Life of St. Dominic: see side bar under books

The Life of St. Rose of Lima: see side bar under books

Ven. Louis of Granada, The Summa of the Christian Life and The Sinners Guide. Both outstanding and available in online versions

Peter Burnett, The True Church; undoubtedly one of the best responses to Protestantism ever penned.

E. Michael Jones, Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation & Political Control; it'll put the fear in you.

O’Brien, Winning Converts: This Catholic Answers reprint is well worth reading.

Etienne Gilson, The Church Speaks to the Modern World, the Social Teachings of Leo XIII; a must read if you really want a Catholic understanding of Social Justice.

GK Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas

And for lighter fare, PD James: Children of Men (better than the movie) and Michael Chrichton State of Fear and Prey.

There are more, but that’s all I can remember right now…

Books that mean a lot to me:

These are the books of my conversion, and there are more than five, and their authors earn my eternal gratitude that our Lord has used His saints to speak to me through:

The venerable Bede: Ecclesial History of England (the world was never flat, monkey-boy!).

St. Augustine, Confessions (late have I loved you… my heart is restless until it rests in Thee)

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; “The Lord in his wisdom made the sacraments so simple a moron can confect them.” (Do we have a shortage of morons?)

St. Theresa of Avila, Interior Castle… I know this house!

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life; wow.

M. Eugene Boylan, This Tremendous Lover; my most re-read book

Bibles: Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Rembrandt Edition

That’s about all my fried brain remembers right now. Even the world knows that “to know you is to love you,” and thus late in life I have known Him and it is on the Lord my God that my eyes are fixed, much to the confusion of some of those around me whom I pray they would open their hearts as well. The Lord Jesus said that He looses none of those whom His Father has given Him, and in that and trusting in the aid of our Mother, help and refuge of sinners, I look with confidence to a future while I struggle to live this present. St. Augustine said to pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on you. The pearl of great price that I have found is worthy of all; no limit.

If you would like to go through this meme exercise, which can have a certain value, like a confessing again of sins already confessed and forgiven, except as a reminder of grace on our journey, consider yourself tagged. May all the saints assist you by their intercession in your journey to eternity and our final destiny, only a breath and a heartbeat away, closer to you than you are to yourself.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Amerio on comunism and liberation theology

From Romano Amerio, in Iota Unum, on communism & liberation theology. This is a long section, and he opens by making the observation that the Catholic Church has abandoned and withdrawn from the political sphere. With all the organizations out there, this struck me as odd at first, but he developes the thought by explaining that those Catholic Action groups that were once distinctively Catholic, working for distinctively Catholic ends, have either folded or been molded into something indistinguishable from any other political party...

This is a long chapter, and I've just picked a few comments from the end of it that string together in, I hope, a coherent manner.

Chapter XI

112. The Church and communism in France.

…French bishops’ document sur son dialogue avec les militants chrétiens qui ont fait l’option socialiste (16) contains a confusion between “the action of the Holy Spirit” and workers’ agitation(17); the communist movement, which is perfectly explicable by the ordinary historical forces that drive events, is taken as one of those movements that result from the supernatural impulses of the Holy Spirit:(18) in short the document turns the social struggle of the age into a religious phenomenon. This imprecise, novel, and immanentist thinking fails to distinguish between the Holy Spirit and the workings of Providence that draw human events to their predestined goal, and fails to see that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, but not of the human race as such.

16. “On its dialogue with Christians who have taken the socialist option,” in Documentation Catholique, 29 May 1972, 471ff)…

17. The communist movement’s being thus an effect of the Holy Spirit makes it easier to understand the introduction of Karl Marx into a Missel des dimanches (Sunday Mass booklet) promulgated by the French bishops, shortly after the council and again in 1983 in connection with the centenary of Marx’s death, where on p. 139 we find a commemoration of the founder of communism on 14 March, the day of his death.

18. Sections 16-17 of the document.

118. The document of the seventeen bishops.

The document signed by seventeen bishops from around the world and published by Témoignage Chrétien (1967) is of more importance. It makes the transition from a positive attitude towards communism, to liberation theology.

119. Judgment on the document of the Seventeen.

The conclusion of the bishops’ document is quite unambiguous, but its premises are false. Whether as a system of thought or as the practice of that thought, by the admission of its own theoreticians and by the judgment of all the popes, communism is not merely a social system that bishops can welcome as one of the many possible forms of political organization; it is a complete axiological system intrinsically repugnant to the Catholic system. […] The movement from the Marxist option to liberation theology is only possible because the seventeen bishops fail to grasp both the nature of communism and the nature of Christianity itself. Externally their applause for the class struggle ill accords with the condemnations of the Church’s teaching office and also raises questions about the coherence of the hierarchy; internally, the document departs from Catholic thought on at least two points. Because of its defective understanding of God’s dealings with the world, it says nothing about the eschatological nature of Christianity, whereby earth is seen as being made for heaven, and a full grasp of man’s destiny can only be had from beyond the walls of time. Yet again, because of its faulty view of history the document fails to state that Christianity traces the origin of social injustice to moral disorder, and as a result injustice is to be found throughout the whole body of society and cannot be attributed exclusively to those who enjoy material prosperity. In short, the document lacks calmness of judgment, because the bishops side exclusively with one party, and entirely overlook the Catholic worker’s movement that were rejected by the rich; it also lacks that more exalted calm that comes from a religious spirit and which can detect a goal beyond history as it surveys the record of the past. This is no real theory of history, but an immanentist philosophy only interested in liberation from worldly misfortune, and looking only to human self-improvement to achieve it.

120. Options of certain Christians, continued.

In Mgr. Fragoso’s case the new heavens and the new earth do not transcend but rather continue the present creation and so the goal of the world becomes the continuation of the same world; the subjection of all things to God disappears, and the Church is confused with the organization of the human race. When transcendent realities have been eclipsed, earthly purposes can be preserved with an absoluteness appropriate to ultimate ends, and submission to the laws of obedience and patient fortitude is overthrown by the right to happiness in this present life.

Problems that properly belong to politics become religious problems and the Church has to take on the problems of hunger, drought, hygiene, population control and everything else that is now included under the term “development.”

Monday, May 28, 2007

Altissimi Donum Dei, Gift of the Most High God

DIVINE INTIMACY by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
#188 The Encyclical Mystici Corporis states that "the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church." Because soul means "principle of life," this statement equivalently says that the divine Paraclete is the One who gives life to the Church. As the soul is the principle of life in the body, so the Holy Spirit is the principle of life in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ(cf. Divinum Illud).

We have seen taht the Holy SPirit was in Christ's soul to direct Him in the accomplishmetn of His redemptive mission. Jesus could have carried out this mission alone, but He wished the Church to participate in it. Since the Church continues Christ's work, she needs the same impetus which guided His soul; she needs the Holy Spirit. Jesus merited His Spirit for us on the Cross; by His death, He atoned for all sin, the chief obstacle to the action of the HOly SPirit, and when He had ascended into heaven, He sent Him to the Apostles, who represented the whole Church. Now, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, He intercedes continually for us, He is always sending the Holy SPirit to the Church, as He promised. The Holy Spirit operates in the Church now, just as He once did in the blessed soul of Christ. He gives her impulse, moves her, and drives her to accomplish God's will, thus enabling her to fulfill His mission, the continuation down through the ages of the redemptive work of Christ. With reason, then, did the early Fathers call the Holy Spirit the Soul of the Church; the Church herself invokes Him in the Credo: "Dominum et vivificantem!" Lord and life-giver. As the soul vivifies the body, the Holy Spirit vivifies the Church. He is the impulse of love who kindles in her zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls; He gives light and strength to her shepherds, fervor and energy to her apostles, courage in invincible faith to her martyrs.


Today’s (Pentecost Sunday) Gospel speaks very forcefully about charity, which is at the same time both the condition for and the result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls. It is the condition, because, according to Jesus Himself, the three divine Persons dwell only in a souls who loves; it is the result, because “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rm 5:5)

Veni, Creator Spiritus – mentes tuorum visita,
Imple superna gratia – quae to creasti pectora.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
And in our hearts take up Thy rest,
Come with Thy grace and heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Interestingly, #189 in OCP is Veni Creator Spiritus...

The Council of Vienne and the Fifth Lateran Council both stated that "the soul is the form of the body. We have the Mystical Body of Christ, whose soul is the Holy Spirit, fed by the body and blood of the actual Body of Christ; much here to meditate on...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Amerio on capital punishment

As promised, from Romano Amerio, in Iota Unum, on capital punishment.

This is a bit long, but it is worth a read...

Chapter XXVI
187. The death penalty.

Certain social institutions derive from the principles of the natural law and as such are perpetual in one form or another; for example the state, the family, a priesthood of some sort; and there are others that arise from a certain level of reflection on those principles and from historical circumstances, and which are abandoned when thought moves on to another level or when circumstances change; for example slavery. Until recently, the death penalty was philosophically defended, and used in practice by all countries as the ultimate penalty society imposes on evildoers, with the threefold aim of righting the balance of justice, defending society against attack, and dissuading others from wrongdoing.

The legitimacy of capital punishment is usually grounded on two propositions. First: society has a right to defend itself; second: this defense involves using all necessary means. Capital punishment is included in the second proposition on condition that taking the life of one member of the body of society is genuinely necessary for the wellbeing of the whole.

The growing tendency to mitigate punishments of all sorts is in part the product of the Gospel spirit of clemency and mercy, which has always been at odds down the centuries with savage judicial customs. With a certain degree of confusion that we need not go into here, the Church has always drawn back from blood. It should be remembered that canon law traditionally decreed the “irregularity,” that is the banning from holy orders, not only of executioners, but of judges who condemned people to death in the ordinary course of law, and even of advocates and witnesses in trials that led to someone being put to death.

The controversy does not turn on society’s right to defend itself; that is the undeniable premise of any penal code, but rather on the genuineness of the need to remove the offender altogether in order to effect that defense, which is the minor premise involved. From St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas to Taperelli d’Azeglio, the traditional teaching is that the decision as to the necessity and legitimacy of capital punishment depends on historical circumstances, that is, on the urgency of the need to hold society together in the face of the disruptive behavior of individuals who attack the common good. From Beccaria onwards, proposals to abolish capital punishment have admitted the major premise, and allowed that the minor one depends on historical circumstances, since they allow the execution of offenders in some emergencies, such as war. During the last war, even Switzerland sentenced and shot seventeen people guilty of high treason.

188. Opposition to the death penalty.

Opposition to the death penalty stems from two diverse and incompatible sets of reasons, and can only be evaluated in the light of the moral assumptions on which it is based. Horror at a crime can coexist with sympathy for human weakness, and with a sense of the human freedom that renders a man capable of rising from any fall as long as his life lasts; hence opposition to the death penalty. But opposition can also stem from the notion that every person is inviolable inasmuch as he is a self-conscious subject living out his life in the world; as if temporal life were an end in itself that could not be suppressed without frustrating the purpose of human existence. Although often thought of as religiously inspired, this second type of reason for rejecting capital punishment is in fact irreligious. It overlooks the fact that from a Christian point of view earthly life is not an end in itself, but a means to life’s moral goal, a goal that transcends the whole order of subordinate worldly goods. Therefore to take away a man’s life is by no means to take away the transcendent end for which he was born and which guarantees his true dignity. A man can propter vitam Vivendi perdere causas (for the sake of life, loose the causes of life) that is, he can make himself unworthy of life by taking temporal life as being itself the supreme good instead of a means to that good. There is therefore a mistake implicit in the second sort of objection to capital punishment, inasmuch as it assumes that in putting someone to death, other men or the state are cutting a criminal off from his destined goal, or depriving him of his last human end or taking away the possibility of his fulfilling his role as a human being. Just the opposite in fact. The condemned man is deprived of his earthly existence, but not of his goal. Naturally, a society that denies there is any future life and supposes there is a fundamental right to happiness in this world, must reject the death penalty as an injustice depriving man of his capacity to be happy. Paradoxically, those who oppose capital punishment on these grounds are assuming the state has a sort of totalitarian capacity which it does not in fact possess, a power to frustrate the whole of one’s existence. Since a death imposed by one man on another can remove neither the latter’s moral goal nor his human worth, it is still more incapable of preventing the operation of God’s justice, which sits in judgment on all our adjudications. The meaning of the motto engraved on the town executioner’s sword in Fribourg in Switzerland: Seigneur Dieu, tu es le juge (Lord God, Thou art the Judge), was not that human and divine justice were identical; it signified a recognition of that highest justice which sits in judgment on us all.

Another argument advanced is that capital punishment is useless as a deterrent; as witnessed by Caesar’s famous remark during the trial of the Cataline conspirators, to the effect that a death which put an end to the shame and misery of the criminals would be a lesser punishment than their remaining alive to bear them. This argument flies in the face of the juridical practice of pardoning people under sentence of death, as a favor, and is also refuted by the fact that even infamous criminals sometimes make pacts between themselves with death as the penalty for breaking the agreement. They thereby give a very apposite witness to the fact that capital punishment is an effective deterrent.

189. Doctrinal change in the Church.

An important change has occurred in the Church regarding the theology of punishment. We could cite the French bishops’ document that asserted in 1979 that the death penalty ought to be abolished in France as it was incompatible with the Gospel, the Canadian and American bishop’s statements on the matter, and the articles in the Ossevatore Romano calling for the abolition of the death penalty, as injurious to human dignity and contrary to the Gospel.

As to the biblical argument; even without accepting Baudelaire’s celebration of capital punishment as a supremely sacred and religious proceeding, once cannot cancel out the Old Testament’s decrees regarding the death penalty, by a mere stroke of the pen. Nor can canon law, still less the teaching of the New Testament, be can canceled out at a stroke. I am well aware that the famous passage in Romans (Rm 13:4) giving princes the ius gladii (the right use of the sword), and calling them the ministers of God to punish the wicked, has been emptied of meaning by the canons of the new hermeneutic, on the grounds that it is the product of a past set of historical circumstances. Pius XII however explicitly rejected that view, in a speech to Catholic jurists on 5 February 1955, and said that the passage of St. Paul was of permanent and universal value, because it refers to the essential foundation of penal authority and to its inherent purpose. In the Gospel, Christ indirectly sanctions capital punishment when he says it would be better for a man to be condemned to death by drowning than to commit the sin of scandal (Mt 18:6). From the Book of Acts (Acts 5:1-11) it seems the primitive Christian community had no objection to the death penalty, as Ananias and Sapphira are struck down when they appear before St. Peter guilty of fraud and lying at the expense of the brethren. Biblical commentaries tell us that the early Christians’ enemies though this sentence was harsh at the time.

The change in teaching is obvious on two points. In the new theology of punishment, justice is not considered, and the whole matter is made to turn on the usefulness of the penalty and its aptitude for bringing the guilty person back into society, as the saying goes. On this point, as on others, the new fangled view coincides with the utilitarianism preached by the Jacobins. The individual is held to be essentially independent; the state defends itself against a miscreant, but cannot punish him for breaking a moral law, that is, for being morally guilty. This guiltlessness of the guilty goes on to manifest itself in a reduced consideration for the victim and even in giving preference to the guilty over the innocent. In Sweden people who have been imprisoned are given preferential treatment in examinations for public employment, as compared with other, unconvicted, members of the public. Consideration for the victim is eclipsed by mercy for the wrongdoer. Mounting the steps to the guillotine, the borderer Buffet shouted his hope that he would “be the last man guillotined in France.” He should have shouted he hoped he would be the last murderer. The penalty for the offense seems more objectionable than the crime, and the victim is forgotten. The restoration of a moral order that has been violated by wrongdoing is rejected as if it were an act of vendetta. In fact it is something that justice demands and which must be pursued even if the harm done cannot be reversed and if the rehabilitation of the guilty party is impossible. The modern view also attacks even the validity of divine justice, which punishes the damned without there being any hope or possibility of amendment. The very idea of the redemption of the guilty is reduced to a piece of social engineering. According to the Osservatore Romano (6 Sept 1978), redemption consists in the awareness of a return to being useful to one’s fellows” and not, as the Catholic system would have it, in the detestation of one’s fault and a redirecting of the will back into conformity with the absolutes of the moral law.

To go on to assert that a life should not be ended because that would remove the possibility of making expiation, is to ignore the great truth that capital punishment is itself expiatory. In a humanistic religion expiation would of course be primarily the converting of a man to other men. On that view, time is needed to effect a reformation, and the time available should not be shortened. In God’s religion, on the other hand, expiation is primarily a recognition of the divine majesty and lordship, which can be and should be recognized at every moment, in accordance with the principle of the concentration of one’s moral life.

Attacking capital punishment, the Osservatore Romano (22 Jan 1977) asserts that where the wrongdoer is concerned “the community must allow him the possibility of purifying himself, of expiating his guilt, or freeing himself from evil; and capital punishment does not allow for this.” In so saying, the paper denies the expiatory value of death; death which has the highest expiatory value possible among natural things, precisely because life is the highest good among the relative goods of this world; and it is by consenting to sacrifice that life, that the fullest expiation can be made. And again, the expiation that the innocent Christ made for the sins of mankind was itself effected through his being condemned to death. Remember too the conversion of condemned men at the hands of St. Joseph Carfasso; remember some of the letters of people condemned to death in the Resistance. Thanks to the ministry of the priest, stepping in between the judge and the executioner, the death penalty has often brought about wonderful moral changes, such as those of Niccolo de Tuldo, comforted by St. Catherine of Sienna who left an account of what happened in a famous letter of hers; or Felice Robol, assisted on the scaffold by Antonio Rosmini; or Martin Merino who tried to kill the Queen of Spain in 1852; or Jacques Fesch guillotined in 1957, whose letters from prison are a moving testimony to the spiritual perfection of one of God’s elect.

The most irreligious aspect of this argument against capital punishment is that it denies its expiatory value which, from a religious point of view, is of the highest importance because it can include a final consent to give up the greatest of all worldly goods. This fits exactly with St. Thomas’s opinion that as well as canceling out any debt that the criminal owes to civil society, capital punishment can cancel all punishment due in the life to come. His thought is Mors illata etiam pro criminibus aufert totam poenam pro criminibus debitam in alia vita, vel partem poenae secundum quantitatem culpae, patientiae et contritionis, non autem mors naturalis. (Summa, “Even death inflicted as a punishment for crimes takes away the whole punishment due for those crimes in the next life, or a least part of that punishment, according to the quantities of guilt, resignation and contrition; but a natural death does not.”) The moral importance of wanting to make expiation also explains the indefatigable efforts of the Confraternity of St. John the Baptist Beheaded, the members of which used to accompany men to their deaths, all the while suggesting, begging and providing help to get them to repent and accept their deaths, so ensuring that they would die in the grace of God, as the saying went.

190. Inviolability of life. Essence of human dignity. Pius XII.

The leading argument in the new theology of punishment is however the one that asserts an inviolable and imprescriptible right to life, that is alleged allegedly infringed when the state imposes capital punishment. The article we have cited says: “To the modern conscience, which is open, and aware of human values and man’s centrality and primacy in the universe, and of his dignity and his inalienable and inviolable rights, the death penalty is repugnant as being an anti-human and barbarous measure”

Some facts might be helpful in replying to this article, which sums up in itself all the abolitionists’ arguments. The prominence the Osservatore Romano gives to the “modern conscience” is similar to the position accorded it by the French bishops’ document, which says le refus de la peine de mort correspond chez nos contemporains à un progrès accompli dans le respect de la vie humaine (“the rejection of the death penalty is an indication that our contemporaries have an increased respect for human life”). A remark of that sort is born of the bad mental habit of going along with fashionable ideas and of letting the wish become father to the thought; a crude rebuttal of such unrealistic assertions is provided by the atrocious slaughter of innocents perpetrated in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, the widespread use of physical violence by despotic regimes as an ordinary means of government, the legitimation and imposition of abortion by changes to the law, and the increasing cruelty of delinquents and terrorists, who are only feebly resisted by governments. The axiological centrality of man in the universe will be discussed later.

In discussions on the death penalty, the difference between the rights of an innocent and a guilty man are generally ignored. The right to life is considered as if it were inherent in man’s mere existence when, in fact, it derives from his ordination to values that transcend temporal life, and this goal is built into his spirit inasmuch as it is an image of God. Although the goal is absolute and the image indelible, man’s freedom means that by a fault he can descend from that dignity and turn aside from his goal. The philosophical justification for penal law is precisely an axiological diminution, or shrinking in worth, on the part of a person who violates the moral order and who, by his fault, arouses society to some coercive action designed to repair the disorder. Those who base the imposition of penalties merely on the damage done to society, deprive penal law of any ethical character and turn it into a set of precautions against those who harm society, irrespective of whether they are acting freely or compulsively, rationally or irrationally. In the Catholic view, the penal system exists to ensure that the crime by which the delinquent sought some satisfaction or other in defiance of the moral law, is punished by some corresponding diminution of well-being, enjoyment or satisfaction. Without this moral retaliation, a punishment is merely a utilitarian reaction which indeed neglects the dignity of man and reduces justice to a purely materialistic level; such was the case in Greece when recourse was had to the Prytaneum, or city council, to pass sentence against rocks, trees or animals that had caused some damage. Human dignity is something built into the natural structure of rational creatures but which is elicited and made conscious by the activity of a good or bad will, and which increases or decreases within that order of being. No right thinking person would want to equate the human worth of the Jew in Auschwitz with that of his killer Eichmann, or St. Catherine of Alexandria with Thias the Alexandrian courtesan. A person’s worth can only be reduced by actions within the moral realm; and therefore, contrary to popular opinion, it cannot be measured by some level of participation in the benefits of technological progress: by a quote of economic welfare, by a level of literacy, by a better health service, by an abundance of the pleasures that life provided or by the stamping out of diseases. Let there be no confusion between an increase in a person’s dignity or worth, which is a moral quality, and an increase in the possessions of those utilitarian benefits which unworthy men also enjoy.

The death penalty, and any other form of punishment, if they are not to descend to the level of pure defense and a sort of selective slaughter, always presuppose a moral diminution in the person punished: there is therefore no infringement of an inviolable or imprescriptible right involved. Society is not depriving the guilty person of his rights; rather, as Pius XII taught in his speech of 14 Sept 1952 même quand I s’agit de l’exécution d’un condamné à mort, l’Etat ne dispose pas du droit de l’individu à la vie. Il est reserve alors au pouvoir public de priver le condamné du bien de la vie en expiation de sa faute après que par son crime il s’est déjà dépossedé de son droit à la vie (A.A.S., 1952, pp.779ff. “Even when it is a question of someone condemned to death, the state does not dispose of an individual’s right to life. It is then the task of public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life, in expiation of his fault, after he has already deprived himself of the right to life by his crime.”).

If one considers the parallel with one’s right to freedom, it becomes obvious that an innocent man’s right to life is indeed inviolable, whereas a guilty person has diminished his rights by the actions of his depraved will: the right to freedom is innate, inviolable and imprescriptible, but penal codes nonetheless recognize the legitimacy of depriving people of their liberty, even for life, as a punishment for crime, and all nations in fact adopt this practice. There is in fact no unconditional right to any of the goods of earthly life; the only truly inviolable right is the right to seek one’s ultimate goal, that is truth, virtue and eternal happiness, and the means necessary to acquire these. This right remains untouched even by the death penalty.

In conclusion, the death penalty, and indeed any kind of punishment, is illegitimate if one posits that the individual is independent of the moral law and ultimately of the civil law as well, thanks to the protection afforded by his own subjective moral code. Capital punishment comes to be regarded as barbarous in an irreligious society, that is shut within earthly horizons and which feels it has no right to deprive a man of the only good there is.

Anita (V-for Victory) passed along a link to Justice Scalia's article on the morality of capital punishment:

God’s Justice and Ours
by Antonin Scalia
Copyright (c) 2002 First Things (May 2002).

This is good companion reading to Romano Amerio's writing in Iota Unum. Justice Scalia makes the observation (which I had not seen before) that democracy has had the unfortunate consequence of (muddling our minds) so that we restrict the state from doing that which we are not able to do ourselves. The thought goes that as the state is an extension of the body politic, it has no rights other than those of the invididual member of the body politic posess and have delegated to the state. Not a very Catholic or Christian view of the state.

There is so much muddled thinking today, these two pieces deserve a careful reading.

observation added 4/28/09

1) If you look at the statistics for capital crimes and the number of executions in the United States, you will see that the prudential condition of "hardly, if ever" appears to be being met at this time, and for a long time prior to the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

2) The argument against capital punishment based on the possibility of executing the innocent, taken to its logical conclusion, is an argument against all punishment for all crime. The proper response to that argument is the improvement of the legal system, not the abandonment of justice.

3) I find it odd that the majority of opponents of capital punishment seek to deprive the state of the use of lethal force upon the guilty after a careful and well controlled trial and appeal system, but seem to have no difficulty granting that same lethal force to all women be used with no restriction whatsoever upon the innocent whose only offense is that they yet to been born.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Error has no rights

The title of this post is an assertion that is found in the social justice encyclicals of Leo XIII, and it may seem a curious assertion. The following section from Romano Amerio's Iota Unum helps shed light on it by examining the species of error in the context of how the Church responds to it. (Note: when the author speaks of what the Pope says, Amerio is speaking of John XIII's opening speach of Vatican Council II.)

40: a new attitude towards error

The Church, so the Pope says, is not to set aside or weaken its opposition to error, but “she prefers today to make use of the medicine of mercy, rather than the arms of severity.” She resists error “by showing the validity of her teaching, rather than by issuing condemnations.” This setting up of the principle of mercy as opposed to severity ignores the fact that in the mind of the Church the condemnation of error is itself a work of mercy, since by pinning down error those laboring under it are corrected and others are preserved from falling into it. Furthermore, mercy and severity cannot exist, properly speaking, in regard to error, because they are moral virtues which have persons as their object, while the intellect recoils from error by the logical act that opposes a false conclusion. Since mercy is sorrow at another’s misfortune accompanied by a desire to help him (Summa, II, II, q.30,a.1), the methods of mercy can only be applied to the person in error, whom one helps by confuting his error and presenting him with the truth; and can never be applied to his error itself, which is a logical entity that cannot experience misfortune. Moreover, the Pope reduces by half the amount of help that can be offered, since he restricts the whole duty of the Church regarding the person in error to the mere presentation of the truth: this is alleged to be enough in itself to undo the error, without directly opposing it. The logical work of confutation is to be omitted to make way for a mere didascalia (direct instruction) on the truth, trusting that it will be sufficient to destroy error and procure assent.

This papal teaching constitutes an important change in the Catholic Church, and is based on a peculiar view of the intellectual state of modern man. The Pope makes the paradoxical assertion that men today are so profoundly affected by false and harmful ideas in moral matters that “at last it seems men of themselves,” that is without refutations and condemnations, “are disposed to condemn them; in particular those ways of behaving which despise God and His law.” One can indeed maintain that a purely theoretical error will cure itself, since it arises from purely logical causes; but it is difficult to understand the proposition that a practical error about life’s activities will cure itself, since that sort of error arises from judgments in which the non-necessary elements of thought are involved. This optimistic interpretation of events, asserting that at last error is about to recognize and correct itself, is difficult enough to accept in theory; but it is also bluntly refuted by facts. Events were still maturing at the time the Pope spoke, but in the following decade they came to full fruition. Men did not change their minds regarding their errors, but became entrenched in them instead, and gave them the force of law. The public and universal acceptance of these errors became obvious with the adoption of divorce and abortion.

I will post Amerio on Capital Punishment next.

It makes no sense that we grant the use of unrestricted lethal force to a citizen with no judicial oversight, and simultaneously claim that the state has no right to the use of restricted lethal force with full judicial oversight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Over at the Salve Regina blog, there is a reference and explanation of the term "vomitories", and some thoughts on baseball.

Amerio Romano, in Iota Unum has a few chapters devoted to Somatolatry. Somatolatry is characteristic of our day; the idolization of the body. That and it's inherent companion, materialism(1), are probably the basis of most Catholic's opposition to the death penalty, as their opposition is not rooted in Catholic teaching (as they immediately display by linking their opposition to the commandment, Thou shalt not kill. Anyway, some thoughts on sports in Iota Unum are worthy of consideration.

(1). Materialism: In a Catholic context, materialism refers solely to the belief in material existence only (as contrasted to the worldly use of the term for what is really greed; the acquisition of unnecessary goods). While all Catholics profess a belief in the immaterial, at times many of us inadvertantly live as though we were a materialist (ie: as though God did not exist), a temptation we all succumb to to a certain extent, a tendancy Br. Lawrence teaches a way to combat in his "Practice of the Presence of God."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Come Holy Spirit

At men's prayer group this morning we read Sunday's scripture, discussed it briefly, and broke into small groups for discussion of the Holy Spirit and God's love. The first thing that happened was the discussion was "hijacked" to a discussion of the death penalty. On reflection, I offer a bow to the ladies who should have no surprise that a group of men failed miserably to discuss love in a personal context, and chose instead to discuss a "safe" topic that was not germaine. Almost comforting to live out the stereotype!

Pentecost Sunday presents two optional Gospel readings. The first from John is the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles for the forgivness of sins (Jn 20:19-23; sacrament of reconciliation/penance). The second contains several adominitions; if we keep His ommandments, which come from His Father, He will send the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Trinity, and the Holy Spirit will teach all. (Jn 14: 15-16, 23b-26; there's a lot packed in there!).

On reflecting on this this morning's discussion, it occured to me that "small group discussions" on love invariably seem to focus on the aspects of human love which we all live; love of our family, of our neighbor. These are the places we live out life and certainly practice love as informed by our faith. It strikes me as interesting that this sort of discussion usually focuses on the horizontal dimension, leaving out the verticle dimension, the love we return to God directly, which is, after all, the greatest commandment. curious... try it; start a discussion about love, and see where the discussion goes.

Here are a couple audio tracks to help contemplate Love as it exists in the inner life of the Most Holy Trinity, to which we have been invited.

Veni, sancte spiritus

by Göran Wretling (2003)
and by William Byrd (1607) (audio requires free Rhapsody player) score

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Whatever you ask the Father in my name...

He will give you. (Jn 16:23)

This was the Gospel reading yesterday. When I heard these words, I also heard In Persona Christi

I'd never thought of these two together before. In the sacraments, do we not see this promise fulfilled? invariably?

Friday, May 18, 2007


If you are not familiar with this movie, first, check the web site of INTO GREAT SILENCE

Ok, now that you've done that, this film enjoyed a very limited release in the US. Jimmy Akin wrote about seeing it in NYC:

I've been grateful for any number of cinematic
experiences in my life, and found many movies to
be inspiring, challenging, thought-provoking, what
have you. I can't fully articulate how Into Great
Silence affected me, except to say that it was a
transforming experience, in that I find very, very
few films to be.

At the Chapter meeting this Sunday, let's set a time and place to watch this awesome movie.

And now I'm not disappearing "Into Great Silence," but into a busy weekend starting now...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No need of teachers...

From today’s Office of Readings:

As for you, this anointing you received from him remains in your hearts. This means you have no need for anyone to teach you. Rather, as his anointing teaches you about all things and is true-free from any lie-remain in him as that anointing taught you. (1 Jn 2:27)

I have had people use this verse to justify their own “private interpretation” used as an excuse to oppose and reject the constant teaching of the church; maintaining that they are immune from the obligation of believing truth taught with authority; claiming a "private line to God". But is that what is going on here? If St. John meant that we don’t need teachers to teach us the faith, then one has an immediate conflict with the very mission of Jesus: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt. 28:19) An lest the answer be, “yes, teach, and once baptized, the Holy Spirit will teach all things without the need of other teachers,” continue, do not divide the words of Jesus from the words of Jesus, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28:20). If we are not to need any teachers at all, it is nonsense to commission teaching!

I believe it to be instructive to consider the operation of this principle which the beloved disciple has enumerated in First John above. Let us consider how the disciples are depicted to us in the gospels during the three years which they accompanied Jesus. Do not the gospel authors paint a picture of a rather thick-headed and slow of understanding group? Like spectators at a sporting event shouting to the players, do we not in our hearts almost cry out to them, saying “Why don’t you get it, it is so clear!” And do we not in our hearts, and sometimes in our words, say exactly the same thing to those about us who do not have faith? Because we have faith, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, we can read these words, and we believe them and know what they mean (at least at the level of the literal, but there is so much more!). Yet I can remember looking at the words of scripture before the coming of faith and the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and being as thick-headed, no more so, than those same disciples. Like the disciples at Pentecost, it takes the assistance of the Paraclete for meaning of these words of Jesus to sink in and enter the understanding.

But, without the commission to teach, the heart would have no access to the words to be able to understand them at all; How can they believe, if they have not heard? St. Augustine referred to this in his explanation of this passage of John, a passage as abused in his day as in ours. The teacher gives the word, opening it up with deeper explorations, but it is the Holy Spirit who grants the understanding. Some will hear with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and understand, others will hear and fail to understand, just as the disciples did before Pentecost, as I once did, and as so many do today. The Spirit that grants this understanding is One, and is Holy, and is God. The spirits which give other but different understandings, understandings which lead to the offense against Charity known as schism, and offense against faith known as heresy, are not. But that is not where I want to go at this time.

I’d like to for a moment consider the woman at the well, and the remarkable conversation she had with Jesus. A Samaritan, she and her people were awaiting the advent of “The prophet,” which was the extent of the revelation of the savior which can be obtained from the Pentateuch, the scriptures received and accepted by the Samaritans. It is interesting that Jesus does not simply announce “Hey, look at me! I’m the Prophet whom you await.” Rather, he leads her by small steps to the recognition of this reality.

Was it St. Bernard (I think, I may be confusing this story with someone else; and if so, forgive me and correct me), who early in his religious life, on fire with the faith, was novice master, but had a very high rate of washouts among the novices. Confused about this, he asked the Abbot why this was so. The Abbot asked him to consider the image of standing on a cliff high above the valley. From this vantage point, the view of all is clear and unimpeded, but for those in the valley, all they can see is the face of solid rock. Such is the nature of faith, that God sometimes takes an individual, and lifts their soul from the valley to the heights in a single swift motion, but this is not the case for the majority of men, who must scale it with great effort. The Abbot said, “Your job is to build the staircase.”

Jesus showed us how to do this with the Samaritan woman, who (relatively) swiftly ascended the staircase unfolded by Jesus, as her heart had been prevented(1) by the assistance of the Holy Spirit. If you think about it, the heart that is ready usually displays itself differently from the heart that is not ready, granting the clue as to the steps which we can help them take, or simply leave the calling card to the door of the staircase.

1. WORD RECLAMATION. "pre"-"vented" - having the heart opened by the Holy Spirit in advance, prevenient grace.

Monday, May 14, 2007


It's May! click images for recordings.

Music of Robert Parsons from The Robert Parsons Project

Disorder in the Order

What's fundamentally wrong with this picture?

This would be bad enough, but to have a Dominican operated Newman Center as "Participating Members of the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition?" or maybe I'm wrong and it's not a Newman Center, but a Par 9 Golf Course?

St. Bernard quoted in DIVINE INTIMACY

DIVINE INTIMACY by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
#176 Mary’s Humility.

“O Virgin! Glorious stem, to what sublime height do you raise your corolla? Straight to Him who is seated on the throne, to the God of Majesty. I do not wonder, since you are so deeply rooted in humility. Hail, Mary, full of Grace! You are deeply rooted in humility, for you are pleasing to God, to the angels, and to men: to men, by your maternity; to the angels, by your virginity; to God, by your humility. It is by your humility that you attract the glance of God, of Him who regards the humble, but looks at the proud from afar. As Satan’s eyes are fixed on the proud, so God’s eyes are on the lowly” (St. Bernard)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Night and Day

From DIVINE INTIMACY by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
#175 Fifth Sunday After Easter

“I came forth from the Father and am come into the world,” Jesus said, “again I leave the world, and I go to the Father” (Jn 16:23-30). Thus He announces His approaching Ascension. Having reached the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus presents it in synthesis as a long journey from the Father to the world and from the world to the Father. These words repeat the idea of “pilgrimage,” which every Christian should apply to his own life, considering it as “a night spent in a bad inn” (Teresa of Jesus, Way, 40), a “night” during which his heart is turned toward the radiant tomorrow of eternal life.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pope in Brazil, mission

Fr. Z posted "The Pope’s talk in the Cathedral of São Paolo" from which I've extracted the following: (emphasis from Fr. Z)

We Bishops have come together to manifest this central truth, since we are directly bound to Christ, the Good Shepherd. The mission entrusted to us as teachers of the faith consists in recalling, in the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, that our Saviour "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4). This, and nothing else, is the purpose of the Church: the salvation of individual souls.

This is a srong, beautiful address. Lest you think from these few words that he is advocating a line of ignoring the needs of the suffering, read the whole thing!

Translation considerations

The following is from an interesting article in
Antiphon, A Journal for Liturgical Renewal

This address was delivered at the international conference “Sacrificium laudis: The Medina Years (1996-2002),” hosted by the Research Institute for Catholic Liturgy at the Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan, 28-30 October 2005.

Liturgical Translation:
A Question of Truth

Peter J. Elliott

Now is the time to look forward and “wait in joyful hope,” if I may use one of the old ICEL’s more felicitous phrases. Something better is emerging in this area of English liturgical language, a significant development that may also make it possible to face the wider challenges of an inevitable reform of the reform. Through the new translations, we hope to see something of the glory of the liturgy shine once more. May we recover the divine splendor of the truth, on the lips, in the minds, and in the hearts of a people worshipping the triune God “in spirit and in truth.”

Monsignor Peter J. Elliott is a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, episcopal vicar for religious education, the director of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, and a consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He was appointed an auditor at the World Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, 2005.

hat tip to New Liturgical Movement


There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.
Thus opens "The Everlasting Man" by GK Chesterton, which I would heartily recommend to anyone who is of the notion that humanity is evolving towards some sort of "Omega point," an enjoyable dose of common sense is a good tonic.

They will suddenly turn round and revile the Church for not having prevented the War, which they themselves did not want to prevent; and which nobody had ever professed to be able to prevent, except some of that very school of progressive and cosmopolitan sceptics who are the chief enemies of the Church. It was the anti-clerical and agnostic world that was always prophesying the advent of universal peace; it is that world that was, or should have been, abashed and confounded by the advent of universal war. As for the general view that the Church was discredited by the War--they might as well say that the Ark was discredited by the Flood. When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.

Now the best relation to our spiritual home is to be near enough to love it. But the next best is to be far enough away not to hate it. It is the contention of these pages that while the best judge of Christianity is a Christian, the next best judge would be something more like a Confucian. The worst judge of all is the man now most ready with his judgements; the ill-educated Christian turning gradually into the ill-tempered agnostic, entangled in the end of a feud of which he never understood the beginning, blighted with a sort of hereditary boredom with he knows not what, and already weary of hearing what he has never heard. He does not judge Christianity calmly as a Confucian would; he does not judge it as he would judge Confucianism. He cannot by an effort of fancy set the Catholic Church thousands of miles away in strange skies of morning and judge it as impartially as a Chinese pagoda. It is said that the great St. Francis Xavier, who very nearly succeeded in setting up the Church there as a tower overtopping all pagodas, failed partly because
his followers were accused by their fellow missionaries of representing the Twelve Apostles with the garb or attributes of Chinamen. But it would be far better to see them as Chinamen, and judge them fairly as Chinamen, than to see them as featureless idols merely made to be battered by iconoclasts; or rather as cockshies to be pelted by empty-handed cockneys. It would be better to see the whole thing as a remote Asiatic cult; the mitres of its bishops as the towering head dresses of mysterious bonzes; its pastoral staffs as the sticks twisted like serpents carried in some Asiatic procession; to see the prayer book as fantastic as the prayer-wheel
and the Cross as crooked as the Swastika. Then at least we should not lose our temper as some of the sceptical critics seem to lose their temper, not to mention their wits. Their anti-clericalism has become an atmosphere, an atmosphere of negation and hostility from which they cannot escape. Compared with that, it would be better to see the whole thing as something belonging to another continent, or to another planet. It would be more philosophical to stare indifferently at bonzes than to be perpetually and pointlessly grumbling at bishops. It would be better to walk past a church as if it were a pagoda than to stand permanently in the porch, impotent either to go inside and help or to go outside and forget. For those in whom a mere reaction has thus become an obsession, I do seriously recommend the imaginative effort of conceiving the Twelve Apostles as Chinamen. In other words, I recommend these critics to try to do as much justice to Christian saints as if they were Pagan sages.

But with this we come to the final and vital point I shall try to show in these pages that when we do make this imaginative effort to see the whole thing from the outside, we find that it really looks like what is traditionally said about it inside. It is exactly when the boy gets far enough off to see the giant that he sees that he really is a giant. It is exactly when we do at last see the Christian Church afar under those clear and level eastern skies that we see that it is really the Church of Christ. To put it shortly, the moment we are really impartial about it, we know why people are partial to it. But this second proposition requires more serious discussion; and I shall here set myself to discuss it.

Error and it's rejection

I have relative who is caught up in all sorts of New Age and esoterica; he is a delightful person to be with, but at this point in his life, he is seriously confused, and his desire to have "power over" events is in conflict with God's will that we submit to Him in love.

I think that this relative actually believes the things he says, even though they conflict with the reality around him; I do not suspect him of being deceitful; these are things he has learned from sources that may not be as benign; As for the authors of these errors I would not want to even consider their motives. For example, it is documented, as I understand it, that L. Ron Hubbard created Scientology on a bet, or was it a dare? Either way, this whole cloth fabrication is embraced by many who have the God given intellectual capacity to discover that what they believe is a fabrication, a fabrication which they should renounce, but they remain attached to it. One has to wonder about such a decision. Does one say, I know that this is false, but I like it, so I will cling to it? This would not seem likely, for St. Thomas, as I understand it, says that made in God's image we are drawn to truth. Does one who adheres to Scientology believe that even though Hubbard "made it up," it is so good, that the origins don't matter, that fiction mixed with a perceived good is as good as it gets? Or, do they simply reject the history, reacting to the statement "Hubbard made up your religion" the same way a person of faith reacts to the similar charges made against the faith of Jesus Christ, that it is the charge which is false?

It would certainly seem that one could determine the veracity of the charge that Scientology is the fictional creation of a fiction writer, and that there would be some degree of obligation to do so in conscience, and, if true, to abjure the fiction in the pursuit of truth.

In a similar vein, it has been my observation that such charges made against the Christian religion are made in the complete absense of evidence, being based rather on the response of incredulity to claims that one would normally not accept. Then, rather than examine the evidence on which credulity would be either established or rejected, the one making the charge turns and posits an alternate explanation, in the complete absense of evidence, and expects the unwarry to accept it simply because it fails to strain the credulity; which they often do. Thus, in not examining the evidence, a whole-cloth fabrication without evidence, is substituted for truth which is established by evidence.

Now it may well be so that Scientology contains a truth here and there, perhaps a whole grocery bag full of them, and I suspect that it's adherents are simply ambivalent about truth, as I once was, and are more interested in "what does it do for me." But now, as a Catholic, having made the public affirmation that I have submitted my intellect and understanding to my Lord Jesus Christ, the God Who is Truth, and all that He has taught through His Holy Catholic Church, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would be content with any mix of error and truth.

During RCIA, Father gave one discussion in which he used as an example a bottle of very fine wine, the finest and most expensive that can be obtained. Yet, add a drop of cyanide, and a glass of the best wine, now will kill you. Do you continue to extol the virtues of this fine wine, or do you warn others not to drink of it? tell me, which is charity? To say, this is a fine wine you have! or Don't drink that, it will kill you!! In point of fact, Father was saying the exact same thing that the Pope said when condemning the errors of Martin Luther:

Condemning The Errors Of Martin Luther
Pope Leo X
Bull issued June 15, 1520

Some, putting aside her true interpretation of Sacred Scripture, are blinded in mind by the father of lies. Wise in their own eyes, according to the ancient practice of heretics, they interpret these same Scriptures otherwise than the Holy Spirit demands, inspired only by their own sense of ambition, and for the sake of popular acclaim, as the Apostle declares. In fact, they twist and adulterate the Scriptures. As a result, according to Jerome, "It is no longer the Gospel of Christ, but a man's, or what is worse, the devil's."

This is charity, to warn in order to save, to identify error, that it may be avoided.

I have heard some say, in reference to questionable sources, but I like this work! It has good things in it! Yes, but do you know where the bad things are hidden, and what they are? Who can know enough to protect themselves from unsuspectingly imbibing fatal error? I have to wonder if the attitude displays a preference for ones own will and discernment, above a respect for the truth? Do I put down the poisoned bottle of fine wine, or be mesmerized by the aroma, the high price, the exclusivity, or whatever? Who has the ability to discern with certainty, when an item is a known mixture of truth and error? Too often, it seems the "good stuff" which the unwarry who have rushed in cling to, ends up being just the poison that they were so sure that they would know to avoid.

Going back to Scientology, I am not sure that it would be correct to call L. Ron Hubbard a "fraud" for perpetrating Scientology on the world. It might fit, but I don't know the circumstances well enough. My degree is in Geology, and there is one fraud I am familiar with, a fraud of large proportion, and one which it's perpetrator forever lost any reasonable claim to be a source for truth. That fraud perpetrated on the world was "Piltdown Man." Piltdown man was a fossil discovery which was supposed to be the "missing link" between modern man and apes; it turned out to be a human skull, an orangatang jaw, and filed teeth; ie: a fraud that took many years to uncover, in spite of it's being rather obvious to many who examined it.

It wasn't until I became a Catholic that I discovered that this fraud was perpetrated by the same individual, and individual who passed himself off as a "Scientist," but had instead an agenda; to "prove" evolution he believed would "disprove" original sin, and therefore the entire Christian revelation would be overturned and he could replace it with something else. Imagine my surprise to discover that this man who committed such a profound documented fraud, was accepted as a visionary, and his theories accepted uncritically by many Catholics! And as theories go, he puts L. Ron Hubbard to shame, although I think they were working from the same spirit (and not a holy one). This individual, Tielhard de Chardin, certainly pulled the wool over many who accepted his theories with too much cerdulity, including Karl Rahner, who in spite of evidence to the contrary went ahead and following his teacher de Chardin, accepted polygenism and rejected original sin, and then went on to help lead a generation astray.

It baffles me, that Christ brings us the good news that although fallen, He can raise us; but for some strange reason there are those who say, no, you are not fallen, and many fall in line! Is it the appeal to pride, or the desire to be autonamous? I don't know, but that's my thoughts for the moment.

Note: In reviewing some of the literature, I see that there are those who would hold de Chardin blameless for Piltdown man, considering him too young and gullible at the time to have been a consipirator. His early involvement with Peking Man, "evidence" of the racial superiority of the white European "type" is disturbing.

The Heart and Mind of Bishop Robert Vasa (Don't miss it!)

This weeks column from the Catholic Sentinal, by Bp. Vasa

Signs of faith -- reminders of God's love for us
E-Column by Bishop Robert Vasa

I rediscover anew practically each day something that I have seen and heard a hundred times. On a recent drive to Ontario I passed through Hampton on Highway 20. It is easy to miss. It rivals Brothers in size and attractiveness. This trip, both coming and going, I took particular note of Hampton because of a pick-up with a sign standing in its bed. Hampton might have three buildings but the prominent one is a Diner. The sign in the pick-up: The best food in town. I have no reason to doubt the truth or accuracy of the statement but one must note that it makes absolutely no claim about the absolute quality of the food at this particular Diner. The statement is one about the relative quality of the food served at the Diner. Since there is no competition, the food at this particular Diner is the best in town by default. I very rarely stop for meals on the road and this trip was no exception but at very least that sign reminded me of the existence of Hampton, told me of the fact of the Diner and suggested the possibility that the food there would be, if nothing else, interesting. The sign is significant.

In each of my recent Confirmation tours I have quizzed the young people about the Sacred Signs of the Church, the Sacraments. I start with a definition of Sacrament. This is, as we all know, an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace. I ask them to name the Seven Sacraments. This they can flawlessly accomplish. Then I ask them to tell me the outward sign of each of the Sacraments. I ask them how they know that someone has been baptized, how someone knows that he has received Holy Communion, how a priest knows he is a priest, how someone in Confession knows he is forgiven, how a couple knows they are married, how they will know that they have been Confirmed, and how someone knows that he has received the Anointing of the Sick. The answer is that we know these things because they have been externally expressed in Sign and in Word. I am reminded of Pope Benedict's Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est: "The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts - an unprecedented realism." (12) The Holy Father continues later: "Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist." (17) These are the Signs of God's presence and His love. In the case of Eucharist it is quite clear that we need and definitely want the reception of the external Sign which is, in faith and objective reality, the best Food in town, but we often fail to recognize that the other external signs of the concreteness of God's love, particularly Penance, are likewise necessary. We want, and rightly expect, the priest to come to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick when a tragedy has occurred or when death is imminent. We recognize then the need for that concrete expression of God's love, mercy, forgiveness and healing. We are offered this same concrete expression of God's love, mercy, forgiveness and healing in the Sacrament of Penance and yet this Sacrament seems to lack for us the same sense of importance and urgency. A priest is a priest by virtue of the laying on of hands by a bishop, and a couple is married by virtue of their free and mutual exchange of consent to take and to hold each other without condition for the whole of their lives. These both entail definitive external expressions which manifest externally what happens internally, what happens spiritually, what happens in reality.

Our Churches are external signs of our Catholic presence. Our crosses and crucifixes are external signs and reminders to us of what Christ has done for love of us. We have many other signs, sacramentals, as well. Rosaries, medals, scapulars, statues, stained glass windows, pictures, icons, rings, and the like are all external expressions, manifestations and reminders of the fact that we are made for God, that He loves and redeems us and that, while we journey here on earth, our true home, to which each of these things points, ultimately is in heaven. We need these external signs especially the ones given to us by Christ which give us food and strength for the journey. It often happens that we cruise by these signs without giving them the attention which they deserve, without stopping to look at them, without recognizing how significant they can be for us.

At Ontario, Blessed Sacrament Parish (what an honor to be named after the Blessed Sacrament) the young people and the Youth Minister told me of the Diocesan Bread of Life Retreat held the previous weekend at Holy Family in Burns. In response to the question, "What was the best part of the retreat?," I was told "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament." One parent told me that his son responded that the best part was Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. At the FaithWorks Presentation in Vale I asked a young woman who went to the Retreat the same question. The response, "Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament." This same Lord, present in the Most Holy Eucharist, abides in every tabernacle of each of our Churches and He is perpetually available for adoration. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is an added bonus, but this is not at all necessary for authentic Adoration. What happened at Retreat was that these young people and Youth Ministers were given the opportunity to stop and actually spend some focused, concentrated time before our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and they discovered the Greatest Lover in the Universe. They came to appreciate much more fully the wonder and awe of the Blessed Sacrament. This Sign of Christ's Presence has never been far from them but they and we have cruised past it time and time again without noticing, without acknowledging, without recognizing who it was who was awaiting their and our arrival. Perhaps now these same youngsters can be a bit like a sign in the back of a pick-up calling attention to something easily missed. As I traveled closer to Burns and Ontario I again came to Riley with its famous sign, "Ya missed it!" Perhaps this can be a sign for us and a question: Did I miss Hampton? Did I miss Riley? Did I miss, this week, the ultimate Sign of God's love and the Reality of Christ's Presence?

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

From Iota Unum

40. A new attitude towards error.

The attitude to be adopted in regard to error is on the other hand a definite novelty, and is openly announced as being a new departure for the Church. The Church, so the Pope (in the speach opening Vatican II) says, is not to set aside or weaken its opposition to error, but "she prefers today to make use of the medicine of mercy, rather than of the arms of severity." She resists error "by showing the validity of her teaching, rather than by issuing condemnations." This setting up of the principle of mercy as opposed to severity ignores the fact that in the mind of the Church the condemnation of error is in itself a work of mercy, since by pinning down error those laboring under it are corrected and others are preserved from falling into it. Furthermore, mercy and severity cannot exist, properly speaking, in regard to error, because they are moral virtues which have persons as their object, while the intellect recoils from error by the logical act that opposes a false conclusion. Since mercy is sorrow at another's misfortune accompanied by a desire to help him (Summa Theological II, II, q30a1), the methods of mercy can only be applied to the person in error, whom one helps by confuting his error and presenting him with the truth; and can never be applied to his error itself, which is a logical entity that cannot experience misfortune. Moreover, the Pope reduces by half the amount of help that can be offered, since he restricts the whole duty of the Church regarding the person in error to the mere presentation of the truth: this is alleged to be enough in itself to undo the error, without directly opposing it. The logical work of confutation is to be omitted to make way for a mere didascalia (direct instruction) on the truth. did not change their minds regarding their errors, but became entrenced in them instead, and gave them the force of law. The public and universal acdceptance of these errors became obvious with the adoption of divorce and abortion.

In the world, not of the world #2

This reading was from D.I. from almost two weeks ago, and is why I asked at that time if anyone knew of a proper citation for the various versions of the phrase:

St. Teresa of Avila said once, “God deliver me from gloomy saints!”

My desire is to reconcile these two trains of thought. My suspicion is that St. Teresa of Avila would not have any disagreement with Fr. Gabriel, but see what you think. BTW, the post immediately following this one goes with this train of though rather well.

DIVINE INTIMACY, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.

Third Sunday after Easter

1. Today the liturgy begins to direct our thoughts toward the coming Ascension of Jesus” “A little while, and now you shall not see Me…because I go to the Father.” The Gospel (Jn 16:16-22) which relates this passage is taken from the discourse that Our Lord made to the Apostles at the Last Supper. His purpose was to prepare them for His departure, before He went to His Passion; but the Church presents to us this farewell speech of Jesus today, before His Ascension. Having accomplished His mission, Jesus must return to the Father who sent Him. One day we shall have to do the same; earth is not our lasting dwelling, but the place of our pilgrimage. Jesus has said so: “A little while, and now you shall not se Me…” These words which were enigmatic for the Apostles, who did not understand them, are not clear to us: “a little while” – that is our short lifetime, and very soon we shall see Him in His glory. Then, as our Lord said, “your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you.” However, before reaching this happy state, we have to endure the difficulties, struggles and sufferings of life on earth. Although it is “short” compared with the “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:18) which awaits us, the Lord knows that for us, overcome as we are by the trials of life on earth, it is “much” and painful. He warns us, therefore, so that we shall not be scandalized: “-You shall lament and weep, but the world shall rejoice…” The world rejoices and wants to rejoice at any cost, because it is immersed in the pleasures of this life, with no thought of what awaits it beyond. If it cannot escape the inevitable sufferings of life, it tries to stifle its sorrow in pleasure, by contriving to extract from every fleeting moment all the enjoyment possible. A Christian does not do this; he imposes on himself a life of sacrifice and renunciation, in view of heavenly happiness: “You shall be made sorrowful,” said Jesus, “but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

2. The Epistle (1 Pt 2:11-19) likewise exhorts us to live on earth with our eyes turned toward heaven. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, to refrain yourselves from carnal desires which war against the soul.” The pilgrim cannot delay to enjoy the pleasures and joys which he meets on the road, or he will endanger the success of his journey and may even run the risk of not reaching the end. So the Christian, God’s pilgrim, cannot allow himself to be detained by the things of earth; he can use them and even enjoy them, if Providence puts them in his way, but only wit ha detached heart which immediately leaves them behind. Nothing can delay him, for he is in a hurry to reach the goal. The life of a Christian is like that of a traveler in a foreign land, who never delays because he is anxious to get back to his own country. The Secret of the Mass very aptly puts on his lips the following prayer; “May these mysteries, O Lord, quench the ardor of our earthly desires, and teach us to love only the things of heaven!” We need this prayer very much, for present satisfactions and goods, with their tangible, concrete character, may always make an impression on our senses and heart, even to the point of detaining us in our progress toward heaven, and of making us forget the emptiness of all earthly things. Another characteristic of the pilgrim is that he is never satisfied until he reaches his native land; this unrest throws a veil of sadness over his life. Thus, the Christian, God’s pilgrim, can never be wholly content until he reaches heaven and possesses God. Today, sighing, he runs toward Him; he quickens his step, sustained by the hope of meeting Him “face to face” some day. His hope, however, is accompanied by a feeling of sadness, because he hopes for what he does not yet possess. His is the holy sadness of those who are seeking God. Let us thank God if Hi has made us experience this; it is a good sign; it is a sign that our heart has been captivated by His love, and that earthly things can no longer satisfy it. Once again the words of Jesus comfort us: “Your sadness shall be changed into joy.”

Do not try and rejoice until you have suffered” (St. Teresa of Avila, Exclamations of the Soul to God)

In the world, but not of the world

Yesterday's reading is one of my favorites; a worthy read.

Office of Readings, Wed, 5th week of Easter

From a letter to Diognetus

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based on reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to live in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as thought they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restrictions the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them jut as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, thought immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

A must see video

Awesome. Thank you, Fr. Richtsteig, for posting this.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Favorite Saints Meme

Theocoid has tagged me with the Favorite Saints meme. Ok…

Favorite Saints:

1. St. Bede, whose Ecclesiastical History of England opened my eyes to the witness of the martyrs, and
2. St. Augustine, whose Confessions showed me the one sign given to unbelievers, of whom I was the first, and
3. St Theresa of Avila, who showed me the Interior Castle of the spiritual life, and
4. St. Dominic, whose Life shows how to bring it to others.

Favorite Blessed:
Bl. Margaret of Castello, hands down first place. But I’ve also a warm spot in my heart for Bl. Carino, the assassin who felled St. Peter Martyr, and who after conversion, lived out his penitential life in humble monastic service.

Who should be canonized:
Tomás de Torquemada and Cardinal Ximénez. Read Walsh’s “Characters of the Inquisition” to understand that "don't be judgmental" swings both ways; the Best of men in the worst of times.

PPA not necessarily an abortion, but formal murder...

Well the things you find when you look for answers to unrelated questions...

A Pastoral Letter on Abortion and Excommunication

The Most Reverend Rene H. Gracida, D.D.
Bishop of Corpus Christi

September 8, 1990


106. Because penalties in Church law are to be strictly interpreted (canon 18), all the conditions specified in canon 1398 must be present for it to be operative. There must first be a pregnancy and a subsequent abortion which has taken place. The term "abortion", derived from ABORIOR, in its strict etymological sense means death. Abortion has come to signify the delivery of an immature or non-viable baby. A non-viable baby is one that cannot survive outside the womb even with medical assistance. If the unborn baby is viable and survives outside the womb, an abortion is not committed. Abortion is understood to be the intentional ejection of a non-viable baby from the womb of the mother. Any method or technique which is used to effect the abortion, even if its indirect purpose is to act as an abortifacient, comes within the scope of the crime.

107. The killing of a viable baby would not be an abortion, but formal murder in Church law. The mere fact that the baby sometimes lives for a short while after its ejection does not necessarily indicate viability. If the subsequent death is due precisely and solely to its insufficient development, then the baby is non-viable, consequently, its removal implies an abortion, not a premature delivery. On the other hand, if a baby is ejected at a time when it is judged to be non-viable; but after delivery continues to live, this is unquestionable evidence that it is viable and therefore abortion is not verified.

108. At which point in its development is an unborn baby considered viable? Obstetrical authorities commonly place the minimum age for viability between 26 to 28 weeks. For practical purposes one could follow this practical rule: If an unborn baby is ejected before the 26th week and lives, there is no crime of abortion. If the baby dies, however, it must be considered non-viable, unless there are positive indications that its death was due to other circumstances than extra-uterine existence. In this latter case, the penalty of excommunication would be incurred.

With the progress of medical science, viability is bound to occur earlier. But even with progress in this area, the important considerations of the anatomical and functional development and the weight and length of the unborn child as well as other factors, will help determine viability.

109. The fetus must be living prior to the abortion. The expulsion of a fetus which dies of natural causes in the womb is not an abortion. A natural miscarriage is not an abortion. As mentioned earlier, a fetus or unborn baby can be said to be present with moral certitude once pregnancy is determined. Moral certitude excludes all prudent and positive doubt. The unborn baby is considered a human from the moment of conception and impregnation. The old speculative theory regarding the animation of the fetus no longer has any application in the crime of abortion. Science and medicine have proven clearly that human life begins at conception (37). It is certainly biologically alive and despite its dependence upon the mother, it is a distinct living being, not a mere part of the mother. The unborn baby sustains a life proper to itself, dependent upon yet distinct from that of the mother.

110. Concerning the aborted fetus, the pastoral practice the Church enshrined in law calls for the baptism of the expelled fetus. Canon 871 of the Revised Code states that aborted fetuses are alive, they are to be baptized if this possible. The animated- inanimate distinction is absent here too, and leading commentators on the 1917 Code of canon law explain this norm as based upon the "more common" view that the human fetus has a rational soul from the first moment of conception (38). Even if the theory of immediate animation is not an abiding conviction in the Church, the pastoral practice of baptizing a fetus expelled at any age is soundly established as the safer course of action. If a human is present, the Christian community will try to extend the saving power of Christ to him or her through the sacrament of baptism.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Started reading: Iota Unum

New book arrived this weekend. The introduction has my attention already, with some rather short and pointedly clear ways of articulating things. I included the last item from #22 because it has bearing on Credo in unum deum...

Iota Unum
A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century,
Romano Amerio (1985)

14. The deviations of the middle ages.

The Church is only in danger of perishing if she loses the truth, not if she fails to live up to it.

17. The denial of the Catholic principle in Lutheran doctrine.

It is not the thing which demands assent, but assent which gives value to the thing.

22. The principle of independence.
The Auctorem Fidei.

Liberty, equality and fraternity were not values that had gone unrecognized by ancient Greek wisdom, or that had not been given universal import by the Christian religion. Where else could they have come from? The Stoics had made them dependent on a natural Logos enlightening every man who came into the world; even if such enlightenment was ineffective, as the history of slavery, for example, proves. Christianity, on the other hand, had made them dependent on the supernatural Logos, Who became man, enlightening and effectively moving man’s heart. Since a natural Logos is ideal, not real, it cannot truly be the principle on which all depends, nor consequently can it be revered and obeyed unconditionally. The true principle is a supremely real being that includes the Idea and which, in Christianity, has made itself a created reality by means of the Incarnation.

The God-Man, Who is ontologically an individual, becomes a social individual in the Church. The latter, according to St. Paul’s famous teaching, is the mystical body of the former, hence dependence on Christ is reflected in dependence on the Church. This is the principle of authority which rules the whole theological organism. It was impugned by the Lutheran revolution because, as has been said, that revolution substituted private judgment in religious matters for the rule of authority. The correlative of authority is obedience, and on could equally well say that the first principal of Catholicism is either authority or obedience; as appears in the famous Pauline passage about the God-Man being obedient, and obedient even unto death, that is, the whole of His life. He was obedient not primarily to save man (though it is legitimate to put it that way) but rather in order that the creature should bow before the Creator and give Him that entire and absolute homage which is the very goal of creation. That is why the Church of Christ always draws people to cooperate together, through obedience and abnegation and to merge themselves in that collective individual which is the mystical Body of Christ, taking the individual and his acts out of their isolation and abolishing any sort of dependence which is not subordinate to dependence on God.