Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I'm dealing with a minor emergency today so I won't be posting again until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

My apologies, but things have gotten a bit hectic this week...
so I won't be posting anything until Monday evening.

Have a great weekend !

Monday, July 22, 2002

Sex and the Single Catholic (and comments) has been placed in the sidebar as True Love Marries""

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Christ said 'Resist not evil'. Some one else is supposed to have said 'all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing'. At first glance, these two statements appear to stand in such extreme opposition that one might feel he is left with a choice between the folly of God and the wisdom of man. Such a conclusion would be mistaken.

Christ is not asking us to do nothing in the face to evil. Nor must we necessarily interpret the second quote as a requirement to resist evil. It is merely the requirement that we do 'something'. If we are willing to accept both quotes as practical wisdom, we have been given a clear response to the presence of evil in ourselves, our community and our world. In the presence of evil, we are required to do good. When we respond in a more direct way to the evil inherent in any and all acts of created beings, we run the risk of taking on the characteristics of the very evil we oppose.

The current situation in the Church exposes several examples of this danger. We become judgmental in our condemnation of those who are eager to condemn the perpetrators of sin. We become political in our efforts to stem the bureaucratic impersonalism of our leaders. We become dogmatic in our criticism of those we perceive as being rigid and uncaring. In blanket condemnation of disordered priests, we put our need for emotional release before the needs of the real and individual situation. We put our desire to align ourselves with innocence before the requirement that God places on us to behave reasonably and responsibly. In sympathy for the victim, we put our demand for retribution before the necessity of justice. Regardless of what particular evil we confront, we are sorely tempted to engage in a similar evil in order to eradicate the perceived evil.

In our efforts to combat evil we run the dual risk of either succumbing to the same evil ourselves or of succumbing to its equally evil antithesis. In an effort to combat the easy and vicious evil of Sentimentality, we run the risk of insensitivity. In an effort to be sensitive to the nuances of a situation, we run the risk of caricaturization in which the protagonist becomes the heart of lightness and the antagonist becomes the seat of darkness. In our effort to effect justice, we lose all sense of proportionality. In our efforts to be dispassionate, we lose all sense of compassion. Chesterton once suggested that virtues themselves when divorced, one from the other, are wild and dangerous things.

It is said that evil hates the good precisely because it is good. Simply by being good, goodness calls into question the entire premise on which evil is founded. Evil has no ontological reality. When we attack evil, we end by attacking the good thing to which the evil has attached itself. In the case of a disordered priest (or person for that matter), the priest and the person are good things. The disorder to which they have succumbed is the bad thing. The bad thing, however, has no separate existence and so, to root it out, we are forced to further damage the good thing to which it has become attached.

We are required to 'love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us'. This demands that we be faithful to the goodness inherent in all of creation. In order to effectively combat evil, we must discern the radical nature of goodness at the heart in our enemy, and we must love that essential goodness. We must concentrate not on the evil inherent in a person or a situation but rather on the goodness to which the evil has become attached. This focus on goodness is not a sentimental or ineffectual application of easy virtue or human love. Rather, it is a radical and resolute attention to the Truth and a forceful and willed determination to participate in the passioned Love of God.

The virtues of our androgynous culture are insufficient to this demand. They contain only the worst qualities of our complementary nature. To combat evil, we need the full measure of manly virtue and the forgotten measure of true femininity. "The Catholic ideal is the complete person, with a cool head and a warm heart, a hard head and a soft heart. The mere intellectual has a cool heart; the anti-intellectual has a hot head. The intellectual has a hard heart, the anti-intellectual has a soft head. The Church puts the severed parts in the right order because the Church has the blueprint: Christ (Eph 4:13). The Church has always had a conservative head and a liberal heart, and the world has never understood her, just as it never understood Christ."

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

We have God's joy in our blood.
— Frederick Buechner in The Longing for Home

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote that "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God." Perhaps he exaggerates but there is an element of truth in his claim. A pure undercurrent of joy pervades my life in the Church, although not always the entirety of my life as I live it. It's a little bit like being in love. Usually when my thoughts turn to God and/or His Church, my heart soars. When this doesn't happen -- when instead I feel frustrated or bitter or angry -- I can be pretty sure that there is great evil afoot ... in my own heart.

Evil is the strangest of creatures because it is so devious and a true master of disguise. It is patient and quick to take advantage. It never rests and it never abandons us. It can inhabit our smallest gesture, our slightest indifference. It is equally at home in the highly theatrical and the insufferably banal. We are as likely to encounter it as an exterior force in our lives as we are in our daily examinations of conscience. Ultimately, it is a Mystery of created being. I don't pretend to understand it...

When I was a child, we were constantly being reminded that Satan can appear as an angel of light. It was common knowledge that he might have a dark visage. No one thought it worth reiterating. Today, it seems necessary to re-affirm that prior common knowledge. We seem to think that evil will always appear as a seduction. When it takes a darker shape, we seem to think that it is somehow self-contained and that it doesn't tarnish everything it touches. It would be nice if things worked out that way but the truth is that they rarely do.

The desire for vengeance is a case in point. If someone damages me or mine, I will most definitely feel a desire for overwhelming retaliation. My sense of proportion will have been diminished and at least temporarily de-commissioned. I will want to 'get my own back' and I will want to do it in a manner that ensures that my 'enemy' is entirely incapacitated. I will probably justify my over-reaction as a legitimate desire to ensure my future security. Dead enemies aren't in any position to retaliate. The dead kin of my dead enemies are equally non-threatening. It should be obvious that if I engage in a blood feud, I have aligned myself with the darker forces.

Some one once told me that we have lost the original significance of the maxim: "an eye for an eye" . Apparently this was not a justification for retaliatory action. Rather it was an effort to set limits on retaliation. It was a rejection of the blood feud in favor of justice. It was in effect a statement of 'this far AND NO FARTHER'. This makes a great deal of sense to me.

So let's say that instead of a blood feud, I engage in measured justice or even that I turn the other cheek. One might assume that I have not be 'touched' by the evil in the sense that I have not been morally damaged. This strikes me as a risky assumption. There are so many small but immoral reactions I might have to my damaged state,

I might for example blame God for my suffering and cut myself off from his grace. I might decide that I can generalize my experience in a way that leads me to certain unwarranted prejudices. I might decide that I will never again risk myself in love. The list could continue endlessly. There are innumerable moral choices that I might make and in doing so, in a very real sense, I will have allowed evil to enter into me.

We can brush these responses off as natural but this fails to address the issue of responsible personhood. The moral truth is that we can be as morally damaged by the travesties we suffer as by the travesties that we inflict. When we lose sight of this moral dimension, we can unwittingly put our souls in peril. We can effectively become the evil that was done to us. One of the great powers of evil is its power of corruption.

Another and for me more pertinent access to evil exists in our everyday reactions to the small 'slings and arrows'. We might misunderstand something some one does or says. Or, almost as bad, we might insist on accurately understanding what some one does or says when the more charitable course would be to allow a wider latitude in interpretation. We might take injury where none was intended or we might see injury where none occurred. And these, more or less, are only our sins of omission. They don't begin to address the sins that I myself instigate.

There are a multitude of small engagements with evil in which I relinquish the battle without even the simple acknowledgment that I was engaged in a scrimmage. Often, after the fact, I am able to discern my lost battles by the absence of joy and the presence of discontent or frustration in my non-specific mood. There are even days when I can use that disharmony almost as a Geiger counter. The closer I approach the territory of my sinfulness, the higher my stress indicator rises. Not always, but often, my sins show their ugly little tell-tales in just this fashion.

Perhaps this is the exercise of conscience. I guess that there is a peace in the Lord akin to joy and that, when that peace is disrupted, it leaves echoes in our souls. Today, I'm going to pray for better hearing and a quicker reaction time.

Since my posting on Maria Goretti, I have not been "working and playing well with others". I owe particular apologies to Father Bryce Sibley since I distorted his position and then rather viciously attacked the straw dog that I had created. By now, if nothing else is clear, it should be obvious that one reason I am so adamant in defense of the Church of Sinners is because of my own fallen nature. Hopefully, everyone who visits here reads A Saintly Salmagundi and knew right away how inaccurate my portrayal of Father Sibley's position actually was. I'm sorry.

Gerard Serafin has a fabulous posting at A Catholic Blog for Lovers. Since I'm not sure how well the Blogger links are working lately: It was posted Wednesday, July 17, 2002 and appears under the heading A Glorious Anniversary (Yes, I know that you visit there first, but I thought it deserved a mention just the same)

I also saw a great link at Ad Orientem to the following article on what could be a lovely change in the Liturgy. -- [Re]Turn to the East?

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

The Right of Resistance
I must be in a blue funk so...
I'm working in a random thought generation mode--

There's a great posting on the structure of the Church over at et cetera Its called Change the Church, Lose the Faith. The thrust of Victor Lam's argument is that one can not change the form of the Church without effecting a change in Her function. He argues from the perspective of both evolution and intelligent design.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."-- H.L. Mencken

Does this sound at all familiar? I tend to think that when the public's attention is diverted to one arena, the real point is something else entirely. Take for instance the scandal in the church, one minute it's about little boys and the next it's about tearing down the walls of power. Do you really think that this 'change of regimes' wasn't the whole point of this exercise in hysteria?

The argument that this is "abuse of power" is the same argument that justifies the claim that white people can't possibly be the target of hate crimes and that sexual harassment exists in the eyes of the beholder. A system of law that professes equal standing before the law can not accommodate such nonsense. Why change the Church? Why not, in the case of sexual misconduct, simply bypass it?

Think about it. The simplest solution to this problem is to hold individuals personally responsible. If a person is molested, that individual can file a criminal complaint against the individual perpetrator and let justice prevail. In the case of children, insist on a law that requires parental notification when abuse is even suspected. And then let the parents proceed with plan A. You would still have to deal with the freedom of the Church and the seal of confession but Catholics will be Catholic,... or not.

Oh wait... equal justice? What am I thinking? Bad plan! This will never work. This is exactly the system that we're trying to fix. Obviously, we need unequal justice.

As some one wiser than I once said "Choice is important in the American imperial system of rule because it hides the fact that consent is so easy to manipulate and because hegemony is so often based on the covert manipulation of disordered passion."

Since we are bound and determined to 'fix the Church, we should pause to remember:

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis

The thought also occurs to me that with the evident success of the 'second magisterium' of self-identified Catholic theologians, a parallel lay hierarchy is exactly what the Situation calls for. A few years from now, we can all congratuate ourselves on having freed our Church from the control of Christ. We'll be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Lay Church of the Spirit.

Of course, if you don't want to be a part of the problem, refuse to be a part of any political solution. Acknowledge no Church authority except the legimate authority of your direct priestly hierarchy. Arm yourself with a knowledge of the True Faith. If you disagree with your priest or your bishop, question his answers. He, of all people, should be able to give a justification for the faith that he espouses.

The Church loves questions because it gives her a chance to evangelize with the Truth. In disputes on creed or conduct, seek out your priest. It is his duty to convict you with the truth of his teachings just as it is your duty to convict the non-believer. In an age where even the elect are being led astray, this duty is severe in its demands on our priests. It won't hurt to give them plenty of practice in self-examination and in grounding their arguments on both the Traditions of our Church and the foundation of reason. This reasoned and measured seeking of the Catholic truth will have the added advantage of enhancing your own apologetics skills.

We live in an age of apostacy, and the object of the Church is to defend and preserve Eternal Truth rather than to invent new truths. A vibrant knowledge of the faith is essential to the Catholic laity. The Catechism and the ' sensum fidei' (particularly in terms of 'the democracy of the Dead'), is of paramount importance. Let these serve as the touchstones of open discussion. Yes, some priests and some bishops may be heretical. If you know that they are dangerously so, report them to their superior. (And then, forget it.) Do not be led astray.

However, in speaking with your priest, you should always be prepared for answers that might change you. Priests are called to serve the Faithful in precisely this way. We owe our priests a respectful hearing and even a measure of obedience.

Remember our task as members of the laity is not to govern the Church. We can leave that in God's hands.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt at all if we try to govern God... with prayer.

An Afterthought -- For Those Who Want a Bigger Share of the Shepherd's Role via e-pression blogspot.

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -- Goethe

Monday, July 15, 2002

I'm not really up to blogging today, and I came across this reflection so I thought that I'd just throw it into the mix.

I used to think that we were a generation lucky enough to escape history. We would live our simple satisfied lives far removed from the great currents that sweep through time. I imagined my localized world as a little eddy where nothing of great significance would ever happen. Even after the towers fell, it felt more like a local problem than one that might have any major ramifications.

What I remember most about that day is the sense of suspended belief: the brilliant sky, the inexplicable gash in steel and glass, the rumor that what we saw were bodies falling…falling. It wasn't a time for questions or anger or even fear. It was a moment of suspension … a glitch in the Matrix, and then an endless moment of simple necessity. I stopped in a Church and was surprised to find myself at a Mass. I stopped in a pub for news and was surprised to find myself ravenously hungry. I was surprised by the simple solicitude of quite ordinary strangers. I was soothed by the small enclave of Muslims who offered water to the walkers as we trekked the miles to our homes.

New York changed that day. The memory of gentleness is not one that she has yet succeeded in shaking off. New Yorkers still catch each other's eyes at times and smile reassuringly. Suddenly how we treat each other matters.

In New York, we live in an international world that vibrates with the rhythmns of a multitude of cultures. We brush shoulders with strangers and share our personal lives with diverse people. In doing so, we never seem to ask the really tough questions. We assume a shared humanity and a certain universality in values.

It's difficult to understand that there were mosques in my own neighborhood where people celebrated the victory of 9/11. It helps to know that there were mosques where the congregations divided as a reaction to that tragedy. I don't really want to ask on which side of the question my moslem acquaintances stand.

After the events of September, I devoured everything that I could find on Islam. It was almost an obsession that I understand Islam well enough to know where I stood in relationship to it. I found much to worry me and little to console me. I think that it is a human religion of the true God and it is therefore insufficient. I imagine that it is a religion that has great appeal in its simplicity and its fatalistic beauty. I think that it is stronger than secular humanism and perhaps stronger than Protestantism. Mostly, I think that truth matters and the true religion matters most of all. It is only in this truth that we will find our universal salvation.

Yet in the meanwhile, I put aside the larger issues. I continue in the implicit faith that our small kindnesses matter. There may be places in the heart where my friend stands as an enemy before me but I have no wish to visit there prematurely. We must live faithfully in the aftermath of a brilliant September morning. We must continue in the belief that how we treat each other matters. Most especially, we must preach and practice the Word of God.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Yesterday, I outdid myself with the posting on Maria Goretti, so today I'll keep it fairly short...

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to live in a post-Christian world. I try to imagine a world in which the Incarnation never took place. Everything that we know, - the entire modern age, - is in some way premised on the Incarnation. I don't imagine that one could find any segment of the globe that has remained utterly untouched by the Christian ethic. Even Islam makes the claims that it is somehow descendent from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Obviously, all of the Far East Communist countries are at least partial heirs of post-Christian Western philosophers. The idea that we can somehow escape the ramifications of that moment is absurd.

Hilaire Belloc once said "When the gods of the New Paganism come they will not be merely insufficient, as were the gods of Greece, nor merely false; they will be evil. One might put it in a sentence, and say that the New Paganism, foolishly expecting satisfaction, will fall, before it knows where it is, into Satanism."

While this is probably true, there might come a moment between our turning from the true God and our turning toward the false Gods. There might be a moment when we are the reflection of neither God nor Satan. I have the half-memory of having read something to that effect. The idea was that society is a mirror of the supernatural and that we exist in that moment between the disappearance of God and the disappearance of His image in man. We are the man in the mirror when the room is empty and the lights go out and there is nothing to reflect but absence and darkness. Just for this single instance in history, we are left entirely to our own devices, reflecting our own pitiful nothingness... and confronting the only significant question. As William Blake notes: "Man must and will have some religion; if he has not the religion of Jesus, he will have the religion of Satan, and will erect the synagogue of Satan, calling the Prince of this World `God', and destroying all who do not worship Satan under the name of God."

"Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work. The devil chose this century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls." For many years, this prayer was recited at the end of Mass. About a year ago, our Holy Father at one of his Wednesday audiences made the strong suggestion that the recitation of the prayer be instituted at Mass once again given the great evils we see present in our world — the sins of abortion, euthanasia, terrorism, genocide, and the like."[courtesy of Fr. William Saunders, Arlington Catholic Herald]

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." Perhaps, now that the devil's century is over, we will again put our faith in God instead of men. It is time for us to recover, as the man said "one by one." Yet, as we turn from our hubris and come to our senses, which God will we choose and how will we know him?

"Every religion that preaches Vengeance for Sin is the religion of the Enemy and Avenger, and not of the Forgiver of Sin...The glory of Christianity is to conquer by Forgiveness." - William Blake

"The deeds you do today may be the only sermon some people will hear today." - St. Francis of Assisi

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Oh my goodness... While I was away, the leprechauns have been busy at my blogsite... changing colors and adding all kinds of nifty new features. Actually, the search function isn't yet all that nifty. If I have some time I'll make it more functional. If I don't find the time, I may simply remove it. Anyway, I'm back and . . .I've noticed that certain bloggers have been picking on one of my all time favorite saints. Sorry guys, but I have to take exception to those folks taking exception to the value of Maria Goretti's exemplary life. I've posted my defense of Maria in the sidebase as Politically Incorrect