Latest update. Mark has taken down his blog post about the Catholic radio interview that seemed to support torture because the produce wrote and said that the show was only a "demo" and will not be aired and only heard by a few people at the network. So to please him I am also taking down his earlier letter to the producer. But color me hmmm . . . skeptical.
I notice that Relevant Radio ran a 1 1/2hour interview with Kevin Miller on the subject of "acceptable torture" on Tuesday. While I have every confidence that Kevin articulated Church teaching carefully during that interview, I can't help but wonder at the strange title. Can we imagine an interview entitled "acceptable abortion" or "acceptable euthanasia" being acceptable to Relevant Radio's listening public? I'm glad in any case that it won't air and perhaps the network will realize that contemplating "edgy" programming that strongly implies a rejection of explicit Church teaching in this area comes with a price.
God bless him! Mark has been relentlessly(and with some fireworks) making the case against torture for several years now and a number of his readers have written in to say that they "get it" now and both understand and support the Church's clear teaching in this area. Now he is beginning to think about writing a book on the subject - a project that I think would be of great value.
There is a fairly big gap between Mark's manner on his blog and his manner in person. You will seldom meet a sweeter, friendlier, more hail-fellow-well-met man than Mark is in person - and I've been a close friend for 20 years now. When he writes on his blog (as opposed to his books and talks which are witty, winsome, and illuminating), his Irish dander is easily aroused and the hyperbole flies. Although as his many readers can attest, he is remarkably willing to apologize when he had gone over the line.
On this subject, Mark has been absolutely right on and he has taken a lot of flack for it. I have often wished (and talked to him about it) that he took more a little more time to edit out the hyperbole and even out the tone which would only strengthen his arguments, I think, and be much better for him emotionally and spiritually. But I also know that many of his readers cherish his swash-buckling verbal exuberance and that he reaches some people that way who would not be drawn to and listen to a cooler, more staid case.
A little passionate rudeness in the course of opposing such a horrific evil will seem a very small matter when Catholics of the next generation look back upon our time and wonder how on earth so many of us - especially those of us who talk a great deal about Church teaching - were willing to support what our parents and grandparents knew to be war crimes. It is not an accident that it was the Pope who survived Nazi-occupied and Communist-run Poland who wrote Evangelium Vitae.
We’re praying at Planned Parenthood at 29th and B Streets. St. Stephen's took the Wednesday shift and St. Joseph's in Auburn took Thursday. The parking lot of PP is well lit, and as an odd answer to our prayers, PP has hired a nighttime security guard, further insuring our protection throughout the night.
A young man named Hank who works at PP approached me today for the very first time. He began by saying, "I'm curious about something... Are you guys really going to be out here for 40 days? I said, "Yes." He continued incredulously, "...you mean all day and all night?" I answered "Yes" again. He responded, "Wow! That's amazing!" I told him how seriously we felt about this and he said, "Yeah, I know, I've been reading through the 40 Days web site."
He came closer and I took his hand, introducing myself. I told him we cared about him and he said, "Yeah, I know you do," looking me directly in the eye. His lunch break was about up, so he left to return to his job. Please keep Hank in your prayers.
At home, I received a long-distance phone call and a young woman's voice began, "Is this the 40 Days for Life hotline number?" Then, with great anger in her voice, she spoke for several minutes with this theme: "I'm a Christian, but I don't know how you people can judge women who are going in for abortions. You don't know anything about them! How dare you!”
This gave me an opening to tell my story, explaining that I had not always been pro-life, but actually helped my best friend obtain an abortion over twenty years ago, because that is what I thought a "best friend" would do. My friend has suffered tremendously, and I am very regretful for not helping her and her baby.
The woman’s anger gave way to sobbing as she described the "choice" she felt forced to make several years ago. "If someone had only helped me... I was so desperate," and "If I had only known how much it would hurt me, every day of my life, I wouldn't have done it". After about 20 minutes of conversation, she was very receptive to my suggestion that she contact Rachel's Vineyard Post-abortion Healing ministry – in Sacramento: (916) 733-0161, or on the Internet at www.rachelsvineyard.org. A call that began with anger turned into a miracle by God's grace.
Aimee Milburn of Historical Christian has nominated Intentional Disciples for a Mathetes award. Mathetes is the Greek word for disciple and nominees are blogs that foster Christian discipleship.
Started by Dan King of Management by God, the award is spreading around the web. The rules are simple. Winners of this award must pick five other "disciples" to pass it on to. As you pass it on, I just ask that you mention and provide links for (1)this post as the originator of the award (Dan King of management by God), (2) the person that awarded it to you, and then (3) rhe name and sites of the five that you believe are fulfilling the role of a disciple of Christ.
We are greatly honored and encouraged by Aimee's nomination and want to pass on the favor. There are many blogs who fit the bill and many of the major blogs have already been nominated like my friend Mark Shea and Amy Welborn so I won't repeat it here.
Cardinal Oscar Rodriquez Maradiaga, SDB, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, gave a presentation at Holy Apostles parish in Colorado Springs several weeks ago while I was on the road. Fortunately, I was able to get a copy of his presentation, and I'd like to share a few of his thoughts with you.
The Cardinal spoke of how individualism promises freedom and independence for each person, along with the promise of autonomy and the ability to practice our own form of justice. However, we inevitably stop to "look and see what others are doing and thinking and become more dependent upon public opinion with relation to what we ought to be thinking, doing, watching, buying, etc."
Finding God in this context requires us to practice a meditation that searches and finds God in every single thing on earth; this is an experience guided by the Holy Spirit, and occurs only when we take the Lord seriously and allow Him to guide our lives. If we do not take him seriously, then we will continue to live in an individualistic way and, instead, find OURSELF in all things.
The Cardinal pointed out that "the Christian of today does not live his life by reacting to what he sees others doing out of the dcorner of his eye, but lives his life in a postivie light ... putting into practice the gift or gifts that the Lord has blessed him with."
Towards the end of his talk, Cardinal Rodriquez touched upon "a personalized spiritual experience." He said, "Not everything associated with individualism is bad...It is because of individualism that we have the personal aspect relating to the Christian experience...There is a personal and unique way God addresses each person. Each person is blessed with a gift or given the power to inspire devotion or enthusiasm. These blessings are unique to the individual but they are given for the benefit of all people and the community."
He also emphasized the need for discernment in the 'personalized spiritual experience.' "We must listen to the personal and unique way in which God speaks to each one of us. The task at hand is to assume the unique and individual role that has been given to us by God, without pretending to occupy His role...To discern is to learn to recognize the feeling associated with Christ's presence... Discernment teaches us how to feel. By studying Christ, we educate our sensitiveness so that we are able to reach, like St. Paul states in a letter to the Philippians: 'the same sentiments that Jesus Christ had, who, aside from His divine condition, did not grapple with His rank of God, instead He made himself one of many...' (Phil 2:5)"
But these individual spiritual experiences, if they are genuine and Spirit-led, lead one to the Church. "It is in the church and in the service of others that things are proven...The Holy Spirit continues to expand the church so that it can give refuge to the lost so that they too can possess the eternal newness that the Holy Spirit has to offer."
According to the Executive Summary of the UN's State of the Future:
People around the world are becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful,and increasingly connected and they are living longer, but at the same time the world is more corrupt,congested, warmer, and increasingly dangerous.
The global economy grew at 5.4% in 2006 to $66 trillion (PPP). The average world per capita income grew by 4.3% At this rate world poverty will be cut by more than half between 2000 and 2015, meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal for poverty reduction except in sub-Saharan Africa
The vast majority of the world is living in peace, conflicts actually decreased over the past decade, dialogues among differing worldviews are growing, intra-state conflicts are increasingly being settled by international interventions, and the number of refugees is falling. The number of African conflicts fell from a peak of 16 in 2002 to 5 in 2005.
According to WHO, the world’s average life expectancy is increasing from 48 years for those born in 1955 to 73 years for those who will be born in 2025.
According to UNESCO, in 1970 about 37% of all people over the age of 15 were illiterate. That has fallen to less than 18% today. Between 1999 and 2004 the number of children without primary education fell by around 21 million to 77 million.
According to Freedom House, the number of free countries grew from 46 to 90 over the past 30 years, accounting for 46% of the world's population, and for the past several years 64% of countries have been electoral democracies. Since democracies tend not to fight each other and since humanitarian crises are far more likely under authoritarian than democratic regimes, the trend toward democracy should lead to a more peaceful future among nation states.
Over a billion people (17.5% of the world)are connected to the internet.
World trade grew 15% in 2006, according to the WTO. Higher oil and commodity prices contributed to the 30% trade growth for the least-developed countries—a world record—and their economies continued to exceed 6% for the third year in a row. The debt-to-GDP ratios decreased in all developing regions, partly due to debt forgiveness.
Where we are winning: • Life expectancy • Infant mortality • Literacy • GDP/cap • Conflict • Internet users
Off to Denver to speak to DRE's about gifts discernment and the implications for their ministry. Will be back in the late afternoon. I leave you in Fr. Mike's capable hands until he leaves this evening for his Cursillo weekend.
The spring and summer issues of Chicago Studies - a journal published by Loyola University "for the continuing theological development of priests, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers" are out.
And they contain the entire proceedings of the symposium on the parish that I participated in last summer: Can You Tell Me What a Parish is? The purpose of the symposium was to explore the state of the question from a variety of perspectives and disciplines: ecclesiology, canon law, constitutional law, etc. I was there to represent the grass roots pastoral perspective.
Part 1 in the Spring issue contains Fr. Michael Sweeney's "The Parish in the Mission of the Church" as well as Cardinal George's talk (just days before he announced that he had cancer)and Mark Chopko. The Summer issue contains my presentation on "The Parish and the Apostolic Formation of the Laity". along with Mark Shea's response to me.
I'm going to have to read it all now in detail and see how much more I pick up than when I was listening to the presentations. Chicago Studies isn't exactly ubiquitous - I think they have a circulation of about 1,500 - and rather heavily focused on the mid-west and diocesan and seminary libraries, I think.
But if you should happen to come across Chicago Studies and read my piece, I'd be interested in and honored by your thoughts.
The remarkable, in-your-face Dreadnaught (John Heard) is a gay Catholic man who has shook up the Australian scene with his firm and clear belief in Catholic teaching on sexuality. Clara, our Australian Institute co-Director, turned me onto Dreadnaught last year.)
Anyway, Dreadnaught posted this on Monday and it is thought-provoking in more than one way.
"There are more ways of being a Catholic Christian than either the Vatican rule-makers or the secularist ideologies have yet imagined". - Charles Taylor
Last week I read an article by the philosopher Charles Taylor on sex and Christianity. It was in the magazine Commonweal. Because of the quotation above, I have been thinking about modernity and faith ever since.
However, when rigorously interrogated, secular modernity left me standing (to be honest, trembling) in a dark, wan-glittering space where the Christian world, our world, was destabilized.
It was a place, however I tried to conceive of it, of no-faith.
All the old certainties were challenged and order, all order – the possibility of order - was either overturned or else negated.
It would be silly then to take Taylor’s quote and his juxtaposition as a recommendation. He is not saying that secular modernity is a witness as credible about Christianity as – say - the current Pope.
Indeed, in many instances it seems one must reject secular ideologies, particularly late-Capitalist, secular modernism, if one is going to be any kind of Christian at all.
So, with Taylor, I can believe that there are ways of being a Catholic Christian that the secularist ideologies have missed. They appear to have missed most of them.
What then of the ‘Vatican rule-makers’? What might they have they missed?
Of course, such characterisations are crude. The ‘rule-makers’ are, we know, love-keepers and light-spinners. But they are also, it is uncontroversial to say so, mere men.
The Church, understood for the moment as just its historical complement of human beings – why else would Taylor use ‘yet’ - is only reliably the sum of its human inputs.^
There is, on that view, something to be said about the possibility thrown up by Taylor’s quote.
There may indeed be more ways to live an authentic Catholic Christianity than either the current Pope or else the popes, Curia or Curiae, etc. through history have yet imagined.
It is, without doubt, an exciting idea – it is a cause for great hope, a way of imagining Christianity that doesn’t limit heroic virtue to some glass case in a musuem.
But it is also rather obvious and firmly orthodox.
For it is not really shocking to say that there are more ways to be a Catholic Christian than might be learned from current Vatican texts or codes of canon law.
When G.K. Chesterton said that ‘the Catholic Church is the only thing that saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age’ he meant the Popes too, and he didn’t make the mistake of reducing the Church down to - or equating the Church with, mere instruments of power or particular human teachers.
Indeed, not even the Vatican rule-makers live by Vatican rules alone, certainly not if whatever it is that makes up Vatican rules doesn’t also include Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium.
Those three, which make the merely human Church vulnerable to super-human revelation, eternity and the Holy Spirit, are the important things about the deposit of faith.
They are the things that make the Catholic Church…Catholic.
This is why, and it is something Taylor describes in a very clear way, the Church could re-examine herself, during the Second Vatican Council (or any other Council, for that matter) and decide that there were some areas associated with some Catholic practices and culture that had become, or never really were, authentically Christian.
We only find this idea troubling if we’ve latched onto an overly legalistic, or positivist, conception of authority. Such a view, that something is right, true or good only because it is promulgated, is not the Catholic view.
For these reasons, the modes of Catholic Christianity mapped by the Vatican ‘rule-makers’ are almost always going to be more promising than those offered by a necessarily hostile modernity, but they are not the limit of sanctity. Not by a long shot.
Certainly what the Vatican prohibits cannot be – in good conscience – held out as a valid path to Christian perfection. There is no self-service withdrawal from the deposit of faith.
But between the rock of hypocrisy - those places where the Church as a human institution stumbles, where we as individual Christians fail - and the hard place of modernity, there is a fertile patch of ground - and it is already Christ’s.
It is a place that is also, in a profound sense, occupied by the Catholic Church. And there are people; ideas and ways of being that already flourish there.
A fellow lay Dominican and I were comparing notes on our experiences teaching CCD classes. I had been a substitute for a few weeks and was increasingly amazed at how much the children didn't know. I shared with him my dismay and illustrated it with what happened at the confirmation retreat.
The confirmation class made a retreat day at the John Paul II center in DC. We were standing in front of replicas of Bethelehem and Jerusalem. The students were asked where Jesus was born. No one knew! Even when given the hint, "its in a Christmas carol." They didn't know where he died either. These were eight graders.
His comment was, "after teaching for two years, I went to our pastor and said, 'what these kids need is evangelization not catechesis.' I think that is true of good number of the people in the pews. Folks don't know Jesus - they don't know about him and they don't KNOW him. There is little conscious relationship.
This is why the work you are doing is so important."
Even for me, this is stunning - 13 year old cradle Catholics on a confirmation retreat who could probably hack into NATO's computer system but don't know where Jesus was born.
A professor of theology at a major Catholic university who is a reader of ID wrote me yesterday and made a similar comment:
"I particularly liked your observation in another post that evangelization--the church's deepest identity--is also entirely foreign to its sensibility or culture. That is very true, and we both know how such talk repeatedly gets classed as "not Catholic." I grew up in the remnants of a Catholic ghetto in NYC and such talk would have been inconceivable even a decade ago; in many ways, it still is. But, something is afoot, and we have to move forward as a church. Your labors are one such effort . . ."
Stephen Pohl has written a moving description (via Catholic Exchange)of his dying father and his relationship with his wife of 60 years and his children.
It is at once an intimate, exhausting and deeply moving experience for everyone.
We children, not present during our parents' courtship, are now witnessing a kind of inverse courtship as their relationship here draws to a close with all the intensity and passion with which it began.
Mom now displays the ardor Dad once showed to get her to the altar of their nuptial Mass, as she prepares to take him to the altar for his funeral Mass, where their sons will be the groomsmen and their daughters the bridesmaids. Meanwhile Mom is attentive to Dad's needs, solicitous of his desires, patient in making sure she understands him and that he understands her.
Love is on a collision course with death, grief and eternity. At that intersection stands the crucified and risen Christ.
Read the whole thing. Pray for Stephen's family and for all who are dying or suffering today.
I've had the chance to witness the charism of prophecy manifesting in two very different people over the past month and neither has been involved with the charismatic renewal.
One is a young husband and father who is also Director of Adult Faith Formation at a large parish. He receives prophetic insights for his parish while praying and amazingly enough, is respected enough by his fellow staff to be able to share what he has received and be taken seriously! He has a passionate desire to see his parish develop a culture of discipleship and become a center of lay formation.
The other is an exuberant newly retired widow who is preparing to take a private vow of celibacy. She was very happily married for 32 years and is now amazed to discover that she is also very happy as a single woman. She feels very strongly that she is to simply make herself completely available to God. This woman seems to demonstrate both charisms of evangelism and prophecy. She has been known to feel impressed to say out of the blue to relative strangers "Its time you entered the Church!" and they do!
Just some of the fascinating, inspiring people we meet as we travel around the country helping Catholics discern charisms.
John Allen was in Chicago recently and had an interview with Francis Cardinal George. In it, he asked the Cardinal about Catholic identity and culture - something that has been discussed in comments on this blog. I thought it might be helpful to quote the interview at some length and offer a few comments.
Allen: In March, Cardinal Bertone gave an address to the Ethics and Finance Association in the city of Milan. Asked to express the "main objective" of Benedict's pontificate, he offered this formula: "To recover authentic Christian identity and to explain and confirm the intelligibility of the faith in the context of widespread secularism." Why the concern with identity?
Cardinal George: I think there are two sides to that. One is what John Paul II often said, that there are whole cultures that used to be shaped by the faith but that aren't shaped by the faith any longer. The culture the present Holy Father, Benedict XVI, is most concerned about is that of Western Europe and its cultural colonies, like our own country. In that particular culture, individualism is so embedded that the loss of a collective identity is rampant. Each one feels not only free but obliged to determine his or her own religious identity, so we have a plethora of understandings of what it means to be Catholic as well as what it means to be human and what it means to be anything else. It's hard to bring that all together, because the culture doesn't foster any kind of collective identity … Depending upon whether you're left or right, as we define those terms in the culture today, you have trouble with one [element of Catholic identity] or the other. The right would say, 'I accept all the faith, but I can't stand the bishop,' while on the other hand the left says, 'The faith is goofy, but my bishop's not a bad guy.'
Allen: On the subject of religious identity, sociologists Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge talk about the distinction between "high tension" and "low tension" religion, arguing that over time low tension groups tend to dissolve into secularism.
Cardinal George: That's right. In the '60s, it was very important to show you could be American and Catholic. Whole magazines were devoted to that. There was a collective sigh of relief at the Second Vatican Council, with human freedom being so much in the forefront of the conciliar concerns, that the tension wasn't there anymore. I think some of the moves of the church in that period now seem sociologically naïve, in their long-term consequences.
Allen: What do you have in mind?
Cardinal George: Catholicism as a distinctive way of life was defined by eating habits and fasting, and by days especially set aside that weren't part of the general secular calendar. They were reminders that the church is our mediator in our relationship to God, and can enter into the horarium [calendar] that we keep, into the foods that we eat, into all the aspects of daily life, into sexual life. Once you say that all those things can be done individually, as you choose to do penance, for example, you reduce the collective presence of the church in somebody's consciousness. At that point, the church as mediator becomes more an idea for many people. Even if they accept it, it's not a practice. So then when the church turns around and says 'You have to do this,' then resistance is there to say, 'How can you tell me that? I'm deciding on my life for myself, and you even told me I could!'
Allen: So what's the answer? Is it rebuilding a subculture?
Cardinal George: I suppose it is, though not in a way that's divorced from the culture that we have now, which is ours - what else are we? … Ordinary lay people are to consecrate the world from within the world, as their world, not to be separate from it. If there is a subculture, it would have to be developed naturally in relationship to today's crisis, as earlier institutions were at one point. You can't go back, I think, and imagine that we're in the 19th century, just taking those solutions, good though they were then, to be ours now.
Allen: Can you point to something that offers an example of a viable contemporary Catholic subculture not excessively cut off from the broader society?
Do I see evidence of life in the church? Yes, and I think it’s primarily in the parishes. In Protestant ecclesiology, the church is what we would call a parish — this is my church. The church in Catholic ecclesiology is a diocese which has parishes, and then the universal church. Parishes are very strong in this kind of culture, and without being Protestants, we organize ourselves more or less along those lines. A lot of effort goes into the parishes, and some of the parishes are extremely good. They create a world, a subculture, as people get involved in their parish, which is sufficient very often for people to pursue in the world. Maybe there are other things too, but the parish is very important.
My comments: 1) The interview began with a quote from Cardinal Bertone on Pope Benedict XVI's interest in recovering an authentic Christian identity that can communicate effectively with a secular culture. Cardinal George later speaks of how Catholicism as a way of life was distinctive in terms of fasting, holy days, and other practices that marked the whole of the Christian's life. However, these practices weren't distinctive (theoretically) in Christendom, where presumably most everyone was Catholic. Some of the Catholic distinctives became distinctive after the Reformation, and in the U.S., Catholic practices, e.g. particular devotions, processions, abstaining from meat on Fridays, etc., distinguished Catholics (especially persecuted Catholic immigrants) from a Protestant culture and gave a better sense of community and identity.
The danger comes when these practices, which are all meant to deepen our relationship with Christ and his people, become ends in themselves, as I mentioned in an earlier post this morning. Perhaps our traditional Catholic devotions were discarded so widely after the Council not only because we wanted to "fit in" to our culture, but also because they had become unmoored from their goal: greater union with Jesus. For this reason we couldn't see their value; their value had become identified with, "this is what makes me different from those Protestants."
2) The Cardinal wisely points out that any distinctive Catholic subculture that develops today must somehow "explain and confirm the intelligibility of the faith" (to use Bertone's words) to the dominant culture, which is marked by post-modern secularism. It would be good for us, as we fast, pray, give alms (for example), to be conscious of why we are doing so in two regards.
First of all, how do I intend this practice to bring me closer to Christ, and secondly, in what way does it address and challenge an aspect of contemporary culture that is contrary to the fullness of human life? These two are intimately related, because, as the Cardinal points out, we are all products of the secular culture in which we are immersed from birth. That means my drawing closer to Christ requires me to (among many other things) consciously recognize and reject aspects of my culture like individualism and relativism that have formed me and that are inimical to the Gospel.
Unless I'm mistaken, the Cardinal may also be encouraging the development of new devotional practices that arise from an analysis of and a response to contemporary secularism. That's a creative challenge!
3) Cardinal George identifies the parish as a Catholic institution in the U.S. that is sufficiently "dense" enough to stand up to contemporary secularism, while at the same time allowing for interaction with and the transformation of secular culture from within. This is precisely why the Institute has consciously chosen to work primarily with parishes. That, and the fact that most Catholics encounter the larger Church and Christ through their parish.
But just as our devotions will be vibrant and effective if they draw us to Christ and lead us to service of others, so, too, our parishes. The vibrant parishes Cardinal George mentions must be those that both draw people to Christ through the liturgy, devotions, proclamation and catechesis, and form them as apostles who are sent into the world as leaven, light, salt and clever little lambs in the midst of wolves.
There was an interesting conversation over at Amy Welborn's yesterday about evangelization - and what we can learn and not learn from evangelicals in this area and of course, I took part. One thing I suggested was that Catholics stop spending their time gawking at the bizarre and marginal evangelistic efforts that so often make the news and focus on learning from the really effective efforts like the Alpha Course.
Wolf Paul, who was raised Catholic in Austria, wrote in to share his experience of Alpha in Austria:
I don’t know what the situation is in the US, but in Austria the Alpha Course is a predominantly Roman Catholic project. Of course, Evangelicals and Charismatics also use it, but the driving force behind it is people from the Catholic “movimenti”, the renewal movements.
Again, can’t comment on the US situation (because while in the US I moved exclusively in Evangelical circles), but having grown up Catholic here in Austria, in a VERY Catholic family, I can confirm Sherry Weddell’s comment about many (most?) Catholics not hearing anything in church about a relationship with God and Jesus.
When I grew up the only people I ever heard talking about religion in terms of relationship were those who focused their piety on the BVM or some other saint– they talked about having a relationship with that saint. Jesus and God were considered far too remote and lofty to have a relationship with.
Now the renewal movements talk about having a relationship with Jesus, but the vast majority of parishes are wary of these movements because they rock the boat and can polarize the parish.
The Alpha course is a Catholic phenomena in those parts of Europe which were historically Catholic. To get a rather stunning sense of how widespread Alpha has become, go here and click on the nation flag of your choice to see Alpha activity in that country.
One reason for Alpha's growth in historically Catholic areas? As Wolf put it above "Catholics not hearing anything in church about a relationship with God and Jesus."