I was going to write a post about “Feet Washing” and then I realized why I haven’t blogged in a while and what I do want to write about if I start up again.
So in that direction, I will instead wish you all a Blessed Triduum and Happy Easter!
Embrace not what divides us and separates us from Christ but instead draw near and embrace the Crucifix of Mercy and Salvation as Jesus did when he washed the feet of the Apostles. (See what I did there?)
…mercy is heartfelt sympathy for another’s distress, impelling us to succor him if we can.
Aquinas explains that MERCY is a virtue, and that it is a desire to avoid evil, and to move away from evil. Yet, I have always wondered if MERCY is required. For mercy can’t come without an understanding of JUSTICE.
Justice is a virtue as well.
So when I read about two situations of what I would call MERCY, I wonder if they are required by JUSTICE, or if they are acts of MERCY that are such because they extend beyond the JUSTICE that could be administered.
I believe both situations he describes are acts of MERCY, but if I argue that, does that mean that neither are acts of JUSTICE, but instead are MERCIFUL because they ascend JUSTICE only to transcend it?
Maybe that is how we should all seek to act. To seek out justice in our lives, and find opportunities, and the strength and mental vitality to ACT MERCIFULLY. In some cases think mercifully.
I posted an article that I had skepticism over but thought it would be interesting to discuss, but that I knew was more “trolling” than anything.
I took down a post.
Right now, there is a battle waging over the Pope, and Catholics all over the world are fighting to make him stand for their view of Catholicism. Unfortunately, what more of us should be doing is finding ways to listen to what he says, and figure out how he can lead us to fit our lives to the views and heart of Christ.
There is a bigger post lingering in my head here, but I can’t quite figure out what is happening. I think there is a lot of fear involved in the hearts of Catholics, whether they want to admit it or not, and we forget who the real enemy is.
Ross Douthat, conservative and Catholic columnist for the New York Times, labeled his Sunday
piece this week: “The Pope and the Right.” Now before you go off, read it, and come back either elated or steaming mad, let’s remember one important thing: columnists get paid to make people read them. The more novel, inflamatory, aggressive, or shocking something is – often the better.1
Douthat though isn’t being too much of anything, instead he is simply stating the obvious. He is addressing the elephant in the room, or in some cases, the uncomfortable conversation that many Catholics are having.2 The topic he addresses is one that strikes close to home – how do conservatives (either politically or theological ones, if that is possible) reconcile the pontificate – so far – of Pope Francis?
His most interesting points though, in my opinion, are made when he attempts to give three arguments for why a seemingly “liberal” Pope can actually be reconciled with American conservative principles. His three premises are (in my own summarized form):
Capitalism, or free market ideals, has a better track record than socialist societies at lifting the poor and marginalized out of poverty and maintaining free society.
Solidarity and Subsidiarity are key components to Catholic social teaching – a la the philosophical pillars of such teaching.
Welfare states (i.e. socialist and liberal states) have produced rather toxic social and cultural policies that fly in the face of Catholic doctrine and social teaching. (e.g. low birth rates, charitable roadblocks, and religious persecution.)
The money paragraph though isn’t one where Douthat doubles-down on American conservative principles, or attempts to contort the Pope’s actions and most recent Exhortation to fit the GOP platform. Instead he challenges “conservative” Catholics, such as myself, to reexamine how we interact with the world – socially and politically – and find a way to fit our politics to our faith, and not the other way around.
As Douthat puts it:
This Catholic case for limited government, however, is not a case for the Ayn Randian temptation inherent to a capitalism-friendly politics. There is no Catholic warrant for valorizing entrepreneurs at the expense of ordinary workers, or for dismissing all regulation as unnecessary and all redistribution as immoral.
And this is where Francis’s vision should matter to American Catholics who usually cast ballots for Republican politicians. The pope’s words shouldn’t inspire them to convert en masse to liberalism, or to worry that the throne of Peter has been seized by a Marxist anti-pope. But they should encourage a much greater integration of Catholic and conservative ideas than we’ve seen since “compassionate conservatism” collapsed, and inspire Catholics to ask more — often much more — of the Republican Party, on a range of policy issues.
Now, I dont want to spend a lot of time in this post on it, but the link talking about ‘compassionate conservatism’ is interesting and ultimately goes to the larger issue I plan to discuss. Yet, I intend to set that discussion up with this post. So for now, I will leave it at this: Douthat seems to say that what is important for Catholics -specifically American conservative Catholics, in light of Pope Francis, is that we find a way to push for policies that cling to Catholic teaching, but hold fast to conservative principles. The latter not for their own sake, but because our faith animates those principles in our culture.
We should not spend the time of Pope Francis hidden away in Mass3 praying for patience and that God’s will be done. While we want those things, of course, it is that there is so much more we can do – and should do.
While many liberal Catholics4 made plenty of fuss during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI about the direction of the Church, the cry for conservatives to “do what they did” or “follow our own advice” is a false premise. Douthat calls this the “Loyal Opposition” argument. He rejects it, and so do I. It is instead our time to continue with vigilance and fortitude. We spent formative years solidifying our faith, now it is time to solidify the world around us – to animate the social teachings and political policies with our hearts grounded in the teachings of the Church.
It really struck me. I have always believed this type of thinking to be true – that marriage is a vocation because it turns us, and orders us, towards God. The concept: The best way a father can love his children, is to love his wife, their mother, follows along those lines. That love is not a uni-directional, or even bi-directional thing. Love is tri-union; two people and God.
I wonder if that is why God is the Trinity?
As a closing note, this is a great opportunity to suggest to married couples, and especially young adult Catholics that feel called to Marriage – PLEASE READ: Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen. It explains these concepts better than I ever could, and to puts proper perspective on marriage.
Deacon Greg Kandra’s most recent blog post, has kicked up some hornets in the Catholic blogging world. I think that in the ever striving quest for politeness, sometimes people lose sight of what is really important. In the effort to be as charitable as possible, I dont want to insinuate that this is the case with Deacon Kandra, but suffice it to say his post struck me a little bit odd.
His post was a little troublesome to me because he said:
I find the idea of a verbal warning off-putting—but again, I don’t think I’ve ever heard something like this. In my experience of weddings and funerals, most non-Catholics are sophisticated enough to know there are restrictions on Catholic Communion; it’s not uncommon to see a sizable number of people in the pews stay put when others come up to receive.
Dr. Peters offered a better announcement that could be given at Mass:
A much better announcement would be something simple like “At this time, Catholics prepared to receive holy Communion may do so in the usual way.”
In the end, I think it is the duty of the Church to protect and preserve the TRUE PRESENCE – the Holy Eucharist, and that politeness needs to be a concern that comes after that.
Also, Dr. Peters’ 2nd point is one that is important to remember:
Second, one should NOT encourage, as an alternative to reception of Communion, “coming forward with arms crossed for blessing”. Receiving a blessing is not an “alternative” to receiving holy Communion (any more than being handed a raincoat in a hurricane is an ‘alternative’ to be admitted to a storm shelter) and, moreover, such a rite is an intrusion into the liturgy forbidden by Canon 846 § 1. I’ve addressed that liturgical abusehere.
Recently two articles came out where the person being interviewed affirms the belief in spiritual warfare. In fact both men boldly declare their belief that the devil is real, and that what we battle against isn’t simply the human condition but evil.
Here is the section on the Devil. [BOLD is writer Jennifer Senior; regular typeface is Justice Scalia]
You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?
Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!
Wait, to heaven or hell?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.
But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Of course not!
Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?
Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.
Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.
Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.
It’s because he’s smart.
So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.
That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.
Well, you’re saying the Devil is persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.
I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.
I was offended by that. I really was.
I’m sorry to have offended you!
Have you read The Screwtape Letters?
Yes, I have.
So, there you are. That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.
This conversation is such a summation of truth and reality, as it relates to this issue and our culture. When Justice Scalia points out that the Devil is smart, by making people disbelieve in him and in God it reminds me of the saying, “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
Then, when he explains that throughout most of history, even some of the smartest and most learned people believed in the existence of the devil, you can sense his dismay and disbelief that the author is, as he puts it, “so out of touch” that she is surprised by his belief. In fact, it “offends” him.
Similarly, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty shares the belief that the devil does indeed exist and that we are wrapped up in a battle of good and evil.
You gotta remember, it’s spiritual warfare. I mean, you’ve got people with no moral compass. It ain’t there. So what I tell people is be patient.
They’re the ones, they own the network and we’re filming the show.
We signed the contract with them, ok, and it’s a workhouse, but what people have to understand is, the people of God have to understand, you’ve just got to be patient. You don’t turn that ship quickly. It’s a big ship. A lot of depravity and a lot of heathen and a lot of the evil one. He is entrenched in the United States.
He speaks about it in a very matter-of-fact way. To him, the idea that this is a battle not of flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities is a reality. Just like it is for Justice Scalia.
Two very different men, in very distant parts of culture and society, but they share a common set of core beliefs about good and evil, and the reality of the devil.
There is also a section where the Justice addresses the most recent comments by the pope. [↩]
By now, many of you have probably heard about the “Pope Francis Exorcism“ that was caught on tape. The media is in such a frenzy over this that everyone from the Sun.uk.co to local Michigan news sites have ran the story.
I am surprised that more Catholic blogs haven’t covered it, but my thoughts on the subject center less around did he or didn’t he perform an exorcism and more about why the media is so focused on this.
Here is the account from the Sun:
The Pontiff then grips the top of the subject’s head firmly and is seen pushing him down into his wheelchair.
As this is happening Francis recites an intense prayer, and the boy’s mouth drops wide open and he exhales sharply.
Francis’s usual smile then returns and he continues with the traditional and more gentle Sunday greetings for sick or disabled visitors to St Peter’s.
He is a bishop, he can do exorcisms. Was this an exorcism? I don’t know, but what the media is saying, without saying it directly, is: “The Pope, this Pope1actually believes in things like the devil and demons. So the media is starting to panic and freak out a bit.
As I have detailed in the past, the world the devil does not want us to believe in him, not in a real sense. He wants to fly just under the radar, maybe be blamed in a non-literal way for “evil” but mostly that we chalk up the “bad things” people do to a force that is somewhat outside of him. In many situations though, he gets a full on win when we blame “bad things” on the fact that there are just “purely evil/bad people” in the world.
It helps him operate. It gives him free reign over the world, and all its souls. Those in the media pushing secularism, tolerance, and relativism can’t have a devil running around. Why? Well, mostly because it would be proof of God, but second it would put a hitch into the entire idea of relativism. You can’t have a wishy-washy undefinable idea of good and evil, when you have the master of evil and lies spreading true evil.
The devil is real folks. He is the master of lies, the deceiver of truths, and the genius behind the fall of man. The sooner that we accept that he is real, the sooner that we can begin to defend against him. We can’t do it alone, so to battle intellectually over his powers and how it is exactly that he attacks is a fools errand. It is better to accept the reality of the matter, move on, and seek God’s help as well as all the angels’ and saints’ as well.
We are at war. The devil is our enemy. God is our Savior.
God Bless Pope Francis for showing this to us. It would be great if it was an exorcism, only so that it would continue to draw catechesis to the matter.
The one the media/secular world is still crossing its fingers over hoping he is “Liberal” [↩]
So the good Archbishop Vigneron continues to face opposition to his clear explanation of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Today, protestors marched outside of the Archdiocese of Detroit carrying banners and flags in support of “Gay-Marriage.” From HuffPost-Detroit:
Most of the people carrying signs and rainbow flags while marching slowly along the sidewalk in front of the Archdiocese of Detroit on Thursday afternoon didn’t fit the typical profile a church protester. A majority of the group of 30 or so sign-holders were in their 50s and much older — and they all called themselves Catholics.
Aside from the misstatement of what Archbishop Vigneron said, there is quite a bit of interesting tid-bits in this article.
The problem is not that these folks are protesting but that we have created a situation within the Church where the faithful believe their opinion is paramount. Or even, that the Archbishop’s opinion is the matter at hand.
The Church isn’t about opinion. It is about the ultimate Truth that is Jesus Christ.
Does the Church need to do a better job of communicating the Doctrine of the Church? Yes.
But this is true about marriage, contraception, co-habitation, social justice, abortion, families, education, and a lot of other things. The Church is pure truth in that it rests upon God. The people of the Church have faults as we all do. Reconciliation is a Sacrament because we all need to be forgiven for our faults. But what we can’t do, or expect, is that the Church will one day say, Sins are ok as long as you do most everything else we say.
Doctrine is a holistic inter-connected system of belief. It exists as a perfect puzzle of truth. Like a mathematical equation, we can’t simply pick and choose what parts we like and don’t and expect the answer to come out correct. Jesus certainly said that the greatest commandments were to love God and love your neighbor. But it doesn’t end there, he finishes by saying that all the rest rely upon those. Meaning: yes, we must love and accept one another but acceptance doesn’t mean that we stop striving for truth.
Politics and Faith often are not far from one another in American culture and society. Many Catholics shy away from injecting their faith too far into religion, but a proper understanding, I believe, if that our faith must animate and drive our political beliefs.
That being said, I found two articles yesterday worth reading I think they are prime examples of just how that occurs.
Nevertheless, as a Catholic theologian, I am troubled by accounts suggesting that Catholics who don’t support the U.S. bishops on gun control are akin to Catholics who disagree with fundamental moral teachings like contraception, abortion and marriage.
Regardless of the passion of some gun-control advocates, there exist clear distinctions between these issues.
The article is worth the read regardless of what side of this you are on.
Pro-life politicians have talked all year about flipping the script on Democrats and making them struggle to explain their abortion stances. To a very large extent, that was the point of the campaign to spur more coverage of Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial in Philadelphia. Why should Todd Akin have to answer a hypothetical question about the ugly aspects of banning abortion? Make Democrats answer hypotheticals about the ugliest aspects of legalization.
Again, worth the read, and an interesting race developing there in Virginia.
It is important to remember that as Catholics, our beliefs of the faith, our adherence to the Church’s teaching, and our moral convictions are not “stances on issues” but the inner core of our philosophical base. They are what should animate our political beliefs and our social understanding.
As I mentioned yesterday, where we get into trouble is when we attempt to fit our faith to our social and political beliefs – it should be that we fit those to the teachings of the Church and Jesus Christ.
Earlier this month, Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron took the stance that Catholics who support gay marriage should not take Communion, sparking an uproar on both sides of the issue.
They freshened the story up by finding some new folks to quote. On the Catholic side of things, they have a statement from Jay McNally, former editor of the Michigan Catholic, now radio and political pundit, who said:
The Church can never, never change its stance on the man/woman relationship being the only kind of marriage there can be,” said Jay McNally, former Michigan Catholic editor. “What we need is good, sound teaching from the bishops, and that is what Vigneron was trying to do.
He is 100% right about the fact that we need good sound teaching from the bishops. The biggest problem in this overall equation is that the pewsitters have been left to fend for themselves amongst the wolves of the world and develop their own understanding of what the Church’s teaching on marriage is.
Many people have been left to their own devices to balance the scant theology they are taught, with the sometimes-obtuse social doctrine that many priests, so-called Catholic groups, and others preach when it comes to social justice, love, and acceptance.
That is not to say that these latter things are wrong, or that every priest, bishop, and Church program is problematic, but that systemically there are problems and holes.
These weak-spots if you will are the areas where people then take it upon themselves to blend social understand and doctrine.
Case-in-point, a quote from the same story from David Garcia, executive director of Affirmations, Michigan’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization:
The Archbishop is on the wrong side of history, which, in the context of the Vatican, should surprise no one.
I would suggest to Archbishop Vigneron that he concentrate on feeding and clothing the poor and nursing the sick and stay out of our bedrooms.
This statement isn’t a big shock when you see the group he represents, but the kicker comes when you see that the story informs that David was “raised Catholic.” The “feeding the poor, clothing the sick” rhetoric might not be a complete reference to Pope Francis, but instead is symbolic of a larger notion.
This sentiment, that the Church is antiquated socially, and off-track in its mission is not an uncommon one – unfortunately. The biggest perpetrator of this seems to be: former Catholics.
To lend support to my point a few more paragraphs from the article:
Same-sex marriage also holds majority support among Catholics, according to a March poll conducted by Quinnipiac University. The poll shows 54 percent of Catholic voters support it, while 38 percent oppose it. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
Retired Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who plans to lead an LBGT-friendly service May 5 at Marygrove Chapel in Detroit, says Catholics have received some conflicting messages lately, citing a statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York.
‘When the people come, they are acknowledged as gay and lesbian people. But as Cardinal Dolan said, we want them to come to church. There are some priests who don’t agree with that. So either we do want them to come or we don’t,’ said Gumbleton.
As for LGBT individuals and supporters being told they can’t take communion, Gumbleton said, ‘Many are hurt that way.’
Now, Bishop Gumbleton is no stranger to this debate, or to controversy. In fact, he is the same Bishop that Archbishop Sample, then Bishop of Marquette, refused to allow to speak in the Diocese of Marquette due to Gumbleton’s failure to follow protocol and decision to speak on things which were highly-questionable.
Unfortunately, Bishop Gumbleton makes a comment like the one above, and people take that to be the Church’s stance – that some how Archbishop Vigneron and Bishop Gumbleton are on two opposite sides of a coin, when in fact they aren’t, nor should they be.
For Archbishop Vigneron this was never, and will never, be about accepting homosexuals to Church, or even to Communion. Yet, when Bishop Gumbleton says that practicing homosexuals are “hurt” by being told not to take Communion, he is teaching contrary to the faith. As the Archdiocese has pointed out, if a person were to sin gravely, and then take Communion without contrite heart and confession – they too would would be committing the same wrong.
This isn’t solely about homosexual marriage, but about the teachings of the Church. It is about sin, doctrine, and the “Source and Summit” of Christian life – The Holy Eucharist.
We must have priests and bishops willing to be bold and courageous and stand up for all the teachings of the faith. To instruct the faithful in not only the position of the Church on things, but why it has that stance.
We must present the faith in a holistic way. That through all the teachings there is a continuity of Christ born unto the world, crucified, died, and resurrected. That there is ultimate truth which is the fabric of life, a truth that transcends politics, social structure, and even death.
But the Church can’t be about “issues.” It can’t speak to “Gay-Marriage” in a vacuum anymore than it should speak about “contraception” in a vacuum. Just as we can’t understand the Immaculate Conception aside from the true understanding of Jesus as both man and God.
The Church must be about faith, hope, and love. But with those things there must be continuity, truth, and honesty. We must be taught to understand things in entirety and not just the bits and pieces that are easiest, or least controversial. As a faith we can’t pick and choose what parishes ascribe to certain beliefs so as to create islands of he faith that are comfortable.
The Cross is not comfortable. It is hard, painful, and all consuming. As Jesus walked towards that Cross he fell and got back up again so as to ascend it for us and our failings. We do ourselves a disservice, but we insult his ascent on Calvary when we make the Cross about fitting our needs to His truth.
There have been quite a few news reports and blog posts since Archbishop Vigneron made statements earlier in the week about the reception of Communion by supporters of “Gay-marriage.” I wanted to create a list for some that are hoping to get caught up on the matter.
I think that answers my questions from earlier. I will continue to monitor this, and add more later.
The Free Press this morning had a front web-page story about Archbishop Vigneron. It was about the Holy Eucharist and people who publically support things like “Gay-marriage.”
The article is written by their religion beat writer, whom I am somewhat familiar with from Twitter. In terms of Catholic coverage, they are fairly straight forwardin their approach but hardly ever crack even the surface of basic understanding of the faith. I don’t expect much from a paper on such matters because it isn’t their expertise, so I read everything with a grain of salt hoping they don’t trash Catholicism.
This had to be some sort of stretch-of-truth or maybe it was a contortion of various statements, added to this or that, and an insinuation stretched into a statement. This is a pretty profound thing, especially in our state where we have quite a few public Catholic’s that support many things from Abortion to ‘Same-sex marriage.’
So I read the article quickly, and then tried to corroborate it with… anything. I couldn’t. So that is my caveat. This is one article, I don’t know when and where the Archbishop said the following, but hopefully the reporter did their job. If this turns out to be something that it is not… I will let you know:
Last month, Vigneron said at a news conference that maintaining views that oppose abortion and support traditional marriage are important for Catholics.
“Were we to abandon them, we would be like physicians who didn’t tell their patients that certain forms of behavior are not really in their best interest,” said Vigneron, who oversees 1.3 million Catholics in southeastern Michigan.
On Sunday, Vigneron said about supporting gay marriage and receiving Communion: “For a Catholic to receive holy Communion and still deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church is to try to say two contradictory things at once: ‘I believe the church offers the saving truth of Jesus, and I reject what the church teaches.’ In effect, they would contradict themselves. This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one’s integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury.”
Vigneron said the church wants to help Catholics “avoid this personal disaster.”
This is a strong statement from an Archbishop. He has always been very careful, and tactful in his statements and so I am not surprised to see that he has been careful to speak strongly and yet at the same time carefully wrap those words in spiritual truth and care. This clearly isn’t about politics to him, but the truth of the teachings of the Church. He uses words such as integrity, logically, personal disaster, and contradict.
To Vigneron, this is a factual analysis of truth and Church teaching. This isn’t about opinion or desire, but about what is and isn’t allow in the faith. But that analysis, or its theological underpinnings aren’t arbitrary. This is about a cohesive and logical construction of truths and beliefs that must fit together in continuity.
I am going to work on getting more information about when and where this was said, and to see if there are more comments that accompany it. This is a huge statement for Michigan, and for other Bishops around the country. I pray that this statement is presented in proper context and that this isn’t some stretch to create controversy. I also pray that it unifies the Church.