30 November 2008

Secularity and Secularism

As I saw the first banners announcing Season's Greetings and Happy Holiday's I thought of an idea for a post about the secularization of society. It seem's that I was not alone as there appeared a very good column in the National Catholic Register this week by Father Alfonso Aguilar, LC. Here a couple highlights and I encourage you to read the rest.

“Silencing or abandoning God or confining him to the private sphere is undoubtedly the defining theme of our bleak times in the West. There is no other movement to be compared with it, not even the loss of the moral sense.”

Pope Benedict seems to agree. Secularization is a constant theme in his speeches and writings. “Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness,” the Holy Father said to the members of the Pontifical Council for Culture on March 8, 2008.

“This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behavior of believers.”

Secularism, instead, is intrinsically wrong — it intends to achieve an absolute independence of temporal affairs from God and his moral law. It pretends to replace God’s role with man’s. Secularity affirms the autonomy of the earthly spheres from religion but not in opposition to it. Secularism intolerantly seeks the annihilation of religion.

The most appalling expression of secularism might be found in the silent distancing of entire populations from religious practice and even from any reference to the faith. The Church today is confronted more by indifference and practical unbelief than by atheism.

26 November 2008

Christian Faith and the Necessity of the Sacred

Some further thoughts from Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music.

The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. “Always” can only come from “once for all”. The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognizes the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but it also in­cludes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, how­ever much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of the Tradition. [The Spirit of the Liturgy SF, CA: Ignatius, 2000),p. 164]

I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And, because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council. Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.

Modernist Heresy - Alive and Well

St. Pope Pius X spoke of the heresy of Modernism as the "synthesis of all heresies." He wrote the encyclical letter Pascendi Dominici Gregis condemning its errors and "in order to expose before the whole Church, in their true colors, those men who have assumed this bad disguise."
While it did great damage to the movement it was not fully destroyed but driven underground where it has reappeared in recent times, most recently in that period following Vatican II, by those invoking the "spirit of Vatican II." Evidence of this is found in many place and frequently the articles and comments made by readers of the National Catholic Reporter. While not imputing or suggesting any of these people is guilty of heresy it nonetheless true that their statements resemble those that were previously condemned.

In an effort to make the encyclical more understandable to the average layman, the Rev. J. B. Lemius O.M.I. prepared "A Catechism of Modernism" in the question and answer format common to the catechetical method of instruction. This small treatise was warmly received by Pope Pius X and he gave his hopes of it being widely distributed. It was originally published in 1908 for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in NY.

Q. Is it not, then, the duty of the Church to shape herself to democratic forms?
A. We are living in an age when the sense of liberty has reached its fullest development, and when the public conscience in the civil order introduced popular government. Now there are not two consciences in man, any more than there are two lives. It is for the ecclesiastical authority, therefore, to shape itself to democratic forms, unless it wishes to provoke and foment in intestine conflict in the consciences of mankind.

Q. What finally is the great anxiety of the Modernists?
A. Their one great anxiety is, in consequence, to find a way of conciliation between the authority of the Church and the liberty of believers.

Now let us look at the, CHARTER OF THE RIGHTS OF CATHOLICS IN THE CHURCH, which belong to an organization called Association for Rights of Catholics in the Church. It's members are a venerable who's who of dissident Catholic groups: CCC (Coalition of Concerned Canadian Catholics) CITI (Celibacy is the Issue) CORPUS (a national association for a married priesthood) CORPUS-Baltimore CTA (Call to Action) Dignity/USA FCM (Federation of Christian Ministries) New Ways Ministry Pax Christi-Maine Quixote Center Renewal Coordinating Committee WOC (Women's Ordination Conference) Christenrechte in der Kirche (Germany) Droits et Libertes dans les Eglises (France) European Conference for Human Rights in the Church (federation of eight national organizations)

Here are a few of their demands:


The Church as a People of God, and not individual Christians only, is called to give witness to the love commandment. This responsibility entails, especially, the renewal of the Church's own structural organization where it is seen to foster injustice and to deny to some Catholics the rights of persons and the freedom of Christians.2 "Justice is love's absolute minimum" (Paul VI). The institutional Church, as a human society, can therefore no longer justify an authoritarian and patriarchal order appropriate to earlier stages of human development.

No. 28. All married Catholics have the right to determine in conscience the size of their families and the appropriate methods of family planning.
No. 29. All Catholic parents have the right to see to the education of their children in all areas of life. (C. 226:2)
No. 30. All married Catholics have the right to withdraw from a marriage which has irretrievably broken down. All such Catholics retain the radical right to remarry.
No. 31. All Catholics who are divorced and remarried and who are in conscience reconciled to the Church have the right to the same ministries, including all sacraments, as do other Catholics.

Beauty and the Search for Truth and Goodness

Throughout his pontificate Pope Benedict has emphasised the relationship of beauty to culture. Yesterday he sent a Message to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, to mark the annual public session of the Pontifical Academies. The Pontifical Academy of Fine Arts and Literature "dei Virtuosi al Pantheon", which is organising the event this year, has chosen the theme: "The universality of beauty: a comparison between aesthetics and ethics".

"We are reminded of the urgent need for a renewed dialogue between aesthetics and ethics, between beauty, truth and goodness", the Pope writes, "not only by contemporary cultural and artistic debate, but also by daily reality. In fact, at various levels, there is a dramatically-evident split ... between the two dimensions: that of the search for beauty - understood however in reductive terms as exterior form, as an appearance to be pursued at all costs - and that of the truth and goodness of actions undertaken to achieve certain ends.

"Indeed", he adds, "searching for a beauty that is foreign to or separate from the human search for truth and goodness would become (as unfortunately happens) mere asceticism and, especially for the very young, a path leading to ephemeral values and to banal and superficial appearances, even a flight into an artificial paradise that masks inner emptiness".

The Holy Father goes on to recall how he has on various occasions underlined the need "for a broadening of the horizons of reason" in order "to regain an understanding of the intimate link binding the search for beauty to the search for truth and goodness. ... And it such a commitment applies to everyone, it applies even more to believers, to the disciples of Christ, who are called by the Lord to 'give reasons' for all the beauty and truth of their faith".

The beauty of the works undertaken by believers "to render glory unto the Father", in accordance with Christ's mandate, "demonstrates and expresses ... the goodness and profound truth of such gestures, as it does the coherence and the sanctity of those who accomplish them. ... Our witness must, then, draw nourishment from this beauty, ... and to this end we must know how to communicate with the language of images and symbols ... in order effectively to reach our contemporaries".

Benedict XVI also mentions the recent Synod, during which bishops "emphasised the perennial importance 'beautiful witness' has for the announcement of the Gospel, and underlined how important it is to know how to read and scrutinise the beauty of works of art inspired by the faith ... in order to discover a unique path that brings us close to God and His Word".

Finally, the Holy Father mentions John Paul II's Letter to Artists, "which invites us", writes Pope Benedict "to reflect upon ... the fruitful dialogue between Holy Scripture and various forms of art, whence countless masterpieces have emerged". Finally, the Pope launches an appeal to academics and artists, reminding them that their mission is "to arouse wonder at and desire for beauty, to form people's sensitivity and to nourish a passion for everything that is a genuine expression of human genius and a reflection of divine beauty".

24 November 2008

How to Engage Culture When There Is No Culture to Engage

Prof. Anthony Esolen of Providence College wrote an insightful essay "The Last Embers of the Fire" which can be found over at Inside Catholic. It deals with the struggle to "engage culture" when culture as properly understand does not exist.

We Catholics are commonly urged to "engage the culture"; not to flee for monasteries of our own making, but to work within the institutions of mass media, mass education, mass marketing, and mass entertainment to advance the banners of Christ, our King.

I do not wish to criticize those who toil at that thankless task. Nor will I suggest that their work will be futile; no true service of the Lord can be without fruit. But I do believe we have mistaken the signs of the times. We seek to engage a culture, when there is no culture to engage. Our task is rather to revive the memory of what a culture is.

One of my goals with this blog is renewing the ideal of authentic Christian chivalry which likewise depends on a renewal of the Christian culture which gave birth to it during the Middle Ages. As challenging as this is we can and must look to the Catholic Church to reform our culture and society. Pope Benedict understands this and has begun a process of reform in the Church that will allow it to transform culture rather than be transformed by it as has happened over the past 40 years.

A wonderful book on the topic of culture is the Leisure, the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. In our fast paced world we have forgotten how to relax, to find leisure where we can reflect and contemplate God's goodness.

23 November 2008

Musical Tribute for Christ the King

The following clip is for the Feast of Christ the King at Gloria.tv

Feast of Christ the King

Today is the Feast of Christ the King under the new calendar. I posted previously under the old calendar but wanted to show some different pics of Christ as King. This icon is from the Church of the Holy Archangels, an old Orthodox Church in Sarajevo.

22 November 2008

Dissenting Catholics Play Conscience Card

Fr. Z at his excellent blog, WDTPRS, dissects the letter to the editor (NY Times) from Jon O'Brien, Pres. Catholics for a Free Choice. According to Jon O'Brien,who is upset with Pres. Bush and his rule to protect the conscience of healthcare providers who oppose abortion/birth control etc., his definition of a well-formed conscience trumps all including the clear teaching of the Catholic Church. In the twisted logic so representative of so many people today Mr. O'Brien makes the statement,
Catholic teaching also requires respect for others’ consciences. Doctors and pharmacists cannot dismiss the conscience of the person seeking a medication or a procedure to which they themselves may object. For example, they may not ignore the needs of patients who may not be Catholic, or who have made conscience-based decisions to use contraception.

What utter insanity. So often we hear that the problems we face in "our times" are not unlike those of prior generations and we shouldn't be overly concerned. But as dark as those times were I can't imagine that they were so devoid of rational thought as we are currently. How can a person honestly say that conscience trumps all but we must respect the conscience of others who might disagree with us, so long as that they respect me while I don't have to respect them. Seriously what is wrong with saying "I believe in birth control (I don't) but you don't so I will respect your decision and buy my poison someplace else." Obviously for Mr. O'Brien and his chorus of dissenters we can't have that. Check out Fr. Z for a complete analysis and the proper instruction of what the Catechism truly teaches about a well-formed conscience.

Here are a couple relevant extracts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition, regarding man's freedom.

1747 The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do anything.

1776 "Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man's most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths." Gaudium et Spes 16.

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment englightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments acording to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

19 November 2008

The Glorious Liberties

The recent elections have brought us cries of protest from those who disliked hearing the Church offer moral guidance on the issues of primary importance. They felt it was an imposition on their free will. But as Chesterton said, "We do not want a religion that is right when we are right. What we want is a religion that is right when we are wrong." Archbishop Sheen wrote a short commentary on the true meaning of freedom, The Glorious Liberties.
The laws of the Church are not limitations imposed upon us, but rather the gateways to freedom. The Church does not dam up the river of thought; she builds dams to prevent it from overflowing and ruining the countryside of sanity. She does not build great walls around rocky islands in the sea to prevent her children from playing; she builds them to prevent her children from falling into the sea and thus making all play impossible. . . We are enslaved if you will, but only at one point. We are slave to the Kingship of Christ. But that one point is like the fixed piont of a pendulum and from it we swing in beautiful rhythm with the freedom of Him Who can do all things. The root of all the liberties of the Church is the most glorious liberty of all --- the freedom to become a saint. Fulton J. Sheen

09 November 2008

The State and the Kingship of Christ

For the first time in years a signifcant number of our Bishops have stood together and publicly proclaimed the moral teaching of the Church and its relevance in the recent elections. Although ignored by many Catholics who preferred the unjust moral equivalence of several law and other professors to the teaching authority of the Church's Bishops it was encouraging for many us to see them acting as true shephards. Many were criticized for becoming too involved in politics and violating a fictitious idea of the separation of Church and State. While certainly each operates in a distinct role it is wrong to deny the Church its legitmate place in preserving right order in society through its mission to preach the Gospel.

Thomas Storck wrote an article in The Catholic Faith originally published in 1996 and now available at The ChesterBelloc Mandate. Below is an excerpt of that article. It is a common error particularly among our Catholic politicians to deny the Kingship of Christ while elevating "The State" to His place.

This is the encyclical Quas Primas, on the Kingship of Christ, issued on December 11, 1925. To try to understand Catholic social teaching apart from the Kingship of Jesus Christ is to have only a partial and one-sided view of the matter. For "all men, whether collectively or individually, are under the dominion of Christ." Moreover, "It would be a grave error...to say that Christ has no authority whatever in civil affairs, since by virtue of the absolute empire over all creatures commited to Him by the Father, all things are in His power."9 If we develop these points we can see that, looked at as part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, nothing that mankind does, either individually or corporately, can be alien to Christ's law and his kingly rule.

Therefore the Church, as the mystical extension of the Incarnation, is not doing anything foreign to her mission when she provides guidance for bringing about the realization of Christ's Kingdom in the affairs of men. We are all Christ's subjects, and as such we are bound to make our institutions and our customs reflect him. Catholics should not dare to have a conception of business or economic life that is based either on practical atheism or on a deism that sees God as simply a distant Creator, who left a kind of clockwork universe that runs by itself, as in Adam Smith's "invisible hand." Just as we would not allow the sexual appetite to rule itself, on the grounds that since it was created by God somehow it would ultimately work everything out for the good, so we cannot allow the appetite for economic gain to have free rein.

For as Pius XI taught, "Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon 'class' conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition."10 For to do so would be to think and act as if, whenever men gathered into societies or groups, including nations, somehow they could forget the kingly law of Jesus Christ. If it is wrong to hurt the person living in the next house, it is likewise wrong to hurt my employee or even my competitor, for are we not brothers and are we not all subjects of our common King? And if we cannot see how it is possible not to hurt them in order for myself to survive in the business world, then we need to rethink our approach to economic life and change the demands that our economic system makes upon each of us. For more basic and more demanding than any of its strictures are the moral law and the fundamental principles of justice and charity.

The laws of physics describe how particles of matter move and react under certain conditions. Because these particles do not have free will, they have no choice about their behavior and they cannot be blamed for what they do. The so-called laws of economics, however, are about the actions of free human persons.11 Because of this freedom they can yield or refuse to yield to their various concupiscible appetites. The laws of economics are descriptions of what human beings will generally do if they yield themselves fully to their concupiscible appetite for gain. But whenever this appetite for gain runs counter to the law of Christ, it is entitled to no more respect than when the sexual appetite similarly runs out of bounds. And just as with the sexual appetite, we must curb our appetite for gain if our activity is likely to bring harm or disruption to a social order that supports a civilization of love.

If the Kingship of Christ Jesus over all men and over every aspect of human affairs is a fact, not merely a fancy which we use to decorate our piety at appropriate times, then this fact requires our utmost attention, and all the other activities and institutions of human existence must be shaped to recognize that Kingship. Thus we see that far from being something extra added onto Catholic dogma, the social teachings are integral parts of the realization of the Lordship of Jesus Christ the King. Every year we celebrate the feast of the Kingship of Christ and thus every year we have a new opportunity publicly to reaffirm these truths. But every single day we have the opportunity not just to reaffirm them, but to try to see how they can be put into practice. Otherwise, how can we avoid the condemnation of that Supreme Pontiff, who said of social modernism, "We condemn it as strongly as We do dogmatic Modernism?"

08 November 2008

Aquinas' View of the Christian Image of Man

St. Thomas gives us this summary of the Christian image of man through seven virtues. These seven virtues remind us that the ethics of classical theology is an ethics of the image of God in us, with explicit reference to Jesus' words on the perfection of the Christian: "Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) - Fr. Constantino Gilardi O.P

The Christian is a human creature who - in faith - becomes aware of the reality of God.

The Christian aims - in hope - for the conclusion of his existence in eternal life.

The Christian turns - in the theological virtue of charity - towards God and towards his neighbor in a manner that surpasses his natural capacity for love.

The Christian is prudent, that is, he does not permit the yes or no of his will to cloud his vision of reality, but makes the yes or no of his will depend on the truth of things.

The Christian is just, that is he aims to live in truth "with others;" he realizes that he is only one of the members of the Church, of the civil community, of every community.

The Christian is strong, that is ready to support difficulties or even wounds for justice to be achieved.

The Christian is temperate, and that it does not permit his wish to possess and enjoy to go against what he must really be.

07 November 2008

Bishop Finn Nails It

Most fraudulent are those Catholic leaders, or alliances of Catholics, that insist that the radically evil injustice of abortion need not be directly opposed, but rather, that somehow solving the dilemma of the poor in a sweeping act of charity will cause the foundation of this monstrous crime to crumble.

Why is this so terribly amiss? Because the foundation and cause of abortion is not poverty but a blind disregard for personal responsibility, a heinous denial and disrespect for human life, and an idolatrous worship of personal convenience. This is why even in the wealthy countries of Scandinavia the highest rates of abortions are followed by rampant euthanasia.

Friends, the poor do not hate their children any more or less than the rich. The poison of which abortion is the most dreadful manifestation is the sinful suffocation of selfishness, and it can and does affect all strata of society. Woe to those, particularly Catholics, who dare to try to convince us that their “choice” of a radically pro-abortion leader is within the parameters of conscience. God have mercy on those who exude freely this salve for their partisan cooperators. I fear that they will bear a greater responsibility than most. Against them will come not only the cry of millions of human lives savagely destroyed, but the souls of those they have sucked down with themselves. This is the very definition of scandal, and the reason that so many have spoken out with such urgency to announce the authentic teaching of the Church.

Catholic College Students and Moral Values

The Cardinal Newman Society just released findings from a survery of students on Catholic campuses regarding their attitudes on moral issues of the faith. The results shouldn't come as any surprise. Any guess what percentage of this group also voted for Obama.

Study Finds Catholic Colleges Have Little Positive Impact on Faith, Values

A groundbreaking survey of Catholic college students published by The Cardinal Newman Society’s (CNS) Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education finds that most students on Catholic campuses reject key Catholic moral values and tenets of the faith, and significant numbers engage in pre-marital sexuality activity and the viewing of pornography.

The study was released in the wake of Tuesday’s presidential election, just as many commentators are looking for reasons why the Catholic vote broke the way it did in such large numbers for a pro-abortion candidate.

It is the only known nationally representative survey of students at Catholic colleges and universities. CNS released a report five years ago, drawing on data from 38 Catholic colleges collected by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. That study found that students’ support for Catholic teaching on abortion, gay marriage and other issues declined over four years at a Catholic institution.

For the current study, CNS commissioned QEV Analytics, which conducted an analysis of the Catholic vote for Crisis magazine prior to the 2000 presidential election, to conduct the random survey of current and recent students at U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, all between the ages of 18 and 29. QEV President Steven Wagner, a former researcher for the U.S. Information Agency, has conducted studies for several federal agencies and the National Center on Additional and Substance Abuse (CASA).

“Most respondents say that the experience of attending a Catholic institution made no difference in their support for the Catholic Church or its teaching or their participation in Catholic Sacraments,” Wagner writes in his report.

Key findings clearly demonstrate that large numbers of students at Catholic colleges and universities are in clear conflict with the Catholic Church:

Nearly 1 in 5 knew another student who had or paid for an abortion.

46% of current and recent students—and 50% of females—said they engaged in sex outside of marriage.

84% said they had friends who engaged in premarital sex.

60% agreed strongly or somewhat that abortion should be legal.

60% agreed strongly or somewhat that premarital sex is not a sin.

78% disagreed strongly or somewhat that using a condom to prevent pregnancy was a serious sin.

57% agreed strongly or somewhat that same-sex “marriage” should be legal.

57% said the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their participation in Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation.

54% of respondents said that their experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church.

56% said their experience had no effect on their respect for the Pope and bishops.

In April 2008 Pope Benedict XVI, recognizing the reality on many Catholic campuses, told Catholic college presidents gathered at The Catholic University of America that the Catholic faith must permeate all aspects of Catholic campus life.

“Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools?” the Holy Father asked the college presidents. “Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold. From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary ‘crisis of truth’ is rooted in a ‘crisis of faith’.”

The entire CNS study, “Behaviors and Beliefs of Current and Recent Students at U.S. Catholic Colleges,” is available online at http://www.catholichighered.org/. CNS commissioned the study as part of its Love & Responsibility program to encourage Catholic values on life, love and marriage on Catholic campuses.

05 November 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along Now?

As usual the post-election rhetoric was in full swing today with calls for us to set aside our differences and to come together as American's. But throughout the campaign President Elect Obama made it very clear he was not interested in listening to my point of view as an American regarding abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and other important issues of Catholic social teaching. He made it understood his allegiance is to NARAL and Planned Parenthood.

In "The Great Heresies", one of the greatest minds of the last century, Hilaire Belloc, wrote:
The quarrel is between the Church and the anti-Church—the Church of God and anti-God, the Church of Christ and anti-Christ...“The Modern Attack” or “anti- Christ” it is all one; there is a clear issue now joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other. The modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it. We must attempt to destroy it as being the fully equipped and ardent enemy of the Truth by which men live. The duel is to the death.

03 November 2008

Cardinal Bernardins Seamless Garment

Many pro-Obama Catholics use the late Cardinal Bernardin's seamless garment theory to justify voting for pro-abortion candidates. However even Cardinal Bernardin admitted that not all issues carry the same moral weight. Below is an extract from a talk he gave at St. Louis U. in 1984. You can read the whole lecture here.

The range of application is all too evident: nuclear war threatens life on a previously unimaginable scale; abortion takes life daily on a horrendous scale; public executions are fast becoming weekly events in the most advanced technological society in history; and euthanasia is now openly discussed and even advocated. Each of these assaults on life has its own meaning and morality; they cannot be collapsed into one problem, but they must be confronted as pieces of a larger pattern.

The reason I have placed such stress on the idea of a consistent ethic of life from the beginning of my term as chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops is twofold: I am persuaded by the interrelatedness of these diverse problems, and I am convinced that the Catholic moral vision has the scope, the strength and the subtlety to address this wide range of issues in an effective fashion. It is precisely the potential of our moral vision that is often not recognized even within the community of the Church. The case for a consistent ethic of life—one which stands for the protection of the right to life and the promotion of the rights which enhance life from womb to tomb—manifests the positive potential of the Catholic moral and social tradition.

It is both a complex and a demanding tradition; it joins the humanity of the unborn infant and the humanity of the hungry; it calls for positive legal action to prevent the killing of the unborn (contrary to the position taken by Prof. Kmiec who believes that the legal avenue to prevent abortion is a dead end.) or the aged and positive societal action to provide shelter for the homeless and education for the illiterate. The potential of the moral and social vision is appreciated in a new way when the systemic vision of Catholic ethics is seen as the background for the specific positions we take on a range of issues.

In response to those who fear otherwise, I contend that the systemic vision of a consistent ethic of life will not erode our crucial public opposition to the direction of the arms race; neither will it smother our persistent and necessary public opposition to abortion. The systemic vision is rooted in the conviction that our opposition to these distinct problems has a common foundation and that both Church and society are served by making it evident.

A consistent ethic of life does not equate the problem of taking life (e.g., through abortion and in war) with the problem of promoting human dignity (through humane programs of nutrition, health care, and housing). But a consistent ethic identifies both the protection of life and its promotion as moral questions. It argues for a continuum of life which must be sustained in the face of diverse and distinct threats.

A consistent ethic does not say everyone in the Church must do all things, but it does say that as individuals and groups pursue one issue, whether it is opposing abortion or capital punishment, the way we oppose one threat should be related to support for a systemic vision of life. It is not necessary or possible for every person to engage in each issue, but it is both possible and necessary for the Church as a whole to cultivate a conscious explicit connection among the several issues. And it is very necessary for
preserving a systemic vision that individuals and groups who seek to witness to life at one point of the spectrum of life not be seen as insensitive to or even opposed to other moral claims on the overall spectrum of life. Consistency does rule out contradictory moral positions about the unique value of human life. No one is called to do everything, but each of us can do something. And we can strive not to stand against each other when the protection and the promotion of life are at stake.

Here are a couple additional quotes from Cardinal Bernardin.

Notice that the Cardinal stated that not all issues are qualitatively equal from a moral perspective. A consistent ethic recognizes that there is justification for placing priority emphasis on certain issues at certain times. Cardinal Bernardin pointed out that there is a hierarchy among the issues.
"The fundamental human right is to life—from the moment of conception until death. It is the source of all other rights, including the right to health care"
(The Consistent Ethic of Life and Health Care Systems, Foster McGaw Triennial
Conference, Loyola University of Chicago, May 8, 1985).

To ignore the priority attention that the problems of abortion and euthanasia demand is to misunderstand both the consistent ethic and the nature of the threats that these evils pose. On Respect Life Sunday, 1 October 1989, Cardinal Bernardin issued a statement entitled "Deciding for Life," in which he said,

"Not all values, however, are of equal weight. Some are more fundamental than others. On this Respect Life Sunday, I wish to emphasize that no earthly value is more fundamental than human life itself. Human life is the condition for enjoying freedom and all other values. Consequently, if one must choose between protecting or serving lesser human values that depend upon life for their existence and life itself, human life must take precedence."

02 November 2008

Bishop Finn - The Identity of the Church Militant

From the upcoming issue of The Catholic Key, the diocesan paper of Kansas City, KA, comes an excellent article from Bishop Finn,

Warriors with Our Eyes Fixed on Heaven

Last Saturday I had the privilege of consecrating the restored church of Old St. Patrick. This is the oldest existing Catholic church in Kansas City. It will serve as the Oratory for the Latin Mass community which first began here under Bishop John Sullivan, and for many years has shared the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows.

One of the beauties of the Traditional Latin High Mass that I celebrated is that it highlights a most profound aspect of the Mass, namely our participation with the Communion of Saints. The high altar, multiple candles, incense and Gregorian chant, collectively give us a striking image of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is our ultimate home. Every Mass celebrates this reality, but I must admit that the traditional Mass captured this magnificent expression of the ultimate hope and goal of Christians in a powerful way. We should reflect on this often, because the ultimate goal of everything we do is to get ourselves to heaven and bring with us as many as we can.

The month of November begins with the two great celebrations: All Saints day (November 1) and the Commemoration of All Souls (November 2). These feasts celebrate our communion with the "Church triumphant" in heaven, and the "Church suffering" in purgatory. Today I would like to share a few brief comments about what we have sometimes called the "Church militant," the Church here on earth.

We, the Church on earth, have a very special challenge as participants in the grace and life of Jesus Christ to "fight" against the enemies of Christ's justice and truth and light and life. We must be attentive to the demands of this daily "battle" in a peaceable but serious manner.

I am sometimes amazed at the casual manner with which Christians, Catholics included, take up our life within what Pope John Paul II rightly called the "culture of death." The Church, by comparison, reminds us that we are engaged - by reason of our Baptism and Confirmation - in a battle, "not with flesh and blood, but with the principalities and powers, with the rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in heaven." (Eph 6:12) Jesus Christ has won the ultimate battle, but we, in the course of our human life must make our choice, determining on whose side we will live and die. Whose side will you choose?!

What is at stake in this battle is our immortal soul, our salvation. My responsibility as bishop is with the eternal destiny of those entrusted to my care. My total energies must be directed to the well being of those who otherwise may come under the spell of a radically flawed and fundamentally distorted moral sense, at odds with what our Mother the Church teaches. There are objective and transcendent truths. There is such a thing as right and wrong. There is a legitimate hierarchy of moral evils, and the direct willful destruction of human life can never be justified; it can never be supported. Do you believe this firm teaching of the Church?

Did you know that in Canada priests and Christian ministers have already been brought before tribunals for preaching and teaching in support of marriage? They are charged with "hate speech" against homosexuality. In light of the tyranny of choice growing each day in our own beloved country, we ought to be ready for similar attacks on religious freedom. We must not fail to preach the Gospel. We can not withhold the truth of our faith. That is why I will never be silent about human life. It is why I am proud of so many others - bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity - who are not afraid to speak out about the values that matter most. What about you?!

Our Lord told His apostles that they would be hated by the world, just as He was. Nearly all of them died a martyr's death. As warriors in the Church militant, we must never resort to violence. But we must stand up fearlessly against the agents of death, the enemies of human life. Human beings are not Satan, but we know too well that they can come under his spell. They can become willing agents of death, numbed and poisoned in this culture of death. What about you?!

As we begin this month of November, the month of the Church, let us call upon the Saints to inspire us, befriend us, and pray for us. Let us offer many prayers and sacrifices for the poor souls who have gone before us. They need our meritorious suffrages to help them reach heaven.

And let us resolve to be warriors of the Church militant; warriors with our eyes fixed on heaven. Let us ask God's mercy and strength to persevere in our call - individual and collective - to holiness. Mary, Mother of the Church, Pray for us!


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