Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cardinal Dolan's explanation of his decision to serve as Grand Marshal

I was listening to Al Kresta on Catholic radio on my way home today, and he was summarizing Cardinal Dolan's explanation of his decision to serve as Grand Marshal in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade next March.

Kresta went down through the document, which is posted on the website of the Archdiocese of New York. He read from the following paragraph, which indicates the likely reason the Cardinal felt he had to offer some sort of explanation:
While a handful have been less than charitable in their reactions [probably an allusion to the blistering criticism by Michael Voris], I must admit that many of you have rather thoughtful reasons for criticizing the committee’s decision [to let self-identified "gays" and "lesbians" march under their own banners]: you observe that the former policy was fair; you worry that this is but another example of a capitulation to an “aggressive Gay agenda,” which still will not appease their demands; and you wonder if this could make people think the Church no longer has a clear teaching on the nature of human sexuality. [Deal W. Hudson's cautions about "blurring boundaries" come to mind here.]

Thank you for letting me know of such concerns. I share some of them.
But then Kresta came to what he said was considered by the Cardinal to be the critically important issue on which his decision turned:
... the most important question I had to ask myself was this: does the new policy violate Catholic faith or morals? If it does, then the Committee has compromised the integrity of the Parade, and I must object and refuse to participate or support it.

From my review, it does not. Catholic teaching is clear: “being Gay” is not a sin, nor contrary to God’s revealed morals. Homosexual actions are—as are any sexual relations outside of the lifelong, faithful, loving, lifegiving bond of a man and woman in marriage—a moral teaching grounded in the Bible, reflected in nature, and faithfully taught by the Church.

So, while actions are immoral, identity is not! In fact, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, people with same-sex attraction are God’s children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice.

To the point: the committee’s decision allows a group to publicize its identity, not promote actions contrary to the values of the Church that are such an essential part of Irish culture. I have been assured that the new group marching is not promoting an agenda contrary to Church teaching, but simply identifying themselves as “Gay people of Irish ancestry.”
While this distinction between identity and behavior is widely parroted in some Catholic circles, it is clearly the lamest of lame pretext commonly embraced for doing nothing and simply going along to get along. The pretext is sometimes couched in terms of a distinction between same-sex acts (which are condemned as immoral) and same-sex dispositions (for which a person presumably cannot be culpable). What is almost never mentioned, however, is that same-sex dispositions themselves are also described by the Catechism as "intrinsically disordered" (CCC 2357-2359).

Further, Catholics who have thought long and hard about this issue have insisted that there is no ontological or anthropological basis for any supposed "personal identity" as "gay" or "lesbian." Individuals with same-sex attraction are just human beings like anyone else, called to chastity like anyone else, and the notion that they would wish (or be permitted to) celebrate their putative "identity" as "gays" and "lesbians" is no less bizarre than allowing incorrigible Irish alcoholics celebrate their "identity" as "tipplers," "boozers," and "drunks."

What person in his right mind is going to believe for a nanosecond that a bevy of prancing self-identified "gays" and "lesbians" are not promoting actions contrary to the Catholic teaching? If those who are saddled with (or who have helped to saddled themselves with) same-sex attraction are called to chastity, as the Church teaches, then they should be walking in a spirit of penance in sack cloth and ashes and asking for the Church's prayers. Catholic compassion, in this instance, should not consist in condoning the celebration of disordered dispositions stemming from our fallen nature, but in letting such individuals know that they are not alone, that all of us suffer from a fallen nature and have our spiritual battles against temptations that we must fight together. On this issue, nobody strikes the proper balance more clearly that Michael Voris in "Catholic & Homosexual" (Vortex, 2010).

The Cardinal Archbishop of New York has made his "prudential judgment" and offered his explanation for his decision to serve as the Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick's Day parade. Al Kresta, Deal Hudson, Michael Voris, and many others have voiced their concerns and criticisms of his decision, asking whether it was so "prudent" after all. I share many of their concerns.

Those suffering from the disorders of same-sex attraction deserve the genuine compassion of spiritual works of mercy in the form of respectful clarity about their condition and the hope the Church offers through the mercy and grace of God -- a hope to which all of us should look for our fallen and sinful condition.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cardinal Dolan: The culture war is over

In an interview with the Boston Globe:

Question: "Where are the American bishops today on the issue of Communion for pro-choice Catholic politicians?"

Cardinal Dolan: "In a way, I like to think it's an issue that served us well in focusing us to do a serious examination of conscience about how we can best teach our people about their political responsibilities, but by now that inflammatory issue is in the past. I don't hear too many bishops saying it's something that we need to debate nationally or that we have to decide collegially. I think most bishops have said, 'We trust individual bishops in individual cases.' Most don't think it's something for which we have to go to the mat."

Michal Voris comments:

Cardinal George: Secular US administration mirrors Sharia law

"Catholics in America will - and do - suffer for 'swimming against the tide'" (EWTN News, September 12, 2014):
Faithful Catholics will face increasing difficulties in American society as public life becomes more dominated by another “religion” that marginalizes the Church and imposes its own morality, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has written.

“Swimming against the tide means limiting one’s access to positions of prestige and power in society,” Cardinal George wrote in his Sept. 7 column for Catholic New World, the newspaper of his local Church.

“It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers.”

He continued, “Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics.”

“It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”
Francis Cardinal George's column, "A Tale of Two Churches" (Catholic New World, September 7, 2014), is well worth reading.

Exile to Malta for Cardinal Burke

So says Sandro Magister.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Charles James' critique of Karl Rahner

[In our continuing series critically reviewing the representatives of Nouvelle Théologie (see our earlier post on Bernard Lonergan, Musings, September 6, 2014), we now turn our attention to Karl Rahner. Suggestions for other candidates are welcome.]

Charles W. James, "Karl Rahner's Baneful Impact on Theology" (New Oxford Review, September 1995). Charles James, a convert from Anglicanism, is an Associate Professor of Philosophy, Academic Dean, and Provost at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California.

Karl Rahner is, without debate, the most influential Catholic theologian of the 20th century. During the course of his spectacular career he wrote or spoke on almost every subject of the Christian faith. When I studied theology at the Jesuit-run University of Santa Clara, Rahner was quoted with more authority than St. Thomas Aquinas. As an Anglican, that gave me pause, so I decided to dig deeper into Rahner's thought. What struck me immediately was Rahner's insistence on interacting with modern European philosophy, especially that of Immanuel Kant. Rahner was unwilling to carry out his theological task in the vacuum of a biblical positivism. He engaged modern philosophy in theological debate, forcing philosophy and theology to speak to each other. Some found this conversation threatening while others found it refreshing. This ambiguous response toward Rahner was reflected in the way he was treated during the Second Vatican Council. At the start of the Council, Rahner was not allowed to act as a peritus -- a theological expert who consults with the Council Fathers. But this semi-ban was lifted from Rahner when Pope John XXIII intervened and gave him the status of theological consultant.

But Rahner's influence has grown even further in the postconciliar period. First, most of his substantive theological works have been translated from the German so that the sheer weight of his theological system is felt by many. The second reason Rahner is so influential today is that he fits our postmortem mentality. Rahner would rather describe God as "holy mystery" than as absolute being. In the developed theology of Rahner, God is not so much the esse absolutum as the mysterium absolutum. This shift from metaphysics to mystery is Rahner's central contribution to the theology of God, but also his greatest liability. To be sure, we sense a subtle attraction to this theology of mystery because the Church has always acknowledged the incomprehensibility of God. We realize that our finite minds can only speak of God analogously. We know that we can have no direct, clear, or full idea of our Creator. "We see through a glass, darkly," as St. Paul said. But Rahner's use of the notion of mystery goes further than merely a description of God. He wishes to use mystery as a criterion of theological truth. This mystery, which is God, becomes Rahner's theological touchstone. He sees mystery not only as a description of God, but as the nature of human consciousness as well. Following Martin Heidegger, Rahner says that the human being is the questioning being because the person himself is a question. And this questioning nature of the human person guarantees that mystery will remain an intrinsic part of human knowing. Rahner is thus able to argue that the mystery of God and the mystery of the human spirit are in continuity. Rahner says that the very way we come to verify and clarify our everyday knowledge is by illuminating our sensations with the mystery beyond us. We somehow already recognize this mystery, our minds move toward it by the universal grace of God, and we use it to give meaning to what confronts us in the world. Hence, for Rahner, mystery serves as a criterion of truth, a backdrop to all our finite thought. The mystery, which is God, answers the human quest for truth. Absolute mystery serves as a measure for the all-too-human striving of our intellect. In short, Rahner replaces the Thomistic analogy of being with an analogy of mystery (analogia mysterii).

This is all very postmodern because it agrees with the postmodern turn away from the metaphysical foundations of thought. The postmodern attitude eschews Plato's forms as well as Aristotle's teleology. It is even ill-at-ease with Darwin and Marx because both held to the 19th-century metaphysical idea of inevitable progress. Rahner fits well within this postmodern attitude because he does not attempt to ground his theology in a metaphysical constant, but rather in mystery. Mystery is his ground as well as his criterion of the validity of theological truth. One may wonder why any Christian would disagree with Rahner's description of God as "holy mystery," or with validating our thought by this mystery. At first look, it appears to provide the spiritual orientation that much of our contemporary theology needs.

But does Rahner's criterion of mystery serve to validate our beliefs or merely relativize them? Can mystery validate thought? Can it serve as a measure of clarity against which we may compare our very unclear ideas? By its very nature Rahner's notion of mystery cannot possibly serve this function. Permanent mystery can neither validate nor clarify our thought, it can only reveal its finitude. Granted, Rahner's stance has given us a needed pastoral warning against conceptual arrogance, but he has not given us a usable criterion of theological truth. What we need in order to validate our thought and our theological statements is not mystery, but a criterion that is substantial and specific enough to serve as a practical guide for our groping intellects. We need a portrait of truth and reality that shares in both the contingencies of history and the absoluteness of divinity. This criterion, marked by both radical contingency and radical divinity, is what the Church calls revelation. Should the Church attempt to go "behind" revelation -- try to validate her message by an appeal to mystery? The very opaqueness of mystery makes it difficult to see how we could ever connect revelation, much less our paltry thoughts, with the infinite otherness of this "holy mystery."

In fact, Rahner tells us that we cannot even conceive of this mystery; it must be experienced in its infinite silence. But if this is so, how can a nonconceptual (experiential) criterion serve to clarify, much less validate, our conceptual thought? It may be possible to find a home for our feelings in this "holy mystery," but what about our ideas? For all of Rahner's lip service to history and contingency, it seems that he has imprisoned truth in a heaven of mystery which can only be penetrated by the experiential and affective sides of human nature. But if we desire the clarification of our concepts or the validation of our theo-logy, we are left standing before the obscurity of this heaven, outside the gates.

We might ask Rahner just how he would go about clarifying or validating a theological statement with his criterion of mystery. In his essay "Reflections on Methodology in Theology," he argues that the propositions of theology must constantly be referred back to religious experience. The job of the theologian is reductio in mysterium -- i.e., a referring of the theological statement back to the theologian's (or the Church's) experience of absolute mystery. In his essay "What is a Dogmatic Statement?" Rahner says that a true theological statement "leads into the mysterium ." Rahner makes our experience of mystery the criterion of theological truth. Only those theological statements which reflect this experienced mystery are valid statements. Hence, the experience of mystery is the measure of theology.

But notice what Rahner is really saying. It is not even the "holy mystery" itself that functions as a criterion of theological truth for Rahner, but rather our experience of this mystery. Rahner has ironically allowed his criterion of mystery to become no more than an experience emanating from the subjectivity of religious feeling. We can only "know" mystery by experiencing it and this experience becomes the criterion of theological truth. Rahner has not successfully surpassed Kant's subjectivity which led straight to the Romantic piety of Schleiermacher. Rather than helping us integrate our thought and our religious experience, Rahner hopelessly dichotomizes them, leaving thought to fend for itself without any theological rationale.

Robert Coles has recently stated that we live in an age of "applauded subjectivity." The postmodern age emphasizes subjectivity out of its fear of objectivity. The postmodernist, whether theological or not, lazily prefers the wide open spaces of obscurity to the hard, narrow road of clarity. Rahner's criterion fits well with this attitude since his principle of mystery precludes conceptual clarity. The central problem is: Given that people have wildly differing religious experiences, how will we adjudicate between one theology and another? Also: How will we ever be able to develop a criterion of theological truth that is more than the mirror-image of ourselves? Human beings need a criterion that will give them a worldview that acknowledges both the real contingencies of their existence and the objective grace that pervades that existence.

The Church finds her criterion of truth in revelation, which means that there is a source of knowledge outside human consciousness. For anyone with commitments to postmodern humanism, this is anathema. To claim that knowledge could come from any source apart from human creativity is to contradict flatly the postmodern mentality. But the Church's acknowledgment of divine revelation makes just that claim. The belief in divine revelation serves as a warning against our self-congratulatory intellectual subjectivity. The idea that the "Word of God" is disturbingly and freely present within the world of contingent history makes our privatization of religion in modern Western culture a rather absurd attempt at domesticating the giant. What disturbs many postmodernists about revelation is not its divine nature, but its historical presence. If revelation were confined to the heaven of pure spirit, all would be well. But the Church insists that revelation is, by its nature, historical. It participates in the radical contingency which is part of human experience. It is not a purely formal and limitless category, nor is it conveniently obscured by the mysteriousness of its absoluteness. Revelation is incarnational, sharing in both the contingency of our history and absoluteness of divinity. In order to verify her thought, the Church does hot look up to absolute mystery; rather, she looks out to history, to "deeds and words." As the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation states, "This economy of revelation is realized by deeds and words, which are intrinsically bound up with each other." This Vatican II document goes on to state that the deeds of God in history reveal the doctrine in the words. But also, the words "bring to light the mystery they [the deeds] contain." Note the restricted use of mystery here. The locus of mystery is history, not, as in Rahner, the limitless mysterium absolutum.

If the Church wants to validate or clarify her theology, she cannot do so by piercing through the appearance of revelation toward some formless mystery. She must patiently pay attention to the events of history and the words of Scripture and Tradition in order to relate her experience to her inherited concepts. In the ongoing work of the mutual interpretation of deeds and words, the Church faces the mystery of God. This mystery, however, is not her criterion of truth, but the inspiration to continue her journey. To use a nautical metaphor, mystery fills the sails of the Church, but something else must serve as her compass. If we follow Rahner's use of mystery as a criterion of theological truth, we will be forcing the experiential and affective nature of our lives to play a conceptual role -- forcing our feelings to function as concepts. But even more confusing, if we appeal to absolute mystery as our theological criterion, we will be deliberately looking away from the place we are most likely to discover our proper criterion, revelatory history. Our compass cannot be found in the ahistorical realm of mystery, but in the contingency of existence into which God has chosen to enter. The incarnation of Christ proclaims that God has entered history and infused it with meaning. The Church is, then, well advised not to look away from this history, but to find the light of her guidance embedded within it. The Church finds this light in the reality of divine revelation. In revelation the Church sees the integration of historical contingency and conceptuality.

In revelation, we find the integration of experiential and conceptual knowledge, the two modes of human knowledge which Western philosophy has been trying to integrate since Plato. Modeled by this reality of revelation, the Church defines truth as both contingent and conceptual. Our understanding of truth is modeled after our understanding of revelation. The incarnation of Christ historicized God and impregnated our history with revelation. We must, therefore, look to this revelatory history if we are to find the recognizable face of holy mystery. We will find our criterion there, as Jesus did. But what kind of criterion may we hope to find?

First, it will not be a single criterion, but a multifaceted one. Second, our criterion will most likely not be apprehended in an instantaneous intuition. Rather, it will emerge as we patiently interpret event with word and word with event. It will be a criterion for pilgrims. But what we lack in singularity we will gain in well-roundedness. And what we lack in immediacy, we will gain in detailed familiarity.

Let us call our criterion the criterion of contingency, and let's replace Rahner's analogy of mystery with an analogy of history. Knowledge of God is made possible not by a continuity of mystery, but by the continuity of history that the incarnating God initiated between Himself and, His creation. Man can know God because both participate in history. But what are the specifics of our criterion? How can we use it, say, to validate a theological statement? Here are some guidelines.

(1) Does our theological statement adequately integrate the experience and the knowledge of the Church? If it is true that revelation is both historical (experiential) and conceptual (thought-like), then our theology ought to reflect this partnership and integrate the experience of grace and the conceptualization of grace. In brief, does our theology help to wed our experience with our doctrine, or divorce them? (It is not accidental that Rahner's experientialism has been deployed by certain Catholic leaders at the parish level to downplay or jettison Catholic doctrine.)

(2) Does our theological statement illuminate the revelatory truth found in the particularities of history? If history without revelation is dark, surely revelation without history is too bright for us to see.

(3) Does our theological statement encourage the growth of the Church's knowledge? By its nature, revelation allows history and word to interpret each other, thus providing for the possibility of understanding. Our theological statements, by reflecting this interaction, should themselves promote the growth of our understanding of that revelation. Theology is not merely the repetition of historical dogma, but the growing understanding of dogma through history.

Rahner's criterion of mystery lacks the specificity of history, and that is why it is not a usable criterion. Rahner consistently points us beyond history toward absolute mystery. In so doing, he doesn't even give us a meaningful criterion of mystery -- he just gives us obscurity.


The foregoing review article by Charles James, Karl Rahner's Baneful Impact on Theology," was originally published in the New Oxford Review (September 1995), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.

[Hat tip to JM]


Monday, September 15, 2014

"Special Report: Catholic Establishment Media"

[Rules 7-9]

Seventh Anniversary of Summórum Pontíficum

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (September 14, 2014):
Today is the seventh anniversary of the effective date of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Summórum Pontíficum, which freed any priest to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass without requiring his bishop’s permission. The surge in availability of the Tridentine Mass following this legislation is testimony to the need that it fulfilled.

Summórum has also had a cascading effect on surrounding issues, such as the resurgence of interest in Gregorian Chant, chanting the Propers of the Mass in the Ordinary Form, quality of sacred vestments, and the architecture of new and renovated churches.

Kindly include our retired Holy Father in your prayers. He remains supportive of the Extraordinary Form, as evidenced by his recent visit with leaders of Juventútem and the annual October Summórum Pontíficum Pilgrimage to Rome.

Liturgical Conference in Chicago

St. John Cantius Church in Chicago will be hosting a three day conference on the Sacred Liturgy Friday-Sunday, October 3-5, with an emphasis on the Extraordinary Form. Details and registration information are available at:

USCCB Revises Its Position on Kneeling for Holy Communion

An interesting discovery was made this week by Corpus Christi Watershed’s Jeff Ostrowski. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops quietly revised its earlier policy which stated that standing was the normative posture for reception of Holy Communion in the United States, and that members of the faithful who preferred to kneel were to be “catechized” about the norms. Since those words were published in 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship has responded to numerous queries about this norm, always supporting the right of the faithful to receive the Sacrament in the traditional posture of kneeling. The USCCB ultimately changed its norm, as explained in the January, 2012 USCCB Newsletter of the Committee on Divine Worship: “In the current edition [of the General Instruction for the Roman Missal], the exhortation to catechesis is removed and the exception to the norm of standing is left to the discretion of the faithful: ‘unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.’”

Many parishes in North America are adding Communion Rails and/or restoring the practice of kneeling to receive Holy Communion. Locally, Mother of Divine Mercy Parish will now be distributing at the rail at all Masses, Ordinary and Extraordinary Form, at all three of its churches, St. Josaphat, St. Joseph, and Sweetest Heart of Mary. Other parishes already so doing include Old St. Mary’s, Holy Family, and Assumption Grotto in Detroit, Ss. Cyril & Methodius in Sterling Heights, and St. Edward on the Lake in Lakeport.

Weekday Tridentine Masses to Remain at St. Joseph

The Facebook page for St. Joseph Church reports that while Sunday Tridentine Masses have returned to St. Josaphat Church, Monday and First Friday Tridentine Masses will remain at St. Joseph Church.

Cáveat emptor: The September 7 Mother of Divine Mercy Parish Bulletin reports that Monday Masses are also moving to St. Josaphat, though nothing has yet been said about First Fridays. We believe the Facebook information is correct, however.

Ss. Cyril & Methodius Tridentine Masses to End

Ss. Cyril & Methodius Church in Sterling Heights will be ending their weekly Saturday 6:00 PM Tridentine Mass at some point in October. Celebrant availability challenges are the reason.

Finding celebrants for our local Extraordinary Form Masses is the single biggest challenge we face. The priest shortage makes it difficult for even those priests who want to help us to find time to do so. All the more reason for all of us to pray and work for vocations to the sacred priesthood.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 09/15 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
  • Tue. 09/16 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (Ss. Cornelius, Pope & Cyprian, Martyrs)
  • Sat. 09/20 8:00 AM: Low Mass at Our Lady of the Scapular, Wyandotte (St. Eustache & Companions, Martyrs)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for September 14, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tridentine Masses coming this week to the metro Detroit and southeastern Michigan area

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Monday, September 08, 2014

The parade, the cardinal, and the frolicking sodomites

I heard a lengthy (and lively) discussion of this on Al Kresta on Catholic radio recently on the way home from work. It seems to have touched a nerve. While most people have seemed willing to give the cardinal a pass for many of his earlier dubious remarks, this decision seems to have marked a tipping point. Whether it will trigger a Catholic uprising remains to be seen, but Michael Voris' indignation and outrage come pretty close. [Advisory: Rules 7-9]

Update: Bill Donnohue, "More Gay Groups Apply to March"(Catholic League, September 9, 2014).

"Not persecution"? InterVarsity "derecognized" as student organization on Cal State campuses

Ed Stetzer, "InterVarsity "Derecognized" at California State University's 23 Campuses: Some Analysis and Reflections" (Christianity Today, September 6, 2014):
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) has been, in modern campus terminology, “derecognized” by California State University schools. Basically, they will no longer be a recognized campus organization on any of the 23 schools in that system. IVCF has been derecognized because they require their leaders to have Christian beliefs.

It's not just InterVarsity that will be impacted. Following the same logic, any group that insists on requiring its leaders to follow an agreed upon set of guiding beliefs is no longer kosher (irony intended) at California's state universities. This will impact many other faith-based organizations with actual, well, faith-based beliefs. Presumably, even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have to allow Oscar Meyer to lead their campus chapters.

Only in a modern American university would this make any sense.

Now, it’s not persecution. Christians are not banned. People can share their faith. But, now, what we once called “equal access” has taken another hit—people of faith do not have equal access to the university community, like the environmentalist club, the LGBT organization, or the chess club.
Read the details here >>

In Defense of Christians: Six patriarchs of Middle East gather in DC

September 8, 2014, Monday — Six Patriarchs
Six of the patriarchs of the Christian Churches of the Middle East will be, for the first time ever, gathered together in the United States for the next three days. They will be meeting in Washington D.C. starting tomorrow.
This is important because the presence of the Christian community in the entire Middle East is now threatened, with hundreds of thousands fleeing the region, and thousands killed by the radical Islamic fighters of "ISIS" ("The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria").
Washington Summit to Call Attention to Plight of Christians in the Middle East
Historic Gathering Will Feature Patriarchs from Middle East, Lawmakers and International Human Rights Activists
Washington – The deteriorating situation facing millions of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East will be the focus of a bipartisan and ecumenical conference in the nation's capital.
The three-day event sponsored by In Defense of Christians (IDC) will feature speakers from all over the globe.
The IDC Summit for Middle East Christians, whose theme is “Protecting and Preserving Christianity, Where It All Began”, will be the first occasion in history where six Christian Patriarchs from the Middle East will gather together in the United States.
IDC President Toufic Baaklini said, “For too long, Westerners have stood by, silent or unaware, while Christians and other groups in the Middle East have endured discrimination, persecution, and religious cleansing. Today, as the Islamic State continues its genocidal campaign against Christians in Iraq and Syria, the globe is finally awakening to their plight. IDC exists to give voice to these voiceless people. In this hour of their greatest peril, they are in desperate need of support. We must act now.”
Baaklini stated: “To this end, IDC is hosting a historic global Summit for Middle East Christians, September 9-11, in Washington, D.C.
This summit will empower the Middle Eastern Christian Diaspora and energize the American people to stand in solidarity the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East. Their survival is vital to stability in the region, and their ability to flourish in their countries of origin has national security implications for the United States.”
Summit attendees will have the opportunity to meet with Members of Congress and their staff, policy makers, diplomats, human rights activists, and religious leaders. Speakers include:
* Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Rai;
* Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II;
* Archbishop of Washington Donald Cardinal Wuerl;
* Leonardo Cardinal Sandri of the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for
Oriental Churches;
* Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX);
* Senator Debbie Stabenow (R-MI);
* Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA);
* Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL);
* Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL);
* Dr. James Zogby; and
* Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

In Defense of Christians (IDC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to the preservation and protection of Christians in the Middle East.

2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 325, Washington, D.C. 20006
CONTACT: Joseph Cella

[Hat tip to S.F.] 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Zmirak's "myth" of Catholic social teaching

Some readers may remember earlier discussions of Zmirak, such as "Integralism vs Liberty ('the god that failed')" (Musings, February 12, 2014), which referenced his piece on "Illiberal Catholicism" (Aleteia, December 31. 2013).

Whether you agree with him or not (I don't), Zmirak's articles are often "arresting," as one of my readers put it; and in relation to this piece, he added: "Of course, you do wonder where one line stops and another starts. Witness capital punishment, inerrancy, missions...."

John Zmirak, "The Myth of Catholic Social Teaching" (The Catholic Thing, August 30, 2014) [Advisory: Rules 7-9]:
Self-styled Catholic critics of the free market and “Americanism” have adopted the term “social Magisterium” to suggest that there is a coherent and morally binding body of papal teaching on politics and economics, from which we can derive specific policy initiatives and firmly condemn alternatives as “un-Catholic” or even (that dreaded word) “dissenting.”

Hence defenders of market economics, or opponents of mass immigration, can be tarred with the same brush as those who favor women’s ordination or homosexuality. Indeed, if we accept the premise of a “social magisterium,” we are led to believe that we can actually build up a detailed Catholic political economy that is a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, which bravely “cuts across” the lines dividing Left and Right, and between America’s political parties.

We can start, of course, with Belloc and Chesterton, who laid the groundwork for an officially Catholic system of economics, distributism. We can move forward bravely by reading the fruits of bishops’ conferences and statements by the Vatican’s various social justice officers. As we proceed, compiling divinely approved answers to each burning current question, we can fill in the empty spaces of politics and economics, then present it to a rudderless world like a completed crossword puzzle.

I won’t spend time here talking about the practical effects of such talk in Catholic circles. My hope is that it has none – that patriotic, prolife Catholics simply ignore the posturing that fills the blogosphere, the tortured statements that emerge from bishops’ conferences, the rants of leftist, anti-Semitic cardinals, and the questionably translated fruits of interviews with the pope.

I hope this not simply because I want people to vote against the persecutors of the Church, to whom the rise of illiberal Catholicism gives active aid and comfort, but for a much more important reason: the explosion of irrational and false political statements that carry some vague imprimatur of Church authority will undermine people’s faith: “If I have to believe that nonsense to really be Catholic….”

But there are smart, sincere people out there who struggle seriously with the idea that the papacy is a 2,000-year-old Delphic oracle, that a “spirit-led Magisterium” inspires and guards from error the statements of popes about economics and politics. Even if such statements are not infallible, we are obliged to grant them a docile “religious submission,” as we are to other non- ex cathedra assertions of Catholic teaching. Or so people say.

... But is it true? Is there a “spirit-led” “social Magisterium” that works by accretion over the centuries, gradually building up a coherent, defensible program of economics and politics, which can be drawn by simply reading what popes have said and fitting those statements together like Lego blocks, to construct a Catholic city? Is that what Jesus intended to give us when He founded the papacy?

If we really believe that, and expect every Catholic to form his views accordingly, then we should be able to survey papal statements over the centuries on economics and politics, and find in them the same exquisite consistency we see in papal teachings about the natures of Jesus Christ and the sacraments – the slow, organic unfolding of that divine revelation which ended with the death of St. John the Apostle.

If we found that this was not true, that papal social teaching did not exhibit the same crystalline integrity, we might be tempted to leave the Church – or else to descend into cognitive dissonance, in bad faith blocking out or distorting the inconvenient facts of history, to cling to a “faith” that has morphed into a modern-style ideology. I am not sure which of those two temptations would be more deadly, to abandon faith or to corrupt it.

But those are not the only choices. A third way is to see Catholic social teaching not as analogous to Eucharistic doctrine and Marian dogmas, but as something much more akin to the Catholic literary tradition – a treasure trove of often-brilliant insights and deep investigations into the best ways for men to live which claims our respectful attention.

... I will not catalog every assertion by any pope that makes modern Catholics cringe. Some quite liberal Catholics did compile a book like that: Rome Has Spoken. Its authors intended to minimize papal authority to a vanishing point, to remove it from faith and morals as well. Their case is overstated. But the statements they collected on politics and economics ought to give pause to anyone who asserts that Jesus meant to make the popes political and economic oracles. In attempting to discern God’s will from the evidence of history, these cases demand our candid reflection, not tortured, last-ditch defenses of preconceived ideas.

Here is a short (and non-exhaustive) list of issues on which, over the course of time, papal positions have made what can only be honestly called a 180-degree reversal. Entire scholarly books have been written to explain how and why – and sometimes to suggest that “development of doctrine” can be stretched to accommodate such reversals.

I do not have space here to argue why such rationalizations are unconvincing. Suffice it to say that the plain meaning of “development” suggests something organic, not a Hegelian dialectical leap from “A” to “the opposite of A,” not even one that happens gradually over centuries. When a tadpole turns into a Steinway grand piano, that’s not an organic development.
Zmirak procedes to itemize "reversals" of papal positions on lending at interest, slavery, religious liberty, and torture, and concludes by stating that our Lord "never meant to leave behind an oracle. When we invent one for our convenience, we are forging a golden calf."

Of course, in his own case, all of this just happens to be jolly convenient.

[Hat tip to JM]

The quotable Fr. Rutler

Whether you agree or not, you're likely as I to find this an amusing provocation: Fr. George W. Rutler, "Benedict XVI: Pope as Prophet" (Crisis, August 25, 2014):
Should the God of Love call Benedict first to his heavenly home where humility’s only advertisement is the peace which passes all understanding, may Francis or another successor of Peter, declare Benedict a Doctor of the Church. Of one thing we may be certain: like the bold prophet Jeremiah, the benign prophet Benedict will never say in this world or from the next, “I told you so.” Reality has said that already by events more than words.
[Hat tip to JM]

"Cheesy rad-trad pulp horror fiction"

The courier arrived in a tux with a wax-sealed letter on a silver tray, his black limo running outside. Beside the letter was a poured glass of Laphroaig 18 year single malt. Neat. How he knew my palate I couldn't tell you. But the letter was from Guy Noir - Private Eye, my underground correspondent I keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets.

From the letter's contents, I inferred that he must have been drinking when he wrote it. If he wasn't, he should have. Scrawled across the top of the page in black ink clearly written with a quill were the words "Windswept House." Then the letter itself, in his flowing and florid hand:
I hate to be glum. And I would love for someone -- anyone? -- to weigh in with a convincing counter to this piece that delivers propositional punch and visceral evisceration. Yes, it is reactionary. Those Rad Trads at Christian Order, I know.... It makes Malachi Martin’s novel scenarios seem like cheesy pulp horror films from our high schools days, doesn’t it? And yet, it all seems as believable as not. Salt Lake City has its own seagull monument, but I don't think it really fits with something like this:

“In late January 2013 a dove of peace released by Benedict was viciously attacked and taken out by a seagull. Weeks later and more ominously, within hours of the papal resignation two huge lightning bolts struck the dome of St Peter's. The following January, two white doves of peace were chased and hacked within an inch of their lives by a big black crow and a seagull after their release by Francis, as a huge Angelus crowd looked on in horror. And once again the minor portent was soon magnified, when a 21-year-old man was crushed to death after a massive iron cross erected in 2005 in honour of John Paul II collapsed, just a week before that problematic pontiff's canonisation.”

Read on:
So. Anyone like to provide something snappy and upbeat to help our poor, depressed correspondent? Is this a job for ... Superman? Mark Shea? David Armstrong? Anything better than a sparkling sing-along with Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"? or Bobby McFerrin's "Don't worry, Be Happy"?

Egoism: Me, myself, and I

"Follow your passion. It will lead you to your purpose."

-- Oprah Winfrey

"Follow your constellation and you cannot fail to reach your port of glory."

--Brunetto Latini (in the Seventh Circle of Hell)