Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Lack of Religious Liberty in the Middle East

Sister Hatune Dogan is a Universal Syrian Orthodox nun who does field work through "A Helping Hand to the Poor" dedicated to aid persecuted Christians, especially in Syria and Iraq.  

Sister Dogan has been outspoken not only in calling out Muslims for their religious intolerance but also for Western complicity in not helping persecuted Christians.  Sister Dogan's perspective from living in Syria noted that 95% of what was reported in the West about the Free Syrian Army (from which ISIS sprang) was wrong.  

At the Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit in September, Sister Hatune decried the mainstream media's blindness to the slaughter, raping, ransoming, crucifying and killing of Christians in the Middle East. 

Among the "thousands of stories" of Christian persecution, Sister Hatune recounted:

“I met an Iraqi girl, five-and-a-half-years maybe, and they kidnapped her. I met her at seven-and-a-half-years. Until today, she [will not] say, no one knows, what happened to her, because she was misused. They [were] paid $30,000 dollars to release her. They released her, but under that condition. I am sorry for her. That was the youngest girl that I met. She was misused.”
Paying a ransom is no guarantee of being freed from a hell on Earth. A 21 year old Jordanian woman was abducted and repeatedly raped her.  When these savages were not satisfied the ransom money, they cut her face in different ways.  Sister Hatune saw with her own eyes 280 girls who were kidnapped and misused by Muslim men and then had their breasts and "other sensitive areas" cut. Sadly, these stories of horrific brutality were ignored in the American Mainstream Media  to instead focus on the Ray Rice NFL reinstatement saga

Moreover, Sister Hatune inveighed against the open immigration policies in Sweden favored Muslims rather than the persecuted Christians from the Middle East. 

As we reflect upon the year that has past and make new year's resolutions, we ought to contemplate the lack of religious liberty and our collective lack of reaction to such deplorable deprivations in the Middle East and to a lesser extent at home in the West. 

h/t: Media Research Center 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Obama:"I am Jewish, in my soul"

On the third day of Hanukkah for year 5775 (according to the Jewish calendar), President Barack Obama hosted Jewish leaders to celebrate the festival of lights.  

After the President made his Hanukkah remarks and there was prayer and the ceremonial lighting of the menorah, it was time for the President to glad hand the greeting line.  A gentleman with a booming voice proclaimed: "Mr. President, when I told my Christian friend that I was coming to a Hanukkah party at the White House, he told me: 'I didn't know that the President was Jewish!'".

After Mr. Obama had a good belly laugh, he said as he was walking away: "I am [Jewish], in my soul."  This sotto voce utterance impressed Jewish Journal writer  David  Suissa.  This does jibe with a New York Magazine proclamation in 2011 that Mr. Obama was America's first Jewish President.  

But to my goy ears, the quip sounded like pandering pleasantries which mean about as much as "If you like your health care plan then you can keep it."  However, there are some similarities.  Mr. Obama had  a secular and politically progressive secular upbringing which showed Marxist sympathies.  That definitely parallels sensibilities on Manhattan's Upper West Side.  

So maybe he is what he says, but a self hating one who harbors little affinity towards the state of Israel.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sydney Siege Terrorist Advised Obama on Apostasy

The perpetrator of the Sydney Siege, Man Haron Monis (ne Mohammad-Hassan Manteghi Borujerdi and a.k.a. Ayatollah Manteghi Boroujerdi) has been portrayed as damaged and unstable individual who was facing a raft of criminal charges.  Alas, this is only part of the picture. The 50 year old self self styled imam and spiritual healer had immigrated to Australia from Iran claiming political asylum in 1996. Moreover, Monis had  converted from  Shia to Sunni Islam and pledged himself to the ISIS cause.

What ought to be interesting to Americans is Monis' correspondent to 2008 Presidential candidate then Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). In the missive, Monis urged "Brother Barack Obama" that:

"Shariah law doesn’t allow you to do so, your reason for hiding your religion Islamically is not a legitimate reason. You must rely on Allah (SWT) and avoid the satanic style of politics. You will be apostate by denying your religion, I advise you to avoid such a big sin."

Even though candidate Barack Obama has once mistakenly referred to "My Muslim faith" and was quickly corrected by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, this seemed like a slip of the tongue.  News reports have indicated that Mr. Obama was baptized in 1988 at the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ.  There is no reason to question this profession of faith.

The problem is that Islam attributes the faith of one's father to the scion.  Barack Huissan Obama, Sr. may have been a Marxist who did not believe in any spiritual religion but he was born a Muslim.  Thus a radicalized Muslim would be offended by such person being baptized as a Christian and then denying their proscribed faith.

Obviously, Mr. Obama gave little heed to crank letters from Australia during the Presidential general election campaign.  But Islam is not just a faith system, but a holistic philosophy which encompasses faith, law (shariah) as well as polity.  As seen practiced by ISIS, slavery and sexual submission is permissible under shariah law.

Radicalized Muslims, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda do not appreciate freedom of religion or politically correct secular pluralism which tolerates the so called freedom of worship outside of the public square. This was quite evident in Mosul, where "Narzarines" were expropriated and evicted from a place where they had lived (Ninevah) for two millenia.  Then the extermination of the Yazidis in Iraq.   Islamic activists even agitate over saying  "Merry Christmas" as a friendly season's greetings.

As radicalized salafists who seek to bolster a Caliphate call for lone wolf attacks in the West, it is important to understand what enflames such a psyche.  While occidental sociology tends to encourage tolerance and free will, these norms are abhorrent to many members of the so-called religion of peace (even though Islam actually means submission).

During Christmastide, westerners usually revel for peace and Earth and good will towards men.  It is key to remember that these noble sentiments may not be reciprocated by faith filled radicals.

Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari on Saying "Merry Christmas"

It would seem that this Muslim Imam is immune to sharing glad tidings during this holiday season from infidels and people of the book who do not profess faith as he does.

It seems dubious that even a politically correct holiday greeting would suffice.  Should American society accommodate seemingly lone voices of perpetual offense, especially in sharing a Christmastide greeting?

survey tool

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christian Bale on Exodus

Prior to the December 12th opening of Exodus: Gods and Kings has generated controversy for not casting enough blacks as Egyptians in director Ridley Scott's biblical action/adventure film.

However lead actor Christian Bale's take on Moses may make the Exodus movie into another box office bomb of biblical proportions, like director Darren Aronofsky's Noah (2014).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ben Watson on the Rioting in Ferguson

After playing  in a Monday Night Football game at the Superdome, New Orleans Saints' Tight End Ben Watson wrote an reflection about the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri after the Grand Jury handed down the decision on the Michael Brown shooting. 

While Ben Watson was angry at stories of injustice and fearful that stereotypes could unjustly frame law abiding citizens like himself as a threat, he was embarrassed by the looting and law breaking which characterized the demonstrations after the verdict was handed down.

What was remarkable was Watson's hopefulness in seeing how race relations were improving as well as his encouraging expressions of faith that the Gopsel gives mankind hope over sin.  

G.K. Chesterton on Gratitude

G.K. Chesterton on Gratitude

Monday, November 24, 2014

Rick Warren on Marriage

Rick Warren on Marriage

Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, was a participant in the interfaith Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman   (also known as the Humanum Colloquium) at the Vatican. 

Pastor Warren eschewed giving his prepared remarks as he found that he was reiterating points made by 27 prior speakers.  Instead, Pastor Warren gave a practicum observation on marriage.

The presentations made at the Humanum Colloquium mirror the traditional positions espoused by the majority of participants at the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family, despite the misleading midterm relatio report.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Ordinations

Cardinal Sean O'Malley on Ordination

During an interview with CBS News, Archbishop of Boston Sean Cardinal O'Malley offered an interesting opinion on ordinations.    

Much of the interview centered around Cardinal O'Malley's work in reforming clerical child abuse. But when the interviewer Nora O'Donnell pressed Cardinal Sean on whether it was immoral for the Catholic hierarchy to exclude women, O'Malley opined: “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral. It’s a matter of vocation and what God has given to us.”

Overall, the focus of the piece was to paint the bad old Catholic hierarchy as "The Holy See of Misogyny", which subjugates women to second class status, abuses children because of the discipline of clerical celibacy and denies womens' "right to choose" (from contraception to abortion).

In a short interview meant for a general audience, Cardinal Sean did not have the ability to put into soundbites all of the elements of Pope St. John Paul II's Ordinatio Sacerdotales (1994), which declares that there is no scriptural support for priestesses as well as underlining the Magisterium about the Church's teaching authority.

Perhaps Cardinal Sean's vellity about "if I were starting a church" is part of a New Evangelization outreach, but this did not seem like a positive reintroduction of doctrine to the unchurched. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ecumenism Has Gone Awry at DC's National Cathedral

Despite Reverend Franklin Graham's disappointment which he shared on Twitter about the Muslim led prayer service at Washington National Cathedral, this is not the first time that the sixth largest Cathedral church in the world  has ecumenically opened its doors to non-Christian worship.

In January 2014, the Washington National Cathedral hosted "Seeing Deeper" which welcomed worshipers of different faith to bring  prayer mats, yoga mats, zafu meditation cushions and mandalas to touch the divine.  So having a Muslim led prayer service is not surprising.  

Regarding the recent Muslim Prayer Service, the Dean of National Cathedral Gary Hall was unaware or did not care that the Muslim prayer service at Washington National Cathedral was held on the centennial of the last Caliph declaring a holy war on all non-believers. When Breitbart News journalists informed the rector, Rev. Hall equivocated:  "[I]t actually seems to be more appropriate to have an event that is on an anniversary of a hard time… There have been atrocities on both sides. There have been extremists on both sides.”  After pointing out that Menachem Begin and many founders of the state of Israel were "terrorists",  the Episcopal minister mused: “Everyone’s hands are dirty at some point… There’s no one in the world who has absolutely clean hands."

Muslim led Friday Prayers at Washington National Cathedral Nov. 14, 2014 [photo source: AFP]

The prayer carpets for the around two hundred Muslim faithful gathered for the Jumu'ah (Muslim Prayer Service) were laid diagonally in the transept on the side of the sanctuary to face Mecca without seeing any Christian icons, as Islam forbids prayer in view of sacred symbols which are alien to their faith. 

Before the prayers started, a lone protester proclaimed: "Jesus died on that Cross for us.  Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior." before being whisked out of the supposedly Christian church.

It seems that forthrightly proclaiming the faith in the House of God which a Cathedral church represents is unwelcomed at Washington National Cathedral.  It runs counter to what Rev. Canon Gina Campbell, the Cathedral's liturgical director, espoused in publicizing the event:  “This needs to be a world in which all are free to believe and practice and in which we avoid bigotry, Islamaphobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Christianity and to embrace our humanity and to embrace faith.”

The Right Reverend Gary Hall has interesting ideas about ecumenism.  Hall does not believe in talking about God with members of different faith as that only leads to arguments.  Instead Hall believes that "Let's all pray together and experience the divine together in our own way."  It ignores the great commission of MT: 28:16-20 but why be pushy about divine matters for the National House of Prayer?   

Washington National Cathedral was founded on a charter from Congress but it is an Episcopal Cathedral.  While it is wonderful to reach out to people of faith to find commonalities, it seems pusillanimous to not represent the faith at the seat of the Archbishop, who should be shepherding the flock.  Moreover, treating Washington National Cathedral like an International House of Prayer seems like it is making it a big venue religious entertainment.  Then again the Very Reverend Gary Hall wished about to roller skate or throw paper airplanes down the temporarily empty nave of Washington National Cathedral

Ecumenism is illuminating and foster tolerance and perhaps peace in the proper context. This is often accomplished through interfaith prayer services, which may concentrate on the spiritual things which unite various confessions.  However, a renunciation of truth by not sharing the Good News when worshiping in a Cathedral church is indeed troubling. This leads to what Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI labeled a renunciation of truth that is lethal to faith.  When eternal symbols become inter-changible, we may find ourselves singing: "Have a RamahanuKwanzMas" soon. 

Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI on Ecumenism

Pope Benedict XVI on Ecumenism

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gary Sinise on Sacrifice

Along with his acting career, Gary Sinise has been a big booster of military and veterans' causes.  Sinise combined his love of music with a beloved character from the film "Forest Gump" (1994) .  The Lt. Dan Band plays cover music concerts for the USO and charities like Operation Iraqi Child under the banner: "Honor. Gratitude. Rock & Roll".

Friday, November 7, 2014

Costing Out Annulment Analogies

One of the hot button issues during the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014 was how the Catholic Church dealt with the sad cases of civilly divorced Catholics who wish to remarry and receive the sacraments.  Cardinal Walter Kasper, a theologian whom Pope Francis complimented early in his papacy, has long sought to remedy the stark consequences of this broken marital situation.

 In the midterm relatio, paragraphs 53 and 55 sought to "study" the situation of divorced and remarried persons or those living together as well as to find a pastoral provision with a penitential process (established by a bishop) for receiving the sacrament.  Such interventions in the relatio were not well received.  Thus they were opposed by the likes of Cardinal George Pell, pointing to scripture, such as in Matthew 5:32, which makes dissolution of the marital covenant difficult, except in limited circumstances.

As the Synod Fathers voted on the final report for the 2014 Synod, conciliatory language dealing with the treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics narrowly failed to pass.  But in the run up to the month-long Synod on the Family in October, 2015, the faithful are  ruminating over the issues which challenge family life.

Pope Francis gave an audience in the Vatican in which he bemoaned the high costs and long adjudication of some marriage tribunals.

Pope Francis recalled an unspecified instance when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in which a member of the marriage tribunal had to be expelled because the corrupt church official offered to take at $10,000 bribe to make sure that everything ran smoothly.  Although that anecdote may be authentic, is sounds suspiciously similar to sales pitches to pass Obamacare so that doctors do not make more money for unnecessary surgeries.

In North America, cost is not the issue in discouraging annulments.  Per the Archdiocese of Baltimore, costs for annulments to petitioners run between $100 to $500 (and that is only half of the actual costs).  If Rome Reports is accurate, the adjudicator may be entitled to $1,000.  However, the Baltimore Archdiocese stresses that no one is turned away for their inability to pay.  Here it does not seem like cost is a factor.

There may be some frustration with the faithful about the time to adjudicate. There is the persistent perception that it takes three to five years to gain a declaration of nullity (annulment), when it can depending upon the case take as little as eight months.

 A friend who was civilly divorced against his volition has chosen not to get an annulment because of not dating and being to busy being a parent.  When we spoke of the hot button issues at the Synod of the Family, he wondered why it takes so long for the Church to reach an answer on the validity of marriage.  This echoes the Holy Father.  However, his construct for regaining access to the sacrament was concerning.

He perceives Penance as being a case where a penitent acts as the defendant and prosecutor looking for adjudication from the priest acting in the stead of the Divine Judge.  Therefore, a simplified penitential process for divorced and remarried Catholics could be something similar to "Je me accuse". One confesses one's sins and then is given absolution.

For me, calling the Sacrament of Reconciliation "Penance" is the wrong way to look at that sacrament. Scripture tries to explain the Divine with different metaphors.  If a person gets stuck on the Judge and Trial schema, it is easy to think of the Lord sitting on His throne being a Divine Scorekeeper and we pay for our sins.  A better way to understand Reconciliation may be through the lens of the "Prodigal Father", who runs to greet his prodigal son who approaches with humility and seeks to restore relationship.

That being said, if one uses a penitential perspective towards remarried Catholics, of what are they accusing themselves.  The dissolution of the marriage is not the reason for excommunication, the subsequent conjugal marriage is.  So what would they be confessing?  Thinking of a spouse who was divorced against his or her will, how did they do wrong?   As for the latter intimate relationship, how can a penitent vow to sin no more if the prior marriage was sacramental in nature?

Canon law is concerned about five elements of a sacramental marriage:

  • The spouses were free to marry; 
  • they freely exchanged their consent; 
  •  they intended to marry for life, be faithful and be open to children; 
  •  they intended “good of each other"
  •  and their consent was given in the presence of witnesses before an authorized church official.
The current process may take time to discern intentions.  If the process is streamlined and rushed, will this devalue the scriptural exhortation on the covenant of marriage which is presumed to be indissoluble?

As Catholics discern the challenges of the family in modern life, we ought not to discount essential doctrine on the sacramental nature of marriage to satisfy secular trends. 

For close to a century, Anglicans have been wrestling with the wrath of modernism.  Many see 1930 the Council of Lambeth opening up a door to dissent and doctrinal indifference.  During the Council of Lambeth, Resolution 15 passed, which was a narrow exception to allow contraception for married couples.  That seems to have established a precedent for accommodating the ways of the world, despite what scripture, tradition and Anglican's understanding of a Magisterium.  So much so, Anglo-Catholics have been willing to swim the Tiber to keep the faith, encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI's moto propio Anglicanorum Coetibus, which established a Personal Ordinariate for Anglicans within the Catholic Church.

May our impetus to better convey the new Evangelization continue to preach the Good News of the Gospel.

h/t: RomeReports

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Progressive Prelate Advances an Aura of "Avanti"

Cardinal Reinhard Marx is a progressive prelate who was an outspoken advocate for change at the Synod of the Family.  German bishops have been motivated to usher in a change for divorced Catholics who have been civilly remarried to have access to the sacraments.  

Synod Fathers were visibly upset at the midterm relatio, which highlighted hot-button issues like homosexuality and remarried Catholics but did not seem to reflect Catholic doctrine or the overall discussions.  

To remedy this anomaly, Pope Francis consented to having the Synod vote on each paragraph and publish the results.  In an interview with Die Zeit, Cardinal Marx insisted that including these pieces opened the door and should not be seen as a setback, even though they did not receive the required  2/3rds majority.

One wonders if Cardinal Marx's insistence of the inevitability of change is an aura of "avanti".  Granted, Cardinal Marx is on Pope Francis's Council of  Cardinal Advisors to reform the Roman Curia (the Vatican) and he is the President of the German Conference of Catholic Bishops.  German Bishops are certainly motivated to change, as their lavish state stipends depend upon maintaining their faithful flocks and the remarriage issue impedes those efforts  However, there are mixed signals on Pope Francis.

If Pope Francis was going to steamroll change, why did he allow the Synod to vote on each paragraph of the final document?  If the progressive findings were predetermined, then why allow Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith Cardinal Mueller to hold an Interfaith Conference on Men and Women, which will touch upon similar issues as the Synod of the Family?

There are some points of concern to those Catholics holding traditional family values.  People are concerned about Cardinal Raymond Burke's demotion from the Apolostic Signatura to leading the Order of Malta.  The timing for the issuance of the new norms on the resignation of bishops at age 75 or when requested takes on a new poignancy. The modus operandi for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family for media blackout and then promulgate a misleading relatio lends credence to expediting an aura of "Avanti".

It remains to be seen how deliberations on hot button Synod on the Family hot button issues are resolved.  But it seems from afar that those motivated to usher in change are using the Synod of the Media approach, which plays upon secular sentiments to create an aura of inevitability. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Some Residue from Remembering the Gunpowder Plot

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence [or By God's mercy] he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Hulloa boys, Hulloa boys, let the bells ring.
Hulloa boys, hulloa boys, God save the King!

A penny loaf to feed the Pope.
A farthing o' cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we'll say ol' Pope is dead.
Hip hip hoorah!
Hip hip hoorah!
Today is Guy Fawkes day in the UK.  Today it seems treated as just another bank holiday to enjoy carousing and fireworks.  Despite the 400 years that separates them, the Gunpowder Plot is analogous to the Islamists attacks on 9/11/2001.

The Protestant Reformation in England was not simply King Henry VIII making himself the supreme head of the English church in 1534.  After Queen Elizabeth I assumed the English throne after the Catholic Queen Mary, there were a series of Sixteenth Century laws enacted to reinforce Protestant dominion over England.    The Act of Uniformity from 1558 forced subjects to attend Anglican Churches and use the Book of Common Prayer.  Fines for following one's conscience became exorbitant  for most Catholics, it became treasonous to be absolved from schism, Jesuits were banned and priests were executed. 

After the death of the "virgin" Queen and the demise of the Tudor dynasty, King James I was settling into power under the aegis of the Stuart dynasty in a de facto united kingdom of Scotland, England and Wales.  Aggrieved Catholic partisans hoped to restore a Catholic monarchy to England.  Guy Fawkes was a Catholic convert who fought in religious wars on the continent.  When he returned to England, he plotted with others to attempt regicide.  Fawkes and his cohorts leased an undercroft which was directly beneath the House of Lords.  The plan was to blow up Westminster Palace (the Houses of Parliament) with 36 barrels of gunpowder.  Black humorist quip that Fawkes was the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions.

[The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot/ Henry Peronnet Briggs c. 1823]

The plot failed in part because Parliament delayed meeting for several months due to threats of the Plague.  Some of the gunpowder had decayed during the delay.  Concerns about Catholics being in the chambers may have tipped off security.  In the end, an anonymous tip turned Guy Fawkes in on November 5th as he was guarding his stash of explosives.

Fawkes was not cooperative after he had been taken into custody.  In fact, he earned some admiration from James I for his "Roman Resolution".  Fawkes was transferred to the Tower of London where his interrogators were authorized to start easy and proceed to the worst, hence starting with manacles to potentially the rack.  After a few days of torture, Fawkes told all and was forced to sign a confession.

Almost three months later, Fawkes and seven cohorts had a pro-forma trial at the Star Chamber. Fawkes and three others were slated for public execution.  The others were hanged, drawn and quartered. Fawkes begged for forgiveness from the King and the state while still keeping his "crosses and idle ceremonies".  Afterwards,  Fawkes unexpectedly jumped from the gallows which  broke his neck. Nevertheless, Fawkes lifeless body was still quartered and his body parts scattered to the four corners of the Earth.


While several centuries may have dulled the severity of the Gunpowder Plot, this was a vigilante attempt to decapitate the Government by destroying the seat of power.  This is the same plot lines as 9/11 although the Al Qaeda hijackers used airplanes missiles instead of kegs of gunpowder to try and achieve their ends.

 Today, "Guy Fawkes Day" is made light be burning effigies and lighting fireworks. But this was a violent reaction by a persecuted religious minority intent on a paradigm shift. While western nations have become secular and there is a separation of church and state, Islamists intent on building a Caliphate and imposing Sharia law do not make that distinction.


While there are no longer sectarian battles in Christendom,  a strong case can be made that political correctness is zealously being mandated as a state secular religion in America.  In 2010, President Obama had a spate of incidents where he could not read his own teleprompter well enough to utter "One Nation…Under God"  when echoing the Declaration of Independence.  Now the Obama Administration is fighting to prevent FDR's National Prayer on the eve of D-Day be incorporated into the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.  Lest one dismiss this assertive secularism as being merely rhetorical, consider how the implementation of Obamacare is eviscerating the right of conscience clause for Catholic health care workers.

The Gunpowder Incident of 1605 shows the stakes and consequences of imposing state religions.  But even the  most onerous of laws did not shake the faithful.  Some groups like the Puritans left England to follow their conscience in tolerant Dutch territories before becoming Pilgrims to the New World.  Others stayed within the Church of England but their Anglo-Catholic worship retained most of the vestiges and spiritual orientations of traditional "Papists". 


Perhaps the lessons that we should draw from the residue of the Gunpowder Plot is that we ought to cherish our liberties, such as the freedom of religion and the rights of the individual over the tyrannical predilections of the state so that we do not have to wait for a masked avenger to lead us to freedom.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Vatican to Hold Interfaith Follow-up to the 2014 Synod on the Family

Evangelical theologian Russell D. Moore, the President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Liberty Commission, had a cautious reaction to the inclusive language to the much maligned midterm relatio of the 2014 Synod of the Family. 

Reverend Moore will have a chance to more extensively share his views on Church and Family issues at the Vatican during the "Complimentarity of Men and Women" gathering from November 17-19th in Rome. The conference seeks to "examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society."     For his part, Reverend Moore proclaimed: “I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled."

Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, proposed the conference to Pope Francis in November, 2013.  The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is sponsoring it in conjunction with the Pontifical Councils for the Family, Promoting Christian Unity and Inter-Religious Dialogue. 

There will be 30 speakers, which will include luminaries like Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput (who incidentally had sharp words over the Synod of the Family relatio), Evangelical Christian Saddleback megachurch pastor  Rick Warren and Latter Day Saints President Henry B. Eyring et ali.  There will be representatives from a broad spectrum of faith traditions, including Judaisim, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sihkism. 

There have been some inflammatory analyses from the secular press that the 2014 Synod on the Family was stoking the fires for a schism, as progressives pushing an inclusive agenda were alienating traditionally oriented Catholics.  But the topics being discussed during the "Complimentarity of Men and Women" does not support the sub rosa stealth modernist agenda. 

The conference will include presentations such as "The Sacramentality of Human Love According to [Pope] St. John Paul II"  and "The Cradle of Life and Love" A Mother and Father for the World's Children".  These are topics that are near and dear to those to adhere to traditional Catholic faith tenants.  Furthermore, when Pope Francis addressed the international Marian movement Schönstatt, he decried new forms of unions.  The Holy Father considers unions like co-habitation to be “totally destructive and limiting the greatness of the love of marriage.".  This does not sound like a foundation for ditching doctrine but to find better ways to walk with the wounded faithful.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Justifying a Celebration of Reformation Day?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther wrote the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdelberg Albrecht to object to the sale of indulgences. Luther wrote "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (which later became known as the 95 theses) and posted them on door of the Schlosskirche  in Wittenberg, (also known as the Church of All Saints). This defiant act by the Augustinian monk lead to the Protestant Revolution.

 Luther's major theological insight from the 95 Theses is Justification by Faith (sola fides), which undercuts indulgences.  

Contemporary Protestants have suggested celebrating Reformation Day as an alternative to Halloween. Wags waxed about Reformation Day that theology nerds need a holiday too.  But it seems dubious if kids will dress in brown robes and try to nail papers to many doors.

Two points of history underlie the Reformation protest.  The issuing of indulgences were fueled by the existence of the secular Papal States.  Indulgences were sold to support the Holy See.  Since the Holy See lost the Papal States in 1871 (and came to terms with the loss of secular power as embodied in the 1927 Treaty of Lateran) the Vatican can concentrate on pastoring the faithful.

 A marker in intellectual history is why the Protestant Reformation was spread so successfully.  The circulation of Luther's ideas in the 95 Theses was greatly aided by the advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the Fifteen Century.   

Many have likened the ease of exchanging ideas via the internet with the revolution brought about by  the Gutenberg press.  Social media is another cyber revolution which has religious reverberations to date.  

During the recent Synod on the Family at the Vatican, some of the organizers tried to insert language which the secular press called an earthquake.  A great majority of the Synod Fathers dissented but this was going against the machine.  However, social media proved to be an ideal platform for bishops to disseminate information and for the Catholic vox populi to share their concerns.  Disseminating information and allowing the faithful to voice their views proved successful.   Pope Francis had the Synod vote on every paragraph and the three egregious parts did not receive adequate support and were removed.

Although it took 482 years, the Lutheran World Federation and Catholic Church did come to terms with their differences in a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), in which a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ."  Catholics maintain that it did not negate the Council of Trent but  that its canons are non-applicability to concrete Christian bodies in the modern world.  

Still, some Christian soldiers want to fight, but like the Hatfields and McCoys, they have forgotten what they are fighting over.  During a thoughtful conversation about faith, a Protestant was unphased when he learned of the agreement on sola fides between the Churches and wanted to continue to haggle over the other 94 points-- and he was not even Lutheran!

As we live in a time when Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith, we ought to remember the wisdom of the Lutheran Theologian  Peter Meiderlin (a.k.a. Ruptertus Meldenius) :  "[U]nity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things." 

It is commendable to mark a point of history like Reformation Day.  It is cute but quixotic to try to have an alternative to Halloween with a holiday for theology nerds.  That is almost as futile as First Lady Michelle Obama's advice to kids about Trick or Treats.  But we should join with our brothers and sisters in faith on the many things on which we agree  to help build the Kingdom of God rather than continue to form a spiritual circular firing squad. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

On Reconsidering Liturgy

America, the Jesuit magazine, published an interview with Cardinal Francis George as he prepares to cede pastoral responsibilities for the Archdiocese of Chicago to current Spokane Archbishop Blaise Cupich. The  wide ranging interview touched upon secular hot button political issues, sacerdotal celibacy, clerical sexual abuse and the recent Synod of the Family.  

But Cardinal George's comments about Liturgy have particular as the third anniversary of the implementation of the New (Third) Translation of the Roman Missal approaches. Some priests formed "in the spirit of Vatican II" persist in improvising during the Liturgy or revert to favorite older translations.  

As one of the prominent people in the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), Cardinal Francis George's comments deserve consideration.  Cardinal George does concede that some things can sound "clunky" but can be facilitated by preparation to understand the grammar and intention of the prayers.

Recently, I participated in an challenging colloquy with a cleric who was contemptuous that the 1998 ICEL translation was rejected and who still feels liberated to say: "The Lord IS with you" in antiphons.  I noted that the loosey goosey improv impulse which was allowed under the 1969  Comme le prévoit  was illicit under the new translation. His retort was the aspiration to make liturgy accessible to the youthful masses. That seemed like a jesuitical argument as all Christian denominations have bled worshipers and vocations.  Yet diocese which have more traditional inclinations (e.g. Peoria IL, Lincoln NB, Steubensville OH) seem to be the most vocation rich.  Might there be a correlation? 

One of the pities about the implementation of Vatican II is that the works of the Council were overtaken by "the spirit of Vatican II" which fundamentally misunderstands the Council Fathers work.  Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy, had the expectation that priests would educate the faithful. However, according to Fr. Gabriel O'Donnell, O.P. who co-authored “Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church”, priests were not properly formed in the new liturgy before it was implemented to the laity.  The logic of  Comme le prévoit  gave great latitude to presiding liturgists.  Thus US Catholics misunderstood Sacrosanctum Concilium as a capitulation to modernity instead of the  "aggorionmento" ("bringing up to date) which Pope St. John XXIII intended when he called for the Council  in 1959.

It would behoove Catholics to become more educated about first things --not just what we do, but why we do them in the Liturgy.  The Liturgy along with Sacred Scripture are the primary means of how we experience Christ.  Our lack of learning on liturgy loses lackluster Catholics and makes mass or mechanical or risks relegation to religious entertainment.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pope Francis on Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI

During a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis lauded his predecessor in association with the dedication of a bust of Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI.  Pope Francis noted that Pope Benedict' "love of truth is not limited to theology and philosophy, but is open to science."  In addition, Pope Francis' observed that the bust recalled Pope Benedict's "spirit of his teachings, his example , his works, his devotion to the Church."

The bronze of Benedict XVI  was commissioned by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to sculptor Fernando Delia, a lawyer who is a self taught artist   was sculpted by Fernando Delia will be placed in the at the headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Pope Francis credits Delia with projecting Pope Benedict XVI's  " joyful emotion " for "recognition and gratitude "