Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Stubborn Pope

A stubborn pope -- chicagotribune.com

From the ChicagoTribune.com

[My comments in red.]

A stubborn pope
in an age of shifting morality

Kathleen Parker

April 23, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the U.S. has afforded the American media and others an opportunity to remind us that the Catholic Church is "out of step" with modern times. That is both a criticism and compliment—praising with faint damnation. What exactly about modern times would compel a pope to change his institutional mind about the fundamental belief in, say, the dignity of all human life? The central life issue is, of course, abortion, about which even a majority of American Catholics (58 percent) differ from the church's view. [I don't know where this statistic comes from. It sounds way high to me. In my circle of friends and fellow Catholics, I know less than a handful that are Pro-abortion. And they may call themselves Catholic but they are not. You must be in communion with the Church to be Catholic.] Other related concerns include embryo-destructive research, cloning and assisted suicide. The Catholic Church persists in opposing all of the above, insisting that life begins at conception, all life has value, no human being has the right to terminate the life of another. Case closed. And, really, who would insist otherwise? In the abstract, few. In practice, millions. Though we know that life biologically begins at conception, we've decided to disagree about when that life becomes "human." And, though we sort of [sort of?] believe that all life has value, our actions suggest that we think imperfect life has less value. Increasingly, Down syndrome babies today are terminated, for instance. If we quantify human life only according to productivity, then imperfect life inarguably is less valuable. [That's the problem. You do not value life based on productivity.] But is it less human? Nazi eugenicists thought so. But measuring productivity requires a detached calculation—and, inevitably, bureaucratic enforcement—that defines inhuman. This is not, by the way, a judgment of people who have made difficult choices. None of us really knows which path we would take until presented with the intersection that forces such contemplations. Finally, all agree that no human being has the right to take an other's life except in self-defense. Since most abortions are for reasons other than the mother's health, our current practices are possible only if the unborn are considered "not human." [Now how can the unborn be not human? If it is a human baby after the passage through the birth canal then surely it is a human baby before.] Keeping that definition alive is the trick. Human or not? Who decides? A majority of Americans are comfortable with the view that a woman, her doctor and her God should decide. But what if there were irrefutable proof that a fetus at conception is fully human? [What other proof is necessary? Life continues from one generation to another. It does not become non-human. If it is not human, what is it?] Would we then feel that government has a role in protecting unborn life? [Of course it does. As it has an obligation to protect us all from external or internal threats.] These questions are especially tricky for Catholics. For those who side with the pope, the answer is clear: If life is a gift of the Creator, then only the Creator can be the ultimate arbiter of conception (though the church does allow for limiting and spacing babies on the basis of informed conscience, just not through artificial means). To believe in God's autonomy over human life, however, is a hard sell. How does one justify creating more mouths when so many can't be fed? My own Catholic grandmother, the youngest of 11 children, was handed over to the nuns at age 4 when her family could no longer feed her. And yet, the nuns did feed my grandmother. And she did manage to grow up and marry and create my father, who then created me. So, Pro-choice arguments are, nonetheless, compelling. [Not really!] Privacy from government intrusion, yes. Women's autonomy over their own bodies, yes. [The unborn baby is not part of the woman's body, if can be a different sex, it has different DNA.] All children wanted, well, of course. But none of those testaments to logic alters the essential truth that life begins when egg and sperm commingle and that every one of us was at that far end of the life continuum before we were able to dabble in ethics and trifle with electronic keyboards. The question is how we reconcile what is true with what is merely convenient? That we might choose a path other than the pope's is the prerogative of a free people [but not the taking of another life] —and no one recognizes that freedom with greater consistency than this pope. No one has to be Catholic. But to ask Benedict to change the church's rules to suit modern appetites and lifestyles is to ask that he forsake the sanctity of human life for the benefit of earthly delights. Those are not his concerns. Even for non-Catholics like me, there's something comforting about a stubborn pope in a world of moral relativity. Like a strong father, he ignores his children's pleas for leniency knowing that his rules, though tough, serve a higher purpose. [This, my friends, is what we really need. Strong fathers. Men have been disenfranchised from this issue, and we are to blame.] If Benedict were to relent and compromise the value of human life, what would be left to debate? Perhaps only one's own time to die. And then . . .Who decides? [God!]

Washington Post Writers Group Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist. E-mail: kparker@kparker.com
Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Scandal Given by Catholics

Thanks to LifeSiteNews I found the following article:

Pope Decries the "Scandal Given by Catholics Who Promote an Alleged Right to Abortion"

By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, DC, April 18, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - At a Q&A session following Pope Benedict XVI's Wednesday address to the Bishops of the United States, he addressed the "particular problem" of secularism in America. While it allows profession of belief in God, it "can subtly reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator," he said. Thus there is a separation "of faith from life: living 'as if God did not exist'."

The Pope noted that rather than "thinking with the Church", some Catholics believe they have "a right to pick and choose" in the faith, "maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ."

"We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion," he lamented.

It is this internal betrayal by Catholics that seems to most deeply distress the Holy Father. Besides the much publicized cases of sexual abuse by priests, and the proliferation of homosexuality within certain seminaries, the scandalous behavior of a majority of Catholics in political life also gives rise to the Pontiff's deep sadness. As he said in his homily at Nationals Park Thursday, the Church "senses, often painfully, the presence of division and polarization in her midst, as well as the troubling realization that many of the baptized, rather than acting as a spiritual leaven in the world, are inclined to embrace attitudes contrary to the truth of the Gospel."

At the Q&A session with the Bishops, again at the Wednesday Mass, and again in his address to the United Nations today, the Pope stressed as the solution to many of these problems the tie between faith and reason; "the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and the natural law"; and the "sound understanding of freedom, seen in positive terms as a liberation both from the limitations of sin and for an authentic and fulfilling life."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fully Protecting Our Children

I quote in its entirety a post by Postscripts From The Catholic Spitfile Grill which deserves repeating.

While rightly charging United States bishops with doing all in their power to heal the dreadful wounds caused by priests who forsake their vows and prey on children, the Holy Father also right draws attention to the wider context of what it means to fully protect children. Although I have seen attacked and accused of shifting the blame, I don't think that is what the full text of his remarks indicates. Here is one paragraph....

If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the policies and programs you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context. Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person. This brings us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society, so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike. All have a part to play in this task - not only parents, religious leaders, teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well. Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society. It calls for a determined, collective response.

Full Text

Indeed....what does it mean if we put out the fire in the trash bin but ignore the other fires and let the house burn down around our ears?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Andrew Johnson Amaing Voice /Britains got Talent

Now and then you run into something very special. This is one of them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Prayer for Guidance

O creator past all telling,
you have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom
the hierarchies of angels,
disposing them in wondrous order
above the bright heavens,
and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.
You we call the true fount of wisdom
and the noble origin of all things.
Be pleased to shed
on the darkness of mind in which I was born,
The twofold beam of your light
and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.
You make eloquent the tongues of children.
Then instruct my speech
and touch my lips with graciousness.
Make me keen to understand, quick to learn,
able to remember;
make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.
Guide my going in and going forward,
lead home my going forth.
You are true God and true man,
and live for ever and ever.

~St Thomas Aquinas, 1225 -1274

Psalm 14 (Contemporary English Version)

Psalm 14
1Only a fool would say,
"There is no God!"
People like that are worthless;
they are heartless and cruel
and never do right.
2From heaven the LORD
looks down to see
if anyone is wise enough
to search for him.
3But all of them are corrupt;
no one does right.
4Won't you evil people learn?
You refuse to pray,
and you gobble down
the LORD's people.
5But you will be frightened,
because God is on the side
of every good person.
6You may spoil the plans
of the poor,
but the LORD protects them.
7I long for someone from Zion
to come and save Israel!
Our LORD, when you bless
your people again,
Jacob's family will be glad,
and Israel will celebrate.

h/t The Anchoress

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards."
Mark Twain

Church Bells

What happened to church bells? I can't recall the last time I heard them anywhere.

I'm sure this is an effect of the Church's aquiescence to the pressures of the seculars and athiests.

Our call to prayer is effectively dead.

Here is an article I found, "Bring back the bells": http://www.adoremus.org/1001bells.html

Liturgy of the Hours

I've been praying the Liturgy of the Hours for a long time - so long I can't recall when I started. And I do so not because I'm obligated to do so as a Secular Franciscan, but because now it is a habit, and if I miss a Morning or Evening prayer I feel buggy.

I pray Morning and Evening prayer and on the weekends the Office of Readings - I just can't find time during the week to pray the Readings - but I'm working on it.

My first exposure to Morning and Evening prayer, as I said a long time ago, was when I purchased a paperback book "A Christian's Prayer Book". It's byline is Psalms, Poems and Prayers for the Church's Year. I recently ran across this in one of my bookshelves and noted it was published by the Franciscan Herald Press - small world.

Years later, browsing in a St. Paul's media center store I ran across "Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours". So I graduated to the "official" text of the Hours. During this phase I was praying it on and off as I found time. I had not yet developed the habit. But I found it rewarding to pray the prayers of the church. I was one of many throughout the world praying the hours incessantly to our Lord. I was praying the same Psalms our Jewish brothers had some 3000 years ago.

I guess it was around the time I was discerning to become a Franciscan that I obtained the one volume of the Hours for Franciscans that included the proper of Franciscan Saints. And soon I obtained the four volumes which included the Office of Readings.

I would encourage everyone to get into the habit of praying the Hours. It does take some time finding the time and getting into the habit. But I find it very rewarding.

Wikipedia Article here:

Franciscan Resources has the Franciscan Liturgy of the Hours here:

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Apprentice of St. Joseph http://apprenticeofstjoseph.blogspot.com/ Has an interesting article on the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Check it out here: http://apprenticeofstjoseph.blogspot.com/2008/04/gifts-and-fruits-of-holy-spirit.html

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pope Benedict's Upcoming Prayer at Ground Zero

Fr. Z has this post on his web page.

Holy Father’s upcoming prayer at Ground Zero
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 9:07 am
The booklet with all the services for the Pope’s USA trip is available. (There is an appendix in the back with prayers in Latin, btw.)
This caught my eye:

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths
and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.
God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.

At the conclusion of the prayer, the Holy Father is handed an aspergillum.He blesses the ground in all four directions.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Offering it up

I enjoyed this post in Open Wide the Doors of Christ! blog by Sr. Lorraine. I haven't heard much lately about offering it up, but this post reminded me of it.

Offering it up
I've been rereading Pope Benedict's encyclical on hope. He mentions a practice that used to be quite common among Catholics, but seems to have fallen by the wayside. It is the practice of "offering it up."While major sufferings can and do come into our lives--tragedies and severe things that are hard to bear--most of our everyday sufferings are small things that can cause annoyance and discomfort. These things can be turned into opportunities to join our sufferings to those of Jesus for the salvation of the world. The Pope's words made me reflect on this more. Sometimes I forget and waste these chances to offer everything to the Lord. But in some mysterious way that we can't fully understand, I can offer to God through Jesus my aches and pains, a cutting remark from someone, some extra work I didn't want to do, bad weath, or whatever it might be, and God can use that to bring grace to someone anywhere in the world. Benedict says: "What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great 'com-passion' so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Latin Mass

Because of some recent blog posts, I have been thinking of the old Latin rite of the Mass (Tridentine). I recall it with some nostalgia. I experienced it as a boy and as a teenager. What I recall most strongly was/is its sacredness, Holiness, and sublimeness. Once, a number of years ago, I attended a Pius X Society Mass. I did it to remember things past. It was rewarding. Yet, I must say I was not pleased with some of the participation and recalled the same from my memory. Many of the attendees were in their own world during these Latin rite Masses; some were following along with their Missals and yet many were reading other devotionals, their favorite prayers, etc. (not necessarily bad, I'm sure they were communicating with God). I think the benefit of the new Mass was more active participation.

Yet there is that nostalgia and the longing for that greater sense of the sacred. For whatever benefits of the Novus Ordo I think we lost something important.

Perhaps a trifle, but I miss the choreography, if you will, of the Priest and alter boys as they moved about, their active participation and responses. I was an alter boy in training - learning the Latin responses and movements - though I never completed the training and became one. But what I did experience was important to me.

And I do mean alter boys with deference to members of the opposite sex. I think the shortage of priests is due, in part, because we don't have alter boys in which to plant the seeds of service to God and the church. Yes, we still do have alter boys, sometimes, but the role they play today is very minor; no responses, just holding a candle during the Gospel or holding the Sacramentary for the priest.

Now perhaps there is a change about us. With Pope Benedict's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum there is the possibility of having more Latin rite Masses. Though some priests will have to learn Latin. And none are offered in my area right now. I look forward to attending a Latin Mass now and then.

I call myself a post-Vatican II conservative. What I mean is that I believe many of the reforms were good and necessary. But the liberals went too far. For them change needs to be a constant. But in terms of the Church and Tradition change should be a rarity and thought out.

Where is the beautiful sacred music now? We have churches-in-the-round. Some look like parking structures. Some I can't tell if I am in a Protestant church or Catholic.

I hope we find Summorum Pontificum a help in the reform of the reform. But I also pray it does not lead to further breaks in the church.

For the test of Summorum Pontificum please go to:

For an article on Summorum Pontificum go to:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Send 12 Swiss Guards to arrest them all!

Thanks to AmericanPapist for bringing this video to my attention.

Exposing Culture of Death, Inc.

Exposing Culture of Death, Inc. Mark Stricherz Review from InsideCatholic.com (InsideDigest 30) by Mark Stricherz 3/30/08

Embryo: A Defense of Human Life Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen, Doubleday, $23.95, 256 pages

Like a successful corporation, the culture of death is gaining market share. As late as 20 years ago, it was confined mainly to abortion clinics and hospitals. It now has expanded to research labs: ten states permit embryonic stem cell research, while eight states permit human cloning, known as "therapeutic cloning." The end of Roe v. Wade may be near, but in one market at least, Culture of Death, Inc., is poised to achieve greater penetration. Both Democratic presidential candidates, as well as presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, support taxpayer-financed embryonic stem cell research.

Every political movement needs theorists, and perhaps the best public philosopher against the culture of death is Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics. George is the author of several books about religion and politics, including 2001's The Clash of Orthodoxies. Now, he and Christopher Tollefsen, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of South Carolina, have written Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. It is an impressively reasoned and argued book, one that undercuts Culture of Death, Inc.'s, intellectual foundations.

George and Tollefsen make three main arguments. Their first is that a human embryo or zygote is, well, human. In their definition, the embryonic boy or girl is a "whole living member of the species Homo sapiens in the earliest stage of life." When this human embryo comes into being is trickier. In the vast majority of cases, an embryo is a single organism during the end of fertilization or conception; in the cases of twins, the two embryos become separate organisms during the formation of the primitive streak during gastrulation, a process that occurs during the third week after conception.

The embryo has three defining characteristics: He or she is distinct from the mother and father; possesses the genetic makeup distinct of humans; and is a complete or whole organism. This is a rational position, but it's widely misunderstood. Some intellectuals compare embryos to sperms or eggs. Others liken them to somatic cells, like skin cells or muscle cells. The error in both suppositions is that embryos are functionally separate from the mother and father. Left to its own resources, "a skin cell will not become a human embryo."

The authors' second argument is that embryos are persons. Their definition of personhood is biological: The embryo possesses a basic natural capacity for reason and self consciousness, the ability to choose, and to use language. "Our position is that we human beings have the special kind of value that makes us subjects of rights by virtue of what (i.e. the kind of entity) we are," they write.

In opposition to this view are two types of moral dualism. The developmental version equates personhood with immediately exercisable capacity -- the ability to do something now. The attribution version equates personhood with the ability to decide now. The weakness of the development version is its logical conclusion: If immediate exercisable capacity is the criterion for personhood, people in comas and asleep would qualify as non-persons. The weakness of the attribution version is that it's analogous to the law of the jungle: The powerful decide the fate of the weak.

The authors' third argument is that human embryos deserve legal protection. They affirm natural law theory, which posits that humans are good in themselves and ought not to be used as a means to an end. Of the principles of natural law, the number-one right is the right of "an innocent human person not to be directly killed or maimed." One competing ethical system is utilitarianism, which maintains that right conduct prefers pleasure to pain. Princeton ethicist Peter Singer argues that all sentient creatures deserve to be free from suffering; if certain animals and humans cannot feel pain, their interests are subordinate to others. George and Tollefsen contend that if this utilitarian argument is taken to its logical conclusion, late-term fetuses and very young newborns could be killed because they cannot reason and are not self-aware. As you might guess, Embryo is not a book for the casual reader. Its language is often abstract and confusing; sprinkled throughout the text are highly technical, biological words -- blastomeres, trophoblasts, the zona pellucida. The book's structure in one key chapter is faulty; the authors devote 22 pages to describing the origins of life without a reminder of why the description is important. Also, the authors' use of the term "it" to describe embryos is ill advised; the argument for protecting unborn human lives depends on viewing them as subjects or persons, not objects or things.

In fact, the thesis of Embryo is not especially original; several of its arguments can be found in Ramesh Ponnuru's The Party of Death. Even so, the book is essential reading for university students, activists on both sides of the debate, and public philosophers. Its chief virtue -- and it's a major virtue -- is the totality of its arguments, the wholesale assault on the notion that a human embryo is an unequal being. George and Tollefsen show that the tiniest human embryo is the moral equal of the largest adult. An embryo is not a "potential life," as the Supreme Court has termed this nascent life in several of its abortion cases, but rather a "life with potential." As the reference to the nation's highest court suggests, the implications of Embryo could not be bigger.

Those who accept its logic but reject its conclusion should acknowledge that they favor the killing not only of human embryos, but also of other groups of people, such as those in comas and very young newborns. After all, a human zygote is no more likely to reason or speak than a comatose person or a day-old infant.

Those who accept its logic and conclusion should acknowledge that they favor extending legal protection to human embryos. After all, every other class of human beings is subject to the law. The authors call for banning all embryo-destructive research and "regulat[ing] the production of human embryos in IVF procedures to ensure that couples create no more embryos than they could reasonably expect to bring to term."

In other words, George and Tollefsen have pulled off a rare feat. They have shown that Culture of Death, Inc., must either expand to new markets or have its charter revoked.

Amen and Sign of the Cross

One of my pet peeves is the lack of enthusiasm many Catholics have when saying "Amen". This is most noticeable when receiving Communion. Most times when in line to receive, I cannot hear the person in front of me say "Amen" before he/she receives the Host. Worst many Eucharist Ministers mumble "The Body/Blood of Christ". I can hardly hear them. Come on guys, do we believe what we are doing. Are we not acclaiming "Yes, this IS the Body of Christ". Let's respond boldly and clearly from our heart, "AMEN". When I was a Eucharist Minister I always clearly and proudly said "The Body of Christ".

In watching Into Great Silence (see post below) I noted that these holy men always made a large sign of the cross. Their hand went from their forehead down to their belly. It was done rather slowly and with intent. I would say, normally, my sign of the cross went from my forehead to my diaphragm. So taking their lead I am trying to improve my sign of the cross. Last Sunday I was watching people in Church just after receiving the Host. Many of them made the sign of the cross immediately afterward. But many made these tiny movements. Hardly touching their foreheads and commonly only reaching down to their chin or neck, and quickly done.

This is a sign of our faith. Let us make the sign of the cross purposely and intently. AMEN.