Daily Mass

•March 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

OK, so two out of the last three times I’ve attempted to go to daily Mass, the priest has decided not to show up.  Or overslept or something.  Granted these two occasions are separated by several months, but that almost makles it worse.  Does this happen even more frequently?  Or am I just unlucky, or worse, cursed?  The first time, I bailed while the deacon went to bang on the rectory door.  Today, after calling over, the deacon cobbled together some kind of commuion service.  I am grateful that I was still able to receive communion, and that the deacon gave it his best shot, but I am sure there is an approved form for a communion service in the absence of a priest.  Other than kinda going through the Mass, changing things here and there, with no sacrifice.  But seriously.  Total and absolute kudos to him for making the best out of an awkward situation.

Hope

•March 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

On that infernal exercise machine, listening to 80s metal, watching the muted news.  Earthquakes, looting, rapes, murders, health care deform, Pam Anderson joins Dancing with Stars!, tsunamis, drug overdoses, suicides, car recalls and on and on and on.  How anyone cannot look upon this spectacle of brokenness and sin and not give in to despair is beyond me.

There is no other name given under heaven by which men may be saved.  There is truly no other hope.

The Third Temptation

•February 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Reading through PBXVI’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, he makes an interesting point regarding the this temptation of Jesus in the desert, per St. Matthew’s account.  This is the leading up of Our Lord onto a high mountain, to show him all the kingdoms of the world, if He will but fall down and worship the devil.  Universal kingship.  This is obviously what is destined for the Messiah.  And yet the devil offers it to him here, without the requisite Sacrifice involved in his attaining to it.  A choice between to ways of being King, two visions of the Messiah.  The way of the world, power, wealth.  Or the way of the Cross.  Love.  Sacrifice.  In of it itself, that is not particularly new or eye-opening.

But he illustrates this choice between the way of faith and the way of power by reference to two other scenes in the gospels.  The first is the one involving Barabbas.  Bar-Abbas means son of the Father.  And, in fact, Origen apparently has alluded to the fact that the New Testament manuscripts extant during his time referred to Barabbas as Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus Son of the Father.  This clearly reflects the fact that the early Church understood ths scene to be a choice presented to the people between two Messianic figures, two sons of the Father.  One has chosen the way of weakness, and the other has chosen the path of political insurrection.  They chose poorly.  Are our choices any better?

The second scene comes right after Our Lord’s conferring the keys of the Kingdom to St Peter.  Peter has just proclaimed the revealed truth that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the livng God.  To which Jesus responds by saying, yes, and I must be betrayed, beaten and killed.  To which Peter says, Lord, this shall never happen to you.  Two visions of how to be King.  Weakness and power.  And Jesus responds, “Get thee behind me Satan.”  Incredibly harsh, but understood in the light of the desert temptation, it is nothing more than Peter subscribing to the demonic (and popular) view of the Messiah.  Proposing another temptation to our Lord, another stumbling block.  Secretly, or not, I think we all want Jesus to be a different Messiah if not for my sake (but yes, for my sake), then for that of my kids.  A powerful and conquering Christ is empty and illusory.  His way is the way of the Cross.

I love you Jesus, my love.  Grant that I may always love you, and then do with me as you will.

Fists of Fury!

•February 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

I enter this Lent with a sense of dreadful foreboding.  Well, I always do.  I’m a wuss, and I like desserts.  But this year, there is a different atmosphere surrounding this dread.  I think it’s one of hope.  I can’t be sure, I’m not certain what hope tastes like.  But I have hope (I think) that this season will amount to more than just a 6 week interlude of torture in the midst of Ordinary Time.  Hope and dread.  So if not torture, then why dread?  And I think it’s because I have an awareness that I am about to enter into some serious kung-fu action with the devil.  And he is a wily little weasel, that devil guy.

The story of the Temptation of Christ has provided some of the hope.  Christ’s death and resurrection have forever defeated the devil.  I have participated in this victory through baptism.  But Christ still felt it necessary engage in 40 days of temptation, in which he also defeated the devil.  Lent is my time to participate in that victory too. 

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness…  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.

I, full of the Spirit (baptism and confirmation) am also being led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 4o days.  Far from home and its comforts.  Isolation.  Desolation.  But not without hope, for the promise for those who endure to the end is a return from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.  May it come to pass.  May the Spouse of the Spirit, the Holy and Immaculate Mother of God, intercede for us to that effect!

But we must endure.  What?  Temptation.  Why?

Man shall not live by bread alone.  I must forsake all attachment to that which is wordly.  To what end?

That I may create more space for God.    You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.  Forsake the service, nay! slavery, to all else that I might serve and worship him only.  Joy, power, strength, peace.  The admonition regarding loving one and hating the other comes to mind.  I can’t love, serve and worship both. 

You shall not tempt the Lord you God.  I’m not sure where this fits in yet.  Obviously all presumption that God will provide for lack of prudence in this endeavor must be banished.  But that doesn’t feel like that’s it.  There must be more.  In the midst of my testing and temptation, I must not put him to the test or tempt him.  But how?  How is this something I desperately need to hear at this moment?  Where will I be tempted in this regard?  Hhmmm.

He departed from him until an opportune time.  And we all know what happened that next time.  Death was defeated by death!  So I’m not too worried about that.

Torture

•February 14, 2010 • 2 Comments

It is amazing that this conversation is still going on.  But such is the age we live in.  And having been recently made aware of EWTN’s whoring for torture, I reproduce this post from Disputations, without comment or addition:

For years, people have been interpreting that one statement in CCC 2297

Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

— as implying that torture for reasons other than those listed — in particular, for interrogation of someone assumed to have information that can save lives — might not be contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.

As it stands, it’s a mighty sketchy interpretation. It asserts that there’s nothing objectively or circumstantially contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity to torture a prisoner. All you need is a good enough reason. (And what do you know? The reason people today might want to torture prisoners just happens to be a good reason! These interpreters will, though, stipulate that other reasons — to save face after you were double-dog dared to torture the prisoner, say, or to get someone who loves the victim to talk — are immoral.)

I haven’t seen anyone even try to explain why it’s contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity to torture a murderer, but not contrary to those things to torture a would-be murderer. The problem here is that torture isn’t evil because it’s icky, in which case it wouldn’t be evil when not torturing would be ickier. Torture is evil, according to the Catechism, because it’s contrary to respect for the person of the victim, and the respect due the person of the victim doesn’t change based on what you want to get out of torturing him.*

So, as I say, we have an interpretation that really doesn’t hold up on its own terms. The fact that the very next paragraph of the Catechism contradicts this interpretation should settle the matter:

In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order… In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person… It is necessary to work for their abolition.

But someone who is capable of interpreting CCC 2297 as allowing torture for good reason is capable of interpreting CCC 2298 the same way. (Or of interpreting it away altogether; it’s printed in a smaller font, you know.)

Okay, but maybe the Catechism really is ambiguous on this point. What else do we have?

We have the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, according to Pope Benedict XVI, “is a faithful and sure synthesis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Per the CCCC:

477. What practices are contrary to respect for the bodily integrity of the human person?

They are: kidnapping and hostage taking, terrorism, torture, violence, and direct sterilization. Amputations and mutilations of a person are morally permissible only for strictly therapeutic medical reasons.

Okay, but maybe when it says “torture,” it means “and sometimes torture.”

We have Pope John Paul II, speaking to the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1982:

And as regards torture, the Christian is confronted from the beginning with the account of the passion of Christ. The memory of Jesus exposed, struck, treated with derision in his anguished sufferings, should always make him refuse to see a similar treatment applied to one of his brothers in humanity. Christ’s disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer’s victim.

Okay, but maybe that was just the Pope expressing his personal opinion that torture is categorically wrong, with some dodgy translation from the French.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church — “which, according to the request received from the Holy Father, has been drawn up in order to give a concise but complete overview of the Church’s social teaching” — quotes Pope John Paul II’s 1982 speech:

In carrying out investigations, the regulation against the use of torture, even in the case of serious crimes, must be strictly observed: “Christ’s disciple refuses every recourse to such methods, which nothing could justify and in which the dignity of man is as much debased in his torturer as in the torturer’s victim.” International juridical instruments concerning human rights correctly indicate a prohibition against torture as a principle which cannot be contravened under any circumstances.

Okay, but maybe they’re only talking about investigations of crimes that have already happened, not of crimes that are ongoing or yet to occur.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” states:

Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.

Okay, but maybe this is just some USCCB cubicle dweller’s idea.

Torture is a Moral Issue: A Catholic Study Guide” states that:

“In the Church’s eyes [t]orture violates a human person’s God-given dignity.”

Okay, but maybe this is just some USCCB cubicle dweller’s idea.

Statements by American bishops on behalf of the USCCB include the following categorical rejections of torture:

We believe that a respect for the dignity of every person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice and peace. There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason… We share the concerns of lawmakers and citizens for the safety of U.S. soldiers and civilians abroad in these times of great uncertainty and danger. In the face of this perilous climate, our nation must not embrace a morality based on an attitude that “desperate times call for desperate measures” or “the end justifies the means.” The inherent justice of our cause and the perceived necessities involved in confronting terrorism must not lead to a weakening or disregard of U.S. and international law. — Bishop Ricard, Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy, October 4, 2005

A respect for the dignity of every person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of security, justice and peace. There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason… In a time of terrorism and fear, our individual and collective obligations to respect dignity and human rights, even of our worst enemies, gains added importance. — Bishop Wenski, Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy, December 17, 2007

We are opposed to any proposed or adopted legislation or other actions that would appear to once again decriminalize torture and abusive conduct. We believe any legislation adopted by the Congress must be unambiguous in rejecting torture and cruel treatment as dangerous, unreliable and illegal. — Bishop Wenski, Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Policy, January 30, 2008

Torture undermines and debases the human dignity of both victims and perpetrators. It is never a necessary cruelty. — Cardinal George, President, USCCB, March 5, 2008

Okay, but maybe … um….

And last, we have the United States Catechism for Adults, which is the “local catechism” written by the bishops of the United States using the CCC as “a sure and authentic reference text,” and which received the recongitio of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. The U.S. Catechism for Adults includes this statement:

Direct killing of the innocent, torture, and rape are examples of acts that are always wrong.

So: No.

Torture is always wrong.

The Catholic Church teaches that torture is always wrong.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that torture is always wrong.

Interpretations to the contrary are wrong.


* It’s always a “him,” right? Torture is a very manly thing, for advocates, with manly men torturing wormy men, so that girly men may sleep safely at night.

The saying is sure – Conscience

•January 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Notes from the Timothies:

The saying is sure:

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.

The saying is sure: If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task.

Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance.

The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.

Conscience:

the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith

wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.  By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith

hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared

I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.

St Paul

•January 30, 2010 • 2 Comments

St Paul. I love the man. He sacrificed everything for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And in end, he shared in the fate of his Master. Betrayed, rejected, alone and ultimately sacrificed. As he approached what he perceived to be the end, he wrote what I always think is one of the saddest accounts of the Bible:

For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me. Tych’icus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Tro’as, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will requite him for his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one took my part; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the message fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Truly a glorious man! Pray, good man, that I may remain faithful to your Gospel!