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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Catholicism's contribution to horror

Whether most people who dress up as ghosts, goblins, or little devils realize it, whether those who like to attend scary movies recognize it, the entire horror genre owes a debt to Catholicism.

The underlying horror of most monsters is that they are a mockery of what Catholicism teaches about life in Christ. Either the monsters are undead parodies of the resurrected Christ representing true life - i.e. mummies, ghosts, zombies etc.; or they are spiritual parodies of the goodness of Christ - demons, devils, etc.

This idea is reflected very clearly in the movies about Frankenstien and about Vampires. In the former, the scientist attempts to play God by bringing the dead body back to life. He cannot create life ex nihilo as God does and he finds that resuscitating dead cells does not true life make. Jesus rises in a glorified body, Frankenstein in a monstrous body. Jesus can pass through walls in his new body, Frankenstein must knock them down. In the latter, the monster lives only by taking the life of others. Christ offers his blood to give us life, the vampire takes our blood so that he might survive.

I believe that it is the truths of the Christian faith, even for those who don't believe which make these movies scary - because they conflict with what we know, deep down, to be true.

Another thing I have noticed is that the religious presence within horror movies is predominantly Catholic in orientation - scenes take place within a Catholic Church, a Catholic priest plays an important character either in helping the hero or a representing the villan. This especially is the case if the movie involves the presence of supernatural evil. When facing the devil's minions - who are you going to call - the priest, the rabbi or the minister?

Many horror movies also require the use of holy relics and symbols - another debt owed to Catholicism: to fight the devil or a vampire you need a crucifix or holy water. In order to conquer the great ancient evil, you need some rare artifact that is always located in some isolated medival monastery, incantations designed to thwart the end of the world are always written in Latin.

So, the next time you watch "Omen" or "Dracula" give thanks to the Catholic faith for helping you get scared out of your wits!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

New Podcast up over at Catholic:Under The Hood

This week's podcast is up over at Catholic:Under The Hood where I talk about my vocational journey, how I ended up with the TORs and how I finally found the answers to my vocational questions.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jesus appearances this week

Our Lord has been busy this week, appearing on

a bathroom tile in England

a fish bone in Oklahoma

and a tree in New York

I don't really understand why so many look for Jesus in the oddest places when he is always present fully in the Eucharist. But I guess we won't see any news headlines "Jesus present in Catholic Church" any time soon. Indeed it seems as if at the same time that people are talking about images of Jesus in sandwiches and shower mold that they deny the reality of Jesus present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist.

Value paid for Jesus in shower mold - $2000
Value of Jesus in the Eucharist - Priceless

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Vocational video worth watching

Grassroots Films has put together a nice vocational video about the priesthood just in time for Priesthood Sunday that I encourage you all to go check out.

I think that with expanded work on the interaction of Catholicism and the media using podcasts and video casts that more things like this could be produced and reach far more people.

The Fruits of the Jesuit Education

In another sign that having a Jesuit education no longer counts for what it used to, I offer a recent editorial from the Loyola Chicago newspaper, the Phoenix, encouraging University to permit the distribution of condoms to students.

Loyola is irresponsible in its stance on sexual education. For the school to turn a blind eye to the reality of college students having sex is ridiculous. The doctrine that Jesuit universities across the country follow is archaic, an outdated text from the fifth century (St. Augustine, in fact) that needs to be updated.

Ah, the old "it's outdated" argument - because condom use was a real problem in St. Augustine's time. Perhaps, Loyola should break down and help its students afford some more recent texts like Humanae Vitae for example. And stop turning a blind eye to college students having sex, perhaps some disciplinary action is in order.

We're not asking Loyola to take on the Catholic Church to fight this issue specifically.

Translation - we have a whole host of issues that we would like Loyola to fight the Catholic Church on.

What we are asking for is a little understanding from the administration that is supposed to be looking out for the best interests and well-being of the students at Loyola.

Because ensuring that the students get free condoms is looking out for their best interests? Funny, I thought it would be looking out for their moral condition.

Safe sex is just as important to Loyola students as smaller class sizes, new buildings and the next wave of unsuccessful meal plans.

Nice to know we have our priorities in order

There are many non-Catholic students on campus and on the Phoenix staff. To impose the beliefs of one school of thought onto the beliefs and needs of the rest of the student population neglects to recognize the diversity of the student body.

Translation - after all, just because you come to a Catholic university you shouldn't expect to have to learn all that Catholic stuff. Don't impose your beliefs on us, man, we need our condoms! We didn't come to Loyola to learn, we came for the extra-curricular activities.

Loyola needs to come to terms with the truth: students at Loyola have sex. Many have safe sex, but some have unprotected sex. This is a very real issue for the students, and all they need are the resources to take the proper steps in having safe sex.

Translation - if the university doesn't give me a condom, it's far to difficult to actually go out and buy one. I can't afford them on my private school tuition.

While Loyola and the Wellness Center may preach abstinence, supporting that one ideal as the only possibility for students is impractical and irrisponsible [sic].

Translation - We can't control ourselves!

Diane Asaro, head of the Wellness Center said, "The current position of the Wellness Center is that Loyola is a Catholic university and [they] abide by Catholic teachings."

I'm happy that the University is still striving to hold back the culture of death in at least one area.

This stance is putting Loyola students in more danger than they would be with proper sex education and proper contraceptives. Loyola is a Jesuit university, not a Puritan one.

Because Jesuit is the opposite of Puritan, obviously.

Is this the best that the Phoenix can produce with the benefits of their Jesuit education? An editorial espousing the urgent need for free condoms? I really think that they should ask for their money back - at least from the philosophy and theology departments.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Holy Farce

No word on whether Ron Howard will be attending to speak on The DaVinci Code, but the Scotsman is reporting:

PUNK rocker Rat Scabies is to join renowned international authors to discuss his pilgrimage to France in search of the Holy Grail.

The former drummer with The Damned is to address the latest symposium of the Sauniere Society, set up to help shed some light on one of the world's greatest mysteries. He was invited to speak in Musselburgh after teaming up with ex-music journalist Christopher Dawes to write Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail, published earlier this year.

Perhaps it's just me, but I think your symposium may lose a bit of its seriousness if you introduce as one of your speakers a Mr. Rat Scabies. Not that it isn't a great name for a punk rocker.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

African Cardinal supports condom use for married

Cardinal Tumi has voiced support for married couples to use condoms as a means of protection against HIV/AIDS.

I can remember discussing this issue in my moral theology classes - that is, is it morally permissible to use condoms if the intention was not to prevent procreation, but instead to prevent the transmission of the AIDS virus. This issue was of particular importance in Africa.

On the one hand, I can understand the importance of including intent in any determination of moral culpability which would seem to justify the use of condoms if, again, the purpose was not in violation of Humani Generis. On the other hand, if someone is infected with a life threatening illness is it wise to engage in an act which might transfer that illness to one's spouse?

Charlotte Church to play devil worshiper

Remember when Charlotte Church came out against Pope Benedict for criticizing the Harry Potter books?

Well, I hope the pope doesn't see Charlotte in her new role as a devil worshiper for the Dr. Who series "Torchwood". The article says that she will be playing a "sexy Satan-worshiping teenager".

The article also says that this is the fulfillment of a childhood dream - I hope they mean the acting part and not the devil worshiping part.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Orthodox

Pope Benedict has "politely rebuffed" a demand by the Orthodox Church that he prohibit the move of the see of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from L'viv to Kiev. I don't know whether the numbers of Ukrainian Catholics in the western part of Ukraine justifies the move or not, but what I want to address is the issue of the appropriateness of asking the Pope to prohibit the move.

One of the main criticisms of the Pope regards his universal jurisdiction, so it would seem that the Orthodox Church should be happy when the Pope doesn't interfere in the issues regarding the internal affairs of a particular Church. That is, for the Pope to forbid the Ukrainian Catholic Church from moving its see to another city within its canonical territory would be violate of the very autonomy that the Orthodox point to as one of their objections to church union. On the otherhand, if the Orthodox want the Pope to forbid the Ukrainian Catholic Church from moving to Kiev, shouldn't they be willing to accept theoretical Papal control over their own bishops should union take place?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Russian Orthodox and Social Justice

The Russian Orthodox Church is taking a closer look at issues of social justice - for example, one Russian priest has condemend the use of the death penalty on the grounds that life imprisonment can be worse and because of the wrong committed by executing the innocent. [More found here]

Russia Profile has a very interesting piece about the Russian Orthodox Church placing new emphasis on its social justice principles - emphasis which has met with approval in the West, but not so much attention in Russia itself.

The article alludes to the close Church/State connections as a reason for why it has been difficult for the Orthodox to develop a modern social justice movement - but another reason has to be the difference between a Western spirituality focused on the earthly Christ as opposed to an Eastern spirituality focussed on the resurrected and ascended Christ. I don't want to make this an absolute dichotomy but we see some of this in the preference in the West for a dead/dying Christ on the Cross whereas in the East the preference is for a risen Christ.

The West doesn't seem to have a problem with focussing on social justice issues because it readily sees the divine in Creation and Christ in the poor. However, sometimes this leads to a deification of creation and a forgetfulness that this world is not our home. The East has a strong focus on the glorified kingdom to which we are headed, but can sometimes overlook problems with the environment down here.

This is why it is important for the Church to breathe with both lungs.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pope Benedict to issue first encyclical

Pope Benedict has given his first encyclical to translators. It is expected to be released on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and focus on one's personal relationship with God. It was written in German.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

New episode up at Catholic:Under The Hood

This weeks episode - Praying with Icons - is now available for your listening enjoyment over at Catholic:Under The Hood. Listen to a discussion about icons and how they can enhance your spiritual life with a special focus on the icon of the Holy Trinity by St. Andrei Rublev.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Ratzinger's music gets Papal approval

A hymn composed by Fr. Georg Ratzinger [brother of Pope Benedict XVI] was played by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, the pope was in attendance.

Fr. George Ratzinger is a renowned composer who was awarded an honor by Austria in May for his contributions to Austrian music. Many of the pieces that he has conducted are available via

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tell a priest "Thanks!" on October 30th

Sunday, October 30th is Priesthood Sunday. The day, sponsored by the International Serra Club, is intended to be an opportunity for people to show their appreciation and support for priests and other religious - including deacons like yours truly. So, if you have a priest or religious that you know has being doing a good job - take the time to let them know. I guarantee that they will appreciate it - plus donuts, lots of donuts.

New Narnia Photos

Internet Movie Database has some new photos from the movie The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The images continue to look pretty good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Holy foosball!

Via Yahoo!

Uruguay's Federico Arnaud with his El juego de los Milagros [The match of the wonders], a foosball [table soccer] table table with Catholic Saints and Jesus as keeper. The foosball table is part of an exhibition to celebrate the World Cup 2006.

I am guessing that the other two figures are the Blessed Mother with Child and Saint Joseph. Perfect for those late friday and saturday seminary nights and for catechising the college scene.

In another sign of the apocalypse...

The American Civil Liberties Union says an Oconee County councilman broke the law by using Jesus Christ's name in his prayer during a council meeting.[source]

Anglican group opposes Catholic teaching on Mary

The Anglican group Church Society has issued a statement criticizing the recent ARCIC report on Mary in the Anglican and Catholic communities.

The group writes:

“Roman Catholic teaching has no warrant in scripture and the Anglican Church’s teaching is that the church is subject to scripture."

Holy Scripture, they argue does not call for us to praise or bless Mary.

“The conclusions are entirely inconsistent with the historic formularies of the Church of England (The 39 Articles), which state, inter alia, that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation with the consequence that whatever is not read in or capable of being proven from Scripture cannot be demanded from any person to be believed as an article of faith.”

While I disagree these statements, I think it is important that they be put into the open. Any moves toward reconciliation do indeed need to be based on a common understanding of what is being agreed to and any steps toward ecumenical agreement will be disasters if they result in new schisms among the various churches. Let's come to common agreement within our faith traditions first.

News on John Paul II miniseries - Pope Benedict to watch

The CBS miniseries about John Paul II staring Cary Elwes and Jon Voight is scheduled to appear on December 4th and 7th. CBS has scheduled its premiere screening with Pope Benedict XVI on November 17th.

Are we spiritually ready for disaster?

A photo of a priest walking through a mock plane crash designed to test disaster response got me to thinking about the preparation that the US Church has made in terms of a quick sacramental response in the case of a major disaster, God forbid.

In addition to medical care, people will need spiritual care as well - the sacrament of penance, the sacrament of penance, extreme unction. Have dioceses, especially in major urban areas such as New York and Washington DC given any thought to the allocation of priests and other ministers in the case of such an emergency?

I would like to think that any priest that was able would head immediately to the areas that seemed most in need, particularly hospitals - but I also wonder if everyone wouldn't head to the same place leading to perhaps no priests in other areas in which they were needed.

Since it is hard to predict what sort of emergency might take place, it would obviously be difficult to prepare for any contingency, but I would think that some general procedures should be put into place. If anyone knows about this, I'd be glad to hear.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Celebrating the Cowboy Rite or "Take this ye'all and eat it"

"Our goal is to reach those who enjoy the Western culture with the gospel of Christ, whether they're a working cowboy or a cowboy at heart"

So says the Rev. Gene Blankenship, Jr who supervises a ministry to cowboys at the Cowboy Church of Central Florida.

Services differ from those of most churches, although the elements are familiar: Bible reading, hymn singing and a sermon. But in this sanctuary, the hats stay on throughout, except for formal prayers.

In the arena, a black flatbed trailer serves as a pulpit and stage for the four-piece bluegrass group playing tonight. After an opening prayer, members of String Therapy begin the first of half a dozen songs they will play throughout the one-hour service.

The band asks for requests to be shouted out by numbers from hymnals, which are annotated with guitar chords so that worshippers can play along as they sing. With the small number in tonight's crowd, the emphasis is on String Therapy's virtuoso playing, including a moving fiddle solo on "Amazing Grace" by Jason Thomas of Ocoee.

Blankenship's brief sermon is full of ranch analogies, about breaking horses and bull-riding.

Sounds pretty interesting, I don't mind inculturation. It made me wonder what it might look like if there were a real "Western Rite" within the Catholic Church. Yeehah!

A modern day Job?

A Romanian prisoner is suing God for not protecting him from the Devil.

The inmate argued that his baptism was a contract between him and God who was supposed to keep the Devil away and keep him out of trouble. He added: “God even claimed and received from me various goods and prayers in exchange for forgiveness and the promise that I would be rid of problems and have a better life. “But on the contrary I was left in Devil’s hands.” [source]

The prisoner is suing God via the Romanian Orthodox Church as God's representative.

Apparently this prisoner never learned that a life in Christ means a life of struggle, including a struggle with the Devil. Indeed, if you don't feel a struggle with sin and temptation, you may be pretty far along the wrong path.

Busy, busy, busy

It's midterm week and I've been busy with a lot of grading. I'll try to catch up with the posting as I can.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

New Podcast at Catholic:Under The Hood

I've put up the newest podcast over at Catholic:Under The Hood. This week's subject is vocations and we have a special interview with Fr. Richard Davis, TOR, former vocations director for the Third Order Franciscans of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as some of my own reflections on discernment.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Caviezel at Notre Dame

Jim Caviezel, of The Passion fame, spoke at the Grotto of the University of Notre Dame to a crowd of students on Thursday along with joining in a Rosary.

Some of the highlights:

  • "God used me as his instrument," he said. "Anything good about the movie came from the fasting, the deep prayer and the daily Mass."
  • "I came here to Notre Dame to tell you students to have the courage to step into this pagan world and shamelessly express your faith in public," he said. "We are in a more dangerous war now than ever before ... our world is entrenched in sin."
  • Caviezel spoke about controversial topics including abortion. While he said he wasn't here to antagonize pro-choice Catholics, he asked, "Do you think Our Lady is pro-choice?"
  • "You were not sent here simply to study or play ball, but to understand that you are a son or daughter of Notre Dame," he said. "This University is about saving your mortal soul."
  • He pleaded with students not to "lose sight of Our Lady while cramming for tests, playing ball and drinking Guinness."

The rest of the article can be found here. BTW: He will also be at the USC/Notre Dame football game.

For my part, I don't know how you could truly drink Guinness without thinking of Our Blessed Mother. MMM...Guinnessy Goodness.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The problem of dialogue and ecumenism

One of the problems that I have with the popularity of the word "dialogue" in religious discussions is that often the goal of at least one of the participants is not truly "dialogue" but instead is "talk to me until I wear you down and you agree with everything I want."

Here is an example - the first paragraph of the article reads:

A rebel traditionalist Roman Catholic group wants to launch theological discussions with the Vatican in the hope that Pope Benedict may help find ways to resolve a 17-year-long schism separating it from Rome.

This is the second paragraph:

However, the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), which rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and sticks to the old Latin mass, is in no hurry and will not negotiate away its defence of traditional Catholicism, its leader says.

So, dialogue does not mean negotiation. Ironically, the head of the SSPX - at the same time that he wants greater dialogue with Rome makes the assertion:

''The problem with ecumenism is that the other side profits,'' he argued. ''Ecumenism is a Protestant word.'' [Bishop Bernard] Fellay said he believed Benedict wanted to bring the SSPX back into the Church but doubted he would do enough to resolve what the group sees as a crisis caused by the reforms of the Vatican Council.

I agree, the problem with bad ecumenism is that one side enters the dialogue seeking to ensure that only it profits and that the other side must concede everything. Apparently at the present time dialogue with the SSPX is "bad ecumenism".

I note the same problems in terms of dialogue with other groups. For example:

Ecumenical delegates to a Vatican meeting of bishops urged the church to more readily allow non-Catholic Christians to receive Communion, saying it could help foster unity.

The delegates told the Synod of Bishops that the Vatican's position on so-called intercommunion "pains" or "saddens" them. [source]

Because the purpose of ecumenism is not Church union, but rather, to make everybody happy.

There are two problems with this approach that I wish to note - The first is that theological unity precedes eucharistic unity. This is why reception of the eucharist follows - not precedes baptism into the faith and the acceptance of the faith either by the individual or by their parents. When the priest/deacon/extra-ordinary minister says "Body of Christ" does the individual truly believe what the Catholic Church believes in saying "Amen" - if not, the reception is for show and without meaning.

The second is that opening Communion to all Christians [and why stop there - perhaps there are pained and saddened non-Christians as well] will pain and sadden groups such as the SSPX - should the Catholic Church not concern itself with their feelings as well?

What the Catholic Church should do is to take their beliefs and the beliefs of other Christians seriously enough to say that differences in the faith matter - that these differences in the faith matter enough for us to make the effort to work them out and not gloss over them in an attempt for some illusory union.

Franciscan pride

(AGI) - Vatican City, Oct 12 - "We all have a Franciscan soul," was Pope Benedict XVI most cheered statement in his Wednesday morning sermon before a crowd of 60,000 worshippers gathered in St. Peter's square today. The statement came as the Pope mentioned St. Francis' motto of "peace and good deeds" as he referred to cohabitation in Jerusaelm between different relifgions. (AGI) -
121235 OTT 05

Pardon me while I do a Franciscan happy dance. I'll go to confession in a bit....

Extra-terrestrials for Christ

In: Intelligent Life in the Universe? Catholic belief and the search for
extraterrestrial intelligent life, author Guy Consolmagno SJ, asks:

• Would humans recognise intelligent life if we saw it?
• Could we communicate with it? Should we even try?
• Is Original Sin something that affects all intelligent beings?
• Is Jesus Christ's redemption valid for intelligent beings throughout the universe?
• or would other worlds have their own version of Jesus?
• Would the Church send missionaries to ET planets?

It is always important to ask theological questions before they become practically important, because who knows - perhaps "They" are already living among us. However, I think that some better questions might be:

  • Would extra-terrestrials recognize human life as intelligent?
  • Would they communicate with it? Should they even try?
Afterall, why worry about what might be the state of extra-terrestrial life, when people down here don't act as if they recognize the reality of Original Sin or Christ's redemption? When so many down here are in the habit of making their own Jesus which looks suspiciously like themselves? When the Church doesn't send missionaries anywhere - at least in the traditional sense of bringing people to the faith?

Perhaps we can work harder on the faith down here before worrying about taking it to the stars.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yahoo! demonstrates once more its stupidity and/or immorality

Hot on the heels of the news that Yahoo helped provide information leading to the arrest of a Chinese dissident, comes news that Yahoo is finally closing down adult-minor sex chat rooms under pressure from the New York and Nebraska attorney generals. I won't go into the details of the article, but it boggles the mind that this sort of thing would have been permitted to begin with. Earth to Yahoo! - sexual activity with minors is illegal! You are a private company, you don't have to allow everything under the sun [or undercover of darkness] to have a forum. And we aren't speaking of a few here - the article mentions about 70,000 different chat rooms had titles that suggested that they facilitated illegal conduct.

I wonder if MSN or Google have the same problem.

Narnia news

Narnia is winning rave reviews from Protestant church leaders.

Audience members were enthralled with the film clip. They also think the movie provides an opportunity to reach out to moviegoers who might otherwise not be receptive to religious appeals.

"It has a gospel message,'' said Pastor Jarvis Ward of Mission America, an evangelical group.

Some local ministers at the sneak preview said the film could lead moviegoers to explore Christianity.

"I think there is a lot of potential for using this movie,'' said the Rev. Matthew Gunter of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn. He said his church is likely to organize groups to see and discuss it.

I think that this is all a very good sign that the movie will remain essentially faithful to Lewis' message and hopefully it will encourage a greater interest in Lewis' other works.

Fordham, abortion, Irish studies and academic freedom

From a report of the New York Newsday:

Fordham University is re-inviting Irish activist Ivana Bacik to appear at the Jesuit-run institution to quash allegations that she had been blackballed because of her advocacy of abortion rights.

Because we certainly wouldn't want advocacy of abortion rights to be an issue at a Jesuit-run institution.

Bacik's formal complaint that her academic freedom had been violated -- and the withdrawal in protest several days later of the next speaker in the series, Irish cultural critic Fintan O'Toole -- were the subjects of an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon of the executive committee of the university's Irish Studies Institute.

Because academic freedom means being able to speak wherever and whenever you want.

"We investigated what had happened and we don't find there was any intent or effort by Fordham or by the [Irish Studies] Institute to censor Professor Bacik for her pro-choice stands," Swiontkowski [Director of the Irish Studies Institute] said. "If anything, the sin was bending over backwards for a donor."

Yes, that's the sin.

There is so much wrong with this decision, but I want to address the issue of academic freedom. Academic freedom doesn't give Bacik the right to speak at Fordham and not speaking at Fordham certainly didn't threaten her position at an Irish institution. Ideas have consequences and it's disappointing that while many academics seek praise and adulation for their ideas, they immediately cry foul at the first sign of opposition. While Bacik should have the right to speak at Fordham in the name of academic freedom, Fordham should not have the right to not have Bacik speak in the name of that same academic freedom. It seems to me that once someone is being forced to listen to another's ideas we are no longer talking about freedom - at least as its commonly understood.

But perhaps we can use this to our advantage. I could certainly use a few more speaking engagements and would like to get the financial benefits that come from this - so I am going to start writing universities demanding that they allow me to speak there. If they refuse, I will declare that my academic freedom is being violated until they submit. At least it should work at Fordham.

The importance of preaching

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told a meeting of the world's bishops that Catholics increasingly expect better homilies from priests at Sunday Mass.

"Ritual precision alone will not bring back those who do not attend Sunday Mass," he said.

Several bishops attending the Oct. 2-23 Synod of Bishops have expressed concern about the quality of homilies, with many saying the sermons need to be better focused on the theology of the Catholic faith...

"We bishops in our role as the primary preachers in our local churches must lead by our own good example rather than merely asking our priests and deacons to be better prepared homilists," he added. [source]

As long as the longest contact that many people have with their priest is the Sunday Mass, the homily will be of great importance in the presentation of the faith. Unfortunately, sometimes priests confuse quantity of words with quality of words.

I think that priests should take some lessons from the teaching profession in terms of the best methods of presenting their ideas and perhaps some acting lessons to better develop a good public speaking style.

It can be difficult to prepare a homily in the midst of all other responsibilities - especially for a daily Mass, but if the priest doesn't care enough about the Word than the people won't be motivated either.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Religious images in the news

This first image appearing to be a man and child has appeared on a wall of a church in Chile. Many believe it is the image of Father Hurtado who ministered to needy children and is too be canonized soon.

The second image is reportedly the image of the pope on a pancake. [No, it's not available on e-Bay].

Dr. Robert Marco is the Chair of Theology at Aquinas College. He says the pope in a pancake picture looks pretty accurate. But, he doubts it has religious meaning. He adds it is probably a fluke.

You too can be a monk or a nun!

Heery Casting is conducting a nationwide search for six men to live in a monastery for six months and six women to live in a convent for the same period of time "to conduct their own search for meaning". You need not have any religious convictions, but must be "willing to engage in the process". The casting is for a show to appear on the Learning Channel. If you are interested, you can get an application from the casting agency.

The site doesn't mention what the applicants can expect - perhaps hair shirts and the discipline. Here is the full description from the web site:

The Learning Channel will be making a series of documentaries about monastic life, which will be filmed from November 2005 – February 2006.

We are looking for five men and five women to spend six weeks living in a monastery with a religious community—the men to live with a community of monks and the women with a community of nuns.

Guided by the Abbot or Abbess, the participants will experience a truly spiritual approach to life. Removed from the world, they will be encouraged to reflect on the lives they are leading, and conduct their own personal search for meaning and understanding.

Participants will come from a variety of backgrounds and age groups. They DO NOT necessarily need to be religious, although they should genuinely be interested and open to the idea. They need to be willing to be cut off from the outside world for six weeks.

The men will film in November and December, the women in January and February.

There will be some financial compensation.

Please be sure to include 2-3 casual photos of yourself.
Please click here to download the Application form.

The honor of the persecuted Church

An emotional account of how Catholics in communist Romania held fast to their faith despite persecution and humiliation drew resounding applause from some 240 participants at the world Synod of Bishops.

Romanian-rite Archbishop Lucian Muresan of Fagaras-Alba Iulia underlined the great hopes of the Catholic community despite past hardships and present challenges. According to information released by the Vatican, his Oct. 6 talk, four days into the synod sessions, was the first to draw applause from the bishops who were gathered at the Vatican for three weeks to discuss the role of the Eucharist in the life of the church.

People's hunger for the bread of God could not be quashed, not even when the church was brutally repressed from 1948 to 1990 by the communists, Archbishop Muresan said.

It's stories like this that always provide a sense of perspective to my own faith experience and force me to ask whether I would behave so honorable in similar surroundings. Yet, I beleive that the Archbishop points to the key for all people - a devotion to the Eucharist. If we place our trust in Christ, he promises us the grace to see us through any persecution whether that comes from obvious threats or hidden temptations to apathy. I believe that this is why the resurgence in piety among the young is concomitant with the rise in devotion to Eucharistic adoration.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sr. Joan Chittister and the problems of history

While the Russian Orthodox church sat in solemn conclave in 1917 debating internal church agendas, a fledgling group of communist insurgents made their first military attacks on the czar.

While the clergy bolstered the monarchies of Europe, the first stirrings of democratic revolution broke out in France.

While Roman Catholicism was being banned in France in 1793, the construction of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., a country built on the rights of the individual, was beginning.

And while 256 Roman Catholic bishops from 118 countries prepared to assemble in Rome this week for a synod on the Eucharist, Corpus, an organization of married priest that has long supported the notion of a married priesthood (it was formally named the Corps of Reserve Priests United for Service), initiated a program that could certainly enliven the discussion. Maybe even start a revolution of its own. [source]

One who is not a historian should always be careful of making use of historical analogy as they are often, as in this case, wrong and often, as in this case, horribly wrong.

Let's begin with the problem of comparing the movement of Corpus to the Bolshevik uprising in October 1917. At the time that the Russian Orthodox Church was meeting, it was not meeting to discuss mere "internal agendas" although the praseology is helpful if one wants to accuse the Catholic hierarchy of doing the same. In fact, this was the first time that the Russian Orthodox Church had been able to meet to decide, free of state control, upon its own policies and leadership. This synod represented a failed opportunity for the Russian Church to do many of the things that Sr. Joan and her friends at the NCR support - a liturgy in the vernacular, an church more concerned with issues of social justice, a church more focussed on the laity. Indeed, the Bolshevik uprising ended those possibilities and put out a brief spark of Church independence as well as leading to the brutal deaths of thousands of believers.

Sr. Joan doesn't improve any with her next analogy to the French Revolution. Again, she has it all wrong. The French Revolution was not begun as a democratic revolution. Certain groups - i.e. the educated elite wanted a greater voice in the government but they were not in favor of opening the vote to everyone. Moreover, what the French ended up with was a Terror that also brutally killed Catholics and finally yet another despot in Napoleon.

Failing miserably in her first two analogies, Sr. Joan tries a third time by comparing the situation in Europe at the time of the French Revolution with that of the situation in the United States where throughout most of the country Catholics were also persecuted as any trip through Philadelphia will demonstrate. Fortunately, the religious persecution in the US was not lethal.

That's three for three. Not only does she misrepresent the history involved in these three analogies [sometimes to an astonishing degree] but she also errors in trying to imply that any movement by CORPUS could be seen as historically significant as the French, Russian, and American revolutions. Moreover, if I'm in CORPUS, I don't think I would like being compared to the Bolsheviks or French Committee for Public Safety.

But perhaps, Joan really does mean what she says - in that case, we should all be very afraid.

Yoda and the Emperor

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?Inspired by Idle Mendacity, I have learned that I am most like Yoda. I think there is something of a resemblance and I didn't buy that Anakin prophecy either. However, I know that others have said that I'm more like the Emperor. Go figure.

Does God love the Devil?

The Gospel readings this week include the message "Many are called, but few are chosen." This is a difficult saying when one wants to think of the love of God ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table of the wedding feast. How can one go to hell [if hell exists] if we have a loving God? We try to ameliorate the harshness of this idea by placing the responsibility entirely on the sinner for freely chosing a life separate from God, but I wonder if anyone - knowing what hell was really like and what heaven was really like - would chose hell? On the other hand, if we are truly free - we are free to chose the wrong. Indeed, many times we do chose what is wrong - knowing that it is wrong and knowing that we will later regret it. As Saint Paul stresses, what I should do, I do not do.

I am certainly not the first to struggle with these issues.

Does God love the Devil? Yes he does. Is the Devil in hell? Yes he is. I tried to think of a pithy statement to reflect this - "Some people are in hell because of the love of God". But this statement implies that people are in hell bucause God put them there, but that is not the case. Yet, the phrase "Some people are in hell despite the love of God" also is not quite correct because it is the love of God that allows them the freedom to choose hell. The love of God permits hell but doesn't mandate it.

This becomes even more complex if we assume that God, in his love, doesn't want people in hell. Does this mean that the presence of people in hell is somehow contrary to his will? Does this mean that there is indeed a limit [even self-imposed] upon God?

Questions, but no answers.

Turkey and Halki

The issue of the reopening of the Orthodox seminary on Halki, off Istanbul, “will be resolved within the framework of the constitution and the law,” Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said yesterday after Turkey’s Justice Minister Huseyin Celik remarked that “it is wrong for (the seminary) to stay closed.” Greece’s government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos was cool in his response, noting that reopening the seminary “is Turkey’s obligation, as set out in the road map (for eventual EU accession).” [source]

Reopening the seminary not only should be a condition for EU acceptance, but also should be done before further discussion is made into whether or not the EU will grant Turkey admission. The problem with assuming that entry into the EU will cause Turkey to become more religiously tolerant is that once Turkey is admitted, there is no longer any need for Turkey to change. However, I also wonder if for the future of the Orthodox Church in Constantinople, it is already too late.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Podcasting is basically a radio-style show put out over the Internet. That means, worshippers can catch their Sunday church sermon in the car during Monday morning rush-hour traffic or on the treadmill at the gym after work.

And there are plenty of religious podcasts to choose from. Last summer, listed roughly 170 religious and spiritual podcasts on its site. A recent check showed that number has jumped to more than 600 religious-based podcasts.

The surge in religious oriented podcasts or "Godcasts" is of great benefit especially to those who are unable to attend Sunday worship. However, some worry that the ease of which people can now download sermons or homilies in their own homes may threaten the importance of seeing the primary expression of worship in the community.

In that sense, I don't think it is any more of a threat than having Sunday Mass on TV, plus the general post-Vatican II mindset on homilies is that they should focus on the Gospel for that particular Sunday. This has led to a decline in homilies on other topics such as a particular virtue/sin or sacrament. It seems to me that the need for better catechesis leaves open the need to try to reach people with these types of messages via podcasting which can compliment - not supplant - the message of the homily.

In a parish situation it can be very difficult to get people to come to a parish for adult education. Podcasts can be a good means of reaching the faithful who wish to learn more but are unable to find a lot of free time amidst very busy schedules.

The mystery of blogging about the faith

When Lee Anne Millinger got the grim news that she needed a kidney transplant, prayers for her well-being began to flow from her family, her Presbyterian church and — because Millinger lives part of her life in the online world — from bloggers who live thousands of miles away.

"It was so encouraging to know that these people were thinking of me and my family. It was like someone from church calling to check in on us," said Millinger, of Royal Oak, Mich.

Similarly, the Rev. Andrew Bloomfield, a newly ordained Roman Catholic priest in Canton, Mich., has placed one foot firmly in his parish and another in the blogosphere, where he's trying to encourage interest in traditional Catholic teachings.

"The Gospel is relevant in today's world, and this is a way to share the Gospel with another community," he said.

Bloggers like these provide windows into the practical ways that faith shapes daily life. Similarities emerge, even between a Protestant mom and a Catholic priest.

Mystery has always been a key component of religion, and there's definitely a dose of mystery in the booming interest in religious blogging.
[source and rest of article]

The article goes on to speak of the difficulty getting the word out about many of these blogs about the faith and I would add that the difficulty is even more severe with podcasts about the faith. Unless you are fortunate, as Father Roderick of Catholic Insider was in being able to podcast the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict, it is hard to get the word out about what you do - especially as many don't have any idea what a blog is much less what you mean if you say podcast.

The article mentions the establishment of a site called Global Voices that is designed to try to expose people to lesser known blogs by people around the world - most of which are centered on faith issues. I also think that - especially among podcasters - there needs to be a greater focus on promoting the good work of others. Tech podcasts will always have promos about other tech oriented podcasts, but the Catholic podcasts I have heard [including my own] generally do not. I don't think that the lack of promotion is out of malicious tendencies, I think that many of us do not understand the nature of business advertisement the way those who sponsor tech blogs and podcasts do.

Established bloggers help promote each other by pointing out articles or information in other blogs that might be of interest to their readers and/or keeping lists of Catholic blogs on their sites. But unless you already look at one of these more popular blogs, you are not going to find out about the others. Perhaps bishops and priests could bring better attention to these media forms especially since they seem to be predominently coming from the Catholic laity.

In short, there needs to be a whole lot more getting the word out both about the existence of these blogs/podcasts as well as information as to how people can read/subscribe to these new media forms. As the article notes, the mystery of these blogs should be the mystery of the faith, not the mystery of their existence.

Pope praises work of Hans Urs von Balthasar

In his message-- which was read to the seminar by Bishop Rino Fisichella, the rector of the Lateran University-- Pope Benedict writes of his treasured friendship with von Balthasar, and says that the Swiss theologian's work "still retains a profound relevance today."

Hans Urs von Balthasar, the Pope writes, "was a theologian who put his work at the service of the Church," because he was convinced that theology is useful only within the context of Catholic practice. "I can testify that his life was an authentic search for truth," the Pope adds. Pope Benedict says that he hopes the 100th-anniversary observance will stimulate a revival of interest in the work of von Balthasar, recalling Henri de Lubac's claim that the Swiss theologian was "the most cultured man of our century."


Pope Benedict XVI today recalled his great friendship of more than 50 years with Hans Urs Von Balthesar, Swiss theologian who the Pope says he "had the joy of knowing and passing time with". The Pope refers to their friendship as "sincere" and recalled the work they did together over the years most notably on the 'Communio' after Vatican II, "which remains the most obvious sign of our common effort in theological research." The Pope went on to eulogise his former friend who he said "tried always to find the truth, everywhere." The Pope also said that the theologian's work remained "very up to date" and that he had been "a theologian that put his research into the service of the church, because he was convinced that theology could only be reconciled through the church." The Pope went on to say that Balthesar's scientific approach brought him to a "profound existential reading, understanding that theology can only develop through prayer in the presence of god and entrusting oneself obediently to him. This is the road that is worth perusing till the end." He concluded: The example left to us by Von Balthesar is that of a true theologians who in his contemplation discovered the coherent way to give witness to Christianity throughout the world." [source]

I must admit that I have not read a lot of von Balthasar, though I did find his work Mysterium Paschale very profound. In the little I have read about him I know that I am somewhat more sympathetic to his theology from above and his focus on resourcement than I am to Karl Rahner's theology from below and focus on aggiornamento. This may inspire me to take a closer look at his works especially on Maximus the Confessor.

Evaluating the role of the laity

Taylor's "Love in Action: A Direct Action Handbook for Catholics Using Gospel Nonviolence to Reform and Renew the Church" is a guide for Catholics who want to spur the church to more "accountability and transparency." It harks back to the 1960s, when Taylor marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Taylor intends the 12-point action plan to equip independent groups such as Voice of the Faithful, a 30,000-member lay organization to which Taylor belongs. The guide will likely be used by the organization as it finalizes its goals following a national convention held last July, said Bud Bretschneider, Voice of the Faithful chairman for Greater Philadelphia.


Taylor urges that negotiation with church leadership be the first strategy. If that fails, the 92-page handbook includes a list of 82 methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion including mock awards, lobbying and refusing to pay dues or assessments. [source]

However others such as Scott Appleby of Notre Dame and William Dinges of Catholic University are warning that protests could be counterproductive and cause the Catholic hierarchy to harden itself against lay imput.

My own perspective is that most priests are not adverse to increasing lay involvement in their parishes - under the limits establised by Canon Law. However, I don't think that the laity have taken advantage of their current capabilities and responsibilities. It's difficult to think that the problem is on the side of the clergy when you see people not showing up at Mass to fulfill their obligations as lector or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Lay responsibility means lay committment and as the Gospel states - faithfulness in small things means opportunities for greater things. So, I would ask that before one starts making signs and marching in protest that they first examine themselves to see if they have, in fact, lived up to their responsibilities as a faithful Catholic. As one of the parishioners here has said, oftentimes those who give the least complain the most.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Paul McCarney and PETA congratulate Pope

From a recent interview by the Vice President of PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], Dan Mathews of Sir Paul McCartney.

D[an]: There is some exciting news: The last Pope was the first to say that animals have souls, and now Pope Benedict has come out against factory farming, saying it makes a mockery of God’s creatures. As someone who was raised a Catholic, do you have a message for him?

P[aul]: God bless him! I think it would be fantastic if someone in his position who’s able to reach so many people took a strong stance on that, because one of PETA’s strongest points, and one of mine, is compassion. That certainly is a basic tenet of the Catholic religion. I think it would be terrific if he took a strong stance and urged people to come out against that kind of thing.

First, a correction - the Catholic Church has always believed that animals have souls, just not human/rational souls. They have animal souls.
Second, don't expect the Catholic Church to give up meet [except on Friday's] any time soon.

However, in the reference which is made - in fact an interview with then Cardinal Ratzinger - the now pope does call animals our "companions in creation" and states that while it is moral to use animals for food,

...we cannot just do whatever we want with them. . . . Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.

Warnings about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrope

Liam Lacey writes in The Globe and Mail:

The Chronicles of Narnia:

The Lion, the Witch and

the Wardrobe. (Dec. 9)

Is this the next super-franchise? The series starts with the most famous of C. S. Lewis's Narnia stories, about English kids who go through the back of a wardrobe into a new world, where they must overthrow an evil witch with the help of a messianic lion.

Be alert for hidden Christian messages.

Actually, I would be more concerned if the messages were indeed "hidden". Lewis wasn't subtle when it came to his Christianity.

New Podcast at Catholic:Under The Hood

A new podcast is up over at Catholic:Under The Hood. We will be looking at iconoclasm and the anniversary of the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicea as well as the icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. Through it we will see more of the messiness and holiness that makes up the human character - plus there is music!

Catholic Podcasting

I have posted a list of Catholic Podcasts over on the Catholic:Under The Hood site. If you know of any that I am missing, just tell me and I will be glad to put them up. Also, if you produce a Catholic podcast and you have a promo that you would like to to put on the next Catholic:Under The Hood podcast, just send it to me and I'll get it on the air.

You can contact me at

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lessons in the faith from children - Part II

A CHRISTIAN charity is sending a film on the Christmas story to all 26,000 primary schools in Britain after hearing of a young boy who asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph named their baby after a swear word. [source]

What a tragedy it is when the image of Jesus in the mind of a child is that of a swear word. What a tragedy it is when the name of Jesus becomes a word that should not be spoken. Yet, when it is forbidden to speak the name of Jesus in devotion so that others may not be offended, the name of Jesus will only be spoken in cursing and swearing and mocking.

Do we who claim to follow Jesus strive to present his name in a way that gives it honor or do we keep his name silent? Do we speak the name of Jesus with the intention of bringing love or bringing curses?

We have been challenged to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world, apparently we have a long way to go.

Lessons in the faith from children - Part I

In 2003, Julianne Will remembers taking a class of first-graders on a mini-field trip to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church during the Lenten season. Inside the church, several displays detailed the final moments of Jesus’ life, including his crucifixion.

Will explained to the children what was happening as they traveled from one scene to the next, and noticed the children became uncharacteristically quiet and started asking questions.

The kids were scared, Will said, their sensibilities jarred by seeing up-close the events involving the death of Jesus. They couldn’t compare what they were seeing to the previous images of his life depicted in photos. [source]

In order to help children better understand Jesus' suffering,death and resurrection, Will has written a book of Stations of the Cross for children. She tries to compare the pain that Jesus experienced with the pain that children feel in their own lives. She also has a very competent assistant in her daughter.

I wonder how often those of us with an adult faith can look at a Crucifix and find ourselves jarred, scared, wondering about how someone who brought such good and love could have experienced such suffering. How easy it seems to be to become numbed to the message of the Cross, to make a quick glance and then turn away. The message of the children is that we should always strive to make our faith life ever new, to live our faith in wonder and surprise and shock and awe.

In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth

The Austrialian Bible Society has issued a translation of the Bible in the form of SMS [text messages]. Using the International Contemporary English version, the SMS version includes all the verses of the Bible and would take over 30,000 text messages to download.

I wonder whether at some point in the future there will be churches that only use the SMS version as some churches today only use the King James version. After all, we know that Jesus' own words were in SMS.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Increased security at the Vatican Synod

The Vatican decided on Wednesday to limit information given to reporters about the discussions among Roman Catholic bishops attending a synod after extensive media coverage of some controversial debates.

Priests who are briefing journalists said that from now on they would only disclose the theme of what a bishop said during the daily open discussion part of the gathering but no details.

The decision was taken on Wednesday morning "in order to allow the bishops to speak more freely," one of the priest briefers said when pressed by reporters about the change. [source]

Apparently, all of the press coverage regarding the discussions over giving Eucharist to pro-choice politicians and married clergy has the Synod worried that the discussions will be affected negatively. The press will continue to be given excerpts of formal speeches.

While I can understand a fear that the discussions might become negatively affected by fears of how words might be presented in the media - see my post on the Times reporting goofs below - I also think that the media reports of the discussions present an important side to a Church seen too often to be monolithic in its perspective.

Not actually true

It is so very hard to engage in constructive dialogue with Christians who are skeptical of Catholic beliefs when you read news articles with headlines like this: Catholic Church No Longer Swears By The Truth Of The Bible

Why is it that so many reporters of religious issues are incompetent when it comes to religious matters? Note that while the introduction to the article says:

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true. [emphasis mine]

The actual language of the text produced by the Catholic Church of Great Britain is “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision”

Therefore, what the document is saying is not that some parts of the Bible are not actually true, but that some parts of the Bible are not literally historically true. A very different conclusion. This is certainly not anything new. Everyone knows that not everything in the Bible is to be read as literal history - for example, the Parables are not seen as stories of actual events.

The article from the Times goes on to make another egregious error:

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

Intelligent Design theory is not the same thing as a literal interpretation of Genesis. Indeed Intelligent Design would oppose a literal interpretation of Genesis.

This only emphasizes that one should never accept what secular media says about Catholic documents, one should always read the documents themselves. There are too many people reporting on religion who present information that is not actually true.

Update on Paddy Power

The Irish Advertising Agency has ordered Paddy Power to take down its advertisement using the Last Supper to advertise gambling after receiving over one hundred complaints. Paddy Power received over one hundred more.

Paddy Power replaced the advertisements which had said "There is a place for fun and game" with new advertisements that said "There is a place for fun and games. Apparently this isn't it". A spokesperson for the company complained, "We still don't believe we've pushed the boundaries too far..Some people just take this stuff too seriously."

No, apparently some people don't take this stuff seriously enough.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Reflections on Evolution, Creation and Catholicism - Part IV

There are other understandings of original sin which differ from that of Humani Generis. I would like to look at them and then offer my responses.

Many biblical scholars and scientists oppose what they see is a “pre-critical” understanding of humanity expressed in the Catechism too tied to a literal understanding of Genesis. Scientifically, they assert that the existence of microbes and viruses causing diseases predate the beginnings of humanity and cast doubt upon a view that evil and suffering exist only due to a “fall”. Indeed, they would argue that much of creation exhibits behavior that might be called sinful such as the real aggressiveness of many creatures toward each other – examples of theft, deception, and violence are demonstrated even by primates. While such behavior is not truly sinful since these animals are not morally reflective, it does indicate that much of the behavior that we consider to be wrong has been part of nature long before the advent of humanity.

Because of the propensity of species to behave in this way, some scientists see the origin of such behavior less in “sin” than because these behaviors were inherited from a common ancestor – in our case not a human ancestor and certainly not a biblical Adam. Rather, these scientiests would say that we inherited these “sinful” traits from our evolutionary ancestors of long ago.

Some scientists also argue against that idea of a “fall”, asserting that that instability and change are necessary for the advancement of all creation and that humanity itself is a product of the inherent chaos in the universe. In fact, even suffering and death are an inherent part of creation. The reality of limited resources means that, if a species is to grow, some members must die. Even within our own bodies some cells must die to enable us to grow and develop. The law of entropy states that all systems will eventually break down.

Biblical scholars fear that reliance upon an outdated understanding of original sin is easily used by those hostile to evolution to support their position. Some theologians, like Piet Schooenbert, S.J. see original sin in the evils of the social situation into which we are all born. While this understanding does move beyond a biblically literalist perspective and recognizes the importance of the social environment into which we are all born, such a position does not truly establish how we got into this situation in the beginning. That is, how did the human situation become sinful?

Many of these scientists and Biblical scholars feel the need to express original sin in evolutionary terms. Original sin is not to be seen in the choice of some “Adam” but rather in humanity’s failure to use its free will to move beyond the “sinful” tendencies of its nonhuman ancestors. There was no “fall” because there was never a state in which life existed that such “sinful” tendencies did not also exist.

I find problems with this revision of the theology of original sin. First, if “sinful” behavior is simply a process of our evolution, does it become evil simply because we now believe it to be bad? Certainly awareness that a particular act is sinful is necessary for something to be a sin, but simply saying that something is sinful doesn’t make it so. This especially seems to be the case if such “sinful” behavior was evolutionarily necessary for the survival of species, that these behaviors continued because they favored these species in the process of natural selection and that even apparent altruistic behavior can be explained in terms of selfishness. If such behavior was “good” in the sense that it promoted survival of a species, why is such behavior no longer “good” - especially if one can argue that it is simply a part of our natural desire to help ourselves – either as a species or an individual?

One of the geniuses of the Christian tradition is that it turns such an understanding on its head by proclaiming blessed are the meek. It is not some Nietzchian understanding that looks only to the strong for salvation.

Furthermore, if the nature of existence is indeed toward entropy and disorder does this not run counter to any understanding of a “growing” and “improving” universe?

Despite these problems, there is an important point of concurrence which can be made. The prior existence of “sinful” behavior does not detract from a traditionalist understanding that original sin is the result of a human choice. Indeed, contemporary theologians would agree that human sin results from human choice. Therefore, original sin is not the behavior, but the decision to engage in such behavior when one could freely choose differently. Using the Genesis metaphor, humanity chose to disobey God in response to the temptations of the serpent. Could not the serpent be seen as an embodiment of this evolutionary “sin”? In acceding to the serpent’s temptation, was not humanity thereby refusing God’s offer to live differently than their ancestors?

Celebrate the Transitus at Catholic:Under The Hood

Join me at Catholic:Under The Hood for a special celebration of the Transitus of Saint Francis recorded live at Franciscan University. Enter into prayer and song with the friars and here a brief reflection by Father Michael Scanlon.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Court of Appeals rules on priest/penitent relationship

A communication between a church congregant and a clergy member need not include the seeking of forgiveness of sin to be protected by the priest-penitent privilege, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.

The definition of “penitential communication” in the Evidence Code is broader than, and takes precedence over, the dictionary definition of “penitential,” Presiding Justice Candace Cooper wrote for Div. Eight. [source]

So says the Division Eight of the LA Appelate Court. This ruling is interesting for a couple of reasons - first because it involves a case of child abuse [though involving a Methodist church] and secondly because it rules that any communication between someone and a clergy member should fall under the priest-penitent privilege as long as it was intended to be confidential. This would include not just confessions, but also spiritual advice and pastoral counseling.

Reflections on Evolution, Creation and Catholicism - Part III

The Catholic understanding of original sin as biologically transmitted and arising through a historical event should be protected in an understanding of evolution. As the Catechism asserts “Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.” As for original sin’s biological transmission, Muller notes, “Original sin is transmitted from generating person to generated person, from complete composite entity to complete composite entity, not, as such, body to body or soul to soul…This transmission happens because persons are essentially, substantially in relation, and if the relation is poisoned because one of the terms of the relation, the progenitor, is corrupted by sin, the other term, the child, cannot but be affected.” [CCC 390, Muller 514]

Therefore, Catholic teaching on original sin has three implications for the Theory of Evolution. First, this means that original sin is not to be seen as simply part of the natural process of evolution or reflective of a “survival of the fittest”. Original sin resulted from a deliberate human choice, not from cosmological or evolutionary structures. To assert that original sin simply refers to the existence of chaos and uncertainty in the universe or in the evolutionary process would be to deny the inherent goodness at the root of all Creation according to Catholic belief.

Secondly, original sin is the result of a deliberate moral choice – the act of specific individual or individuals, not a generic term applied to a generalized group or to social sin. “Adam” cannot be seen as simply a metaphor for the earliest human community. Therefore, Catholic teaching has supported a monogenetic origin of humanity. As the Catechism states, “Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for ‘from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole world’.” Traditionally this first ancestor is associated with the figure of Adam in Genesis, but the historicity of Adam is not definitively taught by the Catholic magisterium.
The Catholic magisterium has generally not accepted a polygenetic origin of humanity, that is, that many human beings appeared at the same time, perhaps in different parts of the globe. [Muller 506, CCC 360]

In his encyclical letter Humani Generis, Pius XII asserts that: "For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own." [Humani Generis 36]

Tomorrow, I'll deal with responses to Humani Generis.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Has the Nobel Peace Prize lost its relevance?

It is getting time to select the Nobel Peace Prize again, interestingly enough - the name of Pope John Paul II is mentioned as a possible choice even though he is deceased. I am doubtful, not that I don't think he doesn't deserve it - he certainly deserved it many times before.

However, the Nobel Peace Prize is no longer about peace, it is about agendas and who can best serve as spokesperson for the agendas of a few bitter individuals who make the decision and who couldn't stand the pope. So why pay any attention to it anymore - it has become entirely irrelevent.

I think the only reason we pay any attention to it at all is because of the shroud of secrecy, sort of like an Oscar competition for politicians. Take away the sound and the fury and you are left with nothing.

I wonder what went in the heads of those Nobel committee members during the funeral of the late Holy Father. Did they see that they have been passed over? That they had a chance to make the right decision, but failed? Did they regret it at all? or were they filled with the same rage at a Pope who refused to sacrifice his principles and the principles of life for the sake of a cheap award?

And a child shall lead them

So, I'm purifying the communion vessels after the end of the distribution of the Eucharist. All is quiet in the church as people are praying and meditating, when the silence is broken by the voice of a small child that asks his mother - "Is he done, yet?" "Is it finished?"

Ah, the making of another Catholic.

Defending the faith in Ireland

On the heels of the successful campaign to get Sony to pull its obviously outrageous adds, the struggle against the irresponsibile liberties that companies are taking with religious images moves to Ireland. Here are two unfortunate incidents to report.

The first involves the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power which depicts Jesus and his disciples playing poker at the Last Supper. Jesus has a stack of chips, Judas has 30 pieces of silver, and the other disciples hold cards. The poster states, "There's a place for fun and games."

"There's a place for fun and games"? They take the Last Supper, the institution of the most holy Eucharist, the washing of feet, the beginning of the priesthood, the betrayal of Jesus, and all they are able to say about it is "There's a place for fun and games"? Not only does it horribly cheapen the life of Christ, it's horribly unimaginative. The really surprising [and doubtful] part about all of this is that the creators of this trash always act surprised that anyone might be upset.

"We didn't mean to offend anyone so if anyone takes offence apologies for that," said a spokesman for the bookmaker, also called Paddy Power.

"It's a tongue-in-cheek situation -- people aren't supposed to take it as seriously as some people seem to be," Power said.

There were no plans to withdraw the posters, he added.[source]

I'm sure that advertisements including Muhammed are even now ready to be released.

The second incident involves an image of a potato wearing a crown of thorns and carrying a cross. Again, the promoters of the poster deny that there was any desire to offend.

Shaun Gallagher said he was mystified how anyone could be offended by the image of a potato carrying a cross.

"It is so preposterous," he said. "How could anyone be offended by it? We are artists who have created a piece of work."

Yet, offend he has done - both for his desire to depict the Son of God as a potato and for his assault on the memories of those who died in the Great Hunger. Furthermore, it seems quite clear that his sole goal was to offend as indicated by other promotional literature for the "art" which Mr. Gallagher supports:

The plays, 'Finnegan's Wake Me Up Before You Go Go', described as "a sordid tale of love, death, religion and Wham' and 'F*** I'm Hungry' billed as "An Historical Portrait of The Great Famine" are advertised with the warning that the plays contain "strong language and material that may be considered offensive by religious types and listeners to the Joe Duffy Show".

These businesses and artists willingly and knowlingly insult the faith of Christians knowing full well that when outrage is voiced, they can plead "We didn't know it would be offensive. We were misunderstood" and still capitalize on all those who will check out what's being advertised either curious about the uproar or to deliberately show those religious types that they won't be told what to do. Bad press is better than no press - and the only god these people worship is Mammon.

Blame St. Francis

It's time for the Feast of St. Francis again, and that means it's time for the blessing of the animals. I don't know whether priests enjoy doing this or not - but at least it is beginning to look like the lion might be able to lie down with the lamb.

Look at this - snakes, alligators, birds, turtles, and dogs all sitting together in peace around that priest who has to be wondering whether all these animals are really tame.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Visit the shrines of Franciscan University

I've posted a new podcast over at Catholic:Under the Hood. Visit the special places of prayer with me that reside on the grounds of Franciscan University. I've also got a great song by Brian St. Andre.