Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year, Same Old, Same Old.

Just before the holidays I was facilitating a bible study class for adults. One of the particular lessons of secession was obedience to God. Specifically for the Catholic this comes down to obedience to the Magisterium. Out of the blue one of the students said, " I don't believe the Church is always right. I don't believe the Church's teaching on birth control"
Now this is the catechist's greatest fear. Sometimes we know a lesson will be controversial. Plan a lesson on annulments, or abortion or even when to kneel during Mass and the astute catechist will be prepared for a lively discussion. Talk about obedience to God and one expects a discussion of the difficulty of living up to the commandments or mercy verses justice. So of course God in his infinite wisdom throws out the 1 200lbs gorilla of modernist heresy to be dealt with.
Now the speaker was a post menopausal single woman. I mention this only to point out that this was not a personally relevant belief, at least not in the conventional sense.
Now I have no doubt left to my own devices I would have felt a deep sense of panic moving in. This is the kind of rabbit hole that can derail an entire group. The rest of the lesson gets buried and half the group refuses to return, because the facilitator is not "pastoral" or "understanding."
Luckily I had prayed before the lesson, always a vital part of the preparation for a teacher or catechist before performing their ministry. So I know it was not me, but the Holy Spirit who responded with, "What part of Humanae Vitae do you believe Pope Paul got wrong?"
"I..I don't know I've never read it.."
"How about Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body?"
"So what you're saying is that you're prepared to challenge a teaching of the Church without knowing the moral and theological underpinnings of those teachings?"
"Well when you put it like that..."
"So why not read Humanae Vitae before you decide you disagree with it?"
I pointed out that the document was easy to find with a simple Google search, and promised we'd discuss it once everyone had an opportunity to read it. We then smoothly continued with the lesson.
I don't know that everyone in that group will take the time to read Humanae Vitae before our next session, after the holidays, but I do know that I'll be rereading it, just in case.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Marry Christmas

Well Christmas has come and gone. We celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Family. In the coming days we will finish out the Octave of Christmas and move into the Christmas season.
Next year promises to be challenging for the Catechist, as we move closer to the new English translation of the Mass. Now for some of you I have no doubt that you've been told it won't happen, or that it won't effect your parish. Now based on the past forty years, I have no doubt that some priests, or even bishops, might believe that they can finesse this. Have no doubt. A new translation is coming.
The transition will be easier if the faithful are properly instructed in the reasons a new translation was necessary and how the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the Vatican arrived at this new translation. Sour grapes about the quality of the translation (It is actually much better than the old translation taken from the 1975 version of the Missale Romanum,) ala Bishop Trautman is not helpful. It can be more theologically challenging for individuals who are not knowledgeable about the precepts of their faith. It contains words of more than one syllable to declare complex theological concepts that can't properly be stated without using such words. These are concepts medieval peasants understood, including quite a few of little formal education beyond catechetical instruction, and this mostly at the hands of their parents. Surely modern Americans and other English speakers, who can master the terminology of football or cricket can likewise master this special vocabulary of liturgical worship.Some instruction may be necessary, mostly account of the forty years of bad catechetical formation that has occurred in some diocese of the Church. The better the faithful are prepared for the transition the smoother it will go, and the better the liturgy will be for it. so if you haven't yet visited USCCB - Roman Missal check it out. The USCCB have made a substantial effort to support the transition. We need to also.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Now there's a shepherd!

Just think how much different U.S. history would be if thirty years ago American bishops had done this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The expression of faith

As many people who follow Catholic news know yesterday the Holy See released Anglicanorum Coetibus the Apostolic Constitution concerned with the reunification of Anglican individuals and groups with the Catholic Church. There are many interesting pastoral provisions in the document and its supporting Complimentary Norms document that will lead, one hopes, to the joining of many Anglo-Catholics to the barque of Peter.
One interesting point in the document, which may have consequences beyond the Anglican communion is in section I.5:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate.
The legal structure under which individuals, parishes and diocese of the Anglican Communion, and other Anglican groups not now associated with the Communion is the Ordinariate. An Ordinariate is a kind of non-territorial groups headed by an ordinary, probably a bishop. It is most often compared to the way Military diocese are organized, with its own priests and lay members, not under the jurisdiction of the local prelate.
So for members of the Anglican Community who desire to become members of this Ordinariate the standard is that they must believe all that is professed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is not so extraordinary. Anyone who becomes a member of the Church through the process of RCIA is suppose to make this same profession.
So lets think about this... To become a Catholic one must profess belief in the tenets embodied in the Catechism. The Catechism is the authoritative expression of the Catholic Faith. This constitution actually elevates the status of the Catechism.
So how long before the question is ask: What about people who claim to be Catholic, but do not adhere to this authoritative document? Might their status as Catholics be questioned, or at least their self-description as Catholic? This goes for organizations as well as individuals.
As important as adherence to the Creed is, the beliefs of the Catholic Church engenders much more than is stated in those 214 words of the Nicene Creed. Maybe its time we started holding people to them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The feast of the dedication of the Lateran

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Lateran or as it is known by its official title The Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran. The Lateran is the mother church of the whole inhabited world. It is the cathedral of Rome. And while many believe, erroneously, that St. Peter is the Holy Father's cathedral, that honor goes to the Lateran. It was built by the Emperor Constantine during the pontificate of Sylvester I, and dedicated on this day in the Year of Our Lord 324. It is the oldest of the four major basilicas of Rome.
The actually patron of the church is not either of the St. Johns, but rather the Most Holy Savior himself, Jesus the Christ.
The basilica itself has been rebuilt many times over the ages. All four the Rome's major basilicas are assigned archpriests, who are usually cardinals. Agostino Vallin, who is also Vicar of Rome is the current Lateran archpriest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Souls

The Feast of All Souls is a fitting time to talk about Purgatory.
We will start with the Four Last Things. They are Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven. These are the things we all will face at the end of our mortal life.
It is not possible to speak of Death and Judgment without speaking of sin. It is divinely revealed truth that sins bring punishment inflicted by God's justice. These must be expiated either through sorrows, miseries or calamities in this life or else in the next life. For those who die in isolation from God due to mortal sin the Church teaches that damnation is the result. For those who, through the blessing of the sacrament of Confession, have garnered the forgiveness of their sins there is still punishment, though of a transient and purifying nature.
Christians have always understood that sin is not just a transgression of divine law but also a contempt of the friendship between God and man. It is a rejection of the love that God has shown us through Jesus Christ.
Therefore for the full remission of sins, it is necessary that not only that friendship with God be reestablished, but that also some voluntary reparation be accomplished. Sin effects not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with the whole communion of the Church. Because of this the vestiges of sin may remain to be cleansed after remission of guilt. This is clearly demonstrated by the doctrine on purgatory

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. -St. Gregory the Great
--Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sin is never a personal matter. By sin not only is the individual's relationship with God hurt, but also the solidarity of the Christian Community. However just as the sin of one harms others so to does the holiness of one benefit others. Thus the Christian faithful give each other mutual aid to attain the supernatural aim of the acceptance of salvation, which originates in Christ.

The very ancient dogma of the Communion of Saints thus explains how the efforts of both those already in Heaven, those still undergoing the purification of Purgatory and those still on Earth can be joined in the work of atonement for sin.

So we as Catholics both pray for those undergoing the purification of Purgatory and ask the saints to also pray for them. Because the most perfect prayer and worship of God is contained in the Mass we also offer Masses for the repose of the souls in Purgatory.

A mention on the term “in Purgatory.” The Church does not maintain specifically that Purgatory is a place such as Heaven or Hell or even as the physical Universe is a place. As already mentioned the word Purgatory is used to describe the process of purification that the dead, who are destined for heaven, undergo prior to their entrance to heaven. Informally it is easier to talk of individuals being in Purgatory, though it is prudent to remember that we are not necessarily talking about a concrete place.

Good works, particularly those which people find difficult can also be offered to God for the salvation of sinners. Since the sufferings of martyrs for the faith are considered of great value their work in union with Christ himself is considered to form a repository, a treasury of spiritual merit, which the Church can apply to the perennial debt owed by individuals.

This remission of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven is called indulgence. In an indulgence the Church is making use of its power as minister of the Redemption of Christ, which allows it to authoritatively dispense this remission from the treasury which Christ and the saints have won. This is part of the power of the Pope and the bishops to bind and loose on Heaven and Earth as successors of the Apostles.

The aim of ecclesiastical authorities in granting indulgences is not only to assist the faithful in remission of the punishment due sin but also that of urging them to perform works of piety, penitence and charity.

In the past the practice of indulgences have not always been well understood by the faithful, nor even sometimes by members of the clergy (even high ranking members.) It is forbidden to either sell indulgences or to deny their efficacy.

In the days before Vatican II it was common to talk about indulgences in term of periods of time. The object being to compare a specific indulgence to the equivalent period of penitential work by an individual. Unfortunately this practice often caused confusion among the faithful whereby it was correlated to time spent in Purgatory, which was understood to be a place rather than a process. We no longer speak of indulgences in such a way.

Instead we speak of partial and plenary indulgences. An indulgence is partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin. A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due to sin.

Remember indulgences are only effective for removing the punishment for sins which have already been forgiven, either through the sacrament of Reconciliation for mortal sins or for venial sins through another penitential act, such as the penitential rite at Mass, saying the rosary, etc..

We can always apply an indulgence to the dead either to a specific individual or to the known or unknown dean in general as well as to the living. Specifics on indulgences are given in the Apostolic Document Indulgentiarum Doctrina.

Those who die in God's grace and friendship, once they are perfectly purified live forever with God. As it says in the CCC:

This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called 'Heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. -CCC 1024

We of our own accord do not have the power within us to enter this blessed state. It is only through the power of God manifest in the salvation brought by Jesus Christ that we can attain entrance to communion with God.

So on the Feast of All Souls remember those who are still undergoing the purification of Purgatory and pray for them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ut unum sint!

Huge news today from the Vatican:
With the preparation of an Apostolic Constitution, the Catholic Church is responding to the many requests that have been submitted to the Holy See from groups of Anglican clergy and faithful in different parts of the world who wish to enter into full visible communion.
Or as John Allen reports at New Advent:
In a move with potentially sweeping implications for relations between the Catholic church and some 80 million Anglicans worldwide, the Vatican has announced the creation of new ecclesiastical structures to absorb disaffected Anglicans wishing to become Catholics. The structures will allow those Anglicans to hold onto their distinctive spiritual practices, including the ordination of married former Anglican clergy as Catholic priests.
Yes the Catholic Church is setting up structures to accept not just individual Anglican converts, but whole parishes, diocese, and communions.

Inside Catholic
Get Religion
Whispers in the Loggia
The Anchoress

I hesitate to call it the most important move in true ecumenism since the reformation until I see its fruits. Still even at at its worst it positively dwarfs John Paul's amazing largess in creating the Anglican Use pastoral provision. That is saying no small thing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Grant that in your glory..."

In today's reading the Sons of Thunder, James and John asked Jesus for a special favor. They request that Jesus "Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."
Jesus answers:
You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?
They assure Him that they can and He continues,
The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared.
Now we know what the Sons of Zebedee did not know. That Jesus would enter into his glory on Calvary, nailed to a cross. Those destined by God to be at his right and left hand, revolutionaries against the Roman government, thieves at the very least, probably much worse. One destined for Heaven, the other most likely for Hell.
But we know much more. Of the two brothers both would face the possibility of martyrdom, but only one would do so on the day of Jesus' death. James, like all of the other Apostles, even loyal Peter, would abandon Jesus on that day. Eventually he would, like all the other Apostles but one, return to see the risen Christ. And eventually he would face death and drink from the cup of which Jesus drank on Calvary. As did all his brother Apostles, but one.
John, however would stand at the foot of the cross, with the two Marys, one the Mother of God, the other the holy woman from whom Jesus cast out demons. Can anyone believe that was a safe place to stand on that day? Peter feared to be linked to Christ, so much that he denied Him three times. The others ran away, one so in a hurry that he left his tunic behind.
John stood at the cross in sight of all the Romans. Likely mere feet from the centurion who pierced Our Lord with a lance. If a sword pierced the heart of Our Lady that day what fear, and pain and sorrow must have cut into his heart?
It appears that God must have taken note, because by his willingness to take up the cup of pain from which Jesus drank, John received into his care the vessel of Christs entrance to Earth, his Blessed Mother. And John was blessed with long life, and a peaceful death. The only Apostle not called to taste the cup of martyrdom.
Was this because he was the Apostle whom Jesus loved? Or was it because he was the Apostle who loved Jesus enough to face death even before Pentecost?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


We are at the very beginning of a Scriptural study which is based on Salvation History. Catholics do not, generally know Scripture as well as our Protestant brothers and sisters. This is even true of those who are well catechized, themselves a small minority.
One of the interesting thing about Scripture is that it has many layers. I have in the past compared it to an Onion (and an Ogre, for you Shrek fans.) This property is called Compenetration. Compenetration refers to the fact that biblical prophecy frequently has an immediate fulfillment while simultaneously having a more ultimate meaning as well. It is valid for the time in which it was written and for the here and now, often also having a part in the description of Salvation History.
Don't you just love learning a new word?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The song remains the same

Lately I have been reading The Mystical City of God by the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágred. Now sister Maria lived over 400 years ago. It is amazing to me that she could have written something so timely as this:
The order which religious souls should maintain in their desires should be: that they strive to be punctual in fulfilling the obligations of their vows and all the virtues, which are connected with them. Afterwards and secondarily they may engage in voluntary practices, such as are called supererogatory. This order some of the souls, who are misled by the devil to entertain an indiscreet zeal for perfection are wont to invert; thus, while they fail seriously in the obligations of their state. they are eager to add other voluntary exercises and practices, which are usually of small use or benefit, or arise from a spirit of presumption and singularity. They secretly desire to be looked upon as distinguished in zeal and perfection, while in truth they are very far even from the beginning of perfection. I do not wish to see in thee a fault so reprehensible: but first fulfill all the duties of thy vows and of community life, and then thou mayest add what thou canst, according to thy ability and the inspiration of divine grace. This together will beautify thy soul and will make it perfect and agreeable in the eyes of God

Now this brought to my mind the the response to the Holy See's Visitation to the Women Religious orders of the United States by some members of these orders. Seeing some of the things that some women religious are involved in one might wonder if the Venerable Maria, herself a member of a religious order might not have some insight.
I'm just saying.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

To teach what the Church teaches

Many have noted an inclination by some, especially in the media, to describe members of the Church using terms which are more suited to political discourse than to religion. It is true that there is often a relationship between an individual's stand on Church teachings and their political leanings. In this worldview Catholics who adhere to Church teachings are often called conservatives, when what they really are is orthodox, Those who are dissidents, that is they do not follow, or believe or support Church teachings are called liberals, when what they often are is heretical.
One can certainly be politically liberal and be orthodox in their beliefs. One can also be conservative and be heretical. It is unfortunately true in the real world that one who is politically liberal is more likely to be a supporter of questionable theological stands. That, at least, is my experience. Why is this?
My belief is because both those who are liberal and those who are dissidents from Church teaching have in common a lack of historical perspective. John Henry Cardinal Newman once said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." Many if not most of the changes that Catholic dissidents desire are changes which some Protestant denomination somewhere has already tried. Starting with denial of the primacy, and infallibility of the Pope and the Magisterium to the ordination of women some Protestant group has already tried it. Indeed at its heart any Catholic dissident movement requires at its heart a denial of the teaching authority of the Church.
Not to be misunderstood, conservatives are just as capable of taking a stand in opposition to Church teaching. How many otherwise faithful Catholics argued that waterboarding was alright because we got "useful information that prevented another terrorist attack"? A stand which denies Church's teaching on the principle of intrinsic evil.
Intrinsic evil refers to actions that are morally evil in such a way that is essentially opposed to the will of God or proper human fulfillment. The key consideration here is that intrinsically evil actions are judged to be so solely by their object, independently of the intention that inspires them or the circumstances that surround them.
To support torture is to support an intrinsic evil and is in most cases a sin. As for all such cases support must be proximate, that is it must be an actual effective support for the act, not an unintended consequence.
So how does this touch the catechist? The mission of the catechist is to teach what the Church teaches. A catechist who teaches at odds with the teaching of the Church corrupts souls. He leads others astray. Millstones come to mind, along with other ultimate unpleasantness for the individual catechist, as well as for any others who knew and supported such acts, even if only by a sin of omission.
All are sinners. At least all of those left in this land of exile. No matter how faithful the Catholic there is almost certainly some Church teaching which grates. It is the duty of the catechist to ignore their personal feelings on the issue and teach what the Church teaches. That is our ministry.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New start

In many parishes throughout the Catholic Church in America this is the time that catechetical programs are starting. In the long hot days of summer many parishes wind down their programs. Not that things stop entirely. Many parishes participate in Summer Youth Conferences, such as those sponsored by Franciscan University, and held throughout the United States and Canada. Many also participate in work camps through Sacred Heart or another group. Many diocese also hold diocesan youth conferences. Bible youth Day Camps, a concept borrowed from our Protestant brothers and sisters, have also made inroads in many places. The summer is not without church related activities, but few parishes run their regular weekly catechetical programs through the summer. Hence at this time of year they must wind up their efforts to restart their youth and sometimes adult catechisis programs.
In my own parish we have instituted a very large shake-up by moving to a full parish catechetical program. That means whole families, adult youth and teen programs, which meet every Sunday for several hours. We have even gone so far as to move our Mass times in order to support this. At this point we are unsure of just how many parishioners will regularly attend these sessions. We can be fairly sure those with young children will come. Our Director of Religious Education has made it quite clear that, being that parents are the primary teachers of their children in the faith, that is expected that parent will participate. Strong support of the pastor has prevent misunderstandings about the duties of these parents.
Teens, especially those who can drive themselves, and adults are another matter. We have very little leverage, other that the pastors support for the program, to make adults attend these sessions.
A good sales pitch helps. We are studying the Bible this year, but don't intend to limit this program to "Bible Study." Next year the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is already on our schedule.
In a world where far too many post VII Catholics are ignorant of the teachings of their own religion adult catechisis is the answer. We had already tried the parish wide weekday evening programs. They mostly attracted the same hand full of parishioners who were already familiar with the tenants of Catholicism, the Bible and often prayer forms such as the liturgy of Hours. We were reaching those who least needed our efforts, though of course all progressed in their faith as a result of these programs. The programs themselves were not wasted, but reaching thirty to forty people out of a parish of 800 families is pretty dismal. By placing our sessions between Sunday Masses we hope people will be willing to come early or stay late to attend.
This is also majorly impacting our youth program. We have used Life Teen for years. We have never done a Youth Mass as part of our program. We have met every Sunday evening separate from Liturgy and have been, I think, moderately successful at filling the Youth Group room every week. Now that teens will be meeting in the morning we have scaled Life Teen back to twice a month, and will spend more time addressing issues rather than strait catechisis.
As can be expect not everyone is enamored of the program. A certain number feel set upon because their favorite Mass time has changed, Others simply don't want to spend more time at Church. (These tend to be the same ones who complain when their is a Baptism at Mass or when the homily goes more than 8 minutes.) I don't expect to see them at any of our programs, and perhaps not any more at the Masses, there being several other Catholic parishes within a short distance.
So we set out on a brand new course. I ask for your prayers and will post on how its going.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Roman Missal @ USCCB

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB) has launched a new web site devoted to the new translation of the Roman Missal used in the English version of the Mass.
Still nothing from the Congregation for Divine Worship on when the new translation will start being used.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

So what should the Christian perspective on health care reform be? To start with it must be rational. That means it must look at the facts as they are, not as we wish them to be. It must be informed by faith, that is the center of any reform must be the inherent dignity of the individual and their right to life.
In my last entry I ran through some numbers on health care and pointed out that the "health care crisis" is in reality a money crisis. A rational look at our health care situation demands that we start by looking at what our present situation is. We have already done that. Then we must lay out the principles that we can, as Christians, accept as the goals of health care reform. Then we must face the requirements that exist which takes us from where we are to where we need to be to meet our goals.
I would propose the following principles must be applied.
Medical care must be available to all Americans. Than means from conception to natural death. Abortion is not health care, neither is euthanasia.
The quality of the medical care must be equitable.
Equitable means that care, of a quality now enjoyed by those who have good health insurance must be expanded to all, not that everyone receive less car through the practice of rationing.
Business must continue to carry their fair share of health care coverage. That means they must either continue to pay their portion or they must give that money to their employees so that they can use it to purchase health care. No windfalls by dumping employees on some government health care program. Health insurance is part of a benefit package for most employees, that is part of their compensation for doing their job. To withdraw that compensation without replacing it with cash is equivalent to a pay cut.
If those are our goals then we must face one fact. We will be spending more on health care. Not just "We the People", that is the government, but we the individual. We pay more for a car in 2009 than we did in 1965. We can not realistically expect to pay the same for health care in 2009 that we did in 1965. No one expects that in 2015 cars will cost less. Is it rational to expect that health care will be less?
We also know that as we get older we will need more health care. We should expect that our health costs later in life will be more than when we are young. Just as we plan for retirement, those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to invest and save for retirement must expect that some of this money will go to increased health care costs.
We must also face that there are those who either don't or are not financial fortunate enough to be able to save for this period. We must accept the fact that we will have to pay for them. Either through private Christian charity or government mandate. If we refuse to do it through the former method we should not be surprised if we are force to do it through the latter.
We must also face some other facts. We do not have enough doctors to give equitable care to everyone. This is one of the reasons care is rationed in Canada and Great Britain. The other is investment of too much of their health care dollar(pound) in bureaucracy instead of health. That is the natural result of a single payer system.
So how to get there from here?
Continuance of health savings plans is one way. This is set for the ax under the House's Health care bill. Health savings plans encourage individuals to save for their health care needs. They should be allowed to carry over from year to year amounts that are not spent. At the present time any amount not spent goes to the administrator of the plan.
13% of Medicare is lost to fraud. The way to stop that is not more rules and tighter constraints but more investigators, prosecutors and jail sentences.
Not all of the uninsured are equal. There is a difference between a family which truly cannot buy food, shelter and clothing and afford health insurance and one which chooses to live in a better house or buy nicer things rather than pay for health insurance. Each group must be addressed individually and it must be admitted that it will cost the rest of us money, either through taxes or fees. We cannot cover these people for free, and pretending that we can merely means we are not paying for someone else's care.
Efficiency can make it cheaper to cover these people. When deciding how this part of health care should work looking at whether government or industry is more efficient should tell us how we will get the most for the money we have to spend to cover the uninsured. I doubt anyone would claim government is more efficient.
If we want to lower the cost of insurance we must broaden the insurance base. Insurance is a risk easement game. A group of people pool their money through an agreement that if someone gets sick the money for care will come out of the pool. Since the company that manages the pool is a business they skim a portion off the top and then use the remaining assets to pay for the care. The more healthy people that are in the pool the less each member must pay.
There are two ways to lower the cost to individuals. One is to limit the amount the managing company skims off. This is a finite amount. At some point the venture becomes unprofitable and the managing company goes out of business. So only a finite amount of savings comes form this method.
The other is to increase the number of healthy people in the pool. One way to do that is to allow insurance companies to sell anywhere in the United States. That way not only can they increase the number of people in the pool, but they are incentivized to keep their operating costs low, so as to be competitive.
At the bottom we should expect that some people will just not play. They will not get health insurance. Even under single payer they will remain outside the system, by accident or deliberate choice. When they get sick the more bureaucratic the system the less well it will deal with them. There will always be a need for Christian charity in the care of these people.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Health Care

The need for health care reform is a subject upon which in principle all men of good will in the United States can seem to agree. It is almost universally agreed upon that our health care system is in trouble and that action must be taken to fix the problem. As always the actual problems are masked in flurry of political posturing.
The problems with health care in the United States can be divided into several key areas. First, the number of uninsured continue to grow. Second, the majority of U.S. Citizens above the age of 65 have health care either partially or entirely provided by the government funded Medicare program. Third, a majority of Americans receive their health insurance through their employers, most commonly through a cost splitting arrangement. The increasing cost of this arrangement is causing increased overhead for employers and financial hardship for workers.
Approximately 45 million people in the U.S. are uninsured. Of this number approximately 11 to 12 million of these people are foreign born, the majority of them in the United States illegally. The population of the United States is estimated to be approximately 305 million people. So approximately 15% of the population is uninsured.
About 9 million of those who are uninsured could afford insurance if they so chose. Another eleven and a quarter million is eligible for coverage under existing government health programs, should they apply. The rest are simply unable to afford health coverage. As many as a tenth of those could afford regular group coverage but due to pre-existing conditions cannot afford, or will not be accepted for individual health insurance.
The fact that so many people can not or will not get health insurance coverage is a problem because, quite apart from the Christian principles that call for access to medical care for every individual based upon their inherent dignity as a being created in God's image, most of these people are not unable to get health care in an emergency. The law requires that any hospital receiving public funds care for anyone who shows up at their emergency care facilities, whether they have insurance or not. Of course emergency care is some of the most expensive health care available. Members of this group are also likely to be sicker and live a lower quality of life because they wait to receive medical attention until their problems are acute. This also requires that more expensive treatments be used, because chronic conditions, which can sometimes easily be treated with drugs, not themselves always cheap, must instead be treated with expensive invasive procedures.
The number of people covered by Medicare is approximately 45 million people, the majority of whom are over 65. As of last year Medicare is 14% of the national budget. In the next few decades the number people on Medicare is expected to almost double, while the number of people paying in to support the program is not expected to rise consistent with this increased funding need. Medicare is a unfunded liability which will require a larger and larger percentage of the GDP. It is a program which is basically unsustainable. In 2007 Medicare cost $440 billion of which approximately $60 is thought to have been the result of fraud. In other words over 13% of the cost of Medicare is wasted.
In the last eight years the cost of employer provided health care has increased 78%. There are several reasons for this increase in cost. Advances in medical technology add to the cost of health care. New diagnostic equipment, pharmaceuticals and methods add to the cost of care. Liturgical considerations, that is the cost of malpractice insurance and litigation which results in reimbursements and penitential awards have some effect. The increased care required by a culture which tends to promote both overeating of unhealthy food and lack of physical exercise is arguably the greatest contributor to cost.
Note that in the above discussion problems with the actual quality of care, the ability of medical organizations to carry on research or for researchers to deploy new treatment options are not negatively impacting American health care, which is seen internationally as the best in the world.
The huge health care crisis is a money crisis. It is also no wonder that solutions being proposed by congress and the Obama administration are solutions based on improving the bottom line, not on improving care. Like old style efficiency experts and corporate managers their goal is a hard nosed cost analysis based change, not a change based on Christian social values. The end game is not the highest quality care for all, but something called “equitable” care, a euphemism for health care rationing. Everyone will have health insurance, but that health insurance will be as meaningless as the “universal” care possessed by citizens in Canada, Britain or France. Though I have no doubt members of Congress and the President will continue to enjoy the best health care America can provide.
Such a financially centered modification of our health care system would enjoy dubious support of Christian organizations on its best face. The fact that the present effort in health care reform is actually using the financial justification as a distraction to hide the real agenda of the Administration which is to use reform to push federally financed and mandated abortion support which will be used as a club against Catholic hospitals and medical professionals who oppose abortion. Also being hidden in the plus 1000 pages of the reform bill are attempts to destroy the private insurance industry, the one part of the American health care system which provided freedom from the tyranny of a government run health care system. Efforts to control and collect medical information about patients, who as U.S. Citizens should be protected from government intrusion in their private lives.
The cost of continuing to support the existing Medicare system, while effectively doubling the number of people covered is only the down payment. If Medicare is unsustainable how can doubling the size of the program be sustainable? Of course the 85% of those now covered by private insurance will not remain so. I have seen nothing in the bills rolling through Congress that will in any meaningful way prevent employers, large and small from dumping their employees onto the public health care system. This is the almost sure result and barring other factors the cost of health insurance continues to rise. In the present environment of high job turnover even if employers were prevented from dumping present employees, if they were allowed to simply not cover new employees, in a very short time, measured probably in years not decades a majority of the workforce would almost certainly land in the government program.

So what's the Christian answer to these problems?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?"
He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
A scholar of the law was called a scribe, and in Matthew's version of this Gospel the questioner is identified as a Pharisee. The first law is from Deuteronomy 6:5:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"You are a priest forever..."

I have been blessed these past years with a pastor very scrupulous in his adherence to the books of the liturgy, and orthodox in his beliefs. Soon he will be retiring. With the state of the American Church being what it is, whether the bishop will be able to find us a new pastor or whether we will be clustered or have to undergo a period under a pastoral coordinator is unknown.
Meanwhile we are fortunate to have a visiting priest to aid father in his last few months. This priest, not strictly a visiting priest, but rather one who is on sabbatical from his own parish for a year also seems to be a very prayerful priest, who seems very careful in his celebration of the Mass.
His homily touch very much on his own experience as a priest as he talked about the meaning of the holy Father's declaration of the Year of the Priest. His example reminded me very much of the experiences I had heard related by those priests who were in New York in 2001. How strangers, seeing the Roman Collar, knew that there was Christ in their midst, and ran to him for comfort during a period which exceed the capacity of any earthly comfort. I was reminded of the letter of His Holiness, which was published in June to announce the Year of the Priest.
The Curé of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: "A good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy".[3] He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: "O, how great is the priest! ... If he realized what he is, he would die... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host...".[4] Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say: "Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is".
Yet how many of us give little thought to the man in the collar, until disaster strikes! So in this Year of the Priest don't forget to offer prayers for your priest. But also don't for get to thank him and help see to his worldly needs too. Dinner, suitable thank you gifts and appropriate donations are always welcome Remember here is a man who puts on Christ daily, not for his own glory but for the salvation of souls. Be grateful.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Principle of Solidarity

The term “solidarity”, widely used by the Magisterium, expresses in summary fashion the need to recognize in the composite ties that unite men and social groups among themselves, the space given to human freedom for common growth in which all share and in which they participate.
-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
By virtue of their participation in the society that surrounds them individuals are debtors. They owe a debt to the others in society who through their efforts
make human existence liveable, and because of the indivisible and indispensable legacy constituted by culture, scientific and technical knowledge, material and immaterial goods and by all that the human condition has produced.
Promotion of division of the classes, division into employer and employee, haves and have-nots, along racial or ethnic or other lines is a violation of the Principle of Solidarity. Likewise it falls not just to the rich to promote justice, engender charity or bankroll government programs.
Class warfare, the principle upon which the idea of redistribution of wealth is based, as well as most modern interpretations of employer/union relations is based upon an adversarial relationship which violates the idea that we all have a responsibility to contribute to society.
The employer and the employee together work to make the business enterprise successful. Both benefit as does society. When demands of the employee become an unreasonable burden on the business, such that it becomes unprofitable, the employee is not a contributor to society, but a burden. Likewise for the employer maximization of profits, to the exclusion of the common good is un-Christian.
This does not mean that profit in and of itself is an evil.

Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.
-Caritas in Veritate, BXVII
Solidarity makes it the responsibility of those who are well fed to feed the hungry, of those who have a riches of blessings to help those who do not. In this context it should be remembered that wealth is relative. Generally speaking the $22,500 which is the designated poverty level for a family of four in the United States is more income than the balance of the human population on Earth sees in their entire lifetimes. Most of our poor enjoy luxuries which are unthinkable to people in most of the world.
In this context the inequalities which exist between most Americans pale in comparison to the inequalities which exist between even our poorest and most of the world.
This leads the conclusion that every member of American society should be willing to contribute to the well fare of those less fortunate than ourselves and to the common good.
So what is the common good?
The Church speaks about that throughout the Compendium and indeed through many other documents throughout the ages. It is also very specific about what does not contribute to the common good.

No legislation, no system of rules or negotiation will ever succeed in persuading men and peoples to live in unity, brotherhood and peace; no line of reasoning will ever be able to surpass the appeal of love. Only love, in its quality as “form of the virtues”[456], can animate and shape social interaction, moving it towards peace in the context of a world that is ever more complex.
-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Charity is not something which can be imposed by government. Attempts to do so are disruptive to Solidarity.

Support for fringe activities, such as homosexuality, homosexual "marriage", pornography, contraception, abortion, in short activities which undermine the family are not just detrimental to the individuals involved, but also to society as a whole. To the common good.
Governments, and the individuals in those government which support such activities fracture the Solidarity of the society and work against the Common Good as understood by the Church. Such a government or administration is not acting in conformance to Catholic Social Teaching.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth is out today. You can find it at the Vatican web site, here. I haven't gone through it yet, and since in the morning I'm off on a mission trip to someplace I definitely won't have blog access it will be next week before I can comment on it.
Mean while read it before you believe all that the blogosphere is saying about it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interlude II

Very soon, perhaps within days, the Holy Father's third encyclical Caritas in Veritate – Charity in Truth, will be released. Since we are going through the principles of Catholic social justice, and specifically how the teachings of Catholic social justice relate to the, what I consider overreaching social agenda of the present U.S. administration, I expect that this new encyclical will have much to say that is relevant to this discussion.
I will indeed cover the document once I have had a chance to read it. I will also modify or extend the statements already made on Catholic social doctrine in light of this new document. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Principle of Subsidiarity

185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church's social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical[395]. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth[396]. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to “the creative subjectivity of the citizen”.-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
According to the Principle of Subsidiarity acts of charity should originate at the lowest level possible. That is charity is a personal responsibility, not a responsibility of the state.

186. ...“Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.
187 ...“By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending”-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

According to Church teaching it is not the business of the state, that is the federal government, to provide for people what they can provide for themselves. The Church does recognize that there are certain circumstances where civil society is incapable of achieving social balance or equality.
188. Various circumstances may make it advisable that the State step in to supply certain functions[401]. One may think, for example, of situations in which it is necessary for the State itself to stimulate the economy because it is impossible for civil society to support initiatives on its own. One may also envision the reality of serious social imbalance or injustice where only the intervention of the public authority can create conditions of greater equality, justice and peace. In light of the principle of subsidiarity, however, this institutional substitution must not continue any longer than is absolutely necessary, since justification for such intervention is found only in the exceptional nature of the situation.-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

In the present age, in the United States, a country to which millions of immigrants stream every year because it is a land of opportunity it is hard to believe that such an exceptional situation exists. Such intervention by the state might be necessary in a society in which there exists a frozen class structure or failure of the rule of law at the local level. Such conditions do not exists in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Universal Destination of Goods

171. Among the numerous implications of the common good, immediate significance is taken on by the principle of the universal destination of goods.
-Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
Combined with:

177. Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable.

leads some to the conclusion that the mandatory redistribution of wealth by the state through the use of taxes or other methods of property confiscation is in conformance to Catholic Social Justice Doctrine.

In Rerum Novarum Pope Leo XIII outlines why this is not true. Such actions rob the lawful owner, hurt the recipient in the long run and distorts the role of the state.

The wealthy have an obligation to the poor, but this is a personal duty which must be exercised through just treatment of ones employees, fair treatment of tradesmen and acts of personal charity.

One hundred years after Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum John Paul II wrote Centesimus Annus, which is Latin for "hundredth year", supporting the continued relavence of Leo's encyclical. He had already in 1987 published Sollicitudo rei socialis which addressed authentic human development, the true solution to poverty.

Socialism envisions wealth as a zero sum game. As such its distribution always comes down to redistribution of existing wealth from the rich to the poor. Authentic economic theory understands that wealth is related to productivity. That is, wealth is produced from a confluence of materal and labor. Wealth is not like a finite bag of beans, which must be divided, but rather like a field of bean plants, which will, with proper cultivation, produce a never ending supply of beans which is available to anyone who is able to harvest the field. The efforts of the wealthy on the part of the poor consists of helping to provide beans in the short run and enabling the poor to engage in the harvest in the long run. This is a personal responsibility and under the principle of Subsidarity (to be discussed next) is not the responsibility of government but of citizens.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Is this how Catherine of Siena felt when she looked at the Church?
Is this how Saint Francis of Assisi felt when he looked at the Church?
Is This how St. Dominic felt when he looked at the Church?
Could ever Our Lady look on so disheartening or discouraging an entity as the Catholic Church in America and not be moved to tears?
It is enough to make a man want to look for a cave somewhere and try to follow St. Benedict in his flight from the city, but even he found that God called for him to be out in the world proclaiming the gospel rather than hiding from the world.
At this time when the orthodoxy of American Catholicism seems so low, and Christianity itself is under attack it is perhaps time for us to follow the examples of Sts. Catherine and Francis.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Principle of the Common Good

What is the Common Good? According to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church it is:
the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily.
According to the CSDC it is the duty of government to:
The State, in fact, must guarantee the coherency, unity and organization of the civil society of which it is an expression ...(it must) make available to persons the necessary material, cultural, moral and spiritual goods.
But it must be remembered that this is not merely a goal based on materialism.
A purely historical and materialistic vision would end up transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing.
That reason is Jesus. Any effort by the State which fails to take into account that transcendent dimension fails in its attempt to promote the Common Good.

While the CSDC requires that the State support
a sound juridical system, the protection of the environment, and the provision of essential services to all, some of which are at the same time human rights: food, housing, work, education and access to culture, transportation, basic health care, the freedom of communication and expression, and the protection of religious freedom.
It is a prudential judgment whether a specific government policy will actually promote the demands listed here. Does greater access to health care require that the government directly manage and support health services? How much should a State invest in the prevention of an environmental problem which may not exist at all? Is it better to foster an economic climate by which individuals can afford their own housing or subsidize housing, thereby perpetuating dependence on government assistance?
I think it is easy to see how framing assumption can allow different individuals to draw different conclusions on specific policies.

What is the Church's stand on social justice

One of the statements that seems to be said by his apologists every time the present president of the United States is criticized for his stand on life issues (abortion, fetal stem cell research, etc.) is that "at least he is with the Church on social justice issues."
Is this a fact? Does the policies which are verbally supported and actually attempted by this president reflect the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church?
How would one know? The Church's position on social justice issues is very clearly explained in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Principles of Church's Social Doctrine are covered in detail in Chapter 4. They are
  1. The Principle of the Common Good
  2. The Universal Destination of Goods
  3. The Principle of Subsidiarity
  4. Participation
  5. The Principle of Solidarity
  6. The Fundamental Values of Social Life
In so far as this president and his administration supports these principles it supports Catholic social teaching. As far as it supports agendas at odds with these values it does not.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why it isn't politics

There is a very strong partisan battle going on now in the United States. It is a fight between progressives on one side, most notably embodied in the Democratic Party and conservatives on the other, mostly represented by the Republican Party, although Libertarians also seem to fall on that side of the issues also.
The Catholic Church is not totally on either side of this conflict, though many conservative Catholics will tell you that on right-to-life and family issues the Church supports their views.
One area that is highly politically charged is the so called "enhanced" interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects held at GITMO. Supporters of the policy point to the danger existent in the terrorists, and quibble over the legality of the methods used. They appeal to an outcome based standard, supported by the fact that the United States was able to avoid various possible terrorists attacks using information gleaned through the use of these techniques.
As a Catholic Christian the evaluation of the permissibility of these techniques are not based on their legality, but on their morality. Though not a lawyer I have spoken to enough of them on this subject to be convinced that under existing U.S. law the techniques used were indeed legal. This places any talk of prosecution of anyone involved in the process in the area of base political posturing.
But once again, I repeat, legal does not, necessarily translate into moral. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear:

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. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

A detailed examination of the techniques permitted, based on the released documents make it fairly clear that while no permanent physical harm was intended, physical violence was indeed included in the allowed techniques. Moreover, though most of the techniques did not include actual physical violence they constituted a planned program of moral violence with the intent to "extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents."
Professor Christopher O. Tollefsen at MercatoNet explains quite clearly why this is so.
This subject is too important to be addressed with a knee-jerk partisan response. Life long conservatives as well as anti-Bush progressives should be together on this. Our country made a bad mistake. It is not the first mistake in our history. Slavery. Native American dislocation. Japanese- American Internment. Nor is it likely to be our last. But let us not wait half a century to recognize and correct our mistake.
Note this does not mean it is necessary to release men who have sworn to attack us into our streets. It does mean that such tactics should never again be employed by our nation. It might even mean publicly and officially admitting before the world that we were wrong. Not criminally wrong, but morally wrong. For any Catholic involved it is probably time to consult a priest.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A fun book meme

The term Internet meme is a neologism used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Interne
-- wikipedia
The Anchoress has passed on this meme from Happy Catholic.
include up to 3 answers each if you like. We won’t tell. If you’re religious, consider The Bible or other religious texts a gimme, particularly for question #15.
1. Most treasured childhood book(s)?
The Last Planet by Andre Norton(The first real book I ever read)
A Wrinkle in Time
Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

2. Classic(s) you are embarrassed to admit you’ve never read?

Uncle Tom's Cabin
The Brothers Karamazov

3. Classics you read, but hated?
Wuthering Heights
The Lord of the Flies

4. Favorite genre(s)?
Science Fiction

5. Favorite light reading?
Andre Norton
Harry Potter
Arthur Conan Doyle

6. Favorite heavy reading?
G.K. Chesterton
Joseph Ratzinger

7. Last book(s) you finished?
Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI

8. Last book(s) you bailed on?

9. Three (only three!) books on your nightstand?
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
Christian Prayer:The Liturgy of the Hours
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

10. Book(s) you’ve read more than once, twice or three times?
The Lord of the Rings
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

11. The book(s) that meant the most to you when you were younger (ie, college/young adult)?
The Lord of the Rings
Camelot by T.H. White

12. Book(s) that changed the way you looked at life?
Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours
Rome Sweet Rome: Our Journey to Catholicism

13. Book(s) some would be surprised to know you’ve read
Remo Williams, the Destroyer

14. Book(s) You Mean to Read this Year
The Last Lecture

15. Desert Island Book

The Lord of the Rings

Desert Island Book for Your Worst Enemy
V by Thomas Pynchon (because I'm not a good enough Christian to want my Worst Enemy to enjoy his reading time on a desert island.)

Monday, March 30, 2009


Now right about now one of the biggest issues in American Catholicism is the invitation of the U.S. President, staunch pro-abortion advocate Barack Obama, to speak at the 2009 commencement exercises at the Catholic University of Notre Dame. This subject has caused Catholics of every political persuasion and orthodoxy to come forth with an opinion, from bishops and cardinals to theologians and Catholic bloggers.
Now some, including Fr. Jenkins, UND president, say that we can't just talk to those who agree with us and that the privileged of have a sitting President of the United States overrides any personal problems the incumbent might have in relation to Catholic teaching. The USCCB obviously doesn't agree with that because in their "Catholics in Political Life" document passed in 2004 they say, speaking of pro-abortion politicians, that "They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
Now some might ask why the bishops took such a position. More over the Church itself has an even stronger stand for those who procure or perform an abortion.

Canon 1398: A person who actually procures an abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
So a person incurs an abortion is excommunicated by their act. Further a May 23, 1988 ruling of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts ruled as the result of the dubium, that is a request from a bishop for a clarification of a point of canon law, that others who are instrumental in procuring an abortion, like a husband or father of the baby who pressure a woman to get an abortion or pay for it, nurses and doctors who perform an abortion, and those who help them in any way, are also under latae sententiae excommunication.

But it is not so hard nosed as it seems because Canon 1323 says

Can. 1323 No one is liable to a penalty who, when violating a law or precept:

1 has not completed the sixteenth year of age;

2 was, without fault, ignorant of violating the law or precept; inadvertence and error are equivalent to ignorance

3 acted under physical force, or under the impetus of a chance occurrence which the person could not foresee or if foreseen could not avoid;
4 acted under the compulsion of grave fear, even if only relative, or by reason of necessity or grave inconvenience, unless, however, the act is intrinsically evil or tends to be harmful to souls;

5 acted, within the limits of due moderation, in lawful self-defense or defense of another against an unjust aggressor;

6 lacked the use of reason, without prejudice to the provisions of canon. 1324, ß1, n. 2 and 1325;
7 thought, through no personal fault, that some one of the circumstances existed which are mentioned in nn. 4 or 5.
As can be seen below all cases of latae sententiae excommunication are the province of the ordinary. You'll note that while Canon 1356 says only the bishop can remove the excommunication that canon 1357 gives a pastoral loophole that should prevent a penitent from having to undergo a lengthy and demeaning process to have the excommunication lifted. The priest has to ask the bishop but true to the seal of confession doesn't even have to name the penitent.

Can. 1356 ß1 A ferendae or a latae sententiae penalty established in a precept not issued by the Apostolic See, can be remitted by the following:

1ƒ the Ordinary of the place where the offender actually is;

2ƒ if the penalty has been imposed or declared, the Ordinary who initiated the judicial proceedings to impose or declare the penalty, or who by a decree, either personally or through another, imposed or declared it.

ß2 Before the remission is granted, the author of the precept is to be consulted, unless because of extraordinary circumstance this is impossible.

Can. 1357 ß1 Without prejudice to the provisions of canon. 508 and 976, a confessor can in the internal sacramental forum remit a latae sententiae censure of excommunication or interdict which has not been declared, if it is difficult for the penitent to remain in a state of grave sin for the time necessary for the competent Superior to provide.

ß2 In granting the remission, the confessor is to impose upon the penitent, under pain of again incurring the censure, the obligation to have recourse within one month to the competent Superior or to a priest having the requisite faculty, and to abide by his instructions. In the meantime, the confessor is to impose an appropriate penance and, to the extent demanded, to require reparation of scandal and damage. The recourse, however, may be made even through the confessor, without mention of a name.
It all seems pretty hard nose to some. Won't we get farther by being kinder? Wouldn't Jesus want us to have compassion for a young girl who, under the pressure of economic hardship or an abusive relationship seeks abortion as the bad answer to a bad situation? After all rapist and murders and child molesters aren't excommunicated.
To really understand the situation we must analyze it. Abortion itself is a simple issue. As a friend of mine says abortion is nothing more than big people killing little people. Trying to prevent abortion has become much more complicated.
Somehow in the social and theological chaos of the post Vatican II period we, that is orthodox Christianity, lost the ability to set the moral framework against which abortion would be discussed. Somehow a truth which was once acknowledged by the whole world, that human babies have intrinsic worth from the time they are conceived, a Truth which goes back to the very foundations of Christianity in the first century, has been overturned. Perhaps if the Church had spoken out strongly, and consistently from the very time that Roe v. Wade was illegitimately made the law of the land things would have been different. But they did not.
So now we have the situation that exists in our society. Abortion is legal. Catholic politicians, some of who claim to be personally against abortion, but are unwilling to let their public acts be guided by their conscious claim to be Catholics in good standing with the Church. Plus there are other Catholic politicians who do not even acknowledge the teaching of the Church and actually support the killing of the unborn. There are even some who attempt to publicly mis-state the Churches position, out of either ignorance or malice. At least half of those seeking abortion in the United States can be said to be economically disadvantage and very young. A good percentage are likewise single, most of these never married.
So how is the Church to react? In charity the Church has done what it always does. It has created missions to help with pre-natal care, consoling and adoption services. It has even founded post abortion ministries, to help those who have realized the great abomination that they have been involved it and to bring them healing and reconciliation with God.
But there is more to the problem than young, troubled girls. Almost half of the women who abort are not teenage mothers. They are not poor. They are not abused. What they are is women who are inconvenienced by a pregnancy which has resulted by the failure of their favorite method of birth control. They seek to avoid the most probable result of the life style they have chosen. How should the Church see after the souls of these women? Because make no mistake, that is what is at stake here. The deaths of the unborn are a tragedy beyond calculation. The threat to soul of the aborting mother even more so.
Beyond these women are those who have created the situation which has allowed these victims, for so many of them are, give into the temptation for a quick fix to the "problem" of a life created in the image of God. This group includes the abortionists, those who fund and finance them, and often make large amounts of money off of the death of children. And those jurists and politicians who have created the legal frame work that has allowed abortion to be made legal. An immoral act protected by the law.
How should the bishops handle them, especially the ones who claim to be Catholic? Should they dialog with them? Has that not already been done? They reject the 2000 year old teaching of the Church in this matter. What then? After all it is only their soul they put in danger. But the bishop must see to that soul. If dialog doesn't work what should the bishop do then? The pro-abortion Catholic is in a state of mortal sin. This prohibits them from receiving Communion What if their conscious is too malformed to know that? Then the bishop must tell them. First in private and then in public if they refuse to heed. Because it is to the detriment of their soul if they receive when not in a state of grace. More they lead others to sin by their bad example, unadmonished. In the long run the bishop must look to the souls of his other sheep, if he cannot save the one.
So why is it bad for Notre Dame to invite a pro-abortion Protestant to speak? Because it gives him a platform. It makes some Catholics believe that abortion and the support for abortion is no big deal. After all how bad can it be if you support it but the most famous Catholic university in America still invites you to speak and gives you an honorary degree? It must not be that important. It gives cover to Catholics who know the Church's teaching but choose not to support it because it would make it politically difficult for them.
That's why it's important.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

By now I'm sure everyone has heard of the move by certain members of the legislature of Connecticut to take control of Church finances away from the Hierarchy and place it in the hands of lay members of each parish, who would be appointed by the state. The massive response of the Catholic faithful of Connecticut, along with the support of the members of some other faiths (who realized they could be next) has pretty much stopped that effort for now.
Laying aside the unconstitutionality of such a move, and even the intrusion of the state into the affairs of the parish, why shouldn't members of the parish control parish finances. Don't they donate the money? Why shouldn't they control how its spent?
Such a method of parish governance has a name. It's call congregational governance, and is the method used by many of the separated Protestant Christian sects. Such a method is not in accordance with Catholic Tradition. Tradition which has as it's heart Scriptural roots.
Now most Catholics realize that the Connecticut law, which would take control of Church assets away from the bishop, is onerous and a thinly veiled plan to suppress Church teaching. There are other, good Catholics, who come at this, that is congregational governance, from a different angle.
In much of the United States there is a priest crisis. Many diocese are being force to close or cluster parishes. In some of these diocese deacons are stepping in to manage parishes while priests become less involved with each parish because they may be responsible for as many as four. I've heard it said that having a deacon in such a position is a waste. "Why not just hire a business manager to run the parish, and let the priests and deacons do the stuff only they can do?" is sometimes said.
Such a statement shows a real lack of understanding of the traditional role of the deacon in the Church. From the earliest times the deacon was charged with the handling of Church finances. As the member of the clergy most involved with the care of the widows and orphans the deacon was often deeply involved in collection and administration of the Church's money. It is said that St. Lawrence, a deacon of the third century, was martyred for failing to turn the wealth of the Church, collected for the care of widows and orphans, over to the Roman Government during the persecutions of Valerian.
The position of the clergy in managing the wealth of the Church can perhaps best be seen in Acts. Ananias and Sapphira decide to make a donation to the Church. They sell a piece of land and claim to donate the entire amount to the Church, while actually donating only a portion. To whom do they make this donation? Peter. It seems that from the beginning the Apostles were the ones who administered those monies donated to the Church for its work. Further Peter called Ananias on his lie, where upon the man died.
The point here? Ananias was not struck down because he failed to donate all his profits to the Church. He was not required to donate anything. He was attempting to garner public credit for his fraudulent act.
In Connecticut the agenda was to place persons in boards to control the finances of the diocese with an eye to pressuring the bishop and his priests from talking out against gay marriage. If the bishop does not control the finances of the diocese what does he do when those who do refuse to fund his Seminary because they don't like his defense of Church teaching? The parish priest even more so. What does father do when the parish finance board refuses to pay his rent because he won't marry Joe and Bob? Or speaks out against Contraception, or Abortion?
There is a reason that Christ did not found the Church as a democracy. In the secular realm, as Churchill said, democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all of the others. Still a democracy is no better than its citizens. We already know that spiritually we are very poor indeed. Marked with the stain of Original Sin, even after baptism we seem unable to avoid the falls of actual sin. Christ was not willing to place his Church in the hands of a democratic mob. He instead trusted it to the Holy Spirit, working through Peter and the Apostles, and their successors.
Not that democracy has no place in the Church. Many religious orders elect their leaders. The pope himself, the successor of Peter, is elected by the college of Cardinals. But a process of discernment is injected into these elections, a process likely to be lacking in elections centered primarily around the control of finances.
Certainly transparency has its place in parish finances. One of the excuses for the Connecticut actions was actions of a prominent Darien priest, Michael Jude Fay, who walked off with $1.4 million to bankroll a luxurious lifestyle of New York trips and Florida vacations with a male friend. No doubt there was a lot of bad stuff happening in Darien. The answer to that was fiscal responsibility on the part of the bishop, that is the requirement that parish finances be handled in a transparent way such that no single person, clergy or laity, can withdraw that kind of money without getting caught, caught before the luxury vacation makes the money vanish.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What are these kids on about?

Just when one is concerned about this younger generation they go and prove you haven't been wasting your time...

Out of Harvard -- who knew?
Now the pre-teens are on the ramparts!
Oklahoma. It ain't just wind on that plain!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Philosophical Refutation of Reductionism

Apologetics is a separate discipline from catechesis, but in today's world the catechist, especially one dealing with older teens or adults, is likely to face the same questions as the apologist. Many teens come from a home where parents have not themselves been properly catechized, and so hold beliefs contrary to Church teachings. Or they come from a home of a mixed or no religious tradition. Then the catechist finds himself straying into the territory of the apologist. An exposure to apologetics is therefore useful.
Peter Kreeft writes at the Catholic Education Resource Center on A Philosophical Refutation of Reductionism.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Call

Now it is my experience that many of those involved in catechetical and youth programs are parents whose children are in those self same programs. This is proper and just. The first teachers of any baptized child are his parents and God parents, who bare the responsibility for instructing the child in the faith.
Successful youth catechesis programs require others to also take an active part. The involvement of young adults, especially single young adults living their Christian vocation, is vital, especially for high school programs. The continuing interest and efforts of graduates from a youth program is one of the best indicators of its success. They provide real and visible role models for the youth.
Even the best, that is most devout and spritual, young adults are sometimes reticent to become involved. They often feel, as do older potential catechist, that they are not fimiliar enough with Church teaching, or will not relate well to their students, or lack the teaching skills necessary to do justice to those under their care.
To them I repeat what my deacon says, "God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called."
They must teach that in deacon school.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Outside the Church

Outside the Church there is no salvation.

Is a Catholic who converts to another Christian faith damned?

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches CCC 818:
However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.
Ah, but does this apply to someone who was either was baptized as a baby and raised in the faith, or converted to Catholicism at a later time and then leaves the Church?

I would say rather that CCC 2088 and 2089 apply:

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith: Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.
2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."
This section of the CCC concerns sins against the faith. To be clear such sins are mortal sins. What is a mortal sin?

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."
What does the Catechism say about someone who dies under the burden of mortal sin? (CCC1861)

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
Someone I know contends that many who have left the Church have done so because they were never properly catechized. That is they do not have full knowledge and so cannot be in a state of mortal sin.

A case could also be made that a child who has been baptized, but is subsequently moved by their parents to another faith community lacks, for this purpose the ability to refuse to change denominations because they do not have the ability to exercise or withhold deliberate consent in this act.

They further point out that (CCC 847):

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

So if that is true and an atheist who is a really good person could go to heaven how could someone who still believes in Christ but leaves the Church be punished?

This is what I call the NBA clause.

Every American boy of a certain social economic class would like to believe that if they can play basketball well enough, that even though they are not stellar academic performers, nor do they have the social or political connections to become economically successful through other means, they can be the next Michael Jordan.

Of course the truth is that most will never be NBA players and they would be much better spending their time studying math than playing basketball.

So while the atheistic or agnostic equivalent of Mother Teresa might have a shot at heaven I would say that most will have as much chance as your typical inner city youth at making the NBA.

That being the case, while, as CCC says we must "
entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.," it is not helpful in my opinion to sugarcoat the matter.

In the time since Vactican II (indeed since and even before the Reformation) there have been those who, guilty of the sins of Incredulity, Heresy, apostasy, and schism, have confused the faithful and besides placing their own souls in jeopardy have also placed the souls of others in peril. Some of these have been priest, some members of the laity, some even bishops or theologians. Most cannot be considered to have been "badly catechized" or to have lacked the power of deliberate consent.

Their fate lies with God alone, but I wouldn't take odds on their final destination, and I don't see how lying to others on their probable fate is in those other's spiritual best interests

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Precious Blood

Most Catholics know that when someone is ill and unable to attend Mass that they may receive Eucharist. When they are in danger of death and it is likely to be their last time it is also called the Viaticum. This is usually in the form of the Precious Body.
What is not generally realized is that in cases of special need, for example for a person who cannot swallow, it is permitted for them to receive the Precious Blood. This requires special preparation on the part of the consecrating priest, because it is generally not allowed to retain the Precious Blood, and then only for a very short time. Unlike in the case of the consecrated Host there is not an equivalent to the pyx for transporting the Precious Blood. In most cases only a few drops are really necessary. Except in the case of Celiac disease, most who can't receive the Body of the Lord will only be able to take as much Precious Blood as can be absorbed in the mouth, since they cannot swallow.
If you know someone in this situation discuss the option with their priest. Many believe that there is no option that will allow them to receive the Lord if they are unable to swallow the Host.