Aug 122014
 

Last week I had posted about how speaking about sin and repentance was so lacking in homilies I have heard. So this story caught my eye:

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A chapter of a nationally-recognized Christian group that seeks to reach children with the gospel of Jesus Christ is under fire for teaching kids the biblical doctrine of sin and eternal judgment, in addition to sharing about the love and mercy of God.

The Portland chapter of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) is facing resistance from some area residents as they conduct voluntary summer camps in the area and plan on hosting after-school Bible studies in local public schools. The problem? CEF teaches children that each person is a sinner in need of the Savior.

Those who oppose the group assert that because of this, CEF does not present “Jesus loves you” mainstream Christianity, and claim that the organization is “hardcore evangelical fundamental.”

“They pretend to be a mainstream Christian Bible study when in fact they’re a very old school fundamentalist sect,” resident Kaye Schmitt told local television station KATU.

Robert Aughenbaugh also told reporters this week that preaching to children about sin might give them feelings of fear and shame.

Aughenbaugh, Schmitt and others have organized a group called Protect Portland Children, which seeks to speak out against CEF’s message and influence parents not to allow their children to attend its events. It has set up a Facebook page that has so far generated over 800 likes. It’s profile photograph is of a child holding a sign that reads “I am not a sinner.”

Source

This is the type of story where I carefully check to see that the source was not a parody site. Or at least not intentionally one.

Now as to the details of the story I have no idea how CEF presents their message or how prudently it is presented.

“We do teach about sin,” Esteves stated, “[But] we’re not nasty. We’re not high pressure. We’re not negative, but we teach what the Bible teaches that every human being is a sinner in need of a savior.”

Still I think it is illustrative of a general trend. Where self-esteem trumps everything so really there is no need of a redeemer in the first place. Having negative feelings towards something you have done must be banished as unhealthy. It is like the former Catholics who speak of “Catholic guilt.” This “guilt” which they have pushed to the ground not realizing it was a sign of a functioning conscience. When moral relativity holds the day there must be no trespass by a properly (or even improperly) formed conscience. If somebody experiences “fear and shame” for something they did, than it could be the beginning of wisdom and a properly understood “fear of the Lord.” That must be prevented at all cost. Esteem was once tied to merit, but like many concepts now has been set adrift as its own like rights and responsibilities.

Scrupulosity and Jansenism are both errors. As is to call yourself a sinner like Uriah Heep called himself humble. As is the tendency to admit your a sinner, but to excuse it because “you are only human” as if the saints were something else. Detection of sinfulness seems to come easier when we look at others more exacting than ourselves. King David was obviously shocked when was revolted by a story of wrongdoing only to have the Prophet Samuel tell him “You are the man!” There seems to be a thousand ways to go wrong in regards to understanding our own sin, but Jesus never taught about a wide gate with lots of foot traffic. Hard as it is to come to an understanding of personal sins like King David did, it seems even harder to repent of them.

One of the things I love about being Catholic is the deepness of thought and necessary distinctions. My first thought on seeing the little girl with the “I am not a sinner” was to wonder if she was not yet of age of reason and also not yet fully culpable of sin? If so maybe a “I have Concupiscence” would have been more fitting. I wonder if a Facebook page with a teenager holding the same sign would have got an equally positive reaction? If anybody thinks young children above the age of reason can’t sin they must have quited different observational and personal experiences than myself.

Aug 062014
 

In the theological turmoil that followed the Second Vatican Council, the theory of the “fundamental option” is among the most pernicious developments. Fundamental option separates specific moral actions from a more general – fundamental – orientation of life. It holds, therefore, that specific sins do not bear on the status of one’s soul, or on the destination of one’s soul after death. All that matters for salvation, in this view, is that one “fundamentally” lives for God rather than evil.

One theological casualty of fundamental option theory is mortal sin, which has long been defined by the Church as a grave wrong committed with full knowledge of the attendant evil and deliberate consent of the will. Instead, the theory holds that mortal sin is not a specific action, but an orientation that lies at the deepest level of freedom within an individual who rejects God. But given the gravity of such a rejection, the theory holds that such an orientation is nearly impossible for those of sound mind. If an individual makes the fundamental option for God, then his actions, no matter how grave, cannot be mortal sins – or damnable offenses – because, at root, the person means well.

From a post by David G. Bonagura, Jr. at The Catholic Thing

Since I first read this post it has been rolling around in my mind along with some other thoughts. It seems to me that the fundamental option theory has really become the default view. While you hardly ever hear someone speak of it by its name, you often hear a view derived from it. It sounds so reasonable to suppose that since you are generally a good person that lapses really don’t affect your salvation. Many that would not hold to universalism do hold to a personalism when it comes to salvation. Fundamental option theory has become kind of a “once saved, always saved” for Catholics. The “Here I am Lord” centrality where God is lucky to have us.

So I can certainly identify this in the culture and among Catholics. Worse though is how often I find that I can identify this in myself. That I want to bargain with God as Abraham did.

“Lord I use to have all these serious sins. Can I be saved if I have whittled them down to five serious sins?”, “No, well how about four serious sins”, “Well then, how about three grave sins?”

It becomes quite easy to transmute the Call to Holiness to the call to be good enough. To dismiss Jesus’ call for us to be holy as the Father is holy as just hyperbole. To hear the Parable of the Tares and think “Well tough luck on those tares, being of the wheat myself.” To separate out the intention to be good from my actual actions. So easy to resign yourself to the purgative way without doing much purging, much less advancing in the states of perfection. To be satisfied with spiritual mediocrity on the way to joining the Laodicean and causing a gag reflex in Jesus.

It is quite annoying to start out writing a post about others holding the heretical fundamental optional theory and then realizing that you are not immune from it either. Like Saint John Henry Newman looking at his face in the mirror and realizing he was an Monophysite. At least for him it ended well.

The fundamental option theory also seems to be the hidden hand behind the majority of homilies I hear. Going to a number of Catholic parishes in my diocese I get a fair sampling even if not statically significant. The majority of homilies I have heard are of the “Dog that did not bark” variety. What is missing is significant. Now everybody has their hobby-horse sins that they want excoriated during the homily. Hobby-horse sins are almost always those sins we hold others to have and that we think ourselves free of. I want to go more general than that. What I find missing (except in the scriptural readings) is any mention of sin, repentance, growing in holiness, and salvation. Listening to a homily I am usually totally unscathed in regards to realizing I had something to repent of. Really I am a target-rich environment for being properly scathed.

There is such a generic country club feeling to so many homilies. That we are all part of the club. More thought seems to be given to what topical joke can be used to start or end the homily than any actual serious reflection on the readings. Much less any call for conversion. That we even showed up to Mass is suppose to be to our credit instead of seeing that “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

Now sometimes we hear that the homily is suppose to “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I have even heard this phrase used in a homily. Much more comforting than afflicting going on. Interestingly the quote was first used in regards to journalism. Still I don’t want to put all the blame on the homily since it is rather silly to think that we are suppose to get all that the Church teaches condensed down to under ten minutes on Sunday.

The default theology of the fundamental option theory goes hand-in-hand with why their are lines to Communion and not to Confession (in most places and I love seeing the exceptions). If we are good enough with those good intentions not much need for the confessional. No need to repent if our sins are just not that important and besides God will understand.

Feb 092014
 

It is sometimes the case that a headline has little or nothing to do with the actual contents of an article. That headlines are crafted for page views not a quick summary of an article. It is also true in many news organizations that the author of the piece is not the one to write the headline.

So I kept all that in mind when I read this headline from the Daily Mail “How a Pope called Pius turned the confessional box into a paradise for paedophiles”.

Unfortunately the article and headline are one and the same. The attack against Pope Pius X is that he decreed in 1910 that children must make their first confession at the age of seven.

The article goes on to state:

Statistics of offences have revealed that the age group most prone to attack was seven to 13 – the precise child cohort admitted to obligatory confession by this papal decree.

Well that is certainly news to me. For example the report commissioned by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice regarding clergy sex abuse would dispute the previous statement and that majority of victims were post-pubescient. Although the fact that roughly 21% of the victims were in the category described is not to be diminished. Still I can’t think of a report that stated what was said in this article.

While there certainly has been in cases a link to a priest using the confessional in such a ghastly manner is this true in the majority of cases of sex abuse? So trying to blame Pius X for the abuse crisis that seem to rise so many decades later is stretching it. The article does not mention at all the reason Pius X in the Decree Quam Singulari lowered the age regarding the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance. It was based on discerning the “age of discretion” or the “age of reason” a necessary point to determining when a child should have access to these sacraments.

Just a slimly article that does no favors regarding calling out the sexual abuse that did occur.

Feb 052014
 

In a story by Eric J. Lyman for the Religion News Service and published in The Washington Post.

ROME — Did you hear that Pope Francis plans to call a Third Vatican Council? Or that he uncovered previously unknown Bible verses? Or that he sees the story of Adam and Eve as just a fable?

Here’s the problem: None of it is true.

Still, that didn’t stop these and other stories from ricocheting around the Internet and, in some cases, even in traditional news sources. Among the dozens of other fake pope stories are claims that he called hell a literary device and that he believes all religions are equally true.

The article mentions a warning from the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“Check the official Vatican media sources for confirmation of Pope Francis’ statements.” Remarks should be considered untrue if they do not appear on the pope’s Twitter feed, the Vatican Information Service, the Holy See press office, the Vatican website, Vatican radio, the L’Osservatore Romano newspaper or another official information source, the council said.

“If the statements attributed to the pope by any media agency do not appear in the official media sources of the Vatican, it means that the information they report is not true,” said the statement, which was written in all caps as if to underscore the point.

So far a decent enough article, but they couldn’t let that stand.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior analyst with National Catholic Reporter, said only some fake comments are worth worrying about.

“There are basically three kinds of inaccurate comments,” Reese said. “There are the pranksters, and there are people who simply make mistakes because they don’t understand the issues being discussed. It’s hard to get worked up over those things.

“But then there are people who want to spin the pope’s point of view to further a particular agenda, and that’s very problematic and reprehensible.”

I almost fell out of my chair reading that last line. Fr. Reese thinks that people spinning what the Pope said or by extension spinning what the Church teaches as “very problematic and reprehensible.” Another example of somebody with an irony deficit. He has spun so much of what the Church teaches that I think one day he hopes to be named Spin Doctor of the Church.

Getting back to all the papal misinformation and disinformation you almost wish there was a source similar to Snopes which debunked urban legends or in this case I guess Pope Urban legends.

The problem is that it would be a full time job for a team of people to counter all of “the pope said what?” stories or false stories involving the Church. So it will continue to be crowd-sourced to Catholic bloggers and others in Catholic media not to mention individuals in their daily life.

By the way yes I am well aware of the fact that snopes.com like any fact checking site is not totally reliable.

Jan 302014
 

With the Pope being on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone cover with a 7,700-word article associated with it there have been various responses to it.

Much of the reaction has been similar to Pope Francis being named Time’s person of the year. That they like him because they think he is changing the Church at some fundamental level doctrinally. That if they really understood that he was truly a “son of the Church” they wouldn’t be very enthused about him.

The Rolling Stone article also has a contrast between Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis that really sets up a straw-pontiff. The evil never-smiling staunch-traditionalist that is even compared to Freddy Kreuger; “he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares.” A “disastrous pontificate” with no supporting evidence regarding this supplied. The language regarding Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is so over-the-top that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has strongly criticized it in this regard.

Whereas Pope Francis has a gentle voice and won’t judge anyone. Anywhere the Pope’s previous comments can be cast in the most unfortunate light they are. So you see the expected quotes pulled out by so many at odds with what the Church teaches. Plus this article contained this quite unfortunate comparison. “But Francis, like Bill Clinton, thrives on personal contact.” Yikes does the writer even realize what he is saying?

Still reacting to a Rolling Stone article on the Pope is mostly a waste of time as it is exactly what you would expect.

There has been much talk about the “Francis effect” and how those who are not practicing Catholics or even favorable towards the Church generally like Pope Francis. Part of this is that a seeming change in tone means an underlying change in doctrine. He seems like such a nice friendly guy that he really couldn’t believe in all those hard-sayings of Jesus and his Church. Many are drawn to likin him that they will broaden some specific statements that they interpet as liberal and then give him a pass if he mentions abortion since he is only throwing a bone to conservatives.

Some would critique the “Francis effect” as not a good thing since it might attract people to the Church with a totally false idea of what the Church is. Part of me is drawn to this critique since I am so tired of dissidents that bringing in another generation of them does not appeal to me. Yet I also reflect that any movement in the right direction is in fact a movement in the right direction. Any openness to truth can lead to more openness. God has worked with far less. The married couple that starts going to church because they had a child is not usually very well catechized, yet often God can work with this to bring them to a fuller understanding.

Have you ever read a conversion story where the person was already totally aligned with everything the Church had to teach? That the only thing they were lacking was becoming a member of the Church? We are all broken with various degrees of brokenness. Some will have less to repair, but we all need repair to become fully aligned with the Church and what God has in plan for us. A daily process with no end point in this life.

So I can’t say that “Here comes everybody” Catholicism delights me. I would be all for a smaller but more faithful Church where the members know their faith and act on it with total consistency. Plus I want that category to include me even though I don’t always fit that definition. I bet Moses would have been happier with a much smaller number of the faithful where they didn’t start building idols when he turned his back. Yet like the Israelites in the Exodus the Church is journeying towards the promised land and we can expect dissent and rebellions along the way. So while I long for the perfect Church that strangely also includes me I desire to welcome those to the Church drawn by Pope Francis or other means. Even if their journeying to the truth of what the Church teaches might include some time in the wilderness.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

On the humorous side 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Too Pleased About Pope Francis on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Jan 282014
 

One of the most consistent complaints of the pro-life movement is the dismal coverage of the March for Life and the number of offshoots it has spawned across the country. There is the obvious element of unfairness where Wendy Davis and her tennis shoes can be loads of coverage, but a massive amount of people braving the elements protesting abortion does not even get a reporter to cover it at all.

We saw this during the very disturbing Gosnell murder trial that got relegated as a “local story.” This total lopsidedness on the part of the media is certainly upsetting.

Yet it seems like we have become repeatedly surprised at this. Of course the secular media is not going to cover the pro-life movement positively. Even painting with a broad brush sometimes that is the right brush to describe the secular media which is overwhelmingly in favor of abortion and pretty much the whole Democratic Party agenda. They have a narrative and will only cover what meets that narrative. Sometimes they are forced to cover something because of an obvious disparity.

Somehow we have developed the myth of the scrupulously fair journalist or media outlet only concerned with the truth. A myth not really born out by history at all. The only surprising thing is not that people have world-views and narratives, but that a profession could be so dominated by so many fellow-travellers.

One of the temptations regarding complaining about media coverage is that we think if this was corrected it would solve so many problems. If only they covered the March for Life and other positive pro-life stories the pro-life movement would grow by leaps and bounds. The secular media provides a tempting target for complaints and an outlet that makes it much easier than actually getting out there on the front lines of the pro-life movement. Complaining about media bias is much less painful than talking to others about why you are pro-life. Easier than showing others the face of the pro-life movement that puts a lie to so many caricatures about it.

Although maybe the amazing story is not how obviously biased the secular media is, but that despite that the pro-life movement is growing and is a multi-generational movement from the young to the old. Many people have done exactly as I suggested in the last paragraph. Despite the efforts from the secular media and the cultural elites – they are losing. More abortion clinics close every year along with the conversion of former clinic workers.

Sure it annoying to see so many examples of bias or the fact that you can’t even watch an awards show without being assaulted culturally. Still nobody said fighting evil was easy and prayer and fasting on the surface does not seem as satisfying as griping about media bias. Or even writing a blog post about it.

Jan 282014
 

Simcha Fisher with Just enough Gores and Gateses; too many Africans:

In the interest of environmental responsibility, Al Gore suggests that all African women should bear four children.

This is, at least, what Al Gore surely anticipates when he speaks of “making fertility management ubiquitously available” to African women.  He says that ”If you get the health improved, if you get the availability of contraceptives, then families will voluntarily choose to have less children.”  Surely he and Tipper had good health and access to contraception when they bore their four children.

Following Gore’s example, African women should also, presumably, voluntarily choose to live in a 20-room, 10,000 square foot mansion that uses approximately four times more energy than the typical home in the neighborhood.  In addition, each African mother should maintain a luxury apartment in San Francisco. In order to save the environment, Mr. Gore encourages all African women to take several plane trips every year, and only to charter a private jet “when necessary.”

Just part of the progression of Sartre’s “Hell is other people” to “Hell is other people’s children.”

The post follows this with a look at the the true needs of African families. Hint it’s not more contraception.

Dec 112013
 

I must say I am really surprised that Time Magazine named Pope Francis person of the year. Really surprised they are still making Time Magazine.

Any positive mention of the Pope is a good thing. I can’t say I get to excited that a magazine that often has anti-Catholic screeds by Amy Sullivan and others and usually celebrates Christmas or Easter by yet another “real Jesus” article takes time out to get something right. Plus I suspect they got this right for the wrong reasons. Remember the retraction the other day from them?

Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that Pope Francis rejected some church dogma. He does not.

Considering that the selection is towards noteworthy regarding impact on the news during the year it means even less than an Nobel Peace Prize. People often reference that Hitler was named Man of the year, but there was also Stalin and the Ayatollah Khomeni along with “the computer” and “the Earth” also being winners.

No doubt the Pope’s obvious love of the poor is something even the media is able to recognize and even generally the Church’s work for the poor. This reminds me of something the pope wrote in Evangelii Gaudium:

  1. Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need. Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth. And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world! This is a good thing. Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.

I really liked Thomas L. McDonald’s take that included “The Good” and “The Meh”. This point especially resonated with me:

I’m not going to start jumping with joy because a magazine I consider offensive and irrelevant noticed the bloody obvious: that one man commanded more media attention than any other person this year: stopped clocks, and all that.

He also goes on to post some of Time’s other recent covers.

The always funny Eye of the Tiber has Pope Emeritus Benedict Glances At Cover Of Time Magazine Again, Discreetly Wipes Tear From Eye

Dec 042013
 

Metaphors regarding the Church and sports are nothing new. St. Paul certainly used them and there are intersections with sports and the practice of the faith that make them useful. So I was interested when I saw a new book called The Catechism of Hockey by Alyssa Bormes. That it had a forward by Dale Ahlquist and is published by the American Chesterton Society certainly recommended itself to me. Plus that it has positive reviews from Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Paprocki sealed it.

Now I am not exactly a hockey fan and only have passing familiarity with the sport. Yet my lack of knowledge about hockey did not subtract from my enjoyment of the book in any way. A book as an extended metaphor comparing the Catholic faith and the sport of hockey would seem to be able to only go so far. That you would be stretching the metaphor at every juncture to try to make an apt and worthy comparison. Yet over and over I was rather amazed at how she put this forth with comparison after comparison and provided examples and lessons that I think are quite helpful in thinking about the faith. The penalty box and confession makes for a good parallel, but it is her writing which takes it beyond that. She ties it up quite nicely going from personal sin to how it affects the whole Body of Christ or using the hockey term being at “full strength.” There were a couple of comparisons that I thought were stretching it a bit. Still overwhelmingly it was dead on with an intriguing perspective of the faith and a real Catechism in the amount of topics covered.

Not every comparison in the book was hockey related, but even these parallels were made after originally grounding it in something hockey-based. One of these correlations involving the Mystical Body and the crowd of people in line to see the body of Pope John Paul II was stunning in its aptness and another example of how she took a metaphor and drew so much out of it. Over and over again in a Chestertonian way you would start to see something fresh from a new angle. No surprise that G.K. Chesterton was quoted a couple of time. In fact as I was reading the book and where she talked about the rules of hockey I was often reminded of one of his quotes.

“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playgroundÉ.We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliffÕs edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”

So I was quite pleased to see her use that same quote later on in the book. I so enjoyed how fun and inventive this book was which made serious points in a way I suspect could break through a previous barrier to something regarding the faith.

Update: Pope Francis on November 22nd offered what I would call a Catechism of Rugby.

Dec 032013
 

Why in the world is the USCCB Blog promoting Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ? Despite what good work she might have done involving the death penalty she is also involved in serious errors. She is not an example to parade on the USCCB blog.

At the Democratic National Convention in 2008 she spoke to an interfaith crowd saying:

She received nothing but a stony silence, however, when she questioned the basis of the biblical crucifixion story as a “projection of our violent society.”

“Is this a God?” Prejeans asked about the belief that God allowed his son, Jesus, to be sacrificed for the sins of humanity. “Or is this an ogre?”

So much for St. Paul’s “we preach Christ crucified.”

The previous year in 2007, she had this to say:

(A)ccording to Sister Helen Prejean, author of the best-selling book Dead Man Walking, and internationally-renowned advocate against the death penalty, it is the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality that is sinful, as it fails to recognize “the full dignity of all human beings.”

Speaking on Sunday at the close of the symposium, Prejean noted that the first steps in denying and “removing” a human being is to declare them somehow “not quite human, not like how we are … to say that they’re ‘disordered’” – a reference to the language of the Vatican to describe the orientation of gay people. Such terminology, she said, fails to recognize the full dignity of all human beings and is the “greatest form of disrespect.”

Accordingly, “to not stand with LGBT people would be a sin,” declared Prejean to thunderous applause.

Prejean said that she is hopeful as she’s convinced that “people are waking and rising,” and that this will “change the Church.”

“When dialogue starts, the bread starts rising,” she said. “The yeast, the Holy Spirit, is in our hearts.”

In 2006 she was one of the signers of an ad in the New York Times that in part said “YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.” After being disinvited by Duluth Bishop Dennis Schnurr to be a keynote speaker at an education dinner she later clarified “I believe that all of life is sacred and must be protected, especially in the vulnerable stages at the beginning of life and its end.” Yet she still managed to sign this document while at the same time saying: “ I stand squarely within the framework of ”the seamless garment“ ethic of life.” A year after this in the July-August 1997 St. Catherine Review: Sister Prejean “will not take a stand against abortion.” She has also said if she got a chance to talk to President Obama it would only be about his support of the death penalty. She can find nothing else to chide him about.