Jun 022015
 

Last Sunday HBO’s show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” had a discussion regarding the Pope and his not watching TV and relating him to Walter White in Breaking Bad. This was partly in response to the Vatican’s Secretary of State common that this was “defeat for humanity” regarding Ireland’s vote that legalized same-sex-so-called marriage.

He of course goes down the checklist of opening remarks regarding the Church.

  • Priestly abuse scandal ☑
  • Crusades ☑
  • Forced adoptions ☑
  • Pope wears a silly hat ☑

Now as a fan of Breaking Bad I was wondering just how this comparison was made. Although as I expected the comparison wasn’t even comically insightful regarding the show or the Pope.

Here is the transcript from the section in response to the recent story about Pope Francis not watching TV for 25 years.

OLIVER: (audience laughs) Oh, I’m sorry, Pope – this isn’t for you? (audience laughs) This isn’t – actually, that’s a good instinct. This show is definitely not for you. (audience laughs) It’s why, in the little warning card at the top of every episode, it says ‘UP’ – ‘unsuitable for popes.’ (audience laughs)

But – but it is a shame, because it might have helped if the Pope had been watching TV over the last 25 years. TV shows have done a lot to acclimate people to same-sex relationships. There was Will and Grace; there was Ellen; Queer as Folk; SpongeBob SquarePants (audience laughs) Oh – oh, please! They hang out in a pineapple under the sea. Read between the lines. (audience laughs) I’m just saying, Pope – if you’d watched TV, not only would you have learned a lot, but there are shows that you might have really liked. If nothing else, I think you’d have loved Breaking Bad. (audience laughs) That’s a show you could really relate to. It’s a story about a man gradually losing touch with reality; overseeing a vast criminal enterprise; and yet, so powerful that no one’s brave enough to tell he’s wearing a very silly hat.

Transcript via NewsBusters

This part is actually insightful commentary. This is an acknowledgment about just how effective the propaganda put out by Hollywood has been in pushing same-sex-so-called marriage.

No it was not enough for the pope to have studied Natural Law and Revelation. That what he knows and has learned about the anthropology of the human person is not meaningful. No what he should have done is to watch TV where shows made a concerted effort to introduce sympathetic characters with same-sex attraction. This campaign of “acclimation” has been widely successful.

No intellectual argument is appealed to, but instead fictionalized characters. No treatise by St. Thomas Aquinas on will and grace matters, it is the TV show “Will and Grace” that trumps it all.

Objection 1: Same Sex acts are intrinsically disordered.

On the contrary: Ellen is very funny.

During WWII Hollywood were also successful in selling War Bonds with celebrities pushing them along with reels before movies also pushing them. Now we have that same concerted effort where most shows now must have to have sympathetic character with same-sex attraction. Is is any wonder Americans have come to believe that a large section of the population is made up of those with same-sex attraction? (Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are)

The wonderful thing about being Catholic is that we don’t leave our intellects at the door. That we can come to have a deeper understanding of the human person and love of our neighbor – all without even watching a sitcom!

CCC 2358: The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Jun 022015
 

The Trinity and gender

Recently Father James Martin, S.J. tweeted two items regarding the Holy Spirit as feminine.

In response Darwin Catholic has an excellent response looking at Sex, Grammar and the Holy Spirit. Well worth reading and shows the silliness of Father’s bit of what I would call Twitter Trolling.

In related news another priest Retweeted Fr. Martin’s tweet and subsequently threatened to sue a blogger who posted about this tweet and another of his celebrating Ireland’s passing of same-sex-so-called-marriage. Subsequent update from the women blogger involved regarding an exchange with Fr. Dan.

In response to the Anglican’s possible change to calling God “Mother”, see Fr. Longenecker’s Twelve Reasons Why You Can’t Call God “Mother”.

Bruce Jenner and beyond

Yesterday social media was awash with the Vanity Fair cover of Bruce Jenner as Caitlyn. I definitely could have used a Vanity Fair filter yesterday. Lots of puns came to mind regarding his last name as a rhyme with gender to me, I wish prayer came to me as easily. Still I had no intention of posting on this at all.

That is until I saw Thomas L. McDonald’s post What Should We Call Bruce Jenner?. This is an excellent look regarding this which takes seriously the question in the title.

With transgender issues being the hot topic right now, Wesley J. Smith looks at another piece of word engineering regarding “transability” and the media’s use of “transabled” to refer to those who suffer with Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID).

Jun 022015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 11 May 2015 to 2 June 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Letters

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Christians are witnesses not to a theory, but to a Person: Christ risen and alive, the one Saviour of all.” @Pontifex 28 May 2015
  • “Lord, grant us the awesome gift of meeting you.” @Pontifex 30 May 2015
  • “The light of the Gospel guides all who put themselves at the service of the civilization of love.” @Pontifex 2 June 2015
Jun 012015
 

Demons, Deliverance, Discernment : Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World is a recently released book by Fr. Mike Driscol which is published by Catholic Answers Press.

This book takes a different focus then other books I have read on the subject. Often even when there is a serious look at the subject there can be more sensationalist elements. Not surprising since elements such as those fictionalized in The Exorcist are a draw for many. I found the treatment of the subject in The Rite to be rather balanced, but its main focus was just on exorcism and the training of a priest as an exorcist.

One of the points regarding exorcism that I have heard stressed multiple times in Catholic circles is that the Exorcist has to be the greatest skeptic. That every possible cause must be investigated first and that many seemingly apparent cases may well have a psychological or material foundation. This is a focus of this book as Fr. Driscol is a counselor and has a doctorate in the area. He did his doctoral dissertation on the area of possession and exorcism and came to do many interviews with exorcists concerning this. The Church has long made such distinctions throughout history and he points out that even in the Rite of Exorcism published in 1614 distinguished between demon possession and psychological disorders.

The books first chapters investigate possession and exorcism in cultures through the ages and then their history in scripture. This is built on with information on the theology of Demonology and the various classification used as to levels of Demonic attack from temptation, oppression, up to possession. As discernment is a major focus of this there is much information regarding how these diagnosis are made. I actually found this whole process of discernment to be quite fascinating regarding how much rooted in a psychological problem can be taken for possession. The authors review of such discernment is totally in agreement with what the Church officially teaches regarding this. He is also very careful to identify these areas with his own opinions.

I really found his chapter on two approaches to exorcism as a classification of Exorcists to be very informative. He classifies two basic styles in what he calls narrow approach and wide approach exorcists. These are his own classifications which he developed after all the interviews he made with Exorcists. I won’t go into the details of these classification, but again I found the distinctions made to be useful. He has some skepticism to wide approach exorcists which from the little I know I am inclined to agree with.

One aspect of this book not normally seen is a look at deliverance ministries. While I was aware of this growing trend in Protestantism, I did not realize how much it had come into Catholic circles. This is an area of “ministry” that is not officially sanctioned by the Church for the laity and so it is an area with little oversight. He offers plenty of caveats regarding this along with what would be the actual role for the laity here.

Along the way I found plenty of questions addressed that either I had previously wondered about or that I had just never considered. Really so much about this subject is shaped more from Hollywood then from the Church’s careful teaching on the subject.

Overall I found this to be a very useful book on the subject that makes necessary distinctions. That while there are actual possessions and other forms of Demonic attacks, that is much to learn about other causes of such traits. Also while this book does not concentrate on the more sensationalist aspects of actual exorcisms, there are stories peppered throughout regarding such phenomenon.

The first appendix includes prayers for protection and the second appendix includes advice for pastors and ministers.

Recently due to the much publicized “Charlie Charlie Challenge”, he posted on the subject and provided a good counterbalance to this practice.

May 272015
 

I had certainly been looking forward to Jimmy Akin’s newest book The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Delivers You to Eternal Life as it has been teased for awhile on Catholic Answers.

The doctrine of salvation (Soteriology) is of course of supreme importance and like many important things it can be both easy and hard to understand. The subtitle of the book is actually a pretty good simplification of this branch of theology. The question “So what can I do to be saved?” is really the starting point to delving into this question.

One of the seeming goals of this book was to clear up confusion regarding this topic between Catholic and Protestants. Often there is no common vocabulary even when we are using the same words. So easy to talk past each other when we don’t spend time to define terms ourselves and also coming to understand how different groups use those same words. Another difficulty is that Protestantism in not monolithic when it comes these terms and different groups will have different understandings or nuances. As Jimmy Akin mentions:

“This is precisely the kind of situation that St. Paul was addressing when he warned about quarreling over words. He instructed St. Timothy to charge his flock “before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim. 2:14).”

Another points he makes is that often there can be different insights and that these insights do not necessarily conflict. Different emphasis can lead to a deeper understanding.

Jimmy Akin is really gifted when it comes to explaining things at a basic level. He grounds this book with a canvas of scripture showing how scripture uses words like justification, salvation, forgiveness, etc. This understanding, like most things in scripture, was revealed more fully over time until being made more manifest in the New Testament. His use of the Church Fathers and others show how the early Church also understood what was revealed by scripture.

I know I am describing this book badly as it is so filled with information and insights that it is hard for me to summarize. Still I will try. This book certainly deepened my understanding regarding salvation. Even in areas I was familiar with he was able make concepts more substantial. I especially liked the helpful terms he used to categorize areas, especially in places where there is not a common vocabulary.

One topic area I found especially helpful was the one on “Outside the Church, no Salvation” (“Extra Ecclesiam, nulla sallus”). While I already generally understand the nuances involved and where the rigorists go wrong, I really enjoyed the fuller historical context. Other areas of interest regarded the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification and also the discussion on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. There are extensive bonus materials included in the book with many of the documents addressed in the book.

You don’t have to be a theology nerd to be able to read this book. This is written for a general audience and Jimmy Akin’s clear writing makes it worthwhile for everyone.

May 262015
 

Usually when I receive an email saying I won something, my first impulse it to send it to the spam folder. Saying that I won an award for New Evangelization Award for Catholic blogging I am humbled. Really I think of that scene in Wayne’s World when Wayne and Garth meet Alice Cooper and bow down saying “We’re not worthy.”

New Evangelization Award 2015

From Matthew Coffin at Big C Catholics

I am pleased to announce the 1st annual New Evangelization Award for excellence in Catholic blogging. The Catholic blogosphere hosts thousands of sites. Choosing among them blogs of distinction is a daunting task. I had originally intended to honor three Catholic bloggers who have made a unique and longstanding contribution to evangelize and engage a society that is increasingly hostile and openly skeptical toward Judeo-Christian principles and the “culture of life.” I expanded that number to seven in deference to the prevalence of quality Catholic websites in existence. (There are numerous bloggers worthy of recognition. For a list of honorable mentions please see my blogroll.) In order to qualify, a blog must:

  • have been in existence for at least 3 years
  • publish original content that is faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
  • evangelize and inform Catholics, converts, reverts, and all who seek the fullness of truth

The 2015 recipients of the New Evangelization Award for Catholic blogging are:

May 262015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 30 April 2015 to 26 May 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “There are times when God is silent, a silence which cannot be understood unless we gaze upon Christ crucified.” @Pontifex 21 May 2015
  • “Lord, send forth your Holy Spirit to bring consolation and strength to persecuted Christians. #free2pray” @Pontifex 22 May 2015
  • “Let us invoke the Holy Spirit each day: He guides us along the path of discipleship in Christ.” @Pontifex 23 May 2015
  • “We can observe the Fourth Commandment by loving visits to our aging grandparents.” @Pontifex 26 May 2015
May 252015
 

With the recent beautification of Archbishop Oscar Romero I am saddened by the politicization and all the narrative spouting. Although his assassination was made use of and politicized from the start.

Proponent of Liberation Theology hijacked Romero for their own use, and many conservative Catholics took this to be the truth without looking further. A kind of “if they like him”, “We must oppose him” attitude. Oddly conservatives who think progressives are wrong about everything, didn’t believe they were wrong about Archbishop Romero. Even worse so many Catholic get suspicious about a bishop who talks about the poor and at times criticizes the excesses of capitalism. We certainly see this viewpoint in regard to Pope Francis who is suppose to be some kind of crypto-Communist.

I know from experience it is quite easy to fall into this suspicious mindset and to assume something untrue about now-Blessed Romero. So I was quite happy that during the year Al Kresta has been interviewing people on the Archbishop clearing away the confusion and setting the record straight.

As Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, wrote “Archbishop Romero was a man of deep prayer and spirituality, faithful to the church and non-ideological.”.

Although it was not only conservatives who failed to look further, but the same goes for progressives who assumed the Archbishop actually was a proponent of Liberation Theology. So recent headlines have followed this narrative being totally misinformed.

President Barack Obama, in a statement, hailed the church’s new direction under Francis. “I am grateful to Pope Francis for his leadership in reminding us of our obligation to help those most in need, and for his decision to beatify Blessed Oscar Arnulfo Romero,” he said. (source)

What most people don’t realize is that it was Pope Benedict XVI who removed the final hurdle in the 35-year process. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia told reporters that it was Benedict who “gave the green light.” Paglia says Benedict told him this Dec. 20, 2012 that the case has moved forward. It would seem ironic that the same man who wrote the CDF’s warning on aspects of Liberation Theology, would be involved in Archbishop Romero’s cause moving forward. Ironic only if the Archbishop actually was a proponent of this theology.

Really the aspect that might actually be a new direction is Romero being declared a martyr. I had questions about this myself since his assassination didn’t seem to fit the normal definition of a martyr for the faith. St. Kolbe and the St. Edith Stein were also different seemingly in the definition of martyr, but they were not the same a Romero’s case. Dr. Ed. Peters had a good post on the subject with his own questions. With time we will see what kind of precedent this sets.

May 202015
 

Over the last week I have seen plenty of commentary regarding the latest Pew study “America’s Changing Religious Landscape”. I’ve seen such commentary cycles before regarding their studies. As usual there is a lot of narrative making by different camps. By those who rejoice in news of any declining of Christian population, the gloom and doomers, the statistic arguers, along with the “this is the solution to the problem” camps. As par for the course there is a lot of noise mixed with useful data.

As a pessimistic/optimist, these types of studies don’t mean much to me. As I have written before Dickens described Church history when he wrote the famous opening lines:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …

Really his description in the Tale of Two Cities reminds me of St. Augustine’s City of God where he compares the City of God and the city of Rome at the time representing the secular world. There have always been swings both ways in which one city dominates the heart of the various cultures.

A lot of what I see are the “if only we do this” group who take whatever they are a proponent of in the first place as the solution. As a both/and kind of person I see positive contributions from many of these suggestions, but not that they are the one solution. Still what really surprises me is that the projections are not much worse. I still find myself surprised at the path my own faith journey took from atheism. When I see fervent young people practicing their Catholic faith I am surprised again. Despite the non-stop and seemingly overwhelming bombardment of messages people still pick up the cross and follow Jesus.

In an odd way it strengthens my faith that the world is not so much worse. Looking at all the despairing signs of the time with the culture of death and the attack on marriage I feel all these points of negative data should point at a much worse cultural situation. That I can discern movements of the Holy Spirit in all the goodness I do see. The modern world seems to be a factory producing crooked lines, yet these lines do not always stay that way. I think of the story of Joseph’s brothers throwing him in the well.

You thought evil against me: but God turned it into good, that he might exalt me, as at present you see, and might save many people.

I am not surprised that it also appears to be an increasing number of people who have some level of faith, but no ties to a community in that regard. But again I would have forecast that “Me and Jesus” and Sola Scriptura where you become your own interpreter would appeal more to our individualist streak. The rebellion towards having any authority over you. Checklist theology where you look for the church that matches your take and POV on the issues. Really this individualist take on religion appeals to much of the American spirit that you would think nones would be growing in leaps and bounds. Yet there is still the sense that this requires some kind of community.

It is always disconcerting when you see people leaving the faith. Especially as the reasons given usual show many misunderstandings. More often something personal than something theological. Seeing the “pearl of great price” I can wonder how they could give it up? Various scandals certainly play a role in this. Yet I have found my own faith to be scandal-proof. I came in to the Church just before the wave of priestly sexual scandals. While horrified at such stories I find myself repeating with St. Peter “Lord, where would I go? You have the words of eternal life.” Still there has been more than one occasion with I repeated this phrase in light of the news of the day. I consider it a minor miracle to have this viewpoint as it is contrary to my native pessimism.

Maybe what has helped me is that I came to believe in the Church before I believed in all she teaches.

“I would not believe the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.” St. Augustine (Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus, chapter 5)

So instead of going down an internal checklist to see if the Catholic Church’s teachings matched up to my expectations, I instead struggled to learn what she taught and why she taught it. Not that this was an easy process. Much that I considered true had to be reexamined and that was not fun at all. Sometimes I feel the arc of my life is learning about another thing I was wrong about. Since the scope of my wrongness was so wide I am still funneling down to a point. When you search for truth the annoying thing is that you might find it and have to once again change in response. Even as a Catholic where hopefully I have indeed narrowed this down with the help of the Church; I still find that my prudential reasonings often end up in hindsight as “doh!”.

Often times when I write something I wish I was an actual writer instead of somebody with thoughts who manages to string together words and phrases. This post is an example of this as I try to advance my own “if only we do this” agenda for evangelization. Ecclesiology as a subject for apologetics seems to me a rarity. Usually much focus is on a set of familiar topics. That more focus should be on the authority of the Catholic Church and why this is so. The nature of the Church and her teaching authority given to her from Jesus is bedrock to my own faith. Still I realize that I make the same mistake as everybody else with their own hobbyhorse solutions. In that there is no cookie-cutter evangelism and that it has to be personal to every person. What will appeal to one person could drive away another. The temptation towards the narrative instead of actually listening to another person and seeing where you might be able to help. So with that in mind I try to read the various articles regarding responses in the new evangelism and try to add new tools without aways selecting the trusty hammer I prefer.

There has always been a tension in the Gospel call in that to be able to go out and spread the good news, you must first go out of yourself. I find myself often thinking “if only they would do this” or implement some program. Then I realize that again I am shifting my own Gospel responsibilites to others. Being self-reflective sucks when you are often in the wrong.

May 192015
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 30 April 2015 to 19 May 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Regina Caeli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Dear parents, have great patience, and forgive from the depths of your heart.” @Pontifex 14 May 2015
  • “It is better to have a Church that is wounded but out in the streets than a Church that is sick because it is closed in on itself.” @Pontifex 16 May 2015
  • “God is always waiting for us, he always understands us, he always forgives us.” @Pontifex 19 May 2015