October 31, 2009
October 30, 2009
October 29, 2009
The hugely talented singer-songwriter Sting recently extolled the new American President in messianically reverential tones, declaring that, "In many ways, he's sent from God."
Switzerland announced plans yesterday to crack down on “suicide tourism”, signalling that it might close the Dignitas clinic that has helped hundreds of terminally ill people to take their lives.The plans — in the form of two draft Bills that will be offered for public debate — are likely to set off a rush of patients from Britain and elsewhere in Europe since Switzerland has become the main destination for those seeking assisted suicide.Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, the Justice Minister, said that two options would be presented to parliament. Either clinics such as Dignitas and Exit, which deals chiefly with Swiss patients, will have to accept much stricter regulation or they will be closed down.The tightening of the rules would require patients to present two medical opinions declaring their disease incurable, that death is expected within months and that they have made their decision of sound mind and fully aware of their options.These guidelines, said the minister, appeal to common sense. And even in the most controversial clinic, Dignitas, these rules are already broadly adhered to. But critics have accused Dignitas of widening its criteria. Some patients are not terminally ill and at least a few would-be suicides are suffering from clinical depression.The plan is thus to slow down the process and make it a more considered, and carefully policed, decision. . . . (continue reading)
October 28, 2009
Who even knew Hans Kung was still around? Like a rickety old submarine that surfaces now and then to vent the noxious fumes that have built up inside, this disgruntled Vatican II peritus pops up every so often with a querulous screech about how the pope (JPII & BXVI) hasn't been driving the big ol' Churchbus in the leftward direction he so badly wants it to go.
Dissident theologian Father Hans Kung criticized Pope Benedict XVI for his recent opening to discontented Anglicans, charging the pope was “fishing” for the most conservative Christians to the detriment of the larger church.
Father Kung said the invitation to traditionalist Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church went against years of ecumenical work on the part of both churches, calling it instead “a nonecumenical piracy of priests.”
The pope’s basic message is: “Traditionalists of all churches, unite under the dome of St. Peter’s!” Father Kung wrote in an editorial Oct. 28 in the Rome daily La Repubblica.
“Look: The fisherman is fishing above all on the ‘right’ side of the lake. But the water is muddy,” he said.
The Vatican announced Oct. 20 that the pope was establishing a new structure to welcome Anglicans who want to be in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining some of their spiritual and liturgical traditions. Many of the Anglicans who have asked the Vatican for such a provision are dismayed by the ordination of women and by the blessing of homosexual unions and the ordination of openly gay bishops in some provinces of the Anglican Communion.
While emphasizing the importance of celibacy for priests, the Vatican said a dispensation would be made for former Anglican priests who are married to be ordained Catholic priests. However, they will not be able to become bishops.
Father Kung, a Swiss theologian who has taught in Germany for decades, warned that married newcomers will cause resentment on the part of celibate Catholic clergy.
In 1979 the Vatican withdrew permission for him to teach as a Catholic theologian, although it did not restrict his ministry as a Catholic priest.
In the editorial, Father Kung also lambasted Pope Benedict’s recent efforts to bring back into the fold members of the Society of St. Pius X, a group of breakaway Catholics opposed to the changes in the church following the Second Vatican Council.
“After reintegrating the anti-reformist Society of St. Pius X, now Benedict XVI wants to flesh out the thinning ranks of Roman Catholics with like-minded Anglicans,” Father Kung wrote in the editorial.
He also criticized Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Communion, who “in his desire to ingratiate himself with the Vatican apparently didn’t understand the consequences of the papal fishing trip in Anglican waters.” (source)
Here's the audio of the talk on moral relativism I gave last a few weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin, before a Catholic audience of approximately 450. It was held at the diocesan center in their super-plush auditorium. (Thanks for having me up to speak!)
I'm delighted to be reprising my earlier role as guest speaker for several Immaculate Heart Radio "Listener Appreciation" events in San Francisco (Nov. 3), Oakland (Nov. 4), and San Jose (Nov. 5), as well as Salt Lake City (Nov. 10) and Albuquerque (Nov. 12). Click here for details.
The following message (though not this picture) was posted yesterday on the Mormon Church's public affairs blog. It explains the group's unhappiness with recent news reports that refer to "splinter groups" which hive off from the Salt Lake City-based "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (AKA "the Mormon Church") as "Mormons."
These splinter groups (AKA "Mormon Fundamentalists") assiduously devote themselves to the practice of the doctrine of polygamy (which was renounced by THE Mormon Church in 1890) and around whichever Viagra-addled alpha male has set himself up as the prophet, seer, and revelator for that particular harem.
Yes, it's kind of weird, especially since the real Mormon Church used to officially teach (and practice with gusto) the doctrine of "plural marriage" (c.f., D&C 132:51-52, 61-64). But when you consider this issue from the standpoint of the LDS Church, their concern makes sense. And in any case, I personally find the whole wild and wonderful world of Mormonism rather fascinating anyway.
During the past few years most journalists in the U.S. have done an excellent job in clarifying the differences between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and small, polygamist, splinter groups that often call themselves "Mormons" but have no connection with the Church. Since these groups are covered in the press frequently, we appreciate journalists' efforts to make this distinction.
However, today The Times in London ran a story about a polygamist group, not at all associated with the Church, with the headline "Mormon polygamist Raymond Jessop on trial after raid on sect's compound." Journalists who use the word "Mormon" in relation to polygamist groups unassociated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cause enormous amounts of confusion in the minds of their readers. Particularly internationally, readers do not distinguish between these groups and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which there are over 13.5 million members worldwide.
A few weeks ago I was in Korea and spoke with some of the Church's Public Affairs media representatives there. They expressed frustration with international wire services that inappropriately use the term "Mormon" in their stories in association with fringe polygamists groups. The Korean press often reruns these stories with the wire service inaccuracies. The effect of such misinformation in Korea, and other countries where the Church has fewer members and is less well known, is much greater. . . . (continue reading)
Because the Mass is such an important event we need to work to participate properly. Mass is not an opportunity to relax and daydream, to let our minds wander wherever they might. We are called to participate, with our hearts, minds and bodies. Such participation must be internal and spiritual; it requires periods of silence and listening, but above all it requires prayer.A Mass is only a "good Mass" when it is prayerful.From Old Testament times marriage imagery has been used to describe the relationship between God and His chosen people. So too theologians speak of Christ as the bridegroom and the whole Catholic community as His bride.We can accurately speak of Jesus facing death to save his bride, the Church, just as we speak of Christ as a warrior dedicated to defeating the power of evil. The Eucharist is a kind of celebration of this marriage and of this total giving unto death.The Eucharist in particular should give us the strength and energy to take God’s love into the world. But for this to be effective every lover must be a fighter.We cannot follow Christ without a struggle, without fighting and battling to control and purify our selfish instincts.We are called to fight and battle against evil in its many forms. We know that evil will triumph if enough people do nothing. Good parents will battle to protect their children. People will even give their lives for great causes, to defend their country.I don’t think a Christian can say “I’m a lover, not a fighter”. The Eucharist gives us energy for this essential struggle. . . .
October 27, 2009
As those of you who follow my blog know, the little man (our seventh precious grandchild ) was born three months premature, but he's progressing well (better than the doctors expected) and fighting hard, thanks be to God and to all of you who have been praying for the lad.
October 26, 2009
A few years ago, I slipped into the back of a large Methodist church in my area to hear a sermon delivered by the pastor. It had been advertised for several days on the marquee on the lawn in front of the handsome neo-Gothic stone edifice. I really wanted to hear what he had to say that particular Sunday.
Why that particular Sunday? Well, the occasion of his sermon was what Protestants celebrate as "Reformation Sunday," in remembrance of the sad, tragic rebellion against the Catholic Church. Of course, that's my take on what Reformation Sunday symbolizes. The pastor, whose sermon I heard that day, had a view much different from mine. For him, it was the celebration of a glorious "triumph" of "the gospel" over "Rome."
As you might imagine, those 30 minutes I spent standing in the back of that church packed with sincere, devout Protestants, were not enjoyable, but they certainly were instructive. That sermon recalled to my mind so many things that so many Protestants badly misunderstand when assessing what really happened in the early 16th century as Martin Luther and crew launched their rebellion against the Ancient Faith, historic Christianity, the Catholic Church; the three being one and the same thing.
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible. As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works. To be saved is to be made holy. To be saved requires our being made part of a people separated from the world so that we can be united in spite of — or perhaps better, because of — the world’s fragmentation and divisions. Unity, after all, is what God has given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. For in that death and resurrection we have been made part of God’s salvation for the world so that the world may know it has been freed from the powers that would compel us to kill one another in the name of false loyalties. All that is about the works necessary to save us.For example, I often point out that at least Catholics have the magisterial office of the Bishop of Rome to remind them that disunity is a sin. You should not overlook the significance that in several important documents of late, John Paul II has confessed the Catholic sin for the Reformation. Where are the Protestants capable of doing likewise? We Protestants feel no sin for the disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to confess our sin for the continuing disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to do that because we have no experience of unity.The magisterial office — we Protestants often forget — is not a matter of constraining or limiting diversity in the name of unity. The office of the Bishop of Rome is to ensure that when Christians move . . . (continue reading)
“He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out.
“From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny.
“If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it. He may be right or wrong in his opinion, but he is too clearheaded to be unjust; he is as simple as he is forcible, and as brief as he is decisive.
“Nowhere shall we find greater candor, consideration, indulgence: he throws himself into the minds of his opponents, he accounts for their mistakes. He knows the weakness of human reason as well as its strength, its province and its limits. If he be an unbeliever, he will be too profound and large-minded to ridicule religion or to act against it; he is too wise to be a dogmatist or fanatic in his infidelity. He respects piety and devotion; he even supports institutions as venerable, beautiful, or useful, to which he does not assent; he honors the ministers of religion, and it contents him to decline its mysteries without assailing or denouncing them. . . .” (continue reading)
Most everyone has heard of the controversial Prophecies of Saint Malachy, which, it is said, were given by the 12th century Irish bishop. The prophecies are a series of brief and enigmatic statements in Latin pertaining to each of the future popes after Malachy's day, concluding with the final entry:
"In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations, after which the seven-hilled city will be destroyed and thedreadful Judge will judge the people. The End."
[Catholic journalist Robert Moynihan reports that] Cardinal Peter Turkson, 61, the Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, the eloquent “relator” or general secretary of this month’s Synod for Africa, will succeed Cardinal Renato Martino, 77, as the head of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, it was announced today.
This will make Turkson the highest-ranking African cardinal in the Church, and give him important experience in a curial position, at the heart of the Church.
(Here is a good article from Ghana Business News on the appointment and its significance:  http://ghanabusinessnews.com/2009/10/24/ghana’s-cardinal-turkson-gets-closer-to-becoming-first-black-pope)
The appointment was announced at 1 pm in the Vatican Press Office, in Turkson’s presence, at a Vatican Press Conference held to “wrap up” the Synod on Africa, by FatherFederico Lombardi, S.J., the Pope’s press spokesman… and Turkson looked surprised.
As I wrote the day before yesterday, in an article entitled “The Next Pope?”, I sat next to Turkson at a special dinner for journalists Thursday evening.
Turkson knew that this appointment might be in the offing, as all the journalists asked him about it. It had been rumored for many months.
But when the decision was finally taken and communicated to Turkson, it was evidently communicated without any prior warning.
Turkson, when Lombardi announced the appointment, seemed almost overcome with emotion: a legitimate pride, but also a bit of shock.
For a moment, he was speechless. Then he smiled, expressed his gratitude to the Pope for the appointment, and fell silent again, at a loss for words. (continue reading)
Following the death of Pope John Paul II (of blessed memory) in 2005, many voices were raised in support for an African Pope, with Cardinal Francis Arinze's name being the most frequently mentioned. That obviously didn't happen in that conclave, but it's not a stretch to theorize that, given Africa's increasing importance in the Church and her growing prominence within the Roman Curia, the clamor for an African pope in the next conclave might well produce that desired result. Time will tell.