24 September 2010

Tea Mug Browsing

Why does college cost so much?  Universities have incredibly bloated administrative offices.  Go to a largish state university website and check out the huge number of administrators and support staff.  In the last thirty years or so, universities have become small cities unto themselves--complete with restaurants, theaters, recreation centers, police, buildings stuffed with job placement counselors, therapists, doctors, etc.   Students rarely pay attention to the price of a degree, much less the actual costs.

Barney Frank calls on Bill Clinton for help in his re-election campaign?  Why Clinton and not B.O.?  Oh, yea, I forgot.

Obesity caused by a virus!  Pass the fried chicken and pecan pie, please. . .

Environmentalism is “the religion of choice for urban atheists”. . .NB.  The Church of Global Warming has re-branded itself as The Church of Climate Disruption.  

Fewer and fewer people are paying attention to the talking heads of the MSM.  Apparently, there are better things to do with one's time than read/watch these puppets squawk out the White House's media talking points.

Bishop Olmsted excommunicates priest for "ordaining" women.  Actually, the priest excommunicated himself and the good bishop just sent him a letter informing him of the fact.

USCCB's cmte on doctrine censures two moral theologians after they publish a book that contradicts key teachings of the Church on sexual ethics.  Naturally, their university cites "academic freedom" as the only defense.

U.N. Assembly applauds Iran's president.  Surely, it's time for the U.S. to rethink its relationship with this obscenely expensive and utterly useless organization.  

On the faith of our Founding Fathers:  a very handy guide.

It's the Dad Life!  A vid for all the dad's out there.  Someone needs to make a vid like this for all us "Fathers."

This would be an excellent buy for an itinerant preacher. . .if only it had a chapel!

Cuteness. . .no, uber-cuteness

Will this be you when the Zombies come?

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23 September 2010

Your head on a platter

Padre Pio
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Blackfriars, Oxford

Why would a king fear a prophet of the Lord? How does a man like Herod, a man with wealth, political and military power, and the loyalty of Imperial Rome, become anxious about a backwoods preacher? At first glance, prophets are nobodies. Disreputable, destitute, wandering madmen. No family ties. No wealth, no power, no prestigious academic credentials. They have no institutional affiliations, no grant money, no access to the media. Their overwhelming stench drives even the unwashed paparazzi away! So, who are these men who give kings sleepless nights? If they are truly prophets of the Lord, then they have one thing any king would fear: a mandate from God to speak the truth. While God's prophets preach the Word, kings play the game of politics, a game of influence in the acquisition of power. And the fact that prophets have nothing lose—nothing to bargain with, nothing to compromise—well, this makes them dangerous indeed. Herod murdered John the Baptist on a whim. The preacher from Nazareth is quickly becoming a problem though a much more elusive one. Himself a priest, a prophet, and a king, Jesus goes around claiming to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. With nothing to lose, nothing to compromise, he is an imminent threat to the secular power of kings. And King Herod in particular. As the Body of Christ—each of us, baptized as priests, prophets, and kings—as the Church, do we pose an imminent threat to the secular powers that rule us? If we don't, we should.

There was a time when the Church could cause kings and queens to quake under their royal bed covers. No monarch legitimately ruled without the consent of the Church. Popes could foment a national revolution by relieving a monarch's subjects from their sacred duty to obey their betters. The Church commanded armies, treasuries, orders of knights, and, most frightening of all, the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Just ask the Holy Roman Emperor, King Henry IV about those keys! But Herod doesn't fear Jesus b/c Jesus can rouse the rabble and arm them, or because he can buy a spot in the line of royal succession. Herod is anxious about Jesus, perplexed by this itinerant preacher for the same reason that most rulers fear those with nothing to lose: there's nothing—short of death—to stop them from speaking the truth. And in the case of Christ, death proved to be an international catalyst for the spread of his Good News!

As the Church, the Body of Christ, each of us baptized as priests, prophets, and kings, do we keep our rulers awake at night worrying about the truth we might unleashed upon the realm? Though fear can be a powerful motivator for getting the right thing done, we no longer rely on ecclesial knights and papal armies to threaten kings with the violence of heaven. In all the ways that truly matter, we have become more powerful by abdicating power, wealthier in abandoning wealth, and holier in surrendering the pretenses of an Imperial Church. But are we stripped bare enough to bring the prophetic word to those who would threaten what we have left? Christ warned his disciples that to be faithful to the end they could prefer nothing and no one before him. Anything and anyone we choose before we choose Christ is something or someone for us to lose when the king gets anxious about our truth-telling. Then, we are forced to choose again and again, each time we are called upon for the sake of unity, or fashion, or convenience, each time we are harangued to compromise or lie or cheat, we must choose. Christ or power? Christ or influence? Christ or celebrity? Christ or popularity? 

The preacher, Qoheleth, famously laments: “All things are vanity!” Futile, fleeting. For the Church, this is not a lament but an expression of hope. The Good News of Christ Jesus is no thing. Neither futile nor fleeting. And if we, his Body, are to be prophetic in a time of corrupt and violent power, we cannot flinch from speaking the truth. So, let me ask you: how do you think your head will look on a silver platter?

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22 September 2010

Three Masters close General Chapter

With the two most recent Masters, the newly elected Master of the Order of Preachers, Fr. Bruno Cadore, celebrates the closing Mass of the 2010 General Chapter in Rome.

(L to R) Fr. Carlos Aspiros Costa (2000-10), Fr. Bruno Cadore, and Fr. Timothy Radcliffe (1990-00)

Pic credit:  fra. Lawrence Lew

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Tea Mug Browsing

Handy site for tracking all of B.O.'s many "czars."  Though most Dems think the czar idea is a good one now, will they think so when the White House changes hands in 2013?  And even though the GOP is belly-aching now about the czars, will they continue to do once their guy/gal is in office?  

Sore losers:  Tea Party candidates aren't the ones undermining GOP unity. . .it's the RINO's who are playing the role of spoilers.

On rats, possums, and gov't intervention. . .we are in the very best of hands, people!  Why aren't you plebs more grateful?

Can consciousness be measured by bits?  Possibly.  To measure something is not the same as explaining it. . .conflating Measurement and Explanation is a common fallacy among materialist scientists.  Even if we were able to measure consciousness accurately, these measurements will not lead us to an exhaustive explanation of what it is to be conscious.

Stoicism = Happiness?  St Paul is thought to have been influenced by the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism.  His litany of hell-bound sinners in 1 Cor is cited as evidence of Stoicism's influence on our convert apostle.  Stoicism has much to recommend it to Christians, especially Catholics.  I dropped Irvine's book onto the WISH LIST. . .I might get the chance to review it for HancAquam.

Is the Catholic Church in the US on its final approach to extinction?  Um, no, it isn't.  Not even close.  Let's see:  Roman imperial persecution; centuries of "enlightenment" opposition and persecution; Commie persecution in China, Russia, most of Eastern Europe; current efforts by western worshipers of science to exclude the Church from the public square, ad. nau.  Naw, we're here to stay.  Get used to it.

The perverse logic of pro-aborts. . .apparently, the staff of an abortion clinic here in the U.K. was worried that patients would be traumatized by a sign that graphically depicts an aborted fetus.  They didn't seem to be at all worried that an actual abortion would be traumatic.  So, in their minds, it is more traumatic to see a picture of a dead baby than to kill the baby.

J.C. Penney's circa 1973. . .is that Fr. "Call Me Bob" on the left in his Easter vestments?

Preventing florist friars

A blessing upon you and your cubs

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How Catholics can avoid New Age & Occult practices. . .

I frequently get questions from readers about whether or not good Catholics can participate in or practice New Age or occult spiritual disciplines.  Below is part of a post I put up two years ago that offers questions for discernment.  NB.  Even if your pastor or spiritual director tells you that some New Age or occult practice is OK, ultimately, you are solely responsible for the condition of your soul.  Therefore, do your homework!

Most all of the religious practices of New Age Catholics are in some way a rejection of the proper relationship between the Creator and His creation. Believing that they will make themselves into gods without God, these folks embrace any number of liturgical practices that focus their intellect and will on themselves, making themselves into their own end. In other words, they worship themselves as already divine but fundamentally ignorant of their own divinity. Liturgical worship then becomes a matter of “coming to know” themselves more fully as always-already divine. Of course, this sort of Gnostic salvation creates a class of Fully Knowing Christians who are enlightened in their divinity. And, predictably, this elite class chafes at the authority of the Body of Christ when taught the truth that they are not enlightened but rather darkened in their rejection of the faith.
Discernment Questions

Given all of this, how does a faithful Catholic avoid New Ageism in his or her spiritual journey back to God? Ask these questions:

1). Does this practice clearly embody the proper relationship between myself as a dependent creature and God as my creator? Am I being taught to see myself as divine rather than good and holy?

2) Does this practice require me to reject the historical facts presented to me in scripture and tradition? (e.g., does the practice require me to reject Jesus as both fully human and fully divine incarnated as a first-century Jewish man?)

3). Does this practice lead me outward to God, or inward toward myself? (NB. A properly Catholic practice might lead you inward to God but in the end God is always both immanent and transcendent; that is, God is not found solely “inside me.”)

4). Does this practice have a reputable history in the long tradition of the Church herself, or is it something recently invented, cobbled together from other traditions, or merely an updated Gnostic practice rejected in the first four centuries of the Church?

5). Does this practice require me to involve myself with “spirit guides” or “energies” that lay claim to an existence apart from God as Creator?

6). Does this practice require me to reject as fundamental to my created nature my dignity as one made in the image and likeness of God Himself? Or to reject in another person his/her dignity as a creature of a loving God? (e.g., any practice that requires you to reject your embodied spirit as male/female, or violates human dignity by making the person into something easily killed, enslaved, neglected, etc.).

7). Does this practice ask me to ignore God’s providence by seeking answers to questions or seeking after insights into my future through divination? 

8). Does this practice ask me to worship other gods or make created things into idols? (e.g., some forms of meditation, yoga, healing all rest on false notions of the body/spirit relationship and require a certain amount of willful negligence of one’s Creator).

9). Does this practice assume my accomplished divinity and then ask me to become more aware of this divinity as a means to salvation/enlightenment?

10). Does this practice explicitly make Jesus Christ the only mediator between myself as a member of the Body of Christ and the Father, or does it require me to place someone else or something else between me and my Creator? (e.g., some forms of “dedication to the Blessed Mother" dangerously push this essential spiritual truth, that is, some prayers in private liturgies explicitly require the believer to acknowledge the B.V.M. as the savior.)

11. Does this practice rely solely on the power of God to achieve His desired end for me and with me, or does it require me to believe that I am capable of manipulating God through ritual or prayer? (e.g., some forms of popular devotion border on the magical in practice, "guaranteed never to fail novenas")

12). Finally, does this practice require me to understand my blessings and gifts as self-made, or am I encouraged to give thanks to God for all that I am and all that I have.
Conclusion: Obedience

This list of questions could go on for several more pages. These are a few of the essential questions to get you started. The best way to avoid New Ageism in your spiritual practice is to obey the Church, that is, to listen carefully to the teachings of the Church and submit yourself to the long wisdom of our mothers and fathers in the faith. This is not some sort of “blind faith,” but rather the practice of humility and trust. Before rejecting a teaching of the Church as false or harmful, ask yourself this question: “Am I smarter, wiser, holier than 2,000 years of God’s saints?” And even if you still find yourself wanting to reject a teaching of the Church, rather than assuming that the Church is wrong and that you are right, assume for the sake of argument that you have misunderstood the teaching and seek clarification. In my experience, people who have rejected the Church have done so not because they disagree with what the Church actually teaches but because they have failed to understand the Church. I am reminded of the example of a young man who approached me one time and informed me that he had left the Catholic Church because his roommate’s Bible Church pastor had shown him that Catholics worship Mary, a practice condemned by the Bible. He was shocked to hear me say that the Catholic Church also condemns the worship of Mary as idolatrous. Without first understanding the Church’s teaching, this young man left the Church not because he disagreed with the Church, but because he failed to understand.

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21 September 2010

Tea Mug Browsing

Six elderly Presbyterian women were arrested earlier this week in London on suspicion of plotting to assassinate the Pope.  We must do everything we can to stop this international terror conspiracy perpetrated by radical Presbyterians!

Heh. . .apparently the Presbyterian "terrorists" weren't plotting after all.  The point, however, is that the MSM refused to identify the alleged plotters as radical Presbyterians. 

The Holy Father's visit to the U.K. was a great success.  Practically speaking, the Screaming Mimi's in the atheist/humanist/secularist camp have lost control of the narrative.  The next time one of their Head Mimi's starts squealing about Nazi Ratzi or Pope Pedophile, most sensible Brits will roll their eyes and get on with their day.

B.O. quotes the Declaration of Independence. . .chokes on the words "endowed by their Creator" and then just decides to skip that part.  I could understand a President glossing over the phrase if it read "endowed by Jesus Christ," but "Creator" is sufficiency ecumenical that it would offend no one but the most atheistic fringe.  Besides, it's an historical document!

Pray, pray that B.O. doesn't get wind of this latest power grab by U.K. nanniesConfiscating paychecks is a great idea. . .if you want gov't to have near absolute control over your life.

On the rapid decline of Europe's socialist ruling parties.  It seems that a large minority of European voters are coming to realize that their respective countries cannot afford to have both generous cradle to grave social welfare programs and immigration policies that put few limits on the numbers of immigrants allowed in.

Breitbart confronts a Lefty "anti-hate" rally after he is spit on and called a homosexual.   When directly confronted by A.B. to support their claims, the protesters stammer and stutter. . .and eventually they are herded off by their handlers.

Cash for Clunkers was not only an unmitigated failure, it caused quite a few problems to boot.

Wolves in sheep's clothing:  Minnesota bishops shine a light on a dissident synod in their archdiocese.

God as an action figure. . .complete with AK-47!  This should put to rest the feminist notion that God is not male.

Attention, women:  reasons you should want to be a bear in your next life.

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20 September 2010

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? (UPDATED)

Q:  Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

A:  Yes.  The Second Vatican Council teaches that Islam is an Abrahamic faith; that is, that like Christianity and Judaism, Islam derives its basic reason for existing from the fundamental relationship established between Abraham and God.  

Paragraph 16 of The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium)* reads, in part:

In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.  On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.  But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.

Catholics who oppose this teaching (i.e. who claim that Muslims worship an alien god) fail to make several distinctions proper to this teaching. . . 

That Muslims worship the God the Bible does not mean that they possess the same understanding of God that Christians do.  Muslims deny the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement.  This is just another way of saying that Muslims aren't Christians.  Jews also deny fundamental Christian beliefs, most especially that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  Yet, the Church does not hesitate to teach that Jews worship the God of the Bible.

That Muslims accept the Bible as a deeply flawed yet nonetheless sacred book does not mean that they reject the historical origins or all the prophetic pronouncements of the Bible.  Muslims claim that Jews and Christians have misinterpreted the Bible and invented several false doctrines using the Bible.  Protestants make similar claims about the Catholic Church.  Yet, the Church does not hesitate to teach that Protestants worship the God of the Bible.  

That Muslims themselves have used the Bible to invent false doctrines does not mean that they worship a god other than the God of the Bible.  The doctrinal inventions of Islam are readily recognized by the Church as false.  The Church also recognizes that many of the doctrinal inventions of Protestants, Unitarians, Mormons, etc. are false.  Yet, we do not claim that these groups give worship to an alien god.  

Muslims honor Jesus as a prophet and offer devotion to Blessed Mary as his virginal mother.  They honor the Old Testament prophets and trace their religious foundation to Abraham's covenant with God.  Their essential difference with Christians is their belief that almost all of the claims made by the Church regarding the identity of the Messiah are false.  So, though Muslims worship the God of the Bible, they do so in seriously theologically deficient ways.  

The Church have never taught and does not teach that Islam's theology is the same as the Church's.  Nor does the Church teach that Muslims achieve salvation through their Prophet or by adhering to orthodox Muslim teaching.  Salvation is achieved only through Christ in his Church.  What Lumen gentium teaches is that if a Muslim finds himself in heaven, he is there because of Christ.  How he arrived in heaven is strictly a matter for God.  The sacraments of the Church are gifts that necessarily limit creatures not the Creator.  All the Church is teaching here is that God's creatures have no power to compel their Creator to include or exclude any one person or any group of people from heaven.  The sacraments of the Church are the ordinary means of salvation. for believers.  They are not the only means.  God is perfectly free to save whomever He wishes.  And we are in no position to demand that He do otherwise (cf. Dominus Iesus, n. 20-22).

UPDATEHancAquam regular, dimbulb, sends along this little 11thc. nugget:

From Letter XXI of Pope St. Gregory VII (†1085) to the (Muslim) King of Mauritania:

"[F]or Almighty God, Who desires that all men shall be saved and that none shall perish, approves nothing more highly in us than this: that a man love his fellow man next to his God and do nothing to him which he would not that others should do to himself.
This affection we and you owe to each other in a more peculiar way than to people of other races because we worship and confess the same God though in diverse forms and daily praise and adore Him as the creator and ruler of this world. For, in the words of the Apostle, 'He is our peace who hath made both one.'
This grace granted to you by God is admired and praised by many of the Roman nobility who have learned from us of your benevolence and high qualities.[. . .]
For God knows our true regard for you to his glory and how truly we desire your prosperity and honor, both in this life and in the life to come, and how earnestly we pray both with our lips and with our heart that God Himself, after the long journey of this life, may lead you into the bosom of the most holy patriarch Abraham."

*This document is a dogmatic constitution promulgated by a legitimately assembled ecumenical council of the Church and approved by the Holy Father.   Interpretations of this document and claims about its implications are perfectly legitimate.  Outright denials of the document's authority to teach the faith are not legitimate.

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19 September 2010

Honestly serving a dishonest Master

25th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Blackfriars, Oxford/Oxford Oratory

If you pay any attention at all to American politics and the so-called “culture wars” that rage across my country's media landscape, then you have no doubt heard an oft-repeated distinction, a highly dubious distinction. Candidates for political office when confronted with the need to proclaim their religious allegiances will often say that they are “deeply spiritual” but “not all that religious.” This same distinction is sometimes couched in slightly different terms when suspicion is cast on the role that their religious beliefs might play in how they will govern. While clinging to the obvious need to appear mainstream in a deeply religious nation and at the same time squelch any fears that sectarianism rules them, candidates will confidently proclaim that they are “personally religious” but “publicly secular.” In other words, what they believe to be true about their relationship with God will not be allowed to influence how they behave once given political power. Predictably enough, it is almost always Catholic politicians who are forced to confess their willingness, their eagerness to take on a heart and mind divided between Caesar and Christ. Though it should be disconcerting to Americans that we are soothed by a politician's willingness to sell his soul for votes, we nonetheless demand that he do just that. What's more disconcerting is how many and how often politicians—especially Catholic politicians—meekly submit to this brutal abuse of their consciences. What do they make of Jesus saying, “No servant can serve two masters. . .You cannot serve both God and mammon”?

Our Lord lays down this unambiguous, uncompromising law of service in the context of a story meant to highlight the nature of trustworthiness. Who is worthy of being trusted? Who deserves the faith we might be persuaded to place in them? He says that those who can be trusted with small matters can be trusted with larger ones. Anyone who betrays our trust in the smallest matters cannot be trusted with matters of greater importance. Lest we think that this is some piece of pedantic advice, he adds, “If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?” His point is this: if you cannot be honest when everyone around you is lying, then why should anyone trust you when everyone else is telling the truth? Your integrity as a witness to the truth will not survive if you are eager to compromise when the situation appears to demand your surrender. You serve the Truth or you serve the Lie. You cannot serve both.

For Catholics living in liberal democracies that purport to embody God-given, natural human rights, our Lord's stark choice is unsettling. As our Holy Father recently noted to the politicians gathered at Westminster Hall, western democracies are becoming increasingly aggressive in promoting the demands of atheistic secularism. Prominent among these demands is the removal of all religious discourse from the public square. The argument seems to be that any alleged good that religious belief might bring to the civil discussion is far outweighed by the tendency of religious believers to do violence to the rights on non-believers. Since religious belief, the argument goes, is an intensely private, purely spiritual endeavor, believers cannot be trusted to act for the common good. Not only are believers simply wrong to argue against abortion and wrong to argue against same-sex “marriage,” their willingness to make such arguments and their eagerness to suppress the right to an abortion and the right to a same-sex “marriage” is evidence enough that believers are determined to use political power to impose their private religious preferences on those who do not share in these preferences. Such oppression, such domination can be prevented by demanding that those who hold political power renounce any intention—no matter how small—of pulling from their private spiritual beliefs when making political decisions. But even this is not enough. Mammon, like God Himself, is not satisfied with half-measures. In order to protect basic human rights in a liberal democracy, religious belief and religious believers must be banned from the public square—silenced, if not outright eliminated altogether. And thus, believers—especially Catholics—are made to squirm before the threats of Mammon in order to serve the common good.

Drawing on a theme dear to John Cardinal Newman, our Holy Father said to those gathered at Westminster Hall, “Without the corrective supplied by religion. . .reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. . .Religion. . .is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation.” If we would take our place at the table and make a vital contribution to the national conversation, then we must do so as those utterly given over to the service of Christ. Our service cannot be limited to submitting ourselves to the dubious distinction between innocuous spirituality and rigid religiosity. We cannot serve Christ through his Church by surrendering to the secularist premise that our faith is purely private and therefore inadmissible as evidence against radical social experimentation. God will not be served in a democracy by compromising our natural right to speak from a faithful heart, to reason with the mind of Christ, and to act in charity for those most in need. Our Lord is best served, he is only served when we speak the truth in love. . .even if so speaking means the loss of everything and everyone we hold dear. We can serve the truth or we can serve the lie. We cannot serve two masters. 

Earlier, I noted that Jesus presents us with the stark choice between God and Mammon in the context of a story about trustworthiness. Who is worthy of being trusted? The one who deals honestly with dishonest wealth. Liberal western democracies are expert at creating dishonest wealth, not only financial wealth but political wealth as well, enormous power and enormous influence. As faithful servants of Christ, we are charged with dealing honestly in culture saturated with dishonest wealth. If we will remain honest among so much dishonesty, we must make Christ and his Good News the rock-bottom foundation of our every thought, our every word, our every deed. Paul makes it clear to Timothy that God wills that everyone be saved “and come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all.” This must be our contribution to the conversation occurring in the public square. Nothing less. Part-time honest is nothing more than full-time dishonesty. We can serve the public without becoming publicly servile. 

I will end with an exclamation from our Holy Father's sermon delivered at Westminster Cathedral: “How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ!”

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