21 November 2009

Not a hoax but a global fraud

Some HancAquam readers have objected to my use of the word "hoax" to describe the recently hacked and published emails of the global-warming alarmists in the U.K.

Strictly speaking, a hoax is perpetrated when the hoaxers know that they are playing a trick on someone.  The GWA seem to really believe their theory that the earth is heating up and that we are causing this warming by our misuse of our natural resources.  

OK.  "Hoax" is not the right word.  I was using it in the more general sense of "fooling someone."  What's revealed in the emails is systematic fraud, a concerted effort on the part of the GWA to manipulate, hide, and destroy data that falsify their predetermined conclusions.  This is not science but politics.  In some ways this is far worse than a mere hoax.  Billions of taxpayers dollars/pounds/euros have been spent to combat this illusionary threat.  Whole industries have been created with investment capital to address our destruction of the atmosphere.  It is being suggested that these scientists and their more popular preachers be charged under RICO for conspiracy to defraud.  Discovery on that case would be interesting!

True-believers in conspiracy theories (not the legal kind but the sort of kookie kind) have argued that global-warming hysteria is really about bringing the globe under a single government.  This was easily dismissed as Chicken Little squawking.  However, the newly elected president of the E.U., Herman von Rompuy, recently said in a speech to the E.U. parliament that he sees the Copenhagen Treat as just one move toward "global governance."  Maybe the Chicken Littles aren't so chicken or little after all.

Though it goes without saying, I'll say it anyway:  the hackers need to be found, arrested, and prosecuted.  They have done the world a great favor.  Unfortunately, they did it in an illegal manner.

Hand kissing, Lying, Guilt, and the Translation Battles

Questions. . . 

1).  What's the deal with kissing a priest's hands? 

As demonstration of respect and reverence for the priesthood some people will kiss a priest's hands rather than give him the more customary handshake.  There is nothing weird or wrong about doing this.  Kissing hands is largely a custom limited to historically Catholics countries like Italy, Poland, Mexico, etc.  When I've celebrated Mass in Hispanic parishes, many of the older parishioners will greet me at the door with a hand kiss.  The first time this happened I was a little surprised!  It is quite humbling.  Priests in the U.S. do not have the mystery surrounding them that they do in other parts of the world.  This is both good and bad.  It's good b/c too often "mystery" can go to the priest's head and he begins to think of himself as the object of reverence.  It's bad b/c the priesthood is not a function but a vocation, not a job/career but an identity.  Losing the mystery of the priesthood tends to reduce the priesthood to just another category of parochial employee.  It seems to me that hand kissing is perfectly acceptable so long as both the Kissed and the Kisser know that it is the priesthood being reverenced and not the priest.  Perhaps the best test of this would be to ask yourself (the Kisser):  would I kiss the hands of a priest I do not respect/like as a person?  If the answer is no, then I would say you should probably refrain. . .of course, kissing his hands may be a way for you to overcome your aversion to him.  But I'm not sure this is the best motivation.  I would hope that a priest who has his hands kissed would receive this sign of reverence humbly and not try to discourage it.  By and large, I think American, Canadian, and western European priests would be uncomfortable with it.  But, properly understood, there's really no reason to be.  I understand that the practice is more common in the eastern churches, but my knowledge of eastern Christians customs is very limited. 

2).  Is it ever OK to lie? 

I get this question a lot.  Most of the time people are wanting to know if it is OK to lie in order to avoid hurting someone's feelings, or spare them some sort of "hard truth."  Aquinas provides the classical Catholic analysis of the question.  He teaches that lying is always a sin.  As a sin, lying is subject to the same moral evaluation that we afford other sins.  Is the object of the act evil?  Is the act itself freely willed?  Is the act intended?  As moral agents we are constantly seeking the Good.  Everything we do we do to achieve this end--goodness.  Frequently, we are mistaken about whether or not a particular act takes us closer to the Good.  Sometimes, we know this act will not get us closer.  In the case of lying, we must know that we are speaking a falsehood (object).  We must be competent to will ourselves to speak the falsehood (i.e. free, not mentally or emotionally incapacitated).  And we must intend to deceive by freely willing to speak the falsehood.  All three conditions must be met in order for there to be a sin committed when speaking a falsehood.  Circumstances can mitigate the degree of culpability (guilt) for the sin.  The classic example is lying to the Nazis about the Jews you have hidden in your basement.  Yes, it is a sin to lie to the Nazis and save the lives of the Jews you have hidden.  Your guilt here is mitigated by duress.  Some would argue that you are not free.  But this is a dangerous interpretation of Aquinas' conditions b/c just about any situation where you want to spare someone hurt could be considered a limit on freedom.  So, lying is never OK.  But there are degrees of culpability in different circumstances. 

3).  In the post below, "Sacrificial service vs. being a doormat," I tried to distinguish the difference between serving others in a truly Christian fashion and simply allowing others to abuse your good will.  Ultimately, this distinction is going to be lived out in the individual conscience of the servant:  am I serving for the greater glory of God, or am I serving for some other, lesser reason?  Commenters noted that women are often culturally conditioned to feel guilty when they fail to serve "as they ought."  Not being a woman, I'll have to assume that this is true.  Guilt serves an important role in our conscience.  Understood in a healthy way, guilt alerts us to possible violations of conscience.  When guilt is imposed from an outside force (culture, spouses, etc.), it limits freedom and becomes coercive.  I can't speak to individual cases without spending a lot of time on the details involved, but generally speaking, our Christian service must be freely given--without any kind of coercion--in order for it to be sacrificial service.  Think of the difference between making a donation and paying a tax.  Who feels good about writing the IRS a check?  Who doesn't feel good about writing a check for a favorite charity?  The difference is the degree of freedom involved.  If you know that you are "serving" out of a sense of imposed guilt, then I would say that you are not serving freely.  Knowing that you are serving out of guilt is the tricky part.  That requires some spiritual direction.  It's not something that I can tease out in general terms.   

4).  What's the big deal with the new English translations of the Mass?  Why the constant delay? 

In my experience, people rarely argue over the Real Issue at Hand.  We tend to choose what I'll call "ciphers," or symbols that allow us to reduce a larger problem into smaller, manageable bits.  At stake in the Liturgy Wars is the soul of the Church.  Who are we?  What are we about?  It's a question of Catholic identity in this postmodern age.  But the problem of Catholic identity is cultural, social, economic, religious, legal, etc.  In other words, it's HUGE.  And as such, largely unmanageable.  So, we pick smaller battles to fight the larger war.  The Translation Battles have to do with what sort of language will use to pray together.  Both sides of the battle know that language shapes attitudes and influences beliefs.  Both sides know that the kind of language we use in prayer together shapes our view of God and our relationship to Him.  Some will go so far as to say that language-use is the only reality we have direct contact with.  Control language-use, control reality.  This is the philosophical base for the P.C. movement, i.e., if we can change how people speak, we can change the reality they live in.  The Translation Battle is really about how will we come to understand ourselves as Catholics in the next few decades.  One side wants us to maintain a "marketplace diction" so as to emphasize your communal nature as a Church.  The point of this language is to bring God down to us and have us share together in His immanent presence.  The other side wants us to use a more "sacred diction" so as to emphasize the transcendence of God beyond His creation and elevate us up to Him.  Both sides have very distinct ideas about what counts as a language of prayer.  The recently approved translations favor the "sacred diction" side of the battle.  This side will point out that the "marketplace diction" of the last 30 years has desacralized the liturgy to the point where Mass is really nothing more than a sort of community picnic to which God is invited but whose presence is not really all that important.  Mass is about us.  The other side argues that the "sacred diction" will alienate Catholics from their everyday experience of God, leaving them in a fog of complicated concepts and tortured syntax.  Faithful translations of Latin prayers introduces a vaguely foreign feel into the English and will make people feel spiritually queasy.  This side fears that "sacred diction" is a way of reimposing an unhealthy distinction between priestly prayer and the ordinary prayer of the people.  It's important here, I think, to understand that these differences are not merely a matter of taste.  The issues are very real and the concerns are legitimate.  Though I favor "sacred diction," there is a danger of the Mass becoming incomprehensible to the average Catholic.  Mass is about God.  But prayer doesn't change God.  It changes us.  And for it to do so, we must be able to understand it.  Sacred language can be clear, beautiful, and transcendent without being unnecessarily complex.  We'll have to wait and see how the new text actually works.  The delay?  Well, Vatican Two mandated that each bishops' conference is responsible for the translations in its major language.  Once a translation is done, it goes to the Vatican for approval.  The Vatican can send it back with requests for corrections.  This is an arduous process requiring years of hard work and negotiation.  As we have seen, it only takes a handful of bishops to gum up the works!  We've been waiting for an approved English translation of the ordination rite for almost 25 years now.  

More later. . .

Delete the emails! More from the climate-hacks

Wow. Now the hacked/leaked emails are demonstrating a "conspiracy" among the global-warming alarmists to suppress evidence, shut-out peer reviewed papers, ignore Freedom of Information Act requests, suppress opposition comments on their websites, and they even celebrate the death of a leading global-warming skeptic!

One of the scientists writes, "...If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish." Regardless of the starvation, natural disaster, disease, etc. Wow.

Remember last year when tons of climate data was "lost":

From: Phil Jones To: “Michael E. Mann”
Subject: IPCC & FOI
Date: Thu May 29 11:04:11 2008


Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment - minor family crisis.
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.
We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!



Wow. Just wow. Governments all over the world have spent billions and billions on this nonsense and it's looking more and more like the whole thing really is nothing more than a giant hoax.

20 November 2009

Emails catch climatologists fudging the numbers (UPDATED)


Hacked emails show global-warming alarmists in the scientific community "hiding the data."

Inconvenient truths, indeed. . .

Update from the Telegraph (UK):

As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

Sarah Palin for the people and by the people?

Amanda Fortini's post at Salon, "The Annie Oakley of American Politics," concludes with this observation on Sarah Palin:

After all, as the populist governor of a state whose voters respond to plainspoken directness, she suddenly found herself a national figure addressing big-media sophisticates. She was given about seven seconds to learn her role and then, after eight seconds, patronized and mocked. The reasons she performed so poorly are the very reasons her fan base loves her. If, over the next three years, her performance improves as much as it appears to have in just the last year, the conventional rap about her rustic idiocy may come off as mean-spirited and archaic. Her foes might be wise to contemplate the notion that someone of Palin’s background and sensibilities has a right, regardless of her views, to participate in the national debate merely because she speaks (though often unclearly) for many like her. If this possibility can’t be countenanced, then government for the people by the people is an abstract idea we’ve grown too cynical to practice. Sarah Palin endures not because she’s brilliant, smooth or philosophically correct, but because hope in democracy endures, too.

I'm really indifferent to Palin as a politician.  My own rural, southern values resonate with hers, but being president is about more than just having good values.  As the ineptitude of B.O.'s amateurism in the Oval Office is proving all too well, being President is about sound judgment--in personnel decisions and policy-making.

Her appeal as a candidate will ultimately fall on how well she reflects the American voting public as it sees itself.  If there's anyone out there in the GOP or among the Dems who does this better than she does, I don't know who they are.  

19 November 2009

Roe v. Wade will defeat ScaryCare?

George Will has an interesting post up: "Unlawful health care reform?"

He suggests that the "right of privacy" invented by the Supreme Court in '60's that allows abortion may come back to bite the supporters of Pelosi-Reid Care:

[. . .]

The court says the constitutional privacy right protects personal "autonomy" regarding "the most intimate and personal choices." The right was enunciated largely at the behest of liberals eager to establish abortion rights. Liberals may think, but the court has never held, that the privacy right protects only doctor-patient transactions pertaining to abortion. David Rivkin and Lee Casey, Justice Department officials under the Reagan and first Bush administrations, ask: If government cannot proscribe or even "unduly burden" -- the court's formulation -- access to abortion, how can government limit other important medical choices?

[. . .]

18 November 2009

O.P. friar gets owned

From the combox on my post about B.O. bowing to the Japanese emperor:

"However, with all due respect, I don't think you need to resort to using phrases such as 'pie-hole' to get your point across. You are too much of a gifted and talented writer for that!"

THIS, folks, is how you shame a big-mouthed Dominican into being more polite!

My only (and pathetic) defense?  Politicians make me crazy.  I plea "not guilty by reason of insanity."

Mea culpa.

Translation approved

Good news!

The American bishops voted to approve all five parts of the new Roman Missal translation.

Despite the best parliamentarian efforts of Bishop "Ineffable" Trautman to throw the process off the rails, the translations were overwhelmingly approved.  I think the bishops are sick of the whole interminable process.  They voted to ask the Vatican to finish up translating one part of the missal!

Assuming the translation gets the stamp of approval from Rome, we should be using the new book come Easter 2011.

Sacrifical Service vs. Being a Doormat

How do we distinguish between "serving sacrificially" and "being subservient"?  Or, as one commenter puts it:  what's the difference between rendering sacrificial service and "being a doormat"?

I've only been in ordained ministry for five years, but this question has been asked of me many times. . .and only by women.  It's likely I just need more experience, or maybe the women I've ministered to have been somehow particularly abused by a distorted notion of sacrifice.  Either way, the question is a good one.

First, a few general observations. . .

+ All Christians are called to be servants.  This means, minimally, that we are to be of good use to others, including family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.  The OT prophets were especially emphatic about being hospitable to foreigners.  Why?  They are away from home, away from the day-to-day support they normally have among their own.  In other words, they are critically vulnerable and in the most need of immediate help.

+ Anyone can be a servant.  There is no religious test for being of good use to others.  Atheists are perfectly capable of being of good service, even sacrificially so.  However, Christians are not called to be servants just for the sake of service.  We serve b/c we lay claim to being followers of Christ who served all mankind in his life, death, and resurrection.  We serve for the greater glory of God.  Christian service is what it is precisely b/c it is done in order to give thanks and praise to God. 

+ When we serve others sacrificially, we serve in order to make them and ourselves holy.  If my service is about making me look good in the parish, or to boost my public image before an election, or pad my resume for a tough job search, then the service cannot be sacrificial, even if tremendous good results from my work.  The intention (willed direction) of my work must be to do nothing else but show God's love and mercy to the world.  Any good service we render can be considered sacrificial if it is done for God's greater glory.  This is made plain in the Little Way of St. Therese and Brother Lawrence.  Washing dishes with your all your heart and mind focused on Christ can be a sacrifice. 

+ The danger for Americans is to measure sacrifice in terms of "what is lost" and "what is gained" rather than in the quality of devotion invested in the work.  Bill Smith can write a $25 billion check to a city's food bank and effectively feed millions of people.  Sue Jones can work a Saturday afternoon at the Catholic Charities thrift store and help several families stretch their meager household budget.  Smith "sacrifices" billions of dollars.  Jones "sacrifices" an afternoon.  Most Americans would say that Smith has sacrificed more than Jones.  Not necessarily.  Jones wills that her work bring greater and greater glory to God.  She intents her work as a demonstration of Christ's love and mercy for the least of his.  Smith writes a check b/c its a good tax write-off and it will get his picture in the paper before this year's mayoral election. 

Now, having said all that, here's a very basic distinction between sacrifice and servitude:  any good work done for the greater glory of God alone is sacrificial; work done for any reason other than this is may be servile. 

But how do I discern which is which?

1).  Why am I doing this work?
2).  Is this work good?
3).  Am I perfecting my gifts?

The first question challenges you to consider your reasons for undertaking the work.  Here you have to plumb your heart and mind and honestly assess your motives.  Am I doing this to build a good reputation?  Am I doing this for attention?  Is this work merely a duty that I must perform?  Will others I am a bad person if I don't do it?  Your only reason for giving sacrificial service is to give glory to God.

The second question challenges you to consider the work itself.  Is the object of the work good, meaning is the end goal of the work good.  Recently, a Dominican sister's work at an abortion clinic was made public.  No doubt she feels that her work is good.  But the object--the final end--of her work is to help women abort their children.  There is very little good in this.  Also, when helping others in person it's a good idea to consider the largest possible picture.  While I served in Houston, we were frequently hit up by homeless folks for money at the priory.  Helping the homeless is a paramount Christian concern.  But giving cash to them is not the way to help them.  They see cash donations as a form of help.  But there's no reason for us to see it this way.  Handing a homeless person a few dollars is a cheap and easy way to feel good about one's charity.  It's certainly easier than spending a Saturday at the homeless shelter serving lunch!  Just b/c the person who needs your help thinks that doing X is helpful doesn't make it helpful. 

The third question challenges you to consider whether or not any particular service you might render also serves to perfect your unique gifts.  1 John tells us that when we use our gifts in the service of others, God's love is perfected in us.  When God's love is perfected in us, we go on to serve more and more in and for His glory.  I have no gifts in the area of logistics or planning.  It would be a mistake for me to serve as a coordinator of relief services in a natural disaster.  However, I function very well in a crisis.  When something traumatic happens I become very calm and hyper-focused (a very unusual state for me!). This gift helped me work with psychiatric patients in a hospital setting.  That job was one crisis after another.  

So, serving as a doormat might mean that you are serving out of fear, misguided duty, guilt, or a need to please in order to receive approval.  None of these is sacrificial.  You might be serving someone who has defined "help" as doing what he/she wants you do even if they help they want isn't what they actually need in the long run.  This kind of work might result in some good, but it will not likely be the best you can offer them.  Remember:  sometimes the best medicine hurts.  You might be serving others by trying to make use of gifts you do not have.  There's no grace for you to call on in these cases, no help from your own nature that gives you the means to do and be the best you can do and be. 

If the service you are doing makes you feel like a doormat, makes you think of yourself as being taken advantage of, then follow these thoughts and feelings and stop.  You aren't doing yourself or others much good.  Be open to expanding your gifts but know your limits.  The Church has many members precisely b/c none of us can everything well. 

Hope this helps!

17 November 2009

16 November 2009

Where is our sycamore tree?

St. Elizabeth of Hungary: Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Zacchaeus is traitor to his people. And he's short. He can't help being short, but his traitorous nature is the direct result of sin. As a tax collector for the Roman occupiers and their puppet king, he is charged with squeezing the conquered population of Judea for cash. He's not paid to do this. To earn a living he keeps a percentage of what he collects. So, the more he collects, he more he earns. Ta-collectors were counted among the scum of society along with prostitutes and lepers. Now, we could psychoanalyze Zacchaeus to figure out why he became a tax-collector. As a smaller boy he was bullied. Ostracized. Teased for being short, he grew up angry, swearing vengeance on his childhood oppressors. Fortunately for him, he hears about Jesus and something inside him is set alight with the desire to glimpse this wandering preacher. When Jesus comes through Jericho, he gets his chance. But, alas, he is not only a sinner but a short sinner and he cannot see Jesus over the crowd. Having spent much of his childhood running from bullies, he's quite skilled at climbing trees. So, he climbs a sycamore tree and from its strong branches, he sees Christ. And, more importantly, Christ sees him. Without that tree Zacchaeus might have never found his way to salvation.

The gospel this morning is no doubt a story about a sinner finding Christ. It's one we've heard many times. But this is perhaps the only gospel story where a plant aids in the preaching of the Good News. Zacchaeus finds among the branches of that sycamore a refuge from the throng surrounding Jesus, a perch from which to watch Jesus pass by. Obviously, this is no ordinary tree, right? The sycamore is a species of fig. It has heart-shaped leaves; grows only in rich soil; and produces fruit year-round. The ancient Egyptians called it the “Tree of Life” and used its timber for royal coffins. It was a measure of wealth and prestige. Is it any wonder then that Zacchaeus finds sights his salvation from its branches?

Let's take some literary license here. Thinking of our 21st century world, what serves as our sycamore tree for the short sinner? Where can those of us who are stunted by sin go to climb above the crowd to see Christ? What thrives in the rich soil of the Word? What produces good fruit year-round? What grows among its strong branches a foliage shaped like a God-longing heart? Where can we climb so that Christ sees a sinner above the crowd? Is there a better place for the sinner to be than the Church? Among strength, fruitfulness, holy desire, and the richness of a firm foundation, Zacchaeus, a short traitorous sinner, clearly sees the one he will host in his own home, the one to whom Jesus says, despite the grumbling of the crowd, “Today salvation has come to this house. . .”

We can draw and some have drawn the wrong lesson from this story: Jesus welcomes all sinners, therefore we cannot call a sin a sin. But notice that it is not sufficient for his salvation that Zacchaeus sees Jesus from the sycamore. Christ calls to him, knowing who he is, and invites Zacchaeus to host him. Zacchaeus hears the invitation and immediately knows that all his thieving, all his traitorous behavior is just fine with the Lord. His sin is no longer sinful. Wrong. Zacchaeus repents and vows to do penance by repaying his thefts four times over. Then Jesus announces the redemption of his house. This is the gospel pattern: Christ comes. Christ is seen. He invites the sinner to table. Overwhelmed by this mercy, the sinner repents and does penance. His salvation is made manifest. The task of the Church is to be the sycamore, the refuge for any and all who long to see the Lord from her strong, fruitful branches. From among these heart-shaped leaves, the worst of us can see Christ and hear his call to a new life and the proclamation of our redemption.

Mille Grazie!

A quick Thank You to all the folks who have browsed Ye Ole Wish List lately. . .and sent me books.

The doctoral dissertation prospectus is looming in the very near future. . .like around Feb. 2010.


It never ends, does it?

Anyway, mille grazie, grazie mille!

Coffee Bowl Browsing

The rise of incivility. . .yea, the blogosphere is partially to blame for this.  The real culprit is the tyranny of political correctness.  Instead of teaching children to be polite, we teach them P.C. nonsense.  Politics governs civil interaction rather than good manners.  I'll be the first to confess that as a recovering left-lib P.C. activist, I am STILL tempted to this sin in this way.  That's a reason, not an excuse.

According to this Japanese expert, both the Left and the Right are dead wrong about B.O.'s bow to the Emperor.  It wasn't obsequious or necessary. . .just dumb and poorly executed.  Oh well.

Editors and readers at amazon.com chose the top books of 2009.  Caution:  the #1 reader pick is a Dan Brown book.  This says many, many sad things about America's readers.

The cowardly director of 2012 refused to depict the destruction of mosques in this blow-'em-up film, freely admitting that he was afraid of a jihadist reaction.  He has no such qualms about destroying Christian monuments however.  Does this bother me?  Not really.  The Church is not found in buildings or monuments.  I'd mourn the loss of St. Peter's for its art and historical significance. . .but the "gates of hell" and all that.   Will I see the movie?  Are you kidding!?  This is The Redneck Movie of the Year!

Since Living-Humans can't win against the enemy in the coming Zombie Apocalypse, the Special Forces have done the next best thing:  recruited Zombies to join our side against the Islamo-facist terrorists in Afghanistan.  Putting Zig Ziegler to work against terror!

Pro-aborts whine about the "interference" of the American bishops in the recent passage of the Stupak amendment to Pelosi's ScaryCare.  They rage against this dire assault on the separation of Church and State and demand that the tax-exempt status of the Church be investigated by the IRS.  Of course, these are principled lefties, so we assume that they want ALL churches  involved in political lobbying investigated.  Well, not so much.  Left-lib Protestant churches who support abortion are just fine.  Figures.

Axelrod hints that B.O. will strike anti-abortion funding language from any health care bill that comes to him.  But we knew this already.

The Pope meets Picasso?  Not quite.  But close enough.  I confess that I like modern art.  There's raw creativity there even if there's little immediate evidence of talent.  Just watch a Youtube video on how to paint an abstract picture for your den and you will come away thinking, "That's art?  I can do that!"  Maybe that's the point?  Anyway, modern art?  Yes.  Modern art in Church?  No way.

And there's this:  an appeal for a return to an authentically Catholic sacred art.

15 November 2009

Who will I die for today?

[NB.  This is an attempt at "doctrinal preaching."  Let me know if you think it works.]

33rd Sunday OT: Readings
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Your best friend discovers that you and your spouse have cashed in your vacation savings so that your children can continue in their Catholic school. Your friend notes with admiration, “That's quite a sacrifice!” It's final exams week and you rush to be with your sick mother. Your professor, though sympathetic, says, “Unfortunately, your sacrifice will not help your grade.” You read in the Sunday paper that a well-trained German Shepherd in the local police force “sacrificed its life to save its human partner.” In that same paper, the stories from Iraq and Afghanistan are littered with references with the sacrifice of our soldiers in combat. Each time, the word “sacrifice” rings nobly in your ears, and you note that something has been lost so that something more important might be accomplished. We understand sacrifice in terms of loss and gain, in terms of “giving up mine” so that you might “have yours.” Something ends and something begins. Almost always absent in these descriptions is the sense of the holy, that taste of the transcendent that gives sacrifice a religious flavor, some deference to a time and place other than this one. For Christians, sacrificium, means sacrifice, oblation; an offering to God. The Latin word comes from sacer (holy) and facere (to make). To sacrifice is to make holy. That which is sacrificed is made holy; the one making the sacrifice is made holy. Most importantly for us, the ones for whom the sacrifice is made are made holy. Christ is the High Priest who sacrifices. He is the Victim of this sacrifice. And we are the beneficiaries: “For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.”

In Hebrews this morning, we read, “Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins.” The author of this letter is writing to the Jews who have come to Christ. He is using images and language that they will immediately understand. Having spent most of their lives in the temple-worship of the Father, offering animal sacrifice for their sins, these converts will know that the author is alluding to the ineffectiveness of those same animal sacrifices in relieving them of their sin. In obedience to the Covenant, they carry out their religious duties and demonstrate a fidelity to God. However, these sacrifices do not and cannot wipe away their sin. Though God may account them holy before Him, they are not, in fact, made holy through in their temple worship. God alone is holy and only He can make what is unholy holy in fact.

To accomplish the sanctification of all creation, God sends His only Son among us as a Man, one like us in every way except sin. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit, is sacrificed on the cross for us. As the incarnate Son, he is already holy. As the priest, he is holy. As the lamb on the altar of the cross is he holy. He offers himself to God as the one, perfect sacrifice for all that need not ever be repeated, that cannot be repeated. We can understand this sacrifice for in any number of ways: substitutionary, existential, exemplary. Christ died for our sins so that we need not die in sin; he died instead of us. Christ experienced the death of sin as a man so that all men might be saved from such a death; his experience reveals the hope of eternal life. Christ on the cross shows us the meaning of love: to die for one's friends; his death is our model for life. Wherever we want to place the emphasis, one element of his sacrifice is clear: our holiness is not our own, but rather a gift from the altar of the cross given freely by our great High Priest. We have only to accept this gift and follow him.

By one perfect offering of himself on the cross, Christ united us again with the Father, and we persevere in the presence of the Holy Spirit, striving against already-vanquished sin to achieve our perfection in the promise of holiness. Our constant failure to perfect his promise of holiness does nothing to revoke the promise. His offer of holiness made from the cross is universal and permanent: for all, forever. No tribe, tongue, nation, people, race, or class is excluded from the invitation. No one is missed out because he was born Man to save all mankind, and nothing broken is left unfixed. No sin, no fault, no vice, no deviance, no crime, nothing torn or damaged among his human creatures is left unhealed. Nothing in the entirety of His creation is left to chaos or disease. Where we find disorder, look for disobedience. Where we find strife, debauchery, disregard for life, anxiety and distress, look for men and women without hope. But as time grows short, look for Christ's return. What has been woven together will unravel when left uncared for and the weaver will return to repair the damage of our carelessness.

We care best of ourselves and one another when we sacrifice, when we “hand over to make holy.” As priests of the New Covenant, we offer oblation to God when we lay our worry, our sickness, our poverty, our arrogance, our sin on his altar and leave ourselves freshly vulnerable to being made again in his image and likeness, to being made over as Christ for others. It is not enough that we sacrifice as priests. If we are follow him, we must the victim of our sacrifice as well. Not my sin only, but yours too. Not your sin only, but mine as well. The Body must sacrifice for the Body, all its members for one another. We are holy together or not at all. This is the danger of being Catholic, of being one Body baptized into the life, death, and resurrection of Christ: we are saved as a Church, bound together by the chains of God's sacraments. “Me and Jesus” is the Devil's lie that makes our faith into a religiousy version of the “Lone Ranger.” We rise or fall as one in the One who made us one by dying on the cross.

Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves upon waking each morning is: “Who will I die for today?”

Coffee Bowl Browsing (Catholic Round-Up Edition)

Here's a bishop who needs some time in a monastery. . .say, about twenty years at hard labor.

Spanish bishops actually doing their jobs!

Catholics and Muslims share a common enemy:  the aggressive secular state

I want an invitation to the ordination of the first Klingon bishop!  Did you know that the moon is officially part of the Diocese of Rome?  True.

Nasty anti-Catholic bigot gets jail time for child rape and kidnapping.

Fr. Robert Barron reviews Michael Moore's latest effort-in-hypocrisy, "Capitalism: A Love Story."

Damien Thompson demonstrates Catholic-Anglican relations with two pictures. 

Dominican friar spanks New Atheists in NYC.  Brutal beating. . .

B.O.'s foreign policy

B.O.'s foreign policy in a picture.

Let's hope he was polite enough to apply some chapstik.

During a press conference, B.O. was asked about the use of the atomic bomb during the war with Japan.  His response was horribly embarrassing.

"If Barack Obama can't stick up for the country he represents when he goes overseas, he should stay home."

The NYT writes:  "It wasn't a bow, exactly. But [the President] came close. He inclined his head and shoulders forward, he pressed his hands together. It lasted no longer than a snapshot, but the image on the South Lawn was indelible: an obsequent President, and the Emperor of Japan."

Of course, the NYT would never write anything critical of the Messiah.  The above was written about Bill Clinton. 

My point here is that B.O. could have said any number of diplomatically vacuous things.  He could have said, "Any war is horrible.  President Truman made the decision he did with the best information he had.  It might not be the decision we would make today, but it ended the war and saved millions of lives."  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it a vigorous defense of the U.S.? Hardly.  But it would have been much less embarrassing than the hemming and hawing that gushed from the Great Orator's pie-hole.

Complementarity of Religion & Science

Opening paragraph of my thesis, "The Complementarity of Religion and Science:  John Polkinghorne's Scientific-Critical Realism":

As individuals committed to truth-seeking enterprises, modern scientists and modern religious believers are best equipped philosophically with a critical realist theory of science and religion. Anglican priest and physicist, John Polkinghorne, proposes that science and religion, properly understood in critical realist terms, are complementary human discourses designed and used to discover, describe, and explain what the world is really like. For science, “the world” is the self-made physical universe of observable entities, natural processes, cosmic forces, and sometimes unobservable objects whose existence is “theoretically necessary.” For religion, “the world” is all of creation, the universe made from nothing; created by God to grow and thrive under His guidance, and to serve as a living sign of His presence among His creatures. A critical realist theory of complementarity succeeds because both the world of the scientist and the world of the believer are open to rational inquiry and subject to critical dissection; that is, these worlds are intelligible. As such, Polkinghorne argues, the successful truth-seeking experiences of scientists and believers are necessarily always, already interpreted experiences. Truth is not the result of an immediate confrontation between the human mind and the really-real. Truth is a relationship between the perceived and the perceiver, where both the object of perception and the one perceiving share in the establishment of an “adequate” though not absolute description of how the world really is. Science, as a truth-seeking enterprise, is a systematically descriptive and explanatory investigation into the physical entities and processes of the world. Religion, also as a truth-seeking enterprise, is a systematic attempt to uncover and understand God's Self-revelation in His creation so that believers might be better able to imitate the love and mercy God has shown to us in our creation.

[N.B.  The worst part of writing this thing:  I am being forced to use the incredibly picky and byzantine Chicago-style manual!  MLA is a thousand times better.  Oh well.]

*Blogger wouldn't accept the footnotes for some reason.