Holy Father’s Lent and Holy Week Calendar Released

You can check it out here. The Pewsitter headline is “Holy Thursday Chrism Mass not in prison this year”. However, I’m not sure if this is quite correct; I don’t think the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday was held in the prison last year either.

Rather, I think the now-famous “foot washing of Muslim girl in Roman prison” took place during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, normally celebrated in the late afternoon or evening of Holy Thursday, while the Chrism Mass will take place at St. Peter’s in the morning of that day. The Zenit article states that in connection with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, “like last year and in previous years in Buenos Aires, he [Francis] will select a situation of a special nature from a pastoral point of view, which will be communicated when appropriate.” Perhaps a homeless shelter, or orphanage, or somewhere else altogether this year.

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Judge Andrew Napolitano has something to say…

about the NSA and Executive Branch violating the attorney-client privilege. He cites the NY Times investigative report about Chicago mega-firm Mayer Brown, which represents the government of Indonesia in trade import regulations, indicating that the NSA listened to phone conversations between the Mayer firm and its client, in order to give the U.S. Government a “leg up” in trade negotiations.

Big Brother is watching!

Much more of this and “due process” will be just another euphemistic Newspeak term.

Review of “PBS Frontline: Secrets of the Vatican”

The iron cauldron of anti-Catholic bias continues to simmer. Between the creepy music, half-truths, outright falsehoods, lack of balance in the narrative, and strategic editing, it was difficult to tell whether I was watching a documentary or The Da Vinci Code.

Summary: Both truth and untruth form a tremendously nauseating 90 minutes of public television. I should have turned it off as soon as I saw the “Viewer Discretion Advised” thing. You can consider my conscience shocked, yet I remain firmly ensconced below deck aboard the Barque.  

The true parts were nauseating because they’re true: countless children and young people were sexually abused, primarily by priests. Many in the hierarchy compounded the evil by trying to cover it up, which had the effect of multiplying the numbers of victims and amplifying the gravity of the scandal and damage to the Church. May all the victims, including those who shared their story on this program, be brought peace and healing, and protection from further exploitation.

Other true (and truly) nauseating things in the Frontline episode: certain individual churchmen committing financial crimes such as money laundering and gay priests in Rome hiring male escorts, cavorting with them in gay clubs, and celebrating Holy Mass the next morning before driving the escorts back to the airport. This is all bad, evil stuff, but it is unfair to imply that the reasons are institutional rather than individual. 

Anti-Catholic_octopus_cartoon_{{PD-US}}What’s missing from Frontline’s treatment is an honest approach to portraying the Church or the pontificates of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. The reductive logic employed by the Frontline producers is that scandals perpetrated by individuals constitute a basis for condemnation of the whole — rather broad brush-strokes indeed.

We must stop hoping that there will ever be an acknowledgement from those who attack the Church that — as Msgr. Ronald Knox noted — “one of the reasons why our Lord chose Judas to be an apostle was because he wanted us to be prepared, from the first, against every possible shock to our consciences.”

There will never be acceptance from the MSM that it is the obstinate refusal to repent of our sin that defeats the salvation of the soul, and brings scandal to the Church, or that this obstinate refusal is personal on the part of the actor, and is not attributable to the Church herself. It is in spite of the holiness of the Church that people sin, not because of it.

The untrue parts of the program were also nauseating, because there were already enough true parts. It should remind us — we should consider it penance — that even if there weren’t as much scandal involving sexual crimes, financial corruption, institutional incompetence, and moral depravity among (some) in the Church, there would still be an effort to impugn and undermine the good works of the Church, and misrepresent its positions and teachings. Some examples:

  • Frontline repeats the claim at least once that Cardinal Ratzinger changed the Catechism so that it stated that homosexual orientation is “objectively disordered”, no attempt is made to support this claim with facts. It certainly doesn’t acknowledge that the language in the Catechism cites the CDF document Persona humana, promulgated in 1975 (i.e., pre-Ratzinger), or that the 1992 version of the Catechism was provisional and therefore still in revision. Or further still that the source of this teaching is scriptural (Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:10, 1 Tim. 1:10). What this is really about is making the man who became Benedict XVI into an anti-gay bigot.
  • Frontline implies that John Paul II ignored or disregarded Ratzinger’s warnings about the disgraceful and evil conduct of Legion of Christ founder Fr. Marcial Maciel — and even more egregiously — suggests that John Paul II did so out of interest in the financial and vocational success of the Legion of Christ or out of calculated disregard for the victims, it ignores journalistic integrity by assuming that John Paul knew about these things, when his secretary unequivocally states he did not.
  • Frontline mentions — a la Da Vinci Code — that the Vatican’s “Secret Archives” (again, without even so much as an attempt of offering a scintilla of evidence) house records of the horrors perpetrated by the Church, which the Church manages to shield by virtue of its status as a sovereign nation. Never mind that minimal research (try Wikipedia for a start) would verify that “secret” doesn’t mean “confidential” or that scholars are actually permitted access to the archives upon presentation of their academic credentials.
  • Frontline attempts to argue (revealing its own agenda and through those interviewed) that clerical celibacy is the primary cause of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, when the statistics from the John Jay Report indicate that 81% of the minors abused by priests were male, 95% of which were adolescent (post-pubescent), and that therefore the problem has more to do with homosexuality in the priesthood.
  • Frontline posits that Pope Francis has no problem with gay sex, citing the extensively misused quote, “Who am I to judge?” or that the Holy Father is more relaxed on the Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception, marriage and sexual morality than his predecessors. In fact, these claims are also completely false.   

In other words, the Church isn’t despised because of the sexual abuse crisis or any other scandal (this is just delicious opportunity); she is hated because in spite of the sin and hypocrisy of all of her members, she always holds to what is true, even while all of us individual Catholics perpetually fall short. Even if every one of the untruths were in fact true, none of this would prove the claims of those who attack “The Church”.

For all the guilt and shame the institutional Church deserves for its hand in the past generation of scandals, what it will never receive from the MSM — no matter how sparkling clean it becomes under Pope Francis — is a fair trial in the court of public opinion. And it shouldn’t matter, for in cleaning up the hierarchy of the Church — and ensuring the protection of every one of her innocent members — we are only doing what we were always obliged to do. (Luke 17:10). We should expect no congratulations from the MSM just as we should expect none from Jesus.

Ultimately, if we are truly a people of faithful believers in Jesus Christ, we will remain confident in His justice, and His judgment, realizing that we will all be called before Him to account for ourselves. Even without such scandals, His mercy is always more than we deserve.

Antithesis of Manhood: Beard Edition

Boy “hipsters” who spend $8,500 for “facial hair transplants” — calling such silliness an “investment” — are pretenders at manhood.

Why? From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 2113):

Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry wherever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.  Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” [fn. Mt. 6:24.] Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast” [fn. Gal. 5:20; Eph. 5:5.] refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.

beardfatherWhen we prioritize the cultivation our own image — especially when we “invest” thousands of dollars to do so — we affirm what the Church rejects: “a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body” which “…can lead to the perversion of human relationships.” (CCC 2289).

In the case of elective cosmetic surgical procedures like “facial hair transplants”, a man would properly ask the following questions:

  1. Does elective cosmetic surgery warrant accepting the inherent risks and complications that accompany any surgical procedure? In other words, am I being a good steward of my body, avoiding unnecessary risks? What would happen to the people who rely on me if something goes wrong?
  2. How does elective cosmetic surgery advance and articulate the truth of my body as an “image of God” and “temple of the Holy Spirit”? (CCC 364).
  3. How does elective cosmetic surgery in the name of fashion or aesthetics exemplify the requirement of respect for human dignity in the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world’s goods? (CCC 2407).
  4. In light of the call to practice solidarity with “the least of these” — and as I consider whether or not to undergo elective cosmetic surgery — am I properly answering the call to perform corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead? (CCC 2447). Is a surgical operation to increase the thickness of my facial hair the best way to use my time, talent, and treasure?
  5. By spending my money in this way, am I glorifying and pleasing God?

Letter from Pope Francis: “Dear Families”

The Holy Father addresses families in anticipation of the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, ‘which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”’:

… [Jesus] is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

Which brings to mind the following lines at the end of Eucharistic Prayer III:

through Christ our Lord,
through whom you bestow on the world
all that is good.

Whether we recognize it or not, all that is good everywhere in Creation, is bestowed upon us through Christ our Lord. So that, if there is good in a particular form of Protestantism — it’s Jesus. If there is good in Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Islam — that’s Jesus. If there is good on Wall Street, or in Washington, or in Jerusalem, or Rome, if there is good anywhere or in anything — Jesus! True ecumenism is recognizing and proclaiming the Good as Jesus Himself, and pointing out the path to greater and fuller goodnesstruthand love in Him. 

You don’t — {Hic!} — Say!

20131006-173636.jpgVatican leads the world in wine consumption. As a nation, the amount per capita is not adequately explained by the need for altar wine. Since residents of the Vatican are older men, without children, who eat communally, they win the prize for highest consumption. Interestingly, Luxembourg is number 2.

Now, for the far more important question, what about beer consumption?

Recall, Ratzinger is still in the Vatican.

But what *kind* of Lunch Box? Snoopy? Star Wars?

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 5.36.53 PMJohn Allen leaves the National Catholic Reporter for the Boston Globe. Writes an article about how surprisingly, refreshingly cool Pope Francis is. The Holy Father does things, for example, like bringing his lunch box with him to council meetings with his pals the bishops. But, but, but, inquiring minds want to know, what type of lunch box? Metal or Plastic? Cartoon characters or live action heroes? C’mon! Give us something!

52 “Catholic Groups” Self-Identify as Desperately Needing Good Catechesis

The Irish Times recently reported a story about 52 “Catholic groups” who wrote Pope Francis a letter to request a meeting and urging the Holy Father “to take immediate steps” to appoint more women to leadership positions and “to end the practice of banning people from Communion.”

The press release and full text of the letter are here. Just to give you a flavor, some of the signing “Catholic groups” include: Call to Action, Catholics for Choice, Chicago Women-Church, Dignity USA, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Women’s Ordination Conference, etc., etc.

So, these are not really Catholic groups in the sense of speaking for or promoting the actual moral teachings of the Church. These are Catholic groups in the sense of being composed of individuals who were possibly baptized as Catholics and may or may not actually practice the faith in some form, but hold what are essentially schismatic and/or heretical beliefs contrary to the Magisterial teachings of the Church.

These purported Catholic groups open their letter by addressing the Holy Father, “Dear Bishop Francis…” Even for one so humble as Pope Francis, who has referred to himself several times as the Bishop of Rome, this form of address is simply not appropriate for the Supreme Pontiff. I quibble.

The more troubling aspect, however:

With regard to pastoral care of God’s people, we hope to experience an end to the use of Communion as a reward for doctrinal orthodoxy. Communion is a sacrament of love and peace, of mercy and forgiveness offered by Jesus to all on the night before he died. It does not imply conformity with Church teachings in all instances and it does not endorse all aspects of moral choice made by the recipient. It does, however, offer love and healing to Catholics who experience alienation and rejection. Communion gives a place at the table to those who have been made to feel they were not worthy. This includes many who have felt alienated from our Church and its sacramental life for many years, including divorced and remarried Catholics, Catholics in same-sex relationships, and others.

Okay….. just a brief primer here. Contained in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is perhaps the earliest description of the institution of the Eucharist — one that pre-dates the Gospels. It’s interesting, because as we all know, St. Paul wasn’t actually present at the Last Supper, and so it tells us something about the significance of the Eucharist generally in the early Church. But following the description itself, Paul writes:

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. (1 Cor. 11).

The official Catholic translation at the USCCB website offers the following relevant footnote:

* [11:28] Examine himself: the Greek word is similar to that for “approved” in 1 Cor 11:19, which means “having been tested and found true.” The self-testing required for proper eating involves discerning the body (1 Cor 11:29), which, from the context, must mean understanding the sense of Jesus’ death (1 Cor 11:26), perceiving the imperative to unity that follows from the fact that Jesus gives himself to all and requires us to repeat his sacrifice in the same spirit (1 Cor 11:1825).

Communion is not about good feelings or giving a place at the table to those who “have been made to feel unworthy.” Regardless of feeling, we are all unworthy. We only become worthy when we conform ourselves to Christ. Thus, Communion is about unity. There can be no unity while certain members hold to teachings about Jesus’ very nature which are untrue. It most certainly does imply, and require, conformity with the Church’s teachings on matters of faith and morals, because without a fundamental level of conformity, there can be no actual unity among the Body of Christ. Jesus cannot both be and not be something. He is. If I seek to receive Jesus while obstinately rejecting His Word, then I receive unworthily.

So, if the Holy Father grants a meeting, he may first attend to the principal issue among these “Catholic” groups: catechesis.

A Natural Consequence of Marriage Redefinition…

…Is that people lose the ability to discern the very purpose of human relationships.

If marriage ceases to be about a lifelong commitment of a man and woman for the good of children and a family, and is simply reduced to a voluntary association of one or more persons for some consensual exchange of fluids, services, or companionship — whether in the long or short term — then marriage ceases to be about anything really, and opens the door to examining one another based upon our utility. 

Prioritizing utility permits me to think of all of my relationships in terms of “what does it do for me?” and as soon as am no longer fulfilled, or perceive a better opportunity for satisfying my desires, become free to follow that objective.

So it should come as no surprise that as we “move past” the whole no-fault divorce thing and “affirm and accept” the same-sex marriage idea, we are now finding it difficult to maintain any footing in response to things like polygamy and polyandry. We’re actually asking, in periodicals like “Psychology Today“, inane questions like whether “two actual people” are “still required for a relationship”.

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Cryteria

Source: Wikimedia Commons; Author: Cryteria

Because, now that we’ve become so enlightened, so capable of seeing that “love is love”, we can ask some real questions, like isn’t a “relationship” with your “conscious” smartphone operating system possible, and even potentially equivalent to a ordinary human relationship?

In many cases is such a “relationship” not just possible or equivalent, but so much better in so many ways? An adoring voice programmed to serve you surpasses dealing with a real person with feelings and needs of their own! The only reason we do things for each other is so that what we do can be reciprocated, right? Why shouldn’t we be focused on finding ways to avoid having to reciprocate?

For [hip, young people], digital life and real-world life are merely two sides of the same coin, each to be enjoyed, nurtured, and cherished, with neither side more real, more important, or more meaningful than the other…..

…..The next logical step, of course, is robot romance. Scientists have already created robots that can wash your hair, serve you tea, vacuum your house, mow your lawn, and even interact with you socially…..

…..How much longer will it be before Rosie, the walking, talking, emoting robot maid from The Jetsons is real? And what will happen when Rosie’s manufacturer decides she’ll sell better if she looks like a supermodel and has realistic sex-toy genitalia?

And interest in “real” sex? It’s less interesting versus robotic sex toys:

This loss of interest in actual physical intimacy coincides directly with the online sexnology explosion, which began in earnest right around 2008. Some participants in the Japan studies called sex with a real person a bother. Others said they prefer anime characters to the real thing. Still others said that online sex is less unpleasant than actual sexual contact (which involves smells, secretions, and the like). And a very large number admitted to extremely frequent masturbation with porn, thereby satisfying all their sexual needs themselves.

Answering the question “Is this healthy?” is reduced to assessing feelings:

For a lot of people, especially older people, the concept of virtual relationships can be rather disturbing. But for younger people, those who increasingly live their lives half in the digital universe and half in the real world, it’s not upsetting at all……

…..For younger people digital interactions can and often do feel every bit as real and meaningful as meeting someone in-person, whereas for older people this is simply not the case. And who’s to say digital natives are wrong to feel what they feel? For Manti Te’o, even though his girlfriend turned out to be a male perpetrating a hoax, the feelings he had for “her” were quite real. And the feelings that other young people now experience and express to their digital lovers and friends are equally real.

Because, of course, reality is determined by what we feel about it. If I say I have a relationship with my computer, and it speaks to me, and I begin to experience feelings toward it, even romantic ones, this must be an authentic relationship, because it feels like one to me, nevermind that I may never have actually experienced a mutual, sacrificial, loving relationship with a real person.

Human dignity is not about our utility. If it were, we could be erased as soon as we stop being useful, which is exactly what we would do with a computer program. The fact that some of us are already dismissing each other in favor of lines of code encased in machinery does not bode well for the future of human relationships, and is just another technical innovation on the ageless pastime of looking at ourselves in the mirror.

Narcissus died after spending the rest of his life staring at the beauty of his own reflection. By the standards articulated in this new age, he was in a real relationship.