Thursday, September 30, 2010

Janet Smith Takes on Dawn Eden's Criticism of Christopher West

This whole Theology of the Body debate is quite confusing - so if you are not interested, stop reading now. Trying to sort out who said what and the truth behind it all is getting more blurry all the time.

If you are interested, there is a debate over Christopher West's approach to Theology of the Body. As I have stated previously, I count Christopher as a friend, even though I don't agree with him on everything. Also, while I have been critical of Dawn's thesis, I believe she had good intentions behind it and several good points, even while I disagree with her on some major ones.

One of the things I have found in this debate is that neither "side" likes to admit when the other "side" has a good point. This doesn't help further the debate. A lot of it has become a "he-said / she-said" affair, which means people are defensive, walls go up, and some are trying to win.

Fulton Sheen once said, "Win and argument. Lose a soul." The participants in this debate should keep this in mind.

With this in mind - Janet Smith has written a response to Dawn Eden's thesis (pdf download here). There are a few good points and a few not-so-good ones. A few of my thoughts are interspersed within the quotes below. My thoughts are in Red.

A few snips:
I have communicated some of my concerns to Eden, but that dialogue did not end well. I am glad she did this directly with Dawn. This is part of the problem with the whole debate - Christopher hasn't been a part of it yet and it is public. It should have been done in private first, then brought out in the open. The scandal that has come from the whole debate is driving some people away from a wonderful teaching. I fear some people have taken a mere glance at her thesis, and since they are predisposed to accept her conclusions, they are dazzled by the number of quotations and footnotes into thinking that she has provided a worthy critique West’s work. Here, I would like to invite those who are using Eden’s thesis as the foundation of their rejection of West to test her claims. Go to the sources that she cites and see if her representation of West’s views is accurate. I think they will discover that Eden regularly distorts what West says. I agree that her footnoting, quoting, and sources need a lot of work. I also agree that she distorts what Christopher actually says. But, Eden still has a few good points that need to be considered, even if the thesis isn't the greatest academic work.  Fortunately, they will also discover an author much worth reading, that is, West. When Eden’s work exhibits the care that West’s does, and when she exhibits his fairness, humility and docility, There is no need to comment on her humility. she will have a great deal to offer the Church.
Eden herself may not yet be enough of an expert on the Theology of the Body to be publicly critiquing the work of an author whose writings and presentations have been favorably reviewed both by bishops and top scholars. Maybe she doesn't know the TOB as well as many others, but I don't think that this should take her out of the debate.
Violating the “hermeneutic of continuity” is what Eden considers to be the most serious flaw in West’s work. Oddly, she does not set aside any specific portion of her thesis to defend this charge. Her most direct engagement of the issue of “hermeneutic of continuity” is in her presentation of the first of ten “themes” she finds in West’s work, a section of only two pages at most. She states the theme in this way: “The Theology of the Body is an all-encompassing theology that requires theologians and religious educators to recontextualize ‘everything’ about Christian faith and life” (ET, 11). She explains further by stating, “It isn’t just about sex and marriage;” it is a “revolution” that “will lead to a dramatic development of thinking about the Creed.” (Eden notes that this quotation came from George Weigel’s Witness to Hope, 343). There is a striking set of words linked here: “all-encompassing,” “recontextualize,” “everything,” “revolution,” and “dramatic development.” Eden bombards her readers with words that she seems to believe will shock them. Surely, there can be no hermeneutic of continuity if such radical claims are being made.

But does West say such things and, if so, where, and what does he mean? The merit of Eden’s thesis over against some of the other pieces against him is that it provides readers with sources where they can go to verify her charges. Unfortunately, as I have stated, when one goes to the sources or even reads carefully what Eden has stated, one rarely draws the same conclusions that she does. I have to agree on this point. I do not believe that there is such a radical disconnect with the Traditions of the Church as Eden proposes. I was hoping to find where West says what she states the first theme to be. Eden doesn’t lead us to any passages that state that the Theology of the Body is an “all-encompassing” theology; she only notes that West said it “isn’t just about sex and marriage.” (ET, 11) I would have thought Eden would be pleased that West says the Theology of the Body “isn’t just about sex and marriage,” because elsewhere she accuses him of presenting the Theology of the Body as though it were only about sex and marriage. He can’t win! I think Smith is missing the point. Sometimes Christopher does go to far in trying to stretch the TOB. But, this teaching is new and some mistakes are bound to be made. Furthermore, he does try to sexualize things a bit much, even if it isn't as bad as what some make it out to be.
One more:
Eden maintains that West’s claim that the Theology of the Body is causing a “new sexual revolution” “implies discontinuity” (ET, 66). I suppose it might — but not a discontinuity with Church teaching. Eden fails to understand several claims West makes. He is claiming at least these three things, all defensible, in my view: 1) that those who teach Church teaching about sexuality and who use the concepts of the Theology of the Body, will present it in a more positive way than it has often been presented in the past; This is true in many respects. 2) that the teachings of the Theology of the Body have given us a much deeper understanding of the way that the body reveals truths about man and God; Also true. and 3) that if people understand and live by the teachings of the Theology of the Body, there will be a revolution in sexual conduct. Also true.  None o these claims involve a “hermeneutic of discontinuity.” Here is the biggest disagreement I have with Dawn's claims. I do not see the discontinuity either. Just because a teaching is called "revolutionary" does not mean it necessarily must be a change in doctrine. It seems to me that it is implying a change in individual behavior, which is much needed today.
I could go on, but I haven't the time.

Suffice it to say - I pray for more charity and more clarity regarding this debate.  Please pray with me.

John Paul II pray for us!

Further Reading:
**Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve' Critiques Dawn Eden's Thesis
**My Response to Dawn Eden's Thesis
**Christopher West Controversy
**Dialogue on West Continues
**Christopher West Criticized by Alice von Hildebrand
**Christopher West Interview
**More West Criticism
**Christopher West Receives Support from Bishops
**OSV on West Controversy

Fr. Barron on Materialism and Western Culture

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

4 Aggie Catholics Contribute To New Book on "The Church and New Media"

Some more book news (the four Aggie Catholic contributors to the book are highlighted in Maroon):
“The Church and New Media” brings together innovators, visionaries, and experts on the relationship between faith and technology, packaging their wisdom into the definitive book on New Media and the Church. The book shows not only how the Church can exist in the midst of this digital revolution, but how she can use it to effectively proclaim the Gospel.

Introduction / The Digital Continent
*Brandon Vogt*

Part One / Cast Out Into the Deep: New Media & Evangelization
Chapter One / To the Ends of the Earth: Reaching out to the Un-Churched
*Fr. Robert Barron*
Chapter Two / Into the Light: Sharing the Spiritual Journey
*Jennifer Fulwiler*
Chapter Three / Speaking Their Language: Connecting with Young Adults
*Marcel LeJeune*

Part Two / That the World May Know: New Media & Formation
Chapter Four / Modern Epistles: Blogging the Faith
*Mark Shea*
Chapter Five / Dusting Off Antiquity: Fresh Presentations of Ancient Tradition
*Taylor Marshall*
Chapter Six / Digital Areopagus: The New Apologetics
*Fr. Dwight Longenecker*

Part Three / Fostering the Flock: New Media & Community
Chapter Seven / Innovative Shepherding: New Media in the Diocese
*Scot Landry*
Chapter Eight / High-Tech Community: New Media in the Parish
*Matthew Warner*
Chapter Nine / That They May Be One: Cultivating Online Community
*Lisa Hendey*

Part Four / To the Ends of the Earth: New Media & Mission
Chapter Ten / Changing the World: New Media Activism
*Thomas Peters*
Chapter Eleven / Moving Mountains: Building a Digital Movement
*Shawn Carney (40 Days for Life)*

Conclusion / To Infinity and Beyond: The Future of the Church and New Media
*Brandon Vogt*

Appendix-A / New Media How-To
Appendix-B / New Media Recommendations

Besides the contributors above, “The Church and New Media” will also feature a number of sidebars. These will highlight relevant Church teachings on New Media, as well as Catholic innovators who are using New Media well. 

And, as if gathering this wonderful group wasn’t enough, there is also the possibility that Archbishop Timothy Dolan and/or Cardinal Sean O’Malley—two heroes of mine--will contribute a Preface or Foreword for the book.
Gig 'em and God Bless!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Come Home

Catholics Know Less About Religion Than Atheists

A new Pew Forum study shows that Catholics are some of the most ignorant people in the country when it comes to faith. What a shame.
  • This should be a clarion call to Catholics - we NEED to know our faith.
  • Catholic leaders should take this personally - we NEED to form our congregations.
  • Catholic parents should be more serious - we NEED to understand we are the primary educators of our children.
  • All Catholics NEED to take this personally - it is our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters know the truth, but we can't do that until we know it ourselves.
  • It isn't enough to accept what our parents believe - we NEED to examine the doctrines of the Church to appropriate them as adults ourselves.
I hope this reality helps wake the Church up and start serious adult formation programs. Check out this intro from the LA Times (emphasis added):
If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.

Heresy? Perhaps. But a survey that measured Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists and agnostics knew more, on average, than followers of most major faiths. In fact, the gaps in knowledge among some of the faithful may give new meaning to the term "blind faith."

A majority of Protestants, for instance, couldn't identify Martin Luther as the driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, according to the survey, released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Four in 10 Catholics misunderstood the meaning of their church's central ritual, incorrectly saying that the bread and wine used in Holy Communion are intended to merely symbolize the body and blood of Christ, not actually become them.

So, try it out - how did you do?
FYI - I got 15 out of 15 correct.

**The survey results
**The test

I agree with this quote:
"I think that what happens for many Christians is, they accept their particular faith, they accept it to be true and they stop examining it. Consequently, because it's already accepted to be true, they don't examine other people's faiths. … That, I think, is not healthy for a person of any faith," he said.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Book Is Finally Out!!!

My first book, Set Free to Love: Lives Changed by the Theology of the Body (Servant Books) is now out and I am very excited about it. I should receive my fist shipment in a few days.

Here is the Publisher's description:
Discover the theology of the body—your life will never be the same.

Each of the stories in Set Free to Love will help you hear the same call to live out the gift of love in your own life, in your own way. These are stories from Catholics in all walks of life, including college students, married persons, professionals, and clergy. The conversions include struggles with pornography, abortion, sexuality, same sex attraction, and issues in married life and the priesthood, revealing how the theology of the body brought about extraordinary change in each person's life.
If you live in Bryan/College Station, then you will be able to buy copies at St. Mary's front desk later this week. I will even autograph a copy is you want me to.

If you are out of town, you can order from my website (and I will autograph as well).

While you can always order from my publisher, Amazon, or some other seller, I always encourage you to buy directly from the author when possible, because the few extra dollars they make each time helps them out a little.

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive through the entire project - esp. the contributors to the book.

The Faces of Mary

Very nice.

Why Should We Fear God?

Q - When we hear "Fear God," or "Fear of God", or "Wrath of God," what is the meaning behind these phrases? Why should we fear God? My personal relationship with God is not a frightful one, he is not an angry God... So why do we hear statements as these ofter?

A -
Thanks for the question.

The word "fear" has a lot of baggage associated with it in modern Western culture. This was not so much the case in biblical times, so we must understand the concept of fear in several different ways, to understand what fear of God is all about.

Type of Fear #1- Reverential Fear of the Creator:
"I sought the LORD, who answered me, delivered me from all my fears. Look to God that you may be radiant with joy and your faces may not blush for shame. In my misfortune I called, the LORD heard and saved me from all distress. The angel of the LORD, who encamps with them, delivers all who fear God. Learn to savor how good the LORD is; happy are those who take refuge in him. Fear the LORD, you holy ones; nothing is lacking to those who fear him. The powerful grow poor and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." - Psalm 34 5-12
This verse sounds almost contradictory - we are told that God delivers us from our fears, gives us joy, and saves us. But, then we are told to fear Him. This kind of fear is reverential - meaning we are in awe of the might of God.

Have you ever had a moment of awe in God's creation? Think for a moment that God made it all - and we are in utter awe, and reverential fear, of how amazingly mighty God is. This is a humble attitude that reminds us that God is God and we are not. In humility we must acknowledge that God is all-powerful and we are very limited.

Type of Fear #2 - Fear of Judgment:
"Announce this to the house of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah: Pay attention to this, foolish and senseless people Who have eyes and see not, who have ears and hear not. Should you not fear me, says the LORD, should you not tremble before me? I made the sandy shore the sea's limit, which by eternal decree it may not overstep. Toss though it may, it is to no avail; though its billows roar, they cannot pass. But this people's heart is stubborn and rebellious; they turn and go away, And say not in their hearts, "Let us fear the LORD, our God, Who gives us rain early and late, in its time; Who watches for us over the appointed weeks of harvest." Your crimes have prevented these things, your sins have turned back these blessings from you." -Jeremiah 5: 20-25
It almost sounds as if God is asking his prophet, Jeremiah, to scare others. But, in a certain sense, every sinner should fear God's punishment because he is perfectly good and we are not. We are guilty, God is innocent. Because of our guilt we deserve punishment and judgment. God is merciful and offers us His mercy and salvation, but we are capable of rejecting His gift by our sin. Even in the traditional act of contrition, this kind of fear is shown (and is enough for God to forgive us, even if it isn't as good as the higher act of love) - "I detest all of my sins, because of thy just punishment".

Though the fear of judgment is real, it should not be a goal of our spiritual life.

Type of Fear #3 - Fear of God's Perfection and Holiness
"Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:3-4)
Perfect holiness and sin are incompatible, this is why God alone is holy (in fact holiness is THE trait of divinity) and in whatever small way His creatures share in that holiness, we are said to be "holy". Even before we enter heaven we must be purified from our sinfulness in order to see God face-to-face (Rev 21:27 says "nothing unclean shall enter into it" when describing heaven). God's holiness purifies us and removes our sin - but this process is painful, because we have to be "re-shaped" into the being we are supposed to be. Thus, we fear this harsh process.

Type of Fear #4 - Filial Fear - The Fear of Disappointing Our Father
One of the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit is "Fear of the Lord". This kind of fear is a gift given, because it perfects in us the virtue of Love of God. This is done out of a respect for God - not a fear of punishment.

Servile fear is the fear of being punished, and is not a form of true love. But filial fear is a fear of letting God down and disappointing Him. This grows out of a sincere love for God and His goodness and love of us.

Think of when you were a child. Many times you would not disobey your parents, because you feared punishment. But, when you mature, you do not do disobey our of love and respect for them. This is what is meant by filial fear, and is the reason why "fear of the Lord" is held in such high esteem in the Bible:
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" - Proverbs 9:10
Even Mary rejoices in Fear of God:
"The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him." - Luke 1 49-50
Paul tells us we should work toward holiness out of fear of God:
"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God." - 1 Cor 7:1
The last example of filial fear in the Bible I will give is Peter in Acts:
"Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, "In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him." - Acts 10:34-35
It seems there is a natural progression of faith through each of these four fears:

  • First, we know that God is God and creator of all.
  • Second, we know God is all-powerful and will judge us.
  • Third, we know that God is perfect and holy.
  • Fourth, we know God is Father of each of us.

Our goal should therefore be filial fear.
We will let Pope Benedict XVI have the last word:
This attitude of faith leads man to recognize the power of God operating in history, and thus to open himself to fear of the name of the Lord. In biblical language, in fact, this "fear" does not coincide with dread, but is the recognition of the mystery of the divine transcendence. Because of this, it is the basis of faith and is joined with love: "the Lord your God requires of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (cf. Deuteronomy 10:12).
I hope this helps.

If You Want Jesus - You Must Have the Catholic Church As Well.

A few quotes from Archbishop Dolan at the Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Great stuff.

"Our number one pastoral problem today is that too many people don't see the intrinsic connection between Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church....We are living in an era where people believe in Christ, but not in his Church. They want the king, but not the kingdom; they want to believe without belonging; they want the faith, but not the faithful. But for the committed Catholic, the answer to that is, 'no can do.' Jesus and the Church are one."
Watch the entire presentation here:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anglicans/Episcopalians Becoming Catholic

Some news from across the Atlantic.
Britain could have an Ordinariate by the end of the year, it emerged today.

Sources say that the Rt Rev Keith Newton, the flying bishop of Richborough and the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, the flying Bishop of Ebbsfleet will take up the special canonical structure, which allows groups of Anglicans to come into full Communion with Rome without losing their Anglican identity, before the end of the calendar year.

Groups of Anglicans are already forming across the country in preparation for joining an ordinariate, according to the blog of the retired Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes.

In his October pastoral letter, Bishop Burnham wrote that ordinariate groups would likely be small congregations of thirty or so people.

Traditionally-minded Anglican clergy from the South of England were gathering at a Sacred Synod in Westminster today to discuss the future direction of the Church of England. The meeting was called by the Rt Rev John Ford, the Anglican Bishop of Plymouth. He invited the signatories of a 2008 open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, which expressed reservations over women bishops.

The meeting was being held only days after Pope Benedict told Catholic bishops in England and Wales and Scotland to see the offer made in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus as a “prophetic gesture”.

The apostolic constitution was a topic discussed at the Synod, according to Bishop Burnham.

In a statement Bishop Burnham said that Anglicanorum coetibus offered “Anglo-Catholics the way to full communion with the Catholic Church for which they worked and prayed for at least a century and it is a way in which they will be ‘united and not absorbed’.”

He said that discussions were under way about how the “vision of the Apostolic Constitution” could be implemented” and said the first people to take up the initiative would require vision and courage.
Continue reading.
Here in the US, we have an announcement as well:
WASHINGTON(September 23, 2010)—The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has named Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington to guide the incorporation of Anglican groups into the Catholic Church in the United States.

In this position, he is a delegate of the congregation and heads the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee charged with assisting CDF in implementing the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. Pope Benedict XVI issued the document in November 2009 to provide for establishing personal ordinariates for Anglican groups who seek to enter corporately into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Continue reading.
Pray for Christian unity.
Tip O' the hat to Fr. Dwight.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Archbishop Chaput Addresses Journalists

A great speech. Here is a snip:
Freedom of the press clearly includes the right to question the actions and motives of religious figures and institutions. Our constitutional safeguards for the press developed partly in response to efforts by Puritans like Cotton Mather to have editors and publishers tossed into jail for satirizing local pastors and mocking Christian beliefs in their pages.

But freedom doesn’t excuse prejudice or poor handling of serious material, especially people’s religious convictions. What’s new today is the seeming collusion—or at least an active sympathy—between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs.

When this happens, the results are bad for everybody.

It’s no accident that freedom of religion and freedom of the press are both named—in that order—in the First Amendment. The country’s founders believed that protecting these two freedoms would be vital to the American experiment. They saw that a self-governing people needs truthful information and sensible opinion from sources other than the state. They also believed that morality grounded in religious belief is fundamental to forming virtuous people able to govern themselves.

These beliefs about American liberty were once widely shared by media professionals. In the mid 19th century, one might often find anti-Catholic sentiment on the editorial pages of America’s major papers—just as we do today. But it served a Protestant consensus. Newspapers attacked “Popish” infiltration, the better to push Protestant goals like prayer and Bible reading in public schools.
Continue Reading.

Has the Church Changed Doctrine?

Q - Has Catholic doctrine been changed over time? If so, what has caused the change and does that take away from the infallibility of all church doctrine? If not, what is this the whole limbo change of doctrine all about?

A - Thanks for the questions. The Church has never changed her doctrine. But, we might have to define what doctrine is. Doctrine is a teaching of the Church that comes from or is necessarily connected to the deposit of faith the Church was given by Christ and from the Apostles.

What happened in the case of limbo is this - limbo was a theological supposition (a guess by some theologians) as to what happened to unbaptized babies when they died. The term was first derived from St. Augustine - though he taught that unbaptized infants went to hell (though a hell not quite as bad as the rest). The picture at the right is one of my youngest daughter before she was baptized. In my humble opinion, this is one of the rare times that Augustine got it wrong.

The argument went something like this (note that I don't agree with what I am typing out here) - an unbaptized baby couldn't go to heaven because they weren't baptized. The Church does teach a baptism of desire - which is (in the words of Fr. John Hardon)
"Baptism of desire is the implicit desire for baptism of water by a person who makes an act of perfect love of God, based on faith and with a sincere sorrow for one's sins. Such was the case in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter encountered pagans who, moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the greatness of God. "Peter himself then said, 'Could anyone refuse the water of baptism to these people, now they have received the Holy Spirit....?'" (Acts 10:46-47)"
But, since a baby would not have a developed intellect to have known or chosen God, they couldn't be baptized by desire.

On the other hand, God wouldn't send them to hell because they never personally sinned. Therefore, there must be another place, limbo, as the alternative destiny. They would be happy, but never enter into the beatific vision (heaven).

Now, Catholics were, for many years, allowed to agree with limbo or not. Because this guess was allowed, as many other theological suppositions are in the gray areas. This is the freedom that the Church allows. But, because this belief hasn't been held consistently since the time of the apostles (who handed on Christ's revelation to the Church) and because of clearer statements made on the unbaptized in Vatican II and the Cathechism, the Vatican decided to make a statement about limbo that said it was not true. So, just because she made a statement that the guess of limbo was wrong, does not mean she changed anything - because the Church never taught it as being from Christ or the apostles (i.e., doctrine).

Pope Benedict, before he was Pope, told a reporter the following about limbo in an interview in his book "The Ratzinger Report":
"Limbo was never a defined truth of faith. Personally -- and here I am speaking more as a theologian and not as prefect of the congregation -- I would abandon it, since it was only a theological hypothesis."

Here is what the Catechism says now, leaving the question open still - but without limbo.
"As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (No. 1261)

Then in 2007 a commission of theologians, which was originally put together by Pope John Paul II issued a statement on limbo. Their conclusion reads:
Our conclusion is that the many factors that we have considered above give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision. We emphasize that these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge. There is much that simply has not been revealed to us. We live by faith and hope in the God of mercy and love who has been revealed to us in Christ, and the Spirit moves us to pray in constant thankfulness and joy.
What has been revealed to us is that the ordinary way of salvation is by the sacrament of baptism. None of the above considerations should be taken as qualifying the necessity of baptism or justifying delay in administering the sacrament. Rather, as we want to reaffirm in conclusion, they provide strong grounds for hope that God will save infants when we have not been able to do for them what we would have wished to do, namely, to baptize them into the faith and life of the Church.
As for the question on infallibility. Not every Church teaching is taught infallibly. I wrote on this in another post that explains it.
I hope that helps.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fr. Barron on Peter Hitchens

40 Days For Life Kicks Off

A rally was held yesterday to kick off 40 Days for Life locally.

The response to the rally is described in an emair from Coalition for Life Director, Bobby Reynoso below:
As 40 Days for Life kicked off Tuesday night Planned Parenthood once again thought it appropriate to host a party with food, music, and blazing car alarms.

Planned Parenthoods behavior Tuesday night flies in the face of that which they claim to be and the rhetoric so often spoken by their superiors.

We would all do well on both sides of the fence to humble ourselves, Open ourselves to civil and honest dialogue with the aim of further exploring truth.

This of course can be difficult when one is leaning on their car horn...
It's a wonder why Planned Parenthood is so close minded to anything but their talking points?!?

During 40 Days for Life you and I are called to a higher standard.
Our response to abortion is prayer and sacrifice for the babies, women, and workers involved in this injustice.
Pray for an end to abortion.

NFP and Contraception

Q - I am looking for an explanation for why NFP is not the same as chemical contraception, such as the pill. Particularly, what about when there is severe pregnancy-related illness for the woman, and NFP is being used not just to delay pregnancy but to prevent it long-term?

A - Thanks for the question. I have written previously on NFP and contraception, but instead of just pointing you to those answers, I thought I would compile them into this post. I hope this helps.

I will focus on several areas – History, Sociological, Relational and Theological. Before I do that, we have to answer this question. What is love? Many people think it is a feeling or something that comes and goes.
How about these two definitions:
1 – Love is a gift of the whole person given to another.
2 – Love is choosing what is best for another regardless of the cost to myself.

Can we agree that these are good descriptions of what true love really is? Christ gave us one new commandment -"Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:35). How did He love us? He gave everything He had to each of us on the Cross. It is the perfect gift of His whole person. He also wanted what was best for us and offers it to us even though it cost Him His life. So, Christ is our model of love. Keep this in mind.

All of Christianity rejected Contraception until 1930 – where the Lambeth Convention of the Anglican Church allowed it in narrow circumstances. A few years later a Protestant group of denominations (the Federal Council of Churches) allowed it. A day after the Federal Council of Churches declaration, a shocked Washington Post wrote the following:
"Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee's report, if carried into effect, would sound the deathknell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraception would be 'careful and restrained' is preposterous."
Can you imagine the Post writing that today? Regardless, they were right. The government knew it as well which is why contraception was outlawed until the 60’s. The Protestant reformers also knew it was bad.
Martin Luther:
"[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime.”
"The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."
Our choices in light of this history is this:
1 – Either 1,950 years of consistent Christian tradition (and the current stance of the Catholic Church) is wrong or
2 – All of Christianity had it correct until 1950 (and the Catholic Church still does).

Here are some of the common predictions about what would happen once contraception was legal and widely used:

1 - Marriages would be better - Unwanted pregnancies would decrease - Abortions would decrease
But, what has happened?

  • Divorce rate doubled between 1965-1975 from 25% to 50%
  • One demographer has shown that access to the pill paralleled the increase to the divorce rate
  • Those that use contraception have fewer children and later in marriage.
  • Early years of marriage are fun, but there is a change in attitude
  • But, children are harder to walk away from - They also make you less selfish
  • Also showed there was more adultery because a women is more “available” and the natural consequences (babies) aren’t as easy to achieve.

2 - Less unwanted pregnancies?

  • In 1960 some 6% of white babies were born out of wedlock - 22% in 1992 - higher today.
  • In 1960 22%of black babies were born out of wedlock - 68% in 1992 - higher today.
3 - Fewer abortions?
  • 50% of women who have abortions go because contraception failed.
  • “I got pregnant by accident”…how? This means something went RIGHT not something happened by an accident.
  • Even the phrase “unwanted pregnancies” was never known before contraception. Because humanity knew that pregnancy followed sex. But, now that people have tried to separate the two (and have a false sense of control), when contraception fails, they are shocked that babies happen.

Pope Paul VI’s predictions
In his groundbreaking encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI predicted the following would happen if contraception was widely used:
1) “how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality”
- he got this one right
2) “It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”
-The other person is no longer a person, but an object for pleasure.
3) “Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.”
-Forced abortions in China and other "reproductive rights" around the world.

So, how did the Pope know that this was going to happen? 3 reasons
1) He had Christian tradition
2) He had the Holy Spirit
3) He used natural law - We should use thing according to their nature.
  • If I want grass in my backyard, I better not pave it.
  • If you want to have a car run correctly – Don’t put oil in the gas tank.
  • If you don’t use your bodies and sex according to their nature, then it is going to mess things up.

Most people never ask the question, “what is sex intended for” or “what is the purpose of sex”. They merely assume it is for pleasure. But, God didn’t create us just to have a good time in bed. Sex has two purposes:
  1. Procreation – babies
  2. Union of the Spouses – bonding

If we take either out, then sex loses its meaning and becomes something it isn’t intended for. For example:
-Rape – the purpose of rape is neither for babies or bonding.
-premarital sex – It certainly isn’t for either thing, though many disguise it as bonding. Why isn’t it bonding?

Because is it a loving act (remember how we defined love above before you answer) to take a risk with getting someone who isn’t married pregnant? Is it loving to risk the emotional, spiritual, relational, or physical harm that comes with premarital sex (break-ups, sin, disease, broken hearts, self-esteem, etc)?

When sex loses it’s intended purpose, then it becomes something that isn’t good.
In fact, as Catholics we say sex is even better than good – which we will explore below.

How does society view children and portray them?
  • More children will take our money
  • More children take our freedom
  • More children will use up the earth’s resources
In other words, they are a burden.
But, the Bible has a different view.
  • Fertility and children are a blessing from God. To be cursed is to be barren, in the Bible
  • Children are Gifts, not burdens
  • That the Earth was made for humans to properly use
  • As immortal souls that we participate with God in creating. WE CREATE WITH GOD (pro – create)
God designed sex to be open to life. When one has sex and contracepts, they are, in effect, telling God that they want to have the effects of sex (pleasure) without the purpose. “NO THANKS GOD, WE DON’T WANT YOU TO BE A PART OF THIS”.

3 things that contraception does
  1. It attempts to block God out of the sexual act (violates procreation)
  2. It treats children as a burden, not a gift.
  3. It prevents bonding between the spouses.

Love = Total self-giving of yourself. To withhold your fertility from another, is a partial gift at best. And at worst it is using your spouse for your own selfish pleasure, which is the opposite of love.

Think of these two different phrases:
-I want to have sex with you vs I want to have a baby with you

One says I want to pleasure myself and use you to do it the other says I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

When a couple has sex they are worshipping God with there bodies when done in the proper context of chaste love between one man and one woman in marriage.

God the Father and God the Son love each other so much and so powerfully that the result of their love is the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. This is why John could write that “God is love”.

We are made in God’s image and likeness. We image God in our relationship with our spouses and in sex. When the husband and wife come together as one, the result of their love is their children. Sex then becomes worship of God, which is why it is so much more than just pleasure. It isn’t just good. Sex is sacred.

How does the pill work? Makes the woman’s body think it is pregnant
1) Stops ovulation
2) If that fails then - it changes the mucus so that the sperm isn’t in a good environment
3) It prevents implantation of a fertilized ovum into the Uterus - ABORTION
the Pill can cause blood clotting, and liver tumors among younger women. Fatal heart attacks are approximately twice as frequent among women who take the Pill. It can cause weight gain, decreased libido, depression, etc.
Moreover, all chemical forms of birth control can act as abortifacients – that is, a chemical abortion.

How does a condom work? It physically blocks fertility from being shared.
You wouldn't kiss your spouse through a plastic bag, but you would have sex with a condom? This isn't sharing of all you are.

So how does NFP work?
NFP experts say that when a couple understands and follows the method, NFP is about 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy.
-Billings method uses signs of cervical mucus
-Sympto-Thermal Method monitors the cervical mucus, changes of the cervix and uses temperature as a cross-check. A second kind is ecological breastfeeding, which uses frequent suckling and longer feedings.

What is the difference between the two?
The difference is that using contraception is like speaking a lie with the body. When we have sex, we are saying with our bodies “I give everything I am to you, except my fertility”.

To use NFP is not to say anything with the body, because it is merely avoiding sex during the fertile times. In other words, the integrity (wholeness) of the sexual act is not broken when you are not having sex. But, in the case of contraceptive sex it is.

Remember that you can’t justify the ends by the means. The “end” of contraception as well as NFP (to not have a baby) are the same. BUT, the means are completely different.
  • The Church affirms that efforts at birth regulation "must be done with respect for the order established by God" (Humanae Vitae, 16).
  • We may not act against our created human nature in pursuing some purpose or pleasure.
    • When you have sex you are saying, with your bodies, that you love another person. You sacrifice yourself for them. You give yourself, ALL of yourself to them.
  • NFP is like taking the 5th in court. You can’t be held guilty for doing something if you never acted.
    • Think of Euthanasia -Active killing vs. passively letting another die.
    • NFP passively lets nature run its course while contraception acts against procreation (thus CONTRA)
  • Now think about Praying. It is good. The Church says to pray. But, we aren’t called to meditate on the Cross of Christ all the time. But, when we do…it should be done with reverence. At any time it is okay to pray or not to pray (that is our choice), but we are never to blaspheme. To have contraceptive sex is to say one thing and do another.

Some of the Benefits to NFP
  • -More sex on average.
  • -Women have more self-respect for themselves
  • -Sex isn’t about just feeling good and therefore the women don’t feel like objects
  • -More satisfaction
  • -Better communication and marriages. Must talk for it to work
  • -Marriages last longer (less than 2% get divorced)
  • -Freedom from guilt and sin
  • -Grow closer to God
  • -Cheaper than contraception
  • -No side effects

Does using NFP take sacrifice? Yes.
Does it mean you have to have self-control? Yes. But, you can't give yourself away, if you aren't in control of yourself and love is giving yourself away.

The Church gets the final word in answering the questions above. From the Catechism:
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.... The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.
Another issue that some Catholics have a problem with is understanding how the Church deals with couples who are infertile due to health reasons or age. The Catechism has a short paragraph on infertile couples:
2379 The Gospel shows that physical sterility is not an absolute evil. Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord's Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.
Only those who are intentionally infertile by means of surgery, drugs or device are doing anything wrong. But, even then, the vocation is not determined by this. Even in your example nothing was wrong, because the intent was not to make the woman infertile, but rather to treat an illness.

Not every marriage must will bear children. This does not mean that it isn't a valid or good marriage. Many sterile couples are more free to devote themselves to the works of mercy or other apostolates. Children are a gift from God, but not every couples is blessed with this gift. This is not the fault of the couple that is infertile and therefore has no bearing on their vocation.

The question above says - "Particularly, what about when there is severe pregnancy-related illness for the woman, and NFP is being used not just to delay pregnancy but to prevent it long-term?"

If the woman's health would be in serious danger because of getting pregnant, then using NFP to prevent pregnancy until she is no longer able to get pregnant (menopause) is morally licit. Think of it this way. To use NFP licitly in normal circumstances, a couple needs to discern that there are serious reasons to postpone pregnancy. These reasons would exist throughout the woman's life in some circumstances and thus it is just to use NFP in these cases.

I hope that this helps.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Would You Like To Be Pope

Check out these responsibilities:

40 Days For Life Starts Tonight

From the Coalition for Life:
WHAT: 40 Days for Life Kick-Off Event
WHEN: TONIGHT - Tuesday, September 21, from 7:00PM - 8:00PM
WHERE: Public right-of-way in front of Planned Parenthood in Bryan
This pro-life effort continues to grow:
A record 238 locations in the US, Canada, Australia, England, Northern Ireland and Denmark will launch 40 Days for Life campaigns of prayer and fasting this Wednesday!
Here is a video from the 40 Days for Life office, run by former parishioners of St. Mary's Catholic Center and friends:

It is not too late to sign up. Contact the Coalition to fill an hour for the next 40 days.

FYI - Shawn Carney was on Life on the Rock on EWTN TV recently. You can download the episode and watch it here.

The Sensus Fidei

Q - My question is this: would you please explain sensus fidelium as the Church understands it, and explain how some of the more heterodox Catholic groups misinterpret it - intentionally or not, doesn't matter - in order to justify things such as "95% of Catholics believe that it's okay to use artificial contraception; therefore, because of the sensus fidelium, the encyclical Humanae Vitae isn't binding because the majority of Catholics haven't accepted it." I know that position is in error - but what's the best way to explain why.

A -
Thanks for the question. I can certainly try to explain it.

First of all, a note about discussions that may cause a rise in our heart rate. I think it is a good idea to constantly examine our motives when discussing such issues. Is the goal to win or to help another draw closer to the truth of Christ? If it is to win, we might need to step back from the discussion. I am not accusing you of doing this, but it is always a good reminder. I know I need to do this periodically.

Now, on to your question. The Sensus fidei is a gift given to guide God's Church into all truth. We have the promises of Christ that the Holy Spirit will do just that. Here is the definition found in the index of the Catechism:
Sensus Fidei: a supernatural appreciation of the faith shown by the universal consent in matters of faith and morals manifested by the whole body of the faithful under the guidance of the Magisterium.
Notice that the Magisterium must guide it.

Now, here is what the Church says about who can interpret God's Revelation, given to us through Christ:
"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome." - CCC, 85
What we need to understand is this role which is given to the Bishops, isn't just institutional authority, but a charism (gift) of the Holy Spirit.

This gift is given to the Church itself, as the Catechism says (quoting Lumen Gentium from Vatican II):
"The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals." - CCC 92
Note - the exercise of such a gift is for the "whole" church. Not just those that want to change things. If we are really going to exercise such a gift - then even those who come before us need to be considered.

Further, we cannot exercise the gift without the Bishops. Because, as Lumen Gentium in the next section after the quote above:
The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God
Thus, we don't get to change Church teaching, just because the majority of Catholics aren't practicing the faith or dissent from it. One should not mis-define a doctrine of the Church to support changing doctrine, because that is contradictory to begin with.

Truth is not up for a vote.

I hope this helps.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Can I Miss Sunday Mass Because of Work?

Q - I work at a retirement community where a Catholic Communion service is offered each Sunday. My husband believes I am not fulfilling my Catholic obligation each weekend because it is a not Mass. I work 12 hour shifts (8:30 – 8:30 Sat/Sun) so I am unable to go elsewhere and am surprised if this is correct because it means all the residents are also not meeting their obligation. I am in skilled care where residents are not able to go anywhere by themselves. Some may be able to leave for short times with their family but most do not ever leave. In order for a Catholic to meet their weekly obligation what requirements need to be met - does a priest need to be present or do parts of the regular mass need to be in the service?

Is my husband correct?

A -
Thanks for the question. I hope I can help.

Catholics have obligations to meet in regards to both attending Mass and receiving Communion, but unlike what many Catholics believe, they are not necessarily the same thing. This obligation began with the ancient Israelites - "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day."

  1. Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on every Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.
  2. Catholics are obligated to rest (spiritually and physically) from labor on these same days.
  3. Catholics are obligated to receive Communion once a year (Easter Duty).
This all comes from the third commandment - “keep holy the sabbath day”

We must take this obligation seriously. Mass isn't just another thing we do to jump through the Catholic hoops. It is THE most important thing we do. Thus, intentional failure to go to Mass on Sundays is grave matter and spiritually dangerous to a Catholic.

Yet, some mitigating factors need to be considered. For instance, if I was traveling to the last evening Mass on Sunday and saw an elderly woman with a flat tire on the side of an empty country road - my obligation is to help her, even if I miss Mass for that Sunday.

Thus, Church law recognizes that we may have to miss Mass on Sunday.
The Catechism says:
2183 "If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families."
Some mitigating factors include:

  • being ill
  • have no priest to preside at Mass
  • attending to a gravely ill person who cannot receive assistance elsewhere (not common)
  • some other very serious obligation that prevents attendance (war, employment, travel, etc.)
  • have no way of being able to make Mass

If you have a Mass in the area at 7am on Sunday, then you would be obligated to attend it. Furthermore, you might also talk to your supervisor and try to get a schedule change. I worked in retail management and had a similar schedule. I would schedule my lunch around Mass and fast for the rest of the day. So, it might be possible to do something like this.If not, then you are most likely in the clear. You might talk to your pastor to make sure.

As for the elderly who are there, they seem to be unable to make Mass and would not be sinning by missing Mass.

I hope this helps.

From Glory To Glory

Q - 'From glory to glory Forever!' -2 Corinthians 3:18
I was wondering how you would interpret this phrase. I have my own meaning and it means something Really awesome to me, and I've asked a few of my protestant buddies who know the bible, and scripture a LOT better than I do, and the meaning is still there!
I was just curious of your interpretation...

A - Thanks for the question. Here is the passage you refer to in some context:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. - 1 Cor 3: 12-18
What we see in this passage is a comparison of the Old Covenant of Moses with the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, that St. Paul is a partaker and minister of, as an apostle of Christ.

Moses would wear a veil after seeing the Lord face-to-face. He had to wear this veil because the radiance of God would shine on his face and he hid this radiance from the Israelites when he came from God's presence to talk to the people.

St. Paul says the veil refers to the veiling of the full revelation of God's nature and His plan of salvation for His people, through the New Covenant in Jesus. Many Jews of Paul's day still did not see the truth about God, in Christ. But, now that we have the fullness of revelation through Christ, we do not have a veil that covers God's plan.

The freedom referred to is freedom from the Old Covenant's restrictions, which are now found in a personal relationship with Christ, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Thus, just as Moses was transformed when he saw God - and showed the glory of God to others, so the glory of God's love in a Christian's heart transforms us (especially through the Sacraments) into the glory of God, through the grace we receive to be like Christ, when we do as He commands us to do and live in faith, hope, and love.

Of course, being like Christ means we must sacrifice and suffer as well. But, with it comes great glory later.

I hope this helps.