Blog Template Theology of the Body: September 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bishop Jaime Soto’s Address to the National Association of Diocesan Gay and Lesbian Ministries

September 29, 2008

"...The nature of love has been distorted. Many popular notions have deviated from its true destiny. Love for many has come to mean having sex. If you cannot have sex than you cannot love. This is the message. Even more destructive is the prevailing notion that sex is not an expression of love. Sex is love. This reductio ad absurdam deprives sexuality of its true meaning and robs the human person of the possibility of ever knowing real love.

Sexual intercourse is a beautiful expression of love, but this is so when intercourse is understood as a unique expression intended to share in the creative, faithful love of God. As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, elaborated in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love” - between a man and woman - “becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.” (DCE, n. 11) Sexual intercourse within the context of the marriage covenant becomes a beautiful icon - a sacrament - of God’s creative, unifying love. When sexual intercourse is taken out of this iconic, sacramental context of the complementary, procreative covenant between a man and a woman it becomes impoverished and it demeans the human person.

Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman in the covenant of Marriage is one expression of love to which the human person can aspire, but we are all called to love. It is part of our human nature to love. We all have a desire to love, but this love can deviate from its true calling when it exalts only in the pleasure of the body. Pope Benedict said in the same encyclical, “The contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex,’ has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.” (DCE, n. 5) This is not our true calling. The human desire to love must lead us to the divine. Looking again to the Holy Father’s encyclical, he says, “True, eros - human desire - tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.” (DCE, n. 5)

This path is the path of chastity. This is very true in marriage. It is also true in all of human life because it is the nature of all authentic love. We are all called to love. We are all called to be loved. This can only happen when we choose to love in the manner that God has called us to live. Love leads us to ecstasy, not as a moment of intoxication but rather as a journey, “an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God: ‘Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it’ (Lk 17:33).” (DCE n. 6)

Sexuality, then, as part of our human nature only dignifies and liberates us when we begin to love in harmony with God’s love and God’s wisdom for us. Chastity as a virtue is the path that brings us to that harmony with God’s wisdom and love. Chastity moves us beyond one’s desire to what God wills for each one of us. Chastity is love’s journey on the path of “ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.” Chastity is the understanding that it is not all about me or about us. We act always under God’s gaze. Desire tempered and tested by “renunciation, purification, and healing” can lead us to God’s design.

This is true for all of us. It is also true for men and women who are homosexual. We are called to live and love in a manner that brings us into respectful, chaste relationships with one another and an intimate relationship with God. We should be an instrument of God’s love for one another. Let me be clear here. Sexual intercourse, outside of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, can be alluring and intoxicating but it will not lead to that liberating journey of true self-discovery and an authentic discovery of God. For that reason, it is sinful. Sexual relations between people of the same sex can be alluring for homosexuals but it deviates from the true meaning of the act and distracts them from the true nature of love to which God has called us all. For this reason, it is sinful.

Married love is a beautiful, heroic expression of faithful, life-giving, life-creating love. It should not be accommodated and manipulated for those who would believe that they can and have a right to mimic its unique expression.

Marriage is also not the sole domain of love as some of the politics would seem to imply. Love is lived and celebrated in so many ways that can lead to a wholesome, earnest, and religious life: the deep and chaste love of committed friends, the untiring love of committed religious and clergy, the profound and charitable bonds among the members of a Christian community, enduring, forgiving, and supportive love among family members. Should we dismiss or demean the human and spiritual significance of these lives given in love?

This is a hard message today. It is the still the right message. It will unsettle and disturb many of our brothers and sisters, just as Peter was unsettled and put off by the stern rebuke of his master and good friend, the Lord Jesus. If the story of Peter’s relationship with Jesus had begun and ended there, it would have been a sad tale indeed, but that is not the whole story then nor is it the whole story now. Jesus met Simon Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He said with great love and fondness, “Come, follow me.” Peter would not only continue to follow the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem. Despite his many failings and foibles, he would eventually choose to love as Jesus loved him. He would die as martyr’s death in Rome, giving himself completely for the one who loved him so dearly.

The teaching of the Church regarding the sacred dignity of human sexuality is not a rebuke but an invitation to love as God loves us. The Church’s firm support of Proposition 8 is not a rebuke against homosexuals but a heartfelt affirmation of the nature of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. We hope and pray that all people, including our brothers and sisters who are homosexuals, will see the reasonableness of our position and the sincerity of our love for them.

For that reason, we should let the words of St. Paul haunt us and unsettle us: “Do not conform yourself to this age.” In so many ways we can allow ourselves to be duped, fooled, by the fads and trends of this age. It is far better that we allow ourselves to be drawn into the ways and the manners of Jesus. The Lord Jesus challenges us as he challenged his friend, Simon Peter, to not conform to what is fashionable and convenient. He has so much more to offer us. Do not think as others do. Let us think as God does. He shows us the way, the truth, and the life."

More Here. And Here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Update: Thoughts from the Fiat Mihi Symposium at UD

The conversation on a Marian renewal of theology between four of the world's top Catholic theologians, lots of young and old Cistercians, and a handful of invited grad students this weekend was amazing. I'll be summarizing my notes throughout the week on this blog, so stay tuned...

St. Ephrem the Syrian, AD 306-373

"Hail, holy kings, Apostles of Christ, Hail, light of the world.... Christ is the light and the lampstand is Peter; the oil, however, is the activity of the Holy Spirit. Hail, O Peter, gate of sinners, tongue of the disciples, voice of preachers, eye of the Apostles, guardian of heaven, the first-born of the keepers of the keys."

"Blessed are you, O Peter, the head and tongue of the body of your brothers, the body which is joined together with the disciples, in which both sons of Zebedi are the eye. They indeed are blessed, who contemplating the throne of the Master, seek a throne for themselves. The true revelation of the Father singles out Peter, who becomes the firm rock."

"(As Jesus said) Simon, my disciple, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I called you "rock" that you might sustain my entire building. You are the overseer of those who build a church for me on earth. If they should wish to build something forbidden, prevent them, for you are the foundation. You are the head of the fountain from which my doctrine is drawn. You are the head of my disciples. Through you all nations shall drink. Yours is that vivifying sweetness that I bestow. I have chosen you to be as a firstborn in my institution and heir to all my treasures. The keys of the kingdom I have given to you, and behold I make you prince over all my treasures."

-St. Ephrem, Encom. in Petrum et Paulum; Hymni S. Ephr. De Virginitate; Hymn. et Serm., vol. 1, pr. 411.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

I am looking forward to an amazing colloquy taking place this weekend at the University of Dallas on a renewal of Marian theology- check it out- (it's a panel of converts):

Background: Profs. Cavadini, Griffiths, Hütter, and Marshall are at work on a joint project, conceived as prolegomena to Catholic dogmatic theology. The volume on which they are working will deal with the connections between Church, dogma, faith, and theology, approached in a Marian key. The planned symposium will be an opportunity for lively discussion on the themes of the project, and will contribute significantly to the formation of the project.

Theology Symposium   

Fiat Mihi Secundum Verbum Tuum: 
An Invitation to Dogmatic Theology

Saturday Sept. 27
Location: Gorman B

Paul Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Studies, Duke University:
"Quickening the Pagans: Mary as Visitor to the World"

Reinhard Hütter, Professor of Christian Theology, Duke University:
“Mary—The Eschatological Icon of the Church”

Bruce Marshall, Professor of Historical Theology, Southern Methodist University:
“Look on the Faith of Your Church: The Faith of Mary and the Faith of Christians”

John Cavadini, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame:
"Toward a New Catechesis on Mary"


• 10:00 to 12:30, two 20-minute papers, discussion after each

• 12:30 to 2:00 Luncheon provided (RSVP by Sept. 15 to 972-721-5219 or

• 2:00 to 4:30 two 20-minute papers, discussion after each

Ecumenical Acumen: Rowan Williams' Remarks at Lourdes, etc.

This week, Rowan Williams became the first Protestant leader of the Church of England to acknowledge the tradition of the Lourdes apparitions. Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, invited Williams to address the faithful.

Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon for the International Mass at Lourdes

Wednesday 24 September 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes at the International Mass of 24 September 2008 (the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham).

The sermon text in full:

'The babe in my womb leaped for joy.' (Luke 1.44)

Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, carrying Jesus in her womb. The Son of God is still invisible – not yet born, not even known about by Elizabeth; yet Elizabeth recognises Mary as bearing within her the hope and desire of all nations, and life stirs in the deep places of her own body. The one who will prepare the way for Jesus, John the Baptist, moves as if to greet the hope that is coming, even though it cannot yet be seen.

Mary appears to us here as the first missionary, 'the first messenger of the gospel' as Bishop Perrier of Lourdes has called her: the first human being to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to another; and she does it simply by carrying Christ within her. She reminds us that mission begins not in delivering a message in words but in the journey towards another person with Jesus in your heart. She testifies to the primary importance of simply carrying Jesus, even before there are words or deeds to show him and explain him. This story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth is in many ways a very strange one; it's not about the communication of rational information from one speaker to another, but a primitive current of spiritual electricity running from the unborn Christ to the unborn Baptist. But mission it undoubtedly is, because it evokes recognition and joy. Something happens that prepares the way for all the words that will be spoken and the deeds that will be done. The believer comes with Christ dwelling in them by faith, and God makes that current come alive, and a response begins, not yet in words or commitments, but simply in recognising that here is life.

When Mary came to Bernardette, she came at first as an anonymous figure, a beautiful lady, a mysterious 'thing', not yet identified as the Lord's spotless Mother. And Bernardette – uneducated, uninstructed in doctrine – leapt with joy, recognising that here was life, here was healing. Remember those accounts of her which speak of her graceful, gliding movements at the Lady's bidding; as if she, like John in Elizabeth's womb, begins to dance to the music of the Incarnate Word who is carried by his Mother. Only bit by bit does Bernardette find the words to let the world know; only bit by bit, we might say, does she discover how to listen to the Lady and echo what she has to tell us.

So there is good news for all of us who seek to follow Jesus' summons to mission in his Name; and good news too for all who find their efforts slow and apparently futile, and for all who still can't find their way to the 'right' words and the open commitment. Our first and overarching task is to carry Jesus, gratefully and faithfully, with us in all our doings: like St Teresa of Avila, we might do this quite prosaically by having with us always a little picture or a cross in our pockets, so that we constantly 'touch base' with the Lord. We can do it by following the guidance of the Orthodox spiritual tradition and repeating silently the Jesus Prayer, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner'. And if we are faithful in thus carrying Christ with us, something will happen, some current will stir and those we are with will feel, perhaps well below the conscious surface, a movement of life and joy which they may not understand at all. And we may never see it or know about it; people may not even connect it with us, yet it will be there – because Jesus speaks always to what is buried in the heart of men and women, the destiny they were made for. Whether they know it or not, there is that within them which is turned towards him. Keep on carrying Jesus and don't despair: mission will happen, in spite of all, because God in Christ has begun his journey into the heart.

And when we encounter those who say they would 'like to believe' but can't, who wonder how they will ever find their way to a commitment that seems both frightening and hard to understand, we may have something to say to them too: 'Don't give up; try and hold on to the moments of deep and mysterious joy; wait patiently for something to come to birth in you.' It certainly isn't for us as Christians to bully and cajole, and to try and force people into commitments they are not ready to make – but we can and should seek to be there, carrying Jesus, and letting his joy come through, waiting for the leap of recognition in someone's heart.

Of course, as often as not, we ourselves are the one who need to hear the good news; we need people around us who carry Jesus, because we who call ourselves believers all have our moments of confusion and loss of direction. Others fail us or hurt us; the Church itself may seem confused or weak or even unloving, and we don't feel we are being nourished as we need, and directed as we should be. Yet this story of Mary and Elizabeth tells us that the Incarnate Word of God is always already on the way to us, hidden in voices and faces and bodies familiar and unfamiliar. Silently, Jesus is constantly at work, and he is seeking out what is deepest in us, to touch the heart of our joy and hope.

Perhaps when we feel lost and disillusioned, he is gently drawing us away from a joy or a hope that is only human, limited to what we can cope with or what we think on the surface of our minds that we want. Perhaps it's part of a journey towards his truth, not just ours. We too need to look and listen for the moments of recognition and the leap of joy deep within. It may be when we encounter a person in whom we sense that the words we rather half-heartedly use about God are a living and actual reality. (That's why the lives of the saints, ancient and modern, matter so much.) It may be when a moment of stillness or wonder suddenly overtakes us in the middle of a familiar liturgy that we think we know backwards, and we have for a second the feeling that this is the clue to everything – if only we could put it into words. It may be when we come to a holy place, soaked in the hopes and prayers of millions, and suddenly see that, whatever we as individuals may be thinking or feeling, some great reality is moving all around and beneath and within us, whether we grasp it or not. These are our 'Elizabeth' moments – when life stirs inside, heralding some future with Christ that we can't yet get our minds around.

It's very tempting to think of mission as something to be done in the same way we do – or try to do – so much else, with everything depending on planning and assessments of how we're doing, and whether the results are coming out right. For that matter, it's tempting to think of the Church's whole life in these sorts of terms. Of course we need to use our intelligence, we need to be able to tell the difference between good and bad outcomes, we need to marshal all the skill and enthusiasm we can when we respond to God's call to share his work of transforming the world through Jesus and his Spirit. But Mary's mission tells us that there is always a deeper dimension, grounded in the Christ who is at work unknown and silent, reaching out to the deeply buried heart of each person and making the connection; living faithfully at the heart of the Church itself, in the middle of its disasters and betrayals and confusions, still giving himself without reserve. All that we call 'our' mission depends on this; and if we are wise, we know that we are always going to be surprised by the echoes and connections that come to life where we are not expecting it.

True mission is ready to be surprised by God – 'surprised by joy', in the lovely phrase of C. S. Lewis. Elizabeth knew the whole history of Israel and how it was preparing the way for God to come and visit his people – but she was still surprised into newness of life and understanding when the child leapt in her womb. Bernardette's neighbours and teachers and parish clergy knew all they thought they needed to know about the Mother of God – and they needed to be surprised by this inarticulate, powerless, marginal teenager who had leapt up in the joy of recognition to meet Mary as her mother, her sister, bearer of her Lord and Redeemer. Our prayer here must be that, renewed and surprised in this holy place, we may be given the overshadowing strength of the Spirit to carry Jesus wherever we go, in the hope that joy will leap from heart to heart in all our human encounters; and that we may also be given courage to look and listen for that joy in our own depths when the clarity of the good news seems far away and the sky is cloudy.

But here today, with Elizabeth and Bernardette, we say, in thankful amazement, 'Why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' And we recognise that our heart's desire is met and the very depth of our being stirred into new life.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nicaea on What it Means to be Catholic

... Or, why the terms "Catholic," "Anglican," "Lutheran," "Methodist," and their respective bishops etc. can be neither mutually interchangeable nor juxtifiable:

"It is by all means proper that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops in the province; but should this be difficult, either on account of urgent necessity or because of distance, three at least should meet together, and the suffrages of the absent bishops also being given and communicated in writing, then the ordination should take place... But in every province the ratification of what is done should be left to the (one) Metropolitan of that province."

- Canons of the Council of Nicaea, AD 325.

The Council of Serdica established in 343 that in the case of a conflict between the provincial bishop and the (one) Metropolitan, the matter was to be taken to the (one) Bishop of Rome.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From New Orleans

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saint Louis IX, King of France (1215-1270)

Louis IX obeyed, defended, and provided for the Church, enforced justice, and (literally) washed the feet of the poor; and his good governance began in his own home, where he was the father of eleven children... and this, in sum, is Catholic political theology embodied.

(The photo is mine, taken this weekend at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Anglican Use Society

The Anglican Use of the Roman Rite is a generous aspect of the Pastoral Provision set up by John Paul II to facilitate the reception of Episcopalians into the Catholic Church.

The opening meeting of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Anglican Use Society will be held TONIGHT in Ft. Worth at the College of St. Thomas More.
Readers are welcome!

Where: College of St. Thomas More
3115 Lubbock Ave, Fort Worth TX 76109

When: Third Thursday of every month beginning Thursday, September 18th.

Who: Speakers at the meeting, who will present and help guide discussion, are:

Harry Lacey (former Anglican Priest and fellow at the College of St. Thomas More)

Fr. Alan Hawkins (Priest of St. Mary the Virgin Catholic church in Arlington Texas)

Fr. Will Brown (Rector of Holy Cross Episcopal)

Following the meeting is a course provided by the College of St. Thomas More and taught by Dr. James Patrick on Cardinal John Henry Newman. This class will be held on a weekly basis from 7-10 PM at the College of St. Thomas More.

The Purpose of the Anglican Use Society is to achieve and further the following goals:

* Increase knowledge and understanding of the special Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II for the Anglican Usage of the Roman Rite, ( under the leadership of the Most Rev. John J. Myers, Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision and Archbishop of Newark.

* Support existing Personal Parishes of the Anglican Use, all Pastoral Provision congregations, and to encourage the formation for the Catholic Church of new common identity congregations of the Anglican Use.

* Encourage and support converts to the Catholic Church who are geographically distant from an Anglican Use congregation.

* Maintain Anglican Use identity through the daily use of The Book of Divine Worship for personal prayer and through fellowship and common prayer with like-minded Catholics in close proximity to each other.

* Promote the solidarity of Catholics and Anglicans aspiring to full communion with the Catholic Church. Those Anglicans who are not yet in full communion with the Church are invited to join the Society as Associate Members, and to work together with this apostolate to promote the unity of all Christians with the Holy See.

... and check out the Anglican Use activity in the midwest as well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Catholic Vote '08

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tagged for Fun- The Quirk Meme

Mrs. J has taggggggged me: I have to respond to a meme which requires me to list six obvious quirks of mine. This should be plenty easy.

1. I love to select a single song and listen to it over and over again for days; this goes for DVDs as well. This week it's "Village Lanterne" by Blackmore's Night.

2. I write really, really long papers. Why stick with the word limit when you can double it?

3. I leave tracts in airports; double points if they go in the first class section of airplanes.

4. My advisor in undergrad encouraged me to become a nun because I cannot for the life of me conclude a decision on my own. On the other hand, I hate being told what to do. Go figure.

5. My restauranteur of a brother has taught me 1) generally to order the most fattening thing on the menu and 2) to eschew all sensible measuring instruments in the kitchen. This makes for lots of burned fingers, but it's cool.

6. Chief Quirk: Zali Pop, the world's craziest miniature dachsund, viewable here.

I now tag:

Ben at Faith and Theology
Taylor at Canterbury Tales
Crystal at Biblical Womanhood
Cynthia at Per Caritatem
Eric at Wittenberg Trail

Saint Joan of Arc, 1412-1431

I wrote this monologue a few years ago for Elie Wiesel, based on accounts of St. Joan's own words at her trials. The words of St. Joan, the maiden appointed to lead the armies of France, seem apropos while the American culture wonders whether it can countenance a woman at the fore of secular matters. Today, St. Joan's intercession is invoked by those who advance the culture of life from the basic principle that as rational and free beings invested with intrinsic dignity and consequent responsibilities, man and woman alike are called to transform the face of the earth.

Gentle Saints and Soldiers,

I have written many letters in my lifetime to call upon those who would listen. I am called Joan the Maid. I place trust in God, my Creator; I love Him with all my heart. You say that you are my judges; take care not to judge wrongly, lest you place yourself in grave danger; and I notify you of this, so that if our Lord punished you for it, I will have done my duty in telling you. There is a saying among children, that “sometimes one is hanged for speaking the truth."

Pope Callixtus has ordered a full inquiry into the circumstances of my conviction, my relapse into heresy after a semblance of contrition when I cowered for fear of the fire. Heresy is treason against the polity of Christian Europe. They build the pyres very high in these days, to prolong death, to make my slow death visible to those who watch, to show the heretic what hell looks like, to cremate my body so that there will be nothing left to bury in consecrated ground. At the end, I will hear my own war cry repeated to me from beyond the flames: “It is God who commands it.”

I impressed my neighbors, my priest and my family as industrious, generous, healthy, overly pious. I was faithful in my father’s house; I was quiet and satisfied; my life was pure. It was my fair country which was not so wholesome. I sometimes went to play with the young girls around the Fairy Tree, to make garlands for Our Lady of Domremy near the oak wood from which Merlin had foretold the coming of a maiden, like the maiden of an older prophecy still, which decreed that having been lost by a woman, France would be saved by a maid. In the east, the people had whispered that deliverance should come from a maid of the marches of Lorraine. Mine is a time of portents and prophecies, a time of miracles. Many women march to war. Under the feudal law, mothers and daughters are expected to don their armor and to lead their armies when fathers and sons cannot. For we have been cast asunder.

Mine is a time of misfortune and sorrow. Domestic wars and factions make combined national action impossible. My own countryside of Lorraine could bring forth no good thing, for we had ever been branded as false to God and false to man. While the English armies flock around their king with immediate allegiance, the armies of France only fitfully follow the royal arms, pledging their first promises to local noblemen. I assumed that when my own agony began, the cause of France might well gather more strength from my suffering than from her own futile struggle against cowardice and treason.

I was sent here by God, the King of Heaven; I was born for this. I fear nothing, for God is with me. Even if I had a hundred fathers and mothers, and were the daughter of a great king, still would I go into battle. I have refused the work of women; there are plenty of other women to do it (oh my mother; her gentle words taught me to love her Savior, her kind smile promised His gentleness and protection, and now He has driven me far from her; the voices which spoke to me argued with her gracious smile and silenced her promise of the gentle Jesus). The voices began kindly enough, though they were terrible; they instructed as any careful priest might, to be good, to attend church often, that God would help me. I hated this voice, outside of myself, uninvited, intrusive, interrupting. I wandered, hiding from it, fascinated by it, telling no one. Surely it could not be true; and if it was true, what else could it require of me? This gentle Jesus had become dangerous. And yet I loved and longed for Him.

My own obedience sealed my fate. What I had feared came to pass, for other voices followed, when I was eighteen. The Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret the Virgin joined the calmer, terrible voice of the archangel Michael. I consented to hear them. I was an unlettered child; how was I to know that I had bowed my ear to the angel whose name was the war cry of the good angels in Heavenly battles, the warring defender of God’s people? How was I to know that the great Margaret had entered the flames before me, had become the patroness of women pregnant with children, with dreams and with voices? How was I to know that the noble Catherine had presented herself to the Emperor of Rome at the age of eighteen, like me, to plead for justice in a war-torn land, the patroness of those who would remain maidens and those who would persuade for the impossible, who lent eloquence to their words.

What is it like to hear voices- voices which compel and urge me to impose the will of God upon captains and courtiers, thought they will not listen? It is utter joy and utter fear. I never fully understand them. You do not hear such voices- you feel them in the pit of your stomach, driving you to obey: “Daughter of God, go on!” I begged them to stop. I begged the universe to prove them wrong, for if they were right, they would go on, driving me further into dark mysteries into which I am not prepared to go, not in body, not in mind, not in spirit. But I have found them never to give two contrary opinions. They send me forward without any regard for my safety. It seems, in these dark times, that the Good Shepherd needs recklessness in His creatures. The fear haunts you: What more will they tell me to do? What more can they ask (for they may ask anything). I would run to my confessor for his affirmation, I would run to my caring mother for some guidance, but there is none who can offer it. The voices wake me from sleep, bringing with them blinding light, and the stern understanding that the gentle Lord and Savior has come to life in my life, and has willed that I follow His impossible will, alone. There is nothing to do but obey. It is as simple as that, and as dangerous. And when the voices speak, I am won over. The voices and the passion with them become mine. After their urgent, threatening summons, no one drags or pushes or persuades. There is no further questioning when it is God who has commanded it. In the end, I feel such great joy when I hear this voice that I wish I could always hear it. In God’s name- the counsel of our Lord is far wiser and safer than ours. You have been to your counsel and I have been to mine. But what, in the end, will be left of me?

I shall last a year and a little more. Everything I have said or done is in the hands of God. I commit myself to Him. In my faith, the Son of God once said the same. Alas! Am I to be so horribly and cruelly treated? That my body, clean and whole, which has never been corrupted, should this day be consumed and burned to ashes! I would far rather have my head cut off seven times over than to be burned. In my faith, both the Son of God, and I, relying upon the justice of God, are condemned to die. It has been said in my tradition that the only thing left to say is “God forgive God.” If my faith be true, God did not forgive God; He crucified Him. Hold the crucifix up before my eyes so that may see it until I die.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In the Year of St. Paul: John Piper on Justification

One useful thing that one learns in grad school is to make plenary decisions from an index when one does not have time to read as carefully as one might like. So, I've scanned the arch Calvinist-Evangelical John Piper's recent response to the neo-Lutheran Anglican N.T. Wright in The Future of Justification: A Response; and I project, with all due respect, that this text will have greatest creedence on one side of evangelical scholarship, (with those who desire a semblance of rigor by virtue of adherence to the post 16th century Protestant theology) over and against another side of evangelical scholarship (those who enjoy Wright because he allows for a sacramentally flavored Biblicism). And, I project further, that's as far as it will go. Why?

First, Because Piper has summarily thumbed his nose at serious advances in Pauline scholarship and treated Romans as though it were Paul's systematic manifesto of the juridical Gospel rather than a description of what it means for Gentiles to be included in God's single ordination of grace towards humanity in Jesus: there are about three solid pages of references to the epistle to the Romans, about a third as much for Galatians, and about a third of that for Ephesians. What you get is Piper's auto-popish decision to read St. Paul in a way that seriously risks the imposition of post 16th century novelties on the Pauline letters to the early Church, and a vision of justification that makes no reference to either 1) Jesus, 2) the role of Jesus as the seed of Abraham in Galatians, or 3) the centrality of Jesus' Bride, the Church, in Ephesians- all of which, needless to say, are of central importance to St. Paul and his following.

And secondly: no serious scholars of pre/post Reformation debates are going to make much time for a text that devotes one reference to St. Augustine, but eight times as many for the scantily educated Martin Luther. (On the other hand, it's sad the way that the good Wright leaves himself open to such moves by his own critiquing of Augustine, as is sometimes stylish for Anglicans of his rank and file).

I'll show my cards- just don't mess with Augustine. What would be groundbreaking for the future of the justification doctrines is an assessment of the ecclesiological implications of the justification exploration- perhaps by analysis of the recent joint statements on justification made between Catholics and Protestants, combined with a decent look at the historical precedent for these things in such counsels as the Colloquy at Regensburg. But, not so for Piper.

I have been blessed by several of Piper's popular devotional texts, and with all due respect, I think that I will stick with those.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Aquinas on the Love of God

"A lover is placed outside himself, and made to pass into the object of his love, inasmuch as he wills good to the beloved; and works for that good by his providence even as he works for his own. Hence Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv, 1): "On behalf of the truth we must make bold to say even this, that He Himself, the cause of all things, by His abounding love and goodness, is placed outside Himself by His providence for all existing things."
"Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I.20.2 ad 1.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Saint Faustina of the Divine Mercy

"You have given to me your trust, your good work. And now give to me what you alone can give to me- your sins and weaknesses."

- Plain and simple. In a lot of ways, this humble Polish nun accomplished within the Church's theology what Martin Luther had only dreamed of.

Monday, September 08, 2008

John Calvin's Bishop Envy

I'm reviving this post a) because Taylor Marshall has a cool new blog dealing with political theology, and you should all go check it out, and b) because the ongoing conversation about the Republican's female vice presidential candidate is underscoring ever more the curious mod/Prot idea that there is a kind of sacramentality in the civil sphere...

Broadly speaking, it seems that Calvin speaks in two very different tones when he describes the office of the church's pastor and the office of the civil magistrate. When describing the office of the pastor, Calvin proceeds rather circumspectly, emphasizing the mutual accountability that should exist between the duly elected and communally ordained pastor and his congregation.

On the other hand, when Calvin describes the office of the magistrate, he seems eager to expand on the sanctity of the magistrate’s divine appointment and divine, intrinsic authority.

At the outset of Institutes IV.20.4, Calvin elaborates that when those who bear the office of the magistrate are called gods, let no one suppose that there is little weight in that appellation. It is thereby intimated that they have a commission from God, that they are invested with divine authority, and in fact, represent the person of God, as whose substitutes they in a manner act.

This language of “divine appointment” and the implicit duty of ready obedience vis a vis the magistrate is not so readily apparent when Calvin elaborates on the divinely invested authority of the pastor, who wields authority in a seemingly more modest sense: he is invested with the authority to preach the Gospel, to oversee the sacraments, and to maintain the conditions necessary for a consensus of belief in his local congregation.

Calvin indicates that the government of both the ecclesial and the secular spheres contribute to human well- being in very different ways: the spiritual kingdom of Christ and civil government “are things widely separated,” and though they are not adverse to one another, “government is distinct from the spiritual and internal kingdom of Christ.” Furthermore, Calvin urges that “it is a Jewish vanity to seek and include the Kingdom of Christ under the elements of this world.” Why then does Calvin seem to cast the role of the civil magistracy in terms of God’s direct deputies, as “patrons of the pious worshippers of God,” whose tribunals “are the throne(s) of the living God,” “whose mouths are ordained organs of divine truth,” and whose “hands have been appointed to write the acts of God”? While the church’s pastors merely maintain and extend the authority that inheres at large in the Church’s deposit of doctrine, Calvin uses language which resonates with Ignatius of Antioch’s description of the Church’s bishops when he posits that the civil magistrates “in themselves exhibit a kind of image of the Divine Providence.”

As early as AD 110, the early church fathers agreed that the bishop was to be honored and obeyed as God's authorized representative:

I hasten to urge you to harmonize your actions with God’s mind. For Jesus Christ- that life from which we cannot be torn- is the Father’s mind, as the bishops too, appointed the world over, reflect the mind of Jesus Christ. Hence you should act in accord with the bishop’s mind, as you surely do… wherefore, your accord and harmonious love is a hymn to Jesus Christ…thus He will heed you… therefore you need to abide in irreproachable unity if you really want to be God’s members forever. Let us then heartily avoid resisting the bishop so that we may be subject to God. Everyone the Master of the House sends on His business, we ought to receive as the One who sent him.”(Ignatius, To the Ephesians)..."you ought to respect (your bishop) as fully as you respect the authority of God the Father.” (Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians)...“When you obey the bishop as if he were Jesus Christ, you are living not in a merely human fashion but in Jesus Christ’s way… it is essential therefore to act in no way without the bishop…if we live in union with him now, we shall gain eternal life.” (Ignatius, To the Trallians)

On the contrary, having posited the pastor as mere “dispenser” of extrinsic authority and democratically elected leader, Calvin turns to employ language of God’s direct appointment, mediation, and representation in the person of the magistrate, or “pastor of the people.” In particular, in IV.20.6, the magistrate “judges not for man, but for the Lord;” he is the ambassador of God in a “sacred order.” In IV.20.6, Calvin suggests that the insult of God’s civil servants insults God Himself and the authority and ordinances which He established; furthermore, “the magistrate…acts not of himself but executes the very judgments of God.” Finally, and most significantly, we find in IV.20 notions of obedience to the magistrate as God’s representative, as having been “invested” with intrinsic authority, that are almost entirely absent from Calvin’s discussions on the office of the pastor. In IV.20.22, Calvin insists that obedience with reverence is due even to unjust rulers, recognizing their “delegated jurisdiction from God, and on that account receiving and reverencing them as the ministers and ambassadors of God.” In the same passage, Calvin continues that the king is “joined” with God, and hence appears as the image of God, and is “invested with a kind of sacred veneration and dignity.”

Having admitted the eternal authority of the Church, “the pillar and ground of God’s truth,” Calvin then proceeds to deny intrinsic power and consequent obedience to her ministers and governors, and locates direct divine representation in the civic ruler instead. While the ministers of the Church derive their authority from the authority of the Church’s deposit of faith, civil magistrates “derive their power from none by (God).” While the church’s ministers are democratically elected for ordination, civil magistrates are “raised up by God.” Having been commissioned for their respective offices, the church’s ministers are not granted an intrinsic capacity for their ministry, while the civil magistrates …all alike posses that sacred majesty with which he has invested lawful power… even an individual of the worst character, one most unworthy of all honor, if invested with public authority, receives that illustrious divine power which the Lord has by his word devolved on the ministers of his justice...

What's going on here? Why are the ministers of Christ's Kingdom in the Church cast as bureaucrats, while the mere civil magistrate sounds like a demigod in Calvin's thinking? Is it possible that Calvin is seeking to fill a kind of vacuum in his Reformed ecclesiology by elaborating on the civil ruler as being, in a sense, in persona christi? Is Calvin desperately searching for Christ’s vicar- albeit in the secular locale? In the absence of catholic bishops, is Calvin compensating by (unduly) enhancing the role of the magistrate? Is Calvin suggesting that the civil magistrate mediates between God and the people...?

For the record, even Calvin is not supposed to be proposing that the Church of the living God= the fallible secular state.

Recalling Ourselves and Restoring Each Other: Humanae Vitae and the Theology of the Body

For the Catholic Church of St. Mary the Virgin

“John Paul II reminds us of (these) truths: that the power of the human spirit can ignite world–historical change; that tradition can be as potent a force for social transformation as a self–consciously radical rupture with the past; that moral conviction can be an Archimedean lever for moving the world… and that a genuinely humanistic politics always depends upon a more fundamental constellation of free associations and social institutions in which we learn the truth about ourselves.” - George Weigel, “Papacy and Power.”

During this season in which we commemorate the anniversary of Humane Vitae, we do so against the stream of a culture which has gradually forgotten what it means to be really human. The widespread acceptance and use of contraception particularly reflects this debilitating amnesia. In fact, when the Supreme Court of the United States legalized the use of contraception by married couples a mere forty-three years ago, the court reasoned that the ancient and integrated understanding of the person, marriage, children, and the family should be set aside and deliberately forgotten in preference for “personal privacy rights.” On this laudable criterion alone, our disabled culture has patently failed. As we consider the salutary proposals of Paul VI from our current context, we might recognize that our world has indeed become one in which manifold impersonal technologies have been made readily available for discretionary private use; and yet our world remains a context wherein personal rights are increasingly compromised in the name of this very “privatization.”

In particular, Humanae Vitae warns against the following widespread offenses against the person which are linked to the proliferation of contraception and the severance of sexuality from procreation. First, women become deprived of the right to be cherished as integrated sexual/spiritual beings with a maternal vocation, and instead are marginalized and offered to men as safe, sterilized, and available instruments for copulation. Secondly, the children who are the progeny of casual sexual encounters- the weakest members of our society- are often deprived of the right to be born to committed parents and to be raised within the safety of the family, if they are allowed to live at all. Furthermore, children gradually begin to be viewed as products or entitlements to be engineered, rather than as precious and unmerited gifts bestowed by God upon the family. And lastly, married couples are deprived of the right to flourish in the wholesome chastity of marriage by a misinformed society which blithely prescribes techniques for denying the truth about themselves and their union. On this evidence, even the secular culture would do well to recognize these effects as real affronts against social justice and the common good; for her part, the Church has warned all along that these effects are the inroads of slow death.

In this way, the Church’s warning about the culture of death simply describes the perception that humans are ceasing to live a human life. While Humana Vitae stands as a prophetic watchword against such loss, John Paul’s Theology of the Body sings of the antidote in general. John Paul’s work in celebration of the robust completeness and beauty of human life- as it was intended to be- can be summarized by the idea that within each and every human person there resides an intrinsic meaning, to which human actions and policies must conform if human life is to flourish. We might express this idea in the following way: every human being has intrinsic and inalienable dignity that begins at conception and extends to natural death. This dignity, the most precious endowment of the human person, is the inviolable gift of God; and thus it must be cherished in personal custom and protected by law. Thus with regard to the marital act, John Paul urges couples to celebrate the norms arising from both the natural law and the revealed order, because the proper ordering of the marital act is determined by the nature of the act and of the subjects.

This summary of intrinsic ordering within the human person corresponds with the basic tenets of Humanae Vitae, which holds first that marriage is “the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love… by means of the reciprocal personal gift of self.” Secondly, the Church teaches that the vocation of married persons, viewed as integral beings with inherent vocations, is to act as free and responsible collaborators with God the Creator “in the most serious duty of transmitting human life.” Thus the encyclical calls for sexual love within marriage to be “fully human,” being at once of the senses, the will, and the spirit, such that the integral persons of husband and wife may become totally united, in a unique friendship so extensive that everything is shared; and, according to the nature of this mutual reception and gift for the enrichment of the other, nuptial love is properly not exhausted by the conjugal communion, but also overflows into new life. It is from this beautiful vision of the nuptial relationship that the Church holds that the intrinsic dignity of man and woman does not countenance the technological manipulation of the natural laws which are inscribed in their bodies for the very purpose of their full communion. Rather, they are to honor the intrinsic laws inscribed in each others’ bodies with care and self-restraint; and any other sort of disposition, which would subordinate the essential dignity of a man and a woman to purely material expedients and mechanisms, does violence to who they are in themselves, and to all that they can become for God and for others.

In this vein of calling on persons to be as fully human as they were made to be, Paul VI and John Paul II draw on a very human source from the earliest history of human thought. On a side of the world geographically distant from the Biblical statements to the same effect, Aristotle’s school insisted that fundamental truths about right and wrong are inscribed in the human nature itself. This account, which was appropriated by St. Thomas Aquinas, holds that created things have a certain and determinate value or good in themselves. The world contains multiple goods of different kinds, which are intrinsic to different things; and with regard to human morality, the Aristotelian ontology of morals states that humanity is naturally ordered and inclined towards its own flourishing. This flourishing is the exercise of the most perfect abilities and virtues in accordance with reason, over the course of a lifetime. Thus the end of human life is the happiness experienced through the balanced unfolding of intrinsic human potentialities, in accord with objective excellence. In other words, there is a natural goal in all things; and the human relationship to human goods is never an open-ended proposition. Both the person and the goods which he pursues have natural completions which are inherent within them, and it is these ends which ought to be pursued. In other words, the proto-humanist Aquinas held that ethics have a real basis in fact and in human nature. Accordingly, Aristotle and Aquinas do not ground morality merely in authority, but rather locate human good in the actualization of the human nature itself. As Paul VI puts it, “for man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the most high God has engraved in his very nature; … human activity proceeds from man; and it is also ordered to him. When he works, not only does he transform matter and society, but he fulfills himself.”

In contrast, modernity emphasizes an extrinsic sense of morality, which holds that things and actions may only be said to be “good” or “bad” in relation to an observer or to certain goals within a particular community. On this account, there is no inherent constituency of a personal nature, no law inscribed on the inward parts or upon the heart; rather, modern extrinsicism assumes that things might be “good” merely in relation to an observer’s valuation of them. The presumption is that all goods may ultimately be equal in light of the consequences which they produce, which can be evaluated on criteria other than the human good. The practical implication of these ideas is that ethics, human rights, and moral standards are not grounded in reality; accordingly, as an isolated and abstracted concept, morality is prone to evolution, variable intuitions, innovation, and negotiated alteration- and women, children, and the marginalized become expendable.

The critique of such proposals holds that if an intrinsic law is not recognized within the very bodies of human persons, then priority will be placed on power structures and retribution for enforcing order; morality becomes a merely extrinsic and potentially arbitrary constraint on human action. The social thought of John Paul II particularly urges that the domain of moral reasoning should not be discarded as something merely subjective; otherwise the ordering of human lives would come to be based not on well-grounded moral reasoning and reasonable justifications, but on exploitive power. One Catholic defender of the natural law summarizes for the modern audience as follows:

If I am thoroughly convinced that nothing on the order of the beneficial or the worthwhile has any ontological status of any kind and simply does not exist at all, then I cannot either in honesty or in strict logic ever presume to give reasons for any of my actions. … And what could thus commend itself to reason, unless it is recognizable as something that really and in fact ought to be done? That is to say, it’s very worth or excellence or obligatory character must be something that itself actually exists in nature. …Otherwise, how could they ever come to be discovered or recognized by reason? Reason could not possibly commend or prescribe something as being binding upon us unless it were recognized as being really so in fact and in nature.

Both Paul VI and John Paul II recognized that to live a fully human life in our current context - based on the intrinsic dignity of the human person- will for many persons constitute an act of sheer heroism, particularly with regard to the temptation to contracept; and again, the popes draw on the truth about the human person to call upon us to live to our full potential as integrated human beings. In this regard, we recall that Aquinas enlarges Aristotle’s vision with his emphasis on the supernatural blessedness for which humanity is ultimately destined. Aquinas explains that in the end, the supernatural beatitude for which humanity is destined is found in eternal relationship with God, the One to whom we are ultimately ordered intrinsically. This supernatural happiness goes well beyond our natural goals and desires, and requires perfections that are not part of our natural powers- and these are given by God.

Humanae Vitae urges that, as with all of God’s gifts that assist us towards our natural and supernatural destiny, human sexuality is not only for personal edification, but must overflow to the service of many others in God’s proper order. By extension, modern conformity to the grace of chastity and openness to life in married love is not merely for the edification of the Christian and the Church, but is now urgently needed for the rectification of a crumbling culture. Christians who joyfully assent to the Church’s teachings are not prudish people who reject contraception; these days, such people are ipso facto courageous cultural transformers who boldly do their part to restore the world to its proper flourishing. If we conclude by drawing on the magisterial mandate for an urgently needed, total cultural transformation for the good of all humanity, of which Humanae Vitae and The Theology of the Body constitute a part, we must begin with the truth of the human person in our most basic constituency and vocation, as graced recipients of the gift of life. Here John Paul II calls urgently on the responsibility of the individual in Centesimus Annus 51-52:

For an adequate formation of a culture, the involvement of the whole man is required, whereby he exercises his creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world and of people. Furthermore, he displays his capacity for self-control, personal sacrifice, solidarity, and readiness to promote the common good. Thus the first and most important task is accomplished within man's heart. The way in which he is involved in building his own future depends on the understanding he has of himself and of his own destiny.”

In conclusion, we might recall John Paul’s description of another fundamental anthropological error which the Church stands to correct in our day; this is the old and basic error which proposes that humanity can rely upon his own capacity to transform and “create” his world on his own agenda- when in reality, such dominion is only possible through the prior gift of God. But humanity tends mistakenly to presume that he can make an arbitrary use of himself and of all creatures, subjecting the creation without restraint to his own will, as though the creation did not have its own requisites, and a prior God-given purpose for the edification of all humanity. In this way, “instead of carrying out his role as co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus provokes rebellion on the part of nature (when) it is more tyrannized than governed by him.” The Pope suggests that such tyranny is motivated by a sense of poverty in the human outlook, which emerges when he is driven by a desire to possess himself and his world rather than to live in right relationship to the truth, and to enjoy the creature with a sense of the disinterested unselfishness and even renunciation “which is born of wonder in the presence of being and of the beauty which enables one to see in visible things the message of the invisible God who created.”

John Paul’s mandate immediately resonates with the concerns of the wider secular conversation about the stewardship of the failing natural environment in our modern world; and indeed, the Pope addresses this portion of his social encyclical to the needs of the environment. However, in the midst of his careful attention to the intrinsic purpose of the creation and the intrinsic duties and obligations of humanity, the Pope turns his attention to the family as the most basic bolster which can save the failing human environment. John Paul thus calls for persons to support the family’s true vocation through an authentic “human ecology,” in which man lives as God’s gift to his fellow man by respecting the nature and structures with which he has been endowed. The entire message is clear: in an age threatened by death, decay, and dishonesty, human life can prevail only if human persons and families assent to be what they really are.

Friday, September 05, 2008

In the Year of Saint Paul: Indulgences...

Since the Catholic Church has entered into the Jubilee of St. Paul as of this summer, the Church is currently doing what she does in a Jubilee year: she provides indulgences in celebration of the mercy of God.

Contrary to popular allegations, an indulgence is NOT not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; it is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; rather, it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven. It is not an exemption from any law or duty, and much less from the obligation consequent on certain kinds of sin, e.g., restitution; on the contrary, it means a more complete payment of the debt, through Christ, which the sinner owes to God for her personal sin. It does not confer immunity from temptation or remove the possibility of subsequent lapses into sin. Least of all is an indulgence the purchase of a pardon which secures the buyer's salvation or releases the soul of another from Purgatory.

What is an indulgence? An indulgence is a means for the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due, in God's justice, to sin that has already been forgiven, which remission is granted by the Church, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of His saints.

In other words, an indulgence is a way whereby an act of our will can draw in faith on the merits of Christ to provide for our restoration after sin.

In his 1999 catechesis entitled "Indulgences are Expressions of God's Mercy," John Paul II explains the following:

"The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God's mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great "indulgence" that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins and the possibility of living as children (cf. Jn 1:12-13) in the Holy Spirit (cf. Cal 4:6; Rom 5:5; 8:15-16).

We can now understand how an indulgence is "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

The Church has a treasury, then, which is "dispensed" as it were through indulgences. This "distribution" should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of "things." It is instead the expression of the Church's full confidence of being heard by the Father when—in view of Christ's merits and, by his gift—she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed, who receive its fruits in a way appropriate to their condition.

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of "discount" on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion "of all attachment to sin, even venial sin."

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God's mercy and in the marvelous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride."

How could Catholic indulgences possibly relate to the teaching of St. Paul? More to come...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ecumenical Acumen Excursus: Does Protestantism = The Rise of Secularity?

(It's an honest question, revisited)

In the USA, celebrated Boston University sociologist Peter Berger has suggested a possible connection between secularization and Protestant Christianity (and he is being descriptive, not offering an evaluation as to which religious persuasion is superior). In sum, from Berger's The Sacred Canopy:

"If compared with the fullness of the Catholic universe, Protestantism appears to be a radical truncation, a reduction to "essentials." Protestantism requires an immense shrinkage in the scope of the sacred as compared to Catholicism. Sacraments are reduced to a minimum, divested of their magical qualities. The miracle of the Mass disappears. In general, miracles are given little or no credence. The vast network of saintly intercession disappears altogether. In short, Protestantism rid itself as much as possible of mystery, miracle and magic and created a "disenchantment of the world." The Protestant believer no longer lives in a world penetrated by sacred beings and forces. Reality, for the Protestant, is polarized between a radically transcendent divinity and a radically "fallen" humanity which is made entirely devoid of the sacred. Between God and man lies an altogether "natural" universe. The umbilical cord between heaven and the earth is cut. Humanity's relationship to the sacred is reduced to one exceedingly narrow channel: God's word. All that remains is the cutting of this one narrow channel of mediation to open the floodgates of secularization, to create a world in which "God is dead." A sky empty of angels becomes open to the absolute conclusions of the astronomer and the astronaut."

Various sociologists have agreed that Protestantism, at the very least, is an historically decisive factor in the process of secularization, regardless of the importance of other factors as well.

... what do you think?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin, Women in Charge, and Catholic Perspectives

Reuters yesterday raised a surprising question: should a 44-year-old mother of five, including a newborn with special needs and a pregnant teenager, take on a job that will keep her away from her home for much of the next two months to eight years?

Some of the far right Prots on whom the McCain ticket depends have already condemned the choice of Palin as anti-family; citing such authorities as the revolting John Knox ("To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, and a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance. . . .”), etc., these critics complain as follows: that Palin's political activity compromises her children, by turning her maternal duties to the civil sphere and away from their needs; that Palin's political activity compromises her husband, by positioning her to literally rule over the man who is supposed to be caring for her; and ultimately, Palin's political activity compromises the total message of the Christian right, who want to protect marriage from redefinition by the homosexual movement, and yet ironically are more than willing to redefine marriage (and motherhood) to do it.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II exclaimed in his Letter to Women:

"Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of "mystery," to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

...As a rational and free being, man is called to transform the face of the earth. In this task, which is essentially that of culture, man and woman alike share equal responsibility from the start. In their fruitful relationship as husband and wife, in their common task of exercising dominion over the earth, woman and man are marked neither by a static and undifferentiated equality nor by an irreconcilable and inexorably conflictual difference. Their most natural relationship, which corresponds to the plan of God, is the "unity of the two", a relational "uni-duality", which enables each to experience their interpersonal and reciprocal relationship as a gift which enriches and which confers responsibility."

However, while celebrating the contributions of women to cultural structures and change, the Pope nowhere mentions the role of women in government per se. In light of this omission, the language of Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii (1932) becomes all the more interesting:

"The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected. This emancipation in their ideas must be threefold, in the ruling of the domestic society, in the administration of family affairs and in the rearing of the children.

It must be social, economic, physiological: physiological, that is to say, the woman is to be freed at her own good pleasure from the burdensome duties properly belonging to a wife as companion and mother (We have already said that this is not an emancipation but a crime); social, inasmuch as the wife being freed from the cares of children and family, should, to the neglect of these, be able to follow her own bent and devote herself to business and even public affairs; finally economic, whereby the woman even without the knowledge and against the wish of her husband may be at liberty to conduct and administer her own affairs, giving her attention chiefly to these rather than to children, husband and family.

This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man."

... Thoughts?