Blog Template Theology of the Body: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bernard of Clairvaux on the Beauty of the Church (1090-1153)

God placed all things under Christ's feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who filleth all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23.

“Yet there is one who truthfully and unhesitatingly can glory in this praise. She is the Church, whose fulness is a never-ceasing fount of intoxicating joy, perpetually fragrant. For what she lacks in one member, she possesses in another according to the measure of Christ’s gift and the plan of the Spirit who distributes to each one just as he chooses… although none of us will dare arrogate for his own soul the title of bride of the Lord, nevertheless we are members of the Church which rightly boasts of this title and of the reality which it signifies, and hence may justifiably assume a share in her honor. For what all of us simultaneously possess in a full and perfect manner, that each one of us undoubtedly possesses by participation. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your kindness in uniting us to the Church you so dearly love, not merely that we may be endowed with the gift of faith, but that like brides we may be one with you in an embrace that is sweet, chaste, and eternal, beholding with unveiled faces that glory which is yours in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.” (Conclusion of Sermon 12, Sermons on the Song of Songs)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Personal Prelature for Converting Anglicans?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Case of the Abortion-Pill Roofie

Christian and American reports this morning on the Vatican's condemnation of President Obama's revocation of restrictions on the USA's international funding of abortions.

The story goes like this: in the 1980's, president Reagan put into action what is known as the Mexico City Policy. This policy enshrined the American people's reluctance to contribute their tax dollars to the Planned Parenthood empire and the building of abortion mills in the communities of the developing world; in other words, the United States decided simply that its international donations should be made in the form of food, clean water, sanitation services, education, vitamins, things that growing families really need in needy areas, rather than merely building facilities where impoverished women are sent to abuse their bodies, limit their growth, and terminate their infants. In short, the policy declares that any international non- profit that uses public funds for abortions cannot receive USA international donations. Our new president, who is firmly committed to the state's option to kill inconvenient unborn children, has decided otherwise, and he thus revoked the Mexico City policy on Friday afternoon.

As the president's second major step in office, this radical enactment closely preceeds the hotly contested Freedom of Choice Act, (FOCA) which is set to revoke all existing restrictions on abortions in the United States. In particular, FOCA will compromise the will of the people at the local and state levels, where both legislation and law have continually affirmed that American men and women tend to believe that human life, whether very young or very old, has a right to continue, at any stage of its development.

Edit: Consider further President Obama's January 24 statement that he “looks forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population the coming weeks... (because) it is time that we end the politicization of this (abortion) issue.”

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claims that it is not pro-abortion. However, recall that starting in 1979, in the first five years of China’s draconian one-child policy, UNFPA gave the program $50 million. To accomplish this goal over the years, which is still ongoing, IUDs have been forced into the wombs of hundreds of millions of women against their will. Indeed, no coercive method is considered taboo, including forced abortion. It was for reasons like these that in 2002 the U.S. State Department blasted China for its affront to human rights.

On the whole, the one-child policy has abetted female infanticide, so much so that there has been a massive decrease in the female population—there are now an estimated 350 million girls missing from China. Other non-white areas of the world where UNFPA concentrates its efforts include Vietnam, Nigeria and Peru. But it can be multicultural: When the genocidal maniac from Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, wanted to tame his people, he invited UNFPA to help reduce the population of Kosovo; he wasn’t unhappy with the results, nor, of course, the means.

As Bill Donahue puts it: so here we have it. In the name of women’s rights, UNFPA undercuts women. In the name of eradicating poverty, it eradicates the poor.

Are these realities a contravention or an extension of the actual will of the American people with regards to our international policies? I'm thinking in particular of an interesting local case decided exactly a year ago in Wisconsin. A local businessman had taken his girlfriend out for a milkshake at a nearby Baskin-Robbins. Watching from the car, the woman, a Dr. Darshana Patel, could see inside the ice cream parlor as her boyfriend frantically stirred something into her smoothie. Suspicious, she swabbed the drink and sent it to a lab. The result? The tests confirmed that her boyfriend had stirred into her drink mifepristone (also known as RU-486, the abortion pill). When Darshana miscarried several days later, the courts ruled that her boyfriend stood convicted of the first degree murder... of an unborn child.

It is cases like these that showcase the will of the people. Let's pray that our president would turn away from the tyrannical mood of the age, and instead turn an ear to his national constituency as they turn their own ears to the Creator and Defender of all the world's little babies.


Monday, January 26, 2009

On the Feast of St. Timothy: The Return of the Sedevecantists?

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the laying on of my hands. II Timothy 2: 16.

As many of you know by now, the Vatican announced over the weekend that the Church will remit the excommunication imposed on the schismatic bishops of The Society of St. Pius X. This remission will allows the schismatic bishops and their flocks to be reconciled corporately to full communion with the Catholic Church.

...In the meantime, the BBC and its affiliates have lost all credibility with me, as I have now heard several of their more garulous and tabloidal reporters insisting that the Vatican's beautiful decision has something to do with endorsing the embarrassing anti Semitic views of one of these schismatic bishops. This is hysterical, in the plain sense of the word. If one of the bishops had murdered his granny, that matter would also be irrelevant for present purposes. The Holy See is simply following the counsel of the early decisions recorded in Acts, and made it easy for those on the outside to come in. This is because those who have been invested with the great gift and responsibility of holy orders owe it to God, to their people, and to themselves to bear full witness to Christ's command that the Church is to be one, as He and His Father are one. May it be so!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quanta Cura and the Plight of the Modern Society

“Where religion has been removed from civil society, and the doctrine and authority of divine revelation repudiated, the genuine notion itself of justice and human right is darkened and lost, and the place of true justice and legitimate right is supplied by material force, thence it appears why it is that some, utterly neglecting and disregarding the surest principles of sound reason, dare to proclaim that "the people's will, manifested by what is called public opinion or in some other way, constitutes a supreme law, free from all divine and human control; and that in the political order accomplished facts, from the very circumstance that they are accomplished, have the force of right." But who, does not see and clearly perceive that human society, when set loose from the bonds of religion and true justice, can have, in truth, no other end than the purpose of obtaining and amassing wealth, and that (society under such circumstances) follows no other law in its actions, except the unchastened desire of ministering to its own pleasure and interests?”

Pope Pius IX, 1864

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Prayer on Election Day

The heart of the King is in the hands of God, so may our new president seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with his God.

O God, we acknowledge You today as Lord, Not only of individuals, but of nations and governments.

We thank You for the privilege Of being able to organize ourselves politically And of knowing that political loyalty Does not have to mean disloyalty to You.

We thank You for Your law, Which our Founding Fathers acknowledged And recognized as higher than any human law.

Lord, we pray that Your people may be awakened. Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation, Their response to You requires that they be politically active.

Awaken Your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world But rather a community of faith renewing the world.

Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to You in prayer Are the hands that pull the lever in the voting booth; That the same eyes that read Your Word Are the eyes that read the names on the ballot, And that they do not cease to be Christians When they enter the voting booth.

Awaken Your people to a commitment to justice, To the sanctity of marriage and the family, To the dignity of each individual human life, And to the truth that human rights begin when Human Lives Begin, And not one moment later.

Lord, we rejoice today That we are citizens of Your kingdom.

May that make us all the more committed To being faithful citizens on earth.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

More of our Catholic responses to the new US administration here.
Edit: see also Mrs. J's lovely tribute to our past president here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Augustine on the Primacy of Peter

"Number the bishops even from the very seat of Peter, and see every succession in that line of fathers; that seat is the rock against which the proud gates of hell do not prevail." Psalmus Contra Partem Donati 43.30.

"There are many things which which most justly keep me in the bosom of the Catholic Church; the agreement of peoples and nations keep me; the authority established by miracles, fostered by hope, increased by charity, and confirmed by antiquity, keeps me; the succession of priests from the very See of the Apostle Peter, unto whom our Lord after His Resurrection committed His sheep to be fed, down to the Episcopate, to this day, keeps me; in fine, the very name of Catholic keeps me, which, not without cause, has in the midst of so many heresies clung to this Church alone in such a way that though all heretics want to be called Catholics, still when a stranger asks to be directed to the Catholic Church no man of them dares to point out his own basilica or house." Against the Letter of Manichaeus

Catholic Culture Pops

Some good things going lately-

1. I was pleasantly surprised by the pro-Church perspective in the new film "Doubt," which stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. The directors showcase the tenderness and truth in the life of the Church's families and religious communities while condemning the bad guys, all without sacharine cynicism. Good job, amazingly.

2. Has anyone enjoyed the gorgeous and explicitly Christian lyrics of Enya's newest CD, Winter Came? If you have, you've heard her welcome Emmanuel and praise "the newborn king." We knew all along that Enya was raised as a Catholic who continues to sing in her parish choir, and that her sister is an artist who primarily sings Christian music and was featured at a recent World Youth Day. But the new album, which is accompanied by Enya's glowing references to her life in the Church in various public interviews, may bespeak the kind of interior conversion which we applauded in Anne Rice a few years ago.

3. The World Youth Alliance recently feted the gorgeous and Christ-honoring pro-life and pro-family series by photographer Ed Grazda at its headquarters in New York. The series, entitled "Through American Eyes: Religion and Society in Oman," was celebrated with H.E. Ambassador Fuad Mubarak Al-Hinai, and our faithful Catholic friend Dr. Habib Malik, son of the same Malik who drafted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photos of the event are viewable here.

4. I recently viewed the intriguing film Frost/Nixon with my parents, and was really provoked by the off-hand connections which the directors draw between Nixon's failures and his incipient Quaker anti-establishmentarianism. Given the upsurge which Quaker political theology has enjoyed in the past few decades, the following article by Chuck Fager, "Richard Nixon and the Quakers," is fascinating.

5. My favorite: the inventor of the Pill recently condemned his own creation.

6. Finally, as we approach this year's Oscars, our contributor NCCatholic offers an incisive perspective on 2008's most vivid character, The Dark Knight's Joker:

"Outside of a virtuoso film acting performance, what was it that had me so consumed with this character as opposed to any other great movie performance? It hit me one day over a rather monotonous portion of assisting in a long operation. He was the clearest portrayal of Satan I had seen on film.

This man was a master manipulator who could be anything he needed to be to appeal to any audience. Seeing a void in the loyalty of hungry dogs, he eliminated his fellow bank robbers simply by offering each a way at a bigger slice of the pie. The next moment he was the cool business man making an appeal to the mob to eliminate their nemesis. To threaten the city, a cackling maniacal amateur videographer. To facilitate his escape from the police station, he became an apologetically taunting torturer, and the devious surgical psychotherapist. For the disfigured and heart hardened district attorney, he was the subtle rationalists. In each case, he would inject the right amount of truth into his lies to allow him to tug at people’s fears and vices to accomplish his plans. As the mob learned, when their mountain of money went up in smoke at the hands of “a better class of criminal,” making a deal with him meant ending up dead or in servitude, I can imagine those who truly deal with the devil also get a sniff of their goals, only to see them go up in smoke along with their souls.

Despite describing himself as simply "a dog chasing cars," he had plans laid out in advance for any eventuality. How many days in advance did he plant the cell phone bomb in the schizophrenic’s stomach just in case he needed to get out of the police station. How far ahead did build bombs and buy off the crooked cops to kidnap Dent and Rachel just in case the dump truck and rocket propelled grenades failed to kill the DA. As with Satan, the goal of his plans was nothing but chaos and human destruction. He didn’t just want to kill people, he wanted to watch ordinary people fall into murder whether it be the fallen DA, the passengers on the ferry, or the citizens out to kill the accountant. Through all of this, he was absolutely fearless, with a seeming omnipotence facilitated by the corruption of those around him which made him seam invincible. His plans were only foiled by a few who refused to be corrupted in the face of terrible loss and the guilty who would accept death rather than adding to their guilt.

... And despite his disfigurement, he was strangely appealing. I can envision Satan being at once twisted and beautiful and all the while powerfully attractive. I can imagine Satan emerging out of hell at the crucifixion much the way the Joker slithered from the police car window as a snake leaving its leathery shell."

Coments are open for your own additions and suggestions of recent Catholic culture pops...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Saint Charles Borromeo of the Catholic Reformation: 1538-1584

In response to the incursions of Lutheranism and Calvinism, Borromeo galvanized the Church's genius for administration by fostering the principles of local control by local bishops and the pastoral guidance of diffuse popular piety. Modern historians comment that Cardinal Carlo Borromeo enacted personally the Milanese “synthesis” of the streams of Tridentine reform which included the canonical prescriptions, theory, and emotion of Trent, and the institutional resources of Rome. In this way, the Church's 16th century reforms are highlighted by this particular personality and his institutional reforms, which depended heavily on personal implementation at the local level. In other words: we see the idea of the priesthood of all believers and the subsidiarity of authority alive and well in the Catholic Church of the 16th century.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christians Praying Against the Freedom of Choice Act: Novena begins Sunday, January 11

The following request has begun circulating among American Catholics, because the so-called Freedom of Choice Act enhances neither freedoms nor choices, but rather radically compromises every intrinsic right to life, liberty, and worship:

If you are apposed to abortion then there is bad news on the horizon. For those of you who do not know, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is set to be signed if congress passes it on January 21-22 of 2009. The FOCA is the next sick chapter in the book of abortion. If made a law then all limitations on abortion will be lifted which will result in the following:

1) All hospitals, including Catholic hospitals will be required to perform abortions upon request. If this happens Bishops vow to close down all Catholic hospitals, more then 30% of all hospitals in the United

2) Partial birth abortions would be legal and have no limitations.

3) All U.S. tax payers would be funding abortions.

4) Parental notification will no longer be required.

5) The number of abortions will increase by a minimum of 100,000 annually.

6) To pray at an abortion clinic may be deemed criminal.

Perhaps most importantly, the U.S. government will now have control in the issue of abortion. This could result in a future amendment that would force women by law to have abortions in certain situations (rape,
down syndrome babies, etc) and could even regulate how many children women are allowed to have. Needless to say this information is disturbing, but sadly true.

As Catholics, as Protestant Christians, or merely as those who would stand against the needles killing of innocent children, we must stand as one. We must stop this horrific act before it becomes a law.

The Plan:

To say a novena (9 days of prayer ) along with fasting starting on January 11th. For Catholics, the prayer of choice will be the rosary with intentions to stop the FOCA.

For non-Catholics, we encourage you to pray your strongest prayers with the same intentions, also
for nine consecutive days. The hope is that this will branch and blossom as to become a global effort with maximum impact. We have very little time so we all must act.

May God bless you all!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Another Tribute to Fr. Neuhaus

MM's October photo of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus at his final meeting of his Erasmus Lectures in New York, this fall.

George Weigel wrote to his friends yesterday:

Strengthened spiritually by the graces of the Sacrament of the Sick, and surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends, Father Richard John Neuhaus was called home to the house of the Father. May God grant him the reward of his labors, and give consolation and peace to those who loved him and who will carry on his work.

As a young Catholic making her way through the contemporary academy and culture, I mourn the loss of Fr. Neuhaus with the sense of having lost a grandfather. To our culture, he stood for the older and finer institutions in which we preserve all that is robust and beautiful. To our conversations, he offered a stern and life-giving voice of sanity, which was infused with winsomness and real compassion; so often my friends and I have reeled away from another shocking announcement about the degradation of public life in America, only to steady ourselves with the assurance that if Fr. Neuhaus had not already spoken correctively on point, he would soon. Personally, he was the sort of courtly, cordial gentleman who could disarm the bolsters of feminism reigning in America today with a nod and a smile.

It is testimony to the integration of Fr. Neuhaus' total self-gift to the Church, for Christ and for Christ's world, that Fr. Neuhaus' memory will not only be cherished in prayer and recollection; his memory will be honored when we pay careful attention to our footnotes, when we decide to conduct ourselves like sons and daughters of the high King in our daily conversation and thereby redeem the time, as we step up to prevail as he taught us- with generosity, with devotion, with total allegiance to the truth. And we must do so, because Fr. Neuhaus is no longer here to do it for us.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Requiescat in Pace

Fr. Neuhaus (at right) with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, founder and editor-in-chief of First Things, passed away last night. It is a sad day for all of us. As a Catholic convert and as a human being, Fr. Neuhaus has become one of my heroes. Not least because of the wit, wisdom and good sense he displayed regularly in his "The Public Square" column that appeared monthly in the magazine. But I did not have the honor of knowing him, and I cannot eulogize him. Joseph Bottum, the editor of First Things, puts it better,
My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Catherine of Sienna, Current Reports, and the Need for Obedience

Suzanne Noffke O.P., has an excellent 1989 article on "The Ecclesial Obedience of Catherine of Sienna," here. The piece is chock full of poignant quotations from this robust saint who called the world to the Church in the sort of turbulent times such as we are now facing:

"Our season in the Church is no less a season of conflict and tension than was Catherine's. And no less does our reason for hope lie in those who are willing to be open to each other, no matter what their positions, in our common search for conformity to Truth and Love in Jesus Christ. It is not an easy way. Only witness those who have been willing both to speak their convictions and to maintain their love for and loyalty to the Church even in the limitedness and sinfulness of her members (knowing that none of us is without sin). But if it is indeed the Truth and Love of God that we are about, the service of the Word and the Blood, we can continue the sometimes painful and always exciting search together even through our very conflicts and tensions, singing as Catherine sang in the midst of rebellion and schism and personal frustration: "My soul is jubilantly happy in this grief -- because among the thorns I smell the fragrance of the rose about to open!"(Letter DT45, to Matteo di Fazzio de' Cenni, p. 143.)

..."Every faithful Christian is obligated to be faithful and to serve holy church, each according to his or her situation." (Letter T191, to Tommaso d'Alviano.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

C.S. Lewis on How to Pray, Think, Read

"Good reading, therefore, though it is not esentially an affectional or moral or intellectual activity, has something in commo with all three. In love we escape from ourself into the other. In the moral sphere, every act of justice or charity involves putting ourselves in the other's place and thus transcending our own competitive particularity. In coming to understand anything we are rejecting the facts as they are for us in favor of the facts as they are. The primary impulse of each person is to maintan and aggrandise himself. The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness. In love, in virtue, in the pursuit of knowledge, and in the reception of the arts, we are doing this. Obviously the process can be described either as an enlargement or as a temporary annihilation of the self. But that is an old paradox; 'he that loseth his life shall save it'... here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and I am never more myself than when I do."

- C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, 138, 141.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

The only native-born United States citizen ever to be canonized was first a lay woman who nurtured a family, who affirmed the unity of the Catholic Church by her conversion from Episcopalianism, and who did all she could to reverse the effects of spiritual and physical poverty in her time. A fitting inspiration for the new year.