Catholicism Archives

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

This just seems a little too end-times-ish for my taste.

The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises. The document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department should please the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn.

“Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” was at times very specific, calling, for example, for taxation measures on financial transactions. “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” it said.

But never mind the Biblical implications, let’s just consider this from an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" perspective. Does the Vatican really think that a global authority on money is going to be better than those in any of our individual countries. Given that any institution is staffed by fallible, corruptible humans, what this would do is allow the mistakes and failings of a few to impact the entire planet. This is a better idea?

It called for the establishment of “a supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions.

Asked at a news conference if the document could become a manifesto for the movement of the “indignant ones”, who have criticised global economic policies, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department, said: “The people on Wall Street need to sit down and go through a process of discernment and see whether their role managing the finances of the world is actually serving the interests of humanity and the common good. “We are calling for all these bodies and organisations to sit down and do a little bit of re-thinking.”

I believe it’s the Vatican that needs to do some rethinking. This goes against every single understanding of human nature that the church teaches. Our US founding fathers understood this, which is why they set up distributed government.

Should we be expecting a proposal for one-world government next? 

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    Vatican Back Stem Cell Research!

    To those in the mainstream media, and those not paying attention (typically because they read only the mainstream media), this might be shocking. However, as GetReligion.org points out, it’s rather something of a yawner; the Catholic Church has always supported stem cell research. It’s just that the media conflate embryonic with adult stem cells so often, that to the casual reader it might indeed come as a surprise.

    Terry Mattingly has the analysis. His group blog documents how the press covers religion. I’ve put this blog in my list to keep up with, and you should too.

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      Friday Link Wrap-up

      When the International Monetary Fund needs bailing out, from bailing out so many others, it’s time to seriously question the socialist policies of those it’s having to bail out.

      The Pope reminds Europe that moral failure usually precludes many other kinds of failure, eve economic.

      A page to bookmark when someone brings up the faulty idea that billionaires are running the Tea Party.

      Congress will investigate Planned Parenthood. About time.

      Meryl Yourish has a keen eye for news media bias against Israel and, coincidentally, a bias for Palestinians. The latest? A Palestinian man kills an American tourist (because he thought the American was Jewish, which he wasn’t). The AP headline only say the Palestinian man was convicted of "stabbing" the tourist. (Oh, and the tourist was a Christian who happened to be wearing a Star of David.)

      "Despite increases in gun sales, gun crimes continued to decrease in the United States for the fourth straight year in 2010, according to the FBI." This goes completely against the liberal narrative. The reality is likely closer to crime is down because of the increase in gun sales.

      "President Obama’s jobs bill is better than doing nothing in the face of a national crisis, but it won’t have much impact on unemployment." This incredibly foolish line begins a column trying to suggest Obama’s Stimulus Jr. should be bigger. First of all, how is wasting money on something that won’t do what it purports to do better than doing nothing? That’s how politicians have gotten us into this fiscal mess. Second, the answer is always more, more, more. And yet here we are anyway. How can more pounding our heads against the wall feel any better?

      And finally, a political cartoon (of sorts) of my own. Someone took a picture of tax protesters, and attempted a little irony by pointing out things around them paid for by taxes. But they missed the point entirely. Then point is… (Click for a larger version).

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        Tonight (Tuesday Night) during Palm/Holy week in the Orthodox tradition the Wednesday morning Matins service is held. Toward the end of this service the Hymn of Cassia (Kassia, Kassiani) is sung. 

        Sensing Thy divinity, O Lord, a woman of many sins
        takes it upon herself to become a myrrh-bearer,
        And in deep mourning brings before Thee fragrant oil
        in anticipation of Thy burial; crying:
        “Woe to me! For night is unto me, oestrus of lechery,
        a dark and moonless eros of sin.
        Receive the wellsprings of my tears,
        O Thou who gatherest the waters of the oceans into clouds.
        Bend to me, to the sorrows of my heart,
        O Thou who bendedst down the heavens in Thy ineffable self-emptying.
        I will kiss Thine immaculate feet
        and dry them with the locks of my hair;
        Those very feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise
        and hid herself in fear.
        Who shall reckon the multitude of my sins,
        or the abysses of Thy judgment, O Saviour of my soul?
        Do not ignore Thy handmaiden,
        O Thou whose mercy is endless.”

        During the service, elsewhere in the service (in verse) the story of the harlot washing Jesus feet with Myrrh at the Pharisee’s house is interwoven with comparisons with Judas as he prepares his betrayal.

        Recently, in the news, more accounts of scandals in the Catholic episcopacy have apparently resurfaced. Those who feel this is an indictment against Christianity and the Church in general forget that the Church is not a collection of good people gathering together to do good works. A better description would be more akin to a hospital for the wounded, who are ministered not by the well, but are tended by other whom are just as wounded. Those who pretend they are well, might not seek a hospital.

        Re-read the prayer above. This poem/hymn is the heartfelt plea written by an ascetic monastic nun in late antiquity. She was a Saint, but this is the cry of her heart (and not on account her view of someone else’s). Like last night’s gospel reading (the Woe to you Pharisees and Scribes, Hypocrites!) … the protagonist is not some other whom we might look down upon, but us. The distinction (made clearly in the service) is not that she sins “more than us” but that she repents (and we so often do not).

        One of the more outrageous conceits found even among Orthodox (who should know better) is to regard those outside of the Church as “more” sinful than those inside. Perhaps we might be more aware of how we fall short of the mark.

        Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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          When You Joust …

          Don’t aim for the straw man, go for the flesh and blood one aiming a lance at you. Read the rest of this entry

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            The Anchoress on Anne Rice

            The Anchoress, posting at First Things, has a wonderful post on the issues raised by Anne Rice in her "quitting" of Christianity.  There is plenty of blame to go around, and in this portion of the post I’m quoting, The Anchoress covers them in part, but the whole post is well worth the read.

            Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes,”, that being a “yes” toward God–whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time–rather than a “yes” to ourselves.

            Unfortunately, we Christians teach this poorly and generally make too many excuses for our failings. Too many of us go out into the world seeking to confront and “fix” others, when the key to the Christian life begins with confronting and “fixing” the self. This can only be done through grace, which enters upon the Yes, and moves and grows on the intentional breeze of Willingness, because that is the only thing that counts, our intentions and our willingness; “worthiness” does not enter in.

            But willingness only comes with humility. It comes when we can say “Thy will be done,” and then actually surrender, instead of preparing a treaty.

            The world, because it is worldly, cannot understand Christianity or the churches; the world will never love either, and it is foolishness to think otherwise. But the church is not here to be loved by the world; it is here to serve the Bread. The Living Bread did not come for the love of the world, but for its life.

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              This woman and Penn Jillette might have a lot in common to talk about regarding how the Religious Right have been portrayed in our culture.

              [Eve] Tushnet entered Yale in 1996 a happy lesbian, out since age 13 or 14 (she can’t quite remember). Her father, a nonobservant Jew, and her mother, a Unitarian, both belonged to progressive traditions, tolerant of her sexuality.

              When, as a freshman, she attended a meeting of the Party of the Right, a conservative group affiliated with the Yale Political Union, it was “specifically to laugh at them, to see the zoo animals,” she says.

              “But I was really impressed, not only by the weird arguments but the degree to which it was clear that the people making them lived as if what they were saying had actual consequences for their lives, that had required them to make sacrifices.”

              In Ms. Tushnet’s time, as in mine — I was four years ahead of her at Yale — the Party of the Right had a benignantly cultish quality. “Have you read ‘The Secret History?’ ” she asks, referring to Donna Tartt’s 1992 novel about a secretive student clique obsessed with Greek literature. “It was like that.”

              But she listened to them, sincerely, and came out with a far, far different view of them than the culture had led her to believe.

              But she found the Party of the Right students compassionate, intellectual and not terribly exercised about her homosexuality. She was drawn to the Catholics among them, who corrected her misimpression that the existence of sin “means you are bad.” It means “precisely the opposite,” they taught her. “It means you have a chance to come back and repent and be saved,” she says. She began reading books like St. Anselm’s “Why God Became Man.” She began attending church. Her sophomore year, she was baptized.

              “By the time it was real enough to be threatening,” she says of her conversion, “things had gone too far. I didn’t see it coming.”

              So now she’s a fervent Catholic and against same-sex marriage, but isn’t trying to change her religion to fit her notions of right and wrong.  She really believes in it, and understands what that means for her life.

              As the hundred or so daily readers of eve-tushnet.blogspot.com, and a larger audience for her magazine writing, know by now, Ms. Tushnet can seem a paradox: fervently Catholic, proudly gay, happily celibate. She does not see herself as disordered; she does not struggle to be straight, but she insists that her religion forbids her a sex life.

              “The sacrifices you want to make aren’t always the only sacrifices God wants,” Ms. Tushnet wrote in a 2007 essay for Commonweal. While gay sex should not be criminalized, she said, gay men and lesbians should abstain. They might instead have passionate friendships, or sublimate their urges into other pursuits. “It turns out I happen to be very good at sublimating,” she says, while acknowledging that that is a lot to ask of others.

              Marriage should be reserved for heterosexuals, whose “relationships can be either uniquely dangerous or uniquely fruitful,” she explained in an e-mail message. “Thus it makes sense to have an institution dedicated to structuring and channeling them.”

              She has her problems with the ex-gay movement (see here for her very thoughtful NRO piece on the topic), but does understand what the Church teaches on the subject and, rather than practice the a la carte version of Christianity some do, she’s taken Jesus’ advice to count the cost, and decided to apply the teachings rather than ignore that which she holds true.  That’s dedication and commitment.

              But she got there by actually listening and giving a fair hearing to what others considered religious nuts.  Don’t believe the press.  Well, in general, but specifically about the Religious Right(tm).  Find out for yourself.

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                Finally Looking at Secular Sexual Abuse

                If you only read the newspapers and watched the TV news shows, you’d think that sexual abuse of children was limited to the Catholic church, and was worse now more than ever.  You’d be wrong, on both counts.  And The Anchoress notes something eye-opening.

                In New York, Queens Assemblywoman Margaret Markey routinely presents a bill which seeks to open a year-long “window” into the statute of limitations on child sex-abuse cases, allowing victims whose cases may go back as far as 40 years to bring suit for damages.

                Because the bill has -until now- always been limited by Markey to impact the churches, exclusively, it always either failed or been shelved. It is difficult to pass a bill that essentially finds some sexual abuse victims to be more worthy of redress than others.

                Markey seems to have figured that out; her new bill includes suits against secular institutions, and the previously silent civil authorities, among others, are reeling.

                Pointing fingers is so much easier than self-examination. But "credible allegations" of abuse dropped to 6 last year.  The public school system only wishes they had a record that good.

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                  Priest Child Abuse Cases: Some Perspective

                  Jim Finnegan, writing in the Naples (Florida) News, was responding to some folks who had commented on his original article on the Catholic Church priest child abuse cases.  Apparently, some folks read his words and though he was saying something directly opposite to them.  In his follow-up, he first had to give the obligatory disclaimers that he’s not excusing anyone, but he quoted some information that puts this all in perspective.

                  Charol Shakeshaft, a researcher of a little remembered 2004 study for the U.S. Department of Eduction [sic] on the physical sexual abuse of students in schools, pointed out " the physical sexual abuse of students in schools, is likely more than 100 times the abuse of Priests." I am sure this is easy to Google for the entire study should you wish.

                  Shakeshaft also pointed out that "nearly 9.6% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometimes durin [sic] their school career." Creditable accounts of Priestly abuse occured [sic] from but 1.7% of the total Priests in the U.S. Thankfully, Shakeshaft’s study is now being revisited by news commentators seeking to restore some sense of proportion to the media’s aggressive coverage of the Catholic Church.

                  While Priestly sex abuse can never be mitigated by these figures, they do point out the gross imbalance, and bring question to the motives of the news media that are pouring resources into digging up decades old dirt on the Church. Sadly,the nerative [sic] that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure now the safest environment for young people in America today

                  Aside from Finnegan’s need for a spell checker, this does point out a stark double standard in play, by both liberals and the media (apologies for the repetition).  Just going by numbers, you’d think there would be more coverage about abuse in schools, which (if you don’t homeschool) have a mandatory attendance requirement, vs. church, which is entirely voluntary.  Not to mention the fact that the school abuse continues while…

                  The facts show that Priestly sex abuse is a phenomenon that spiked in the mid 1960’s into the 1980’s. This at the time that the "anything goes" sexual revolution began. These are the old cases that the media has chosen to resurrect in their recent attacks on the Church.

                  Again, none of this should be construed as excusing anyone of these horrible deeds.  But a little perspective is in order, and the media, since it goes against "the narrative", is simply not providing it. 

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                    Spring Break Catch-up

                    I was on Spring Break vacation with the family last week, so other than my post-dated blog posts, I didn’t write much … well, anything.  But I did surf the web and kept track of some articles I wanted to highlight when I came back.  Here they are, in mostly chronological order of when I found them.

                    Amnesty International decided that jihad was not antithetical to human rights so long as it’s "defensive". 

                    The bump in polling numbers after passing health care "reform" was supposed to go to Democrats.  Instead, while it’s just a measure of emotion at this point in time, you’d think that all the promises of the bill would give Democrats a few higher point.  Instead, they’re at an 18-year low.  It’s quite possible that people are only now understanding what they supported all along, because the "free" stuff isn’t materializing right now.

                    What was the point of the resurrection on Easter?  Don Sensing has (had) some thoughts.

                    The Tea Party’s ideas are much more mainstream than the MSM would like you to believe.  And Tea Partiers are much more diverse that the MSM realized.  Turns out, they did some actual journalism and found out the real story.  Imagine that.  Has the liberal slant of the press become a problem of corruption, especially with, first, the willful ignoring of the Tea Party story, and second, the willful misreporting of it?

                    Toyota cars have killed 52 people, and got a recall for it.  Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine, has had 49 "unexplained deaths" reported by the CDC and it’s still required in some states.

                    Changing the names to protect the guilty, the words "Islam" and "jihad" are now banned from the national security strategy document.  When the next terror attack Islamic jihadists happens, it’ll be interesting to find out how they describe it.

                    Cows have been exonerated of helping to cause global warming.  No, really.

                    Rep. Bart Stupak’s reversal of his principles is having the proper effect; he’s decided not to seek re-election.  Likely, he couldn’t get re-elected anyway, after betraying his constituents, but let this be a lesson about trusting "conservative" Democrats too much.

                    And finally, media scrutiny of church vs. state (click for a larger picture):

                    Media scrutiny

                    Oh, that liberal media.

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                      Child Abuse: Getting Some Perspective

                      From George Weigel at First Things:

                      The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

                      Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy.

                      I guess one question would be, if the Pope’s fair game, why not the US Secretary of Education?  If not, why not?

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                        Ecumenical Thoughts

                        Mr Turk makes an interesting point in the conversation about ecumenical conversations, although I’m not entirely sure it’s the point he wants to make. A week or so ago he offered that those of other denominations, specifically the Roman and Easter churches were right with God only if they (accidentally) held to a Evangelical belief/approach to the Gospel. I think this point of view is held far more often by most people in every church/denomination. That is to say that any Christian church X thinks that members of church Y are in the soteriological pink inasmuch as those members in church Y (accidentally) hold to beliefs that are held in church X. That is, Mr Turk as an Evangelical thinks that the Catholic and Orthodox are saved if they hold an Evangelical understanding of the Gospel and those in the Roman hold that the Evangelical and Eastern are likewise correct when and where they (accidentally) hold to the Roman understanding of Gospel. And so on. Now I had been under the impression that I was “above the fray” in this regard. But on reflection, I am not. Read the rest of this entry

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                          Praying to Saints

                          Mark Horne offers some arguments why “he can never be a Roman Catholic.” I’m not a Roman Catholic … but it seems like a number of these reasons are not valid criticisms. I’m going to concentrate on one (and mention one more). Mr Horne offers:

                          Necromancy is almost as huge a sin and praying to the departed saints is necromancy.  See #1 above.  People raised thinking bigamy is Christian may be true Christians, but people who know better are living in sin and without hope of eternal life unless they repent of such behavior.

                          Praying to Saints by Catholics is not because Catholics believe that “some other intercessory agency between themselves and God” is required. Examine their liturgy and the prayers they pray. They pray to directly to Father, Son, and Spirit. So they are not asking Saints (or Mary) to pray for them because they think it is required. Something else is going on here, they do it because they think it is efficacious. My understanding of the way prayer to Saints is seen not as a required intermediary but as being equivalent to your asking a friend, acquaintance, or even some Christian you don’t really know, to pray for you. That is it. Just in the same way that Protestants (and every Christian) thinks that the prayers of others on our behalf is beneficial, likewise Catholics (the East and the original Reformers for that matter) think that the dead can pray for us … after all they are not dead but are with God.  You are asking that this Saint, asleep in the Lord whom you believe is “now” outside of time participating in God’s presence (no longer seeing through a glass darkly), to pray for you. How is that akin to bigamy and living a life of sin?

                          There are two pieces to this that I think give the American evangelical cause to pause. The first is that the notion that a saint from a country far away and centuries removed will be aware of my request that he (or she) pray for me and that furthermore that he (or she) might do so. The second is that in our American notions of egalitarianism and equality Americans find the notion that we are not equal in the eyes of the Lord, a difficult one to master. To the latter, when the disciples were having a debate about who would be seated at Jesus right hand when he came into his glory, Jesus rebuke was not that “nobody would be sitting there” as we are equal in the afterlife, but that they were not the ones to be seated there.

                          Yet that isn’t really the question.

                          The real question is why is asking for the intercession by a deceased hero of the Church not adiaphora? And this has a counter question for the East and the Roman Catholic, why is not asking that the Saints intercede for us also not adiaphora?

                          A final remark Mr Horne objects:

                          Nowhere are Christians required to do a genealogical study to see if they are members of the true Church.

                          I for one, have no clue what is he talking about here. Any guesses?

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                            John Mark Reynolds in a comment to my (first!) post at Evangel offered:

                            A child would view Favre well . . . but a real man would see him better. He would glory in his manly exploits as an image of excellence and be provoked to go and do likewise in his own chosen profession.

                            This is in short hoping a hope (or a recognition) that Favre (or pick your favorite athlete) and his exploits might do good in us by inspiring the Greek virtue arete in us. However that leads to the question … can one find support for the type of excellence of the sort Mr Favre would inspire … as being good (or Good) in Scripture (or enlarge that to church tradition for the non-sola-scriptura crowd). I think the answer is … no … but I might like to be convinced otherwise. Read the rest of this entry

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                              A Media Experiment

                              Take two similar stories and try to figure out how the media will cover each.  With a hat tip to Newsbusters, here are the two stories:

                              1. A former Catholic priest comes forward Monday (4/20/09) to claim that another priest abused him as a teenager nearly 30 years ago. (The accused priest has no other similar public complaints and denies the allegations against him.)

                              2. A former school teacher was sentenced Wednesday (4/22/09) after pleading no contest to eight felony counts, including having sex with two girls under the age of 16. The man "admitted to having intercourse with the girls, performing oral sex with the teens and taking extremely explicit nude photographs of his victims — including pictures of him with one of the girls – before sending the images over the Internet."

                              OK, they’re not entirely equivalent.  The priest story is from 3 decades ago and the teacher story is from this month.  OK, and the priest denies the allegations while the teacher is being sentenced.  So given that, what was the disparity in coverage?

                              NewsBusters answers:

                              Now it’s quiz time! To which story did the Los Angeles Times devote two generous color photos and a 640-word article? Which story did the Times totally ignore?

                              If you’ve been a close follower of this issue here at NewsBusters, you already know the answer. The Times loudly trumpeted the case of the Catholic priests, even though the original story was reported three years ago (!). Meanwhile, it totally ignored the story of the teacher (Contra Costa Times, 4/23/09; Long Beach Press-Telegram, 11/5/08).

                              In addition, at Google news, the story of the priests returns "about 128" results. The story of the teacher? One.

                              We’ll say it again: It seems the most important element to the Times when reporting the awful abuse of children is whether the words "priest," "bishop," or "Cardinal" is in someone’s job title.

                              Given the Google results, it’s not just the Times that has this ailment.  It’s almost journalists have some blind spot when covering negative stories on government schools and / or a hot spot when it comes to negative stories regarding religion in general and Christianity in particular. 

                              I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.

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