Catholicism Archives

Indvidual Choice and the Church

Pro-choice, the Madison avenue euphemization for by the pro-abortion crowd is on some reflection an odd choice of terminology. The word “heresy” comes from the Greek hairesis (haireomai, “choose”), and means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of dissident believers. Pro-heresy might be an interesting alternative phrasing. Relabeling is in vogue these days, where it is common for those with the bully pulpit to recast the opponents and terms to favor their cause, which perhaps is why Mr Obama is trying to identify Mr Limbaugh as a conservative leader. If turnabout is fair play, perhaps recasting pro-choice as pro-heresy might help the pro-life cause within the liberal Christian community.

When making arguments one must consider one’s audience. When convincing a secular audience that one should rely on secular arguments, which is the primary place in which these arguments are taking place these days. If on the other hand, one is speaking to a Christian community, then Christian argument and theology should be used. Rarely however it seems to me does the pro-heresy community attempt to cast their arguments for abortion in the light of Christian tradition and theology. And for good reason … because Christian tradition and theology has stood against abortion for almost 2 millenia. Read the rest of this entry

Abuse Not Worthy of News Coverage

When sexual abuse in the Catholic church was uncovered, the national mainstream media was all over the story, as it should have been.  But when it’s a public school system that is involved in the same thing — including sending known offenders back in to work with kids, and trying to minimized the issue — their silence betrays their bias.  Then, there was outrage and daily reports on the evening news.  Now, local reporting but not much else.

Dave Pierre of NewsBusters chronicles the issue here (back in May) and here (last week).  The national media ignores a government program but wallops Christians over the same issue.  Yeah, no bias there, right?

Liturgical Chaos

The theme/question for this quarters CoCR by our host at The Cross Reference is:

I guess I’d be interested in hearing perspectives on what obstacles are presented by the varying liturgies (high/low, sacramental/non-sacramental, rubrical/freeform) and how they might be possible to overcome. I don’t necessarily want to get too doctrinal (although the law of prayer and the law of belief go hand-in-hand, as far as Catholics are concerned). And the issue of liturgical reform would be open for discussion as well.

Much of American worship experience when compared to that 5 or 10 centuries earlier is very much less liturgically and bound in ritual and movement than it was then. Charles Tayler in A Secular Age recounts the development of the secularization of modern Western society. The move away from the ritual and formal liturgical expression was one intended to concentrate the spiritual focus of the worshiper away from externalities and to turn inwards concentrating on ones heart and mind to focus on God. As a result many churches and expressions in churches have become less liturgically bound. I suggest that many who reject, or “don’t get” liturgical expression also don’t really appreciate it. Likewise those who cherish liturgical worship don’t “get” or have a real appreciation for good non-liturgical worship.

I will admit up front, that I have always been part of a liturgical worship environment. I grew up in a Lutheran church … and have now ended in a Eastern Orthodox church, which is arguably about as “high” liturgical as you can get in the modern church. So I have a definite bias on the place of liturgy in worship. But, I’d like to pose a question for the non-liturgical church members.

One of the things liturgy and liturgical cycles are good for is memory. Passover and Pascha (Easter) are memories of two very significant events in the Hebrew and Christian churches. These are marked liturgically. The rest of the church year is marked out with a variety of other liturgical events … which in part are to help us remember and mark those as important. These can also mark other historical events. Recently, the church I attend has added to its liturgical calendar a service to remember 9/11. Americans remember July 4th and certain other Presidential holidays. We remember Pearl Harbor a lot less well. Why? Because, there is no secular “holiday” or secular liturgical event (if you will) to mark that day. 9/11 currently also has no such secular liturgy remembering that day. In 50-75 years in the absence of such a marking, like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 will fade from our public consciousness. The point is, liturgy and ritual make a connection not just in our mind, but in our whole being, our nous if you will, between us and events which we … as a church, find significant.

My question is how do you non-liturgical churches hold precious and fast to the important events in Church history in the absence of liturgical remembrance?

Celibacy UnBibilical?

Dan Trabue, in our conversations on monastic life, offered that celibacy is un-Biblical. Huh?

Explain then (1 Corinthians 7 ESV):

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. 9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

It seems to me the plain meaning of this is that St. Paul offers that unmarried devotion to Christ is preferred to marriage hence the “I wish all were as I myself am”, to whit unmarried and celibate (this chapter offers more support for that view as well).

Secondly, for 1500+ years the Christian church always held that unmarried celibacy, such as the monastic life was a higher calling than marriage. Today, many Protestants reject this. Why? On what basis? I honestly have no idea what is the basis of that rejection.

Speaker Pelosi Loves the Church; Their Teachings Not So Much

The Catholic church has had to correct the thinking of some Democrats in the past in reference to the church’s position on abortion.  (Well, they’ve spoken out in the past; there’s no evidence yet that the actual thinking was corrected.)  Most recently, the Speaker of the House herself has come under fire for misrepresenting Church teaching in order to buttress her own views.

Politics can be treacherous. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked on even riskier ground in a recent TV interview when she attempted a theological defense of her support for abortion rights.

Roman Catholic bishops consider her arguments on St. Augustine and free will so far out of line with church teaching that they have issued a steady stream of statements to correct her.

The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., “stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion.”

It has been a harsh week of rebuke for the Democratic congresswoman, a Catholic school graduate who repeatedly has expressed pride in and love for her religious heritage.

Enough “pride” and “love” for her to, y’know, accept her Church’s teaching?  Apparently not.  The “steady stream” of corrections don’t seem to do much.  More below the fold…

Read the rest of this entry

Calendrical Remarks

That is the Question.

In last night’s post, I proposed that the movement away from the liturgical calendar was a motion towards the secular. There were two comments, as I had cross-posted that at the two blogs on which I’m active, and got one from each.

Mr Trabue asks for clarification:

I know you said “arguably,” but I was wondering how exactly you see a move away from a liturgical calendar as being in any way a move towards secularization?

While Kyle points to Zwingli (and do visit as the whole comment is worthwhile)

It has to do with the puritan movement in England, but I forget exactly the argument. I think there was something to do with a radical misapplication of the principle of sola scriptura, so you’ll need to ask Zwingli. If they banned musical instruments because they weren’t mentioned in the New Testament (though actually they are), can you wonder that they also eliminated scheduled holidays?

[…]My personality is such that I’d rather every day were the same – I hate keeping track of dates. But I’ve sort of resigned myself to celebrating holidays, since everyone around me insists on doing it. If I ignore them for no good reason, what am I communicating? But it seems to me that, if we’re going to start celebrating holidays, we might as well celebrate all of them. I suppose we will eventually.

My attempted clarification and further remarks can be found below the fold. Read the rest of this entry

Carnival Announcement

The 12th Carnival of Christian Reconciliation will be held my home blog at Pseudo-Polymath.
For submission guidelines see this post. The carnival submission will be due by Midnight EST Friday June 20th, although technically I’ll probably do most of the work putting the carnival together over the weekend so the real “cut-off” will be some undetermined time on Sunday. It might be important to note that this carnival accepts multiple entries from each person. See the details on posting guidelines at the above link. The Question/Topic-of-the-Month for this month is:

In St. John Cassian’s Conferences Abba Moses teaches that our thoughts come from three sources, the Holy Spirit, Satan, or ourselves. He then teaches discernment is perhaps the most important Christian virtue, to separate those three in our minds and subsequently our actions. Our Church has split from one into so very many over the almost two millennia since Christ’s resurrection. Some have suggested that perhaps the prevalence and predominance of division in our church is a sign that it is God’s will that the Church be divided. But is this so?

In analogy to Abba Moses’ instruction, one might propose that the origins of any one of these divisions arises from the work or activities of the Spirit, Satan, or Man. One would expect that the latter two are the ones which, if one supports ecumenical movement, should be the ones we actively oppose. How should we discern the difference between these, if indeed that is even a thing we should attempt? Is the motive behind the division a thing which we should discern as we try to heal that same division?  Is such a discernment (or claims to the same) today even useful?

Cardinal Donald Trump Speaks

"You’re fired."

The firebrand pastor of St. Sabina parish was removed from his duties there Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In the statement, Cardinal Francis George says he asked the Rev. Michael Pfleger, 59, to "take leave for a couple of weeks from his pastoral duties." The statement said Pfleger "does not believe this to be the right step at this time." "While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church’s regulations for all Catholic priests," George said.

Are we to take it that this is the very first time Rev. Pfleger has spewed this kind of vitriol?  Kinda’ doubt it.  Just like Obama’s recent leaving of Trinity UCC, this seems more like a case of being unable to avoid ignoring the issue once it hit the national stage. 

What a hassle, those internets.

[tags]Rev. Michael Pfleger,Barack Obama,Cardinal Francis George,Catholicism,St. Sabina[/tags]

A Visit

Weekend Fisher at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength has in the last week been running a series on spiritual resources for the terminally ill and their caregivers. Now, where I’m placed in my life’s journey has not found me interacting closely with the terminally ill and I’m not naturally very emotive/empathic anyhow. However, it so happens that this Sunday afternoon our choir visited a terminally ill member of our congregation who is (had been) a member of the choir. I hadn’t gotten to know at all over the past year so we haven’t been visiting until now. But … to the point. When we visited we sang a few songs.

As our final song, our choir sang St. Simeon’s prayer (in the west the Nunc Dimittis) :

??? ???????? ??? ?????? ???, ???????, ???? ?? ???? ??? ?? ??????,
??? ????? ?? ???????? ??? ?? ???????? ???,
? ????????? ???? ???????? ?????? ??? ????,
??? ??? ?????????? ????? ??? ????? ???? ??? ??????.

or more usefully, i.e., in English (which is actually how we sang it but some Greek was sung, i.e., the Paschal Toparion)

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

This is a song well known in Orthodox liturgy as it is part of the Great Vespers service, which in the States is sung every Saturday night.

On the drive home, we were discussing in our family whether this was appropriate to sing in the presence of the dying. I think it is, for that is the precise context of St. Simeon’s urge to speak these words. He has now seen the Christ child and is, as an elderly and likely infirm man … ready to depart … life. The common usage of this song is at the end of a service, and often “now let thy servant depart” is taken as to depart from this place of worship and return to secular life. However, that is now what was meant in the original context. So in that regard, as a song for the dying … it both is appropriate and may provide some comfort.


A Joyous Easter To All

To all you in the Western tradition. In the East, on Pascha/Easter the homily has been the same for over 1500 years. St. John Chrysostom preached this one Pascha morn and it was decided it couldn’t be improved upon. This is what he preached see what y’all think of it:

If any man be devout and loveth God,
Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant,
Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting,
Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour,
Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour,
Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour,
Let him have no misgivings;
Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour,
Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour,
Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour,
Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour,
Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last,
And careth for the first;
And to the one He giveth,
And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds,
And welcometh the intention,
And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord;
Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second.
You rich and poor together, hold high festival!
You sober and you heedless, honour the day!
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted
And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith:
Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities,
For pardon has shown forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death,
For the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive.
He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh.
And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:
Hell, said he, was embittered
When it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished.
It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain.
It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains.
It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.


Time Was …

For this months Carnival of Christian Reconciliation, the topic Mr Platypus suggests is:

All of this prompts me to propose “Reconciliation and Liturgical Time” as the special topic for this Carnival. How are divergent or competing understandings of the liturgical year an obstacle to reconciliation? Conversely, how does the idea of liturgical time open up possibilities for greater unity? In any event, how do we live out our Christian discipleship among fellow believers who approach liturgical time differently?

As I write this most of the readers of this entry will likely be entering their Holy week celebrations. Many will be looking forward to finally breaking their fast, to celebrating, “getting their alleluia’s back”, and in general filling their own traditional ways of celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord and our God.

In A Secular Age philosopher Charles Taylor begins by noting the secular comes from the Latin: saeculum which relates to an “age” a specified length of time. Secular consequently is bound up in time. The Sacred is not. And this is true of our worship. Sunday worship “connects” and is “closer” to other Sunday’s and specifically that first Easter Sunday, than it is to Monday even though “in time” it is not. Our liturgical calendar pierces our secular time lines as the tines of a fork pinning us to the Eternal. The Orthodox teaching is that there is no time in liturgy. That in the divine liturgy we participate in the eschaton, in the timelessness of God.

But it is true there is division and unity in our liturgical calendars. Having the same calendar does aid ecumenical union. Last week, on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, while traveling on business I visited and had a wonderful experience at a very small rural ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) parish in Northern Georgia (web site here). Orthodoxy does not precisely share the same calendar … but for Lent/Pascha/Pentacost we do. Orthodoxy is split between the Julian and Gregorian calendar for the rest of the year. But because we share the same calendar in this season, I heard the same readings, and the homily was preached on the same subject. There were some differences, no parade of Icons and a little over half of the service was in old Slavonic … which was something of a challenge to sing. But … enough about me (or alternatively … I digress). The point is ecumenical connections between myself as a new OCA (Orthodox Church of America) member were eased by our liturgical similarities including our calendar. I would have felt out of place, having just finished my first week of Lenten fasting in joining a Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, or other Protestant church which was celebrating Palm Sunday … not “the Triumph of Orthodoxy” and the victory over iconoclasm.

But while, the non-shared liturgical calendar hurts the ecumenical meeting of Orthodox an non-Orthodox does it help for instance the meeting of main line Protestant churches and Catholic? And here, I must confess my ignorance of what praxis and calendars are followed by the non-liturgical Protestants. But it seems to me likely, in for the traveller or the visitor, the non-sharing of secular (set in time) of the Sacred events is a hindrance to the mixing of our sectarian splits.

And that is perhaps a most important point. For noting our ignorance we have an opportunity to fill that void. As we are widely ignorant of the “Others” calendar … we can try to share. So in the interests of informing the y’all, I’ll point to this program, a free download, provided by (yet another) Atlanta (this time OCA) church. It provides the hymns (troparia and kontakia) assigned for the day, the Scripture readings, and the Saints as well as the official record of those Saint’s life for each day.

If you could, leave as comments here, links or references to your liturgical year … so we can all share and by our differences find what we have in common.

“The Golden Compass”, Lacking a Moral One

The movie, “The Golden Compass”, is essentially a moral compass that points south instead of north. As mentioned here before, author Philip Pullman, from who’s books “His Dark Materials” the movie comes from, is distinctly anti-religious. As such, the movie, while it is marketed to the same crowd as The Chronicles of Narnia, seeks to deconstruct religion in the eyes of the kids.

Not content with the subtleties of allegory, Pullman’s movie involved the church directly, and depicts it as willing to kidnap and experiment on children in trying to determine if a particular substance is actually Original Sin. He blurs the idea of a daemon as simply the human soul that manifests itself, in some of the universes in his story, as an animal that stays with the human. Ultimately, in the trilogy, the God figure is killed. Christians will immediately see the difference and the problem with one character’s goal of establishing a Republic of Heaven to rival God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

Even though it sounds like the anti-religious themes are being downplayed in the movie, the movie inevitably spurs book sales, which is where the real issues are. I would ask Christians not to put this movie on their holiday schedule. While the controversy will no doubt increase some ticket sales, I’m hoping that the dollars withheld by others will more than offset that.

(Information on this can be found at Wikipedia here and here. A review of the books from a Christian who really wanted to like it can be found at Journeyman. The original press release by the Catholic League can be found here.)

[tags]Philip Pullman,His Dark Materials,The Golden Compass,Christianity,The Catholic League[/tags]

The Reluctance to Defend Life

Russ Neglia of “Pro-Life Pro-Logic” has a post up about the church — Catholic and Protestant — and its reluctance to take a public stand for life. Aside from its own teachings to the faithful, Russ sizes up the church in general and finds it generally missing from the public square. As to why this is, Russ believes that “non-offense” and “tolerance” — that is, modern day political correctness — have seeped into the message and the preachers.

Calling something “wrong” is inherently offensive and intolerant. Can the church still do this?

[tags]abortion,pro-life,Christianity,Russell Neglia[/tags]

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