Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Go look at Fr. Sibley's site. I have added him to my bloglist over on the left. Let me know if you would like to be listed also; it is quite difficult to keep up with the new bloggers, so I might miss you.
Fr. Fessio back from exile!
The Jesuits had egregiously transferred Fr. Fessio to a nursing home chaplaincy for daring to teach the Catholic faith. It appears, however, that the Jesuits have relented. Ad Maiorem Gloriam Dei
Monday, June 17, 2002
If you attended daily mass last week, or if you follow the daily cycle of readings, you may have noticed something. The readings for Wednesday told the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenges them to have Baal come down and consume the sacrifice. The prophets shout and dance, and even cut themselves to make their god take notice, but of course nothing happens. Then Elijah makes a simple prayer, and God consumes the sacrifice in fire.
If you read the readings for the next day, you should notice something missing: 1 Kings 18:40! It reads, in case you have forgotten, "Then Elijah said to them, 'Seize the prophets of Baal. Let none of them escape!' They were seized, and Elijah had them brought down to the brook Kishon and there he slit their throats."
I consider this the best verse: Elijah slaughters the false prophets. Those who determine the cycle of readings (whose authority I am not challenging) have decided to skip this verse. Perhaps they worried that such violence in the Old Testament scadalizes modern sensibilities. Perhaps you have heard the claim that the Old Testament god was a god of vengence, but the New Testament God is nice and loving. I encountered this form of Marcionism in a local church bulletin last week. It is an ancient heresy. We Catholics must on the contrary acknowledge that the God of the Old Testament is identical to the God of the New Testament, and we also acknowledge that all of the Old Testament is the inspired word of God, even the violent parts.
The violent parts of the OT can help us to understand a very important theological point. The false prophets richly deserved what Elijah did to them. After all, they were false prophets, and were making a profit out of lying to the Canaanites about their god. Such thieves deserve death. This is justice. In fact, and here is the theological point, as a result of sin we all deserve death. I think Frank Sheed said that the rule that sin requires punishment is as much a law of the universe as the law of gravitation. We all have sinned, and we all deserve death for this sin.
But we have someone who died for us. Jesus died on the cross to redeem us. The word "redeem" means to pay the penalty that we owed: have you ever redeemed a coupon? It is the same meaning. Jesus makes it possible for us not to have to die. The punishment and death that we so richly deserve occured to the Messiah in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
The scandal is not that the false prophets were punished by death, but that we are not. Without the love and grace of God, we would be in the same fix as they were. But as it is, we can be forgiven. Praise God!
Sunday, June 16, 2002
In the spirit of this article from National Review Online, I want to tell you about the wedding I attended this weekend. The entire church is one big blue stone toad (Emily Stimpson's word for liturgical absurdities), and the music chosen by the wedding party was not at all sacred. So imagine my surprise when the priest who officiated did so with solemnity and reverence, following all of the words and rules of the liturgy, with careful attention to informing the largely unchurched crowd when they should sit, stand, and kneel.
Furthermore, the homily was splendid: he began by noting that love is what man was created for, and expanded on it by pointing out that the model for our love is the love that Christ showed us by dying on the cross for us. He then instructed the couple and all who attended that the surest way to protect our married, sacramental love from the evil activity of the devil (Yes, he mentioned the devil! Screwtape would be upset) is to cling to the sacraments. He mentioned specifically the eucharist and frequent confession as aids to living out our vocation to love, since the love that is required is supernatural charity; we need grace from God to bring it about.
So I say, bravo to Fr. O'Hara, who resides at St. Bronislawa parish in Plover, Wisconsin. He is a brand new priest, a product of the Josephinum in Columbus. I am going to be optimistic and say that Fr. O'Hara is a testimony of good times to come.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
I will be unable to blog much if at all this weekend. I am traveling to central Wisconsin for a wedding (not mine) and a birthday party (also not mine). I will be back Sunday night or Monday. Part III of the "Is God a Sexist" post is coming soon. Thanks for reading!
Please only read the next post once. I am having trouble deleting the duplicate.
Anthony Marquis has a lengthy post questioning the practice of clerical celibacy. Now, it is a legitimate topic for question, since it is after all a discipline of the Church and not a dogma. I think celibacy is needed as a prophetic witness against a sex-crazed and debased culture, but I recognize that it is a reasonable thing to discuss.
However, I must take issue with something Anthony said:
The problem lies squarely in the Institutional Church's willful misunderstanding of human sexuality. The Church (and this pope) has created an antagonistic dualism that forces human nature to a neglected subservience to the human spirit. This is a situation ripe for an unhealthy presbyterate and for a passive-aggressive laity. No wonder we are in a bind. The physical dimension of human sexuality wants its due. The only way for human nature get noticed is to act out in ways to gain attention.
The practice of the Church sets human nature in competition against the human spirit. It is a purile view of human sexuality that allows the Church to spit upon priests who marry, married couples who use birth control, Catholic who divorce and remarry, and on gays just for the sake of being gay. The Institutional Church is interested in complete and total control of its members, and the best way to do this is grab everyone by the short ones.
I believe that a fair summary of Anthony's position would be that the Church has an incorrect understanding of sexuality, and that it is based on a false dualism between body and soul, and further that it sets body and soul at war with each other. A correct understanding of sexuality would see that it is integral to the human person, and that the problem with celibacy is that doesn't recognize the necessity of sexual expression to a healthy human person.
Problem: the incorrect and "antagonistic dualism" that Anthony sees in the Church is not only a part of the tradition of the Church, it is also evident in the inspired Scriptures of the Church, as well as in the teachings of Christ himself. Here are some examples:
- Look at Matthew 5:27-30: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Christ has extremely high standards for sexual morality. Indeed, we are not even to lust in our hearts! Furthermore, what pastoral advice does he give? If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out! The Church, in fact, moderates this teaching by assuring us that Jesus is not speaking literally, but rather of the necessity of cutting out occasions of sin from our lives. We don't have to go the way of Origen, thank God! So the sexual teaching of the Church has its roots in Christ.
- Look at Matthew 19:1-12: Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Jesus says that there is no possibility of divorce and remarriage. His teaching is very strict, much more so than Mosaic law or current US law. The disciples are amazed, and say that it would be better not to get married at all. Note that Jesus doesn't disagree. It is in fact better not to marry. There are eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven, and theirs is the best state, since Jesus doesn't contradict his disciples statement. So the best state is the life where one does not act upon sexual desire. This will involve a constant battle, as we will see from the next quote.
- Romans 7:15ff: I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.
Anyone who has tried to live up to the sexual teachings of the Church will recognize this struggle. One can know what is right, and still not be able to do it. The antagonistic dualism is there, whether we like it or not.
Now, Anthony has difficulties with dualism, as do I. We are body-soul creatures, and our bodies really are us. But we are also in a state of sin. As a result of the sin of Adam, we are disordered. We are at war with ourselves, and our desires don't always follow what is good for us. Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or go on a diet knows this: we know what is good, but we don't do it. This is a result of sin. In fact, it is an undeniable aspect of human experience. Jesus understood this, as well as St. Paul. The way to recovery, to becoming what humans were meant to be, is to overcome the desires that lead us away from the good. Yes, it is difficult, but with grace, all things are possible. The betrayal is not to try and fail, it is to fail to try.
response to Veni Sancte Spiritus
Anthony Marquis has a lengthy <a
questioning the practice of clerical celibacy. Now, it is a
legitimate topic for question, since it is after all a discipline of
the Church and not a dogma. I think celibacy is needed as a prophetic
witness against a sex-crazed and debased culture, but I recognize
that it is a reasonable thing to discuss.
However, I must take issue with something Anthony said:
The problem lies squarely in the
The practice of the Church sets human
I believe that a fair summary of
Anthony's position would be that the Church has an incorrect
understanding of sexuality, and that it is based on a false dualism
between body and soul, and further that it sets body and soul at war
with each other. A correct understanding of sexuality would see that
it is integral to the human person, and that the problem with
celibacy is that doesn't recognize the necessity of sexual expression
to a healthy human person.
Problem: the incorrect and
"antagonistic dualism" that Anthony sees in the Church is
not only a part of the tradition of the Church, it is also evident in
the inspired Scriptures of the Church, as well as in the teachings of
Christ himself. Here are some examples:
- Look at Matthew 5:27-30: "You
have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I
say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already
committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes
you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you
lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into
hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw
it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that
your whole body go into hell.
Christ has extremely high standards for sexual morality. Indeed, we
are not even to lust in our hearts! Furthermore, what pastoral advice
does he give? If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out! The
Church, in fact, moderates this teaching by assuring us that Jesus is
not speaking literally, but rather of the necessity of cutting out
occasions of sin from our lives. We don't have to go the way of
Origen, thank God! So the sexual teaching of the Church has its roots
- Look at Matthew 19:1-12: Now when
Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and
entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds
followed him, and he healed them there. And Pharisees came up to him
and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife
for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he
who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and
said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and
be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they
are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined
together, let not man put asunder." They said to him, "Why
then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to
put her away?" He said to them, "For your hardness of
heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the
beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his
wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."
The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with
his wife, it is not expedient to marry." But he said to them,
"Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it
is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and
there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are
eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom
of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Jesus says that there is no possibility of divorce and remarriage.
His teaching is very strict, much more so than Mosaic law or current
US law. The disciples are amazed, and say that it would be better not
to get married at all. Note that Jesus doesn't disagree. It is in
fact better not to marry. There are eunuchs for the kingdom of
heaven, and theirs is the best state, since Jesus doesn't contradict
his disciples statement. So the best state is the life where one does
not act upon sexual desire. This will involve a constant battle, as
we will see from the next quote.
- Romans 7:15ff: I do not understand my
own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I
hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.
So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within
me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my
flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do
the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I
do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which
dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do
right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in
my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the
law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells
in my members.
Anyone who has tried to live up to the sexual teachings of the Church
will recognize this struggle. One can know what is right, and still
not be able to do it. The antagonistic dualism is there, whether we
like it or not.
Now, Anthony has difficulties with dualism, as do I. We are
body-soul creatures, and our bodies really are
us. But we are also in a state of sin. As a result of the sin of
Adam, we are disordered. We are at war with ourselves, and our
desires don't always follow what is good for us. Anyone who has tried
to quit smoking or go on a diet knows this: we know what is good, but
we don't do it. This is a result of sin. In fact, it is an undeniable
aspect of human experience. Jesus understood this, as well as St.
Paul. The way to recovery, to becoming what humans were meant to be,
is to overcome the desires that lead us away from the good. Yes, it
is difficult, but with grace, all things are possible. The betrayal
is not to try and fail, it is to fail to try.
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Check them out!
One of my uncounted legions of readers makes some comments:
1. You said a few days back that the only intellectually reasonable
positions were Atheism and the Roman Catholic Church. I disagree as I think
Atheism is fundamentally irrational. It's a belief in the non-existence of
something else. Seems fruity to me. Agnosticism seems more reasonable -
that is to say that there might or might not be a God but that you have no
evidence to know.
Which is more irrational, atheism or agnosticism? I agree that atheism, defined as unbelief in the existence of God, seems silly to me. The heavens show forth the glory of God, as the psalms say, and the existence of God seems obvious. But it is possible that for someone with a morbid temperament, the existence of God is not so obvious. I am thinking of Sartre, who saw nothing but darkness when he looked at the world. For him, atheism was not irrational, but was a reasonable response to the way he saw the world. Perhaps he should have lightened up, or found a more cheerful girlfriend than Simone De Beauvoir. I don't think he was irrational to be an atheist, since the judgment fit his experience. Atheism is always a mistake, but isn't always irrational. I agree that if someone were to say "there is no God, and I can prove it," he is as foolish as I would be if I said "There is a Trinity, and I can prove it." But simply to say "I don't believe there is a God" is not irrational.
Agnosticism is a different story. The agnostic claims not to be sure of the existence of God. The way I see it, there are two sorts of agnosticism, the first of which is reasonable, and the second of which is the worst kind of silliness. One could not be sure of the existence of God, but be actively trying to figure out the truth of the matter. Such a person recognizes the importance of the question, and is working to solve it. This is an admirable state. But there is the agnosticism of those who don't know and don't care if there is a God. They are not sure, and use their lack of surety to justify their failure to search out the truth. In effect, they are saying that it doesn't matter if there is a God or not. This is a very silly state to be in. Pascal says somewhere that such people are like lemmings running towards a cliff. Isn't it crucial to how you lead your life whether there is a God or not?
Monday, June 10, 2002
Some thoughts about the 1961 document on seminary formation.
This document, which was supposed to be binding (and was never abrogated), was never enforced. Everyone knows that it prohibits homosexuals from being ordained. But among the other things that will disqualify a seminarian is that he "shows himself certainly unable to observe religious and priestly chastity, either because of frequent sins against chastity or because of a sexual bent of mind or excessive weakness of will, is not to be admitted to the minor seminary and, much less, to the novitiate or to profession." So those who screw around are not to be admitted, and those who are obsessed with sex are not admitted either.
Also, "any candidate who has a habit of solitary sins and who has not given well-founded hope that he can break this habit within a period of time to be determined prudently, is not to be admitted to the novitiate. Nor can a candidate be admitted to first profession or to renewal of vows unless he has really amended his ways." So those men with a habit of masturbation cannot be ordained.
Ok, stop and think about this. Men who are obsessed with sex, who can't keep it in their pants, or who cannot conquer habits of masturbation are not to be ordained. Ask yourself: how many men do you know who can pass these tests? You can look up statistics on these various behaviors yourself, since I don't want to link to the "self-love is good" websites that give out the statistics. But the percentage of men who engage in the "solitary sin" is very high.
My question: do we have any men left who can be ordained? Or rather, have we allowed the pool of potential vocations to be drastically reduced by our over-sexualized society? Try an experiment: flip channels once around the dial and see if it is possible to do it without coming across some borderline pornographic image. Try listening to a top-40 radio station for twenty minutes without hearing obscene lyrics. If you are a man, try driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on a summer day without having distracting thoughts about the women walking by.
We live in a world that presents sexual pleasure as the highest good. It is in the air we breathe. The question is, in such an environment, is it possible not to have a vocations shortage? The men who can navigate the minefield of modern culture without developing some sort of unchaste habits are probably quite rare. It is no wonder we don't have lots of vocations, and that we have lots of priests who are unable to live chastely: why should we expect them to be able to do what so many of us cannot do?
What can we do? I think that it is vital for those of us with children to guard their chastity. I think a good first step (we will see if I can do it) is to get rid of the television. Boys especially should be kept on a short leash. I don't think, for example, that boys ought to have their own rooms, since it is a breeding ground for unchaste behavior. Girls should be encouraged to dress modestly on account of boys' weakness, and should have drummed into their heads that having sex with boys won't make the boys love them. Change will be slow, but the vocation shortage can be conquered if we have a renewal of holiness. Part of that renewal of holiness is a renewal of chastity as a virtue, since without it we won't have a pool of candidates to be ordained.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us!
Sunday, June 09, 2002
and can't think of anything in particular to say. So I am going to give you a prayer from the end of the Paraclisis, which is a Byzantine liturgical prayer for times of great distress. I believe that recent months certainly suffice. The Byzantine Daily Worship book says that this office "consists in hymns of supplication to obtain consolation and courage. It should be recited in times of temptation, discouragement, or sickness." The last few months certainly are a time of discouragement for me, and I imagine it is true for many of you as well. Here is the concluding prayer:
Gracious Virgin, victory will come to those who put their trust in the strength of your arm, for we sinners who stoop with the wight of our sins have none before God to plead for us but you.
O Mother of God most high, we bend our knee to you: deliver your faithful servatns from every kind of trouble.
You are joy to the distressed, you are strength to the oppressed, you are food to those who sink into despair.
You console all the strangers, you support all the blind, and you come and visit all the sick. You are shelter to the weary, you are comfort to the crushed, you are heavenly assistance to the orphans.
You are the Mother of God most high, and so we pray to you: hasten, O immaculate one, and save your faithful servants!
In you is all my hope, O Mother of God: place me under the wings of your protection
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
If you are interest in the whole Office of Paraclisis, you can look here. It is an Orthodox monastery in England, and they appear to have a large collection of liturgical texts there. To make the prayers Catholic, just pray for the pope when the litanies pray for the bishop and patriarch.
Saturday, June 08, 2002
As you may know, I spent the last year teaching scripture and physics at a girls' high school. I am going to spend the next year attempting to write and publish some philosophy articles, so as to get a job teaching at a college. Getting the Ph.D. was the easy part!
One thought about high school students: character is about a million times more important than native intelligence. The students who want to learn almost invariably will learn, no matter what their intelligence. Those who don't want to learn won't, no matter how smart they are. So, although I am not yet a father, let me give some parental advice: try to be interested in learning. If you aren't interested in learning, pretend! Your kids desperately need to develop habits of inquisitive thought. They need especially to learn to read books. So turn off the television and read to them, or at least let them see you reading.
Thursday, June 06, 2002
I haven't written much about the Scandal recently, and don't intend to much in the future. The reason is mostly because it is a profoundly depressing subject, and I would rather find more cheerful topics to write about. It is also depressing to hear Catholic laity, some 90% of whom ignore Church teachings on sexuality and most other subjects, complaining about bishops and priests not being perfect, and offering "solutions" to the crisis, most of which would screw the Church up more. Remove the beam from your own eye! It is simply not the case that the laity are to any great degree better than the clerical class. We are probably worse! Calls for democratization of the Church are just silly.
Also, hopes are being fanned that somehow, Rome will "do something." The bad bishops and priests must be rooted out! But who is going to do it? Assuming the pope had the energy to devote himself to a crisis affecting 6% of the Church, disciplining bishops and excommunicating obstinate ones, what would happen? Schism, that's what! For all the complaints about the pope telling Catholics what to do or think, that is really all the pope can do. He can tell us what we ought to think or do, but he can't make us do it. And that applies to bishops as well. The disciplinary stick that the pope carries is a twig. To expect something dramatic to happen is probably a mistake.
A sense of Church history also makes the Scandal fade in importance a bit. Yes, it is a crucial issue for our times, but anyone who has read history knows that this is not the worst time ever for the Church, not even by a longshot. How would you like to have most of the bishops be heretical? Or the French Revolution outlawing the Church and confiscating all the property? Or three popes at once? Or a schism with half of Christianity leaving communion with the Vicar of Christ? Or the fall of Christendom in the Protestant Reformation? None of these scandals or catastrophes killed the Church, and this one won't either. Jesus promised the gates of Hell wouldn't prevail. This doesn't mean things won't be bad; they will. But keep calm. Christianity is like a book when one has read the last page first. We know that no matter what happens, God wins. So don't let the Scandal get you down or make you lose faith.
How will we get out of this problem? I don't think that anything dramatic is going to happen, or that someone will wave a magic wand and whisk us back to times when priests were good and the laity pious. It isn't going to happen that way. The only way out of this Scandal is through holiness. We need saints (another word for holy ones). But this doesn't mean waiting around for a new St. Francis. Look in the mirror: the saint we need is you. We all must cling closer to God, learn our faith, frequent the sacraments, raise our children up to God, pray, and defend the true teachings of Christ. We must be prepared to defend the faith whenever challenged, even when the challenging is done by a bishop or priest. Act in all charity, but remember that it is not charity to let falsehood go unanswered. If we are all saints, then the Church will shine like a jewel.
Concretely what does this mean? I will give a few examples. Encourage men to consider the priesthood. Don't just encourage the men who happen to be unmarried and pious at age 35: "You're not married, maybe you should be a priest." Rather, encourage the best of men to think about it, the ones that you think would make wonderful husbands and fathers. That is just what we need, men like the apostles who will evangelize the world, not milquetoast bachelors who got ordained because they can't do anything else. Also, when wacky things happen in your parish, stop them! Join committees, attend meetings, and speak up for the way things are supposed to be. When so-and-so says that we need to have dancing girls handing out lollipops at communion for the little kids, speak up. Lots of silliness happens at meetings that no-one attends. So make sure you attend. (This is a real white martyrdom, by the way.) Finally, evangelize the world. The Scandal is a golden opportunity: lots of people are talking about the Church who probably haven't talked or thought about religion for years. Use this chance to tell them about God, the sacraments, sin, grace, and redemption.
These are a few of my solutions. But since they aren't instant, and will take twenty years or more to bear real fruit, I have little to blog about concering the Scandal. So I am going to avoid the topic, at least until the meeting in Dallas.
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
I was browsing in the Pauline Books and Media store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and had a nice conversation with Jose and Julio, who are entering the Franciscan order based at Marytown in Mundelein. The neat thing, in this age of late vocations, was that they were 20 and 21 years old.
They said they would pray for me, so I got that going for me.
Monday, June 03, 2002
Taking the girlfriend for a test drive hurts the prospects of a marriage, which would come as no surpise to anyone, except that our society has gone completely mad on the subject of sex.
Everyone, repeat after me: "Sex is not the ultimate good of human life."
Go look at Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish. Especially look at the pictures. If you ever in the Chicago area, stop on by. Liturgy starts at 10:00 am on Sunday. Drop me a note and I will show you around.
In part I I tried to show that sex differences are both essential and willed by God. Now I will try to show what consequences arise from the fact that God became a man.
Catholics believe that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, that he has two natures, a divine nature that is shared by the three persons of the Trinity, and a human nature which is proper to him. (In fact, the proper way to do the sign of the cross for Eastern Catholics is with the thumb, index, and second finger together to represent the Trinity, and the pinky and ring finger pointed back into the palm to represent the two natures of Christ.) But what does it mean for Christ to have a human nature? It means he was like us in all things but sin (Heb 4:15). So it is a theological rule that everything that is true about ordinary human beings is true about Jesus, except for committing sin. So what can we conclude? We all have a human intellect; so also does Jesus have a human intellect. We all have a human will; so also does Jesus have a human will. We all are subject to pain and death; so also Jesus was subject to pain and death. And so on. But there is an important and essential aspect of humanity that he also shares: every human being has a biological sex; so also for Jesus.
When we say "The Word became man" we don't mean that the second person of the Trinity put on a human suit, sort of like we can put on a gorilla suit. No, we mean that God became a man, a particular, historical, flesh and blood man. Not an androgynous hominid, but a human male, with all that this entails. The incarnation is a great mystery, but we cannot minimize it. Jesus became a man, born to Mary according to the flesh, of the tribe of Judah, descendant of King David. He had a particular height and weight, had teeth, skin, hair, internal organs just like any other man. In addition, he had male sexual organs. He was (and is, since he lives now) a human, but a human man.
The earliest and most dangerous heresies all tried to deny the incarnation. The question is "who was Jesus Christ?" The answers given were that he was a human given lots of grace from God (Arianism) or he was God wearing a human suit (Nestorianism) or that he didn't really have a human nature (Monophysitism) or a human will (Monothelitism) or that he wasn't the son of God at all, but was merely a great prophet. The way to distinguish the true Catholic faith throughout history is that it always teaches that Christ is both God and man, without minimizing either the divinity or the manhood.
So what does this have to do with the ordination of men only? A priest is one who takes the place of Christ, who acts in persona Christi in the mass. Now, of course all Christians when they are baptized have put on Christ, and should be living images of Christ. But the priest is a representative of Christ in a special way, because he is the one who "do[es] this in commemoration of me." The priest takes on the role of Christ in the Last Supper, and makes present the saving sacrifice of Christ at every mass. He is a sacramental symbol. As a child I was taught that a sacrament is an efficacious (effective) sign of grace. The priest in the mass is such an efficacious sign, but an efficacious sign of Jesus. He doesn't just symbolize Christ in the way that you or I can, in that we represent the love of Christ to others in our actions, but the priest represents Christ effectively, making him really and truly present, so that the bread and wine are no longer bread and wine, but the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.
Now, symbols must be congruent with the reality they represent. We don't baptize in peanut butter, but in water, since water is an appropriate symbol. It represents the life-giving Spirit of God, as well as dying to sin (the original baptismal fonts looked like graves: one walked in one side, was submerged, died to sin, and rose up the other side, alive in Christ), washing, Noah's ark and the flood, crossing the Red Sea, and crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land. The symbol is appropriate for the reality it represents. Similarly, a mass celebrated with Oreo cookies and milk just won't work, since it is bread and wine that symbolize and actually miraculously become the reality they symbolize, the body and blood of Christ.
In the mass, the priest is an efficacious sign of Jesus. So he must be appropriate to the reality he represents. But the reality is Christ, who is a human male, not a human female or an androgynous hominid. So it is more fitting that Christ be represented by a man. To say that a woman can act in persona Christi in the sacrifice of the mass could be seen as a denial of the masculinity and hence a denial of the incarnate humanity of Christ. Now, of course women put on Christ in baptism just as men do, but the conformity to Christ of the ordinary faithful is not the issue. It is the specific performance of a sacramental role in the liturgy that is at issue. To say that the sex of the person presiding at the Eucharist doesn't matter is like saying that we could baptize in ice cream, have cookies and milk instead of bread and wine at mass, or have a marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. To have priests be men is a continuous affirmation that God became man, that the Word was incarnate in a human being who was like us in all things, including having a biological sex. To have women priests would perhaps lead to a minimization of the incarnation, since it would be tantamount to saying that Christ's humanity is not important, or at least that a significant chunk of his humanity, his sex, is not important.
I want to sound a great big caveat lector. I am arguing by using the age-old theological technique of determining what is "fitting." It seems appropriate or fitting to have human males represent God, who became a human male, in the liturgy. But this is an a posteriori way of arguing. We must remember that human beings do not decide what the symbol for the sacrament is. It is God who decides. If humans could decide, then maybe we could baptize in soap, or peanut butter, or Chanel No. 5. We use water because Jesus told us to, in John 3:5. We marry men and women to each other because God told us in Genesis that man and woman cleave together and become one. We use oil for confirmation because oil is the traditional symbol of the Spirit of God, going back to the anointing of kings. So also we ordain men because Jesus ordained only men, and so did the apostles who followed him. We have to take the fact as given by God. All we can do as theologians (and I am an amateur theologian, at that) is try to explain why God did this. So there is no way I could start from scratch and give you a list of premises that lead to the conclusion: therefore only men can be priests. Rather I take the fact that God himself chose only men, and then try to figure out why. One reason why God may have done what he did is the appropriateness of having men symbolize Christ the man.
As always, comments, corrections, or disagreements are always welcome. More will be coming, including a reflection on the essential differences between men and women. (Hey Old Oligarch, I will be including Edith Stein.)
Saturday, June 01, 2002
1) It is an entertaining and well-written book.
2) You should know that Crocker is not a historian. He doesn't read any original sources, but quotes other historians' work. If he quotes Leo the Great, for example, he won't cite the exact document of St. Leo, but rather will cite it "as quoted by so-and-so." So-and-so is usually Will Durant.
3) Ok, I will admit that the patriarch of Constantinople has spent most of his time either in heresy or schism over the centuries, but isn't there anything good to be said about the eastern Church? What about St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene, St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Gregory Nanzianzen, the desert Fathers, the Jesus prayer, the beautiful liturgy? When Crocker speaks of Vladimir choosing the Byzantine church for his people, he neglects to give the quote from his emissaries, who had visited the divine liturgy in Hagia Sophia: "We didn't know if we were in heaven or on earth." The liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil are by themselves enough for us to speak well of eastern Christianity, no matter how schismatic and heretical it is.
4) The fall of Christendom was probably the greatest tragedy ever.
5) I remain convinced that if one thinks clearly, there are only two possible religions: atheism and the Catholic Church. Who that knows the history of Christianity could be a protestant?
Don't forget to pray for peace in India and Pakistan!
Thursday, May 30, 2002
Is God a Sexist?
The discussion of whether or not women can be ordained tends to be negative: we can't do it because Jesus didn't do it, the apostles didn't do it, and the pope said in an infallible document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis that the Church can't do it. So it is not going to happen, ever. But arguments like this are ultimately unconvincing to many people because they only tell us of the legal fact that it is not going to happen. But they don't tell us the reasoning or justification for the fact. It is like asking "why do we drive on the right side of the street?" and getting the answer "because we don't drive on the left side." It is an answer, but not what the questioner is seeking. What is the why of it? In philosophical terms, what is the final cause? If we assume the Church is correct, and that God doesn't want women to be ordained, what is God after? What is the point of the restriction? Is God a sexist, or is it a case of the wisdom of God looking like foolishness to us?
I want to try to defend God on this score. Of course, I can't give an argument of premise A, premise B, therefore women can't be priests. Who can plumb the depths of God's wisdom? I wouldn't presume to try. In addition, Aquinas warns in the Summa Contra Gentiles that we shouldn't try to prove things we know only by revelation: it is not possible, and to do so only opens us up to ridicule. The proper job for philosophers in defending the faith is to show that although the given doctrine cannot be proven, neither is it ridiculous. So we get long explanations in the thirteenth century, not to prove the Real Presence, but to show that it isn't contrary to reason, just beyond reason; thus we get the word "transubstantiation." I am going to try to show that ordaining only males is not ridiculous or contrary to reason. I won't pretend to be able to give a precis of God's thinking on the matter.
Does Sex Matter? What difference does a person's sex make? (Sex is the correct term: human beings have sex, nouns and adjectives have gender.) The conventional thinking is "not much." For example, a common argument for women's ordination goes like this: "You say that Jesus chose only male apostles, and that is why the Church ordains men only. But Jesus only chose poor men from Galilee, and so by your reasoning only Galileans should be ordained." The problem with this argument (aside from the fact that the apostles, who presumably knew Jesus' mind better than we, did in fact ordain non-Galileans, but did not ordain women) is that it equates a person's sex with a person's point of origin or economic status. Is being male or female just an accidental fact? Is the fact that I am a man of as little importance as the fact that I was born in Chicago Heights?
We must address a residual Platonism in the minds of many people. Lots of people have the idea that the body isn't important at all. What I really am is what I think I am, not what my body is. This is why people substitute "gender" for "sex": sex is something imposed on us by biology, gender is something we can construct with our minds. Plato taught that the soul was trapped in a body, and that the real path for a true philosopher was to practice death, the separation from bodily existence. Being in a body is a tragedy, and the nature of one's body is inconsequential. (Perhaps one can see this in the trend of young people towards self-mutilation. They use their bodies as canvases for tattooing or piercing just like one would use any other object. The body is just an object for them.) The dominant thinking is that the soul is like a captain of a ship: if the ship is red, we don't apply redness to the captain. If the body is female, we don't really apply femaleness to the soul. Sex is something secondary, accidental to the true essence.
If this view of the relationship between body and soul is true, then God would seem very silly to make any decisions based on sex. Hiring someone on the basis of the tie he is wearing in the interview is silly, and so is refraining to choose someone for a job because she is female. Femaleness carries no more import than wearing-red-tie-edness. God would in fact seem unjust for making a decision on something so inconsequential. This is what most people think: the Church doesn't ordain women. Being a woman is of little or no importance. Therefore, the Church is restricting ordination to men for a reason of little or no importance, and is unjust.
But both theologically and philosophically, sex is something much more essential. Look at the beginning of Genesis: God creates man male and female: the differentiation of the sexes is divinely willed. God did it on purpose. Look at the descriptions of the two: woman is a help-mate, created because man alone was lonely. Man and woman are created for each other, and we are different so that we can complete each other. These differences are essential. Note also the different punishments as a result of original sin: man's punishment is related to his work, attempting to bring forth food from the earth. Woman's punishment is tied to childbirth and family: there will be pain in childbirth, and family life will be disordered into a role of subjugation. If sex is something accidental to being human, the punishments would be the same.
Philosophically this separation of body and soul is a relic of Platonism or perhaps Cartesianism, as I said above. Plato taught that the human soul pre-existed the body, and that living in a body was a tragedy, since it prevented the view of the true reality of the ideas. The true philosopher practices death, as he says, since death is preferable to being trapped in a material body. But Platonism has been repudiated on this point: if the soul were trapped in the body, then existence would be pointless. Why would we have bodies at all? Why would we be punished by being put in a body? Further, why is it that when you cut my finger, I say "Stop cutting me?"In a very real sense, I ammy body. If you step on my foot, you hurt me. If you shoot my through the heart, Idie. If light enters the eyes, I see. The body is the sine qua non if human existence. It is not something separate from me, it is me. We are bodies.
Aristotle's explanation makes much more sense: the soul is the first actuality of a body capable of having life. The soul is nothing more than the actuality of the body, the form of the body. We are not body-soul mixtures, but bodysoul creatures, or soulbodies. The soul is the essence of the body. No soul, no body. No body, the soul is an orphan. All of the soul's faculties are designed to work through the agency of a body. I see with eyes, hear with ears, think with a brain. I don't have faculties for life as a pure spirit. I would make a very poor angel. My soul needs a body to exist in its fullness. This is in fact why the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is so comforting: we aren't going to spend eternity as disembodied ghosts (who would want that?), but as real flesh-and-blood human beings.
Sex does in fact matter, and there are essential, though complimentary, differences between men and women. If you have followed me so far, then you are ready for the next step: if sex is a matter of essence, and there are differences, isn't it possible, just maybe, that there is something in the essences of men and women that make it a good idea for God to pick men for the ordained priesthood and not to pick women?
The next installment will attempt to come up with some guesses for what these essential differences are. Stay tuned!
Go here for the link. The article says it might cost $400,000 of the parishoner's money, or almost as much as it cost Milwaukee to pay off Archbishop Weakland's paramour. If the Archdiocese hired me, I would just have them read this, and then say "go thou and do likewise."
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Let me know if you want me to put you on the list too.
Michael Shirley, in response to my response to his response to my stuff on the duty of dissent, says that, although he isn't sure about the infallibility of the papal statement on women's ordination (I honestly don't see any wiggle room, since the pope himself says it is infallible), "I disagree, and I think it's wrong, but I accept that that is the way it is."
Do we have to like everything that the Church teaches? No. I certainly don't like everything, and have my favorite sins that I would like to see taken off the sin list. But we have to accept it. I think there is a slight problem with Michael's statement "I disagree, and think it's wrong." We can't do that on infallible statements: if we think they are wrong, we are disputing infallibility, which is a denial of the Church. I would prefer he said "I don't like the decision, and would have done differently if I were God, but I accept that that is the way it is."
In any case, soon (probably tomorrow) I am going to post a series of reflections on why God might not have been ridiculous to restrict the priesthood to men. Of course I can't prove from some argument that God was right (who can know the depths of God's wisdom?) but at least I can use my poor human reason to try to explain why God might not be wrong.
Can someone please send me a note on how to set up comments? I must have missed the memo.
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
I should be reading had comments about my earlier post on conscience and the duties of dissenters. I apologize for not getting to this sooner, but there are lots of bloggers at St. Blog's, and only so much time. Anyway, he asks me to clarify the terms "dissent" and "prayerful acceptance." As I see it, dissent is refusing to believe a particular teaching of the Church is true. In the context of women's ordination this would mean refusing to believe that women will never be ordained, or that the Church has no power to ordain them, since this has been defined infallibly by the pope. So if you hold out hope for it to happen, you are dissenting.
Does this mean that one has to like everything taught by the Church? Of course not. I don't particularly like the rules that I have to love my enemies; I would rather cheerfully hate them. Does this mean one has to understand everything taught by the Church? Of course not. I don't understand the Trinity, and don't have any hope that I will. But it means I have to accept them with the "obedience of faith," to quote Saint Paul and Lumen Gentium. I accept them as true, not because I like them or because I understand, but because the Church founded by Christ and preserved by the Holy Spirit teaches them to be true. We have a duty to accept prayerfully that which the Church teaches. So we say to ourselves "it must be true, even though I don't like it or understand it. I will take it on faith, but I will study and pray to understand it."
In the case of women's ordination this is particularly important, because people who hold out hope for a change to the rules on ordination generally tend not to encourage young men to consider the priesthood. All of us need to be on board, encouraging the best of our men to consider serving Christ in the ordained priesthood. The continued recalcitrance on this issue is hurting the Church.
In any case, I am sorry I didn't get to this post sooner. If you post a reply to something I've written, do me a favor and send me a note so I know about it, and I will try to do the same. Thanks for reading!
I was thinking about the possibility for reform in the Church. Have you ever noticed that those who get the most attention and acquiescence from priests and bishops are the dissenters, the warm and fuzzy newchurchers, those who refuse to call God "father" and want the Church to accept abortion, contraception, homosexual behavior, and the Unitarian equivalence of religion? The bishops of the Church seem to be afraid of these people! The doctrine of the Church that is preached is limited by the amount of annoyance that the opponents of the doctrine will have to endure. Are some people in the Church offended by "sexist" language? Then I better say "sisters and brothers" all the time, and God forbid I say "God the Father." Are some people offended by Humanae Vitae? Then I better not ever mention that birth control is a mortal sin! Do some people think that the liturgy is too "vertical" and not "horizontal" enough? Then I better eliminate all reverence from the liturgy and make it into an extended verse of Kumbaya. Do we have Muslims or Buddhists in the neighborhood? Then I better not say that Catholicism is the One True Faith, and that people need to be Catholic to be saved! I might offend people.
My oldest brother, who says lots of smart things (and plenty of stupid ones), said one extremely smart thing a while back: "If people are going to try to be offended, I am going to work to offend them!" I think we worry far too much what the world will think of us, should we preach the fullness of our Faith. But think of it this way: if people are offended by the truth, and it is our duty to teach the truth, it becomes our duty to offend them! If doing the right thing offends people, we must offend them. If Sister Steinem thinks that abortion should be legal and free, and we know that abortion is a grave evil, then we are duty bound to tick off Sr. Steinem.
Why is it that the faithful feel uncomfortable in the Church, and the unfaithful feel comfortable? We need to reverse this. Those who oppose the teachings of Christ, whether priest, bishop, or laity, must not be allowed to be comfortable in their unbelief. If they insist on riding in the Barque of Peter, they should at least get seasick when they rock the boat.
Read Church history. Currently I am reading Triumph, a gift from my wonderful wife, and it is good to see that Things Have Been Worse. Which would you rather have, a clergy scandal, or a majority of bishops supporting heresy with Attila the Hun waiting outside the gates? It helps to have some perspective. Yes, the current scandal is very bad, but things have been as bad or worse before, lots of times, and God always wins.
A friend of mine used to say to me that I shouldn't worry: the war is over: God won when Christ died and rose from the dead. The devil has been conquered, but battles are still being fought. Be confident that we are on the winning side, and that in fact we have already won.
(I'll give a review of Triumph when I finish it.)
Sunday, May 26, 2002
God and marriage
I went to a Catholic wedding yesterday; no blue stone toads except
that the priest said "thank you" after we said "and
also with you." The bride chose Ephesians 5 for the reading. You
know, the one about wives submitting to their husbands. St. Paul
compares the relationship of husband and wife to the relationship
between God and his Church. I started to think about how this works:
how exactly does marriage symbolize our relationship to God? In
particular, how does the sexual act symbolize it? One must remember,
as Pseudo-Dionysius points out, that the whole world is symbolic of
God in some way, since he created it all. So even something like
sexuality is a fruitful place to look for symbols of divine
If God is the groom, and we are the bride, then the symbol works
like this: God corresponds to the male, and we to the female. This
holds true if we extend the symbol from the bride/groom concept to
the actual physical relationship between bride and groom. (I'm going
to get a little R-rated here.) Think of what happens: the woman
invites the man, opens herself to the man and takes him within
herself. The man is not changed by this action, but the woman can be
profoundly changed: as a result of giving herself to the man, she can
become pregnant, bringing new life from within herself. This
pregnancy, if it is to come to term, is going to take nine months and
will change the woman's entire physiology, until through the pains of
labor the new child is brought forth into the world.
I want to compare this with the life of a Christian. Keep in mind
that from God's point of view in this symbol, we are all female. We
must pray and frequent the sacraments, and we must open ourselves to
the graces that may come. Should we do so, we become pregnant, in a
sense: God begins a great work within us that takes time and pain to
come to its fulfillment. Just as the sexual act doesn't change the
man, openness to God doesn't change God. But it does change us, as
profoundly as pregnancy changes a woman. We must cooperate with that
grace, no matter how difficult it gets, just as the pregnant woman
must take care not to damage the fragile life growing within her.
Furthermore, to bring the gifts of God to their proper fulfillment in
the world is going to involve suffering, just like childbirth.
For example, consider if one asks Jesus: "Lord, I believe.
Help my unbelief." (Mar 9:24) Perhaps someone has a difficulty in accepting
some aspect of the faith, and prays for understanding. The answer is
going to require that person to be open to God, open to the
possibility that God is right and that he or she is wrong. The grace
of understanding may take time to develop just as the pregnancy takes
nine months to come to term. The person who prayed for understanding
of God will find that he or she has to abandon many things, many
concepts once held dear, just as a pregnant woman must deny herself
many things for the health of the child. Finally, one will be
standing next to the chasm between the wisdom of man and the
foolishness of God, facing a choice: does one give birth to faith?
Does one take God at his word, and believe in things such as the
resurrection, the eucharist, and the forgiveness of sins, things that
no reasonable person could believe? It will be painful! Belief in God
carries consequences: if one does assent, life will never be the same
(just like the life of a new mother is never quite the same again).
We will not be able to act as we did before we believed: there are
moral and spiritual consequences of faith. (In fact, often
difficulties in faith can be traced back to difficulties in moral
matters.) It is painful to give birth. But what comes after the
birth? Despite the pain, the self-denial, and the great changes that
come about through pregnancy, afterwards there is a new life! If we
commit ourselves to God in faith, despite all the pain and
difficulty, we get new life, more abundant and joyful than the old
Friday, May 24, 2002
74% of high school kids cheat on their school work. So your precious angel probably cheats. Do teachers a favor: when they catch your kids cheating, don't assume the kid is innocent. Don't call the teacher to try to bully him or her into changing the grade.
for the half a million he had to pay because he couldn't keep his pants on. How big of him. Just one question: does he have any money left to pay the diocese so they can fix the mess he made of the cathedral?
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Peter Nixon writes about the magisterial authority of the church:
In the Catholic community, the Pope and the Bishops have been given a special responsibility to safeguard the faith that has been received from those who came before us and to pass it intact to those who will come after us. It is they who determine—after consultation with each other, theologians, and the community as a whole—whether particular beliefs are practices are consistent with what the Catholic community has believed through the centuries. For a Catholic, submission to the teachings of these authorities is the ordinary and expected response.
He is leaving out a big ingredient: the Holy Spirit. The Pope and the bishops do not simply determine what the Catholic community has believed throughout the centuries. We believe, rather, that they safeguard and teach the faith handed on to the Church by Christ and that their teaching is guarded by the Holy Spirit. It is not a matter of theological consultation; if it were, Humanae Vitae would never have been written.
Now, on to the important question: Is it possible for a correctly formed Catholic conscience to reject the restriction of orders to men? I think the answer must be no. Why? Catholics are required to accept with the obedience of faith all infallible teachings of the magisterium of the church. The restriction of orders to men is an infallible teaching. Therefore, Catholics are required to accept this teaching. There is no wiggle room. If it is infallible, it must be accepted.
Let's look a little closer at the dissenting conscience. In order to reject the teaching on ordination, one must not just reject this particular teaching, one must reject the teaching on infallibility from Vatican I, reaffirmed at Vatican II. If one rejects infalliblity, one must it seems reject the indefectability of the Church promised by none other than Christ himself. In other words, to reject the Church on this point means that one rejects that the Church is the true Church. Let me schematize:
1) The Church says: We are the true Church.
2) An integral part of being the true Church is the infallibility of the pope and bishops united to the pope.
3) The Church says women cannot be ordained. Further
4) The Church says this teaching is infallible.
Ok, so if the Church is wrong about women's ordination (3), that means that (4) is wrong, which means that (2) is wrong. If a church claims to be the Church founded by God, but makes such a big blunder on an important theological question, could it be the true Church? If 2, 3, and 4 are wrong, doesn't it mean that 1 is wrong?
So where does that put the dissenter? It seems to me that he or she has no other choice but to leave the Church. If you don't believe as the Church believes, why would you stay? I wouldn't be a Muslim if I didn't believe Mohammed was a prophet. So how can one be a Catholic who doesn't believe in the infallibility of the pope? A conscience that tells someone not to accept an infallibly declared teaching of the Church must also tell the person not to remain in that church. Anything less would be inconsistent. Of course, if the person were to balk at leaving the Church, I would suggest that rather than dissent, prayerful acceptance is the answer. There is faith that tugs at the person, leading him to remain in the Church; the dissenter ought to pray and work that this faith succeed in seeking understanding.
Oh, by the way, I am not directing this personally at Peter Nixon. I am just trying to work out the logical consequences of dissenting from Church teaching.
since final grades are due soon and my weekend is booked. I should have a somewhat lengthy post tonight about dissenting and the duty of the dissenter. Oh, and thanks to all the people who have linked to me. If you linked to me and I didn't link to you, send me a note and I will try to add you to my bloglist.
Wednesday, May 22, 2002
I had a rough 24 hours yesterday. I checked five late papers and found out that three had been plagiarized. Then the next day, I caught two students sharing a paper during a test. Five cheaters in one day!
Today I had to do the teacherly duty of calling the parents. The mother of one of the girls kept repeating that she had a really good relationship with her daughter, and that she just can't believe that her daughter would do something like that. In other words, my interpretation of the plain fact that her daughter's paper was in front of someone else should bow to the mother's warm feelings for her child. I very politely pointed out to the mother that it was possible, just barely, that her daughter actually did cheat.
The mother's thinking is an example of a widespread problem, that people think with their hearts (metaphorically speaking) rather than their heads. She feels that her daughter isn't a cheater, and therefore thinks that her daughter isn't a cheater, never mind the plain evidence. She is using her heart as a device to discover the truth. But here is the problem: the heart isn't designed for that. The intellect is the organ of truth in human beings; the heart is the organ of value. It is good to feel, because feeling gives us an insight into what is good. But we must think by means of the intellect in order to see if any particular thing is good or bad, true or false. The intellect gets to truth, the will chooses the good, the heart or affections help to tell us what is good.
But note that the heart cannot act on its own: it is not a reliable guide. For example, after discovering the cheaters, my heart was filled with anger, and would have led me to extremely bad actions if I had followed it. I needed to use my mind to figure out the right thing to do. Or consider the many horrible and failed marriages today: when asked why the women married that alcoholic, abusive man, she invariably answers "Because I love him!" To quote Golda from Fiddler, what does love have to do with marriage? Yes, use the heart as the guide, but use the intellect as the rudder to steer the heart. And don't ever say "feel" when you mean "think!"
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
The Schultz's were kind enough to link to me, so I am returning the favor. See especially the discussion of clapping in church.
Also, there is a new seminarian at St. Blog's parish, Todd Reitmeyer. Apparently, he isn't just a sem, but is a Deacon! Go visit the Reverend Mister.
Monday, May 20, 2002
(I figured as long as I have this increase in audience, I ought to say something important.)
Take a look at the declaration Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which John Paul II wrote in 1994. Concerning the possibility, he writes: "Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
Read that closely. Now take a look at what Vatican II says about papal infallibity in Lumen Gentium: "And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, (2) as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, (3) by a definitive act he proclaims a (1) doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment."
So what, according to Vatican II, makes a papal teaching infallible? When he (1) proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals as (2) supreme shepherd and teacher of the faithful (3) by a definitive act. Now look at the declartion on women's ordination: the pope says "by virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren", therefore as supreme shepherd (2), he defines (3): "I declare that the Church has no authority. . . and this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful" a doctrine of faith and morals (1): "no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women."
It looks like the restriction of orders to men is infallible! But don't take my word for it: look at what the Congregation fo the Doctrine of the Faith says: "This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published."
So the pope approved a document that said that the teaching on the ordination of women is infallible. This means not only won't it change in the near future, but that it will never ever change.
The uniqueness of the Catholic Church is that it claims infallibility in its teachings. If you argue for women's ordination, you are not just arguing for a particular point of sacramental discipline, but you are arguing that the Catholic Church is not the Catholic Church. The debate goes to the heart of the Church, and indicates that there is a fundamental problem with our ecclesiology. You are saying, when you argue that the pope was wrong, even though he was speaking infallibly, that the pope doesn't have the charism of infallibility, and that the Church was wrong to say so at Vatican I and II. This means that the Catholic Church isn't the One True Church.
May I suggest if you don't like this teaching, or don't understand it, embrace it! It is given to you by the Church Jesus founded. I don't quite understand why Jesus chose and chooses only men--I will ask him when I see him. But it is universally the case that by prayerfully embracing a difficult teaching, one finds grace and hidden depths.
Sunday, May 19, 2002
He notes that Cardinal George has taken a vow of poverty, but that the priests of the diocese have not. This is certainly true. But priests are also to lead lives of simplicity, as it says in Canon 282. Yes, diocesan priests are not required to sell all they have and live in poverty, but they are encouraged to lead a simple life. It is not a strict duty, but a supererogatory duty, sort of like "Love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you." The rule itself doesn't say how we are to fulfill the rule, but leaves it up to us. A good example from the Cardinal may encourage his priests to fulfill this duty better.
Cranky Professor worries that selling the episcopal mansion will be used as a justification for priests moving further from their parishes. I am not certain that this will be used as a reason to sell off property. Rectories are adjacent to churches, and cannot easily be sold. Condos and priest-houses can be sold. I think this would rather encourage priests to live back in the rectories. Remember, the bishop's mansion is not adjacent to the cathedral, but is in fact quite a distance away.
He asks where the Cardinal will live. I don't know yet. There are archdiocesan buildings adjacent to the cathedral. I hope that he will just take a few rooms there. I will let you know if I hear anything.
Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune has a short article on the ordinations that talks only about the scandal, and mentions nothing about the sale of the mansion.