Friday, September 19, 2014

The Shop of Ghosts



Season Seven of G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense continues on EWTN this week with the episode "The Shop of Ghosts".

Starring Dale AhlquistChuck Chalberg, and (sometimes) me, this series is a fantastic way to get to know the greatest writer of the 20th century, G. K. Chesterton.

Episodes air in the U.S. on Sundays at 9:00 pm Eastern Time (8:00 pm Central), and on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm Eastern Time (1:00 pm Central).

Life as a Great Parade

My fear is that my posts about Cardinal Dolan will be taken in the worst possible way.  And I don't mean that certain super-Catholics will be offended that I have the temerity to criticize a "Prince of the Church".

I mean that people will simply assume that I hate gays, or that I'm obsessed with shaming homosexuals, or that I think Dolan is making a horrible mistake by serving as grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.  In fact, I think a good case could be made for Dolan sticking by his guns and leading the parade; but the case he made is not it.  The reasons Dolan gave for his decision simply insult our intelligence and tell us more about Dolan's vanity, imperiousness and contempt for his critics -which was wrapped in a faux folksy "aw shucks" bonhommie - than anything else.  But my point is not gay bashing or even bishop bashing.  My point is that to parade under a banner identifying your sin is to endorse that sin, and it is to demand public endorsement of your sin. 

But being misunderstood worries me because I've known openly gay men and women all of my life.  You can't make a living in show business and not work closely along side them.  And while their sins are no source of pride (despite what they sometimes rather defensively assert), these folk are like all the rest of humanity: loving, trustworthy, compassionate, petty, untrustworthy, cold-hearted - in other words, a mixture of things both divinely good and abysmally bad, like all of us.

They are part of the Vast Parade, the ongoing line of cheaters, swindlers, lovers and saints who pass by as the band plays, who pass by along that Main Street that stretches from cradle to grave.

Anthony Esolen has a brilliant essay in Crisis in which he looks at what it means to march in a parade - in fact to march in the great Parade of Life (thanks to reader Chrisitan Le Blanc for pointing this article out to me).

I am imagining a parade down Main Street of Anyville.

It’s the typical American parade. Some people are tootling on flutes, braying out almost-G on the trumpet, or banging the big bass drum. A group of high school girls in short skirts dance and twirl their batons. Old men with bellies stuffed into their faded Army uniforms march along with rifles slung over their shoulders. The gladhanding mayor comes waving in a limousine, a smile frozen on his face as people cheer or hoot. Fire engines one two three and four roar down the road with siren and horn. Middle-aged ladies from the middle-aged lady association come bearing friendly banners, smiling to the children in the crowds. A troop of boy scouts, a troop of girl scouts, a clown with big floppy feet, random boys running into and out of the festivities, somebody hawking cotton candy, parents along the sidewalks carrying small children on their shoulders; everything and everyone you expect.

In the parade are liars, cheats, gossips, Sabbath-breakers, and people who drink too much. In the parade are adulterers, a thief or two, a pleasant civic-minded taker of bribes, a man who beats his wife, and a wife who beats her husband. In the parade are people hooked on porn, and at least one woman who has produced some of it herself. In the parade are parents who have hurt their children and children who have hurt their parents. In the parade are fornicators, and some who have snuffed in the womb the natural result of their fornication. In the parade is a doctor who let an elderly patient die of an overdose of morphine because her relatives wanted it. In the parade are the angry, the false-hearted, the covetous, the slothful, the vain, the blasphemous, the licentious, the ambitious, the perverse, the cruel, the petty, the lukewarm, and the obscene.

In the parade are human beings. In the parade are sinners. We are in the parade and we are lining the streets to watch the parade.

In the town next to mine when I was a boy, the Italian immigrants had brought over from Gubbio a great festive parade, the Race of the Saints. Three teams of men, carrying seven-hundred-pound statues of Saint George, Saint Anthony, and Saint Ubaldo, Gubbio’s patron, would race up and down the hilly streets, to the cheers of most of their four thousand townsmen. Sin was carrying sanctity; sinners bent their backs and strained their legs to give honor to the saints.

That is why we have a parade. We who are not always honorable show our appreciation for honor.  We who are not always holy show our reverence for holiness. We who are small pay our respects to what is great. We who have received great benefits show some modest gratitude for those who have conferred them upon us.

Now let us suppose that the Royal Order of Wife-Beaters wants to add their float to the parade, with a jaunty young lady bending over to invite the man with the big paddle. Let us suppose that the Fornicators for Freedom want to march, dancing to “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” Let us suppose that a group calling itself Porn Again Christians wants to strut, with bikini underwear and thongs. Let us suppose that the Rumor Rustlers want to march, advertising their raison d’etre, to ferret out other people’s ugly secrets and to spread them abroad in gleeful caricatures.

We can imagine other groups too: The Ponzi Perps, The Brothers of Brawling, The Sharks of the Payday Loan, The Morphine Mavens, The Salacious Sluts, The Kiddie Korruptors, The Ku Klux Klan, The New Nazis, The Legal Thieves, The Sowers of Discord, The Peddlers of Public Office, The Gladhearted Gluttons, The Bloodsucking Leeches, The Refusers to Lift a Finger, and so forth.

Now suppose that the parade were ostensibly held to celebrate the feast day of a saint, and that a leader of the saint’s faith were to occupy the seat of honor. That would not be a case of sin carrying sanctity. It would be a case of sin marching right over the backside and the head of sanctity. Saint Patrick, according to legend, cast all the serpents out of Ireland. The new Patrick is more “inclusive.” He welcomes the serpents back in.

I deal with this a while back in my post on other forms of public celebrations of sin ...


Several new sites will be on display here in my home town of St. Louis, and the tour buses will be busy incorporating the new stops for eager vacationers.


  • One is a statue of Henry Flurg, proudly on display in the public square in the heart of downtown.  Henry was a middle-aged St. Louisan who spent most of his time masturbating.  He had no social life and contributed nothing to society, but, "He led the way in something we should all be ashamed of," noted Earl Glurp, President of the Pride for Self-Indulgence, which was awarded a Federal Grant to fund the statue.

  • Shirleen Smink worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles and made customers' lives miserable.  She saw to it that some folks stood in line for several hours before being told in a rude and dismissive way that they didn't have the right paperwork.  In her personal life, she was selfish and nasty to her closest friends.  She has been honored with a plaque on St. Louis' Walk of Fame.

  • Thad Schlub managed to father three children whose mothers he abandoned, in spite of the fact that he did literally nothing but play video games, collect disability, and smoke an "unbelievable" amount of "weed" while listening to loud and annoying music.  Four local streets and a fountain will be named after him.

We are all sinners and we march in the Great Parade while other sinners cheer and catch the candy we throw at them.

But we do not demand that they cheer for our sins.  And the garbage Cardinal Dolan is throwing at us sure the heck ain't candy.




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ardor and Love

Well, the Cardinal Dolan posts have gotten lots of views and lots of comments (especially on Facebook and via email), but let me try to get back to something a bit more helpful to all of us.



If you're anything like me, the ardor of your faith waxes and wanes.  Sometimes you feel more serious about God, sometimes less.

But here's something that occurred to me last night.  In my moments where I'm really stirred up, where I really can pray and pray quite honestly, "I love you, Jesus.  I will do anything for You.  Forgive my many sins and backslidings, and use me in any way You wish.  I want to give my all to You, like St. Paul the Apostle, like the Prophets, like those who have been on fire for Your love," - in those moments when I see the core of the meaning of life, and I know (as we all do, though sometimes it slips out of focus) that the meaning of life is giving ourselves entirely in a gift of love, then perhaps I can add a little prayer, "P.S., remind me of this the next time I'm tempted to sin.  Remind me of how true and genuine my love for You is.  Remind me of my ardor."

Now this takes some chutzpah.  After all, our love has to be strong and our ardor has to be genuine if we are to be reminded of it.

But I suspect that each of us, miserable and selfish souls that we all are, have someplace in us where we love with a great fervor, a shocking purity, an uncompromised devotion.  If we do, it is God's grace, the seed of eternal life in us, the key to the Kingdom.  If we do, though it be hidden and buried (sometimes deliberately buried out of cowardice and out of disdain for the suffering we know letting it out will bring) - if we have this, it is God's presence stirring and growing within us as it stirred and grew within Mary when she said Yes to the angel those many years ago.


To Clarify - on Cardinal Dolan, Gays and Personal Dispositions



I've been hearing from a lot of folks via Facebook and email on my recent posts on Cardinal Dolan and the St. Patrick's Day Parade issue.  Let me clarify a few things ...


  • I think it's well within the cardinal's prerogative to decide if he should or should not serve as Grand Master of a parade that includes GAY PRIDE banners and groups.  It's a matter of prudence, not doctrine.  Indeed, I think a very good case could be made for him to stick with leading the parade.  These reasons include the fact that he doesn't decide who's in and who's out, the fact that his presence can stir up debate (as it has), the fact that there are plenty of other sinners marching in the parade who don't have their own banners devoted to their particular sins, etc.  But the reason Cardinal Dolan gave, that to parade one's inclination to sin is not to endorse that sin, is either disingenuous or stupid.  As I pointed out, if I were to march under the banner IRISH ADULTERERS, I would be advocating not only my predilection toward that particular sin, but also my pride in it and my flaunting of it.  To march under a GAY PRIDE banner (in a public square, in front of God and children and everybody) is to endorse gay sex.  Period.  Everybody but a bishop is able to see that.

  • Gays can certainly be loving people - perhaps far more loving than I am, and far more loving than most of my friends.  But they are loving in spite of their sins, not because of them.  Anal intercourse (for instance - whether between heterosexuals or homosexuals) can never, by its nature, be a proper or true expression of love, for love is always self-sacrificing and creative, making new life.  Buggery, by contrast, is self-indulgent and sterile.  The Church teaches that any sexual activity outside of the marital act (sex between a married man and woman) which is not open to emotional union and to the creation of new life (babies and families) is sinful and selfish.  This is a hard teaching.  But it's the teaching of Christ.  If it's not, then the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be.  And it's the Law of Love.  And we know in our hearts that it's true.

  • Some of my younger friends tell me that being "gay" does not necessarily mean being sexually active with others of your own gender; it is just a disposition, an orientation, a general inclination, and that it's part of a bigger picture.  I frankly admit this.  Indeed, a disposition toward homosexual behavior might be part of a general sensitivity or might often be aligned with a specific talent or two - this is something psychologists can study.  But we all deal with this: our dispositions are mixed blessings, and everything we're disposed to needs to be either mortified or perfected by God's grace.  And if it's true that "gay" men are prone to artistic sensitivity (to use a stereotype), this does not mean that it's therefore a good thing to turn your "sexual identity" into a banner to march under, simply because your disordered sexual disposition happens to include aspects of your personality that dispose you toward other things that are not disordered.  But these things do, indeed, seem to come in clusters.  I know many men who are disposed toward adultery (you might say that's their "sexual identity"), and who also happen to be very effective at sales.  It's part of the same package - great salesman, wandering eye.  Since their disordered appetite toward sex is part of a larger disposition that includes valuable talents and abilities in other directions, does that mean they should be proud of the fact that they don't want to keep their penises in their pants?  Our characters are gifts from God, and they are all mixed bags.  "Gays" have nothing on "straights" in that regard.

  • "Gays" should not be persecuted or discriminated against, any more than any other sinners.  Some of them deal with grave and burdensome struggles to be chaste, or even to be happy.  This is why Dolan's flippant, folksy, casual and condescending attitude toward this really rankles me; he is being particularly dismissive of men and women who struggle with same sex attraction and who make great sacrifices day in and day out to be virtuous.  

  • "Why are you Catholics so focused on gay sex?  Let it go!" I've been hearing.  Glad to.  But we're not the ones with an agenda here.  This is the first time the St. Patrick's Day Parade has been hijacked by this issue, as far as I know, and it's not because of the obsessive compulsive Catholic Church.


When the Leading Cardinal in America is Simply a Careerist



For those of you who haven't been following, let me summarize in brief.  Cardinal Dolan has given what I consider to be a poorly reasoned, condescending and annoyingly folksy rationalization of his decision to serve as Grand Marshal of New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, which will now show the children along the route a group of "gay Irish" marching under a banner identifying themselves as such.  Dolan rightly points out that we condemn the sin, not the sinner - and of course gays have been marching in parades for centuries (though not parading about as gays).  He wrongly points out that if a man or a woman marches under a Gay Pride banner, it's merely a way of indicating his or her sexual identity, and is in no way an endorsement of the sins that such a sexual identity seeks out.

I countered with an Open Letter to Cardinal Dolan in which I asked to march under the banner of IRISH ADULTERERS.  I point out that, even though the sin of adultery is condemned, and even though I have not given in to consummating fully the temptations of adultery, I still consider this my sexual identity and the Church should not judge me for that, and certainly by marching under a banner in which I identify myself as having an inclination to adultery, I'm not endorsing adultery.  Heavens no!  I'm simply Proud of my inclination.  I simply identify with my temptations.  I could have said more.  I could have suggested groups marching under such banners as GREEDY IRISH EMPLOYERS, or LAZY SLOTHFUL IRISH DRUNKS, or IRISH CHILD MOLESTERS.  I mean, we can't judge a child molester's soul, only his sins - although if Dolan is affirming anything in this scandal, it's that we are defined by our sins.  

So that's our story so far.  And the general take on this situation is that Cardinal Dolan is a naive fool.

Today, however, Kevin Tierney comments on the Dolan Situation at Red Cardigan's blog (my emphasis)...

Maybe we have to consider the unpleasant possibility that His Eminence knows exactly what he is doing, he is not the fool, and that these are conscious choices.
Too many events have happened in Dolan's history to suggest naivete or [foolishness]. There's something else at work here.
No, it's not him being a heretic, modernist, or whatever you want to say. Plain and simple, Dolan is a careerist. All of his controversial decisions from the Sheen dustup, to his role in the abuse scandals, to Holy Innocents, to now the parade have been about what's best for the bottom line ... his bottom line. What advances his profile is what is best for business.

This is one of those theories that fits all the facts - which means it's probably true.

Of course, I must insert a caveat: to acknowledge the truth of a person's character is not to judge that person's soul or his relationship with God.  That's not our business, and we are not to do that.  But to trust a man like Timothy Dolan, to hope from him adherence to Catholic principles, especially when the pressure's on or the chips are down, to expect him even to teach or to administer with any conformity to Christ, after he's shown us again and again what he's made of, is to be a dupe.

But why is it so hard for us to admit this?

We know how all of the original apostles failed in their loyalty to Christ.  We know of the lack of sanctity in various bishops throughout history, and how many, then and now, are simply scoundrels.  We know, if we haven't shut our senses to it, that most bishops aren't even Christian enough to protect Catholic teaching, the Holy Mass, or the safety and innocence of children in their own dioceses.  We know they lie.  We know they are often narcissists filled with grandiose self-importance.

By the same token, we know that the Church tells us to expect this.  We know that the Church tells us that the Holy Spirit protects the Magisterium from teaching error on matters of Faith and Morals, but gives them free reign - without protecting them from error - to be a witness in other ways either to their love for God or to their love for their own sorry selves.  God has never prevented any of us from sinning, and the grace conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders can be tarnished and peed on like the grace the rest of us are given to follow Christ every waking moment of the day.

But bother us it does.  And this is hard to admit or to comprehend.  The leading prelate in America - the most public bishop of the Catholic Church in the United States, who is a cardinal and who should be, by virtue of his position, a role model - is a careerist who is more interested in pleasing men than in pleasing God.  See Gal. 1:10, where St. Paul says - emphatically and with emotion - that to do this is to cease to be a "servant of Christ".

So he's a careerist.  There are worse things that can be said of a man.  There are worse things people could say about me.  There are worse things I could say about you.

But this is a tragedy all the same.  It's not even a tragedy, for a tragedy (in the literary sense) requires nobility of character and high aspirations gone wrong.  This, then, is not tragic.  It's pathetic.

I wrote yesterday of our unwillingness to face the facts, to see plainly the darkness in our own hearts or in the hearts of people in whom we've placed our hopes, people in whom we have a vested interest.  Of course, there's an opposite danger, which is rank cynicism, and which is giving yourself over to the demagoguery of Catholics-with-a-schtick like Michael Voris, who make a career of bishop bashing and playing to the most brutal element in our souls.

But if we are anything, we Christians, we are men of truth.  And the truth will set us free, even the ugly truth.  And having the leading cardinal in America be a careerist who sells out his fidelity to Christ any chance he gets is certainly an ugly truth.

I am told that in Roman days, the laity would turn their back on prelates like Dolan in public, refusing to look them in the eyes.

That would be the worst thing you could do to a careerist - and also the most charitable.  Such a move might even prod him to repent.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dialogue with Spam



Blogger filters out a ton of spam comments from my comboxes.

Here's a fun one that invites a dialogue ...

Tremendous things here. I am very satisfied to look your article.
Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail?
Feel free to visit my weblog ... 

I reply,


Dear Spammer,
I am looking forward to touch you, too.  
You might want to look other articles.
I would be happy to drop you mail if you would please shoot me letter.
Yours,
Russian Porn Viagra Weblog Awesome


Dear Cardinal Dolan: I'm an IRISH ADULTERER and I'm Proud of It!



Dear Cardinal Dolan,

A friend on Facebook suggests I write to you.  Of course I've not only written to you in the past, I've even written short speeches for you, which (as far as I know) you haven't used.

And I'll keep this brief, too.

You claim that if a person marches behind a "gay banner" in a public parade, he's simply self-identifying as having same-sex attraction, which is something the Church does not judge.  We're concerned with actions, not inclinations.  Marching behind a banner that advertises your sexual orientation is not only fine, it's something that has elicited a "bravo" from you in the past.  After all, nothing trumps the great and wonderful truth of sexual identity, right?  And being tempted to commit sodomy is no big deal - though the Church teaches that if I willingly give in to it, I could go to hell.  In fact, that temptation defines who I am, correct?  And I should be proud of that; in fact I should parade that in public - in front of little kids and everything.  I mean, this is what your recent defense is saying, in effect.

But, your excellency, what if there were a group in the St. Patrick's parade that marched under the banner IRISH ADULTERERS?  As we know, adultery is common and many adulterers have marched in many parades in the past, though covertly, as have many "gays".  Now, I'm Irish-American and, while I don't have an inclination to members of my own sex, I am quite strongly attracted to women who are not my wife.

This being my "inclination", could I walk under the IRISH ADULTERERS banner?  After all, I'm not (as I write this) actively committing adultery, even adultery of the heart.  But, boy, I sure the heck am tempted to.  In fact, even though I have not had sexual intercourse with a woman other than my wife since I've been married, I consider IRISH ADULTERER to be a pretty accurate description of my identity - of who I am, way down deep.

So I could walk under an IRISH ADULTERERS banner and this would be fine, correct?  It would give no mixed messages about Church teaching or my own assent to it, right?

And my wife should not be upset with me, either - correct?

I'm just following your own logic, your grace.  Tell me, please, if I'm at all wrong.

Yours in Christ,

Kevin

Cardinal Dolan's Astonishing Naivete

In a stunning display of naivete, Cardinal Dolan, who presides over a Church that in modern times has gone queer over banners at Mass, is utterly clueless about the meaning of queer banners in a public secular parade.

But that's not my point.  We know our bishops are either clueless or cowardly or complicit in all kinds of garbage.  So this is to be expected: that Cardinal Dolan does not even see that the promotion of "gay identity" is promotion of a "gay agenda".  Any idiot knows that.  This has not been an argument against "gays" marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade, as they have done covertly for years.  It's not an argument about the question of loving the sinner but hating the sin.  It's an argument about civic life in the public square and the forced celebration of sin, which is what the gay pride banners are pushing, as anybody but a bishop can easily understand.

But my point is not that.  My point is this.  What really gets on my nerves is how he opens his vacuous and rather condescending defense ...

I haven’t been in this much hot water since I made the comment, right after I arrived as your archbishop five-and-a-half years ago, that Stan Musial—my boyhood hero of my hometown St. Louis Cardinals—was a much better ballplayer than Joe DiMaggio!
Now I’m getting as much fiery mail and public criticism over my decision to accept the honor of Grand Marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. According to the critics, I should have refused, due to the Parade Committee’s decision to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner.
As with Stan Musial, I’ll stand by my decision.

As I said to a group of friends on Facebook (excuse my expletive) ...

I hate that kind of "suburban parish make light of the situation" bull crap. This is not about baseball, your grace. Don't try to get everybody chuckling when you've made this problem by ignoring a very serious issue - the sin of sodomy is serious, the turmoil in the souls of "gay" men trying to live chastely is serious, the witness you're giving by either marching or not marching in the parade is serious. Cut the banal bullshit.

But, alas.  Such is the level of ecclesiastical administration these days.

***

ADDENDUM

If you think about it, Cardinal Dolan is probably neither naive nor foolish.  He's just a politician, doing what politicians do, cowering and caving in to pressure.  He simply adds to that the annoying clerical dose of condescension and moral superiority.  But at least some of our bishops have risen above mere politics.  St. Paul, for instance.  "Am I trying to please men or God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10)


ADDENDUM 2 

I follow this up with An Open Letter to Cardinal Dolan as well as a post that's bound to bother some people.  And one that goes into more detail on the theology and psychology of this issue.  And one about what it means to march under a banner in a parade. Crazy times where to defend the normal requires a dash of foolhardiness and heroic virtue.


"See No Evil" is Spiritual Blindness



I wrote this to some readers the other day ...

I'm beginning to suspect that when we catch wind of something wrong in the lives of our friends or associates, it's quite likely far worse than we suspect. People soft pedal their sins all the time, even to themselves. In our lack of faith and naivete, we say, "Oh, these priests wouldn't be child molesters," when in fact they may be evil to the core. They may not be, but it is only our fear and squeamishness that keeps us from seeing what may be the truth. It is only our lack of trust in God that prevents us from confronting the enormity of the darkness in our own lives and in the lives of others.

In other words, since we don't trust God to redeem and rescue us, even from the thickest of muck and mire, we put on our rose colored glasses and pretend that everything's OK.  But sometimes things are so much more sordid and corrupt than we can imagine, and sometimes hell is hotter than we think.

The following examples illustrate this.  These are all people I've known, though I've changed the names to conceal their identities.


  • All the kids in junior high and high school made fun of Frank for being "gay".  He was a friend of mine, and I knew he was effeminate, but after we graduated, he finally admitted the truth.  Not only was he "gay", he had been having anonymous sex with men through the "glory hole" in the men's room stall at the truck stop, ever since he had gotten a job there as a bus boy at the age of 14.  Dozens of times a day for many years.

  • I knew Steve and I knew that he had a shady past.  I did some internet research and found out that he had been sent to prison for molesting a child - molesting her for a ten year period.  Putting some pieces of the puzzle together, I learned that this child was his own daughter.  He abused her every other weekend, which is when he had occasional custody of her, per the terms of his divorce.  She later, quite naturally, tried to kill herself.

  • Cindy really wanted to impress me with how smart and successful she was.  She told me she had a roommate, but it was another girl.  I later learned that not only was it a guy (her live-in boyfriend), it was a guy who would verbally degrade her in front of his family, a guy who cheated on her, a guy who had psychological problems.  Cindy herself hinted at her own checkered past, and even admitted that it included some sad periods of drug use and extreme sexual promiscuity and perversion.  But it slowly began to dawn on me that it was far worse than what she admitted to and far worse I could possibly imagine - and that so much of who she was was a dark and dreadful secret that she was ashamed to reveal to anyone.

  • Sally was going to marry Dave no matter what.  We all knew that Dave could not function well socially among others, but we later learned that Sally married Dave despite knowing that while they were dating he had been sexually involved with her own brother.  His penchant for gay porn and everything that goes along with that (which is also beyond the imagination of most of us) was something she apparently thought she could reform in him.

  • Gary's wife told him she didn't love him.  He didn't believe this.  He sacrificed everything for her, worked tirelessly to make the marriage work, did everything he could to salvage it.  After all, that can't be true, can it?  When she says she doesn't love him, she couldn't mean it, could she?  She eventually left him and filed for divorce.

  • Watch any episode of American Greed.  "Bill is a good man who is helping people like me make money!  He is a respected member of our community!  Sure, sometimes I don't immediately get the checks from my accounts when I request them, and the rate of return on my investment with Bill is too good to be true, but he can't simply be taking our life savings, our retirement money, and spending it on himself, could he???"


Yes, people are often far better than we give them credit for being, and goodness is more substantial than evil.  

But we don't want to follow Christ into hell - even our own personal man-made hells - because it's far more horrible than we could ever imagine it to be.  And this is one of the prime reasons Catholics aren't angrier about the Sex Abuse Scandal and aren't demanding accountability from their bishops.

It's just far more ugly and sinister than we can possibly imagine.



The Law of Love

This is what the Law is all about, right???

I am always surprised at how most people, and probably most Christians, think of God's Commandments and of all morality as arbitrary.  This is why they think "gay marriage" can exist.  We moderns think all law is man made, all rules and regulations are simply pulled out of our hats, and subject to the whims of culture and passing fancy.  That the Moral Law is like the law of gravity - something inherent in nature, something discovered and not invented - is beyond the ken of most folk walking among us.  In their eyes, law, like the rules of baseball, is simply conventional - something we concoct and then agree on as a group that allows us to play the game, whatever that game might be.

But the distinction between the Designated Hitter rule, which is not inherent to the nature of the game, and therefore can be changed and adapted as circumstances warrant, and the rules of marriage, which are inherent to the nature of love and human happiness - and which are also (rather obviously) built in to the nature of biology - is beyond even 90% of the people sitting in the pews around you on Sunday.

And even more astonishing to most folks: the Law of God is not meant to snuff out life and love, to restrict our hearts, but to liberate them, to cultivate the fires of life and love.

In Jacob's Ladder by Peter Kreeft, there's a scene where we pick up a dialogue between two women who are talking about the relation of Law to Love.  The first speaker is a Catholic who knows her stuff, the second is a secularist who believes only in positive law and not in natural law (in other words, she believes that all laws are simply invented, not discovered), but who, during the course of this discussion, has come to recognize certain principles of the Moral Law as given, intrinsic, natural.  The Catholic leads her even further ...


Indeed, the relation of the New Covenant to the Old is simple.  Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it, because the whole point of the Law (including the Ten Commandments, and all of the minor transitory regulations followed by the Jews) was love.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mat. 22:36-40)

Or, as St. Paul says ...

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom. 13:8

How different would we be as Christians if we simply kept it in our minds that every single thing God reveals to us and asks us to do - everything - is about changing us into people who love, who love really, truthfully, loyally.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

 In other words, right-wing Catholics:


  • Love does not torture
  • Love does not lie
  • Love does not idolize money or power, placing them above our neighbors in need

And left-wing Catholics:



And Devout Catholics:


  • Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
  • Love does not play it safe, but takes risks (Mat. 25:14-30)
  • Love is deeply invested: it is "jealous" and a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)


We are called not merely to obey the Law of Love, but to become New Creations in love.  And that is our greatest adventure!



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Archaeological Find! The Third Epistle of Peter!!!

The New Testament contains two Epistles by St. Peter.  A third one was recently discovered, but some are doubting its authenticity.  It appears to have been written during Jesus active ministry ...


***

Peter, Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the Other Eleven and to Various Disciples.

May God bless you all.  I give thanks always and everywhere for the hard work you are doing in spreading what Jesus is calling the "gospel message".

Which, of course, needs some refining.

I took Jesus aside the other day for an "ad hoc meeting" and tried to talk some sense into him.  He keeps insisting on this whole "cross" thing and claiming that he's going to suffer.  "God forbid!" I told him.  After all, we can't have that - it would be bad for the organization and we have to protect our branding.

Some of you have been asking how he responded to me.  Not well, really.  "Get thee behind me, Satan!" was a bit of an over-reaction, as far as I'm concerned.  He keeps saying that's the "hour" for which he was sent.  Totally beyond me.

Meanwhile, we're forming a Doctrine Committee to deal with things.  Oh, and there's a Fish Fry on Friday next week, though we clearly don't have enough at this point to feed the multitude.  The Fall Festival is taking volunteers and Scrip is available in the Gathering Area.

But the reason I'm writing is to get you to consider wisely how to invest your time, treasure and talents.  Especially your treasure.  Judas, our CFO, says that donations are down considerably and so I ask you to prayerfully yadda-yadda ... you know the score.  By the way, I am shocked that so many of you are giving yourselves over to gossip, which is a sin that will send you to hell.  Judas' moneybag has not been "leaking into his pockets" as some of you have been suggesting.  How dare you question his authority!  He is a close and trusted member of this community, and even though we're not yet considered "priests after the order of Melchizedek", once a little bit of clericalism kicks in, we'll slap you silly if you even so much as suggest that things ain't "kosher" with any of the inner circle, as you have been.  In short, question us and go to hell.  That's my policy.

Oh, and I'm still working on getting Jesus to keep kids and lepers from approaching him, at least when he's preaching and healing.  The Public Relations committee has some firm suggestions in that regard.  Also, he keeps talking about how great it is to be poor, and that won't fly at the Capernaum Country Club, if you know what I mean.  And we've got some big donors from there, so we have to be careful.

Well, that's about it.  Don't forget to register for the bus trip up Mt. Tabor next week.  There's not many of you going at this point.  The sign up sheet is in the Gathering Area.  I'll be there because - well, I'll stick by Jesus no matter what.  You all know that.  Don't you?

Peter

***



Bearing the Wounds

Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers passes along an article she wrote about her struggles to understand Our Lady of Sorrows.

So, how do we understand the Blessed Mother's sorrow? It wasn't that the Sorrowful Mother remained emotionally downcast, depressed, or weepy. Rather, like her Risen Son, she bore the marks of his Crucifixion. He bore them on his hands, feet, and side (cf. John 20:27). She bears them in her heart and upon her soul (cf. Luke 2:35). 



So, you might say, as she bore Jesus in her womb, she now bears in her heart the wounds of her suffering joined with His, the wounds of the day we all killed Him.