Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Rights" Illogic

From the "opposites" files.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Joke

Apologies for missing a week. Consider it even for the Wednesday joke I added last August.

A mother was making pancakes for breakfast for her sons, Jack and David. The boys began to argue over who would get the  first pancake.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Defending Benedict

We all love Pope Francis, me included. But the way the media is fawning on him I can't help but think of the events of holy week. The crowds fawned over Jesus on Palm Sunday as He entered Jerusalem. Luke 19:36-38:
As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
I'm not attempting to deify our new Pope, rather I'm thinking of the fickleness of the crowds. Those who were praising Jesus as the Messiah on Palm Sunday quickly discovered that He wasn't going to do the things they wanted or expected Him to do. And when He turned out not to be the "change" they "hoped" for, the crowds turned on Him. Luke 23:16-23:
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”
But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”(Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.)
Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”
With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed.
It doesn't take a prophet to predict that it won't be long before the media discovers that Pope Francis is not the Pope they want him to be (aka anti-Catholic) and they will call for his "crucifixion".

So we all love Pope Francis, me included. But nobody will every replace Pope Benedict XVI's place in my heart. Why do I have such an affinity for Benedict? I don't know. Perhaps it's because he was the first Pope elected after I started caring about those things. Perhaps it's because of my German background. Perhaps it's because, like him, I am a somewhat shy, bookish man who loves learning.

And so it hurts all the more when I hear people using Pope Francis to bash Pope Benedict XVI. And much of it is coming from Catholics. I keep hearing how we finally have a Pope who cares for the poor instead of the "trappings of office". Let's see what Benedict XVI said on the subject.

From Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) section 20:
Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety.
And of course he wrote another encyclical, Caritas in Veritate entirely on creating economic policies that favor the poor. Then there is the observation that Pope Benedict XVI loved the "trappings of office" so much that he renounced them entirely.

But what exactly do people mean by the "trappings of office"? As far as I can tell from what gets mentioned, it is mostly clothing. The red shoes and the mozetta are mentioned. What is the purpose of dressing in those things? I remember a long stretch in my faith journey where I believed that wearing a suit and tie to mass was just pageantry and hypocrisy. Jesus doesn't want us to be show offs. Look at the widow in Luke 21. Jesus always criticizes the Pharisees for wearing fine clothes.

But Jesus doesn't praise the widow for having nothing, but for giving everything. The Pharisees he doesn't criticize for wearing fine clothing but for calling attention to their piousness while not being truly pious. We are supposed to use our finest in worship. From John 12:
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”
So when someone wears a suit and tie to mass (or a mozetta and red shoes) we have to ask, "is this person doing it because they want us to believe they are pious when they are not, or are they doing this out of respect for God?" If we call them hypocrites, is it not we who are acting high and mighty? Aren't we the ones who are being "holier than thou" because we say that we dress "rightly" and they don't?

If we presume to know what is in their hearts, than indeed we are the ones who are hypocrites. Is there something about Pope Benedict XVI that would indicate that he was doing these things out of pride, rather than out of respect for his responsibilities and love of God? No? Then judge not, lest ye be judged.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Is the Pope Catholic?

To all the main stream media folks who are either shocked or amazed that the Pope is not going to change Catholic teaching, I offer the title of this blog post. To my Catholic friends who are worried that Pope Francis will not support the traditional Latin mass, I offer the title of this blog post. To my Catholic friends who are relieved that Pope Francis will not be concerned with the trappings of office "like the last one", I offer the title of this blog post.

And like many of you I am looking forward to Joe Biden's meeting with the Pope. I hope it will be a good experience for Mr. Biden. And if you don't know what I mean by that, I offer you the title of this blog post, or you can start reading Catholic reporting instead of the main stream media misinformation.

And by the way, the Pope is Catholic, but...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who wants to be a Pope?

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day and naturally the subject turned to what happens when the Pope is elected. I explained that the new Pope is asked if he accepts, and then asked what name he will take, and then goes to the "Room of Tears." Mt friend asked me why it is called the "Room of Tears" - why would anybody cry over winning? I explained that the newly elected Pope is usually someone who doesn't want the job (as was the case with Pope Benedict XVI).

According to Rome Reports
It's called the Room of Tears because the newly elected Pope, overwhelmed by the joy and burden of his new office, is known to shed tears here, just moments after being elected Pope and before introducing himself to the world before St. Peter's balcony.
Personally, I imagine the burden of the office is more the cause of tears than the joy. But my friend couldn't understand why someone wouldn't want the "job" of Pope. All that power, wealth, prestige!

So I wanted to set a few things straight. The "job" of the Pope is not to boss people around, but to be the "Servant of the Servants of God". He doesn't own all those fancy clothes, he just gets to use them. He doesn't have the run of a palace, he has a small apartment within it. He cannot go where he wants or do what he wants; he is subject to the needs of his people.

It seems everybody is calling for the new Pope to "change the Church's rules" on women priests, contraceptives, gay "marriage" etc. Get a clue people. The Pope has no power to "change the rules". The job consists of trying to effectively communicate the message of the Gospel to the world.

In the Old Testament, God proclaims that priests must be males of the tribe of Levi. This was not in keeping with "the culture" since virtually every religion at the time has priestesses. In the New Testament, Jesus extends salvation from the Jews to the whole world, and extends the priesthood to males of any ancestry. We seen numerous examples of ordination of priests and bishops in the New testament, but they are all male. To claim that Jesus "meant to" ordain priests, but forgot is absurd. Likewise claims that Jesus was "restricted" by the surrounding culture. If these things were true than surely Jesus would not be God, and the whole notion of the priesthood wouldn't exist.

The Church, lacking any examples of Christ or the Apostles ordaining women, cannot claim to have the authority to do so. The Church has only the authority of the Apostles, as declared by Christ Himself. So forget about a Pope changing the rule that only men can be priests.

Contraceptives are also banned as sinful in the Old Testament, and in fact the first commandment issued by God (to Adam and Eve) is "be fruitful and multiply." Jesus affirms this teaching in the Gospel. Again, the Church and the Pope have no authority to reverse the teachings of Christ.

Homosexual acts are perhaps most strongly condemned in the Old Testament. For instance, we have the destruction of Sodom because of its eponymous acts. In the New Testament homosexual acts are also strongly condemned. As for marriage, Jesus confirms that "from the beginning" it was to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman. The Church and the Pope cannot redefine it.

A secular god

When my wife and I got engaged, we went to our parish to arrange for the wedding. One of the things we had to do was to sit down with the music minister and choose the music for our wedding. Now, my wife and I know little about music, and nothing at all about liturgical music, so we figured go with the standards. "Here Comes the Bride" may be hokey, but heck, every wedding has it so we'd start with that. The music director stopped us short right away and told us it wasn't appropriate for a Catholic wedding - all the music had to be appropriate for a mass.

We quickly learned that Hollywood had led us astray, no Catholic wedding mass had ever had "Here Comes the Bride". I can't for the life of me remember exactly what music we chose, but the music director was very helpful, and we knew that we were following in the footsteps of 2000 years of marriages, so it wasn't anything personal.

And so it is with some amusement (and sadness) that I read of a woman named Shannon Carr who is suing St. Joseph's Catholic Church because they wouldn't allow a NASCAR inspired headstone in their cemetery. According to the story "the headstone is shaped like a couch and features images of a deer, a dog and color logos of NASCAR and the Indianapolis Colts." Color logos, mind you.
[Reverend Jonathan] Meyer says in an affidavit that photographs of the monument were shown to the St. Joseph Parish Council six weeks before Carr purchased it and that the council determined the monument wasn't acceptable because of its secular nature. He said he informed Carr of the decision.
Sad, and a bit ironic, since her husband, NASCAR fan Jason Carr, was killed in an automobile accident. But apparently, the thing which he honored most in his life was not God, but sports, and so he wants that to be his message to future generations. I wonder how this would play out if he had chosen a more traditional god to worship, like Zeus or Isis?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Joke

A man goes for a job interview at a large company. The interviewer asks him all sorts of questions about his education and experience, and all is going well.

Finally the interview is over, and as a wrap up question the interviewer asks the man "What would you say is your main weakness?"

"Well" says the man "I guess I'd have to say 'honesty'".

"You know" says the interviewer "I don't think that's honesty is a weakness."

"I don't really care what you think!" replies the man.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cum Clāve says:
con·clave [kon-kleyv] noun
1.  a private or secret meeting.
2.  an assembly or gathering, especially one that has special authority, power, or influence: a conclave of political leaders.
3.  the assembly or meeting of the cardinals for the election of a pope.
4.  the body of cardinals; the College of Cardinals.
5.  the place in which the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church meet in private for the election of a pope.

Origin: 1350–1400; Middle English  < Medieval Latin, Latin conclāve  room, enclosed space, representing ( camera ) cum clāve  (room) with key.
I've been contemplating the meaning of this word.Specifically, does the "with key" signify that the room is locked? By the 1350s certainly the Cardinals were locked in a room with a key to elect a new Pope. But perhaps at least part of the name derives from the fact that the Conclave passes on the Keys that Christ gave to the first Pope, St. Peter, as his mark of office.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Upside down

Today I read about a NYT poll on Catholics' Views on Pope Benedict XVI and the Church. There is an accompanying article U.S. Catholics in Poll See a Church Out of Touch. Some bloggers see this as something bad (because Catholics are against Church teaching) others see it as "good" (that the Church isn't bending to conform to society). I see encouraging signs in this poll that I haven't seen anyone mention, however. Here they are. Note that this article takes the position that the glass is half full, so your mileage may vary.

If you look at the answers on what people thought of Pope Benedict XVI they are overall positive. Only 9% of people reported an unfavorable opinion of him (vs. 40% favorable and about half neutral). That's despite eight years of media (including and especially the NY Times) making false claims about his knowledge of and role in the sex abuse scandals. It speaks very well of Pope Benedict's ability to unite the flock and reach people even if they disagreed with him on a number of issues.

Only 12% thought the Pope had a negative influence on the Church (vs. 26% positive and about half neutral). That's despite his efforts to bring the ever popular "Vatican II" crowd back to sanity (i.e. his hermeneutic of continuity). Again this speaks to the ability of truth, spoken in love to reach people. While the Pope did not shy away from controversial issues, he never let the issue define his position but brought everything back to the love of Christ.

People think their priests and nuns are more like them than their bishops or the Pope. This is as it should be for several reasons. First off, you can't pick your Pope or bishop, but you can shop around for a parish priest who agrees with you. Secondly, you actually hear what your priest says, versus the bishops and Pope, who's words are either ignored or filtered through a hostile main stream media (when's the last time most people actually read an encyclical, or even visited their diocesan or Vatican web site to see the words are leaders are speaking?). So the results should not be discouraging.

58% of Catholics are following the Pope's resignation story closely. This is a tremendous opportunity for the Church to reach out and try to educate the world on what the real issue is about - the salvation of souls - as Dr. Gregory Popcak relates in “And the Gates of the NY Times Shall Not Prevail Against It.” (well worth reading).

Asked if they cared about the new Pope, 29% said "a great deal" (vs 7% "not at all" and the majority cared to some degree). Most respondents said they didn't care what part of the world the Pope came from - good for them! 37% thought the next Pope should be at least as conservative as Pope Benedict (18% wanted more a more conservative Pope) vs. 54% who wanted a more liberal Pope. I really though this would go more liberal than that. A 2:3 split isn't bad for someone whose teachings are 100% faithful to Christ's.

And then the whole thing went off the rails when they got into issues of dogma. But the point I bring away from this is that even for those who are against Church teaching, the issue is one of catechesis, not one of disengagement. There was a time when I thought the Church was just behind the times, and things like contraception were morally OK, and would someday be recognized as such when they Church caught up with technology.

I now realize what a fool I was because I learned. I learned that the Church exists not to follow us, but to follow Christ. I learned that the Pope doesn't make the rules, Christ does, and short of Him coming down and saying "ordain women", the Pope has no authority to change that teaching. The Pope's role is to teach with Christ's authority on Earth. If everybody on Earth decided that Christ's teachings were wrong, it would make everybody on Earth wrong - the teaching would not change.

The world, in its arrogance, expects that if they put economic pressure on the Church, or political pressure on the Church, she can be persuaded to change her stance to conform to it. History paints a different story. From the apostles onward Catholics have always been willing to die rather than change their views. That is what it means to be truly Catholic. The question is, will the world relent, or are we facing another wave of martyrdom? Signs point to the latter. If so, I pray I will have the strength to go cheerfully.

I can't help but consider the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who spent his life trying to educate, and in the end, gladly gave it up for the sake of the Gospel. It is said that while he and his fellow prisoners at Auschwitz were being executed by starvation for three weeks, he lead them in hymns of praise to God, until his voice was the only one left, and he was murdered by lethal injection. It is a gruesome tale, but one worth reading, because it ends in heaven. St. Kolbe ora pro nobis.

[I usually try to pick "clever" titles for this post, and don't explain them, but I thought some of the things I intended were obscure enough I would write about it. "Upside down" refers to my seeing an upside in an article that was intended to be a "downer" for the Church. It also refers to the way the respondents to the poll see the Church (as having policy driven from the mass of Catholics in the world rather than having policy defined by God). It refers to the way we try to take what is most high and bring it down to our level. Lastly, it refers to the martyrdom of St. peter, the first Pope, who when the world demanded that he change accepted death on a cross upside down.]

Monday, March 4, 2013

Good News

Well, as usual life's so busy I have been neglecting my blog. And what a momentous time in history we're living in! From superstorms to Papal renunciations, there's been a lot to think about, but little time to record it. It's important in these times of unrest to remember to trust in God. There's always a lot of good going on even if the news seems bleak. And so I thought I'd share some good stories.

The first comes from Kansas, which looks like it is recovering from the governance of Kathleen Sebelius and her scandalous destruction of evidence in the Tiller case. LifeNews reports "Kansas Senate Bans 'Wrongful Birth' Lawsuits, OKs Stem Cell Center":
Pro-life legislation is broader than just abortion limitations, as the pro-life Kansas Senate demonstrated by passing two measures this past week: SB 199, establishing an adult stem cell clearinghouse and therapy center, and SB 142, enhancing civil litigation rights for the unborn.
In other action Thursday, the Senate passed SB 142, “Civil Rights for the Unborn” by a vote of 34-5-1. SB 142 will ban any so-called “wrongful birth and wrongful life” lawsuits claiming that the child, in essence, is a ‘damage’. Nine other states statutorily bar wrongful birth suits and ten statutorily bar wrongful life suits.
In other news, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Relics Stolen from Ste. Genevieve MO Church were returned:
The person who took nine relics from a church in Ste. Genevieve returned them Monday. Included with the plastic zip-locked baggie containing the material remains of Catholic saints was a note of apology, and a request for forgiveness.
[Rev. Dennis] Schmidt said he was curious “to know what made them decide to take off with [the relics] in the first place. Was it a devotional thing or did they just want to sell them?” he asked. “I guess that’s a mystery.”
Either way, Schmidt said, the thief — as requested — has been forgiven.

Finally, a very cool story about our beloved Bishop Emeritus of Rome, "The Pope who was Actually a Bear":
Unnoticed by most people, on the coat of arms that he created for his service as bishop Fr. Ratzinger included a puzzling symbol: a bear with a pack on its back.
Just four years later, Pope John Paul II summoned Bishop Ratzinger to Rome. There, for a quarter of a century more—and now as Cardinal Ratzinger—he bore extraordinarily heavy burdens as Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the second most important office in the Church.
 In the final three paragraphs of the fascinating memoir he wrote while still Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Ratzinger explained the significance of the bear:
You'll have to click the link for the good parts, I didn't want to give spoilers. Let's just say it's an interesting look into the humility of a humble holy man.

Monday Joke

Little Johnny comes home from school one day and his mom asks him "What did you learn today?"

Johnny replies "We learned how to make babies!"