Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

Monday, February 22, AD 2010

As we work our way through Lent 2009, we need to rejoice in the turning tide. Though there has been much negative news about the Catholic Church this past decade, much of the negative news had its roots in actions taken during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, the seeds of the good news planted during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and now Pope Benedict XVI is just now seeing its shoots and blossoms become visible to the naked eye.

What are the shoots and blossoms?  They can be seen in increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the strong orthodox nature of these new, young priests. A new crop of Catholic bishops is also boldly showing their orthodoxy, which often befuddles and mystifies the mainstream media and the secular culture in which we live. In addition to this, many in the laity have for years now been writing and blogging about the desperate need for Catholic orthodoxy in a world full of hurt and self absorption. Many ask how can the Church possibly grow when the Church’s active laity, especially the young along with those who serve her in ordained and professed ministries, are so different from the culture in which they live? It is that culture in which they live that causes them to see the wisdom in Christ’s words and the Church He started through the first pope, the Apostle Saint Peter.

There were fewer shoots and blossoms in the 1970s when the seriousness of the Catholicism was questioned after the Church seemed to be trying to be relative, whether it was related or not, thousands of priests and nuns left their vocations. However, starting in 1978 with the election of Pope John Paul II, the tide began to turn. All of the Polish pontiff’s hard work began to be seen in the shoots and blossoms of events like World Youth Day 1993, which was held in Denver. Later in his pontificate thanks to events like World Youth Day, vocations to the priesthood and religious life began to increase.

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5 Responses to Lent 2010; The Tide Continues To Turn Toward Catholic Orthodoxy

  • Amen Dave. The Tide is indeed turning as witnessed by the young men and women who attended the Right to Life in DC The way they handled thenmselves was remarable and edifying. The young orthodox priests are proclaiming the true tenets of the Church in their homiles and many so called “cafeteria catholic” are figgeting in the pews. RCIA teacher are getting back to what Catholism is and not just trying to bring anyone into the Church. More and more orthodox Bishops are taking a stance against those that try to justify their approach to public service aand their faith, as well as those in the academia who are trying to justify their relativism in their teaching and examples.

  • I think you rightly point out that the future of the American Church is being moved by the fact that only conservative young men are becoming priests.

    But I think a clarification needs to be made between orthodox and conservative, between heterodox and liberal, and between traditional and progressive. The meanings of these words seem to change from person to person.

  • Mr. Hartman,
    I see you are blind to the actual facts and are writing about a Catholic Church that is crumbling away. The lack of acknowledgment of wrongdoing at the very head of the Church has caused many to leave. Parishes are closing and there are fewer priests to run them. Catholic schools are closing due to declining enrollment. The vision begun by Pope John XXIII sadly were buried by Paul VI and Pope Benedict’s continued push to the right is continuing to push people further away.
    I think the Church I was raised in and have always been proud to be a member of, has turned it’s back on me and the many children who have been abused and shunned by the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Barbara, at first I thought your post was a tasteless April Fool’s joke. However, I see now that you are serious and I am very sorry that you are either this misinformed or this week. If you want the Church to become the same as the liberal Protestant churches who are in a statistical free fall then, shame on you. If you are week and run at the first sign of trouble, than I will continue to pray for you.

    My childhood parish had the distinction of having one of the highest number of molestors in my entir state, let alone diocese. I remember these molestors well, they were all liberals who wanted to change the Church and not defend it, some of the victims were people I knew.

    Even in the midst of this scandal, more and more young people, who are very orthodox in the Catholic faith, are becoming priests and nuns. In addition, the Church continues to see an increase in the number of converts (as evidenced by the last few years and this year in particular.)

    When Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he prayed that God would give him the courage not to run when the wolves come. I pray Barbara that you find a backbone and stand up for the Faith when it is under attack by people who solely want to destory the Church by making outrageous accusations against Pope Benedict, without a single shred of evidence to back it up. There are even writers from the liberal America magazine who have said the conduct displayed by the NY Times and others is outrageous. I prayerfully ask you to consider these points.

It's Not Subversion, It's The System

Monday, February 22, AD 2010

I ran across this Boston Globe article about a Boston College professor who believes she has successfully identified a new form of civil disobedience, or as she terms it “economic disobedience.”

The interview changed the way Dodson talked with other supervisors and managers of low-income workers, and she began to find that many of them felt the same discomfort as the grocery store manager. And many went a step further, finding ways to undermine the system and slip their workers extra money, food, or time needed to care for sick children. She was surprised how widespread these acts were. In her new book, “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy,” she called such behavior “economic disobedience.”

I’m perplexed as to why Prof. Dodson is so surprised by this.

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4 Responses to It's Not Subversion, It's The System

  • The only system I can think that it subverts is the legal system type hoops put in the way– I know I’ve heard of a lot of places getting attacked for giving away beyond-sell-date food, and there can be taxes on any recompense that an employer offers an employee…. Ditto with the flipside of workers willing doing an extra ten minutes after they’ve clocked out so the work is done right.

    (My sister did that once– and was informed that she’d be fired if she did it again, because the risk of legal action against her workplace was way, way too high. Not out of fear of risk, but because she was willingly doing something extra without being paid.)

    It doesn’t seem the lady drew the same sort of conclusion I would’ve, but the phenomena seems to be in the same vein as the various Catholic services that have had to shut their doors because the law says X can’t happen, and there’s no way for them to sneak.

  • Dodson’s perspective is so screwed up. Her implicit starting point is that the system is evil and soul-crushing, and anyone who acts humanely is undermining it. And the fact that she’s surprised by human charity! Is she stunned when someone holds a door open for her? Does she see that few-second pause as an undermining of efficiency? or maybe an attempt to overthrow “the man”?

    Foxfier is right that in an absolutely legalistic society, there’s always the possibility of complaint. What we forget is that such obsessive interpretation of the law is a relatively new thing. There’ve always been decent people doing a little extra.

  • This type of understanding is often produced by academics, for whom work can only be understood as an abstraction. When you trade in ideas, it’s easy to forget that the idea you have in your mind may not have any correspondence to reality, especially when it’s an abstraction like “the capitalist system,” which is almost meaningless. Philosophers, political “scientists”, psychologists and social scientists are most susceptible to this. It seems this professor has been “mugged by reality”.

    I actually like the understanding of charity as subversive, but not subversive of “the system”. Charity is subversive of evil!

  • Oooh, Charity as subversion of the fallen nature of man, maybe? I like it….

Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Sixth Note-Conservative Action Upon its Past

Monday, February 22, AD 2010

 

Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, among his many other services to the Church, clarified the concept of development of doctrine as opposed to corruptions of doctrine that occasionally fasten on the Church and are shed off by the Church over time.

Newman posited seven notes, I would call them tests, for determining whether something is a development of doctrine or a corruption.

1.  Preservation of Type

2.  Continuity of Principles

3.  Power of Assimilation

4.  Logical Sequence

5.  Anticipation of Its Future

6.  Conservative Action upon Its Past

7.  Chronic Vigour

Each of these notes are explained by Newman in detail.  The concepts aren’t simple either in theory or in application, at least to me, but Newman does a first rate job of explaining them.  The note that has always fascinated me is number six, no doubt because I have always found history fascinating, and the history of the Church especially so.

Newman is quite clear that under the Sixth Note a Development of Doctrine does not reverse what has gone before:  

A true development, then, may be described as one which is conservative of the course of antecedent developments being really those antecedents and something besides them: it is an addition which illustrates, not obscures, corroborates, not corrects, the body of thought from which it proceeds; and this is its characteristic as contrasted with a corruption.

As developments which are preceded by definite indications have a fair presumption in their favour, so those which do but contradict and reverse the course of doctrine which has been developed before them, and out of which they spring, are certainly corrupt; for a corruption is a development in that very stage in which it ceases to illustrate, and begins to disturb, the acquisitions gained in its previous history.

Newman sums up the Sixth Note as follows:  

And thus a sixth test of a true development is that it is of a tendency conservative of what has gone before it.

We live in a time of massive change for the Church.  Change there has always been in the Church, but change on the scale since the calling of the Second Vatican Council is unprecedented.  Newman gives us an analytical tool in his theory of Development of Doctrine to try to discern what changes represent true developments of doctrine and what changes are mere corruptions fastened upon  the Church due to popular intellectual and political movements and prejudices of our time, or reactions to such movements and prejudices,   rather than organic developments from the past history of the Church. 

An example of an organic development of doctrine and what I think is a corruption will now be given.  An organic development is illustrated by Pius XII’s proclamation of the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.  In Munificentissimus Deus Pius XII took pains to show how the doctrine had developed over the centuries.  An example of a corruption I think is the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX.  Although a defense of the Syllabus can be mounted, and I have done so in the past, and there is much in the Syllabus that is still held by the Church,  it is also fairly obvious that Pio Nono was writing largely in reaction to intellectual and political trends in his time with which he was not in sympathy.  Pio Nono was deeply wedded to an intellectual and political world view that was dying before his eyes.  He sought to enlist the Church in support of what he cherished.  Time has demonstrated that, great Pope though he was, the attempt of Pius in the Syllabus of Errors to outline how the Church should deal with the modern world has proven transitory and a corruption that the Church today merely ignores.  Pope Benedict, before he became Pope, referred to Gaudium et Spes as a “counter-Syllabus”.  What new bedrock doctrines and teachings of the Church, which have made an appearance over the last few pontificates, will be totally ignored by popes a century or more hence, only time will reveal, although Newman and his Development of Doctrine analysis may give us hints. 

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32 Responses to Cardinal Newman Development of Doctrine-Sixth Note-Conservative Action Upon its Past

  • Could you please provide a passage, directly from Newman, that clearly and manifestly indicates that Newman thinks his seven notes are to be used in judging the teaching of Popes?

  • Cardinal Newman’s Essay applies his method to teachings pronounced by Church Councils and Popes. You may read his entire Essay on-line at the link below.

    http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/

  • Certainly, Newman applies his principles to various Church teachings. Yet where has Newman ever indicated that we can use his seven notes to somehow distinguish true papal teachings from corrupt? I can find no example. Yet your post seems to imply that that was his intention. Do you have evidence? (The evidence I can find seems to point to the contrary. For example, at one point Newman says: “wherever the Pope has been renounced, decay and division have been the consequence”.)

  • The application of his test to the teachings of Councils and the Popes indicates that it was Newman’s intention to so use his Development of Doctrine analysis. That Newman found that none of the teachings of the Councils and the Popes that he examined were corruptions, does not mean that his analysis could not so find, but merely that what he examined he found to be organic developments.

    In regard to the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, in a letter Cardinal Newman chose his words quite carefully:

    “Here I am led to interpose a remark;—it is plain, then, that there are those near, or with access, to the Holy Father, who would, if they could, go much further in the way of assertion and command, than the divine Assistentia, which overshadows him, wills or permits; so that his acts and his words on doctrinal subjects must be carefully scrutinized and weighed, before we can be sure what really he has said. Utterances which must be received as coming from an Infallible Voice are not made every day, indeed they are very rare; and those which are by some persons affirmed or assumed to be such, do not always turn out what they are said to be; nay, even such as are really dogmatic must be read by definite rules and by traditional principles of interpretation, which are as cogent and unchangeable as the Pope’s own decisions themselves. What I have to say presently will illustrate this truth; meanwhile I use the circumstance which has led to my mentioning it, for another purpose here. When intelligence which we receive from Rome startles and pains us from its seemingly harsh or extreme character, let us learn to have some little faith and patience, and not take for granted that all that is reported is the truth. There are those who wish and try to carry measures and declare they have carried, when they have not carried them. How many strong things, for instance, have been reported with a sort of triumph on one side and with irritation and despondency on the other, of what the Vatican Council has done; whereas the very next year after it, Bishop Fessler, the Secretary General of the Council, brings out his work on “True and False Infallibility,” reducing what was said to be so monstrous to its true dimensions. When I see all this going on, those grand lines in the Greek Tragedy always rise on my lips—

    [Oupote tan Dios harmonian
    thnaton parexiasi boulai],—

    {281} and still more the consolation given us by a Divine Speaker that, though the swelling sea is so threatening to look at, yet there is One who rules it and says, “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed!”

    But to return:—the Syllabus then has no dogmatic force; it addresses us, not in its separate portions, but as a whole, and is to be received from the Pope by an act of obedience, not of faith, that obedience being shown by having recourse to the original and authoritative documents, (Allocutions and the like,) to which it pointedly refers. Moreover, when we turn to those documents, which are authoritative, we find the Syllabus cannot even be called an echo of the Apostolic Voice; for, in matters in which wording is so important, it is not an exact transcript of the words of the Pope, in its account of the errors condemned,—just as is natural in what is professedly an index for reference.”

    The whole text of the letter may be read at the link below:

    http://www.newmanreader.org/works/anglicans/volume2/gladstone/section7.html

  • Donald: “The application of his test to the teachings of Councils and the Popes indicates that it was Newman’s intention to so use his Development of Doctrine analysis.”

    Newman asserts that the Catholic doctrine of Councils and Popes can develop in a legitimate way consistent with his seven notes. Nowhere at all does he says that his seven notes are a way of deciding whether that doctrine is true or corrupt. One does not necessarily follow from the other. You have asserted this, but still have provided nothing from Newman. All Newman’s examples of corrupt doctrine come from places other than Councils and Popes.

    In effect, Newman says “All teachings of the Councils and the Popes develop consistently with the seven notes.” You are claiming that what he really meant was “All true teachings of the Councils and the Popes develop consistently with the seven notes, and all such false teachings don’t”. Those are very different statements, and you have not provided any evidence that Newman ever meant the second.

    Reading what Newman says about the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX shows that Newman is of the opinion that the Syllabus should be treated as a reference index to other teachings of Pius IX — which such teachings Newman says are to be treated as authoritative. So Newman considers that the Syllabus itself is simply not the kind of teaching that his seven notes are to be applied to, but that the things it points to are.

  • Applying the tests of the seven notes Paul would be a completely useless exercise by Cardinal Newman if the result was a forgone conclusion as to the teachings propounded by all councils and all popes. Newman was intellectually honest. If he had found a teaching of a council or a pope that failed the tests he would have said so.

    Cardinal Newman thought the Syllabus of Errors was a disaster, hence his careful language.

    The author of this post at a rad-trad site linked below contends that Newman was considered unorthodox by members of the heirarchy of his day.

    http://www.traditioninaction.org/bkreviews/A_028br_Newman.htm

    The author is correct in so much as Newman found himself out of sympathy with many of the actions of Pope Pius IX. He did hope that a new pope and a new council would alter some of the actions of Pius IX and alter what had been accomplished at Vatican I. Pius IX mistrusted Newman, largely based on what he was told by emissaries of Cardinal Manning who distrusted Newman and considered him unorthodox. It was the successor of Pius, Leo XIII who made Newman a cardinal. The author is incorrect in claiming that Newman was unorthodox in regard to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  • Donald: “Applying the tests of the seven notes Paul would be a completely useless exercise by Cardinal Newman if the result was a forgone conclusion as to the teachings propounded by all councils and all popes.”

    The purpose of Newman’s writing on the development of doctrine was to demonstrate that while the Church’s teaching had definitely developed, it had never changed. Hence he carefully described what could legitimately constitute the development of doctrine, and so lays out his seven notes. His motive is given right in his introduction: “It would be the work of a life to apply the Theory of Developments so carefully to the writings of the Fathers, and to the history of controversies and councils, as thereby to vindicate the reasonableness of every decision of Rome..”

    Hence, following Newman, if some particular doctrine is carefully examined, and found to be a change of doctrine from what was taught earlier in the Church’s history — and not a development along the lines of Newman’s seven notes — it will also be found not to be a teaching of the Church. (The false teaching will not be found to be false teaching of a Council or Pope — it will be found never to have been taught by any Council or Pope.)

  • Your argument would be much more convincing Paul if Newman wasn’t on record as being privately opposed to many of the actions of the Pope, Pio Nono, who led the Church throughout most of his adult life. Newman thought that many of those actions were completely mistaken, something which subsequent actions by the Church since the death of Pius IX has partially endorsed.

    For example, we have this from number 78 of the Syllabus of errors:

    “78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. — Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.”

    It is impossible to square that with current teaching of the Church on religious liberty. Both propositions cannot be true. One must be true and one a corruption. Newman gives us an analytical framework to address such contradictions.

  • If, as you claim, Newman was “privately opposed” to some actions, or thought them “completely mistaken”, then what does that have to do with Newman’s defence of the development of doctrine? I still see no evidence at all that Newman intended his seven notes ever to be used in judging authoritative Church teaching.

    As for the 78th error that you quote, we would have to see the original language of “Allocution ‘Acerbissimum,’ Sept. 27, 1852.” that is being referred to, before we could decide exactly what was being talked about. (It seems to be something that was in reaction to something that ‘New Granada’ had done. But what?) On the face of it, I would guess that it condemns the idea that Catholic governments should do nothing to select its immigrants based on religion. What would be the problem be with that?

    I find it considerably more likely that you (or I) should unwittingly read a single isolated sentence in a way at variance with the intention of the original author, than that the Church should make an error in its teaching.

  • I still see no evidence at all that Newman intended his seven notes ever to be used in judging authoritative Church teaching.

    At the risk of tautology, it seems to me that Newman was not intending his seven notes to judge authoritative Church teaching, but rather to judge whether something was in fact an authoritative Church teaching.

    In other words, it would seem an obvious assumption that for Newman to have advanced such notes in the first placed he assumed that within the set of “Church teaching” there must be some teaching with is authoritative and some which is not — and thus a necessity of discerning between the two.

  • DarwinCatholic: “At the risk of tautology, it seems to me that Newman was not intending his seven notes to judge authoritative Church teaching, but rather to judge whether something was in fact an authoritative Church teaching.

    I agree with that — having said something exactly along those lines a couple of comments of mine back.

    I think that Newman asserts the truth of these two propositions:

    P1: All developed Church doctrine will have developed consistently with Newman’s seven notes.
    P2: Heretical doctrine will (always? mostly?) be found to violate one or more of the seven notes.

    So, finding the seven notes is either (a) for a Catholic, an excellent way of demonstrating that some particular true doctrine has indeed developed, and not changed, or (b) for a non-Catholic, a potential way to discern that a particular proposed false teaching has in fact changed at some point in history.

    For a Catholic, I don’t think the seven notes are something particularly practical in discerning or judging whether something is true doctrine or not. They definitely might be — but perhaps not all that often. Take the case of the 78th error in that Syllabus, that Donald presents. I am quite sure that if (or when) we reconstruct the mid-19th century historical context of that reference, we shall find that Pius IX’s condemnation was accurate. But it’s all too easy to read it out of that context, and wrongly conclude that it is a change from today’s teaching.

    Applying those seven notes is sometimes hard. Whereas, as a Catholic, if I want to discern what the current Pope is authoritatively teaching, I have a much easier task — I can use google, and I’m done. I don’t have to apply the seven notes to decide if Benedict XVI’s teaching is true, nor should I. I discern his teaching, because it’s plainly there right in front of me. (Would it satisfy the seven notes, were I to examine it in that amount of detail? Definitely so! But I don’t do that to discern if it’s authoritative — since there are easier and more direct ways.)

    Which has more authority: what the Pope teaches, or the results of my personal application of the seven notes?

    DarwinCatholic: “In other words, it would seem an obvious assumption that for Newman to have advanced such notes in the first placed he assumed that within the set of “Church teaching” there must be some teaching with is authoritative and some which is not — and thus a necessity of discerning between the two.”

    Newman started his “Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine” a non-Catholic, and — logically — finished it as a Catholic. So such a discernment certainly worked for that non-Catholic. But for a Catholic, I think that the seven notes should serve a different purpose.

  • “I find it considerably more likely that you (or I) should unwittingly read a single isolated sentence in a way at variance with the intention of the original author, than that the Church should make an error in its teaching.”

    Paul, Pio Nono was expressing the traditional teaching of the Church against freedom of religion. Now the Church teaches that freedom of religion is a right. For example, in Mirari Vos, we have Pope Gregory XVI stating the following: “14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say.21 When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit”22] is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws–in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.”

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/ENCYC/G16MIRAR.HTM

    Pio Nono in Quanta Cura quotes Pope Gregory:

    “For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” as they call it, dare to teach that “the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.” And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.” From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an “insanity,”2 viz., that “liberty of conscience and worship is each man’s personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.” But, while they rashly affirm this, they do not think and consider that they are preaching “liberty of perdition;”3 and that “if human arguments are always allowed free room for discussion, there will never be wanting men who will dare to resist truth, and to trust in the flowing speech of human wisdom; whereas we know, from the very teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, how carefully Christian faith and wisdom should avoid this most injurious babbling.””

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9quanta.htm

    Freedom of religion as a right, and as taught by the Church today, would have struck Pio Nono and virtually all the Popes before him, at least to the time of Constantine, as the rankest of heresy. This is not my opinion, this is simply the historical record. For a Catholic who believes, as I do, that the Church cannot fall into error that presents a problem.

  • The late Avery Cardinal Dulles wrote on this problem here:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/003-religious-freedom-innovation-and-development-41

    Since I support religious freedom, I wish I could simply accept his argument. However, I believe on this point the bishops at Vatican II who opposed this change in regard to religious freedom have the better of the argument in regard to the history of the Church.

    Cardinal Dulles got to the heart of the issue with this paragraph:

    “If DH is compared with earlier official Catholic teaching, it represents an undeniable, even a dramatic, change. The question must therefore be asked: Was the Declaration a homogeneous development within the Catholic tradition, or was it a repudiation of previous Church doctrine?”

    He answers that it was a homogeneous development. He argues that the teaching of the nineteenth century Popes was not erroneous but was limited by the political and social horizons of their time. Of course this could be said about the current pope or any pope going back to Peter. He ends his essay as follows:

    “Over the past fifty years we have seen a strong and welcome development of the doctrine of religious freedom. Articulating the principles of the gospel in new situations, the Church has found a new voice. She speaks with a fresh awareness of the dignity and freedom that God wills for all human beings and with a deeper realization of the limited competence of civil governments. As the Church adapts her social teaching to changing political and social circumstances, she comes to a sharper perception of certain aspects and consequences of the gospel. The teaching of the nineteenth-century popes was not erroneous, but was limited by the political and social horizons of the time. In the words of DH, Vatican II brought forth from the Church’s treasury “new things in harmony with those that are old.” This process of development must continue as the Church faces the new problems and opportunities that arise in successive generations.”

    Try as I might, I find the essay ultimately unconvincing and an argument, which I am sure that Cardinal Dulles did not intend, for changing Church teaching to accomodate changing times.

  • Donald: “Pio Nono was expressing the traditional teaching of the Church against freedom of religion.”

    A piece of evidence that you proffered was that on September 27th 1852, Pius IX said something (exactly what, we don’t have before us) in response to some particular historical situation (and likewise, we don’t know what). And despite these significant unknowns, you are quite sure Pius IX is in contradiction to (say) Dignitatis Humanae.
    This doesn’t sound reasonable to me in the slightest.

    So it is a slight improvement that you refer to Mirari Vos, since we at least have the text before us. Though, since it was written in 1832, we still have the necessity of understanding something about the historical situation, in order to understand what Gregory XVI was responding to. But that hasn’t been interpreted by you either. Likewise for Quanta Cura.

    What exactly do the words “liberty of conscience” refer to? Does it mean that this is an absolute liberty — so that if your conscience says that you must chop off my head, I must allow you that liberty? Surely not. But, once it is admitted that such liberty is not absolute, then the limits of that liberty must be set out.

    And where are the limits? Dignitatis Humanae, when it declared that freedom of religion was a right (i.e. freedom from coercion), also indicated that the freedom was not an absolute, but that it had to be a freedom subject to the objective moral law. And that such freedom also had to be in harmony with the rights of all citizens. And in harmony with genuine public peace. And in harmony with a guardianship of public morality. All these limits come right out of Dignitatis Humanae.

    Whatever Mirari Vos was responding to, that problem had only to infringe on one of those conditions for Mirari Vos and Dignitatis Humanae to be in agreement. That hardly seems unlikely.

    Donald: “Try as I might, I find the essay ultimately unconvincing”

    I am finding extraordinarily difficult to respond to your position, since you are — for whatever reason — presenting particular quotes as those it were absolutely clear and unchallengeable as to what they mean, though you avoid any discussion of their context. And Cardinal Dulles long and detailed essay is simply described as “unconvincing”.

    Donald: “I find the essay ultimately unconvincing and an argument, which I am sure that Cardinal Dulles did not intend, for changing Church teaching to accomodate changing times.”

    I would guess that there are many people who have in mind some particular changes that they would like to see in Catholic teaching, and who are on that account unwilling to see that Catholic teaching may develop, but not change. Are you are one of them?

  • Paul, are you seriously attempting to contend that the Church was not opposed to freedom of religion for the vast majority of the history of the Church? I can understand your obvious strong desire to pretend that there is no contradiction between what the Church teaches in this area now and what the Church taught in the past but the historical record is clear on this point.

    The texts I could cite are endless. At random here is the 3rd canon of the Fourth Lateran Council:

    “CANON 3
    Text. We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that raises against the holy, orthodox and Catholic faith which we have above explained; condemning all heretics under whatever names they may be known, for while they have different faces they are nevertheless bound to each other by their tails, since in all of them vanity is a common element. Those condemned, being handed over to the secular rulers of their bailiffs, let them be abandoned, to be punished with due justice, clerics being first degraded from their orders. As to the property of the condemned, if they are laymen, let it be confiscated; if clerics, let it be applied to the churches from which they received revenues. But those who are only suspected, due consideration being given to the nature of the suspicion and the character of the person, unless they prove their innocence by a proper defense, let them be anathematized and avoided by all 1-intil they have made suitable satisfaction; but if they have been under excommunication for one year, then let them be condemned as heretics. Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath. But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province. If he refuses to make satisfaction within a year, let the matter be made known to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler’s vassals absolved from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled lay Catholics, who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance and preserve it in the purity of faith; the right, however, of the chief ruler is to be respected as long as he offers no obstacle in this matter and permits freedom of action. The same law is to be observed in regard to those who have no chief rulers (that is, are independent). Catholics who have girded themselves with the cross for the extermination of the heretics, shall enjoy the indulgences and privileges granted to those who go in defense of the Holy Land.

    We decree that those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronize them, are excommunicated; and we firmly declare that after any one of them has been branded with excommunication, if he has deliberately failed to make satisfaction within a year, let him incur ipso jure the stigma of infamy and let him not be admitted to public offices or deliberations, and let him not take part in the election of others to such offices or use his right to give testimony in a court of law. Let him also be intestable, that he may not have the free exercise of making a will, and let him be deprived of the right of inheritance. Let no one be urged to give an account to him in any matter, but let him be urged to give an account to others. If perchance he be a judge, let his decisions have no force, nor let any cause be brought to his attention. If he be an advocate, let his assistance by no means be sought. If a notary, let the instruments drawn up by him be considered worthless, for, the author being condemned, let them enjoy a similar fate. In all similar cases we command that the same be observed. If, however, he be a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, that the greater the fault the graver may be the punishment inflicted.

    If any refuse to avoid such after they have been ostracized by the Church, let them be excommunicated till they have made suitable satisfaction. Clerics shall not give the sacraments of the Church to such pestilential people, nor shall they presume to give them Christian burial, or to receive their alms or offerings; otherwise they shall be deprived of their office, to which they may not be restored without a special indult of the Apostolic See. Similarly, all regulars, on whom also this punishment may be imposed, let their privileges be nullified in that diocese in which they have presumed to perpetrate such excesses.”

    But since some, under “the appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” as the Apostle says (II Tim. 3: 5), arrogate to themselves the authority to preach, as the same Apostle says: “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” (Rom. 10:15), all those prohibited or not sent, who, without the authority of the Apostolic See or of the Catholic bishop of the locality, shall presume to usurp the office of preaching either publicly or privately, shall be excommunicated and unless they amend, and the sooner the better, they shall be visited with a further suitable penalty. We add, moreover, that every archbishop or bishop should himself or through his archdeacon or some other suitable persons, twice or at least once a year make the rounds of his diocese in which report has it that heretics dwell, and there compel three or more men of good character or, if it should be deemed advisable, the entire neighborhood, to swear that if anyone know of the presence there of heretics or others holding secret assemblies, or differing from the common way of the faithful in faith and morals, they will make them known to the bishop. The latter shall then call together before him those accused, who, if they do not purge themselves of the matter of which they are accused, or if after the rejection of their error they lapse into their former wickedness, shall be canonically punished. But if any of them by damnable obstinacy should disapprove of the oath and should perchance be unwilling to swear, from this very fact let them be regarded as heretics.

    We wish, therefore, and in virtue of obedience strictly command, that to carry out these instructions effectively the bishops exercise throughout their dioceses a scrupulous vigilance if they wish to escape canonical punishment. If from sufficient evidence it is apparent that a bishop is negligent or remiss in cleansing his diocese of the ferment of heretical wickedness, let him be deposed from the episcopal office and let another, who will and can confound heretical depravity, be substituted.”

    Development of Doctrine Paul is one thing. Flat contradiction of previous doctrine is another. If the Church can do 180’s in one area of doctrine, why not in all areas of doctrine?

  • The late Father Richard Neuhaus, a supporter of Dignitatis Humanae, forthrightly addressed the problem of contradiction that I am referring to in an interview in 2003:

    “A third reason has to do with what Cardinal Newman called the development of doctrine. This is the only document of the Council that explicitly asserts an intention to develop doctrine: “[T]he council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.” Development is the unfolding and making explicit what was implicit in prior teaching, but it understandably raises concerns about changes and even contradictions within the tradition.

    Which brings us to the fourth reason for controversy, namely, the acknowledgment that Catholics have not always been faithful to what we now understand to be the Church’s teaching.

    That point is handled delicately in the declaration: “Throughout the ages, the Church has kept safe and handed on the doctrine received from the Master and from the apostles. In the life of the People of God as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there have at times appeared ways of acting which were less in accord with the spirit of the Gospel and even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm.”

    In the vicissitudes of history, the idea and practice of religious freedom is little more than 200 years old, and it was, more often than not, championed by forces in explicit opposition to the Catholic Church. The fierce anti-clericalism of the French Revolution of 1789 cast a long shadow over Catholic thinking.

    With the declaration on religious freedom, the Council drew on the dramatically different experience of the American Revolution of 1776, which is why the declaration is sometimes called the “American document” of the Council. For Council fathers whose minds were shaped more by 1789 than by 1776, it is understandable that the idea of religious freedom was viewed with considerable suspicion.

    It is worth noting also that the declaration’s acknowledgment that Church leaders in the past sometimes acted in ways opposed to the Gospel can be seen as a precursor to John Paul’s bold campaign for a “purification of memories,” which, of course, is still controversial in some quarters today.”

    http://www.zenit.org/article-8747?l=english

  • Donald: “Paul, are you seriously attempting to contend that the Church was not opposed to freedom of religion for the vast majority of the history of the Church?”

    Look at the careful wording of Dignitatis Humanae (DH):

    “This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”

    DH defines religious freedom as immunity from coercion, within due limits. (I already indicated those due limits in my previous comment.)

    Then later DH says: “In the life of the People of God, as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there has at times appeared a way of acting that was hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel or even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm.”

    So, yes, I believe that the Church has never taught against freedom of religion — and that’s exactly what DH says, as well.

    You give a long quote from the Fourth Lateran, but — yet again — miss out the necessary historical context. The heretics this canon was mainly aimed against were the Albigensians. One of their most notable teachings was that sexual intercourse was a sin. How can any society expect to continue if it does nothing to counter such a belief? Logically followed, that eliminates the human race. Another part of their teachings led to murder-suicide pacts (if a believer recovered from a sickness that initially was thought to be fatal). Allowing that is again outside the due limits of religious freedom.

    I don’t see the point of you providing the long quote from Neuhaus — he nowhere says that there was a contradiction, but only that concerns were raised about it.

  • Actually Paul, as the text indicates, the Canon was against all heresies and not just the Albigensians. The Church at the time also was attempting to crush the Waldensians in Northern Italy, along with many minor heresies. As for the Albigensians, your understanding of them is faulty. Ordinary members of the sect could reproduce freely. The “Perfect”, their clergy, among them were the only ones to abstain from sex. Of course it is hard for us to know precisely just what they taught since Simon de Montfort and his crusaders did a very effective job of exterminating most of them and the Dominicans burned almost all of their texts along with all of their leaders they could get their hands on. This is an aspect of the history of the Church that many modern Catholics would wish to forget, but it is part of our heritage as Catholics. To say, as DH does, that the Church never attempted to coerce belief is simply laughable. There were usually penalties assessed through most of the history of the Church for missing Mass, not paying tithes, failing to make the Easter duty, etc. Catholics fallen from the Faith who acted publicly to signify their heresy risked dreadful penalties, unless they recanted their heresy. Competing religions were smashed and made illegal wherever the Church held sway, except for a grudging tolerance extended to the Jews. Once again, this is not my opinion, it is simply the historical record. Vatican II accomplished many things, but rewriting the history of the Church is far beyond its purview.

    Now why did earlier Catholics act this way? Were they intolerant monsters? The vast majority no. They were convinced that they possessed the True Faith. They were not going to allow other religions to spread and drag the souls of men and women down to Hell. They believed this with every fibre of their being. As modern Catholics are repulsed by their actions, they would be repulsed at our doctrine of giving liberty to other religions and allowing religious error free reign to grow in power. DH is what most modern Catholics believe. To most of our predecessors in the Faith prior to the last century it would have been considered complete nonsense. I share the attitudes of modern Catholics as to freedom of religion, but as a matter of faith I am uncertain that we are right and our predecessors wrong.

  • Donald: “Actually Paul, as the text indicates, the Canon was against all heresies and not just the Albigensians.”

    I said it was mainly aimed at the Albigensians.

    Donald: “Ordinary members of the sect could reproduce freely. The “Perfect”, their clergy, among them were the only ones to abstain from sex.”

    “Albigensian” was not something of fixed meaning, Different regions did not necessarily have the same beliefs.

    I haven’t been able to figure out what you think ‘coercion’ actually refers to. The canon that you quote from the Fourth Lateran operates under two principles: (1) that a Catholic who becomes a heretic may be excommunicated, and that this may affect his relationship with other Catholics. I don’t seen any coercion in that. (2) that a heretic may also be punished by the secular authorities with (as the canon says) “due justice”. Again, I don’t see that as coercion. As I pointed out, the Albigensians promoted the idea of an ‘endura’, which was essentially a murder-suicide pact. So it can legitimately be said that their heresy was against the common good, and could properly be subject to secular punishment.

    And since I am defending the teaching of the various Popes and Councils, it does no good to point out all the various historical actions by Catholics that were coercion. I agree that there were plenty of them. I am looking for some authoritative Catholic teaching that coercion against another religion is good.

    Donald: “our doctrine of … allowing religious error free reign to grow in power.”

    Dignitatis Humanae certainly doesn’t teach that.

  • Paul, the seminal text in regard to the use of coercion as to religion was set forth by Saint Augustine in a letter which has been designated Epistle 93. This was settled Catholic doctrine until the day before yesterday in historical terms. You may read the full text at the link below:

    http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102093.htm

    The Popes through the ages did speak out against forcible baptism of Jews, but even that rule was somewhat shaky as Pio Nono’s actions in the Levi-Mortara affair indicate.

    http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope025501.htm

  • The text from Augustine doesn’t demonstrate anything that goes against Dignitatis Humanae. At the time of the Donatists, the historical record shows that there were actions of great violence and disorder. Augustine thought it was right that the Donatists should be countered by appealing to the Emperor to restore peace by the use of force. That kind of use of force does not amount to the kind of coercion that is condemned by Dignitatis Humanae, which is careful to indicate that the freedom of religion is not absolute, but subject to due limits.

    As for the Levi-Mortara affair: since I am defending teaching, and not actions, you need to point to some relevant teaching text, for there to be something I can discuss.

  • I will ask anyone else reading this Paul to judge whether there is anyway in the world this passage from Saint Augustine’s letter can be interpreted to be in accord with DH:

    “I have therefore yielded to the evidence afforded by these instances which my colleagues have laid before me. For originally my opinion was, that no one should be coerced into the unity of Christ, that we must act only by words, fight only by arguments, and prevail by force of reason, lest we should have those whom we knew as avowed heretics feigning themselves to be Catholics. But this opinion of mine was overcome not by the words of those who controverted it, but by the conclusive instances to which they could point. For, in the first place, there was set over against my opinion my own town, which, although it was once wholly on the side of Donatus, was brought over to the Catholic unity by fear of the imperial edicts, but which we now see filled with such detestation of your ruinous perversity, that it would scarcely be believed that it had ever been involved in your error. There were so many others which were mentioned to me by name, that, from facts themselves, I was made to own that to this matter the word of Scripture might be understood as applying: Give opportunity to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser. Proverbs 9:9 For how many were already, as we assuredly know, willing to be Catholics, being moved by the indisputable plainness of truth, but daily putting off their avowal of this through fear of offending their own party! How many were bound, not by truth— for you never pretended to that as yours— but by the heavy chains of inveterate custom, so that in them was fulfilled the divine saying: A servant (who is hardened) will not be corrected by words; for though he understand, he will not answer! Proverbs 29:19 How many supposed the sect of Donatus to be the true Church, merely because ease had made them too listless, or conceited, or sluggish, to take pains to examine Catholic truth! How many would have entered earlier had not the calumnies of slanderers, who declared that we offered something else than we do upon the altar of God, shut them out! How many, believing that it mattered not to which party a Christian might belong, remained in the schism of Donatus only because they had been born in it, and no one was compelling them to forsake it and pass over into the Catholic Church!

    18. To all these classes of persons the dread of those laws in the promulgation of which kings serve the Lord in fear has been so useful, that now some say we were willing for this some time ago; but thanks be to God, who has given us occasion for doing it at once, and has cut off the hesitancy of procrastination! Others say: We already knew this to be true, but we were held prisoners by the force of old custom: thanks be to the Lord, who has broken these bonds asunder, and has brought us into the bond of peace! Others say: We knew not that the truth was here, and we had no wish to learn it; but fear made us become earnest to examine it when we became alarmed, lest, without any gain in things eternal, we should be smitten with loss in temporal things: thanks be to the Lord, who has by the stimulus of fear startled us from our negligence, that now being disquieted we might inquire into those things which, when at ease, we did not care to know! Others say: We were prevented from entering the Church by false reports, which we could not know to be false unless we entered it; and we would not enter unless we were compelled: thanks be to the Lord, who by His scourge took away our timid hesitation, and taught us to find out for ourselves how vain and absurd were the lies which rumour had spread abroad against His Church: by this we are persuaded that there is no truth in the accusations made by the authors of this heresy, since the more serious charges which their followers have invented are without foundation. Others say: We thought, indeed, that it mattered not in what communion we held the faith of Christ; but thanks to the Lord, who has gathered us in from a state of schism, and has taught us that it is fitting that the one God be worshipped in unity.

    19. Could I therefore maintain opposition to my colleagues, and by resisting them stand in the way of such conquests of the Lord, and prevent the sheep of Christ which were wandering on your mountains and hills— that is, on the swellings of your pride— from being gathered into the fold of peace, in which there is one flock and one Shepherd? John 10:16 Was it my duty to obstruct these measures, in order, forsooth, that you might not lose what you call your own, and might without fear rob Christ of what is His: that you might frame your testaments according to Roman law, and might by calumnious accusations break the Testament made with the sanction of Divine law to the fathers, in which it was written, In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: Genesis 26:4 that you might have freedom in your transactions in the way of buying and selling, and might be emboldened to divide and claim as your own that which Christ bought by giving Himself as its price: that any gift made over by one of you to another might remain unchallenged, and that the gift which the God of gods has bestowed upon His children, called from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, might become invalid: that you might not be sent into exile from the land of your natural birth, and that you might labour to banish Christ from the kingdom bought with His blood, which extends from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth? Nay verily; let the kings of the earth serve Christ by making laws for Him and for His cause. Your predecessors exposed Cæcilianus and his companions to be punished by the kings of the earth for crimes with which they were falsely charged: let the lions now be turned to break in pieces the bones of the calumniators, and let no intercession for them be made by Daniel when he has been proved innocent, and set free from the den in which they meet their doom; Daniel 6:23-24 for he that prepares a pit for his neighbour shall himself most justly fall into it. Proverbs 26:27”

    I await your explanation Paul as to how this passage from the Summa of the Angelic Doctor is completely in accord with DH:

    “Article 3. Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?
    Objection 1. It seems that heretics ought to be tolerated. For the Apostle says (2 Timothy 2:24-25): “The servant of the Lord must not wrangle . . . with modesty admonishing them that resist the truth, if peradventure God may give them repentance to know the truth, and they may recover themselves from the snares of the devil.” Now if heretics are not tolerated but put to death, they lose the opportunity of repentance. Therefore it seems contrary to the Apostle’s command.

    Objection 2. Further, whatever is necessary in the Church should be tolerated. Now heresies are necessary in the Church, since the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 11:19): “There must be . . . heresies, that they . . . who are reproved, may be manifest among you.” Therefore it seems that heretics should be tolerated.

    Objection 3. Further, the Master commanded his servants (Matthew 13:30) to suffer the cockle “to grow until the harvest,” i.e. the end of the world, as a gloss explains it. Now holy men explain that the cockle denotes heretics. Therefore heretics should be tolerated.

    On the contrary, The Apostle says (Titus 3:10-11): “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted.”

    I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.

    On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but “after the first and second admonition,” as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven,” says: “Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame.”

    Reply to Objection 1. This very modesty demands that the heretic should be admonished a first and second time: and if he be unwilling to retract, he must be reckoned as already “subverted,” as we may gather from the words of the Apostle quoted above.

    Reply to Objection 2. The profit that ensues from heresy is beside the intention of heretics, for it consists in the constancy of the faithful being put to the test, and “makes us shake off our sluggishness, and search the Scriptures more carefully,” as Augustine states (De Gen. cont. Manich. i, 1). What they really intend is the corruption of the faith, which is to inflict very great harm indeed. Consequently we should consider what they directly intend, and expel them, rather than what is beside their intention, and so, tolerate them.

    Reply to Objection 3. According to Decret. (xxiv, qu. iii, can. Notandum), “to be excommunicated is not to be uprooted.” A man is excommunicated, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 5:5) that his “spirit may be saved in the day of Our Lord.” Yet if heretics be altogether uprooted by death, this is not contrary to Our Lord’s command, which is to be understood as referring to the case when the cockle cannot be plucked up without plucking up the wheat, as we explained above (10, 8, ad 1), when treating of unbelievers in general.”

    In regard to Pio Nono he acted as he did because that was his interpretation as Pontiff of the Church laws governing baptism of Jews. He did not interpret a baptism of a Jewish infant without the parent’s consent as involving forcible baptism.

  • Donald, it’s very difficult to understand what your claims are. Are you making the claim that in the circumstances that Augustine found himself in (with great violence regularly being applied by the Donatists against Catholics), he nevertheless should not have appealed to the government of the time to repress this with force, and should have restricted Catholics to using only words against the Donatists? If so, both Augustine Dignitatis Humanae do not agree with you.

    (Had, for example, Augustine been faced with a non-violent and peaceful sect, posing no threat to the common good, and appealed to the government to suppress it, then he would have been using an illegitimate form of coercion — a form of coercion that Dignitatis Humanae teaches against. But that simply wasn’t the case.)

    Aquinas points out that the heretic is to be cut off from the flock, in order to protect the flock. In a Church context, that means excommunication — just as today. But at the time Aquinas was writing, the flock was not just a part of secular society — it was the bulk of secular society. How then to remove the heretic from secular society? Aquinas describes the most common solution that occurred to people during his historical times.

    (And I should point out that Augustine’s and Aquinas’ writings in all their details are not authoritative Church teaching, however generally reliable they may be.)

    More relevant to Dignitatis Humanae would be to look at how Aquinas thought other religions should be dealt with (at the time, that would be mainly Jews and Muslims). He was not in favor of forced baptism of Jews: “Injustice should be done to no man. Now it would be an injustice to Jews if their children were to be baptized against their will, since they would lose the rights of parental authority over their children as soon as these were Christians.” And elsewhere Aquinas quotes the Council of Toledo: “In regard to the Jews the holy synod commands that henceforth none of them be forced to believe; for such are not to be saved against their will, but willingly, that their righteousness may be without flaw.”

    Donald: “[Pius IX] did not interpret a baptism of a Jewish infant without the parent’s consent as involving forcible baptism.”

    On what grounds do you say that? The Jewish infant had been illegally baptized by a Christian servant girl, who had been illegally hired by a Jewish family. The laws were in existence to prevent the kind of thing that happened.

    (And I again point out that Piux IX actions do not form the basis for authoritative teachings. He made a prudential decision. There were cases at the end of World War II where Jewish children, who had been protected from the Nazis by being baptized and raised as Catholics, were later returned to their parents.)

  • “Donald, it’s very difficult to understand what your claims are.”

    What I have been plainly stating: that the Church was opposed to freedom of religion prior to DH, and that DH was a reversal of Church doctrine. You do not wish to admit this, and you will not admit this no matter how much evidence is presented to you. The historical record is clear as glass on this point. It is no service to the Church to pretend otherwise.

  • For example, I can’t tell if you think that Dignitatis Humane is true teaching. After all, that document says at one point: “…the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm”.

    Do you think that sentence is true or false? If you think it is true, I can’t understand your position at all. If you think it is false, then you would seem to be committed to the position that you will believe Church teaching when it seems reasonable to you, and disbelieve it otherwise.

  • I think the Church can’t teach error Paul, and that the Church has said True and False to the proposition that you cite from DH at different points in her history. That is precisely the problem.

    You can find numerous statements of Popes and Councils prior to DH that indicate that no one is to be coerced into being Catholic. On other hand you can also find numerous statements of Popes and Councils regarding the punishments to be meted out to heretics unless they recant their heresies. This obviously involves a large amount of coercion. Throughout most of the history of the Catholic Church post Constantine, no other religion was tolerated in Catholic areas except a grudging tolerance to the Jews. The only exceptions I can think of are the de facto tolerance extended to Muslims in the Crusader states, and temporary tolerance extended to Muslims in certain Christian kingdoms during the Reconquista in Spain. Not tolerating other religions usually involved a fair amount of coercion, all of it supported and commanded by the teachings of the Church at the time. Freedom of religion as set forth in DH is simply a concept foreign to the Catholic Church throughout most of her history.

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Great Jesuits 5: Medal of Honor

Sunday, February 21, AD 2010

 

 

 

Number 5 in my series on Great Jesuits of American history.  A hallmark of the Jesuit Order has always been utter fearlessness.  The Order founded by that Basque soldier turned saint, Saint Ignatius Loyola, had as little use for fear as it did for doubt.  The “black robes” of the Jesuits in New France were typical of the Jesuit soldiers of Christ in their almost super-human courage in disdaining the torture and death they exposed themselves to as missionaries to warlike tribes.

Firmly in this tradition of courage is Joseph Timothy O’Callahan.  Born on May 14, 1905 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, he attended Boston College High School.  He joined the Jesuits in 1922  and obtained his BA from Saint Andrew’s College in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1925, and his Masters in Philosophy at Weston College in 1929.  Ordained in 1934, he served as a professor of Mathematics, Philosophy and Physics at Boston College until 1937.  He then spent a year as a professor of Philosophy at Weston Jesuit School of Theology, before becoming head of the Mathematics department at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

On August 7, 1940, Father O’Callahan was appointed a Lieutenant JG in the United States Navy.  His decision to join the Navy as a chaplain shocked some of his friends, one of them remarking, “Let someone younger help those boys.  You can’t even open your umbrella!”  Nothing daunted, Chaplain O’Callahan served at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola,  Florida from 1940-1942.  From 1942-1945 he served as chaplain at Naval Air Stations in Alameda, California and at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.   It was almost at the end of the war when he was assigned to sea duty and reported aboard the Franklin, an Essex Class Fleet Air-Craft Carrier on March 2, 1945.  The Franklin was the fifth ship in the United States Navy to be named after Benjamin Franklin, and had seen a lot of combat during the War.  It was about to see more.

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16 Responses to Great Jesuits 5: Medal of Honor

  • Thank you for this great feature and videos about Fr. O’Callahan. Absolutely amazing.

    I seem to remember that the Philippine government also honored Fr. O’Callahan for helping then Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon get to the U.S. for treatment for TB during the war. The award may have been post-humous, as it was received on his behalf by his sister, Sr. Rosemarie O’Callahan, a Maryknoll Sister in the Philippines.

    Sr. Rosemarie was my English professor at Maryknoll College. She was no intellectual slouch, either.

  • Thank you for the info Marie! In 1946, Father O’Callahan served as Escort Chaplain as the body of the late Philippines President Manuel Quezon was carried from the United States to Manila.

  • Thank you, Donald, for this precious bit of history.

    I’ve just done a search on Sr. Rose Marie O’Callahan, MM, and I’m saddened to know that she passed away on Dec. 24, 2004. She was a devoted Catholic religious, a no-nonsense teacher, and a great American.

    This article,
    http://www.johnhamelministries.org/Father_Joe_history.htm

    written by their mother’s cousin’s son tells that Sr. Rose Marie was among the heroic Americans who (resisted the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and) were incarcerated for three years in the Los Banos (Laguna) concentration camp.

    (I was born in 1943, but know the story of the Los Banos prison camp as I came from the area and because my baptismal godfather was among those who fought side-by-side with U.S. troops in liberating Los Banos. It was on the same day that U.S. marines planted the American flag on Iwo Jima, so Los Banos didn’t get any press at all.)

    “During that time the O’Callahan family had not heard a word about her fate. While in the Pacific Father Joe had hoped to discover his sister’s circumstance first-hand. He was unable to do so.”

    Sadly, Sr. Rose Marie’s obituary (2004) has no mention of her famous brother:

    http://www.cny.org/archive/ob/ob010104.htm

    “Sister Rose Marie O¹Callahan, M.M.
    a missioner to the Philippines for 42 years, died Dec. 24 in the Residential Care Unit of the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining. She was 96. She was assigned to the Philippines in 1930, first serving as an elementary school teacher and then as a hospital bookkeeper. During World War II she and other Maryknoll Sisters were kept under house arrest and then confined in the Los Banos internment camp before their liberation by U.S. forces in 1945. She then taught at a high school before serving as registrar and an English and theology teacher at Maryknoll College in Manila, 1947-1967. She was dean of La Salette College in Santiago, 1967-1972. After returning to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1972, she served as secretary to the Renewal Office and on the Senior Center Council. After study, she began a new career in nursing at age 71, serving on the staff of the Center Health Unit at the Sisters Center and as a nursing assistant at the Maryknoll Sisters Nursing Home. Born in Cambridge, Mass., she entered the Maryknoll Sisters in 1927 and made final vows in 1933. A Funeral Mass was offered Dec. 30 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. Burial was in the sisters¹ cemetery.”

    Eternal rest grant unto Sister Rose Marie, O Lord.

  • Marie, once again thank you! I think Sister Rose will have her own post here on American Catholic eventually. What a truly remarkable brother and sister!

  • Thanks – great post – I needed to read it…

  • Good stuff. Always glad to hear stories that demonstrate the Holy Spirit at work.

  • Well, its a real pleasure to read this post and a real change from the Jebbie-bashing that Catholic blogs seem to enjoy. Thank you!

  • Though he didn’t say it himself, O’Callahan’s feat inspired the headline, “Praise God and pass the ammunition!”

    The story is included in Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation Speaks which is a worthwhile read, never mind the author’s politics.

  • Great story. I am so glad you are posting these inspiring accounts. I have a question. Do you know how many warships, destroyers or frigates were named in honor of Catholic chaplains? Your article names two. And I remember the other chaplain hero who died saving lives at Pearl Harbor. Don’t have his name before me, but you wrote a tribute to him some months ago.

  • George that would be be Lieutenant JG Aloysius Schmitt who died saving 12 men on the USS Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack. He could have avoided death by drowning easily as the compartment he was in filled with water, but he thought it was more important to save the lives of the other men. The destroyer USS Schmitt was named in his honor. His actions warranted a Medal of Honor although he did not receive that decoration.

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/03/11/sunday-in-paradise/

  • Selfless religious like the O’Callahan siblings are a reminder of why it is so very important to financially support the vocations. Many who get a calling struggle with the economic burden of schooling. Giving towards vocations is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

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  • It was nice to come across this site tonight and read all of your kind words about Sister Rose Marie Father Joe. They were my grandmother’s cousins (Katherine O’Callahan daughter of “handsome Jack” O’Callahan…their father and and my great grandfather were brothers). Growing up we always heard the stories, but we never realized how great they both were until getting older.

    In 2000 I received a Christmas card from Sister Rose Marie – her handwriting was very shaky, but her words flowed and her mind was still as sharp as a tack. I’ll always treasure it, along with a pair of Father Joe’s rosary beads.

    There is a room dedicated to Father Joe in SC at the USS Yorktown Museum if any of you are ever in the vacinity.

    You can also see that very famous original film clip of Father Joe praying over a wounded sailor in the Victory At Sea Series in the USS Ben Franklin section.

  • Lee, one of the joys of doing these posts on chaplains is hearing from relatives of these very brave men. We live in freedom only because of the dauntless courage shown by men like Father Joe. This reminds me too that I need to do a post on Sister Rose Marie who led a remarkable life in her own right.

  • Good morning Donald, you’re up with the birds this morning 🙂

    With yesterday being 9/11, I was doing some reading online about the brave first responder police and firefighters who lost their lives. Since “Handsome Jack” (we called him Pa) was a firefighter, at some point in my searching I keyed in his name and the Central Square Cambridge fire dept. I have a few pictures of Pa on the horse drawn fire wagon that I thought would be nice to donate to the station – and don’t you know, up popped Father Joe’s name…as it always does… which, in turn, led me here.

    It gives those of us in the family a very warm feeling to see all of you taking an interest in the story of his and Sister’s lives, no matter if it’s over the internet, in books, or wherever there is a gathering.

    By the way, the USS Ben Franklin Association had one of their reunions at a college in Franklin VA several years back. I believe it was one of the crew members who wrote a play about Father Joe and the students performed. The hat, gloves, Medal of Honor and a few other personal possessions of Father Joe were on display on a table at the front door to the small theatre. Of course I could not resist running my finger over that medal and thought the same thing you mentioned, how lucky we are today because of these brave men and women.

    Another cousin, Jay O’Callahan, has quite a lot of information on Father Joe. He’s a storyteller and is on NPR very often. He has published some books about Father Joe and various recordings if you haven’t already come across him in your research.

    I’m looking forward to your posts on Sister Rose Marie.

    Regards
    Lee

  • I came across Jay O’Callahan Lee when I was doing my initial research. As long as there is a US Navy, Father Joe’s memory will be honored. He was a Jesuit to remember!

11 Responses to The Infidel

  • Many errors with this premise. But let’s assume it could be as it was — would you think it good if they did a show called The Pagan about someone who thought they were baptized and found out they were not? Or someone who thought they were a priest and not?

  • That is hilarious Tito! No doubt the humor impaired will deny it, but it is!

  • Here is a clip from the Four Lions, a comedy about four inept British muslim terrorists.

  • What if someone did a show about “someone who thought they were a priest and were not?”

    I dunno about that, but I have seen that premise done in reverse — someone who WAS a priest and thought they weren’t. The character of John Black on “Days of Our Lives” (Drake Hogestyn), when he entered the story about 20 years ago or so, had been brainwashed, or had amnesia, or something, and forgotten his previous identity. Only after his beloved Marlena (Deirdre Hall) became possessed by the devil did he discover that he had been a priest in his past life, and he ended up exorcising the evil spirit from her. Then, of course, he dropped his vocation like a hot potato.

  • LOL!

    “I used an I.R.A. voice.”

    I will be putting that on my Netflix cue now.

  • There have also been several comedies where everyone thinks someone is a priest when in fact he is not.

  • Too funny… I agree that in premise it has errors. Any Jew or other religion can be accepted into the Muslim community. In Islam it is believed that every one is born Muslim – period. If you say you are Christian – Jew or other – you are wrong and need to be corrected through Dawa first.

    But this is histerical, I can only imagine how it will turn out and who will be upset about it….

  • Nice to see the Brits haven’t yet succumbed to political correctness!

  • CMinor,

    They may well be the last bastion of common sense left in Europe!

  • The fact that Islam accepts conversions from any faith (which faith doesn’t?) doesn’t delegitimate the story, since Jewishness is perceived ethnically as well as religiously. There are secular Jews just as there are secular people from a Christian background, etc. The fact is that people who’ve found out they’re Jewish halfway thru life- and there are many, for obvious reasons – are generally turned upside down by the news. What’s more interesting is why a filmmaker would feel this premise is important to us now as something to laugh at and learn from – it’s the zeitgeist and a conversation (and laughter) that needs to be had.

  • Interesting that Islam isn’t so tolerant when people convert away from Islam.

Russian Christian Soldier a Martyr of the Chechen War

Saturday, February 20, AD 2010

This is an fascinating story: a Russian soldier who was killed on his 19th birthday in 1996 is being venerated in his home country as a martyr and an icon of him is giving off aromas of myrrh:

Today according to Inferfax of Russia in  Penza, an Icon of Evgeny Rodinov  gave off aromas of myrrh in the St. Lukas Church at the Penza regional oncologic dispenser. Russian soldier Rodionov was executed in Chechnya in 1996 after refusing to renounce Orthodox faith and take off his cross.

“Myrrh came out in two spots, in a palm of his hand and where one wears the cross,” the church Rector Alexy Burtsev told journalists.

According to the Church Rector, it happened during the All-Night Vigil on February 15.  Those in attendance, at the Church, stood behind praying, and took in the strange pleasant aroma.

The priest noted that on February 15, 1996, Penza-born Evgeny Rodionov was captured in Chechnya, imprisoned for hundred days and when he refused to renounce Christian faith, militants beheaded him.?

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Rodionov (Russian: ???????? ??????? ?????????????) (May 23, 1977 – May 23, 1996) was a Russian soldier who was kidnapped and later executed in Chechen captivity. The purported manner of his death has garnered him much admiration throughout Russia, and even prompted calls for his elevation to sainthood.

Rodionov was born in the village of Satino-Russkoye, near Podolsk, Moscow Oblast. Though he aspired to be a cook, he was conscripted into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in 1995. Private Rodionov was deployed to Chechnya, he served in border troops and on February 13, 1996 he was captured by Chechen rebels. They held him captive for more than three months.

On his 19th birthday Rodionov was beheaded on the outskirts of the Chechen village Bamut. According to his killers, who later extorted money from his mother in exchange for knowledge of the location of his corpse, they beheaded him after he refused to renounce his Christian faith or remove the silver cross he wore around his neck.

Yevgeny Rodionov was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage. There is a growing movement within the Russian Orthodox Church to canonize him as a Christian saint and martyr for faith. Some Russian soldiers, feeling themselves abandoned by their government, have taken to kneeling in prayer before his image. One such prayer reads:

Thy martyr, Yevgeny, O Lord, in his sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from thee, our God, for having thy strength he has brought down his torturers, has defeated the powerless insolence of demons. Through his prayers save our souls.

As of 2003, religious icons depicting Yevgeny were becoming increasingly popular. Yevgeny’s mother has one herself; she has suggested that the icon of her son sometimes emits a perfume which she believes to be holy, to the extent that it actually drips with it.

Evgeny Rodinov, pray for us!

_._

Reprinted with permission by Eric Sammons of The Divine Life.

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2 Responses to Russian Christian Soldier a Martyr of the Chechen War

Finlandia Hymn

Saturday, February 20, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  Finlandia Hymn by Jean Sibelius.  The above video is a tribute to the brave Finnish troops who defended their nation against the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War of 1941-1944.

An English translation of the Finnish lyrics:

O, Finland, behold, your day is dawning,
The threat of night has been banished away,
And the lark of morning in the brightness sings,
As though the very firmament would sing.
The powers of the night are vanquished by the morning light,
Your day is dawning, O land of birth.

 
O, rise, Finland, raise up high
Your head, wreathed with great memories.
O, rise, Finland, you showed to the world
That you drove away the slavery,
And that you did not bend under oppression,
Your day is dawning, O land of birth.

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6 Responses to Finlandia Hymn

  • That was moving, and I’m not even a Finn and I don’t understand a single word. Yet you can get the gist of it just from listening to it..

  • Here’s another version. Janet Sullivan Whittaker has set the text of the Magnificat to the same tune. It’s very lovely and a prayerful metric setting of Mary’s hymn.
    Here is the link to the page with the MP3 and sheet music:
    http://www.ocp.org/compositions/77775#tab:mp3s
    Enjoy!

  • And you also enjoy this piece, Andante Festivo by Sibelius … imo it sounds so much like a hymn.

  • In reality, the Finnish military lost some 20,000 plus troops–the Soviet 1,000,000. My father-in-law was (God rest his soul) a Finnish officer in the war. My mother-in-law (God rest her soul) Lotta.

  • I wish I had some music talent so I could sing along. Being almost 80 yrs old and heard so many songs in my life time, when I hear Finlandia played, it makes me sad and happy all at the same time. No other songhas that effect one me. There has to be something magical, or spiritual about it.

  • Does anyone know whether the Findlandia hymn tune is still under copyright or in the public domain? I’d like to do a choral arrangement.

    I have love the entire tone poem, but especially the hymn since my piano teacher gave me her crumbling copy of the piano arrangement forty or so years ago.

Apropos of Last Weeks Torture Post …

Friday, February 19, AD 2010

Appropos of last week’s torture post, some additional discussions on the web:

  • EWTN and torture Mollie Wilson O’Reilly picks up the story (Commonweal February 19, 2010).
  • Torture, Conscience, and the Tortured Conscience Mike Potemra (NRO‘s “The Corner” February 18, 2010) – with responses by Andrew McCarthy and Mark Thiessen himself (“The Bush administration met its responsibility to protect society. And it did so without resorting to torture, by using methods that were lawful, moral, and just”).
  • Taking note of a recent article by Thiessen on the notorious “underwear bomber”, Vox Nova‘s M.Z. Forrest points out how the second wave of “torture apologists” have practically abandoned the “ticking time bomb” scenario.
  • Michael Sean Winters (America magazine) has a modest proposal.
  • Austin Ruse clarifies his position in “Torture” and the Pro-Life Cause (The Catholic Thing February 19, 2010):

    For some in the pro-life world there is a fear that this debate will be successful in the effort to draw people away from the imperfect but still pro-life Republican Party. They also wonder how the fact that three terrorists were waterboarded more than six years ago in the aftermath of the horror of 9/11 can eclipse the regular, ongoing killing of unborn children in the tens of millions. In the six years of the waterboarding debate, there have been something like 7.2-million abortions and exactly zero cases of waterboarding. To their credit, most, if not all, of the conservative critics of waterboarding do not say waterboarding is more important than abortion, and if forced to make a choice of issues to work on would easily and quickly choose the fight for the unborn child.

    On the one hand are the good-hearted who are advancing serious moral arguments. On the other side are those who use torture as a political agenda item. In the end, no matter what the motives, the prolife community must protect the momentum we have generated since 1973.

  • ZippyCatholic on “Why I believe waterboarding prisoners is torture, and you should too”.
  • Showdown at High Noon – ZippyCatholic and Austin Ruse meet in person, in a civil and friendly exchange of views:

    When you are deeply committed to protecting the unborn, the holocaust of whom is possibly a worse stain on humanity than even the large-scale atrocities of the last century, and one of your personal passions is organizing people into formal institutions to engage in political action; and when you further see nothing but unprincipled political hatchet jobs coming from people who literally hate anything resembling an existing actual formally organized anti-abortion group; and when a principal weapon employed in these hatchet jobs is this particular issue — when all of that is true, you can’t help but have a particular impression of this whole debate.

    Until, that is, you encounter orthodox Catholics who are also deeply passionate about protecting the unborn on that same side, the side forming the edge of the hatchet, under the “stopped clock” theory, of this particular issue.

    In fact, being the sort who does the organization think-tank policy dance every day, [Austin] was enthusiastic about orthodox activist-anti-torture Catholics getting involved at that level and in that manner.

  • In an addendum on Against The Grain, I offer my own wrap-up of sorts.

Lastly, one particular party, who had read over the recent exchanges on this blog, contacted me with the suggestion that, given my unfortunate reliance on “unreliable axe-grinding sources,” it would do well to elicit the assistance of some conservative organizations “with credibility” to review the various charges (of prisoner abuse, deaths of detainees in U.S. custody, etc.) and publish a report.

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29 Responses to Apropos of Last Weeks Torture Post …

  • Austin did not clarify his position. He keeps repeating the same mistakes.

    or some in the pro-life world there is a fear that this debate will be successful in the effort to draw people away from the imperfect but still pro-life Republican Party. They also wonder how the fact that three terrorists were waterboarded more than six years ago in the aftermath of the horror of 9/11 can eclipse the regular, ongoing killing of unborn children in the tens of millions. In the six years of the waterboarding debate, there have been something like 7.2-million abortions and exactly zero cases of waterboarding. To their credit, most, if not all, of the conservative critics of waterboarding do not say waterboarding is more important than abortion, and if forced to make a choice of issues to work on would easily and quickly choose the fight for the unborn child.

    Mistake 1 — play it by the numbers. Mistake 2 — making it appear it is not the Catholic and but an “either/or.” Yes, someone can focus on one or the other. If one focuses on either for their work, it is not bad as long as in that focus one does not repudiate the work of the other. (How many people will say, yes, mechanics are good, but sorry, abortion is more important, so no one should be mechanics as long as abortions happen?)

    On the one hand are the good-hearted who are advancing serious moral arguments. On the other side are those who use torture as a political agenda item. In the end, no matter what the motives, the prolife community must protect the momentum we have generated since 1973.

    Mistake 3: that this is merely a political debate, not a moral debate. Mistake 4: questioning the motive of those who are concerned with torture.

    Finally, I would like to ask, what “momentum”? He doesn’t have a sufficient understanding of the cause of life, if he did, he would say the momentum has to include all moral concerns about the dignity of life.

  • “the merits of the legal process that took place to institute such tactics as part of our interrogation process”

    The Obama Department of Justice has decided to give up its attempt to discipline John Yoo and Jay Bybee. As the post on Hot Air linked below notes, considering that Pakistani intelligence is now conducting the interrogations of the Taliban chiefs arrested in Pakistan over the last week in joint US-Pakistani operations, I can imagine that the Obama DOJ no doubt contemplated the questions that the attorneys of Yoo and Bybee would have asked of current DOJ officials during such disciplinary proceedings, including the ties of current DOJ lawyers to terrorist detainees from prior representation of said detainees and the conflicts of interest that such prior representation raises. As Allahpundit indicates, no doubt the entire matter itself will be investigated after Obama is no longer in office.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2010/02/19/friday-night-news-dump-no-doj-discipline-for-authors-of-bush-torture-memos/

  • In regard to the International Committee of the Red Cross I believe this editorial from National Review in 2004 indicates why perhaps the ICRC might be considered an “axe-grinding source”:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/editorial/editors200412020949.asp

    In regard to the substance of the report consisting of allegations by the detainees, I would suggest that advocates for the detainees approach the Obama Department of Justice and formally request that an investigation of the allegations be conducted and criminal charges brought if warranted. The only place such allegations can really be adequately determined to be true or false is in a court of law, where everyone is subject to cross-examination and the rules of evidence.

    In the course of my criminal defense work I have encountered defendants who complain of abuse by the police. I encourage them to file civil suits against the individuals and agencies involved. I then tell them that I do not file such suits myself, because I have found that proving such allegations in court is far more difficult than making such allegations.

  • “evaluations — from a Catholic perspective — of the ‘just war’ defenses of such offered by Mark Thiessen and others supporting the above addressing the question: whether it is morally permissible (and legally permissable) to employ interrogation techniques on unlawful enemy combatants that otherwise would not be permissible to employ on lawful enemy combatants, or honorable captured soldiers held in POW status”

    Traditionally under the rules of war, terrorists, or any non-uniformed combatants not part of a military unit or spies, were subject to execution after trial by a military or civil court. I find nothing immoral in this traditional usage. Uniformed prisoners were subject to rules which accorded them not only freedom from execution but the status of prisoners of war and, at least in theory, freedom from all but verbal interrogation. The protections accorded by the Geneva conventions preserved this distinction between uniformed and non-uniformed combatants.

    The US Supreme Court noted this distinction in the 1942 case ex parte Qurin:

    “By universal agreement and practice, the law of war draws a distinction between the armed forces and the peaceful populations of belligerent nations and also between those who are lawful and unlawful combatants. Lawful combatants are subject to capture and detention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful. The spy who secretly and without uniform passes the military lines of a belligerent in time of war, seeking to gather military information and communicate it to the enemy, or an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.”

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=317&invol=1

    Non-uniformed combatants enjoyed no such protection and were subject to interrogations that went beyond verbal requests for information. I find nothing inherently immoral in this depending upon the means used to elicit information. I draw the line at physical means used to extract information.

  • Traditionally under the rules of war, terrorists, or any non-uniformed combatants not part of a military unit or spies, were subject to execution after trial by a military or civil court. I find nothing immoral in this traditional usage.

    Try thinking about this through Catholicism rather than through “traditional rules of war.”

  • Has anyone yet successfully rebutted Brian W. Harrison’s argument in his “TORTURE AND CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AS A PROBLEM IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY?”

    If not, it seems to me that his conclusion at the end of Part II is entirely defensible: That the Catholic Church has not in fact yet offered Magisterial guidance stating that violence against a prisoner for the purposes used in the CIA interrogation program is intrinsically evil:

    “If, as I have argued, the infliction of severe pain is not intrinsically evil, its use in that
    type of scenario would not seem to be excluded by the arguments and authorities we have considered
    so far. (John Paul II’s statement about the “intrinsic evil” of a list of ugly things including torture in VS #80 does not seem to me decisive, even at the level of authentic, non-infallible, magisterium, for the reasons I have already given in commenting above on that text.) My understanding would be that, given the present status questionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate
    circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians.”

    It seems to me, then, that all the talk of denying communion to persons taking this view is premature. If and when the specific practice being promoted is as clearly condemned as, say, obtaining an abortion is, that would be the time for such censure.

    But there is so much back-and-forth on Catholic blogs about this, that I may have missed a good rebuttal of Harrison’s analysis.

    Was there one? If so, can anyone point me to it?

  • A good rebuttal of Fr. Harrison can be found in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “477. What practices are contrary to respect for the bodily integrity of the human person?
    “They are: kidnapping and hostage taking, terrorism, torture, violence, and direct sterilization. Amputations and mutilations of a person are morally permissible only for strictly therapeutic medical reasons.”

    “Torture.” Not “torture for these intentions but not those intentions.” Just “torture.”

    Fr. Harrison’s argument implies that putting a prisoner on the rack for the purposes used in the CIA interrogation program is not torture. But this is absurd. Therefore, Fr. Harrison’s argument is unsound.

  • Has anyone yet successfully rebutted Brian W. Harrison’s argument in his “TORTURE AND CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AS A PROBLEM IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY?”

    If you read Father Harrison’s article, after painstakingly establishing that torture is condemned for the purpose of extracting confessions, he adds that the Church hasn’t said anything about torture used for the purpose of intelligence gathering. There’s not any argument or evidence brought to bear on his point, nor is there any attempt to justify the distinction between torture to produce confessions and torture to produce intelligence. He just throws it out there, almost as an afterthought.

    Since Father Harrison’s article doesn’t contain any arguments or evidence in favor of this conclusion, there’s really nothing to rebut.

  • In replying to Tom K and Blackadder, I suppose I should say up front that I do not favor the use of waterboarding against captured terrorists. I am pursuing the topic only to be able to determine the truth or falsehood of particular arguments for and against. So do not put me in the position of slavering for the pantybomber to be put in the rack!

    Tom K:

    Fr. Harrison specifically addresses that point; violence against an unlawful combatant prisoner whose silence is actively abetting an ongoing attack plan — who in some sense, while confined, is not actually helpless — is not contemplated in the usage of the word “torture” in the Catechism.

    And, there is a risk in trying argue that the Catechism is there referring to all possible uses of “torture” is by broadly construing the word to apply to all uses of violence against a confined person: That may put prior Popes in the position of having approved torture (and thus, the Holy Spirit speaking through Church’s Magisterium in the position of having changed His mind about a matter of faith or morals). More importantly, it puts God in the Old Testament in the position of having ordered evil as a normative matter of punishment.

    So, while it would be easy and convenient to be able to use the Catechism in this way and merely say, “Case closed, how about lunch?” I fear I cannot. An argument which undermines the basic premises of Catholicism and/or all forms of Judeo-Christian monotheism is not one I’m willing to adopt!

    Blackadder:

    You are correct that Fr. Harrison actually presents no direct argument that these things are approved or explicitly permitted. So you’re correct in saying there’s no argument of that type to rebut.

    But I thought his point was not to offer his own argument for such things, but rather to ask whether the Church had ever clearly pronounced against such things. As such, his paper is more a survey and analysis of prior Church teaching from the Fathers onward, than a presentation of any argument saying something new.

    If he is correct in saying that the Church has not clearly pronounced on this then this bears directly on the question of whether folk like Thiessen should be denied communion.

    You can deny communion to those who have no excuse (as in the case of legalized abortion) because of the Church’s repeated re-articulation that the act is intrinsically evil; that no legal right to do it can plausibly exist; and that failure to outlaw constitutes a failure to fulfill the first moral duty of government (to defend the human rights of people).

    But you can’t deny it to those who can show that the Church has not taught that the act is intrinsically evil, and who merely disagree with you about whether a given set of circumstances were sufficient to justify a hard-to-justify act.

    So it seems to me that Fr. Harrison’s analysis is on-point with respect to how we address the Thiessens of the world. To rebut Fr. Harrison one must either:

    (a.) Find a Church teaching he missed in his survey which is on-point; or,

    (b.) Show that a Church teaching he addressed should be construed to include the waterboarding of KSM, without (in the process of showing this) accidentally making God in the Old Testament command an intrinsic evil, or anything else which would similarly undermine the whole faith.

    That was what I meant when I asked, “Has anyone yet successfully rebutted…?”

  • R.C.,

    Father Harrison’s claim here is similar to the claim folks used to make that while the Church condemned contraception it had never condemned the pill, so it was an open question whether Catholics could use the pill. The purpose of torture as intelligence gathering is straightforwardly to produce confessions. If Father Harrison (or anyone else) wants to argue that torture for intelligence doesn’t fall under the ban on torture for confessions, then he has to argue the point, which Father Harrison does not.

  • Fr. Harrison specifically addresses that point; violence against an unlawful combatant prisoner whose silence is actively abetting an ongoing attack plan — who in some sense, while confined, is not actually helpless — is not contemplated in the usage of the word “torture” in the Catechism.

    Exactly.

    From this, it follows that flaying the skin off a captured soldier in order to find out what his unit’s orders are is not contemplated in the usage of the word “torture” in the Catechism.

    But this is absurd. Therefore, Fr. Harrison’s argument is unsound.

    That may put prior Popes in the position of having approved torture (and thus, the Holy Spirit speaking through Church’s Magisterium in the position of having changed His mind about a matter of faith or morals).

    No one denies that prior Popes have approved torture, specifically torture to obtain confessions, which is explicitly condemned in the Catechism.

    Pointing out the absurdity of making one convenient intention change the object of the act of torture does not avoid the Pope vs. Pope fight.

    Also, from your parenthetical, it sounds like we don’t exactly agree about how the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church’s Magisterium. I have no particular expertise to offer, but you might want to double-check on that with someone you trust.

    More importantly, it puts God in the Old Testament in the position of having ordered evil as a normative matter of punishment.

    The Catechism explicitly condemns torture as a normative matter of punishment, so God in the Old Testament is already in that position.

  • …flaying the skin off a captured soldier…

    Sorry, you did say “unlawful combatant prisoner.” So, although the legal status of the combatant is manifestly irrelevant to whether what is done to him is, objectively, torture, I should have said “flaying the skin off a captured partisan fighter.”

  • From this, it follows that flaying the skin off a captured soldier in order to find out what his unit’s orders are is not contemplated in the usage of the word “torture” in the Catechism.

    Does it follow from your remarks that we cannot in any way coerce irregular troops who violate customs of war?

  • A dear friend of mine, who saw action in the Philippines during the Second World War, was quite perplexed by the controversies over the disposition of troops at Guantanamo. He said that in his experience, and according to his understanding of Conventions then in effect, irregular troops who violate the laws of war could be executed at the discretion of field commanders. We could, he said, stick them on rafts and point them in the general direction of Central Asia and it would be a better deal than they might have gotten until very recently.

    Thomas Sowell offers this:

    There was a time when everybody understood this. German soldiers who put on American military uniforms, in order to infiltrate American lines during the Battle of the Bulge were simply lined up against a wall and shot– and nobody wrung their hands over it. Nor did the U.S. Army try to conceal what they had done. The executions were filmed and the film has been shown on the History Channel.

    I am wondering how both latter-day conventions and Church documents treat this specific question. Does anyone know?

  • Torture debates tend to be a bit abstract. Here is an actual case:

    “Between August 16 and 20, 2003, intelligence identified an Iraqi policeman who was allegedly involved in the assassination plot, and the man was arrested on Aug. 20.

    Lt. Col. Allen B. West was told the policeman was uncooperative, so he took a few of his men to the interrogation area to see for himself, where he found the prisoner being questioned by two female officers. They told him the man was belligerent, and wasn’t giving them any information. (Surprise, surprise. The idiocy of having women question male Arab prisoners is apparent to everyone except the army commanders.) West entered the room, sat across from the man, drew his pistol, and placed it in his lap. West told him he had come to either get information, or to kill him. The prisoner responded by smiling and saying, “I love you.” The interrogation continued, and one of West’s troops lost his temper and started slapping the man. West then had his men take the prisoner outside, where he again threatened the man, telling him that he would kill him on the count of five if he didn’t tell what he knew. The prisoner refused, and West fired his pistol into the air.

    The interrogation continued, but not the beating. After about 20 more minutes of useless questioning, West grabbed the man, held him down near a box full of sand used to discharge jammed weapons, and said something like, “This is it. I’m going to count to five again, and if you don’t give me what I want, I’m going to kill you.” West held the man down, counted to five, and then fired his pistol into the discharging box about a foot from the Iraqi’s head. He began talking. Over the next few minutes, the prisoner gave very specific information about the plot. He named the conspirators, gave times and dates of the assassination plan, and even described how attacks would be made.”

    West immediately informed his superior officers of what he had done.

    “West, who at the time was just short of having 20 years of service, was charged with violating articles 128 (assault) and 134 (general article) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and was in danger of receiving an 11 year prison sentence, dismissal, and losing his retirement benefits. West was processed through an Article 32 hearing in November 2003, where he admitted wrongdoing, was fined $5,000 over two months for misconduct and assault. He then submitted his resignation, and was allowed to retire with full benefits in the summer of 2004.

    At a hearing, West was asked by his defense attorney if he would do it again. “If it’s about the lives of my men and their safety, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can,” he said.”

    Questions: Did West engage in an immoral act? Was his action intrinsically evil?

  • Blackadder:

    “Father Harrison’s claim here is similar to the claim folks used to make that while the Church condemned contraception it had never condemned the pill, so it was an open question whether Catholics could use the pill.”

    Possibly. If your view is correct, then that analogy is also the correct one to use.

    But that’s begging the question. One must first know what the truth about a matter is, before selecting the correct analogy to describe it to another.

    Here, for example, is another possible analogy:

    “Fr. Harrison’s claim here is similar to the claim folks used to make that while the Church condemned elective abortion, it had never condemned elective abortion to save the life of the mother in the case of an ectopic pregnancy (objectively the same procedure, with the same effect on the unborn); so, it was an open question whether a Catholic could make use of that procedure.”

    Which analogy shall we use?

    These are, you see, two specific scenarios on which the Catholic church had not, at some point in history, spoken (but where the general teachings against contraception and abortion had been known since the time of the Apostolic Fathers, as in Didache and the Letter of Barnabas). The question before us is, which of these two scenarios will, in the end, turn out to be most comparable to the scenario of waterboarding KSM & Co.?

    To know, we’ll have to first determine whether coercion by waterboarding (in order to obtain intel, in order to save lives) is ever justifiable, by some extreme set of circumstances. If it is, then the second analogy applies; if not, the first (yours) applies.

    So we are back to square one. After we answer the question of moral theology relating to violent coercion of a prisoner to obtain intel to save lives, then we will know which analogy fits best. But we are not permitted to choose the analogy first, and thus short-circuit the investigation of the truth.

    I understand that you think it’s the first analogy, which you offered, which matches. I think you might be right.

    But in the interests of being thorough, I’m willing to consider that it might be the second; that the correct analogy is to those procedures used save a woman’s life in the event of an ectopic pregnancy (removal of the fetus, tubal ligation, and so on).

    Let’s look at that example in greater detail for a moment: We’re talking about something (two things, really: abortion and, in many cases, sterilization) which the Church teaches is evil, and about which she even uses the term intrinsically evil, but which in a certain kind of case, she says is justifiable!

    How to explain this?

    An anti-Catholic would say that it’s a case of the Church contradicting herself: That what we have here is the ends justifying the means; that when it came down to it, the supposedly anti-consequentialist Catholic Church adopted consequentialism to avoid the obvious nonsense of forbidding the procedure and letting both mother and child die.

    But a faithful Catholic would not say that.

    It seems to me that this position can only make sense if we avoid the reductionist view which holds that the words intrinsically evil apply to the procedure solely as a set of physical actions, and not to the whole act, including its circumstances and intent. The Church teaches one cannot have a tubal ligation for the purposes of sterilization alone or surgically remove the fetus from the mother for the purposes of abortion alone but that one can do both to save the life of the mother which otherwise would be lost. Clearly then it is not the physical act which is intrinsically evil, and even the damage done to the unborn child is not sufficient consequence to make it evil. The intended result, the motive, are also part of the act.

    This is, according to the Church’s reasoning, not a case of doing evil that good might result from it…otherwise she would not permit it! But she does. Therefore we must conclude that this killing of a fetus, often also resulting in sterilization of the mother, is not intrinsically evil in the physical procedures alone. Only when the mother’s life is not in jeopardy, does the act become evil (and then, intrinsically evil) because under those circumstances the only reason to do it is to slay offspring and to maim fertility. It is abortion or tubal ligation for such reasons which is intrinsically evil. (And sadly that’s the vast majority of all abortions.) Slaying offspring and maiming fertility are contrary to natural law, which shows us that the sexual organs exist with the purpose of being fertile and producing offspring. And they are contrary to God’s commands to subdue nature with the intent of healing and perfecting it, and to be fruitful and multiply (which are obviously incompatible with offspring-slaying and the maiming of natural procreative faculties of a woman).

    But abortion and tubal ligation for the purposes of saving the mother’s life are undertaken to heal and to save life. This is not incompatible with natural law and God’s commands. Thus the act, taken as a whole, is not evil.

    Could the same be true of violently coercing a prisoner, when it is to save life?

    The answer is “No,” if the Church has already said “no,” but it is “Possibly,” if the Church has not already said “no.”

    If there is a hole left open in Catholic teaching for the use of waterboarding (or similar things) to compel information from a person in order to save lives, then we know that one of two things is true:

    (1.) The use of violence against a prisoner to compel information from him in order to save lives is, taken as a whole act, with its motives included, intrinsically evil, no matter what other details are involved; or,

    (2.) The use of violence against a prisoner to compel information from him in order to save lives is, itself, an incomplete description of the act. More information is needed to know whether the act is justified, or not, on a case-by-case basis. If in a particular case the act is not justified, then of course it becomes merely “an unjustified use of violence,” which is always intrinsically evil and all the other details are moot. If in a particular case the act is justified, then it is not evil at all, however much one may have wished that “it had not come to this.”

    In the case of possibility (1.) we must hope that the Church will eventually fill in that last gap in her moral teaching on the subject, lest anyone else wonder why the gap is there and assume that justification may someday arise.

    Possibility (2.) is more complex, in that it does not necessarily vindicate Bush & Co. for waterboarding KSM & Co.

    The Church might say, for example, that sufficient justification for waterboarding is possible, but that it requires circumstances more extreme than those involved in the waterboarding of KSM. Thus Bush & Co. would have been wrong to waterboard KSM; and indeed that act would have been intrinsically evil as all unjustified acts of violence are intrinsically evil. But it would leave open the possibility that under even worse circumstances (the unjustly-derided “ticking bomb” scenarios) the threshold of justification might be reached.

    But all that musing is moot if Possibility (1.) is in fact true.

    So that’s the question we must answer. The Church is our source. Fr. Harrison’s piece argues that she has as of yet been silent on the relevant combination of details. And, the details might be important for the same reason that the details of a tubal ligation are important…or they might not be. I frankly don’t think I’m wise enough to know.

    In the meantime I can think of myriad reasons why I don’t want waterboarding permitted by U.S. policy, reasons which are unrelated to the basic question of the Church’s teaching about it.

    But on the topic of Fr. Harrison’s article, I have yet to see anyone argue either that he overlooked an important relevant teaching, or that he mis-stated the meaning of the ones he listed. He says the Church has not yet spoken on the relevant type of act, and on the whole, I’m inclined to agree.

    So, while I myself oppose waterboarding as policy, my reasons are not the kind of reasons which would lead me to advocate excluding those who disagree from communion.

  • Tom K:

    Thanks for your reply. I do appreciate it.

    All the same, I have some quibbles:

    First Quibble
    You mention the “flaying the skin” thing. Well, I do not think anyone, even Thiessen, contemplated the position that, “If the Church hasn’t yet said no, then anything goes.” That’s a straw man.

    The real position is more like this: We all know that waterboarding (let alone flaying) a person to obtain from them information to save the life of your pet terrier is evil.

    But that could be so for two possible reasons:

    (1.) Because waterboarding a person to obtain true intel from a prisoner in order to save lives is never justifiable under any circumstances; or,

    (2.) Because waterboarding a person to obtain true intel from a prisoner in order to save lives is sometimes justifiable, but only under circumstances far greater than the ones given above. For example, it’s ridiculous to waterboard (or flay) someone in order to save your dog…but it might not be ridiculous to waterboard (I don’t even want to think about flaying) someone in order to save all human life.

    I know, I know: No terrorist is yet capable of a bomb that’ll kill all human life. It’s the ultimate silly ticking-bomb scenario.

    On the other hand, in 1910 no nation-state could yet build a single bomb capable of killing millions. In 1960 several nation-states had exactly that, and in 2010 we’re worried about terrorists getting said bombs from a nation-state within our lifetimes. Who knows what wonders the advance of technology has in store for us in 2060, in 2110, in 2160….

    Regardless of what technological terrors our future holds, the fact is that the silly, extreme, sci-fi “ticking bomb” scenarios are useful in one way. They allow us to distinguish between the things which are never justifiable because they are by definition evil, and the things which are usually evil but under extreme circumstances are permitted.

    Anyhow, Thiessen holds that the Church teaches against violence against prisoners, and everywhere lists examples of violence against prisoners done for all kinds of reasons that can’t plausibly justify it. (You know: Political oppression, obtaining false confessions, that sort of thing.) Thiessen also holds that there exist reasons that can justify it (saving lives in a war), and that those conditions were matched in the KSM waterboarding, thus making it justified and not evil.

    He also holds that waterboarding is justified because it was the minimum violence that would do the job. One does not respond to a Mexican army border incursion involving small-arms fire by nuking Mexico City: Even when a violent response can be justified, a disproportionate response never is. So Thiessen assumes that, whenever we are discussing waterboarding terrorists, we’re trying to keep it to a minimum.

    And that is why your “flaying the skin” example is off-base: It is extreme, in the opposite direction! It goes to the other end of the spectrum, amping up the violence against the prisoner (causing permanent harm and/or death), thereby producing an act which no-one, Thiessen included, ever contemplated. That is not where the contested points are. The scrimmage is taking place on the north end of the field; you’re down at the southern end where there’s no action.

    Anyhow, you can see that your argument about the Catechism’s use of the word “torture” does not “follow” as you said it did. It is plausible that the Church would take a different view of something which caused death or maiming or permanent harm, and something which only involves temporary suffering, however extreme. And in any case even Thiessen does not dispute that one must do the least possible violence: He has no intention of jumping to flaying since waterboarding apparently works.

    Now if waterboarding isn’t justifiable even if it’s the whole human race at stake, then our use of the crazy ticking-bomb scenario has clarified the whole issue for us: If that can’t justify it, nothing can, and of course the plots KSM was hiding certainly can’t.

    But if there exists any kind of threshold which can justify waterboarding, why then the remaining question is whether the circumstances around the KSM capture meet that threshold. I say no; Thiessen says yes; which of us is right? Until the Church rules, we don’t know: But I can’t see excluding Thiessen from communion until then.

    Second Quibble

    You state, “The Catechism explicitly condemns torture as a normative matter of punishment, so God in the Old Testament is already in that position [of having ordered evil as a normative matter of punishment].”

    I’m not sure quite how to phrase this quibble. I guess I can start by asking: Are you okay with that? Are you okay saying that the Catechism teaches us that God orders evil acts?

    You see my problem. Fr. Harrison tries to address this, but it is troubling: Is the Catechism teaching us error, here? (Yikes, for the Catholic understanding of Magisterial authority.) Or is God doing something evil? (Yikes, for the hope of the human race.)

    My own approach in such cases is to assume that there’s some nuance I have missed about how I should interpret what the Catechism is saying, which allows the reconciling of what the Church is saying with what God has done.

    So I don’t want to outlaw quibbling over nuances as such.

    But quibbling over nuances is what Fr. Harrison was doing. So I make allowances for what he says.

  • Well, I do not think anyone, even Thiessen, contemplated the position that, “If the Church hasn’t yet said no, then anything goes.” That’s a straw man.

    On the contrary, Fr. Harrison’s third conclusion — which is what we’ve been discussing — is that “the moral legitimacy of torture under [‘the now-famous “ticking bomb” scenario’]… remains open at present to legitimate discussion by Catholic theologians.”

    Unlike Thiessen, who asserts that waterboarding isn’t torture, Fr. Harrison asserts that torture isn’t intrinsically evil. If you don’t like flayed skin, substitute the rack.

    Are you okay with that?

    Before I answer, let me point out that torture is hardly the first time such questions have been raised. The Church’s teaching that all torture is always evil creates no new category of problems reconciling Church teaching with past Christian practice and with Scripture.

    To answer: Yes, I’m okay with the appearance of conflict between what the Church teaches and what the Church practiced, and between what the Church teaches and what is recorded as God’s commandments in the Bible. It seems to me to be the same problem as the appearance of conflict between the New Testament and the Old Testament. While I haven’t personally worked out the resolutions in full detail, I can see their broad outlines and have satisfies myself, as a good mathematician should, that a solution exists.

  • I’m not sure Fr. Harrison is saying torture is not intrinsically evil (though maybe he is. Its just been a very long time since I’ve read his articles.) I think he would be saying that use of pain to obtain intelligence would be a different species of thing than torture and thus (perhaps) not intrinsically evil.

  • Phillip:

    Both R.C. and I have quoted Fr. Harrison saying that the moral legitimacy of torture is an open question.

    Not “a different specied of thing than torture.”

    Torture.

  • Went back and read it. Agree with you.

  • That being said, I think the Church does says that all forms of torture are intinsically evil. If there is any argument that can be made that a particular form of force/coercion is licit, it will be that it is a species of act that is not torture. Just as capital punishment is a different species of act from murder.

  • Here, for example, is another possible analogy:

    “Fr. Harrison’s claim here is similar to the claim folks used to make that while the Church condemned elective abortion, it had never condemned elective abortion to save the life of the mother in the case of an ectopic pregnancy (objectively the same procedure, with the same effect on the unborn); so, it was an open question whether a Catholic could make use of that procedure.”

    Suppose that Father Harrison had written a long article spelling out in detail the Church’s history of condemnation of abortion, and then at the end had said “of course this doesn’t settle the question of whether abortion could be allowed in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, that remains an open question). It seems to me that if the article simply left things there then the article would be deficient as an attempt to justify abortion in the case of ectopic pregnancy. If someone wants to say that the ectopic pregnancy case doesn’t fall under the abortion ban then one has to provide positive evidence and arguments to that effect. You can’t just say, “well, this is a different case.”

    Now as it happens, in the case of the ectopic pregnancy such a case can be made; there are various Church documents and arguments you can point to in favor of the position. But if there are parallel arguments in favor of torture for intelligence I’m not aware of them and Father Harrison doesn’t mention them.

  • At the risk of sidelining things into a wholly unrelated contentious topic, I spent a fair amount of time reading through a Fr. Harrison piece on the Church and evolution. My impression there was that his admirable love for the history of the Church and from preserving her from the appearance of changing her teaching led him to assign excessive and unnecessary weight to the Church’s commitment to a pre-Darwinian (and pre-modern geology) understanding of the world, and having thus over-emphasized the Church’s supposed teachings in the area of natural history, to in turn insist that the Church would contradict itself fatally if it changed now.

    I get the impression he may be following a similar process here.

  • I think the argument in ectopic pregnancy involves double effect. Double effect doesn’t work with torture. So again it seems that we would have to say that certain degrees of infliction of pain are not torture to begin to justify any form of coercion in interrogation.

  • One of our big problems here is in defining the word “torture.”

    Wait, don’t react reflexively. Take a moment and hear what I’m saying.

    I think part of the problem is that the Church uses the word torture in varying ways in her writings listed by Fr. Harrison. Also, I think some of our posts given above use it in different ways.

    I am not saying, “What is torture?” in a Pontius Pilate kind of way (“What is truth?”).

    I am saying that we are in danger of drawing false conclusions by applying Definition X to a sentence in which the word “torture” was used, when the author of that sentence was using Definition Y.

    For example, consider the following proposed definitions:

    Definition 1: Violence against a person is defined as “torture” if:

    (a.) It involves inflicting pain sufficient to cause even a self-controlled person accustomed to pain to cry out;

    (b.) The person who is subjected to the violence is unable either to shield himself against the violence, to attack directly the person inflicting it, or to escape from it;

    Definition 2: Violence against a person is defined as “torture” if:

    (a.) It involves inflicting pain sufficient to cause even a self-controlled person accustomed to pain to cry out;

    (b.) The person who is subjected to the violence is unable either to shield himself against the violence, to attack directly the person inflicting it, or to escape from it;

    (c.) There is no adequate moral justification for the violence.

    The difference between the two definitions, of course, is (c.).

    But item (c.) takes us back to the central question of this topic: Is there such a thing as sufficient justification for this particular kind of violence? Or does it fall into a category which is by definition unjustifiable?

    Now I am not confident that the kind of violence against persons involved in what a casual observer would call “torture” is definitionally, categorically, unjustifiable. (By “a casual observer” I have in mind the man-in-the-street who has never tried to think through an argument of moral philosophy in his life and is thus unconcerned with using words precisely.)

    Let me say it again: I am not confident that the kind of violence against persons involved in what a casual observer would call “torture” is definitionally, categorically, unjustifiable.

    If I allow for the possibility that it may sometimes be justified, then instances of such violence are broken into two categories: Those which were justified, and those which weren’t.

    Now think about that for a moment, and consider my two definitions of “torture” given above.

    All acts involving what the casual observer would call “torture” would be properly labeled as torture according to Definition 1.

    But Definition 2 prohibits a morally justified act from being labeled as “torture.” This means that certain acts which the casual observer would call torture, and which are correctly called torture if Definition 1 is the definition we adopt, would not be called torture if we use Definition 2.

    This bears upon Tom’s last post, which stated:

    “Phillip:

    Both R.C. and I have quoted Fr. Harrison saying that the moral legitimacy of torture is an open question.

    Not “a different species of thing than torture.”

    Torture.”

    You have to be careful making such distinctions, because the meaning of it differs according to which definition you adopt. And, as I have said, I think both the Church and the folks posting in this thread have switched back and forth between definitions. I include myself in that criticism.

    If torture means “violence of Species XYZ,” then it is correct to say that Fr. Harrison says the Church is open to the possibility of justifiable torture.

    But if torture means “violence of Species XYZ which is not justified” then it is wrong, indeed nonsensical, to say that Fr. Harrison says the Church is open to the possibility of justifiable torture. That would be saying that the Church is open to the possibility of a justified unjustified thing.

    Now we are unfortunately not Vulcans. (Yes, I have pointy-eared Mr. Spock in mind, here.) When we make intellectual arguments, no matter how careful we are, emotion can slip in. Sometimes it slips in at the right times. (Emotion has its proper justifications: Outrages merit outrage, and sad stories merit sadness.) But sometimes it slips in at moments which only add to confusion.

    Consider Tom’s post, especially how the paragraphs are spaced out:

    “Phillip:

    Both R.C. and I have quoted Fr. Harrison saying that the moral legitimacy of torture is an open question.

    Not “a different species of thing than torture.”

    Torture.”

    See how dramatic that sounds? Not “a different species of thing than torture.” TORTURE.

    Cue the dramatic music. Put a little digital echo on the word “torture” so it goes “torture -ure -ure…”

    I’m not making fun of Tom, here: He wrote well. But the word “torture” as used by the casual observer has horrified emotions and dark connotations and evil associations. (And well it should, whenever it involves a species of violence which is unjustified.)

    So Tom’s wordcraft here, through its use of whitespace, conjures up all those emotional associations, and thereby tells us exactly which kind of violence he’s talking about: He’s talking about unjustified violence, violence which is evil. That’s the kind of violence which merits the dramatic formatting and the digital echo treatment.

    The only problem is that that isn’t the kind of “torture” that Fr. Harrison was talking about. Fr. Harrison was postulating a type of violence which is justifiable by double effect or whatever other argument of moral philosophy. He is talking about a violent act which, because of its circumstances and intent, is morally neutral or perhaps even obligatory.

    Now obviously such an act is not the kind of act which merits the dark tone-of-voice of Tom’s post. We have been conned; we have been duped by a bait-and-switch routine — not by Tom, who I expect is innocent of any intent of switching the definition on us even though the switcheroo happened in his post — but by our own accustomed carelessness about how we use the word “torture” and the kind of tone-of-voice we’re accustomed to using with it.

    It bothered me, from the very beginning, when the Orwellian phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” began to be used. So I don’t like the idea of proposing yet another Orwellian term!

    Yet it seems to me that if we’re to remain clear about our meanings in this discussion, we need separate terms to distinguish between the many things which might confusingly be called “torture”:

    Thing 1: The actual species of violence itself, without regard to its motives, the helplessness of the prisoner, our surety that the prisoner knows something we could use to save lives, et cetera: Anything that might bear on justification. I will call this a Relevant Violent Act (or RVA). (Relevant means we’re talking about something relevant to the discussion, not about spanking a child or zapping your sibling with static electricity.)

    Thing 2: A Relevant Violent Act which is actually (in the eyes of God) morally unjustified. I will call this an Unjustified Relevant Violent Act (or Unjustified RVA).

    Thing 3: A Relevant Violent Act which is actually (in the eyes of God) morally justified. I will call this an Justified Relevant Violent Act (or Justified RVA).

    I suppose I should apologize, first for failing to think up a less-clumsy acronym, and secondly to Dr. Seuss for trespassing on his use of “Things” 1 & 2. But bear with me.

    The questions at hand are these:

    Question 1: It is agreed that the Church has never affirmed that Justified RVAs can exist. But Fr. Harrison states that the Church has also never said it was impossible, either. Is Fr. Harrison correct in saying that the Church has never ruled out the existence of Justified RVAs?

    Question 2: Assuming that Fr. Harrison is correct, then either Justified RVAs can exist, or they can’t. We won’t know for sure until the Church eventually rules on the topic, but in the meantime we can argue one side or another. Are there good arguments to say that Justified RVA’s cannot exist?

    Question 3: Are there good arguments to say that Justified RVA’s can and do exist? Examples, perhaps?

    Question 4: Thiessen and Co. say that waterboarding KSM was a Justified RVA. Are there good reasons to say that, even if Justified RVAs can exist, waterboarding KSM was not a Justified RVA? Assuming Justified RVAs can exist at all, what criteria are required to justify them?

    Question 5: Since, as far as we’ve been able to determine, Justified RVAs might be possible, we cannot probably bar Thiessen and Co. from communion for saying that Justified RVAs do in fact exist. That leaves open only the specific examples they cite. Keeping our answer to Question 4 in mind, does Thiessen and Co.’s support for the waterboarding of KSM and similar RVA instances give us good reason to exclude them from communion?

    It is only fair that I offer my own answers to these questions.

    They are:

    1. I think Fr. Harrison is correct. That’s “think,” not, “am certain beyond all possibility of being convinced otherwise.”

    2. I think the only way to show that Justified RVA’s can never exist is to show that RVAs are by definition immune to the application of the Double Effect principle. But we’d have to show that the Double Effect principle cannot be applied here, using an argument which is narrow enough that it doesn’t obligate us to say nonsense things about God or the Church.

    I myself haven’t yet seen an argument denying the possible use of Double Effect here, that doesn’t also deny the possible use of Double Effect in war or to justify actions and commands of God in Scripture. For Double Effect requires the act not be intrinsically evil…but then killing someone, whether a fetus in an ectopic pregnancy or an enemy in war, is not intrinsically evil; nor is maiming someone if it happens as a foreseeable consequence of prosecuting a war. Thus both permit the Double Effect. It is hard to see how foreseeable pain without death or maiming is worse, or is categorically different in such a way that Double Effect is ruled out — except to say that it just intrinsically is which leads us back to the problem of God doing evil.

    Since I regard anything which makes God do evil or which totally invalidates the notion of Just War to be a reductio ad absurdum, I am unwilling to accept such arguments.

    Consequently, at the present time, I think Justified RVAs can exist in principle, even if their threshold of justification is so high that they may never occur in practice.

    3. The only argument I have to say that RVAs can and do exist is the silly, extreme, sci-fi, ticking-bomb, death-of-the-human-race example. If, in the year 2100 a doomsday cult has obtained an antimatter weapon able to wipe out all life on earth (and there isn’t yet any human life elsewhere), and we have captured a terrorist who, like KSM did, has bragged about knowing where the bomb is, would I have him waterboarded until I found out where the bomb was and how to disarm it? I suppose I would…but I say that through clenched teeth and a pained expression.

    On the other hand, I don’t know how good an argument that is. I have always believed that “the fate of His creation is not subject to a man / The final consummation is according to His plan / And He’s still got the whole world in His hands.”

    So if I were convinced (like, say, by a totally-clear, no-room-for-misunderstanding Church pronouncement) that there were no such things as Justified RVAs, then I would not do it. Because in that case, I would say, “I leave it in your hands, Lord; and if we all die, we all die.”

    4. Even assuming that there is such a thing as a Justified RVA, I think Thiessen and Co. are wrong to list KSM as an example. But I confess that I have no substantive argument for where the Justified/Unjustified threshold would be (and neither does anyone else, I suspect). I merely observe that there is substantial debate among decent persons whether the KSM example qualifies or not, which suggests to me that whatever side of the line the KSM example is on, it must be close to the line. I prefer to be safe rather than sorry; that is, I prefer not to get too close to the line. So for lack of certainty, I prefer to assume that the line is farther away than Thiessen and Co. suppose.

    5. I do not think the Church has taught that Justified RVAs cannot exist; if they have, I do not think they have taught it with the kind of clarity and obviousness which would be needed to allow us to bar Thiessen and Co. from communion as if they were defying a baldly obvious teaching.

    I think in fact that it looks baldly obvious at first, but that dispassionately sifting through the issues as we have done shows the matter to be not so simple. There are therefore two possibilities: (a.) Thiessen and Co. gave the Church teaching a cursory look, got the impression that Church teaching prohibited waterboarding, said, “To hell with Church teaching,” and decided to disobey without digging any deeper; or, (b.) Thiessen and Co. did dig deeper, saw that things were not obvious, and concluded they could waterboard KSM and Co. without violating Church teaching. If Thiessen had certainly taken path (a.) I would have supported barring him and his fellows from communion, but I think (b.) is far more likely. So I do not support barring him/them.

  • So Tom’s wordcraft here, through its use of whitespace, conjures up all those emotional associations, and thereby tells us exactly which kind of violence he’s talking about: He’s talking about unjustified violence, violence which is evil.

    Evidently, my wordcraft once again failed me utterly, as I had no interest in conjuring up any emotional associations. The purpose was to clear up any confusion about what, precisely, Fr. Harrison had written.

    We have been conned….

    With all due respect, what do you mean “we”?

  • I think we could say the death penalty is a JRVA.

  • If you’re still here Christopher, a link to where three prominent Catholics talk about torture and interrogation.

    http://article.nationalreview.com/392838/tough-questions/nro-symposium?page=1

Health Insurance and Abortion

Friday, February 19, AD 2010

It seems often the case that a heated political debate causes people to suddenly focus on issues which had previously been essentially ignored. One recent example of this in Catholic circles has been the way in which the debate over the Stupak Amendment to the House health care reform bill suddenly focused scrutiny on the question of abortion coverage in health care insurance.

To recap briefly: From the beginning, one of the concerns that many pro-lifers had expressed about “government health care” was that it would result in government funding for abortion. As the various reform bills coalesced, it became clear that no “government health care” per se would be offered, but rather an exchange on which private health insurance plans which fit specific government-set criteria would be offered. Given this situation, pro-lifers (and in particular, pro-life Democrats, who clearly had the prime say here since Republicans were unlikely to support the bill either way since they saw its overall structure as detrimental to the common good) insisted that one of the stipulations for the private health insurance policies offered via the exchange (and qualified for government subsidy for lower and middle-income Americans) be that the plan not cover abortions.

Pro-choice Democrats of course hated this provision. Some progressive Catholics also seemed eager to explain why the bill would be just fine even without Stupak, doubtless in order to avoid a situation in which pro-life advocates (backed by the bishops) successfully made the case to conservative Democrats that supporting a bill without language similar to the Stupak amendment was unacceptable for Catholics and other pro-lifers. The primary argument that surfaced was, “Most private insurance policies already cover abortion, so even without Stupak’s language, the status quo does not change. More people just get health care, and that’s good, right?”

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25 Responses to Health Insurance and Abortion

  • Sounds good to me.

  • If the information about which private health insurance plans do and do not cover abortion would be a great help. For a start prolifers could offere incentives to drop insurance coverage of abortion by voting with their wallet.

  • As pregnancy is 99% a self-inflicted condition, it is unclear why the insurance companies should pay for it.

    Or as Senator Barbara Boxer once asked “since when is pregnancy a disease?”.

  • This is a great post. And it would be a very good thing if the more traditional, beltway type professional pro-lifers were able to work together with more politically liberal progressive pro-lifers on an issue which could unite them in a common purpose, rather than putting them at policy loggerheads, as often seems to happen.

  • I agree with Gabriel. Insurance is about the sharing of *risks* that cannot be managed individually.

  • Not sure I’d call my little girl a self-inflicted condition— her father might object, for starters– but it’s covered by insurance due to the hideously wide range of things that can go wrong, as a way to make sure the insurance company gets a relatively healthy new customer and, on a practical level, because even if they pay zero just having an insurance company takes off a huge chunk of the cost.

    Kit would have cost some $40,000 if billed to my husband and I directly; we literally have statements that read “charge- 1,500; negotiated price, $25” and such. As most folks can’t go by cash-only medical providers, service like this is our only option.

    That won’t be changed until health insurance, whichever section you believe causes this insane charge imbalance.
    *glares at Medicare and Medicaid’s billing practices*

  • I agree with Foxfier that pregnancy is never a solely self-inflicted condition. It is also a totally necessary condition for the survival of mankind. The costs of even routine pregnancies are high and without insurance coverage would bankrupt quite a few parents to be.

  • Getting in a car wreck is a self inflicted condition. The at fault party is given total liability for the actions he could have prevented in the ideal scenario. It is still insurance.

    When people speak of not insuring self-caused events, they are talking about the principle of moral hazard. In auto insurance, the idea is that people drive more recklessly if they are insured. In health care, the idea is that people seek ‘unneeded’ care because they don’t bear a burden. With the large expense centers in health care like heart disease and cancer, the only generally agreed upon unneeded care that the patient is competent to seek himself is an extra screening. Of course, the patient could choose to forgo regular screenings, and we’d see that as a bad thing, even though we’d see a reduction in cost.

  • I’m unclear whether Gabriel is making the argument:

    a) Pregnancy is the natural result of intercourse and so asking for your insurance to get you out of the “surprise” with an abortion is inappropriate or

    b) No pregnancy related expenses should be covered by insurance, since becoming pregnant in the first place is “optional”.

    I have some sympathy with the former approach, though I think it’s much wiser to make the moral than the utilitarian argument here since if one wants to get seriously utilitarian abortion is cheaper than childbirth.

    In regards to the latter — As my wife and I are currently going through the third round of paying out of pocket for a midwife deliver rather than going with the more expensive (but more troublesome) insurance paid hospital approach, I can see certain virtues towards a less insurance-heavy approach to childbirth. However, I don’t in the end think it’s a very good approach to take given anything like our current health insurance regime. Health insurance as it exists in the real world here and now does not take into account whether your medical predicament was predictable. (Say, whether bad eating habits over decades leads to expensive-to-treat strokes or heart attacks.) It simply deals with whether procedures are necessary to your health. (In regards to which, childbirth is necessary, while lasik or breast augmentation isn’t.) And whether expenses are large, which delivery at a hospital certainly is.

    Given that, there’s no practical justification for insurance not covering pregnancy related expenses — and as pro-lifers I think it should be pretty clear to us that insurance companies specifically excluding pregnancy expenses would be a very serious negative.

  • Darwin,
    I agree with you completely. I would add that the reason our health care system is in a mess is because we are using a risk sharing system (insurance) inappropriately. A four party payment system (employer pays insurer who pays provider to service a decision-making user) cannot be economically efficient. Insurance is only sensible when trying to spread unacceptable financial risks. Now, when we have a cold or flu, a simple doctor’s visit has insurance implications. That is not sensible. I would address pregnancy and child birth, but don’t have the time.

  • I’m not sure where you are finding the impossibility. There is nothing intrinsic about complex systems that causes inefficiencies. The opposite is actually the case. As bureaucracies become more complex, the cost of a standard transaction goes down. For a basic office visit, the administrative cost on the claim is, if I remember correctly, is less than what VISA and Mastercard charge. While the specifics are always dependent, generally it is better to move one’s costs to fixed from on demand. It allows for such things as specialization.

    Health insurance as it exists in the real world here and now does not take into account whether your medical predicament was predictable.
    That is simply wrong. There is no retroactive analysis, but there is a reason you give your medical history, give your height and weight, and your blood pressure. If you have a group plan, you might not have gotten into that much detail, because there isn’t the need for as much specificity with large numbers.

    It simply deals with whether procedures are necessary to your health.
    Yes, when you are coverage includes reasonable medical expenses, your plan seeks to verify that they are reasonable. People in insurance do not care if an expense is rare. They actually hate those. The only thing insurance companies care about is if an expense is predictable. That is how rates are determined. If we have three pools of a thousand people, there will not be enough variation in the number of office visits those three pools have over a year to make a real difference in rates. The ideal insurance function is a converging function where as n increases it approaches s.

  • M.Z.,
    The inefficiency is not a function of complexity. It is a function of the remoteness between the payor and the user. This is a feature of almost any insurance, and it distorts incentives and behavior. Health insurance is worse than most because a fourth party , the employer, is implicated.

  • MZ,

    I think we might be talking slightly at cross purposes. My point is not that insurance companies pay no attention to how behaviors are likely to affect your health, but rather that once they have insured someone they are not able to decide whether or not to treat a condition based on whether it was the person’s “fault” in some sense.

    Thus, for instance, a some health insurance applications ask if you drive a motorcycle, and may take that into account in your rates, but they’re not allowed to refuse to treat your injuries if you have a motorcycle accident on the theory that it’s an optional and high risk behavior.

  • If the contract excluded coverage from injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident, they would be excluded if the contract specified them. Many states proscribe insurance companies from excluding ordinary activities. If you have your health plan doc in front of you, you should see a section titled “Exclusions and Limitations of Coverage,” or something to that affect. I must confess though of being unaware of anyone claiming that Americans have higher health care costs because they participate to a greater extent in health risking activities.

    Mike Petrik,
    I recognize a moral hazard argument when I see one. The major premise of such an argument is that a person receiving a benefit would not seek that benefit were it not present. With national parks we do not see people widely exploiting them to their detriment despite not directly paying for them. My problem is that you seem to believe that the hazard is widespread and costly and therefore leading to inefficiency. I do not believe the numbers support the argument.

  • With national parks we do not see people widely exploiting them to their detriment despite not directly paying for them.

    I’m afraid you’re quite wrong at that– it just doesn’t get as much attention. I’ve got pictures here of what’s left after some folks exploited a park for “enjoyment.”

  • If the contract excluded coverage from injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident, they would be excluded if the contract specified them. Many states proscribe insurance companies from excluding ordinary activities. If you have your health plan doc in front of you, you should see a section titled “Exclusions and Limitations of Coverage,” or something to that affect.

    Um, well, yes. But I’m not sure how that relates to my point in response to Gabriel, which was that excluding pregnancy care from insurance as a general practice was neither in keeping with the general way insurance works in the US nor a good idea.

    I think you and I are basically in agreement on that, aren’t we?

    I must confess though of being unaware of anyone claiming that Americans have higher health care costs because they participate to a greater extent in health risking activities.

    I’ve heard people argue that Americans have a lower life expectancy and poorer health care outcomes as a result of higher rates of violence, auto accidents, and unhealthy living — but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone argue that’s a major source of our higher health care expenses.

    Not sure how we got on the topic though…

  • I’ve never understood why health insurance providers aren’t friendlier towards midwife care as it would cut down their costs considerably. Are they not covering it at all now? All my midwife-managed births were covered, though on occasion I had to do a little educating to get bills paid.

  • I think it depends, cminor; my dad’s masseuse is a registered midwife, but she often has to work in a hospital because of the risks.

    Getting gov’t less involved in hospitals might be a good idea– I know that Sacred Heart in Spokane just got permission, after five years, to add five maternity beds to their design. They’d asked for 15.

  • They’re willing to pay for midwife services in a hospital or some birthing centers, but not for a homebirth midwife — which as you say is odd because the ~2.5k cost is much less than they pay for a hospital delivery.

    After dealing with hospitals the first couple time MrsD was tired of that routine, and our babies tend to come so fast that staying put it much more reassuring. It’s expensive, but paid over seven months it’s doable.

  • MZ,
    I don’t know what “numbers” you’re talking about, but if you think that people would make the same medical decisions (e.g., opt for the same number of MRIs and CT scans) if they were using their own money then we just disagree. Both doctors and patients are influenced by the fact that the patient has little financial interest in selecting options. I find it hard to believe that there are “numbers” that can demonstrate otherwise. Many common medical decisions involve lifestyle considerations. For instance many knee and hip replacements are elective in the sense that a relatively normal life can often continue without them. The decision to have these procedures is often influenced by the degree to which the patient will not bear the cost. People do make decisions based on costs and benefits, and the costs they weigh are only their own.

  • Foxfier,

    Child abuse isn’t evidence that parents don’t generally love their children. Certainly there instances of abuse and destruction of public resources as there are of private ones.

    Petrik,
    I’m more interested in decisions that are in their best interests. The RAND Institute has found that people will choose less care when they have to directly pay for it. The same study showed that they did not discriminate between needed care and unneeded care.

    Doctors do have an interest in not ordering more and unnecessary tests. It is called the insurance exclusion for charges that are not reasonable and customary. Good luck to the doctor recovering a claim denied for U&C. Such isn’t to claim that greater efficiencies couldn’t be wrung.

    I hope you are never a candidate to have a knee or hip replacement. This is of course another area that isn’t breaking the medical system.

  • MZ-
    you’re assuming that what I posted pictures of was out of the norm, rather than just a very visual example of the norm.
    Check out Chief Joe’s grave some time– if you can find it, in all the trash. Talk to the folks who do upkeep on state campgrounds. Look at a park that hasn’t had grounds keepers on it recently. For fun, look at how much of it is only a few steps from an empty garbage can.
    There’s a reason that I tend to defend pigs when folks say that humans are pigs– pigs are clean if they’re given a chance.

    Shoot, go on one of the bike trails– you’ll find piles of human fecal matter in the middle of the trail, and I wish I was joking.

  • Well, also, a lot of national and state parks either aren’t free or are free but only allow a certain number of people into the park each day. Unless society has massively reformed from my boy scout days, the parts of national parks that people could actually get near without at least an hour or two of hiking tended to be rather threadbare. (And the bloody Sierra Club with their mules carrying supplies for Yosemite “hikers” who had too much money and didn’t want to carry their own food made the trails pretty foul for those of us doing real back packing.)

    Doctors do have an interest in not ordering more and unnecessary tests. It is called the insurance exclusion for charges that are not reasonable and customary. Good luck to the doctor recovering a claim denied for U&C. Such isn’t to claim that greater efficiencies couldn’t be wrung.

    True, but there’s a wide range of what doctors can get away within the range of what is “necessary” and “customary”. Obama, at least, certainly seemed to think in a number of his early talks on cost control that doctors are incented to defer towards extra care — and the studies on how salaried doctors prescribe less care for equal outcomes also suggest there’s some sort of effect going on there.

  • With national parks we do not see people widely exploiting them to their detriment despite not directly paying for them.

    People abuse the commons, which is why use of the commons is regulated.

  • They’re willing to pay for midwife services in a hospital or some birthing centers, but not for a homebirth midwife — which as you say is odd because the ~2.5k cost is much less than they pay for a hospital delivery.

    Can’t believe I didn’t remember this before– at least in Washington state, the insurance company really wants to minimize even the most out-there risks for the baby because the baby MUST be covered by the mother’s insurance for something like a month after birth.

President Laura Chinchilla-She is my type of Socialist!

Friday, February 19, AD 2010

 Laura Chinchilla was elected President of Costa Rica on February 7, 2010.  She is the first woman to be elected to that office.  She is a member of the Partido Nacional Liberacion  (National Liberation Party) which belongs to the Socialist International.  Now normally I am as fond of socialists as I was fond of the castor oil that my sainted mother regularly made me swallow a spoon full of daily when I was a little boy.  However, Chinchilla is my type of socialist.

She ran on a get tough on crime platform.  She is a devotee of free market economic policies.  She was the only mainstream politician in Costa Rica to take part in a March for Life and Family on November 28, 2009 in Costa Rica which was organized by a coalition of church leaders.  She is an ardent foe of abortion and opposes legalizing the human pesticide known as the morning after pill.  She opposes altering the Constitution of Costa Rica which, while enshrining religious freedom, proclaims that Costa Rica is a Roman Catholic nation.  Many of her supporters carried rosaries at her rallies and she always has her rosary with her.  After her election she asked that all Costa Ricans ask strength of the patroness of Costa Rica, Our Lady of the Angels, and went to the shrine of Our Lady of the Angels to pray.

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9 Responses to President Laura Chinchilla-She is my type of Socialist!

  • And she don’t look half bad, either.

    😉

  • Why Jay, I never noticed. 🙂

  • I’m curious how the socialism aspect fits in — if at all. Is she pro-free trade internationally but via state owned enterprise? Or is this one of these things where since the PNL has been the largest party in Costa Rica for sixty years, it’s simply the easiest platform to run on regardless of your agenda?

    Still, no question I’d rather have her as president than our current not-a-socialist!

  • DC,

    Maybe she’s a socialist just like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are devout Catholics!

  • DC,
    You pretty much hit the nail on the head! In the past, there was one other main political party, the Social Christian Unity Party. They have been rocked by scandals, however, so the only major party that stands is that of Laura Chinchilla and former president Oscar Arias. Laura was also the handpicked successor to Oscar Arias, who is *not* a benign socialist, so I question the how closely-held some of her positions really are. I worry she’s just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • It’s not uncommon for explicitly socialist parties to grow away from their radical roots (think Tony Blair). This seems to be what has happened in Costa Rica

  • Public policy positions are often not elegant and not given to ideological purity. The term “socialism,” for example, is no longer accorded a commonly acceptive definition, especially in the descriptive sense as used commonly in politics. For this reason it is possible for a person who respects the utility of free markets to consider himself or be considered a socialist.

    Advocacy for free markets can be grounded in morality (the idea that private economic decision making and private property are necessary characteristics of any economic system that values respect for individual human dignity) or pragmatics (it just works best). A person who favors larger government and more generous safety nets may reject the first proposition but come to accept the second, at least in large measure. In today’s popular lexicon, such a person will often be considered a socialist, may well consider himself a socialist, and may even describe himself as a socialist if politically useful (or at least not politically damaging).

    While the technical historic definitions of socialism are important and continue to have prescriptive value, I think many people, including many politicians, use the term socialist to describe any one who (i) favors large government with generous safety nets and (ii) favors regulated use of free markets for the very practical reason that their pricing mechanisms allow for a more efficient allocation of resources in the production process.

    At bottom, many of today’s “socialists” value the market system for the production process, but simply do not like market results in terms of returns for various types of labor and capital; and they seek to adjust those returns through taxation.

  • Obviously, I meant “commonly accepted.” Please charitably ignore any other similar mistakes.

Judgment at Nuremberg

Thursday, February 18, AD 2010

Very loosely based on the Justice Trials of Nazi judges and Reich Ministry of Justice officialsJudgment at Nuremberg (1961) is a masterful exploration of justice and the personal responsibility of good men trapped in a totalitarian state.  Burt Lancaster, an actor of the first calibre, gives the performance of his career as Ernst Janning.  The early portion of the movie makes clear that Ernst Janning is in many ways a good man.  Before the Nazis came to power Janning was a world respected German jurist.  After the Nazis came to power evidence is brought forward by his defense counsel that Janning attempted to help people persecuted by the Nazis, and that he even personally insulted Hitler on one occasion.  Janning obviously despises the Nazis and the other judges who are on trial with him.  At his trial he refuses to say a word in his defense.  He only testifies after being appalled by the tactics of his defense counsel.  His magnificent and unsparing testimony convicts him and all the other Germans who were good men and women, who knew better, and who failed to speak out or to act against the Nazis.  Janning’s testimony tells us that sins of omission can be as damning as sins of commission.  When he reveals that he sentenced a man to death he knew to be innocent because of pressure from the Nazi government, we can only agree with his bleak assessment that he reduced his life to excrement.  Yet we have to respect Janning.  It is a rare man who can so publicly take responsibility for his own evil acts.

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5 Responses to Judgment at Nuremberg

  • A truly powerful movie.

    And despite having William Shatner in it, though in a very minor role as an American guard.

  • You have sharp eyes Darwin!

  • I had to rent and watch this film for a college American history course one semester, and I was so glad to have been given a reason to do so. This was an amazing film, and this speech, its highlight.

    Thanks Don!

  • [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyLy9bxNmY4&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

  • Spencer Tracy’s brilliant verdict speech!

    Marlene Dietrich who appeared in the film was a fervent anti-Nazi. She left Germany after the Nazis took power and spent the war entertaining British and American troops and selling war bonds.

    Werner Klemperer who played one of the Nazi judges, and who would later win fame as Colonel Klink, was a Jewish refugee from Germany. He served in the US Army during the war. When asked how he could play Nazis like Klink, he said that he would go to his grave happy knowing that he had helped make Nazis look ridiculous.

Repent and Believe in the Gospel

Thursday, February 18, AD 2010

… The call to conversion, in fact, uncovers and denounces the easy superficiality that very often characterizes our way of living. To be converted means to change direction along the way of life — not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction. Conversion is to go against the current, where the “current” is a superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and illusory, which often draws us, controls us and makes us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, one aims to the lofty measure of Christian life; we are entrusted to the living and personal Gospel, which is Christ Jesus. His person is the final goal and the profound meaning of conversion; he is the way which we are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be illumined by his light and sustained by his strength that moves our steps. In this way conversion manifests its most splendid and fascinating face: It is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life, but it is a decision of faith, which involves us wholly in profound communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus.

To be converted and to believe in the Gospel are not two different things or in some way closely related, but rather, they express the same reality. Conversion is the total “yes” of the one who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ, who first offered himself to man as Way, Truth and Life, as the one who frees and saves him. This is precisely the meaning of the first words with which, according to the Evangelist Mark, Jesus began the preaching of the “Gospel of God.” “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” is not only at the beginning of the Christian life, but accompanies all its steps, [this call] remains, renewing itself, and spreads, branching out in all its expressions. Every day is a favorable moment of grace, because each day invites us to give ourselves to Jesus, to have confidence in him, to remain in him, to share his style of life, to learn from him true love, to follow him in daily fulfilling of the will of the Father, the only great law of life — every day, even when difficulties and toil, exhaustion and falls are not lacking, even when we are tempted to abandon the following of Christ and to shut ourselves in ourselves, in our egoism, without realizing the need we have to open to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love.

~ Pope Benedict XVI Ash Wednesday Address 2/7/2010

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The Church Loves The Homeless And Will Not Abandon Them

Thursday, February 18, AD 2010

Pope Benedict visits a local shelter in Rome and is moved to tears by woman who was once homeless and is now helping others with the same plight.

Here is the complete text of the above YouTube video:

Workers, volunteers and those who are served at  homeless shelter in Rome, were filled with joy by Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.

But it was the pope who was moved to tears while listening to what this woman had to say about over coming homelessness.

“When I got to the hostel I was desperate, but now I’m a changed person.”

She got help and after being rehabilitated she wanted to help others in her shoes and is now a volunteer at the shelter.

During the pope’s visit to Don Luigi di Liegro shelter he affirmed the Church’s commitment to helping the poor.

Papa Bene:

“The Church loves you deeply and will not abandon you.”

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2 Responses to The Church Loves The Homeless And Will Not Abandon Them

  • I hate to ask, but…who sets up the poverty line? I grew up well below the poverty line in the 80s and 90s, but we lived very comfortably and my folks didn’t go into debt.

    I’m all for helping out folks who really need help, I’d just rather not encourage envy from folks that just don’t have lots.

  • Probably some well meaning social worker who believes that not being able to afford a cafe latte and drive a prius is considered the poverty threshold.

Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

[Update below]

It’s Ash Wednesday and comic relief has arrived with our illustrious Vice-President Joe Biden!

Biretta tip to Thomas Peters of the American Papist.

Update I: Curiously funny video clip of U.K. Sky News host and self-identified Catholic Kay Burley mistakenly thinks the ashes on Biden’s is a bruise.

0:29 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley makes above remark.

…you can skip the intermittent video of VP Biden bloviating about the successful stimulus package until the…

3:06 minute mark of the video clip – Kay Burley’s mea culpa.

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54 Responses to Joe Bidens Forehead Makes An Appearance

  • Did Obama think Biden’s smudge/cross was a fly and try to swat it?

  • Ashes from the burned babies.

  • I had ashes once on my head when I was in court and a judge thought that I didn’t realize my forehead was dirty. He apologized profusely when I told him it was Ash Wednesday and I had just come from Mass.

  • Kristan,

    LOL.

    Don,

    When I first moved to the South to Charlotte, NC, my coworkers were laughing themselves silly all morning when I arrived with ashes on my forehead.

    In the afternoon one of them finally came up to my office, giggling and smirking, and apologetically tried to tell me I had dirt on my forehead.

    I laughed, but that was my first encounter in the U.S. where Catholics weren’t as prominent I suppose in everyday life for my coworkers to have a laugh or too.

    I laughed to. It gave me an opportunity to evangelize and explain the meaning behind the ashes.

  • Yes, but what lies behind that forehead? That is what mystifies me.

  • Back in law school, way before I was Catholic and was still a Southern Baptist, I was (and still am) close friends with another evangelical named “X”. Up to that point in out lives, neither of us had had much exposure to Catholic culture (apart from our 2 Catholic law school roommates and my rarely seen Catholic relatives on my paternal grandmother’s side), having both been raised in thoroughly Protestant enclaves of the Bible-Belt South. However, I was ahead of “X” in my knowledge of things Catholic because of my father’s relatives. So I wasn’t completely in the dark about certain things.

    “X”, on the other hand, was absolutely clueless. His naivete was on full display during our first year of law school when the season of Lent caught him completely unaware. On Ash Wednesday, I was sitting with our Catholic roommates in the student lounge reading the school newspaper when “X” came rushing up to us and told us there was something wrong with that day’s paper. According to “X”, everyone had “newsprint smudged all over their faces”.

  • I have a friend from Lutheran-dominated northern Germany, who had never seen ashes before he moved to the US. He thought aliens had landed.

    I work for a multi-national company, with many Indian and Chinese employees. Ash Wednesday always gives me an opportunity to explain Christianity to them. Nothing like dirt on your forehead to ignite conversation.

  • It’s a shame Joe went to Mass where the priest has no testosterone. Of course, under Abp. Donald Wuerl, any priest who told Joe the truth (“You are a promoter of mass murder, and therefore not a practicing Catholic, and not a sincere penitent.”) would be in heap big trouble. According to Abp. Wuerl, promoting mass murder is NOT a sin. Abp. Wuerl has taught this repeatedly, each time he has declared that pro-aborts like Joe may receive Communion in the Archdiocese of Washington.

  • Sir, if you wish to be a faithful priest, you will not encourage the faithful to think ill of their bishop. That is not the way of Christ.

  • I’m not aware of any law or custom restricting who may receive sacramentals.

  • M.Z.,

    I believe Father Fitzpatrick was making a general statement in regards to Holy Communion.

    But to the point of recieving ashes on the forehead, I’m in agreement with you, I don’t believe there are no restrictions to receiving the ashes.

    Question:

    Can non-Catholics receive the ashes?

  • I’m not a Catholic – but I play one on TV

  • Can non-Catholics receive the ashes?

    Yes. I think our Ash Wednesday mass even made a point of saying anyone is welcome to receive ashes.

  • That’s pretty cool.

    It’s interesting to note that many Protestant denominations are picking up this practice. As well as picking up the practice of fasting and abstinence of Lent and Advent.

  • When I was in Florida a friend of mine who was a Methodist minister would go to get ashed.

  • Yeah, Tito, it is pretty cool, isn’t it? I have a friend who was raised and is Presbyterian, and standing at the threshold of becoming he-cares-not-what as long as it’s not Protestant. One thing he said to me once is that Protestants are mostly either becoming entirely non-Christian or else “discovering” all sorts of things like bringing communion from church to the homebound, and advent wreathes, etc.

    It’s a real sign of spiritual stirring, and I believe we should eagerly encourage it and judiciously guide it as we’re able.

  • Ryan Haber:

    What you say is true in the case of a bishop who is not scandalizing and dividing the faithfrul. As it is, I don’t agree.

    When a bishop’s public actions are scandalous, the scandal must be resisted and repaired as much as possible. Archbishop Burke has published a full exposition, explaining precisely WHY and HOW Archbishop Wuerl (who is named by Burke) and other bishops are scandalizing the faithful by their refusal to obey Canon 915. Note that I said “obey,” not “enforce.” While Canon 915 has to do with the Eucharist, Joe Biden, as a person who is notoriously ineligible to receive the Eucharist, is also perpetrating a public scandal by flaunting ashes and in general posing as a practicing Catholic. All bishops and priests who are in a position to stop him, or at least to correct him, and thus lessen the deception and scandal, but choose not to do so, are accomplices in scandalizing the Church and society.
    Read:
    http://tinyurl.com/canon915
    http://tinyurl.com/pont915

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick:

    Sir, are you then made judge over bishops? If you are judge over bishops, why shouldn’t your parishioners set themselves up as judge over you. Archbishop Burke is a peer of Archbishop Wuerl’s, and to some extent, in a position of authority over him as Prefect of the Signatura and as a member of the Congregation for Bishops.

    I will leave it to the Archbishop’s peers and superiors to correct him. It is impossible for a subordinate to publicly berate his superiors without undermining the very structure of authority that connects them. We do not instill confidence and love for bishops in general by undermining them in particular. It would be better to observe the error made in simple, objective terms and leave it at that. If animosity prevents us from praying for a person – really praying for him, it is perhaps best not to speak of him either.

    I understand entirely. There are public figures whose existence makes me sputter. That’s my problem. I try to refrain critizing them while I still have a hard time praying for their authentic needs in a sympathetic way, as I would for a sick friend.

    The correction of superiors has been undertaken by some saints, it is true… but there are more Martin Luthers and Girolamo Savonarolas who gave it a whack than there are St Catherine of Sienas. St Francis of Assisi’s example is instructive on the point. I hesitated to say these things to you, Father, because I feel the same trepidation about seeming to criticize a priest that I hope a priest would have with regard to critizing a bishop. If there were a way of approaching you privately, sir, please believe me that I would have done so.

    Very sincerely yours,

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • I would like to point out that this so-called “Fr Vincent Fitzpatrick” is unlikely a priest and unlikely someone with that name. The famous priest with that name is dead, and I think he is putting that name to shame. I would like to ask where he is a priest of and who his Bishop is.

  • I haven’t said a word of judgment about any bishop. I have described actions.

    The scandal I am discussing is eating the heart out of the Church in America. The failure of all but a handful of bishops to carry out their STRICT duty in regard to the scandal of pro-abortion politicians, and those politicians’ sacrilegious Communions, is an open sore, a cancer, a case of leprosy. It is not a secret. It is not a matter of confidentiality. It is all taking place in public, and poisoning the Church.
    Read:
    http://tinyurl.com/canon915
    http://tinyurl.com/pont915

  • “Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick” are you a priest or not? Who is your bishop? Do you know there are canons against pretending to be a priest, if you are not one?

  • “Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick”:

    Certainly many bishops have given scandal over the years, starting with Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter, and many continue to do so. Even to say, “Bishop X did Y and that is scandalous,” is a serious matter because of his office, and you, sir, said a good deal more than that.

    Henry Karlson’s question stands. Are you truly a priest? What is your real name, so that you may be public and honorable rather than anonymous and a snake, and who is your ordinary? Of what diocese or congregation are you a member?

    Please state yourself openly or be quiet, sir.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • I honestly can’t see how seeing the Biden sporting ashes scandalizes anyone. Although it would be of benefit to the faithful if the bishops would use their shepherding powers more forcefully at times when addressing Catholic leaders who actively support abortion, euthenasia, torture, etc., ashes are a sign of repentence and thus an acknowledgement that we are sinners. Further, any practicing Catholic knows that lots of people show up to get ashes on Ash Wednesday who won’t show up again until Easter, if then. How they’d be scandalized by the fact that a politician who does not follow Church teaching is seen with ashes escapes me.

  • Yes, Fr. Vincent –

    Just be quiet and humbly submit to all authority, no matter how outrageous, sacrilegious, or obscene. Don’t raise questions and don’t encourage fellow Catholics to do likewise. Just be quiet.

    That’s exactly how Jesus handled the Pharisees, exactly how the saints handled corrupted bishops and popes in the Middle Ages, etc.

    Unless the Bishops, say, start advocating policies that reflect the agenda of Republican instead of Democratic research staff. Then by all means rebel, please, and be quick about it.

  • but there are more Martin Luthers and Girolamo Savonarolas

    Oy!

    A man gets burned at the stake for heresy once — once!! — and for that you see fit to yoke him with Martin Luther?

  • Joe once again shows he has no respect for the Church and its ecclesiology. Which is not surprising, since he came from an agitated past and continues to promote agitation as his response. There is nothing wrong with Biden getting ashes (if he were Eastern, I would ask what he was doing at an Ash Weds service– but that’s something else). The fact that people get upset that he went to church — priceless.

  • No, there’s just a difference between what I call respect, and what you do.

    In my view, a criticism that doesn’t contain vulgar language, that doesn’t question personal motives or judges a person’s soul, that addresses a legitimate concern, is a respectful criticism.

    I might also add, doesn’t raise the irrelevant issue of a person’s past instead of simply addressing the merits of a point or argument.

    And if we don’t have the right to make a respectful criticism, then what are we? Are we men?

    I don’t know what you would consider such. I hope “respect” means more than “keep your mouth shut and do what you are told.”

  • Joe once again shows he has no respect for the Church and its ecclesiology. Which is not surprising, since he came from an agitated past and continues to promote agitation as his response.

    For a few moments I thought you were talking about the Catholic Anarchist.

    😉

    I think only one person got upset, and that’s stretching that father is commenting about the ashes, but more about reception of Holy Communion.

    I made this post in friendly jest to my favorite VP, not because he did anything wrong.

  • “Just be quiet and humbly submit to all authority, no matter how outrageous, sacrilegious, or obscene. Don’t raise questions and don’t encourage fellow Catholics to do likewise. Just be quiet.”

    Seems you presume much there, and misrepresenting Catholic understanding of authority and respect. And misrepresenting what others are saying in respect to how to deal with issues of concern.

    As for addressing a person’s past, it is important if the habit of the past remains and the person has yet to deal with that habit.

    Respectful criticism is good; your rant wasn’t respectful, nor was this “Fr Vincent’s”.

  • Tito

    Do you know he is a priest? If it is the same person who has posted on Vox Nova, the info behind the nick appears — well, contrary to the that. The way he speaks isn’t like a normal priest, and he appears to have fundamental problems with basic principles of Catholic ecclesiology. I somehow doubt he is a priest, and going with the name as if he were is a violation.

  • Actually, Tom, I rather appreciate Savonarola, at least as an historical figure, if not as a role model. Lol.

    And Joe Hargrave, none of that is what I said. Your parody of me makes me think that you have not got an honest, rational response.

    The importation of American political agenda into this particular conversation is entirely your own doing. I couldn’t care less about the Democrats or Republicans. We do the Church a great disservice by importing particular political paradigms and agendas into her way of thinking and living. We are supposed to be exporting our values into the world. Of course there is a legitimate time and place to express concerns about the life of the Church; the American way of vocal, organized dissent is very appropriate to the American democracy, but very inappropriate to the Catholic Church.

    Vitriol and mockery is never constructive, and is positively unchristian.

    For the record, my challenge to “Fr. Vincent” was to identify himself. I was echoing Henry Karlson, who like me, you, Tito Edwards, and numerous others, posts only under our true identities. Doing so is a sign of integrity. Taking a pseudonym for public debate, particularly in a place where speaking your mind isn’t a shooting crime, is not a mark of integrity.

    As for me, I will obey Christ. He, as God-in-flesh, took great liberties with the Pharisees and had authority to do so. He never pretended that we should do likewise. Rather he commanded us:

    Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. (Matthew 23:1-3)

    And Joe, if you read the accounts of Brigid of Sweden or Catherine of Siena, I think you will find their words both more compelling and more respectful in addressing directly, not snarking on a blog, the men God had placed in authority over them. We have given up faith that God can work conversion through us if we turn from our prayers to ridiculing and backbiting on a blog that the intended victims don’t even read in the first place.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • “misrepresenting Catholic understanding of authority and respect”

    I never presented as such, but your reading skills continue to impress me.

    “And misrepresenting what others are saying in respect to how to deal with issues of concern.”

    I was more fair than Ryan was to Fr. V, characterizing his criticism as a “berating” – it was no such thing. It also seems that “thinking ill” of one’s bishop is somehow a greater danger than the potential scandal caused, a notion which is about on the same level of a soldier placing the reputation of one of his officers ahead of a matter that could affect the entire company. In both cases, completely cowardly and unacceptable.

    “As for addressing a person’s past, it is important if the habit of the past remains and the person has yet to deal with that habit.”

    Ah. So you, you are going to lecture me on bad habits. I see.

    You see, Henry, there’s a difference between an argument, and its cause. The validity of an argument can be tested against the objective standards of logic which are independent of any personal, subjective motivation I might hold.

    Those personal, subjective motivations are matters best discussed with one’s priest, one’s family, one’s friends – and they have absolutely no bearing on the validity or invalidity of an argument.

    In a debate, they are what we call an ad hominem – attacking the man, to distract or deflect from the main point. It is a tactic of people I would describe as losers and scoundrels, or at best, people who just aren’t very bright.

    Since I think you’re probably better than that, I trust in the future you will recognize that I am not interested in personal advice from you, and pay basic respect to the elementary rules of a logical debate.

    Consider this a warning. Destroy me on the issues, take a chainsaw of logic to my arguments – but leave the personal insinuations out of it, or your posting privileges here will be taken under review. And if you want to consider that an act of censorship on my part, I can’t stop you. But I’m making a clear distinction here. I welcome any and all criticisms of a person’s actual argument, but I will not tolerate attacks on a person’s character, mine, or anyone else’s.

  • Henry K.,

    I understand and we’ll monitor him for now.

    To be on the safe side I’ll refer to him as a priest.

    Do Eastern Catholics have Ash Wednesday on their liturgical calendars?

  • Tito

    I think Maronites might do something on Ash Weds (I’ve heard something about it before, but I cannot confirm). But Byzantine tradition has Lent start earlier (Sunday evening, Forgiveness Vespers). There is no ashes, rather, there is a Vespers service, an anointing, and a ritual where the priest asks the congregation for forgiveness, and the congregation asks everyone else for forgiveness. Then on Monday, it is a strict day of fast (no meat, no dairy). But we don’t do Ashes. This week is called “Clean Week.” The tradition is to clean out one’s home and to have confession this week ( I plan to go tomorrow – due to all the snow and blizzard, and a few other issues, it’s been about 5 weeks; normally I go once a week).

  • Ryan,

    My response was a mockery of the completely disproportionate response you gave to Father V.

    About the only questionable thing he did was to question the “testosterone” levels of the priest in question. Everything else he said was, as far as I’m concerned, perfectly fine and worthy of more than a lecture more befitting a fifth-grader being admonished for picking his nose in class.

    You said “Vitriol and mockery” is not acceptable – neither is silence in the face of sacrilege. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple and broke the laws of the Pharisees. If we are to be like Christ, that means knowing when to be mild, and when to be strong.

    “For the record, my challenge to “Fr. Vincent” was to identify himself.”

    That was based on your criticism of his comments, obviously. Your first challenge was whether or not he had any right to say anything about a bishop at all. You said,

    “It would be better to observe the error made in simple, objective terms and leave it at that.”

    Well, he did that and you continued to go off on him.

    “Taking a pseudonym for public debate, particularly in a place where speaking your mind isn’t a shooting crime, is not a mark of integrity.”

    That’s a separate matter, and if you want to pursue it with the man, fine. I’m not interested in that – only the arguments. And there was certainly more to the exchange between you two than this man’s (alleged) anonymity.

    “He, as God-in-flesh, took great liberties with the Pharisees and had authority to do so. He never pretended that we should do likewise.”

    Aren’t we supposed to follow Christ as an example? It obviously doesn’t mean defiance for its own sake, but in defense of the truth. And what Father V. was doing, and what most loyal Catholics who are concerned are doing, is far less than what Christ did to the money changers at the temple.

    This isn’t, moreover, 1000 A.D. during which the argument that the average peasant couldn’t possibly know enough to comment on a Church dispute or teaching had some actual foundation in the conditions of the time. Now, as Fr. V did, we can cite canon law on the internet.

    “We have given up faith that God can work conversion through us if we turn from our prayers to ridiculing and backbiting on a blog that the intended victims don’t even read in the first place.”

    I don’t think your “if” follows at all, first of all, because the “victims” are not the only ones intended – how about all of the genuine victims of their scandal? They need to hear the criticisms as well.

    Secondly it doesn’t follow because these things are not mutually exclusive, and who are you to know that the criticism might not be the chosen instrument of God for the conversion of the heart?

  • Joe,

    There is something between silence and vitriol. The fact that silence isn’t acceptable doesn’t mean that vitriol is acceptable. And I am not sure you are right that silence is an unacceptable option.

    We certainly need to know when to be mild and when to be strong. The two aren’t contrary, coincidentally. Jesus, never weak, called himself “gentle and lowly in heart,” (Mt 11:29-30). Furthermore, St. James writes, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God,” (Ja 1:19-20).

    We are supposed to follow Christ as an example, but not without qualification. After all, we are called to be his disciples, and not Him. Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately? Lolol.

    Commenting on the life of the Church isn’t about education or not being peasants; I commended the examples of medieval saints who commented very vocally on the life of the Church precisely because you mentioned that medieval saints did so. I only added specific names and mentioned that they made their criticisms respectfully and in a manner otherwise appropriate.

    You’re right, Joe, kinda – my original concern with “Fr. Vincent” was how he did what he did. Voicing concern about the state of the Church or about our bishops or even a particular bishop – that’s all legitimate. The way he did it was disrespectful. His psuedonymity is a perfectly legitimate additional concern on the same matter of how he undertakes legitimate actions. If he wishes to object publicly to something another man, whose name is publicly known to the world, let him at least do so with his own proper name likewise publicly known.

    You wrote that you are only interested in the arguments; if by that you mean “Fr Vincent’s” original post, I believe you are stretching the definition of “argument.”

    As Henry Karlson wrote, given the shared name of an earlier, deceased priest, the radically different tone from pretty much anything any priest I’ve ever known has written, and his sudden silence when asked for credentials, I think “Fr Vincent” is itself a stretch.

    I’m sorry, Joe, but I do not think that you will convince me that the kind of comment “Fr Vincent” made constitute the productive or virtuous response of a Christian man to seeing a bishop derelict in his duty.

  • Ryan,

    Re. meekness and courage, mildness and strength:

    “We certainly need to know when to be mild and when to be strong. The two aren’t contrary, coincidentally.”

    And, as I hope you acknowledge, I did not say that they were in an absolute sense – both capacities should co-exist within the same person – but in a situational sense. Some situations call for us to be soft, and others, to be hard. In that moment the two are indeed contrary.

    “Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately?”

    Well, forgive me if I’m not as amused by your joke as you are 🙂

    Following Christ’s indignation at the defilement of the temple is, obviously, within our means as mortal men.

    “Commenting on the life of the Church isn’t about education or not being peasants”

    It is a little bit, though. Because I would have agreed with clergy of the Middle Ages that people who, because of the limitations of the time, could not read or write (even if they were naturally blessed with intelligence) probably had little to no place in a debate of this kind. Let’s say, it would have been much more cautious and guarded.

    Today we can’t say that. I love the middle ages as much as any historian of the era but the inevitable consequence of literacy is democracy. Now I DON’T think the Church should be a democracy like some on the left do, I totally reject that – but I DO believe that lay Catholics need to have a way to express their grievances and that some degree of accountability has to exist. If doctrinal and liturgical disputes don’t show that, then the sex-abuse scandal does.

    As for Fr. V,

    “he way he did it was disrespectful.”

    In what way, beyond his crack about “testosterone”?

    “You wrote that you are only interested in the arguments; if by that you mean “Fr Vincent’s” original post, I believe you are stretching the definition of “argument.””

    Actually, I mean more his second post, in which he built upon his initial point and included references. That looked like an argument to me.

    So, I’m talking about his second post. And yes, he would have done his cause more good had he began with that instead of sarcasm, as would I. If there is a bad habit here, it is on the part of those of us who would resort to sarcasm first. Whatever faults I see in your approach, at least that isn’t one of them.

  • At Mass last night, I had quite a few who came forward for ashes that, at communion, came up for a blessing instead the bread. Every oak began as a tiny seed.

    I understand that among at least some Hispanics, there is a belief that you will die within a year if you don’t receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. Has anyone else heard that?

  • Patrick,

    Never heard of it. I’ll ask my mother and my aunts about this though.

  • Hey Joe,

    I’m glad we’re both maintaining or regaining civility. I found myself irritated, and have been praying, and think that two men who love the Church as she is can come to some sort of understanding about how to address her features that need, well, let’s just say, more love.

    Meekness, courage, mildness, and strength aren’t contrary to each other. They can’t be, because they are both virtues, and as you note, reconcile in an absolute sense. That being true, they are always reconcilable in the particulars, since the particulars depend upon the absolute. It takes a great deal of sanctity to reconcile apparent opposites – which Christ did in everything he did: always strong, always gentle; always direct, always discreet; always active, always recollected. These things only seem to us to be at odds with each other because we do not understand them deeply enough, we do not know what is at their heart.

    We set aside one virtue for another at great peril to losing them all.

    “Anyone here trying following Christ on foot over the Sea of Galilee lately?”
    Well, forgive me if I’m not as amused by your joke as you are 🙂

    Sure. But I think my point still stands. We follow Christ in one sense, in another sense, we are each called to blaze our own trail, to follow his light in our own circumstances. Recourse to WWJD isn’t terribly helpful if the question “What would Jesus do?” is precisely what needs answering. Lolol.

    I agree that people uninformed in a matter shouldn’t discuss it, and those informed should freely admit the point at which their information ends. I wasn’t saying that “Fr Vincent” didn’t know anything, but that he make his contribution to the discussion badly.

    But since we’re on the topic, “Fr Vincent” clearly has not been following news in the DC area. If he had, he would know more. Archbishop Wuerl, whom “Fr Vincent” thinks something of a weakling or liberal intent on punishing anyone with testosterone, has been publicly sparing with the city council because of its increasingly militant and intrusive laws about gay “marriage”. Most recently, they have passed a law prohibiting discrimination in adoption services based on the sexes of a “married” couple. Yesterday the Archbishop and Catholic Charities shut down the Church’s adoption agency here because we cannot comply with the terms of the wicked law in question. This action followed months of wrangling and being vilified over the Church’s refusal to comply with another law requiring spousal benefits for gay “married” couples – I believe that case is now pending in federal court. These aren’t the acts of spineless cowards.

    As for Fr. V,
    “he way he did it was disrespectful.”
    In what way, beyond his crack about “testosterone”?

    “Other than that, how was the theatre, Mrs. Lincoln?” Lol. Sorry, another bad joke, but meant in good fun. His general approach of smearing the archbishop is hardly respectful, and fits in better with the secularist MSM’s approach than with a Christian’s. He also wrote, “According to Abp. Wuerl, promoting mass murder is NOT a sin,” based upon evidence from which it hardly follows.

    “Actually, I mean more his second post, in which he built upon his initial point and included references. That looked like an argument to me.”

    Fair enough. His first one has been a show-stopper for me, which is the principle rhetorical problem with such posts. It is a show-stopper for me because of the more issues underlying it, and so on. Thank you for your compliment, too. I continue to find you an honorable gentleman.

    I think that one of the archbishop’s more admirable and useful qualities in a place as political as DC, though one least likely to endear him to his allies, are his tact, deliberation, and moderation. Fools rush in, and Archbishop Wuerl is no fool; but nor is he a coward, or opposed to the truth, or seeking to undermine the Church.

    One good reason to reserve judgment of the actions of our superiors is that, just like our parents, they often know things – either experience or concrete facts – that we do not, cannot know. Though I certainly do not understand the actions of many of our bishops, I can trust that they know more than I do, and I can – God help me if I cannot – trust that God has put them in authority over me, and not the reverse, for my sanctification and theirs.

    There is some consolation in that, I hope.

    When in conscience I must challenge a clergyman, just as with a brother, it is always best to do so in private, even if the cause of my concern is public. That is, after all, how our Lord instructed us to handle such things. It’s all the more important because any semblence of rebelliousness causes only further scandal.

    It has become a useful spiritual habit of mine to write a letter of support to bishops when they get bad press for doing good things. I’ve written a number of such letters, and am deeply impressed always to have received a personal response.

    Ryan Haber
    Kensington, Maryland

  • Ryan,

    The point about private criticism is valid, but only to a certain extent. There is also something to be said for the argument that a public figure invites public criticism and ought to be subject to public scrutiny.

    Here is a point on which we may disagree.

    “Though I certainly do not understand the actions of many of our bishops, I can trust that they know more than I do”

    This may be true, but as opposed to earlier times, there is nothing they know that we cannot also know. If those responsible for promulgating and enforcing laws do not themselves respect them, then by example and inference they argue that there is really only ONE law; that the strong dominate the weak.

    Obviously in church matters there is no physical coercion as there is in politics, but the same principle applies. If those responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing rules do not abide by them, then all you have is a naked, raw, exercise of power.

    This is not order, this is not respect, this is not stability and proper hierarchy. This is an affront to our dignity as creatures endowed with reason and moral sense.

    I don’t mean to accuse you, or the bishops for that matter, of going so far. I don’t think you do. But I do think that this is a trap that good-hearted people can fall into, and I would like to avoid.

    “It has become a useful spiritual habit of mine to write a letter of support to bishops when they get bad press for doing good things.”

    I’ve done that myself from time to time. We ought to do both. We ought to be informed and involved as Catholics, as we ought to be as citizens.

  • …getting back to the original post.

    I haven’t watched the video yet but I often get the same response from self proclaiming Catholics at work.

    “You have something on your forehead, oh, Ash Wednesday?. Oh-ya I knew that…”

  • Joe,

    I think the central point of our disagreement is ecclesiological after all.

    “This may be true, but as opposed to earlier times, there is nothing they know that we cannot also know.”

    Joe, nothing could be further from the truth. There is TONS of stuff that we should NOT know as Christians. Canon law requires bishops to keep a safety box with such documents, literally called a secret archives, for his eyes and the eyes of his general vicars only – and their eyes only on a need to know basis. It has nothing to do with our education level, our rights, or the times we live in. It has to do with discretion – perhaps the virtue most sorely lacking in contemporary American culture, and therefore probably in most of us as individuals as well.

    “If those responsible for promulgating and enforcing laws do not themselves respect them, then by example and inference they argue that there is really only ONE law; that the strong dominate the weak.”

    I fully agree. It is not manifest to me that this description applies to the present situation. Moreover, “Fr Vincent” said nothing of anything remotely like it.

    My bishop is not answerable to me. That is a fundamental difference between life in the Church and life in a representative democracy. They just aren’t at all. They are accountable to Jesus Christ, and he will do justice upon them.

    “We ought to be informed and involved as Catholics, as we ought to be as citizens.”

    Again, no. We ought to be informed and involved, but in a very different way than citizens do. We are not citizens of the Church, but sheep in Christ’s flock. I am not advocating a “pray, pay, and obey,” mentality, and tire of the cliche. That has never gone over well with laypeople. I think an angry nun in the sixties invented that one, Joe.

    But we must be very markedly different from the world in how we do so many things.

    “If those responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing rules do not abide by them, then all you have is a naked, raw, exercise of power.
    This is not order, this is not respect, this is not stability and proper hierarchy. This is an affront to our dignity as creatures endowed with reason and moral sense.”

    I fully agree with you. I do not think that this is what is happening.

    All the best.

  • Patrick

    Yup!Just little ol’me.
    tim

    …by the way that’s for the Free Lenten Books tip!
    Awesome

  • Ryan,

    “There is TONS of stuff that we should NOT know as Christians.”

    Maybe on specific matters, sure – “need to know” is usually about the details of specific cases.

    What should be obvious here, though, is that we are talking about what is required from bishops, and what is required from lay people. All Fr. V and others bring up is their duty with relation to canon law, and more broadly, their general obligation to avoid scandals.

    In that sense, and yes, in stark contrast to the situation many years ago, there we absolutely can know.

    “Moreover, “Fr Vincent” said nothing of anything remotely like it.”

    I wasn’t responding to him, though – I was responding to you. And what you seem to be saying at times is that authority is its own justification.

    I said “seem to be”; its how it might be interpreted. And that is why I brought it up, not by way of accusation, but simply to reinforce the main idea.

    ” I think an angry nun in the sixties invented that one, Joe.”

    Invented what? That we ought to be informed and involved? We ought to be. It may be the only defense mechanism we have left.

    “I do not think that this is what is happening.”

    It happens every time someone is told to be quiet and take orders without question. Reason exists to be used, even in the Church. I agree that it is often used in combination with rudeness and disrespect, because people who feel or know they are right also feel entitled to be haughty. This is a failing and it should be admonished.

  • Ryan,

    Just to add – watch Tito’s clip of Cardinal Arinze. He is making an appeal to reason, not authority.

    THAT is what we need. And when bishops defy this reason, when they attack it or deny it, our dignity is on the line in choosing how to respond to it.

    To go too far, or to say too little, each diminishes our dignity.

  • I’m not a theologian, but it is my understanding that ashes are a “sacramental,” NOT a “sacrament.”

    Sacramentals are objects or actions of significance that carry a blessing with them, and include things like religious medals, rosaries, blessed palms, and holy water. Anyone, including non-Catholics, children who have not yet been baptized or received First Communion, and Catholics not in good standing, may receive a sacramental.

    Receiving ashes is not the same as receiving Communion or any of the other six sacraments. Receiving a SACRAMENT (other than Penance) while not in a state of grace is a mortal sin in and of itself (sacrilege); but it is NOT a sin, as far as I know, to receive a sacramental in that state.

    It is not a sin, for instance, to give a religious medal or blessed object to a lapsed Catholic or one who has married outside the Church, but it would be a sin to knowingly give them Communion or encourage them to receive it without first going to confession or having their marital situation rectified in some manner. I presume the same rule would apply to Catholics who are or may be in an objective state of sin due to their public advocacy of abortion. And I presume the same rule would apply to blessed ashes.

    Again, I’m not a theologian or canon lawyer but I am familiar with the Church’s rules on this matter and I find it very suspicious that “Fr.” Vincent seems to not be aware of this distinction.

  • Yeah, and to be clear, I don’t even agree with Fr. Vincent on this issue.

    I just disagree with the general idea that the possibility that people might “think ill” of their bishop is a higher priority than exposing legitimate malfeasance and defending truth.

    I disagree with, and feel compelled to argue against, even the slightest whiff of the idea that power and authority justify themselves without reference to higher principles, without reason and objective truth.

  • That’s good, Joe, because it’s not what I was arguing. I argue that in the Church authority comes from Jesus Christ and is answerable to Him, and Him through one’s superiors.

    I never said anything remotely like authority is self-justified in the Church. Nothing remotely like it.

    When I joked that a nun made up something, I meant the bit about “pray, pay, and obey.” It was a nice smear employed widely by modernists in the Church during the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. I’ve had a bellyful of it; though I admit there is a kernel of truth to it. The period from the 1930s to the 1960s saw a dramatic increase in Priest-as-Prince-of-the-Parish syndrome, and it was a vile debasing of the moral capital accrued by hardworking, holy missionaries in this country during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Unfortunately, Fr. Bluejeans did not end the clericalism but rather compounded it – I spent 3 years in the employ of such a priest who not only wanted to be pampered and obeyed, but also wanted us all to “feel” (i.e., pretend) that he was “one of us.” The handling of the sexual abuse in this country, and of the Church’s finances, is simply a public exposition of the most monumental instance of clericalism yet. Clericalism is essentially an exaggerated sense of the distinction of priests and clergy.

    The solution to that is not:

    (1) The ’60s approach of stand up and make yourself heard, expose the problems in public;

    (2) To pretend that there is no difference between priests and clergy;

    but rather

    (3) To accentuate the difference where it is appropriate, and close the divide whenever at all possible.

    In the liturgy, in spiritual formation of seminarians, etc., the role of the priest should be clearly 100% different from that of his people – our clerics are a priesthood among a priesthood, a sacred people among a holy nation. That should be crystal clear in the conduct of the liturgy and in the rectitude of their lives, which should shine even among us – who should shine before the world.

    In day to day life, without ever abandoning the distinction, we should feel very comfortable with each other and spend gobs of time together.

    That would solve so many problems in the Church. We need to love each other – and that means prayer for each other, spending time together, building each other up.

    That’s not what “Fr. Vincent” was doing in his post. Nothing like it.

    I am in essence saying that if we keep operating as the world does, we can expect the same results within the Church.

  • “I never said anything remotely like authority is self-justified in the Church. Nothing remotely like it.”

    I know that. You were quite clear in your rejection of that. I was stating, for Elaine, what my mindset was when I first commented, before it was AS clear to me.

    My apologies if it came off differently.

    “To accentuate the difference where it is appropriate, and close the divide whenever at all possible.”

    Yes, possible being the key word. At a certain point it may no longer be possible. Then public pressure is an effective tool.

    “That’s not what “Fr. Vincent” was doing in his post. Nothing like it.”

    In his second point, he made a legitimate argument that could have been addressed. It is a shame he could not have made it his first post, but, even so, its there.

  • Oh, my apologies vis-a-vis your response to Elaine. Rereading it, what you wrote in response to her, yeah, it’s all good.

    It’s late. You’re a good man. God bless.

  • Ryan,

    Elaine is a woman.

    Must have been really late for you last night.

    😉

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving is by Father Francis Fernandez Carvajal from his series on meditations In Conversation with GodDaily Meditations Volume Two: Lent and Eastertide, 1.2:

True conversion is shown by the way we behave.  We show that we really want to improve by the way we do our work or our study.  We show it by the way we behave towards our family; by offering up to God, in the course of the day, little mortifications which make life for those around us more pleasant, and which make our work more effective.  We can also show it by making a careful preparation for and going frequently to Confession.

Today God asks us also for a rather special mortification, which we offer up cheerfully: it is fasting and abstinence, which strengthens our spirit as it mortifies our flesh and our sensuality.  It raises our soul to God.  It gets rid of concupiscence by giving us the strength to overcome and to mortify our passions, and it disposes our heart that it may seek for nothing except to please God in everything.9

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4 Responses to Works of Penance, Frequent Confession, Mortification, Almsgiving

  • A friend who belongs to Opus Dei turned me onto these books during Advent at an Opus Dei Men’s reflection. I can’t say that I have read them everyday, perhaps 85% of the time since.

    Amazing. That’s all I can say. I take them to Mass with me and read them after the after Mass prayers. What a fantastic help. The insights and lessons are inspired. What a great place to get perspective from the Communion of Saints, the Popes and the Magestirium.

    I recommend In Conversation with God to anyone and everyone who wants to increase their faith and understanding (in that order).

    We are dust but if you own these books they won’t get any dust on them.

  • AK,

    I agree.

    The In Conversation With God series has brought me ever closer to God. It is worth someones while to pick up the book and start reading.

    A great way to do something for Lent!

  • Tito,

    I never thought about the statement from your last sentence until this Lent. We all give something up and when we think of it or desire it we turn to God; however, I don’t know too many people who DO SOMETHING for Lent as opposed to NOT doing something. Sure, we may give the money we save from our habit, whether it be beer, chocolate or whatever, but that is not necessarily the same as DOING something.

    I think it is helpful, and these books are great for it, to add something to our spiritual life during Lent and God willing it will become part of us in Easter and beyond.

  • AK,

    I remember the “spirit of Vatican II” rage of “doing” something for Lent instead of “giving” something up.

    In the end I decided to do both (just to be safe!)

    😉

Ash Wednesday Address by Pope Benedict

Wednesday, February 17, AD 2010

Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday Address in English:

Here is the complete text of the Pope’s message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten journey towards Easter.

Lent reminds us, as Saint Paul exhorts, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (cf. 2 Cor 6:1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulae used in the rite of the imposition of ashes. The first formula – “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” – echoes Jesus’s words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mk 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness and fulfilment.

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