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Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Concise Primer on Religious Relativism Today

from Dr. Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture: a must read for those still unfamiliar with relativism in religion today.

If you want history -- DO NOT watch a movie

The movie Agora is apparently about the pagan philosopher and mathematician of that name, supposedly killed by a Christian mob under the orders of St. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria, in the 5th century.

Sherry Weddell explains why this is rubbish:

 The destruction of the Library of Alexandria .. occurred 40 years before Jesus was born and 418 years before Hypatia was born. The part of the Library's collection .. kept in a branch library in a pagan temple in Alexandria .. was destroyed in 391 AD, 24 years before Hypatia was killed and 21 years before Cyril became Bishop of Alexandria.


the film is set conveniently in 391 AD ... The problem is that Hypatia was [in] her early 20's in 391 and wasn't murdered until a quarter of a century later in 415 AD. Cyril was a teenager of 15 in 391 AD and wouldn't become Bishop of Alexandra for another 21 years.


Yet it was the most popular film of 2009 in traditionally Catholic Spain.

The last note about the film's popularity in Spain might be a reflection on the sad state of Christianity in Spain.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A responsibility to remaining healthy

I held my daughter today, born before noon, and wished that I didn't have a cold so I could give her a kiss, and cuddle her closer to me. As it was I had to hold her and supposed she'd still be exposed to the cold we all had at home by the time I got her home later this week. But it got me thinking about this topic again: our health -- physical and spiritual -- impacts not only our own lives but those around us. And so we truly do have a responsibility to watch our health in all aspects.

I've come to realize that being in a family, especially involving children, confronts us with such a responsibility. Concerning our spiritual health, this means considering our state of grace (or mortal sin). We parents cannot claim that "it's okay for me to... " and then say "it's not okay for my kids to ..", when talking about sinful habits and compromises. These things can be directly catching, or at least the consequences will have an impact on the people around us.

Of course, the 20th century's sad thrust for individualism makes one less likely to consider such things, and so we carry the consequences of that right into the 21st. And look around us now. "Live and let live" almost has to have degenerated into "live and let die".

Impose nothing, yet propose ceaselessly

I like this admonishment, which comes from the Holy Father's address in Portugal:

 We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly, as Peter recommends in one of his Letters: “In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15)

When one has found the greatest of treasures, and not only is it sufficient to share with absolutely everyone, but it is completely logical to do so, we must do no less: propose ceaselessly, because what we have fills us with joy, and we want others to share this joy from the fount of all joy. It is a much better attitude than "live and let die", or even to "live and let live". Better to live and help live, for in Christ alone will our hearts find rest.

[Hat tip to Whispers in the Loggia, which posts the entire homily.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why Truth Matters

We're living in interesting times. I do believe in the springtime that Pope John Paul II wrote about, and oddly agree precisely because atheism, apathy, agnosticism, relativism and all sorts of wrongheadedness are running rampant around us. But this cannot be stressed enough: TRUTH matters. Whether or not you believe that Jesus Christ is the truth (I do), you must understand that it is of paramount importance. Here's Mark Shea sharing some truths to debunk (falsehoods) that would leave you speechless (there's wrong and there's incredibly wrong). Here's Mike Adams with some more shocking truths. These two examples can be classified as falsehoods that people actually eat up and truths that people don't hear about. Either one constitutes grave danger to those who believe the first or are ignorant of the other. Living in this great age of Google as we are, there's little excuse to hide behind.

If you ask rhetorically "what is the truth?" I will answer: "have you even looked?"

Friday, May 14, 2010

Honor your father

The unfounded and unjust attacks on Papa Benedict XVI are irksome enough, but tonight I came to realize that something about this runs deeper, even when the target is not as high profile.

I'd found that some people would make it a point (and my sense that it is an explicitly made act) to drop "Father" in addressing my parish priest. I'm not scandalized so much as offended. Why? Because this priest is my spiritual father. Every priest is, and so is each bishop and pope. Long ago, I'd already made up my mind that it is ridiculous to agitate at the hierarchy of the Church and demand that it be made flat. Just as it is to experiment with familial structures and put parents and their children on the same level. We already know what a disaster such innovations are.

And so it is with the parish. Our parish priest is not only a pastor, he is a father. He feeds us with the sacraments, i.e., with the very life of God. This is especially true in the Eucharist, fed as we are with Christ's body and blood. He also feeds our minds by educating us in the wisdom and knowledge of God in Scriptures and Tradition. He holds authority over our moral upbringing, not only in teaching us right from wrong, but as minister of the sacrament of Reconciliation.

It isn't that the priest is being equated with our Father in Heaven, just as we wouldn't equate our actual dads with Him. But there it is, plain as plain, in God's commandments: Honor your father and mother. Not because they are perfect (they are not), but because, in the familial structure of God's household of faith, priests and bishops are ordained by Christ our king to be spiritual fathers over us. When we rebel against this ministerial fatherhood, we rebel against its author: our Father in Heaven.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Not for the first time

This "news" (from Richard Owens, The Times) leads with "The Pope has admitted for the first time that the Catholic Church must accept responsibility for the child sex abuse scandal". Truly remarkable, because this is not the first time he has done that, as anyone with a web browser and access to Google can easily verify. Nor is this is the first time that a so-called journalist has covered this topic without competence.

 Until now, the Vatican and individual cardinals and bishops have sought to lay the blame for allegations of priestly abuse on the media, the Devil, the permissiveness of the 1960s, and on petty gossip and homosexuality.

Words fail me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Aborted for a cleft lip and palate?

One has to wonder if postmodern society is truly so enlightened as to abort a baby due to a cleft lip and palate, a problem that can be corrected with surgery. To make things worse, how does one silence one's conscience enough so that the baby, born alive, having survived the abortion, was left in a bag to die alone and uncared for?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

On the offensive against sin

Many years ago, my spiritual director at the Opus Dei center I used to attend (back in college) would tell me not to take a purely defensive posture when it came struggling with sin. One of the concrete suggestions he would suggest is to up the tempo in my apostolic life. For example, to engage in acts of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. This is absolutely good strategy. Sometimes, the thought that the Enemy puts stumbling blocks in my path would strike me. While he is certainly disposed to do so, my current spiritual director reminds me that there are more practical concerns in dealing with concupiscence. I think the following are worth noting:

  • There's a reason why we mention "near occasions of sin" in the Act of Contrition (the longer version). That first step can be a doozy alright.
  • The defensive posture is probably more applicable in combat where you're waiting it out until the opponent makes a mistake, giving you an opening to launch your attack. That doesn't apply here, I think. The opponent is concupiscence.
  • Launching the offensive is probably more effective, especially if it is in acting that one gets stronger and gains ground.
  • Focus on one habitual sin at a time. Be methodical. Use psychology or whatever approach will give an edge in order to "know thyself" and thus, to master thyself, one step at a time.
  • Frequent the sacraments, God's means of dispensing grace. The more habitual this becomes, the greater one's capacity.
  • As St. Josemaria Escriva recommends, "[w]ith your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred." -- even those that are left in us. "And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart." You can light up the corners of your heart with that light, rooting out your attachment to sin, one crack, one corner at a time.
  • As St. Paul wrote, "[p]ray without ceasing". I'd forgotten that, once upon a time, I would pray before every activity, making the activity itself part of my prayer. As Fr. Vincent Serpa said in one of his one-minute homilies, the extent to which we spend time with Christ, such as in prayer, is the extent to which we will rejoice when we see him. It is also to that extent that we will know him better, and unite with him more, and with our concupiscence less.

I'm actually writing the above more to myself than anyone else. I have not been living many of the strategies above, at least not so much in recent years.

Time to get cracking.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Unprincipled Laws?

A judgment against freedom of conscience is ironically set in logical tones while being illogical. It was in response to an appeal by a psychologist who was fired for refusing "to give advice on sexual intimacy to a homosexual couple." I would that this would be reasonable, and that the couple would be better served by another psychiatrist.

 Laws made clear that the court did not view legislation protecting individual conscience as justifiable, calling it an irrational position that “is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary."

"The conferment of any legal protection of preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however long its culture, is deeply unprincipled," said Laws in his ruling.

So there he is, a member of the judiciary, whose only authority comes from legislation, and he considers it unprincipled to apply the law when it is clearly applicable. Which case is more guilty of being unprincipled here? And the leap of logic sounds insane:

 Laws said that if the law created special exemptions for adherents of one belief, then it would lead to a disenfranchisement of the rest of the members in society, and would lead to “theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.”

Did anyone miss that huge leap? Upholding one's right to exercise conscientious refusal to act -- which does not take away the possibility of the patient obtaining the same services from a more sympathetic psychologist -- leads to a theocracy? Doesn't theocracy require the adherence to and imposition of a specific religion? He seems to suggest, therefore, that no one is to be granted legal exemptions based on belief, i.e., all must comply with the secular principles of the state. Is that not autocratic?