Saturday, October 31, 2009

Speaking of Faith's Krista Tippett Softballs Embryonic Researcher

Folks, I confess I enjoy - or have until now - listening to Krista Tippett's weekly "Speaking of Faith" interview show for NPR (APM).

Tippett has interviewed some interesting characters throughout the years, and I can safely say her program has helped give me a broader view of the American religious landscape.

This week, Tippett interviewed an embryonic stem cell researcher, Dr. Doris Taylor of the University of Minnesota.

The only connection to religion, to faith, seemed to be Tippett's ridiculously softball question, "So do you find that 'religious people' [read: religiously committed pro-lifers, i.e. Catholics, mostly] have an adequate understanding of what it is you are actually doing?" - or words to that effect.

So I was not exactly surprised to learn that the professional research scientist did not think the average laymen she interviewed in the Church parking lot had a very clear idea of what she does.

Tippett actually summarized Taylor's position by saying something very close to, "Taylor believes a change in vocabulary would help avoid some of the moral sensitivities surrounding her research."

Sorry, but that is not going to cut it.

In fairness, Taylor did make it sound as though she is not creating embryos for the purpose of conducting destructive research. She and her team are merely getting everything they can out of embryos that were slated for destruction, anyway.

Somehow, according to Taylor, that makes it OK.

I'll come back to this...


Friday, October 30, 2009


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 FOURTH STREET NE WASHINGTON DC 20017-1194 202-541-3100 FAX 202-541-3166

Tell Congress: Remove Abortion Funding & Mandates from Needed Health Care Reform Congress is preparing to debate health care reform legislation on the House and Senate floors. Genuine health care reform should protect the life and dignity of all people from the moment of conception until natural death. The U.S. bishops’ conference has concluded that all committee-approved bills are seriously deficient on the issues of abortion and conscience, and do not provide adequate access to health care for immigrants and the poor. The bills will have to change or the bishops have pledged to oppose them.

Our nation is at a crossroads. Policies adopted in health care reform will have an impact for good or ill for years to come. None of the bills retains longstanding current policies against abortion funding or abortion coverage mandates, and none fully protects conscience rights in health care.

As the U.S. bishops’ letter of October 8 states:
“No one should be required to pay for or participate in abortion. It is essential that the legislation clearly apply to this new program longstanding and widely supported federal restrictions on abortion funding and mandates, and protections for rights of conscience.
No current bill meets this test…. If acceptable language in these areas cannot be found, we will have to oppose the health care bill vigorously.”

For the full text of this letter and more information on proposed legislation and the bishops’ advocacy for authentic health care reform, visit:

Congressional leaders are attempting to put together final bills for floor consideration. Please contact your Representative and Senators today and urge them to fix these bills with the pro-life amendments noted below. Otherwise much needed health care reform will have to be opposed.

Health care reform should be about saving lives, not destroying them.

ACTION: Contact Members through e-mail, phone calls or FAX letters.

 To send a pre-written, instant e-mail to Congress go to

 Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.

 Full contact info can be found on Members’ web sites at & MESSAGE to SENATE:

“During floor debate on the health care reform bill, please support an amendment to incorporate longstanding policies against abortion funding and in favor of conscience rights. If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed.”

“Please support the Stupak Amendment that addresses essential pro-life concerns on abortion funding and conscience rights in the health care reform bill. Help ensure that the Rule for the bill allows a vote on this amendment. If these serious concerns are not addressed, the final bill should be opposed.”

WHEN: Both House and Senate are preparing for floor votes now. Act today! Thank you!


The USCCB has an initiative for this weekend, regarding health care.

It is a one-page insert explaining the bishops' position on the reform package making its way (or not) through Congress.

Here is a link for a PDF with the insert.

Folks, this is a big deal: the bishops have been advocating for health care reform since before this blogger was born.

They would not lightly oppose the plan coming through Congress.

This needs to be taken seriously.


A Reply to Maureen Dowd

The New York Times has published an Op-Ed piece by Maureen Dowd.

Usually, when I peruse the pages of the Gray Lady, and cross an item with her by-line over it, I say a prayer for her soul and move on.

Her latest effort is filled with the usual vitriol, loathing and low spirit.

This, on its own, would place it in the company of her usual efforts, and would not qualify it as worthy of the response of any person used to civilized discourse.

Her latest piece is also profoundly and pitiably narcissistic, though this, alone, were not sufficient to merit the attention, let alone the response, of an intelligent reader.

Ms. Dowd's most recent contribution is, however, so deliberately and hatefully tendentious, so appallingly false in its claims and insinuations against the good name of the world's greatest moral leader, that its appearance in the pages of the Gray Lady impugns the very profession of journalistic opinion, and sullies the name of those who profess it.

This calls for a reply.

I make this a matter of journalistic integrity because the man Ms. Dowd has so unfairly, so uselessly and withal how spitefully attacked, has neither need nor desire of defense from this or any other quarter.

I must say that I am embarrassed by the number and variety of statements, claims, insinuations and suggestions that present themselves for cavil.

Ought I to take issue with her use of the term, "inquisition" to refer to the Apostolic visitation?

Her patently false assertion that "the Vatican" is looking to "herd [the women religious] (whom she inaccurately groups together under the technically specific "nuns" thus further betraying her appalling ignorance of the faith into which she was baptized as a child and against which she rails so violently now) back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence."

Surely this last ought not to be mentioned before the infinitely more serious claim, according to which the Holy See would like to punish Catholic women religious for working with ailing gays.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the record, the Church has nothing but praise for religious sisters who work for ailing gays, Ms. Dowd. She is concerned, however, when those women religious are helping those ailing gays find dates for Saturday evening.

For the record, the Church is not overly concerned even with the transformation of community life in certain communities. Sisters living in apartments is not an issue: sisters living in apartments and sacrificing to the triple goddess is.

I will not stoop so low as to answer her assertion that the recent announced dispositions for former Anglican communities to enter full communion are really an attempt to pad the ranks of the Church's gay-hating, mysogynistic right wing.

We are all familiar with Sister X's claim to the effect that the visitation amounts to bullying.

Bull is right.

Shall I pause to consider Ms. Dowd's hackneyed caricature of the Pope as "God's rottweiler" and her discussion of his office as prefect of the CDF? She said Cardinal Ratzinger was “The Enforcer” and backed this up with his investigation and and discipline of two American women religious.

Two thousand?

Two hundred?



That's right: in nearly a quarter century as the Pope's "Doctrinal Enforcer", the man who now sits on Peter's throne investigated two whole sisters.

One of the sisters was involved in active and contumacious opposition to the Church's teaching on sexuality.

The other, a Sister of Mercy, was making sure that state money was going to help poor women safely and legally rip the living flesh of their offspring from their wombs.

This almost makes one wonder what the Pope's watchdog was watching.

At the end, her claims become so hysterical, her accusations so preposterous, and her arguments so specious, that the only proper response is pity, and prayer for Ms. Dowd's mental healing and spiritual conversion.

We are left wondering, however, why the New York Times would have published such implausible, such lunatic screed.

The paper's almost apologetic tag-line to Dowd's piece says it all. It reads: "Nicholas D. Kristof is off today."


An uncalled for attack

My young friend LD told me about an Op-Ed piece by Maureen Dowd that made him very angry. And rightly so, if I may say. While waiting for his anger to boil down, so that he may write a circumstantial refutation, if he will still feel like it, I'll give it my try.

I have a blurred recollection of reading, more than thirty years ago, a book by John Courtney Murray, where he asked himself this question: do we live in a free society? Hard to reply, he said, as hard as giving a definition of what freedom is. Let's rather ask, he proposed, whether we live in a civilized society.

Let me rephrase the question with Stanley Cavell: do we live in a society which enables us to entertain a civil conversation?

Mrs Dowd seems concerned about freedom (hers? or whose else? women's? of all of us?) being impinged by a Pope who was the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: the first Catholic censor, to be clear. So she maligns him with nasty insinuations coupling his youth in Nazi Germany with a reference to the nonsense uttered by a Lefevrite bishop concerning the shoa. And with other similar pleasantries.

Now, I leave aside the question raised about the threat that Pope Benedict's church might represent for a free society. Murray teaches. And I ask: is this an example of civil conversation?

Uncivil arguments call for uncivil retorts. So we could put the question: who is the real Nazi?

Abortion (which I am sure Mrs Dowd doesn't abhor) is a kind of racism of the living towards the unborn. Moreover, thanks to biological engineering, abortions is coming to be a moment of eugenics. And we all know who were the masters of eugenics in the first half of the Twentieth Century.

I could go on with such a retort, probably not very pleasant, for sure non civilized. But I won't.

I just wanted to say that things have quite changed since the times of Father Murray, and I don't feel like giving today the positive answer he then gave to the question he raised about civilized society.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Post-partisan politics?

As I said already, human things are funny, or, if you prefer, odd.

I think proper to keep on commenting on Obama. Why, you could ask, do you have a personal axe to grind with him? Of course not, but I want to know whether there is a political axe worthy grinding. He is the POTUS, and where else could I find better concrete incentives to think about politics in general?

I must confess that at last November elections, if I were an American citizen, I wouldn't have voted for him.

I thought that McCain was a true man, well proved in life and in politics, who with no doubt would have done the good of the United States.

On the other side, Obama was only proved as a good rhetorician. Mind me, I do not mean this as an insult.

You should know by now, if you have read me before, that for me rhetoric is of the essence of life, and therefore of that special life arena that are democratic politics. Rhetoric had to do with the way we present ourselves, in words and in deeds, either persuading people to have confidence in us, or, if the case be, to fear us.

Take away rhetoric, and there isn't anything left but row force, in bending people to do what we want.

But, I say, we are still waiting for Obama to prove himself, beyond his way with words, also in deeds. And, because I say so, you could take me, especially after what I confessed, as being partisan.

Here it is where things get odd.

Obama promised to go beyond partisan politics. I strived all my life to go beyond partisan political theory.

I read an interesting anti-Obama partisan article, reading his life and political career in the light of Saul Alinsky's Rules for a Radical. Beyond its partisanship, however, the article made a good point: that a unifying rhetoric can be divisive, and intended to be such. To show oneself in speech to be beyond partisanship, can be a way to brand one's adversary as partisan, and divide those otherwise prone to vote for him.

It can be the case, I say, and reserve judgment. Nobody could care less for my judgment, if I hadn't previously given my reasons for it. And these can only come from an observation anybody could share:

However strongly we strive to be non partisan, we inevitably take a stance, that risks making us look partisan.

To the observation, it follows a question: can the stance we take succeed in overcoming partisanship, to be non divisive but unifying? If not completely, which I think impossible, at least to a certain, to a good extent?

One first answer is that we should be rhetorically coherent, so that our deeds show the same that our words proclaim.

To enter into the implications of such an answer would take us on much tougher ground. To a general theory of social and political relations that would make understandable for us Jesus' demand to offer the other cheek. This avoids the destructive reciprocity of blow against blow, but not – as we might think – with a gesture of submission, as it would be that of raising our hand to protect ourselves; rather with a challenge. Offering the other cheek (in whatever metaphorical way) challenges the assumptions and expectations one can have in resorting to violence.

Poor Obama – to end with him who gave the lead to this meditation – shows no sign, in what he says and does, of being aware of such a social and political theory.


Friday, October 16, 2009

The PCID's Diwali Message

The Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue has issued a Message to Hindus in occasion of Diwali (Deepavali), the Festival of Lights.

The theme of this year's message is - Hindus and Christians: Committed to Integral Human Development

I am not especially thrilled with the language of the document, some of which reads:

Religious Festivals enable us to revitalize our relationship with God and one another. May this Festival of Lights, while elevating our minds and hearts towards God, the Supreme Light, strengthen fellowship among us and bless us all with happiness and peace.

I am willing to let this slide, however. I understand the need to play the game, and Cardinal Tauran neither invented the tradition, nor asked for the job.

There is really nothing wrong with what Cardinal Tauran calls for, or rather, with the kind of cooperation to which he invites Catholics and Hindus:

Let us all, as people of good will, join together to dispel every darkness that hinders a true vision of co-existence, religious harmony and integral development for each and every person.

I subscribe to this call, and promise to do my best in this direction.

Rather more upsetting to me is what is missing from the Message.

You see, I think our Hindu friends in, say, Orissa, could use some more basic instruction in the conditions necessary to integral human development, before we try our hand at creating the conditions sufficient for its flourishing.

In the Message, I would have liked to see something like the following:

Integral human development is only possible if you do not murder your Christian neighbors.

Systematically raping Christian women and girls is also unhelpful, never more so than when they are in the bonds of religion.

Whether accomplished by simple theft or outright destruction, violent dispossession of your Christian neighbors is not the best way forward on the road to integral human development, either.

It is, moreover, our firm conviction that, vis-à-vis integral human development, both torching Christian houses of worship and burning Christian families out of their homes and businesses, so that their only recourse is to hide in the forest and live for months like hunted animals, are almost certainly counterproductive.

What was it that Paul VI said?

"If you want peace, work for justice." I think that was it.


Good thing for me I am smart enough to understand how preparing for war can be a work of justice (Cf. Gaudium et spes n. 79).


Thursday, October 15, 2009

From the Archives...sort of...

Does Islam promote peace? As a Catholic, I cannot claim authority to answer the question. My limited knowledge of Islam can, however, serve to set the problem posed by such a query in relief.

First, it is a loaded question.

When English authors employ the word, “peace” they are more or less consciously wording a concept represented by the Christian political and theological authors with the Latin, pax.

Arabic is the language of Islam.

The Arabic word most often translated to English as “peace” is salaam, which is, like pax, a technical, juridical term.

In the Christian tradition, pax (peace) is the presence of “justice”. “Justice”, in its turn, is “the condition of concord in society” achieved through the “rule of law”. “Law” is a “dictate of reason promulgated by competent authority and ordered to the common good”. “Reason” is a peculiarly human faculty, by the proper exercise of which human nature may attain to an understanding of Divine ordinance.

Salaam, on the other hand - and as far as I understand it - refers to the state of absolute submission to the manifest will of the one God. Now, “submission” in this case renders the Arabic word (another juridical term) islam, from which the Muslim religion has its proper name; the Arabic for “one God" is Allah, and the Arabic for “manifest will” is Qur’an, which is also the name of the Muslims’ holy book, often transliterated as Koran.

In any case, the Qur'an is the source and ultimate authority in and for law under Islam - for it is the revelation of the Seal of the Prophets, Mohammad.

Peace, according to the Muslim religion, is the absolute rule of Islam, or absolute submission to the will of Allah, as made manifest through His revelation, which is Law.

It would seem to follow, therefore, that there is no salaam where there is no islam, no “peace” outside the “complete subjection of each and every living person’s will, to the will of Allah as made manifest in the Koran”.

In other words, there can be no “peace” until everyone living has submitted to the dictates of the Muslim religion. Once the Law has been proclaimed, to refrain from an act of submission is, quite literally, to place oneself outside the law, i.e. to be an outlaw.

In the Christian tradition, peace (pax) is the presence of justice, which is the condition of social concord through rule of law, and that law is the perfection of reason (ratio), by which human nature participates in the Divine order.

There seems, therefore, to be little to justify translating both the Christian pax and the Islamic salaam with the English “peace”.

“Law”, after all, is for Christians the participation of human reason in the Divine order, while for Muslims, “Law” is ultimately the manifestation of Divine will, a will that one cannot hope to understand and to which one must only submit.

The question whether Islam is a religion of peace is therefore not even a real question: it only seems to be capable of being raised because of an inappropriate use of a single word in English to translate two different words from two different languages, words that function as technical juridical terms in disparate and conflicting cultural systems.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rhetoric and prudence

I can't let the Nobel prize for peace to Obama pass without a comment. Because I haven't seen any particular change on the world scene except Obama's own declarations of good will, I'll do it in the form of a general reflection on rhetoric and prudence.

What is rhetoric and what has to do with prudence? you could ask; or vice versa. Well, everything.

Rhetoric, in the old, full sense of the word, is the art of persuasion: i.e. the art of talking and acting effectively, obtaining the assent of one's interlocutor or audience to what he says or to the course of action he wants. Plato, in his negative moods, found it quite appalling, and styled it as the art of seduction, by which a lover makes the beloved grants him or her her or his favors. However, we like it or not, it is of the essence of democracy as a political regime based on consensus. No one could be elected if he weren't well versed in it.

Obama showed last year to be a master at it.

Prudence, on the contrary, never suffered a bad press with ancient philosophers, but it was quite forgotten with modern ones. It is the art of assessing a situation, so to know what to do (and say) and what not to do (and say). To stay with the example of the seducer, he should know when he can give it a try and when not; but in this case it is just an example, carrying no negative connotations. We need prudence in all circumstances of life, so much the more when we have to take a decision on the spot. Therefore prudence was classified among the four cardinal virtues (besides it, fortitude, temperance and justice).

On this regard Obama… well, I'll let the judgment to my readers.

The reason why we need to be well versed in rhetoric is the same for which we need to be prudent men.

The situations we can find ourselves in are made of a myriad of more or less perceptible or imperceptible signs, by which we can be easily led astray. Again the example of seduction: a woman acts graciously towards me, which might mean…; well, it just "might", but if I am mistaken I'll be bitterly disappointed. Prudence means then to be able to recognize according to circumstances which signs are really pertinent for assessing the kind of situation I am in. Hence, situations aren't like natural species that we can classify in a univocal way, so that, given certain signs, we can be sure of what they are. Neither I can't state my case with an interlocutor or an audience in such an univocal way, made of clear cut definitions and classifications. I need to be able to give them something more significant, that makes them able to assess the situation as I do.

Good rhetoric partakes then of the habit of prudence. Not all audiences are the same: what works with some, doesn't work with others.

What works with Americans, with Europeans, or the Swedish Academy, doesn't necessarily works with the sworn enemies of what we are.

Si pacem vis para bellum (if you want peace, prepare yourself to war), recites an old Latin saying. Here again it is question of prudence. In certain cases it might lead to a destructive armaments race. In others might be the thing to do, and to do otherwise would be taken as a sign of weakness.

Again, how things stand with Obama concerning his prudential rhetoric, I'll leave it to the judgement of readers.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Politics and faith

Contrasts in Italian politics among the power of the State that is too long to explain, prompted me these general considerations.

It is funny that there are so many people, much more in Europe than in the States but even here an increasing number, think that religion should be left totally out of the public space, because, they say, it is a matter of faith, and faith is a strictly individual affair.

It's more than funny, it's very funny.

I tell you why: politics rests entirely on faith.

Thus said, it is a little blunt, so I should try to explain myself.

We rarely stop and think of the meaning of the words we use. Too bad, because we could be surprised. So it is for the word faith, which carries a rich set of connotations.

For those who want to exclude it from the public space, it means essentially belief: where to believe something is opposed to knowing it. In other words, belief is equated with opinion, and according to the law everybody should be entitled to his own opinions. Here things become immediately funny, if we just bring to mind how general is the use of an expression like "I believe in...": both for things I can believe or not believe, which makes them opinions, and for things I can't but believe, which makes them science. Troubles starts when it comes to saying which is which: vary shaky business.

One could say, "I believe in the theory of evolution", or, "I believe in the theory of relativity", thinking to be affirming two things equally scientific. Someone else (like yours truly) might think, instead, that this is true for the second but not for the first, and say so. "Why, aren't both of them proved?" could ask the first, politely or with a tone of challenge (of course if he cares to be polite or challenging, and not simply ignore such an ignorant moron, who dares to doubt of evolution). "Depends on what you mean by proving", could answer a little ironic the second, "don't you know that even philosophers of science are not quite in agreement on it? Besides, how could you or I know? We didn't prove it." "You must be kidding, scientists…" "There I wanted you!"

Belief, then, is not just opinion. It simply means to be persuaded of the truth of something, for more or less good reasons. And one good reason can also be trust. Actually, the arguments for or against the theory of evolution might not be so hard to assess. But the theory of relativity… For us average mortals it is like talking about God's existence. We can only trust those who proved it.

Funny business, proving: adverting, testing, knowing…But what has to do with politics? A moment of patience, I am coming to it.

Belief, joined with trust, gives the meaning of faith. Not the full meaning yet, but enough of it to clarify the assertion I made above. I trust somebody, and I believe in what he says; I don't trust him, and I don't believe it. This happens even among scientists, between people and scientists, and, most blatantly, in politics and in religion.

Let's say, for example, the President of the United States tells us that things at the moment are tough, but we are strong and can make it. Well, we confide in him, and do our best.

Congress makes laws. We confide in it, and think that they are conceived for the common good. Courts administer justice. We confide in them, and willingly subject ourselves to their sentences and orders.

Is it clear? All politics rests on faith. Religion cannot be really separated from politics. The Founding Fathers of the United States knew it, but believed that it could be left open to civil discussion, confiding in the reciprocal good faith of people.

What happens, then, if people are divided by utterly different religions (including the religion of non-religion)? And while the government takes one side, the courts take another? A more or less latent or open war of all against all, is Thomas Hobbes' inexorable answer, to be kept in check by a tyrant State.

There is however an other answer I am more prone to: to recognize that our reasoning is prompted by faith, and to look here for proofs of what is said in the public square.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New Pro-Life Initiative in Connecticut: a Connecticut Catholic defends the weakest and most vulnerable

The name of the organization is CCCF, which stands for Concerned Catholics for Connecticut, & Friends.

The founder is an old family friend, the paterfamilias of a family, which lived around the corner from us when I was growing up.

One of his daughters is Maria, a grade school classmate of mine with a terrifying loveliness about her that I have since learned is typical of Irish daughters, and the peculiar birthright of the youngest of these.

But I digress.

Below is an explanation of the initiative, in the founder's own words:

This is my blog site on Late-Term D&E Abortion of Viable Babies:

The first or second “post” (which means article) lists the headings of the articles I have posted in the past few months.

I keep adding as research progresses, and have to add some more news as soon as I have time.
cccf stands for “concerned Catholics for Connecticut, & Friends”...I include in the “friends” unconcerned Catholics, and all others who are non-Catholics but could be concerned about this infanticide.

My purpose is to try and get someone in Connecticut (or more than one) elected to high office in Washington who would be pro-life for a change: And secondly, to get a movement started to ban Late-Term D&E Abortion of babies post 21-weeks gestation, on the precedent of the Federal Ban Act on Partial Birth Abortion (D&X).

I hope you send this blog site to all your friends.
I hope you readers spread the word about this initiative, and also about the peculiar barbarity of D&E and D&X procedures.

I am firmly convinced that both procedures would be absolutely and without exception illegal, if only more people knew what they are: cutting a fetus into little bits while it is still inside the womb and then vacuuming out the parts (D&E); inducing dilation of the cervix and then deliberately maneuvering the fetus into a footling breech, and then, when everything but the head is out of the uterus, plunging a scissors into its neck, severing the spinal cord, inserting a vacuum into the inside of the head, sucking out the brain and collapsing the skull (D&X).

When Stenberg v. Carhart (opinions at FindLaw) (Wikipedia article) was decided, I remember being appalled by the way in which the five justices of the majority so carefully avoided looking at the basic issue: a state's competence to police the medical profession. "You cannot understand what D&X is," I recall saying out loud, "and then decide that a state legislature is not competent to ban the procedure. If you decide that a state legislature is not competent to ban that procedure, it can only be because there is no police power as such in the state."

Said simply: if a state legislature cannot ban partial birth abortion, it cannot ban anything.

The Federal ban on D&X survived (5-4) a challenge before the SCOTUS (Gonzales v. Carhart) I ought to have pointed this out, myself.

Please, add the cccf blog to your rolls, and maybe even drop the folks there a line showing your support.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Between past and future

Let me put it this way.

The Church before the Vatican II could, and largely was perceived as castled in a staunch repudiation of the modern world. Still today, as a matter of fact, its moral teaching is perceived as a series of no: interdiction of this, interdiction of that… especially with regard to sex (as if she were concerned about sex as such, and not about people to whom is given to be, among other things, also male and female).

The inspiration of Vatican II, eminently in Gaudium and spes, was to come out of such a castle, stop condemning the modern world, and come toward it in understanding.

The right and just thing to do. But it could be equivocated, as unfortunately it has been, as advocating an adjourning of the Church, and us in her, to keep up with the modern world in all its changes.

Benedict now is telling us, in all his teaching and preaching that goes under the label of hermeneutics of continuity, that the modern world doesn't exist, so to speak.

I mean, all the changes of which Gaudium and spes talked about, and more, are real. But, please, let's not conceptualize them as we are used to do, as "modern". It is the negation of thinking, which requires a capability of taking distance from ourselves, rather than putting ourselves, in our fleeting now between past and future, at the center. Torn, as the case might be, between nostalgia for the vanishing past, and expectation for whatever change the future is bringing.

"Modernity" is a false category, that leaves us without capability of drawing from the past criteria of judgment for the future, what it should and what it shouldn't bring about, and to act accordingly: to achieve the first and to avoid the latter.

Right is Gaudium and spes there, where it reminds us that at the center is only Christ, in his eucharistic being always, now, between was and will be.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Gaudium et spes and the Work of the Holy Spirit: a reply to the HP

Dear HP,

Well you know of my love for the Catholic tradition, and well you know of my wariness of modernity - indeed, I learned much of it at your foot.

Having said that, I must now wonder whether your treatment of Gaudium et spes might be incomplete.

GS is a document of the Council, and as such we must regard it as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Only then can we (and I think that, in the case of GS, we really must) go on to criticize it.

Indeed, one of its harshest and most effective critics is the present Pontiff, who struggled to find a Christocentric key in the text.

Eventually he did, following JPII's frequent citation of the line to the effect that Jesus CHrist is not only God's self-revelation to Man, but God's revelation of the truth about human nature nature to Mankind.

That said, the document was written by committee, and as such is an abject failure from a literary point of view.

With regard to the document's discussion of transformation, I would recall the opening lines:
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.
Now, I may be using too sharp a knife, but it has always strucke me that the lack of a qualifier following the naming of the "followers of Christ" is conspicuous, and telling. The joys and hopes of the present age are the joys and hopes etc. of Christians, sic et simpliciter, which is to say, the joys and hopes etc. of Christians in every age. The opening statement of the document, on this reading, would contain a constant, precisely the constant the Council Fathers go on to ignore for the rest of the document.



Announcement: The Lazy Disciple is Changing...

Sometime during this coming week, this blog, which has been known as The Lazy Disciple almost since its inception, will be changing its name to Chronicles from the Front: by Lazy Disciple and Humbly Presumptuous.

The change is meant to reflect two things: the desire to make the blog a tool of spiritual warfare; the essential role the HP has come to play in the life of the blog.

We will also be playing with the blog theme and color schemes, so please, do not be frightened. Also, please pass the word around.



Friday, October 02, 2009

Support Catholic Speakers: Fr. William Casey, CPM (an LD contribution to a Fallible Blogma initiative)

Matt Warner of Fallible Blogma is running a project with enormous potential: Support a Catholic Speaker Month

The Lazy Disciple is happy to participate in the initiative, and elects Fr. William Casey, CPM.

I have always admired soldiers, and greatly admired soldiers turned priests. To understand why, one need look no further than St. Ignatius Loyola, or Fr. Norman Weslin in our own day. There is something archetypically fulfilling in the journey from warrior to priest (the archetype of the warrior-priest is one, for magnificent exemplars of which the Church and the whole world have great need, especially now).

The radio man in me would like to hear more of Fr. Casey, whose simplicity and directness carry through, and carry home by way of his powerful and disciplined voice.

Fr. Casey's bio from the Mercy Fathers' website:

Father Bill Casey is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a 1979 graduate of Temple University. After graduating from college, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army. Upon leaving the Army, he entered the Congregation of the Fathers of Mercy. He studied Philosophy at Christendom College and Theology at Holy Apostles Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood in 1991. In 1997, Fr. Casey was elected the Superior General of the Congregation. Father attributes his call to the priesthood to the Mercy of God, his love for the study of Sacred Scripture, and his strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.


I feel a strong embarassment in reading Gaudium et spes. It is true that it is classified as a "pastoral constitution", not "dogmatic", and this frees me of any concern about being in line with Church teaching.

And though, simply for its being a Council's document it should carry a certain authority for me. But what it says actually doesn't.

Nothing to object to the specifically theological side of it. Too bad that it is purporting to provide a description of the state of the world it is addressing with an appeal to dialogue. And here I find it weak.

To the point of perceiving in it a certain demise of intellectual authority.

Just one short example. It speaks, almost at the outset, of the weight granted in our world to the mathematical, physical and human sciences. Over again it returns to the latter, up to the point of speaking of the great progresses made in psychology, sociology and philosophy. And here I am astounded.

OK, physical sciences are well enough established to allow to speak for them as "science" without much ado, in spite of the fact that what is scientific in them was then, and still is today, open to question. I cannot pretend that it enters into such epistemological disputes.

However, what about human sciences? Did psychology and sociology, let alone philosophy, exist then, or do they exist today, as unitary disciplines, save for University departments that go under their name?

The answer is no! There are as many psychologies and sociologies, let alone philosophies, as there are schools. And they say everything and its opposite. So, what is Gaudium and spes talking about? Some schools are rationally true, and in accord with Christian teaching, some are rationally false, and enemy to it.

Nothing of all this in our Council's document.