Monday, March 27, 2006

A College Boy

My college classes start tomorrow morning. I'll have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and soon I will have a part-time job on the alternating days. This is not to mention that I also plan to have a social life of some sort! This all adds up to the probability of much less blogging which will probably be restricted to weekends or the very limited free time I'll have through the week. And since I already have responsibilities that I have to meet at Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and the Christian Alliance for Progress, this blog may not see more than a post or two per week, at the most. I just wanted to make sure all of my readers know that I won't be around as much.

As for school, I'm really excited about it! I'm majoring in political science, which I think is a pretty good fit for me. I would appreciate your prayers as I start this new chapter of my life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ohio's 6th District (D-Bridgeport) is running for Congress in Ohio's 6th congressional district, a seat that's been vacated by Rep. Ted Strickland (D), who is running for governor. St. Sen. Wilson has repeatedly been endorsed by, which adds a twist to the usual debate between pro-life Republican Catholics on the one hand and pro-choice Democratic Catholics on the other. Of course his opponent, St. Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R-East Liverpool), has also been repeatedly endorsed by Ohio Right to Life.

Confession: Good for the Soul

"Confession is good for the soul." Interesting piece of trivia: This often repeated quote is actually an English proverb from the mid-17th century.

I went to confession before Mass yesterday for the first time in about a year. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't intimidated; I've built up a lot of sins to confess over the past year, both mortal and venial. But it was still very liberating to hear the words of absolution and to know that my sins, no matter how grievous or how minor they may have been, are all forgiven. It didn't take long for me to commit a plethora of venial sins after Mass. Just a few minutes after Mass I was overly critical of a decision that my diocesan bishop has made. While we were at Wal-Mart shopping for school supplies later, I was visited by the ogling demon and I invited him in for a cup of tea. And I concluded the Wal-Mart adventure by having an argument with my mother that was at least partially my fault. This all occurred within two or three hours after Mass. For me, it certainly drove home St. Paul's point:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Why do we "rejoice" on the Fourth Sunday of Lent? After Laetare Sunday, the journey to the Cross begins in earnest. And yet we rejoice. We rejoice because God is bringing us out of our exile, just as he brought the Jews out of exile in Babylon (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:14-23; Psalm 137). We rejoice because "God, who is rich in mercy" (Ephesians 2:4), has saved us by his grace through his gift of faith. We rejoice because Christ has been lifted up on the Cross for us "so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). We rejoice because "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins." We rejoice because, like the prodigal son, the Father comes to meet us and to forgive us while we are "still a long way off" (Luke 15:20). We rejoice because even though there is horror in the Cross, the Lord Jesus endured that horror for us.

If you haven't been to confession for a while, you don't know what you're missing. You're missing your chance to run back to the Father, who loved us so much that he sent his own Son to meet us on the Cross while we are "still a long way off." Confession won't make us instantly perfect; it's not a magic formula to turn us into saints overnight. It's our opportunity to turn back to the Father and say to him: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers" (Luke 15:20-21). But we know in the sacrament of reconciliation that the Father is running toward us while we are still so far away, and that he is waiting to celebrate a feast with us in the Eucharist.

"Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment in her consoling breasts." Amen. Let us find contentment in the Church which offers us Christ's forgiveness and enables us to receive him as true food and true drink, the nourishing Lord who, little by little, turns sinners into saints.

Friday, March 24, 2006

What I'm Reading

I finished reading Truly Our Sister and By Little and By Little some time ago, although I didn't get a chance to write reviews for either of them. The former did impact posts I wrote for Sollicitudo Rei Socialis and the Christian Alliance for Progress, and the latter also inspired another post I wrote for the Christian Alliance for Progress. I suppose you could read those posts to get a glimpse of what I got out of these two books.

I've just finished reading God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church by George Weigel, and now I'm working on Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings edited by Marcus Borg (who, thankfully, has very little to say and leaves the talking to Jesus and Buddha).

Regarding God's Choice, I think it's safe to say that there are a number of things I don't agree with George Weigel about. Perhaps the most notable among these disagreements is George Weigel's conservative interpretation of the just war doctrine and my near-absolute opposition to all war (even that which meets the criteria of the just war doctrine). With that said, though, I respect Weigel as a historian and as a biographer, and he didn't let me down with this new book about Pope Benedict XVI and the direction his pontificate could go in.

I think what I took away from Weigel's book is the profound sense that God's hand guided the death of Pope John Paul the Great, the interregnum period, and the conclave. For instance, did you know that Pope John Paul died after celebrating Mass for the Vigil of Divine Mercy -- the liturgical feast based on the apparitions to St. Faustina Kowalska, a liturgical feast he instituted based upon apparitions to a Polish saint he canonized? And did you know that Pope Benedict XVI was elected to the Chair of St. Peter on the Memorial of Pope St. Leo IX, the last German pope before Pope Benedict? Even skeptics would have to admit that this confluence of events is too astonishing to be dismissed as mere coincidence.

Another crucial thing that I took away from Weigel's book is Pope Benedict XVI's personality, which is remarkably like my own. As a youth, he was quiet but passionate about life; shy, introverted, and intellectual. He hated sports because he was no good at them, and he was overjoyed when his school moved to a place that was more conducive to outdoor activities like hiking (which I also enjoy) instead of team sports. As much as I loved Pope John Paul the Great, we had little in common: he was charismatic, he was an actor, he was an extrovert, he loved sports as a youth and even as an older man. He was many things I'm not. While I loved Pope John Paul II and while I've struggled with the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I'm beginning to realize that Pope Benedict is in many ways more "my pope" than his predecessor ever was. Now that I've decided to let myself, I find that I can relate to this pope better than I ever thought I could, and it's helping me to overcome the negative feelings I had for him before. If for nothing else, I appreciate Weigel's book for this reason.

- - -

Note: Yes, both the adorable little boy and the handsome young priest (with a bad hair day!) are Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). I know this may come as a shock to some who believe that the pope came up from the seventh circle of hell as a superhuman (subhuman?) "Great Deceiver." Deep breaths!

Darth Benedict, Redux

From Gerald Augustinus (The Cafeteria is Closed): Apparently, this week must have been Hate the Pope Week and someone forgot to send me the memo. This time it's a column in the San Francisco Chronicle written by a former Catholic, Gustavo Arellano, who apparently could deal with the sex abuse scandal that rocked the Diocese of Orange but who couldn't take the election of Pope Benedict XVI to the Chair of St. Peter. Arrelano just couldn't deal with the election of a man who "represents a step back into the darkness, away from the light of ecumenism, of giving the faithful a greater voice in running the church. Away from a church of love."

Really? A step away from ecumenism? Perhaps Arellano is referring to a different pope; surely he is not referring to the pope who mentions Christian unity in just about every address, speech, and homily he delivers, who has made ecumenism one of the cornerstones of his pontificate from the very beginning. Are we really moving away from "giving the faithful a greater voice in running the church"? It's true that Pope Benedict XVI (and, with him, most Catholics) affirm the hierarchical nature of the Church. We are not a congregationalist Church, nor are we a democratic Church. Pope Benedict XVI does not believe that truth can be made subject to a majority vote, and neither do most Catholics. But I don't think it's fair to say that Pope Benedict XVI is against lay involvement in the Church, even in its governing structures. This is the same pope who was recently praised by the press for talking about opening new doors to women in the Church's institutional structures. And what about that "church of love" thing? Well, Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical was titled Deus Caritas Est -- God is Love.

Given the tone of his article, it seems that Arellano is the one who has abandoned the concept of a "church of love." Two of my favorite descriptions of the pope are "Great Deceiver" and "shape-shifter," descriptions which lead one to wonder if Arellano has found a new home in one of the fundamentalist Christian churches which still refer to the Vatican as the Whore of Babylon and the pope as the Anti-Christ. If Satan is the father of lies, what does it imply when one calls Pope Benedict XVI the "Great Deceiver" in capital letters, as if this is a title he should list along with "Supreme Pontiff" and "Bishop of Rome"?

If you couldn't already tell, Arellano's column is long on vitriol but short on facts. One cannot be sure how many errors are Arellano's and how many belong to the book he's reviewing which was written by Robert Blair Kaiser, a book referred to by Arrelano as the "gospel" of disgruntled and former Catholics who either have left or are thinking about leaving the Church over the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Kaiser apparently launches a full out assault against the Church by chronicling "the major schisms, popes, reforms and problems", "the various maneuverings, murders and malaise" -- "enough to make any Catholic turn Episcopalian." His answer to all of these problems? Catholics standing up and claiming "ownership, and, just as important, citizenship" in the Church. Funny, I was under the distinct impression that Jesus Christ is the sole owner of the Church, and I didn't think that the People of God were citizens of a state, or members of a social club, but parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. For us to stand up and claim "ownership" of the Church for ourselves is for us to become the guillotine severing the Head from the Body, removing Christ from the Church. Is that what Arrelano and Kaiser want?

After subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) declaring that the Catholic Church should set itself ablaze and rise from the ashes as Christianity Lite, Arrelano and Kaiser go on to demonize Pope Benedict XVI and make him the scapegoat for all of their complaints in a kind of unholy parody of Yom Kippur. Reading the column further, we are told that Pope John Paul the Great was some kind of idiot, a puppet controlled by Cardinal Ratzinger.

It was Cardinal Ratzinger, after all, who "put a clamp on the liberation theology movement" -- even though Pope John Paul the Great himself was rather outspoken against liberation theology, working to undermine (for instance) the Sandinista government of Nicaragua which was often supported by the liberation theology movement. Both Pope John Paul the Great and Cardinal Ratzinger were critical of liberation theology because it was and is Marxist ideology which makes use of Christianity to further its agenda; not because they did not believe in the liberation of the poor in Latin America. Both Pope John Paul the Great and Cardinal Ratzinger expressed their strong support for human liberation, but they believed that this liberation must be firmly rooted in the Gospel, in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. They did not believe in a false liberation which cooperates with and at times endorses atheistic communism.

Moving on. While Pope John Paul the Great "made nice with other religions," Cardinal Ratzinger was undermining "his boss in 2000 by publishing Dominus Iesus, a 2000 document that stated that 'there is no salvation outside the Church.'" Oh, the fallacies! These are the reasons that I was so unhappy, miserable really, with Catholic liberalism. It must first be pointed out that if Pope John Paul the Great's work with other religions was being undermined, then it was he who was doing the undermining: he authorized Dominus Iesus with a special authorization, referred to as in forma specifica, meaning that he invested it with his own personal apostolic authority instead of the general authority of the Roman Curia. It must also be pointed out that the quote attributed to Dominus Iesus in this column cannot actually be found in the document. "There is no salvation outside the Church" -- this is not a quote from Dominus Iesus. One would think that Arrelano (or Kaiser, if the quote came from him) could have actually read the document before trying to speak authoritatively about it.

Although I have been rather critical, I actually feel bad for Arrelano (having not read the book and knowing virtually nothing about him, I don't know yet if I feel bad for Kaiser). I have hated Pope Benedict XVI this much. I have participated in the unholy parody of Yom Kippur which loads the burden of my own problems onto the back of the pope and sends him off into the desert with them. Some would say, given my own past remarks about the pope, that I have no right to criticize Arrelano. But it's precisely because of my own past remarks that I can't continue to let these kind of things go. The hate fest against Pope Benedict XVI, which is being perpetuated by the dying liberal movement in the Church and by a media hungry for controversy but bored with facts, has to stop. Pope Benedict XVI was elected by at least a two-thirds majority of Cardinal Electors. He did not appoint himself pope, the Cardinal Electors did that; he did not appoint himself prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope John Paul the Great did that; he did not appoint himself bishop, Pope Paul VI did that; he did not appoint himself an expert at the Second Vatican Council, the Archbishop of Cologne did that; he did not ordain himself a priest, the Archbishop of Munich-Freising did that.

It's time for Arrelano and so many others to come to terms with the fact that their real problem is not with Pope Benedict XVI, but with the Catholic Church. It is a problem with Pope John Paul the Great, Pope John Paul I, Pope Paul VI, even the much-idolized Bl. Pope John XXIII, and with all of their predecessors before them. It is a problem with innumerable cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and lay faithful. It is a problem perhaps with God himself: with a Father who loves too much to let his children trade freedom for anarchy; with a Son who loves too much to let the lost sheep wander off into oblivion; with a Holy Spirit who loves too much to leave us in the sad condition we're in. But we want our anarchy, we want our oblivion, we want our spiritual malady. We are angry that God will not let us have it, that he will not give up on us, and we hate him for it -- but rather than admitting that hatred, we transplant it, we redirect it. We don't want to think that we hate God, that we hate the Church, that we hate the bishops, that we hate the cardinals, that we hate Pope John Paul the Great. And so we just hate Pope Benedict XVI, because it's easier somehow.

I pray that God will open the eyes of all who hate him in his servant to the servants of God, as he has opened my own, so that they can turn away from their hatred and live with him in the love that he's still offering from the Cross. He is Love, and we can have him if we want him.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Woo Hoo, 22

Today was my birthday -- I'm 22. It was a pretty good day; nothing spectacular, but the really exciting birthdays are 16 (driving), 18 (voting), and 21 (drinking). The next exciting birthday will be my 25th, when I will no longer be eligible for the draft. After that, I'm pretty sure birthdays just get depressing!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Darth Benedict: "Turn to the Anti-Gay Side"

From Gerald Augustinus (The Cafeteria is Closed): The National Catholic Reporter has an editorial online about the ban on gay adoptions by Catholic Charities of Boston and the general "boosting" of "the anti-gay troops." I don't really want to discuss the gay adoption ban since it's been discussed endlessly already. Actually, I'd rather discuss NCR's subtle demonization of Pope Benedict XVI:

There is much in the Catholic air these days about homosexuality. Pope Benedict XVI, as then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has provided much of the content, from the assertion that gays are "objectively disordered" to the 2003 document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Ratzinger then headed, that called gay parenting "gravely immoral" and said permitting gay couples to adopt "would actually mean doing violence to these children."

He has certainly emboldened the troops . . .

It's not that there's anything untrue about what NCR has written in the above quote. What's remarkable is how they place all of the blame for the Church's teaching on homosexuality squarely on the shoulders of Pope Benedict XVI, even before he was elected to the Chair of St. Peter. The determinations of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under his prefecture were his fault, even though the media usually blames the reigning pope or "the Vatican" in general for curial decisions. Look, for example, at the ban on gay seminarians issued recently by the Congregation for Catholic Education. Did you see even one media report single out Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski (who?), the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education? No. Instead, the media focused on "the Vatican" ban, and many blamed Pope Benedict XVI directly for the ban, even though it was Cardinal Grocholewski's signature on the document just as it was Cardinal Ratzinger's signature on the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. So why has Pope Benedict XVI always had to bear the blame for the Church's teaching on homosexuality, even when he worked under his predecessor?

I think there are basically two reasons for this.

The first reason is denial. I know a lot about this one, because I have been guilty of demonizing Pope Benedict XVI because I was living in denial. Many people, even those who vehemently disagreed with him, liked and even loved Pope John Paul the Great. They do not want to hate him for teachings they cannot accept, so they live in denial pretending that such teachings were not his own. Instead, these teachings must come from a nefarious anti-John Paul II, and in Cardinal Ratzinger they had found just such a caricature. Cardinal Ratzinger was blamed for all manner of controversial Church teachings during Pope John Paul the Great's pontificate, but he was especially blamed for that pontificate's teachings on homosexuality. Even after the death of Pope John Paul the Great, this living in denial has continued for many. Refusing to accept that most of the world's bishops and clergy agree with the Church's teaching on homosexuality, or at least with most of it, Pope Benedict XVI is solely blamed for that teaching and subsequently ignored as a homophobic bigot.

The second reason is convenience, and I think this may be the reason that applies to NCR. It is inconvenient for the media to blame and demonize Pope John Paul the Great for the Church's teaching on homosexuality. How might the millions of faithful who stood in St. Peter's Square and chanted "Santo Subito!" -- "Saint Now!" react to a demonization of their late, charismatic, beloved pope? In many ways, Pope Benedict XVI has always been a victim of Pope John Paul the Great's charisma. Because the media is too afraid of the backlash that would result from attacking Pope John Paul the Great, they have always chosen instead to attack the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict XVI is quiet, he is introverted, he is scholarly. In short, he does not have the cult of personality that accompanied Pope John Paul the Great. Thus, the media (including much of the Catholic media) has always attacked him for teachings which rightly belonged to his predecessor, and they still continue to do so.

For example, Pope Benedict XVI was named anti-gay person of the year by the Washington Blade for teachings which were really his predecessor's, and no one even batted an eyelash. The Washington Blade would never have had the intestinal fortitude to name Pope John Paul the Great its anti-gay person of the year, not while he was alive and certainly not now that he has fallen asleep in the Lord. So they attack and demonize his successor because it is convenient for them.

It's time for everyone -- those who support the Church's teaching on homosexuality and those who oppose it -- to start telling the truth. The demonization of Pope Benedict XVI for the Church's teaching on homosexuality must stop. Yes, it is true that Pope Benedict XVI authored several documents clarifying the Church's teaching on homosexuality as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But it is equally true that not one jot or tittle comes forth in an official document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or any other curial dicastery without the approval of the reigning pope: in other words, Pope John Paul the Great. It is also true that most documents which are published by curial dicasteries were actually commissioned by the pope, so that it was probably Pope John Paul the Great who requested that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarify the Church's teaching on homosexuality. It is unlikely that the current pope would have taken his own initiative as the prefect of that dicastery. Pope John Paul the Great was directly responsible for the Church's teaching on same-sex marriage and gay adoption.

What about more recent developments? Notable among these developments is the ban on gay seminarians published by the Congregation for Catholic Education. It is true that Pope Benedict XVI bears some responsibility for this ban, since he was the pope who approved it. But it is also true that it was Pope John Paul the Great who commissioned the document quite some time before he passed away, so that responsibility for the ban is shared between the current pontificate and the previous one -- it is not all Pope Benedict XVI's fault, as so many have either stated or implied. And let us not forget that the ban on gay seminarians and priests predated even the new document by the Congregation for Catholic Education, since a document published in the 1960s had already banned the ordination of gay men but was subsequently ignored.

Although Pope Benedict XVI is his own pope with his own pontificate, it is also true that he has done nothing new in regard to homosexuality. His opposition to same-sex marriage in Spain, his opposition to gay adoption throughout the world: these are not really new developments, but only continuations of what Pope John Paul the Great was already teaching. And indeed, these new teachings to address modern situations are only continuations of what the Church has always taught in regard to homosexuality, so that even Pope John Paul the Great cannot be blamed and demonized for them. When we blame and demonize Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul the Great for the Church's teaching on homosexuality, we do the same to all of the popes before them, to the Church Fathers and to many saints, to St. Paul who began the Church's teaching on homosexuality, and to the prophets of the Old Covenant who preceded St. Paul.

Am I saying that Pope Benedict XVI bears no responsibility for the Church's teaching on homosexuality, either as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or as pope? Of course not; that would be to deprive him of his own teaching authority. My point is simply that it is dishonest and wrong to blame him for his predecessor's teaching on homosexuality, which was itself a continuation of what the Church has always taught in regard to homosexuality. Pope Benedict XVI is not some kind of anti-gay demon; he is a man, who is also the pope, who is continuing to teach what the Church has taught before him -- whether we like it or whether we don't.

Patriarch of the West, Redux

From Domenico Bettinelli: The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has explained the pope's reasoning behind dropping the papal title "Patriarch of the West" -- although, I must confess, I don't think I understand any better after reading the explanation than I did before reading it. If anyone does get it, feel free to clue me in.

Altar Girls and Priestly Vocations

Many of you have probably already heard that the Diocese of Arlington has authorized two indult Tridentine Masses to be celebrated in different regional locations within the diocese, and that the bishop has also authorized young women to serve at the altar along with young men if the pastor believes that such is pastorally wise after consulting his parishioners. This is a first in the Arlington diocese's history.

There are some Catholics who believe that we should not have altar girls. Although I do not count myself in their company, I wonder if Catholics who support female altar service have ever bothered to consider the argument offered by those who oppose female altar service, or if they are even aware that there is an intelligent argument. Most seem to assume that opposition to female altar service arises out of sexism, either: a) the belief that the presence of women in the sanctuary profanes it; or b) the belief that young women serving at the altar can lead young men to feel insecure in their masculinity. Maybe there are Catholics who believe this way, but when I've talked to most Catholics who oppose female altar service, they oppose it for totally different reasons than the ones I've mentioned.

Most Catholics who oppose female altar service feel the way they do because they believe that altar service is connected to the priesthood, and that allowing young women to serve at the altar obscures this connection to the priesthood and leads to universal confusion. Whereas young men would once have looked on their altar service and seen a connection to the priesthood which might have led them to discern a vocation to the priesthood, opponents of female altar service believe that young women serving at the altar leads young men to lose sight of this connection to the priesthood and thus to lose a path to discernment for the priesthood. Opponents of female altar service also believe that allowing young women to serve at the altar can be confusing for them, insofar as it might lead them to feel that they have a vocation to the priesthood when the Church teaches that such a vocation is impossible. In short, opponents of female altar service generally oppose it because they feel that it confuses both the young men and the young women who serve at the altar, and the rest of the faithful along with them.

It is interesting to note that many who advocate for the ordination of women to the priesthood and for an end to mandatory celibacy for priests often claim to do so in the name of the vocation shortage. There are too few priests, they say, so perhaps we should begin opening the priesthood to married men and to women who feel called to serve Christ and the Church in priestly ministry. If we accept that this issue is similar to other controversial issues in which some are expressing legitimate concerns and others are only using the crisis at hand to support their own preconceived agendas, we can accept that it is likely that some are legitimately concerned about the vocation shortage and that some are only using the vocation shortage to bolster their agenda. In any event, I'd like to know what Catholics concerned about the vocation shortage think about what Catholics opposed to female altar service are saying. Since there is a vocation shortage, is it pastorally prudent to open altar service to young women when this might lead to fewer young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood? And is there really any connection between allowing female altar service and the decline in priestly vocations?

Mind you, I do not oppose female altar service. I just thought this would be an interesting issue to discuss.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Reforming the Reform

From Gerald Augustinus (The Cafeteria is Closed): Apparently, the apostolic exhortation that Pope Benedict XVI will publish in response to the most recent meeting of the Synod of Bishops, tentatively scheduled for release in October, will deal with a "reform of the reform" in regard to liturgical norms. The exhortation will apparently encourage greater use of Latin in the liturgy (but not in the Liturgy of the Word), greater use of Gregorian Chant and classical polyphony, elimination of secular music or lyrics, and elimination of instruments which are "inadequate for liturgical use." The apostolic exhortation is also expected to call for the exclusion of dance and applause in the liturgy, which makes sense to me -- we're not going to see a show.

One area in which I've remained consistently conservative is the area of the liturgy. Although I don't favor a complete return to Latin, especially not a sudden return, I recognize that Latin is the official language of the Roman Church and that it was the liturgical language of the Roman Rite for centuries prior to its replacement by the vernacular following the Second Vatican Council. Catholics should know Latin, and we should celebrate the liturgy together in Latin as a sign of our unity in our catholicity. I also believe that Gregorian Chant and polyphony hold a pride of place among liturgical music forms in the Roman Rite, and that these should be used more widely and should largely replace the ultrasaccharine folk music so common in the United States (especially music with questionable lyrics, like "Ashes").

One reservation I have is that I hope provisions will be made for cultures which are radically different from the European culture and its offspring, the North American and Latin American cultures. I'm thinking primarily of African Catholics and Asian Catholics. Some talk has been circulating that the African and Asian Churches should be given autonomous status similar to that of a patriarchate and freedom to develop their own liturgical norms. Until that discussion can be translated into action, perhaps Rome should at least allow the African and Asian bishops some freedom to inculturate the liturgy in their regions.

With that said, I don't think that this same freedom of inculturation should be extended to North America, and probably not to Latin America either, since our cultures are not so radically different from European culture that inculturation of the liturgy would be justified. Liturgical dance in America, for instance, has nothing to do with our culture, since we have never (until now) danced around in tutus and tights to worship God. But liturgical dance in Africa is quite different -- dance is deeply embedded in African culture as part of divine worship. Some provision should be made for authentic cultural expression, so that both the unity and the catholicity of the liturgy is preserved. While we're at it, though, let us not forget the holiness and the apostolicity of the liturgy; these have, to some degree, been abandoned in the postconciliar reform.

Another Prayer Request

This time from Susan Rose Francois at Musings of a Discerning Woman:

Back to a serious blog post, but this is important. I went to the hospital this evening to visit a friend from church and her daughter Gigi. Gigi is 4, almost 5 year old, and is in the pediatric ICU with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

When I taught the Sunday pre-school Gigi was always one of my favorites. She is bright, inquisitive, a little willful and has wonderful fashion sense. She always had accessories that matched her dress! It was heartbreaking to see her in the hospital bed with tubes and wires and the ventilator coming out of her.

Please keep little Gigi and her mom, dad and little brother in your prayers.

Catholic Carnival LXXI

Catholic Carnival LXXI (that's 71) is up at A Song Not Scored For Breathing. My post on the labor riots in France and labor rights in general is featured.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Prayer Request

Christopher Blosser (Against the Grain) reports that Stephen Hand, the editor of TCRNews, has received tragic news about his son:

Today my family and I were given heartbreaking news, that my son's cerebral cortex, which controls cognition / thinking, has been damaged beyond human hope due to having been deprived of oxygen "for apparently a long time" sometime between Sat 12:30 AM and 1 PM (an 11.5 hr window). This means, we were told, the "thinking part" of his brain is "gone forever," barring a miracle, and that within 48 hours we should make a decision to take him off artificial life support "and give him peace". We asked for a second opinion and received the same answer, breaking our hearts altogether.

The situation is made even worse by a complex end of life decision, and Stephen appeals to priests and theologians for help in deciding what to do:

Apparently this morning, at the same time, they began feeding my son liquid nutrition / food through a nasal tuble. When I asked the doctors whether he would die from just the removing him from artificial life support, they told us not necessarily. He would, they said, because of his youth, more likely die first of dehydration and lack of nutrition. This means starvation and filled me with anxiety. We need help here to be morally certain in making a family decision. Is this removing of a nasal tube identical to the situation Terri Schiavo was in? Would this mean "actively killing" my son? Please, if you can find it in your heart to send me a brief, preferably official document, clarifying this for us, I / we would be most grateful. I am very reluctant to remove nourishment for the very same reasons the Schiavo's were. Am I missing something here? Is there some factor which makes the cases different in any essential way? Under what terms, if any, is it allowable, according to the Church, to remove nutritional support once it has been introduced?

Please pray that God's will is done, and for my family. The agony of watching a beloved son in what is being called an irreversible coma, is almost too much to bear. So we cling to the cross. Help us, if you can, to know what His will is in Heaven in regard to all this. Perhaps I should know all this myself, but I feel shamefully in deep confusion. Thank you. Send your replies to and thank you in advance for understanding that I may not be able to reply immediately. ---Stephen Hand

Eternal rest grant unto their son, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for them.
St. Joseph, pray for them.
Terri Schiavo, pray for them.

If Eight Priests Were Laicized...

...and the mainstream media only counts seven, were there really eight priests laicized?

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