Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Yielding to public opinion is tragic

In business, in politics, and in fact, in the holy Church of Christ on earth, we are more governed by trends and the opinions of others than seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Dietrich von Hildebrand has something to say about this fact…

“In general, however, the heads of Catholic institutions do not prohibit the teaching of heresies not because they have definitely lost their faith, but because they yield to public opinion and to fashionThey fear to be called ‘reactionaries.’  They shudder at the thought of violating this allegedly holy academic freedom.  Of these St. Augustine says: ‘Who is the hireling who, seeing the approach of the wolf, takes flight?  He who seeks himself and does not seek what is of Jesus Christ; he who does not dare to frankly admonish the sinner (1 Tim. 5:20).  See, someone has sinned, gravely sinned; he should be admonished, excluded from the Church.  But, excluded from the Church, he will become its enemy and will try to ensnare it and harm it where he can.  Now the hireling, the one who seeks himself and not what is of Jesus Christ, will be silent and will not give any admonition, in order not to lose what he seeks, namely the advantages of personal friendship, and in order to avoid the unpleasantness, worry and personal enmity.  The wolf at that moment takes hold of the sheep to throttle them…You are silent O hireling, and do not admonish…Your silence is your flight.  You are silent, you are afraid.  Fear is the flight of the soul. (St. Augustine, Tractatus in Joannem, XLVI, 7-8)’.”

Trusting our Sainted Founders Peter and Paul

Sts Peter and PaulMother Church liturgically remembers today the lives of Saints Peter and Paul. The Apostles Peter and Paul are known as the founders of our Church. As a point of fact, the Church has always considered St. Peter and St. Paul together —they are inseparable. Historically, we know them to born as Jews; each had a personal encounter with Jesus. And each had unique and unrepeatable set of gifts to offer. Both received the mission from Jesus Christ to make the Church a reality in Rome and thus for the world. Their vocation included the sacrifice of their lives in the service of the Gospel: St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Paul, a Roman citizen, was beheaded with a sword. The point of drawing our attention to Sts. Peter and Paul is to ask if we follow the experience and teaching of these Holy Apostles who were great founders of our Church? Do we know them? Do we trust that their teaching directs our steps on the path that leads to heaven?

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI preached the following homily to new archbishops, words appropriate for us to reflect upon for our formation of faith:

“‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.’ Christian faith is hope. It paves the way to the future. And it is a hope that possesses reasonableness, a hope whose reason we can and must explain. Faith comes from the eternal Reason that entered our world and showed us the true God. Faith surpasses the capacity of our reason, just as love sees more than mere intelligence. But faith speaks to reason and in the dialectic confrontation can be a match for reason. It does not contradict it but keeps up with it and goes beyond it to introduce us into the greater Reason of God. It is our task not to let it remain merely a tradition but to recognize it as a response to our questions. Faith demands our rational participation, which is deepened and purified in a sharing of love. It is one of our duties … to penetrate faith with thought, to be able to show the reason for our hope within the debates of our time. Yet although it is so necessary thought alone does not suffice. Just as speaking alone does not suffice. In his baptismal and Eucharistic catechesis in chapter 2 of his Letter, Peter alludes to the Psalm used by the ancient Church in the context of communion, that is, to the verse which says: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’ (Ps 34[33]: 8; 1 Pt 2: 3).

Tasting alone leads to seeing. Let us think of the disciples of Emmaus: it was only in convivial communion with Jesus, only in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened. Only in truly experienced communion with the Lord were they able to see. This applies to us all; over and above thinking and speaking, we need the experience of faith, the vital relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith must not remain theory: it must be life. If we encounter the Lord in the Sacrament, if we speak to him in prayer, if in the decisions of daily life we adhere to Christ then ‘we see’ more and more how good he is; then we experience how good it is to be with him. Moreover the capacity to communicate faith to others in a credible way stems from this certainty lived. The Curé d’Ars was not a great thinker; but he ‘tasted’ the Lord. He lived with him even in the details of daily life, as well as in the great demands of his pastoral ministry. In this way he became ‘one who sees.’ He had tasted so he knew that the Lord is good. Let us pray the Lord that he may grant us this ability to taste, and that we may thus become credible witnesses of the hope that is in us.”

(written/edited for the OLOP bulletin, 6/26/2016)

Raymond Thomas Gawronski meets the Lord

Gawronski Jason crocker Sophia CWeddingA man who followed Christ to the priesthood and to the personal companionship in the spiritual life died recently. Jesuit Father Raymond Thomas Gawronski, 65, died after living with cancer on 14 April 2016. His most recent ministry was to serve as professor of dogmatics at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, California.

I knew Father Gawronski as gifted in very many ways due to the natural gifts of his humanity and because of the integration of his intellect and life of prayer. All his friends and associates would say this. Most keenly he was nurtured by the Eastern Christianity and served as a Byzantine (Melkite) priest for the Eparchy of Newton.

In an interview with CNA, seminary rector Father Stevens said what he appreciated about Father Gawronski was the insistence he placed on integration of faith and reason: “we have to do a better job bringing together the intellectual and spiritual life.” He was speaking of the seminarians he was mentoring. Further, “That comes a lot from his work on von Balthasar. This recognition that the life of the mind and the life of the spirit cannot be seen as two separate things to be cultivated: and that was certainly apparent when he put together the spiritually program, but that’s how he approached everything. In his homilies, his spiritual direction, in his class, he just went back and forth between his life of prayer and his scholarship without skipping a beat, and I admire that so much.” Indeed, this is THE ONLY model of Christian living that’s tenable.

If you are inclined to read good theology then I would recommend Father Gawronski’s book, Word and Silence: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Spiritual Encounter Between East and West. There is also: A Closer Walk with Christ: A Personal Ignatian Retreat.

May Father Gawronski’s memory be eternal!

Christian society diminishes

I am came across something the poet TS Eliot said that I am finding true when matched to experience:
 
In his 1940 work, “The idea of a Christian Society,” Eliot wrote, “…a society has ceased to be Christian when religious practices have been abandoned, when behavior ceases to be regulated by reference to Christian principle, and when in effect prosperity in the world for the individual or for the group has become the sole conscious aim.”
 
In1930 he was speaking about his fellow citizens of Great Britain (Eliot was English you will recall): from his vantage point they were “… becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space. Anything like Christian tradition transmitted from generation to generation within the family must disappear, and the small body of Christians will consist entirely of adult recruits.”
 
How do you live your life?

Infallibility helps to understand Zika

Papal interviews are dangerous business for the clear teaching of faith and morals, even for conveying matters of prudential judgment. Let’s be clear: papal interviews, books written by popes and theologians are not magisterial teaching nor are they covered by the grace of infallibility. The method of ensuring truth is communicated is sometime conveyed by saying what it is not; we say it is a negative gift in the sense because infallibility keeps the Roman Pontiff from teaching error on matters of faith and morals. Infallibility, moreover, is attached to the Office of the Roman Pontiff, not to the person of the office. Seen from the perspective of a gift, of a grace, infallibility is conceived as a protective gift, not a creative one; it does not introduce new revelation or new teaching. Hence, interviews are not binding nor can they change the teaching of the Church. The news media picked up on a statement made by Pope Francis on Thursday, February 18, 2016, on the plane as he was going back to Rome where an off-the-cuff remark with regard to the use of a condom could be used to prevent the Zika virus that is a tremendous problem for pregnant women.

The current papacy is at times a bit too casual in communicating the faith because the aftermath causes great confusion in an era that gives too much credence to the print and cyber media. Just because news outlets carry “something” the pope said doesn’t mean it is true, accurate or faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church. But the media does carry the fact that the pope is suggesting that the use of condoms to protect from the AIDS virus or the Zika virus, it does not mean that one should follow his suggestion, or think Church teaching has changed. Nonetheless, even the Catholic media gets the doctrine of the faith wrong: we need to use our reason, friends.

When we are unclear or too causal in what we say about delicate and complex moral issues, especially on matters of sexual morality, we cause harm and possible scandal. Knee-jerk reactions from so-called traditional Catholics are unhelpful, too. We do not need unprocessed opinions of people who shout: heretic at every moment an opinion from a pope is tweeted. There is such a thing as objective Truth. As Blessed John Henry Newman said, I did not leave my mind at the door. I am sure no pope, bishop, priest, deacon, sister or lay person would deliberately lead the sheep away from Jesus who is “The Way, the truth, and the Life.”

According to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, Pope Francis spoke of “the possibility of taking recourse to contraception or condoms in cases of emergency or special situations. He is not saying that this possibility is accepted without discernment, indeed, he said clearly that it can be considered in cases of special urgency.”

A reasonable set of questions surface: who decides cases of emergency, what are cases of special urgency, for how long, with what impact, who is charged with discerning, what is required of the faithful?

In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI raised similar concerns when he made a comments on condoms in his book, The Light of the World. You may recall that His Holiness “spoke about the use of condoms in the case of risk of contagion by AIDS.” The journalists went to town and asserted points that the pope did not say or intend. As a result, the Holy See’s office on faith and morals stepped in to clarify. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith said, “A number of erroneous interpretations have emerged” that have “caused confusion concerning the position of the Catholic Church regarding certain questions of sexual morality. The idea that anyone could deduce from the words of Benedict XVI that it is somehow legitimate, in certain situations, to use condoms to avoid an unwanted pregnancy is completely arbitrary and is in no way justified either by his words or in his thought.” The CDF further reminded us: “An action which is objectively evil, even if a lesser evil, can never be licitly willed.”

Let me reiterate: interviews given by the hierarchy, like the one given by Pope Francis on the use of contraception, cannot change Church doctrine. The 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Blessed Pope Paul VI taught that the Church’s long-standing and definitive teaching that artificial contraception (e.g., condom use) is “intrinsically wrong.”

And for the record, it is held by reasonable and well-formed theologians that Pope Paul VI never said the nuns in the Congo could use contraception to protect themselves against rape. There has been a very significant error on the part of the media and certain theologians of aligning the Pope with teaching something contrary to the faith. According to Dominican Father Brian Mullady, “Pope Paul VI never taught that nuns threatened with rape could use contraception. This was an anonymous opinion stated by some member of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which went viral at the time. It was never a formal teaching of any Pope but caused much discussion among moralists and is the only example of anyone recommending such an action.” YET, by the Pope’s silence on the issue he may have altered the practice and teaching of the Church in favor of a less than accurate and pastoral datum. UPDATE: You may want to read John Allen’s piece on this matter at CRUX.

THE answer to the Zika virus spreading: do not have sex. No EVER dies from not having sexual intercourse. This stance, I believe, is reasonable and consistent with divine revelation and the consistent teaching of the Church matters of sex, life and human flourishing. The dignity of the person, the respect for the other, the notion and reality of self-gift in sexual intercourse in marriage what Jesus taught and lived and died for. Condom use to stop the spread of the virus is not good advice; neither is it good science.

So, as Catholics, we hold to the fact there is the grace of infallibility which only covers ex cathedra pronouncements on faith and moral, not interviews.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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