Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Douthat evaluates Benedict’s resignation

Ross Douthat “conservative columnist” of The NY Times writes about Pope Benedict’s resignation yesterday. He pinpoints how in recent years, in many ways very recent years, how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome has changed. And not for the better.

In The Pope Abdicates, he puts his finger on things Benedict tried to minimize: the cult of papal personality, a globe-trotting bishop, a world-powerful CEO, an international voice of reason, etc. The real power of the Pontiff is work of unity among all peoples and teaching and living the truth: Jesus Christ is true for all people because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
There are beautiful and positive lessons to be learned with Benedict’s resignation. God knows what he did when he gave Ratzinger the responsibility of being the Bishop of Rome. The challenges of a global Church worshiping the One, Triune God, preaching salvation, dispensing forgiveness of sins, being an example of love for the other, living according to the Magisterium, and the like, led by an 85 year old are very burdensome today. The humility of Benedict, who in good conscience likely did as much in 7 years as John Paul did in 26 is amazing. But you have to read this work to know this. His homilies and his talks are crucial to know his current thinking and direction. Take for example, Benedict’s 2005 address to the Roman Curia. 
A lesson to study is how focussed are we on God? Is God our true center? Do we believe that Jesus is the center of our Church, or is the real head a man in nice clothes? Sentimental we can’t afford to be: there is something important at stake here: salvation.
Even without the office, Benedict remains a true Father of the Faith.

Hanging Concentrates the Mind

Be sure to have enough sleep and at least have eaten one meal today before you read and give some serious consideration to what Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (NYC) has to say about the death penalty. A recent essay was published today in Crisis Magazine online.


MOST Catholics, the informed and untrained, have no idea what the Church teaches about the subject. Many will recall that Pope John Paul II taught in Evangelium vitae (1995) and that he frequently spoke against the death penalty and it was the subject of intervention when he would visit a country where the death penalty was utilized (think of his visit to Missouri). A papal encyclical doesn’t change the teaching of the Church; it is however authoritative and it needs to be received. The matter of what level teaching an encyclical is, and to what degree it would bind conscience. For our purposes here, let’s say that a papal encyclical is authoritative and it involves the virtue of prudence but that it doesn’t contravene but it does nuance the teaching of the Church. Prudential judgment is just that, prudential. The Pope never changed the teaching of the Church. The blessed pope did try to reorient our thinking and the practice of killing legitimately convicted criminals. Remember, too, several years the heated debated between Cardinal Avery Dulles and Justice Scalia on the subject in First Things?


Father Rutler’s article is helpful in giving us yet another understanding of how we might understand the death penalty. Do we actually accept Christian belief in the salvation of one’s soul, that is, do we want to go to heaven? Read the article with openness, with a critical mind. As Saint Ignatius would teach, approach with the best of intentions to truly understand the other person. Knee jerk reactions are unacceptable for a Catholic who holds the integration of faith and reason. Father Rutler’s argument is Catholic on all levels.


The article…


Capital punishment does not inspire roaring humor in healthy minds, so wit on the subject tends to be sardonic.  Two of the most famous examples, of course, are: “In this country it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others,”  and “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

The first, “pour encourager les autres,”  is in “Candide” where Voltaire alludes to the death by firing squad of Admiral John Byng in 1757 for having let Mincorca fall to the French.  The second was Samuel Johnson’s response to the hanging of an Anglican clergyman and royal chaplain William Dodd for a loan scam.  Byng’s death was the last instance of shooting an officer for incompetence, while Dodd’s was the last hanging at Tyburn for forgery. Dodd’s unsuccessful appeal for clemency was ghostwritten by Dr. Johnson.

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Visiting clerics in prison –a provocation to conversion

Recent revelations, though not completely surprising, of the high ranking LA cleric covering the tracks of priests’ immoral and criminal behavior, ought to cause us all to stop, think, pray and work for change in the Church. Some bishops and priests in this country have not acted in the manner of the Good Shepherd, have not lived in communion with Jesus Christ and have opened the doors to further disaster with regard to the ordinary faithful. AND “Msgr. Meth” is yet another story.

John Zmirak’s “I’d Like to Visit Cardinal Mahoney in Prison” should make you stop and think what exactly we have gotten ourselves into when we’ve neglected some very important spiritual and human of our person. Cardinal Roger Mahoney is only the latest to have been exposed for being a bad Catholic.

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A change of heart

The New Haven Register’s Michael Bellmore has something to say to me in “Lapsed Catholic has a confession to make.” His struggle with Christian faith is not unique to him, nor is the struggle for living coherently. Earlier this evening I had a conversation with friends about faith, meaning and struggle for truth in the lives we lead. I was privileged to be invited to a gathering at a friend’s house sharing in an interesting conversation with his niece who’s a freshman at Providence College and who just read Saint Augustine’s Confessions as part of a Western Civ class. Wow! Someone is still reading Augustine’s Confessions. Admittedly, the book is challenging for a well-educated person, and yet I find it clarifies my own journey and the path most people make in life.

To be honest the first line of the article gave me the feeling, “Oh, hear we go again, another angry, complaining, silly reporter trying to give another black eye to the Church.” But I read the article and I found something else. I found a young man searching for meaning, reaching out in anxiety and finding friendship, mercy and forgiveness: a stony heart exchanged for new  one.

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Cardinal Francis George details keeping Catholic faith part of American consensus


English: Coat of arms of Francis cardinal Geor...

Chicago’s archbishop, Francis Cardinal George, soon to be 76, spoke to 45 members of his Archdiocese Pastoral Council on November 17th about the need to clarify what we as Catholics believe and how we ought to live if we want to make a contribution to any of the national dialogues. For example, had the topic been center stage at the time of the meeting, the cardinal may asked a question like, given the tragedy in Newtown, CT, how would an informed and reasonable Catholic respond to matters: of mental health, to the Second Amendment, to God’s role in our life with such violence?

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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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