Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Are we living in post-Christian America?

In the April 13, 2009 issue of Newsweek, Jon Meacham wrote the article, “The End of Christian America,” exploring the idea that we are living in a time where many of those who identified themselves as Christians are now saying that they are skeptical about religion. Some have gone beyond skepticism and rejected religion altogether. In his article Meacham points out something that I find startling indeed: since 1990 the percentage of Americans who no longer claim a religious affiliation as risen from 8 to 15%. Plus, this group of religious non-affiliated has risen in the Northeast. Is this trend pointing to a real crisis or is Meacham creating havoc for the Church? Are Americans accepting secularlity over salvation? Are Christians to blame?

Certainly, experience shows that in many places, including religious houses, the liturgical rites and preaching are often so bad that one can understand why people leave the Church. How often do we go to Church encountering an unprepared priest, altar servers with little dignity and training and the poorly proclaimed Scriptures? Never mind the foolishness that passes for adequate, never mind “superb,” catechetical formation and social outreach to the poor, the sick and the elderly. Where is the formation in the faith for the adults, teens and children based on Scripture and Tradition and not some minister’s ideology? Is Christ only a one-day-a week event? Let’s ask a question about the credibility of the witness: do the priests really believe in Christ, sin, grace, salvation, Mary, etc? What about those who take religious vows: are they really living according to the mind of the Church AND constitutions of their particular order? The Church in recent times is famous for answering questions that are not being asked by the faithful.

If the Church wants to slow down or reverse the secularization of our culture then it needs holy and competent men and women, clergy and laity alike, who will live the faith in a serious manner. The gospel needs to be preached in such a way that is faithfully and poignantly breaks open the word of the Word AND the lives the liturgical rites. Salvation is a question of content and beauty.

Is the Stem Cell debate dead?

Since January 20th, we’ve seen the debate over the value of embryonic stem research get a boost from the President who reversed President Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and now a prominent medical researcher has made the claim that the stem cell debate is dead. In effect, this researcher has confirmed what other lesser known researchers have already said and what the Catholic Church has also said on this subject: the only hope to cure certain diseases is in adult stem cell research. However, the politics of the use of embryonic stem cell cuts close to home for many since the hope, albeit false hope, is place in the “new cells” which would grow into new, healthy cells and stall if not reverse medical problems and give people with chronic medical problems a new life; what the media got hoodwinked by is the prominence of likeable actors as proponents of anything that would save their lives from diminishment and death. The fact is no meaningful change in the lives who suffer with neurological diseases has happened as a result of therapies involving stem cells taken from embryos.

 

No one would in their right mind would not want to find a cure for the world’s heinous diseases. Catholics affirm the beauty of life, not desire for death. To think otherwise would be barbarous. Considering the witness of Pope John Paul II who lived with Parkinson’s is astonishing example of how to live and to die with complete human dignity; he was able to live with intensity because of his humanity which never in knowing that he did not make himself. That is, the pope had a radical dependence on God as maker and sustainer of the universe. But the example of John Paul is not enough to quiet the mind and the heart in the face of disease especially when it is yourself or a loved one. Many reason that it’s a matter of life and death “to do everything reasonably possible” to save a person from the ill-effects of disease, or the one should say the quality of one’s life and death that makes the issue heart-wrenching, even to the point using cells from aborted babies. Any thinking man or woman desires to help the vulnerable. It is, however, a question of doing right science, for the right reasons which protects all human life, including the person living with ALS and the unborn baby. The problem with embryonic stems that right science tells us, is that they come from aborted babies and there is no evidence that they would do what is purported that they would do.

 

Last week America‘s oracle and Obama supprter, Oprah Winfrey, had on her daily TV program Dr. Mehmet Oz and Michael J. Fox (who lives with Parkinson’s) to discuss the matter of stem cell research. Tom Hoopes of the National Catholic Register writes about it. Read the article here.

 

You may also want to read a booklet title Understanding Stem Cell Research: Controversy and Promise by Dominican Father Nicanor Austriaco, PhD. The author takes the reader through the issues and clearly explains the science and hope that current research proposes.

 

Josh Brahm’s essay “9 Things the Media Messed Up About the Obama Stem Cell Story” is worth reading.

Newt Catholic

A brief note and another on Newt Gingrich’s entering into full communion with the one, true Church.

Reiki & Catholic Faith? the answer is no


Reiki symbol.jpgThe US Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine approved on March 24th and released on the 25th the Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy. Read the Guidelines for yourself. I suppose this important stuff; I usually look for liturgical heterodoxy and various heretical teachings first…but the bishops have a point. Since I am not a life force, universal or otherwise, I’ll throw away my Reiki books.

Genuine religion widens the horizon of human understanding

My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it. We are called to help others see the subtle traces and mysterious presence of God in the world which he has marvellously created and continually sustains with his ineffable and all-embracing love. Although his infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is “reasonable” extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.

This insight prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others. Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason’s full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith.

 

Pope Benedict XVI address to the Muslim Leaders of Cameroon

Apostolic Nunciature

19 March 2009

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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