Category Archives: Faith & the Public Order

The Fourth of July: looking to live in a freedom for excellence

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God of justice, Father of truth, who guide creation in wisdom and goodness to fulfillment in Christ your Son, open our hearts to the truth of the Gospel, that your peace may rule in our hearts and your justice guide our lives.

Our prayer today ought to be for the citizens and the government of the USA. As the Collect for today’s Mass asks God who is justice and truth: to open our hearts to recognize divine truth and to be rule by His justice. We are not creators of our own destiny as Mr. Obama said today. God has given us our destiny. Our work is to recognize the path laid before us to walk to Him.

Faith and good public order linked graces. 237 years ago the Declaration of Independence was signed; but we are still looking for a good definition of freedom. Let me offer one: freedom for excellence.
What does freedom for excellence mean? One aspect of this type of freedom is that what is expressed in the universal call to holiness. My “I”, that is, my whole person, is a gift from God. In this notion of personhood there is a fundamental openness to the Divine Mystery who created all things, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this life, and in the next. From a Pauline point of view, we live in Christ. And if I live in Christ who is excellence to perfection, then I need not have the disordered attachments of money, power and fame; not be seduced by accomplishments, possessions, interpersonal competition, and reducing my intellect, sexuality and my will to base desires.

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Priest killed allegedly for giving bad homilies

The small, rural Scilian town of Trapani apparently is a crossroads of culture and history. It is now dealing with the murder of an elderly priest for allegedly giving bad homilies. His assailant, 33 and unemployed, wanted to teach Father a lesson one what he was saying in the pulpit. In some reports, Father Michele DiStefano is said to have spoken in a public fashion of the wrong-doings (sins?) of his people. I hope he wasn’t revealing what he heard in the confessional.

Bad preaching can drive people away. Actually, I think music can equally disturbing. If priests read this report they may want to get their affairs in order, or pick up a Father Peter John Cameron’s book on preaching, Why Preach: Encountering Christ in God’s Word.
I suppose you could make many conclusions about this circumstance, but I think it’s if we pray for God’s mercy on Father Michele and the man who killed him.

Catholicism and evangelical Christianity are Religious Extremists, US Defense Department says

The US Department of Defense has now listed Catholics and Evangelical Christians as religious extremists, that is, religious terrorists. Catholics and Evangelicals are now lumped in the same list as are the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, the KKK and Hamas.

The slide presentation, in the context of talking about the rise of extremism, gives the impression that religious belief, whatever it is, and however it frames its claims for truth and how these truth claims are applied, are the same and to be rejected. Religious tenets can be widely different from another but that doesn’t mean they lead to violent actions. Ideas are not intolerant, people can be; faith is a way of knowing the world, a way of perceiving reality, faith relates to matters of salvation. It is true that we need “religious types” need to make sure that the faithful are properly taught what is held by the Church body. If you are interested, here is the offending presentation:  Extremism Presentation & Extremist Organizations.pdf
When I saw this news item the other day I had to say to myself that secularism has now gone to a new level of intolerance and ignorance.

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Pope Francis to be decisive in sexual abuse crimes

Abp Gerhard Ludwig Mueller & Francis.jpgThe Pope is meeting with all the heads of the various departments of the Holy See. 

Today, there was a meeting with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, 65, to discuss the work of the Congregation and its competence in handling cases of sexual abuse.
Archbishop Müller is the bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Regensburg; he was appointed to his present work on 2 July 2012.
No surprise in that Pope Francis will continue the good work of Pope Benedict in acting quickly and decisively, in excising justice and compassion, and being close to the victims and their families. The unsaid part of this is being attentive to the needs of the people falsely accused. Sin and criminal behavior will not be tolerated in the Church.
No formal message was issued but several news agencies have carried their own analysis of the meeting. Read about the meeting here and the CNS story by Carol Glatz here.
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Work for the good of every person on earth: fight spiritual and material poverty, Pope exhorts

Speaking in French today, Pope Francis gave his talk in Italian outlined to the world’s diplomats the mission of his pontificate: building peace AND constructing bridges of dialogue,  combatting spiritual AND material poverty. This is part 2 of his “pontifical program of ministry.” The Pontiff met the more than 180 accredited diplomats in Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican.

English: world map of the Vatican foreign rela...

World map of the Vatican foreign relations; dark green: diplomatic relations, light green: other relations, gray: no official relations (credit: Wikipedia)

Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.

Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.

As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism,” which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

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In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment. The Pope said:

Dear Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavor. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!

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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