Tag Archives: faith and reason

More questions result from media persecution of Pope

In the School of Community Sunday evening –the weekly catechetical meeting for members & friends of Communion & Liberation– we discussed Traces‘ April editorial, “Greater than Sin.” The editorial is an attempt to put words to an experience and to remind ourselves of the workings of grace and sin.

The more I look I these accusations of sexual misconduct and other sinful behavior by priests (and even the laity), I am inclined to say that it’s more than a question of homosexual priests or affectively retarded individuals who have had positions of pastoral authority in the Church, and much to do with our faith in Christ as the answer to limited humanity. In other words, there has been a significant lack of faith in the Incarnation and Christ as the answer to my nothingness. For some, this assessment makes no sense because if you are ordained a priest or a vowed religious, one expects that you would have an intimate experience of the workings of God and His love. BUT this can’t always be assumed. The more I sit with the problem I am curious to know the depth of relationship with God existed with those who committed these sexual crimes and the church leaders who had oversight. Could it be that those who abused children or scandalized the faithful in other ways didn’t have a living faith in Christ who is alive today, right now? Could it be that for some of these people God is dead in the conscience? More questions surfaced than I have answers for. For example:
Are we certain about the Catholic faith we are living? Are certain about what we are saying?
What has been happening with the sexual abuse crisis is the direct result of a lack of certainty of faith in Christ. We the Church, laity and clergy, have demonstrated a real lack of faith in the saving promises of Christ than in the offer of communion with Him. Our sense seems to indicate that the hundredfold Christ speaks of is a complete fabrication.
Key to understanding our Catholic way of living is that we have a different standard of measuring things: justice, mercy, forgiveness, love are the measures. Priesthood is a total, permanent change in a man’s being, a permanent change in character, not a career, not something temporary, not something magical, not something esoteric; the priesthood means being configured to Christ in a permanent way.
In our discussions we asked the Christological question: who is Christ and how does Christ act in my and how do I know Him. Do we believe Christ is for all people? Do we believe Christ is alive right now, in front of us, in the person next to us? Is Christ recognizable? Do we believe that Christ redeemed us through his death and resurrection?
The question of forgiveness surfaced in our School of Community based on the fact that Christ tells us to forgive and He himself is the pattern of reconciliation. Is forgiveness possible? Is it possible to live in an attitude of forgiveness? Is forgiveness familiar to me (us)? Do we have an experience of forgiveness? Can we hold that what we believe as true –Jesus Christ– is for everyone?
The we dealt with the problem that for many people it is impossible to accept the Church as a mother who cares for her children, educates her children, who disciplines her children but doesn’t throw the problem child under the bus. The Church’s maternity seems not only to be less understood today if not completely rejected by many of the faithful and the media. Maternity is reduced to giving birth and completely neglecting the moral motherhood. The Church, since Christ founded her, has neither said nor indicated that she was a perfect mother. She is divinely instituted but populated by sinners trying to be holy and at times missing the mark. The Church like the rest of the world is daily pursuing justification in Lord’s cross and resurrection.
The attacks the whole Body of Christ –the Church– is facing these days attempts to pervert people’s faith and confidence in the Church and therefore to prevent the Church from caring for all her children –the victims, the perpetrators, bystanders, etc.
An answer to some these questions is ‘yes’ if we know that only with Christ is forgiveness, conversion possible.
We need to understand ourselves in action, in concrete ways, in the ways in which Providence has deemed to give us the grace to live…otherwise we live in the abstract and God, therefore has no real bearing on our life.
Beautiful words don’t save us, Jesus does, who is alive right now.
So, I think the Pope is correct in recommending a spiritual renewal program (see the Letter to Ireland) to regain, or just to establish for the first time a real relationship with the Christ. His aim is to ask the question, do you know Christ? if so, do you know how to live according to the pattern of Christ’s sacrificial love?

Some nuns are against bishops in support of Obama’s healthcare bill

Yesterday, Network: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, released a letter in support of Obama’s bill (HR 3590) to overhaul US healthcare. Obama proposal and the bill put forward is morally flawed.

The signatories claim that they represent 59,000 –an overstated number– religious sisters while they join the Catholic Health Association which has 1200 healthcare related organizations and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) directly oppose the Catholic teaching. The letter advocating the passing of the healthcare bill is being delivered to each member of Congress today. The text of the letter can be read here.
The Council of major Superiors of Women Religious rejects the position of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) and all other groups who stand against the Church and her bishops.
This is not about mere differing views on a hot topic. It is about faith AND reason, doing justice in an effort to safeguard the dignity of each person, from conception to natural death. No healthcare bill can be supported with provisions for abortion or any other medical procedure that offends life. We have a right to good healthcare but not at the expense of the unborn and morally unsound principles. This is a matter concerning the well-being of those who are vulnerable, poor and everyone else because they have a right to life and a right healthcare. What the Church wants most of all is a healthcare bill that protects life, dignity and freedom of conscience of each person with an ethically sound judgment on healthcare.
The letter the sisters are giving today to Congress is an act of disobedience toward the leadership of the US Bishops and against solid, verifiable Catholic teaching. The sisters neither represent the Church nor are they charged with the salvation of souls as ordained bishops are and therefore are purposely misleading the faithful and any other person of good will. Do not be fooled into thinking that the congregations of sisters think with the Church for the good of salvation. These religious orders of sisters have set themselves against communion with the Catholic Church and against the US bishops position for a comprehensive, wholistic healthcare package that is affordable.
The US Catholic Conference statement on the healthcare bill under consideration
Family Life & Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York has a good plan of action.

Archbishop Chaput speaks at Houston Baptist University

Yesterday, Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM, Cap, Archbishop of Denver, spoke to Houston Baptist University. His talk, “The Vocation of Christians in American Public Life,” is read and/or watch it here.

He gets it right….

Cardinal George’s address to BYU

Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago and President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke to more than 12,000 people at BYU in Salt Lake City on February 23, 2010. His full address, “Catholics and Latter-Day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom,” is found here: Cardinal George to BYU 2010.pdf.

Challenging the well-manicured: Archbishop Chaput takes a look at our cultural engagement

Someone who “gets it” is Capuchin Franciscan Archbishop Charles Chaput, archbishop of Denver. Whether it be culture, beauty, healthcare, abortion, immigrant rights, education, politics, preaching, I think the archbishop is a clear thinker and renders a fine and helpful assessment of Christian life and a Christians involvement in the world. Recently, Archbishop Chaput was in Rome to give a talk he titled, “The Prince of This World and the Evangelization of Culture” at the Fifth Symposium Rome: Priests and Laity on Mission. In this address the archbishop addresses questions of culture, beauty, anthropology, faith, evangelization and sin and grace.

What follows is only an excerpt of a longer talk that you can read at the link above. AND I recommend you read the entire text!

Charles Chaput.jpg

In 1929, as the great totalitarian murder-regimes began to rise up in Europe, the philosopher Raissa Maritain wrote a forgotten little essay called “The Prince of This World.” It is worth reading. We need to remember her words today and into the future.  With no trace of irony or metaphor, Maritain argued:

“Lucifer has cast the strong though invisible net of illusion upon us. He makes one love the passing moment above eternity, uncertainty above truth. He persuades us that we can only love creatures by making Gods of them. He lulls us to sleep (and he interprets our dreams); he makes us work. Then does the spirit of man brood over stagnant waters. Not the least of the devil’s victories is to have convinced artists and poets that he is their necessary, inevitable collaborator and the guardian of their greatness. Grant him that, and soon you will grant him that Christianity is unpracticable. Thus does he reign in this world.”

If we do not believe in the devil, sooner or later we will not believe in God.  We cannot cut Lucifer out of the ecology of salvation. Satan is not God’s equal. He is a created being subject to God and already, by the measure of eternity, defeated.  Nonetheless, he is the first author of pride and rebellion, and the great seducer of man. Without him the Incarnation and Redemption do not make sense, and the cross is meaningless. Satan is real. There is no way around this simple truth.

Let me underline that even more strongly. Leszek Kolakowski, the former Marxist philosopher who died just last year, was one of the great minds of the last century.  He was never a religious person in the traditional sense.  But Kolakowski had few doubts about the reality of the devil.  In his essay Short Transcript of a Metaphysical Press Conference Given by the Demon in Warsaw, on 20th December 1963, Kolakowski’s devil indicts all of us who call ourselves “modern” Christians with the following words:

“Where is there a place [in your thinking] for the fallen angel? … Is Satan only a rhetorical figure? . . . Or else, gentlemen, is he a reality, undeniable, recognized by tradition, revealed in the Scriptures, commented upon by the Church for two millennia, tangible and acute?  Why do you avoid me, gentlemen?  Are you afraid that the skeptics will mock you, that you will be laughed at in satirical late night reviews?  Since when is the faith affected by the jeers of heathens and heretics?  What road are you taking?  If you forsake the foundations of the faith for fear of mockery, where will you end?  If the devil falls victim to your fear [of embarrassment] today, God’s turn must inevitably come tomorrow.  Gentlemen, you have been ensnared by the idol of modernity, which fears ultimate matters and hides from you their importance.  I don’t mention it for my own benefit – it is nothing to me – I am talking about you and for you, forgetting for a moment my own vocation, and even my duty to propagate error.”

We live in an age that imagines itself as post-modern and post-Christian.  It is a time defined by noise, urgency, action, utility and a hunger for practical results.  But there is nothing really new about any of this. I think St. Paul would find our age rather familiar.  For all of the rhetoric about “hope and change” in our politics, our urgencies hide a deep unease about the future; a kind of well-manicured selfishness and despair. The world around us has a hole in its heart, and the emptiness hurts.  Only God can fill it.  In our baptism, God called each of us in this room today to be his agents in that work. Like St. Paul, we need to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas 1:22). We prove what we really believe by our willingness, or our refusal, to act on what we claim to believe.

But when we talk about a theme like today’s topic – “Priests and laity together, changing and challenging the culture” – we need to remember that what we do, proceeds from who we are. Nothing is more dead than faith without works (Jas 2:17); except maybe one thing: works without faith.  I do not think Paul had management issues in his head when he preached at the Areopagus.  Management and resources are important – but the really essential questions, the questions that determine everything else in our life as Christians, are these:  Do I really know God?  Do I really love him?  Do I seek him out?  Do I study his word?  Do I listen for his voice?  Do I give my heart to him?  Do I really believe he’s there?

For more than 30 years, first as a bishop and now as the successor to St. Peter, Benedict XVI has spoken often and very forcefully about the “culture of relativism” that guides today’s developed world, breaks down human community and intimacy, and drains the meaning out of human activity. That culture flows out of the “new Areopagus” John Paul II described in Redemptoris Missio – a culture formed by radically new technologies and methods of communication; a culture with a power that reshapes how we think, what we think about, and how we organize our personal and social lives.

We have an obligation as Catholics to study and understand the world around us.  We have a duty not just to penetrate and engage it, but to convert it to Jesus Christ. That work belongs to all of us equally: clergy, laity and religious. We are missionaries. That is our primary vocation; it is hardwired into our identity as Christians. God calls each of us to different forms of service in his Church.  But we are all equal in baptism. And we all share the same mission of bringing the Gospel to the world, and bringing the world to the Gospel.

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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