Tag Archives: George Rutler

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.

Read more ...

Locked doors, open hearts -to Satan

Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (NYC) wrote the following in a recent newsletter that ought to be part of our ongoing reflection on what happened to the good people of the Sandy Hook Elementary School:

Locking school doors will not keep Satan out if our
hearts are open to him. Nor will banning weapons ban murder if God is banned
from the conscience. Cain slew Abel without a gun. An illogical world can be
saved from self-destruction only by loving the Logos who was in the Beginning,
who was with God and was God.

Read more ...

Art is not merely an option for the Christian

Our Lord ascended to Heaven so that the Holy Spirit
might come at Pentecost and fill the Church with His truth. The greatest art
expresses that truth and is far superior to vain “self-expression.”
John Keats said “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” but T.S. Eliot
rightly thought that the expression was meaningless sentimentality. The
craftsman ignorant of the Creator becomes a vain aesthete expressing nothing
more than the ego. While truth is beautiful, beauty is not truth itself but
expresses that truth. In the classical tradition, beauty consists in
proportion, integrity and clarity: it is harmonious, suited to its purpose, and
intelligible. This is sublimely seen in Christ Himself, Who incarnated this
beauty as the Way (guiding to a harmony of virtue) and the Truth (revealing
God) and the Life (enlightening with creative love). St. Macarius, an Egyptian
monk of the fourth century said, “The soul which has been fully illumined
by the unspeakable beauty of the glory shining on the countenance of Christ overflows
with the Holy Spirit . . . it is all eye, all light, all countenance.”

is not merely an option for the Christian. Thus, the wisdom of Lorenzo in The
Merchant of Venice: “The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not
mov’d with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils
. . .” The most sublime art is the Eucharist, in which we “take part
in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of
Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims . . .” (Vatican II, SC 8).

Father George Rutler
Pastor, Church of Our Saviour, NYC
homily excerpt from a recent Mass with Artists

No such thing as a dead saint

The expression “a living saint” can be misleading. Certainly, we have encountered people in our own lives who fit that description, as best as we can judge. The Holy Church makes the final decision about saints. We celebrate them especially on All Saints’ Day, and on All Souls’ Day, we pray for our loved ones who are drawing more closely into the aura of holiness. The saints on the calendar are only the tip of the iceberg, and most of the saints who have ever existed are known to God alone. Perhaps churches should have a shrine to “The Unknown Saint” quite as we have a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All Saints’ Day is rather like that.


St. Simon Stylites.jpgMy point, though, is that there is no such thing as a dead saint.There are saints alive now, and there are saints who have physically died, but all are alive in Christ and they are “busy” in heaven, to use a temporal metaphor. Some saints capture the popular imagination more in one generation than in another. For instance, St. Simon Stylites was admired in Syria in the fifth century for spending most of his life seated on top of a pillar. That is not a useful model for our day, although some may still remember Flagpole Kelly, and not long ago thousands of New Yorkers went to watch a man spend a week on top of a column up the street in Bryant Park.


Millions are drawn to Padre Pio, and some are compelled by an unmeasured fascination with his miraculous spiritual gifts, which were blessings indeed, rather than emulating his heroic humility and discipline. There remains an astonishing cult of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She was almost the reverse of St. Pio: totally St Therese of the Child Jesus.jpgunknown in her earthly lifetime, and accomplishing nothing conspicuous to her contemporaries. She would have remained such had not her spiritual writings been discovered and published. Perhaps she fascinates precisely because in just barely 24 years on earth, she did the most ordinary things with most extraordinary joy. Whenever her relics are taken on pilgrimage to foreign lands (not to mention the one that was taken on a space shuttle), hundreds of thousands pour out to pray by them. This happened most recently in England, where the media were confounded by the huge crowds.


Concurrent with that phenomenon, there were astonishing developments in long-moribund Christian life there, not least of which was the announcement of the first papal state visit to Britain and the expected beatification of John Henry Newman, who predicted a “Second Spring” of Faith in England. Then came news of an Apostolic Constitution, which will provide a unique canonical structure to welcome those desiring union with the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI, who well deserves the title “The Pope of Unity,” has shown the power of the intercessions of the saints.


Rev’d Fr. George Rutler

Church of Our Saviour, NYC

November 1, 2009

The saint who disturbed the 19th century: John Mary Vianney

Rutler & Walsh.jpgThe life we lead is based on the influences we have. For some, like Father George Rutler, John Newman and John Vianney are two such influences. George Rutler, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and pastor of the Church of Our Saviour (NYC) gave the Terrence Cardinal Cooke Theology Lecture tonight at Saint Joseph’s Seminary. Himself a convert, author, TV personality tried to dispel the florid presentations of the saint which detach reality from the soul. John Vianney (8 May 1786 – 4 August 1859) knew himself well as a farm boy who desired to serve the Lord as a priest in love. What ought to be resisted when thinking about Vianney is sugar coating his ministry and manner of living. His was not a life akin to pouring molasses on roast beef. The saint, in Catholic theology and as reminded by Rutler, is a person who shows us that living the gospel is possible, that conversion is possible, that real, self-giving love is possible because the saint shows us Christ. And since Christianity is not speculation but fact, the fact of the saint is a testament to the reality of Christ today.

John Vianney.jpg

Saint John Vianney loved his people in substantial ways: he revealed Christ to them and allowed Christ to speak through his priestly life in ways that challenged each person to take more seriously the desires of their heart and their state of life. Vianney was direct when it came to sin and sinful ways; he was devoted to the humanity of those whom he encountered, and he responded as Christ would if someone presented himself. Vianney may have been a poor student and a man of little sophistication as judged by the world, but he was a brilliant disciple of the Lord who acted like a shepherd for the flock. Like the apostle who is known for his zeal, the martyr his patience, the virgin her purity and the confessor his intellect, Vianney is known for his love. Can we model our lives accordingly?
Nearly 125 people attended the lecture tonight.

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.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory