Tag Archives: morality

The Door-to-door death opens wider

“I do not want to live on as a shadow of myself” and “I also don’t want to be sent off to a nursing home … If I have to decide myself, please abide by my wish” or “How much longer will my life be liveable in dignity?”

Such are the thoughts of a Catholic priest and theologian, Father Hans Kung, now 85. If you don’t remember the protagonist here, let me remind you. Father Kung is famous for his relentless agitation for ecclesial reform, even it may be said reduction. With all the reforms and renewal happening following the Second Vatican Council, where this Swiss priest theologian was an adviser/expert arguing for a decentralized church authority, a married priesthood and contraception and abortion etc. The Church did not adopt these ideas. Since 1960, Kung has been a professor at Tubingen but he taught there without a license to teach Catholic theology since 1979. But as John Paul said, he didn’t remove Kung’s baptism. It was Kung, as you may remember, got the young theologian named Joseph Ratzinger his first job teaching. Soon after being elected the Roman Pontiff, Pope Benedict invited Father Kung to dinner.

A friend posted a disturbing story of Kung thinking about ending his life. I am shocked that a Catholic priest would consider such. I can’t help but be sad for Kung and others who believe suicide is a dignified way to go to the next life. Here is the article that talks about Father Kung’s consideration of suicide.

This a long way of saying that the issues of euthanasia and the people considering this way of living and ultimately dying.

The Telegraph’s writer Tim Stanley wrote about a distressing embrace of euthanasia in an article “Door-to-door death units: Belgium and Holland abandon humanity as they embrace euthanasia.”

Stanley’s article is worth reading in detail and is provide you some grist for the mill of prayer today. He paints an ever crisis of being human, and the beauty of living. Stanley many of the fears people face when considering suicide as a reasonable option. Though living is not easy for some people.

Despair is real; depression and addiction is a crisis of the separation from reality as it is given. There is a fundamental recognition of need to live with dignity in each person; there is a capacity in each to love and to be loved; to be in relationship with others and with God. That is, we are hardwired to live in community with more than just the self. But suicide rejects this dignity and become encounter with selfishness and hopelessness; it rejects the fullest sense of freedom.

We are now seeing a growing trend of people voting in favor of euthanasia. It is now legal in countries like Belgium, Switzerland , the Netherlands, Luxembourg and four states in the United States of America. Connecticut and Massachusetts are among the states who have already proposed making assisted suicide legal. The desire for acting in favor of death is being entertained more and more. We are now facing squarely the fruit of the philosophy of nihilism now so linked to secularism and its standard of judgement.

Recent book explores ethical dimension of human cell research

Is this Cell a Human Being Exploring the Status of Embryos Stem Cells and Human Animal Hybrids.jpg

Is this Cell a
Human Being? Exploring the Status of Embryos, Stem Cells and Human-Animal
(Springer, $139; slightly less expensive on Amazon). Antoine Suarez and Joachim Huarte are the editors. The book follows the 2009 meeting of international experts who worked with the ethical considerations of human
cell use and the implications and hope of the research.

The book has 10 articles and an introduction published by the Social Trends Institute of Spain and the US which explores matters of family, bioethics, culture & lifestyles and corporate governance. One of the contributors to Is this Cell is Dominican Father Nicanor Austriaco of Providence College. Father Nicanor is also the author of the popular monograph, Understanding Stem Cell Research: Controversy and Promise (www.kofc.org/un/en/resources/cis/cis326.pdf).

Of their new work STI said, “The central question of this book is whether or not particular cell entities of human origin ought to be considered human beings.”

The CNA article is here

A Still Small Voice: meeting God

Still small voice.jpgThe first reading from today’s Scripture readings at Mass call us to reflect on how Revelation is made known to us; in what ways do we meet God? How are we to understand the teachings of the many saints and others who have claimed to have encountered God? Knowing who are true visionaries is rather difficult, I have to say, and some are even frauds. The credibility of the witness is so crucial here since we only have indirect knowledge of God because only Jesus’ Mother (and family) and apostles had direct experience of Him, how can we talk about an encounter with the Lord. One way to wrap our minds around meeting the Divine Majesty is to listen, in part, to Father Benedict Groeshel:

The best lesson one may learn from these authenticated and canonized visionaries is to do what you are supposed to do and leave the rest to God. The fulfillment of duty is the guiding principle of any decent moral life, in any religion of the world, because it expresses the natural law and is completely consistent with the revealed law of God. The fulfillment of duty placed before us by the providential circumstances of life, as we are guided by the commandments and the teaching of the gospel, is the straight road to God. Along that road any valid religious experience which occurs may be useful.
Father Benedict Groeshel, CFR
A Still Small Voice, p. 138

What the Pope really said about condoms…

If you want to know what Pope Benedict XVI really said about AIDS and condom use, you will want to read Chapter 11, of Peter Seewald’s interview of the Pope in Light of the World,  “The Journeys of a Shepherd,” pages 117-119:

On the occasion of your trip to Africa in March 2009, the Vatican’s policy on AIDs once again became the target of media criticism. Twenty-five percent of all AIDs victims around the world today are treated in Catholic facilities. In some countries, such as Lesotho, for example, the statistic is 40 percent. In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

The media coverage completely ignored the rest of the trip to Africa on account of a single statement. Someone had asked me why the Catholic Church adopts an unrealistic and ineffective position on AIDs. At that point, I really felt that I was being provoked, because the Church does more than anyone else. And I stand by that claim. Because she is the only institution that assists people up close and concretely, with prevention, education, help, counsel, and accompaniment. And because she is second to none in treating so many AIDs victims, especially children with AIDs.

I had the chance to visit one of these wards and to speak with the patients. That was the real answer: The Church does more than anyone else, because she does not speak from the tribunal of the newspapers, but helps her brothers and sisters where they are actually suffering. In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Ash Wednesday 2010: Conversion goes against the current of mediocre morality

Ash Wed.jpgThe last sentence of Pope Benedict’s Wednesday audience today gives us a clue as to the reason why we begin a religious season of conversion, a yearly season of purification, he says: “40 days of intense prayer and sincere penance, to be able to celebrate, purified and completely renewed in mind and spirit, the great mystery of her Son’s Easter.” This is the point of ashes, penance, prayer, fasting, alms-giving–Easter!

NYC churches, as one example of a large urban center, seemingly have millions of people filtering through the churches on Ash Wednesday. Certainly, the Cathedral of Saint Patrick saw 40-50 thousand people today and Saint Agnes Church saw about 7 thousand people come for ashes. It’s tiresome to stand all day imposing ashes on gizilions of people repeating person-after-person the formula, “Remember that you are dust and dust you shall return.” BUT it was good work for the Lord and for our sisters and brothers. On a personal note, I prayed my rosary and made my morning offering today for all the people upon whom I placed some ash as a token of the journey of conversion they’ve begun today by moving to the Last Supper, calvary and then unto empty tomb unto their salvation.

The Pope’s homily today is another wonderful piece of practical theology moving us to the center of faith in Jesus Christ.

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey: a journey that extends over 40 days and that leads us to the joy of the Lord’s Easter. We are not alone in this spiritual itinerary, because the Church accompanies and sustains us from the start with the Word of God, which encloses a program of spiritual life and penitential commitment, and with the grace of the sacraments.

The words of the Apostle Paul offer us a precise instruction: “Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: ‘In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). In fact, in the Christian vision of life every moment must be called favorable and every day must be called the day of salvation. But the liturgy of the Church refers these words in a very particular way to the time of Lent. And that the 40 days of preparation for Easter be a favorable time and grace we can understand precisely in the call that the austere rite of the imposition of ashes addresses to us and which is expressed, in the liturgy, with two formulae: “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” and “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”

The first call is to conversion, a word that must be taken in its extraordinary seriousness, discovering the amazing novelty it contains. The call to conversion, in fact, uncovers and denounces the easy superficiality that very often characterizes our way of living. To be converted means to change direction along the way of life — not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction. Conversion is to go against the current, where the “current” is a superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and illusory, which often draws us, controls us and makes us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, one aims to the lofty measure of Christian life; we are entrusted to the living and personal Gospel, which is Christ Jesus. His person is the final goal and the profound meaning of conversion; he is the way which we are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be illumined by his light and sustained by his strength that moves our steps. In this way conversion manifests its most splendid and fascinating face: It is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life, but it is a decision of faith, which involves us wholly in profound communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus.

Peter Preaching LVeneziano.jpg

To be converted and to believe in the Gospel are not two different things or in some way closely related, but rather, they express the same reality. Conversion is the total “yes” of the one who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ, who first offered himself to man as Way, Truth and Life, as the one who frees and saves him. This is precisely the meaning of the first words with which, according to the Evangelist Mark, Jesus began the preaching of the “Gospel of God.” “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” is not only at the beginning of the Christian life, but accompanies all its steps, [this call] remains, renewing itself, and spreads, branching out in all its expressions. Every day is a favorable moment of grace, because each day invites us to give ourselves to Jesus, to have confidence in him, to remain in him, to share his style of life, to learn from him true love, to follow him in daily fulfilling of the will of the Father, the only great law of life — every day, even when difficulties and toil, exhaustion and falls are not lacking, even when we are tempted to abandon the following of Christ and to shut ourselves in ourselves, in our egoism, without realizing the need we have to open to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love.

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In the recent Message for Lent, I wished to remind that “humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from ‘what is mine,’ to give me gratuitously ‘what is his.’ This happens especially in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the ‘greatest’ justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected” (L’Osservatore Romano, Feb. 5, 2010, p. 8).

The favorable moment and grace of Lent shows us the very spiritual meaning also through the old formula: “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return,” which the priest pronounces when he places ashes on our head. We are thus remitted to the beginning of human history, when the Lord said to Adam after the original fault: “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

Here, the Word of God reminds us of our frailty, including our death, which is the extreme expression of our frailty. In face of the innate fear of the end, and even more so in the context of a culture that in so many ways tends to censure the reality and the human experience of dying, the Lenten liturgy on one hand reminds us of death, inviting us to realism and to wisdom but, on the other hand, it drives us above all to accept and live the unexpected novelty that the Christian faith liberates us from the reality of death itself.

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Man is dust and to dust he shall return, but he is precious dust in God’s eyes, because God created man for immortality. Thus the liturgical formula “Remember man that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return” finds the fullness of its meaning in reference to the new Adam, Christ. The Lord Jesus also wished to freely share with every man the lot of frailty, in particular through his death on the cross; but precisely this death, full of his love for the Father and for humanity, has been the way for the glorious resurrection, through which Christ has become the source of a grace given to those who believe in him and are made participants of divine life itself. This life which will have no end is already present in the earthly phase of our existence, but will be led to fulfillment after the “resurrection of the flesh.” The little gesture of the imposition of ashes reveals to us the singular richness of its meaning: It is an invitation to live the time of Lent as a more conscious and more intense immersion in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in his death and resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity, which stems from the Eucharist and in which it finds its fulfillment. With the imposition of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, to allow ourselves to be transformed by his Paschal Mystery, to overcome evil and do good, to have the “old man” in us die, the one linked to sin, and to have the “new man” be born, transformed by the grace of God.

Dear friends! While we hasten to undertake the austere Lenten journey, we want to invoke with particular confidence the protection and help of the Virgin Mary. May she, the first believer in Christ, be the one who accompanies us in these 40 days of intense prayer and sincere penance, to be able to celebrate, purified and completely renewed in mind and spirit, the great mystery of her Son’s Easter.

Good Lent to all!

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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