Saturday, November 15, 2008

Catholic Teaching, Homosexuality, and American Life

Eric Brown has written a fine essay about this difficult issue over at the American Catholic blog, from the perspective of one who struggles with same-sex attraction yet desires, as we all should, to live a life of virtue and grace:
Many facets of American secular culture is contrary to basic Christian ethics, which as a consequence, requires a response on the part of the faithful. One of these issues is “tolerance” and homosexuality. The Christian committment to protecting marital dignity and the family is absolute. The profound temptation in politics, given the “us” versus “them” mentality, is to lose a sense charity that is due to our neighbor, even those with whom we disagree. It happens all the time...

The fundamental question I’m concerned about is this: how can Catholics be faithful to the constant and clear teaching of the Church on the issue of human sexuality and still be inclusive and sensitive to the plight of homosexuals, both in the Church and American life? Let’s move past the basics. No, homosexuals cannot marry. No, homosexuals should not adopt children. No, same-sex sexual activity is not equal or comparable to marital love. Despite these moral truths, most Americans have a profoundly different view of human sexuality than the Catholic Church. There must be dialogue with those who disagree with us and we have to educate our Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as everyone else with the authentic Catholic view.
Read the whole thing. I appreciate Eric's thoughtful and challenging insights. Most of us have absolutely no idea what it is like to walk in his shoes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank you, Cardinal George

From the Plenary Session Address of Cardinal George
In working for the common good of our society, racial justice is one pillar of our social doctrine. Economic justice, especially for the poor both here and abroad, is another. But the Church comes also and always and everywhere with the memory, the conviction, that the Eternal Word of God became man, took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, nine months before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This truth is celebrated in our liturgy because it is branded into our spirit. The common good can never be adequately incarnated in any society when those waiting to be born can be legally killed at choice. If the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision that African Americans were other people’s property and somehow less than persons were still settled constitutional law, Mr. Obama would not be president of the United States. Today, as was the case a hundred and fifty years ago, common ground cannot be found by destroying the common good.
I pray that our new President-Elect takes some note.
A Little Timeless Satire, Apropos of the Times

Lemuel Gulliver in Lilliput, and the Diversions of the Court of Lilliput described. A.D. 1727
The Emperor had a mind one day to entertain me with several of the Country Shows, wherein they exceeded all Nations I have known, both for Dexterity and Magnificence. I was diverted with none so much as that of the Rope-Dancers, performed upon a slender white Thread, extended about two Foot and twelve Inches from the Ground. Upon which I shall desire liberty, with the Reader's Patience, to enlarge a little.

This Diversion is only practiced by those Persons who are Candidates for great Employments, and high Favour, at Court. They are trained in this Art from their Youth, and are not always of noble Birth, or liberal Education. When a great Office is vacant either by Death or disgrace (which often happens) five or six of those Candidates petition the Emperor to entertain his Majesty and the Court with a Dance on the Rope, and whoever jumps the highest without falling, succeeds in the Office. Very often the Chief Ministers themselves are commanded to show their Skill, and to convince the Emperor that they have not lost their Faculty. Flimnap, the Treasurer, is allowed to cut a Caper on the strait Rope, at least an Inch higher than any other Lord in the whole Empire. I have seen him do the Summerset several times together upon a Trencher fixed on the Rope, which is no thicker than a common packthread in England. My friend Reldresal, principal Secretary for private Affairs, is, in my Opinion, if I am not partial, the second after the Treasurer; the rest of the great Officers are much upon a par.

These Diversions are often attended with fatal Accidents, whereof great Numbers are on Record. I my self have seen two or three Candidates break a Limb. But the Danger is much greater when the Ministers themselves are commanded to shew their Dexterity; for by contending to excel themselves and their Fellows, they strain so far, that there is hardly one of them who has not received a Fall, and some of them two or three. I was assured that a Year or two before my Arrival, Flimnap would have infallibly broken his Neck, if one of the King's Cushions, that accidentally lay on the Ground, had not weakened the Force of his Fall.

There is likewise another Diversion, which is only shewn before the Emperor and Empress, and first Minister, upon particular Occasions. The Emperor lays on the Table three fine silken Threads of six Inches long. One is Blue, the other Red, and the third Green. These Threads are proposed as Prizes for those Persons whom the Emperor has a mind to distinguish by a peculiar Mark of his Favor. The Ceremony is performed in his Majesty's great Chamber of State, where the Candidates are to undergo a Trial of Dexterity very different from the former, and such as I have not observed the least Resemblance of in any other Country of the old or the new World. The Emperor holds a Stick in his Hands, both ends parallel to the Horizon, while the Candidates, advancing one by one, sometimes leap over the Stick, sometimes creep under it backwards and forwards several times, according as the Stick is advanced or depressed. Sometimes the Emperor holds one end of the Stick, and his first Minister the other; sometimes the Minister has it entirely to himself. Whoever performs his Part with most Agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the Blue-colored Silk; the Red is given to the next, and the Green to the third, which they all wear girt twice round about the middle; and you see few great Persons about this Court who are not adorned with one of these Girdles.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Resurrection and Early Christian Apologetics

From Minucius Felix, “Letter to Octavius”, Ch. 34:
Notice how all nature hints at a future resurrection for our consolation.

The sun sets and rises again;

the stars sink below the horizon and return;

the flowers die and come to life again;

the shrubs spend themselves and then put forth buds;

seeds must decompose in order to sprout forth new life.

The body in the grave is thus like the tree in the winter, which conceals its live sap under an apparent dryness.

Why do you, then, urge that in the depths of winter it should revive and return to life?

We must also wait for the spring-time of the body.
Courtesy of Josh Miller.
Lay Dominican: Notes on the Rule

In two and a half months, I will be admitted to the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) as a lay candidate (aka novice), and I am anticipating this very much! This period of candidacy precedes temporary profession and lasts approximately one year. At the heart of this undertaking is the fact that I am discerning a vocation, which means, of course, that if I am called to profession as a Lay Dominican, I am called to be lay, to be Dominican, and to exist in today's world -- first and foremost within my family, and then my community, my career, my country, etc. It is a vocation that concerns itself with engaging the culture with that thing we call veritas or truth, being attentive to the scientia signorum temporum or signs of the times, and understanding the world's parameters through the study of current issues, witnessing to it through preaching by word and deed.

From Tom over at Disputations:
This point is key to understanding Lay Dominicans: We are both lay and Dominican. If we fail to be both, then we fail to live according to our Rule.

There are many ways we can fail. We can fail to be lay by thinking of ourselves as mini-monks, as members of a quasi-secret religious sect whose ways are not those of mere mortal laity. We can fail to be lay by believing that paying our dues and attending our meetings meets our duties as lay members of Christ's Church.

We can also fail to be Dominican by getting hopped up on the externals -- the culture and history and customs of the Order -- and never quite get around to sanctifying ourselves or preaching to others. We can fail to be Dominican by neglecting to form ourselves according to the vivifying spirit of St. Dominic.

We can, I bet, fail in many different ways all at once.

But there are also many different ways to succeed. If you've met one Dominican, you've met one Dominican, and the lay state doesn't impose much in the way of uniformity either. The key to success, written into the very structure of the Fundamental Constitution, is to maintain both aspects, to simply be what you say you are: a Lay Dominican.
Fundamentally, are we in this merely for ourselves and the warm fuzzies of being a part of the greatest religious order in the world? Or are we interested in being sanctified, made holy, and tasked to confront the world with the Gospel?
On Dominican Study

Courtesy of Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP, PhD's Faith + Science blog, suppl(e)mental:
I offer these portions of the Dominican Book of Constitutions and Ordinations (LCO) on the ministry of study as a way to come to some understanding of how a faithful Christian might approach the study of the complementary interactions of philosophy, science, and theology. The following paragraphs show that it is possible for a faithful Christian, without subordinating one field to another, to be both scientifically astute and philosophically coherent. This uniquely Dominican element presents study (along with prayer, ministry, and community) as a means to the end of preaching and teaching the gospel. In other words, for OP's, study, our intellectual life today as a ministry, can never be separated from the fundamental charge and goal of our founder to preach Christ Jesus and him alone.
Study of God's self-revelation:
78. The light and source of our study is God, who spoke in former times and in different ways, and last of all speaks in Christ, through whom the mystery of the Father's will, after the sending of the Spirit, is fully revealed in the Church and enlightens the minds of all people. [If God is the "light and source of our study," then it follows that everything we study will be illuminated by God's light and found originating from God; therefore, biology, physics, math, music, literature, etc. are all limited manifestations of God's Self-revelation to His creation.]
Study as asceticism:
83. Continuous study nourishes contemplation, encourages fulfillment of the counsels with shining fidelity, constitutes a form of asceticism by its own perseverance and difficulty, and, as an essential element of our whole life, it is an excellent religious observance. [Understanding study as a form of asceticism--"virtue in daily practice"--OP's pray when they study; that is, contemplative study in the service of preaching and teaching the gospel with the Church is prayer.]


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