Sunday, May 30, 2004

Happy Pentecost!

Today ends the Easter Season of the liturgical year. The banner on my home page has been removed. We will now shift to Ordinary time knowing that the Holy Spirit is with all days until the end of the age. I have a few brief thoughts on Pentecost.

First, we see in today's Gospel the risen Christ breathing the Spirit upon the Apostles, and proclaiming that whoever's sin they forgive are forgiven, while any sin held bound will be bound. The Church teaches that a central meaning of this verse is the power absolution given to priests in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is true and good.

However, I think the passage is also addressed to all Christians in a way. When we forgive the sins of another, we act as ministers of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through the act of forgiving another, the sinner is able to imagine that God can also forgive her or him.

Furthermore, by forgiving another, we are set free ourselves. Carrying a grudge is a heavy burden. It binds us as much as the other. When we forgive, the burden of the weight of the grudge is lifted from our shoulders. We become unbound, just as the other becomes unbound.

The same principle applies not only to personal conflict, but issues in society in general. We Christians carry a burden when we lack a certain merciful patient tolerance and compassionate acceptance of others. We create binding weights for ourselves and others in society as a whole when we fail to walk humbly, practice mercy, and love generously.

My second though is this: the New Testament and prayers for Pentecost call the Holy Spirit "the Paraclete", translated variously as helper, counselor and advocate. The term has a somewhat legal connotation. The Holy Spirit is sort of a defense attorney on our behalf. Satan is a prosecutor (see Rev 12:10). The ministry of the Holy Spirit is largely to make God's infinite love and mercy a felt reality in our lives!

My third thought on Pentecost is from the second reading. There are many gifts and the same Spirit. Sometimes, we can place too much emphasis on unity in the Church - strict adherence to orthodoxy, absolute obedience to authority, and a strict adherence to a legalistic understanding of moral codes. But the Spirit prompts diversity and acceptance of differences of opinion, variety of life-style choices and vocations, recognition of different talents and gifts, and forgiveness and acceptance of one another.

This brings me to my final point from the first reading. The Apostles spoke on Pentecost and were understood by people of many lands and languages. Roman Catholicism, by it's very nature from its very start is a multi-cultural religion that breaks down the barriers and animosity between various isolated groups of people.

May the Holy Spirit continue to melt our hearts of stone and give hearts of flesh open to embracing those who are most radically different from us.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Rebecca Posts Review of New Greeley Book on Priesthood

Greeley argues that most priests are happy with priesthood and would do it all over again. Yet, he also reiterates an idea that he has raised before: a priesthood corp where a person signs up for five or ten years of service, and decides at the end whether to reenlist or not for another term, or retire with honor. This is Greeley's way of preserving a celibate priesthood and resolving the vocation crisis. I believe he has hinted he would open it up to women too.


Charisms of the Holy Spirit

The Church has traditionally held that special signs of God's love called charisms are given to individuals and groups.

In the life of the individual believer, a charism can often come as an overwhelming experience of God's transcendent love, or even union with the divine. In some cases, this experiential knowledge of God gives rise to "charismatic gifts".

Roman Catholics do not consider these charismatic gifts normative or necessary for salvation. In some cases, the Church even warns that a person may be committing fraud, suffer delusions, or be subject to demonic influence. Subjective experience can be the Holy Spirit, but isn't always. Things need to be tested in light Scripture, Sacred Tradition, reason and the magisterium.

However, in a person who is growing in love and grace, united to the Church, and bearing fruits of the Holy spirit (see yesterday's post below), these gifts are recognized as authentic signs of holiness.

The more common charismatic gifts include glossolalia (speaking in tongues), interpreting tongues, prophecy, discernment of spirits, healing, and exceptional evengelical witness.

Saint Paul considers these gifts inferior to faith, hope and love - which are given to every Christian and considered normative and necessary. The charismatic gifts are of a temporal nature and meant to ultimately build up the Body of Christ - the Church.

There are other "charisms" given to the Church as well. Catholics believe that the papacy and the college of bishops are gifted with a charism of infallibility in certain circumstances. Even the sense of the faithful is guided by the Holy Spirit through a similar charism.

Religious orders also speak of having a general charism that attracts members to their community. Franciscans feel a special charism to community living and poverty. The Trappist have a special charism to prayer. Some orders take special vows of obedience to Rome as a special charism. Some orders or congregations have special charisms to work with the poor or the sick.

because of the subjective nature of most charisms, we do not frequently hear much preaching about them. Yet, it is appropriate to pray for the charisms of the Holy Spirit as you should pray for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

As we prepare for Pentecost pray for the Holy Spirit to come to you.


Eve Tushnet Describes Same Sex Attraction

This piece has been quoted quite a bit in blogdom. There is also a follow-up post answering emails she received from the first post.

Eve is a convert to Catholicism who has decided very recently that she opposes same sex civil marriages. But these pieces are not really about her political or theological views. These pieces are about the experience of growing up with a feeling of alienation, and she deals with questions of the meaning of attraction and identity.

Overall, these are very well written and honest, and I thank Eve for the courage to tell her story. Even a hetero white male can relate to such honesty. And as one who often felt bullied or alone as a kid, I wondered if this may be why I feel more accepting of gays and lesbians than some religious heterosexuals.

I sort of wish she had delved into the thought process leading her to withdraw support for same sex unions - but only because I seldom hear such views from self-described gays, lesbians or bi-sexuals and I'm curious. I probably would not agree with her anyway, and it may have been wise for her to avoid this debate to give her story focus.

I am not comfortable with the way Eve and David Morrison seem to sometimes downplay sexual identity or sexual orientation. It is true that our orientation or attractions do not wholly define us. Each of us is infinitely more than our attractions by virtue of simply being a human person.

Yet, gender and orientation are a bit closer to the core of who we are than whether I am an irritable person (to use Eve's analogy). When a person is born, the doctor doesn't say, "Congratulations! You have an angry person" nor "Congratulations! You have an artist (or a priest, or a writer, or whatever)"

Gender is very close to the core of who we are. It may surprise some people for me to say this, because one of the arguments people use against women's ordination is that men and woman are different.

I wholeheartedly agree that men and women are different, and because they are different, ministerial priesthood is incomplete without the complement to masculinity. The ministerial priest acts in persona Christi, and the Church is the Body of Christ. If women are not included in ministerial priesthood, it basically symbolizes that women are not fully grafted into the Body of Christ.

Thus, they could not be baptized or receive communion anymore than a dog, and women cannot be saved. On the other hand, scripture has it that in Christ there is no longer male or female (Gal 3:28). It is precisely by incorporating difference in similitude that the Church would be symbolically elevating the dignity of woman - to say she truly is made in the he image of the divine!

But enough about women's ordination. I got on that train of though because I said man and woman are different - gender matters, and is perhaps our deepest source of identity. Orientation may not be quite as deep, but it's close.

What about hermaphrodites?

I do not believe that there are solely two genders and everything falls in either/or categories. This is something people have a hard time grasping.

I am male. That is deep at the core of my identity. Next, I am heterosexual. This may not be as deep as my maleness, but it is deep at the core of who I am. I am also Catholic, a father of an unborn child, of German/Irish descent, married to an African woman, an American myself who grew up in Ohio, lately a political and theological liberal, an introvert with a gentle disposition, only 5' 6" tall and 135 lbs., etc....

I am all of these things.

Eve and Dave are right that there is much more to who I am than my masculinity or my heterosexuality, but these are established while I am in the womb - even before I was baptized and made a Catholic. They are more permanent than my ideological opinions. They have influence on more areas of my life - even at an unconscious level - than other personality traits.

In faith, I believe that my baptism did something to my nature, essence, or being. I can assert in faith that being Catholic is more core to my personal identity than gender and orientation.

Nevertheless, gender and orientation are very deep and central to identity. Indeed, I do not how anyone who accepts a "theology of the body" can deny this. And if we believe in the resurrection of the body, our gender (and orientation?) is eternal!

Returning to the question of hermaphrodites, that too is an identity. I have only known one person well who I also knew was hermaphrodite. S/he is a beautiful person. Why do those of us who are more firm in our self-identification as male or female feel a need to classify the hermaphrodite as male or female? Why do parents feel the need to surgically correct this? This is who s/he was from birth.

I feel the same way about same sex attraction as a permanent condition that seems to have developed without choice. Here we have someone who has a deep gender identity as male, but attractions more akin to female. Gender is probably deeper than orientation, but orientation is still a deep part of who that person is - deeper than his political beliefs, or even his general temperament.

There are men and women and hermaphrpodites, and there also gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.

When I look at birds or butterflies or anything God has created, I see variety in species. Why should humanity be different?

We have many races and tongues. Why is it so hard for us to imagine that God might have intentionally created different sexual identities - more than two or three expressions of the species?

I know some people hate being labeled, and labels can be used to easily pigeonhole and dismiss each others. On the other hands, labels can also be helpful in creating understanding, finding support, and expressing who we are and who we want to be.

I do not really understand why some people - especially those who know that their own SSA cannot be altered by mere wish - so strongly resist the idea that our basic identity is gendered and sexed at some deep level.


Steve Bogner has Links to Catholic Voter Guides

Steve has links to a long and a short version of the USCCB guide, as well as a link to the Canadian Bishop's guide.


Pope Affirms Reason TODAY!

According to EWTN, the Holy Father stated the following today:

An effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason's ability to know the truth which alone satisfies the human heart's restless quest for meaning.
If we cannot demonstrate that Church teaching is not irrational, contradictory, or based on faulty premises, it would be better to say nothing at all. The Holy Father's statement clearly places reason on the side of faith, and states that agnosticism and relativism are opposed to reason.

Yet, a truth is not known to be reasonable simply because an authority says it is reasonable.

Rather, it is known to be reasonable because it is based on sound premises and flows logically from one point to the next without contradiction. Where a logical syllogism references truths of the natural order, these truths are empirically verifiable. Such a proposition stands up under the scrutiny of critical analysis and questioning on its own, without appeal to who said it. Thus, any rational person can examine the truth and accept that it is reasonable.

Some religious truth may go beyond reason, into the realm of mystery. Yet, no religious proposition should be irrational.

Every internal contradiction must be resolved through critical and methodic thinking. Every apparent contradiction must be clarified. Every reference to empirical data must be substantiated.

Fine distinctions and nuance must be made, and is not simply arbitrary "spin" or arbitrary "revisionism". When done in honest pursuit of truth, nuance and distinction is not to be equated with relativism.

Only if we can do this can we prove to an agnostic and relativistic world that honest truth can be known through reason.

If our apologetics or defense of Church teaching relies solely on appeals to authority, we are giving a bad witness.

Then where does authority fit into the picture?

Anyone who has ever debated anything knows that terms need defined. The role of authority is not to drive the conclusion of the argument, but to express the definition of the terms and the rules of engagement so that truth can be reached.

For example, in order to know that "transubstantiation" is a truth, we need to agree on what we mean by "substance". In this case, we mean something different than when we say, "I ate a substantial meal last night".

Doctrine is under development through a process of debate. It is not the role of authority to settle the debate, but to facilitate it. Once a consensus is reached, authority effectively says, "Next topic."

The role of authority should be to give voice to the rational or rationally consistent truth reached through a consensus. The Holy Spirit operates in the whole Church, and not solely in Rome. If Rome were to always issue authoritative statements that reflected a consensus opinion of what Catholics believe, there would be no issue of "dissent".

There is a tendency for some people to argue, "The Church has taught [fill in the blank] for 2,000 years." Yet, when you ask where this was definitively taught, nobody can find a decree of an Ecumenical Council, or an infallible definition by a Pope. The proponent of whatever was proposed then argues, "Well, it was obviously assumed, and the current Pope agrees with me, so you're wrong, [and you're a heretic]."

The Pope has every right to his personal opinion, but we need to be careful not to confuse his opinions with an authoritive definition. If the issue has not been settled through extra-ordinary magisterium, it may not reflect a consensus that was reached through rational reflection on the deposit of faith. This consensus is expressed in the most formal definitions - and so far, infallibility has never been invoked without a widespread consensus.

If the so-called "dissident" is pointing out a contradiction in a religious proposition, this needs to be taken seriously. Afterall, the Church cannot err, and contradiction is an absolutely sure sign of error.

By pointing out a contradiction, faulty premise, or empirically unjustified statement, the so-called "dissident" is doing the Church (as a whole) a favor. She or he is preventing error from being declared truth before full development of the doctrine in question has taken place.

Questioning the Pope and Bishops, or even widely held but non-infallible matters shows the world that reason can lead to a sure knowledge of the truth. Fear of questions and trying to settle debate by appeals to authority alone shows the world that truth is established arbitrarily.

In effect, the so-called "dissident" is trying to prevent premature birth of doctrine. Doctrine needs to be nurtured in the womb of rational debate before it is born for all the world to see.


Sister Joan Chittister on Abu Ghraib

This story says it all:

When the young woman, a catechist from El Salvador, came into the room, I had no idea what to expect. It was in the early '80s. The civil wars in Latin America were raging out of control. The words "paramilitary" and "freedom fighters" had entered the U.S. vocabulary: The people called the civilian thugs sent to do official dirty work in unofficial ways "paramilitaries." Ronald Reagan called these forces armed by the U.S. in countries whose governments the U.S. wanted to overthrow "freedom fighters." Whatever the term, the tactics were all the same.
"U.S. advisors come from the School of the Americas and teach them how to torture and kill us," the catechist told the group of church people. I was incredulous. Why kill catechists, of all people? Because the catechists were using the Gospel, she told us, to help people see that Jesus wanted the establishment to treat the peasants and the poor of society with compassion and justice.
She told of young boys recruited for the army, trained by U.S. "consultants" and then sent out to practice their "homework" by picking up people at random -- one time a 16-year-old boy on his way home from market with a chicken for his mother -- tearing off their fingernails or gouging out their eyes to make them "talk," then leaving them to die on the side of the road.
"Impossible," we said. "Americans wouldn't do that." But then, over the years, the pattern began to emerge: Massacres in Korea, massacres in My Lai and the Kuwaiti desert, paramilitaries in Chile and El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. And now, this time, the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
Sister Joan goes on to quote two letters to small town newspapers trying to justify Abu Ghraib. The letters are haunting and horrific. Anyone who shares the sentiments expressed in those letters seriously needs prayer, psychiatric help, spiritual direction and conversion. Read them for yourselves at the link above.


NCR's John Allan Writes of vatican Perspectives on Just About Every Issue Bloggers Are Discussing Recently

This week's Word From Rome covers it all: who speaks for the Vatican and how are decisions made? Should pro-choice Catholics be denied communion? Can a Catholic even be pro-choice? Is the Pope really ready to take G.W. to the woodshed for waging an unjust war?

It's well worth reading.


Why "They" Hate Us....

This NCR editorial explores the hatred garnered by European colonialism, and asks if America has failed to learn from these experiences in our current foreign policy.


Cardinal George Implies Bishops United in Support of Lay Review Board

This is defintely a positive development, and his emminence also indicates caution in denying communion to pro-choice politicians, stating that Bishops should wait until Cardinal Mccarrick's commission report is complete.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Was Jesus a Vegetarian?

Ok.Ok. Even as a vegetarian myself for the last 10 years, I'm sceptical of the claims on this site. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves....


Andrew Sullivan Chellenges Islamic Homophobia

Sullivan provides the following quote:

Sheikh Sharkhawy, a cleric at the prestigious London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park, compares homosexuality to a "cancer tumour." He argues "we must burn all gays to prevent paedophilia and the spread of AIDS," and says gay people "have no hope of a spiritual life."
Then Sullivan goes on to ask why the left does not challenge this, when it would jump all over a Christian fundamentalist who said the same thing. It's a fair question. I suppose I hesitate to criticize Islam too forcefully because I am an outsider to that group. I will say this, however. I have read the Q'ran in english translation, and I cannot find a single reference to homosexuality in it. It would seem to me that even if the Q'ran is divine revelation, this cleric is likley expressing his own perosnal opinion, rather than a revelation of Allah to Mohamed.


From Ono's Site...


The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Christ promises that the Holy Spirit will be with us always to guide us in all truth:

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. (John 16:13)
The prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah in the following terms:
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (Isaiah 11:1-5)
From these verses, the Church has developed a teaching that the Holy Spirit draws us into Jesus' Messianic mission by imparting the same seven-fold gifts upon each of us that were imparted upon him.

1) Wisdom
2) Understanding
3) Counsel
4) Strength (fortitude)
5) Knowledge
6) Fear of the Lord (reverential awe)
7) Delight in the Lord (piety)

These gifts empower us to act with justice and to do right even when it is unpopular with worldly power.

As we grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, our lives will bear fruits of the Spirit:
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23)
Thus, from this passage and some other passages of Paul, the Church teaches that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are:

1) Love (charity)
2) Joy
3) Peace
4) Patience
5) Kindness
6) Goodness
7) Generosity
8) Gentleness
9) Faithfulness
10) Modesty
11) Self-control
12) Chastity

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to every Christian as an inheritance as children of God. What we do with the gifts is up to us, though God's grace draws and inspires us to bear fruit. By examining our fruits, we can gauge our progress at cultivating the gifts given to us.

See Paragraphs 1830-1832 of the Catechism for the official teaching on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Prepare for Pentecost

The Spirit is blowing throughout the Church, and we celebrate Her presence among us this Sunday. The link above goes to the Catechism's section on the Holy Spirit.

The first reflection I would offer on the Holy Spirit comes straight from our creed recited each Sunday: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life."

In Genesis, God forms us from the clay of the earth and breathes his own Spirit into the clay to make a living human person created in the divine image. We depend on the Spirit of God for our very existence. This is not something that we believe simply happened a long time ago at creation. Rather, the Holy Spirit breathes life into in every nano-second we exist. God is our creator and sustainer.

In last night's reading from the Liturgy of the Hours, Paul tells us the following:

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. (Rom 8:26)
The Spirit dwells us within us and draws the heart to relationship with God without ceasing. God, the Holy Spirit, lives within each and every one of us. Go deep within and you will come to experience the power of the Spirit.


Confession Time

I started actual blogging after the war in Iraq began, and much of my negative feelings about G.W. Bush solidified during the build up to war in Iraq.

I have a confession to make, because the issue has come up a couple times in private emails and in another blog's commenting system.

I am a registered and card carrying Republican!

When I entered seminary formation in 1989, I was theologically a moderate conservative - one who might have defined himself as "orthodox" if that term was in vogue at the time. Perhaps the only "liberal" leaning I had in 1989 was a preference for non-violent solutions to conflict over just war theory.

By the time I left seminary in 1995, I had shifted to a moderate liberal theologically. I was more firm in my rejection of war, and had come to embrace that women should probably be ordained, and married priests were a good idea. I was also just beginning to question the Church's teaching on contraception and homosexuality.

I became more and more liberal theologically as the Vatican and/or the Bishops continue to take what appear to be more and more theologically indefensible positions for what appear to be political reasons.

When I say a position is "indefensible", I am referring to the fact that the position either has an internal contradiction, or is based on a dubious assumption that contradicts a more certain assumption. The sex scandals and what I saw forshadowing it while I was in formation also contributed to my shift leftward.

Yet, my slow shift to more and more liberal theology has run ahead of my shift left on political matters. In the year 2000, I actually voted for G.W. His message of "compassionate conservatism" resonated with a Catholic who believed in limited roles of government and fiscal responsibility. I believed in trickle down economic theory at the time.

I recognized in 2000 that Bush was not 100 percent pro-life, but he seemed more pro-life than Gore. I also recognized that Bush could lead us to a war if the decision were solely his, but I thought his cabinet and Congress would reign him in and ensure we avoided anything stupid.

What changed my views?

On one key issue - abortion, I have believed all along that Bush is not truly pro-life. Thus, when the Bishops began recently to crack down on Kerry, I was sitting here saying "Wait a minute. Bush isn't against abortion either" and I meant it. I said that Bush is not pro-life when I considered myself more Republican than I do today!

The war was the biggest thing that turned me off to Bush and Cheney. All wars of aggression are morally wrong - no "ands", "ifs" or "buts". There is absolutely no justification for pre-emptive war. There is no exception to the teaching that wars of aggression are wrong. This no excpetion means that some vague notion of "prudential judgment" cannot be used to overide the principel that all wars of aggression are wrong. There never was and there never will be a just war of aggression.

This is so obviously true to me, and so clearly the tradition of the Church, that it surprises me how many American Catholics don't see it. I was honestly surprised that conservative Catholics supported the war even against the Pope, Ratzinger, and the entire USCCB.

The build up to war got me questioning a lot of things.

On fiscal conservatism, I am left asking myself how we can manage to raise $87 billion for an unnecessary war, and run up a half trillion dollar deficit, but we couldn't have done the same thing to end poverty.

Bush and Cheney are saying deficits don't matter. If that's the Republican position now, then I say all deficit spending should have gone to curing AIDs and eliminating poverty. The only reason I didn't say this when I was more Republican was I thought deficits do matter. But Bush-Cheney say they don't matter. So, if they don't matter, let's spend that money on what is really necessary and important - saving lives instead of destroying them.

On trickle down economics, all I know is that I was personally better off four years ago than I am today. It seems to me that tax cuts and so forth have not stopped corporations from cutting jobs and freezing compensation. No matter how much the theory made sense to me, it simply doesn't seem to the pass the test of reality. My father is a scientist (and also a Republican questioning Bush). In his world, every hypothesis and theory must be tested in reality before it is declared "true". Trickle down theory seems to have failed the test of reality.

On issues such as affirmative action and the environment, I simply failed to foresee that any modern day Republican would challenge these issues the aggressive way Bush-Cheney have done - especially a team claiming to be "compassionate".

Then there is the federal death penalty. Even back in the eighties, I bought the seamless garment argument, and voted for anti-death penalty Republicans over pro-death penalty Republicans where I could. I never thought this would be an issue in a Presidential election. We got by for over 30 years without a federal death penalty until Bush came to power.

Should the federal government be killing people directly? As I reflect on this, this is more important than abortion in a way, because the government is the agent of death. I didn't have to consider this until Bush came to power.

What about the Patriot Act? How is this consistent with Republican philosophy of limited powers of the state?

I was also blind to the global power of Cheney's Halliburton Corp, and the callousness with which Cheney would increase its power and wealth. Halliburton is benefiting from war in Iraq, the deposition of Aristide in Haiti, and they do business in Iran. They seem to be everywhere the neo-cons consider "strategic". How is that? Cheney was also tied to Enron directly and World-Com indirectly. This man seems to be willing to let people starve and/or die to make a profit.

And the more and more I learn about how the Bush team operates (including Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Libby Scooter, Fieth, Rove, Ashcroft, etc....) the more fearful I become that these guys truly are repeating what happened in Nazi Germany. They may be taking longer to do it, but they seem to be up to the same shenanigans.

I honestly am beginning to see what I posted last night below - that many people defining themselves on the right either politically or theologically are often "bullies".

This is not true of ALL Republicans, nor is it true of ALL theological conservatives. However, it is often enough true.

I am also learning that we need good B.S. detectors to see through the rationalizations that the bullies use to justify what they do. Unfortunately, the innocent conservative who is not a bully and is simply blinded by the right sometimes get caught in the cross-fire.

By the time I started blogging, my shift to the political left had begun catching up with my shift to the theological left. I had gone online and entered web discussion forums seeking someone who might see what I was overlooking as my mind was changing. I kept getting kicked off Catholic forums by people who were not very tolerant of hard questions.

This has been a conversion experience for me. Much of the argumentation I post is an argument that went on in my own mind long before I posted it to the web.

I admit my past now for two reasons: 1) so that others may see that it is possible for conservatives to change, and 2) so that those who have shifted in the opposite direction can see that it plays both ways.

It isn't that one party truly has ALL the answers. The pre-Bush Republicans (not the "neocons", but those before or apart from them) raise some excellent points about balancing the federal budget, limiting government power, and so forth. Business isn't always evil, and business growth can be good for everyone if done rightly.

Yet, Clinton may have been an economic genius, and the Democrats have their hearts in the right place from the stand-point social justice and care for the poor.

Even when I voted for Reagan years ago, I wished for a more compassionate conservatism, and I see today that the seeds of G.W. were there in Reagan with Iran Contra and support for people like Osama and Saddam.

If a moderate pro-life Democrat ran today, he or she'd have my vote in a heartbeat. Or, if a liberal anti-war, anti-death penalty Republican came along, she or he could have my vote in a heartbeat.

As it stands today, however, all I know is that if I vote for Bush again, I would be violating my conscience, and therefore committing a sin. And with each passing day he is in office, the neo-cons drive me further to the left.

Theologically, the more the Church equivalents of political neo-cons talk, the more convinced I become how seriously wrong they are on some issues.

Those who consider themselves "conservatives" may or may not be right on any given issue. But consider the fact that the bullying approach to converting the opposition through armed conflict (in the case of Bush) or appeals to blind obedience to irrational propositions (in the case of the Church) only pushes away your own!


Historical Setting of the Protestant Reformation

I was watching a program on PBS about Martin Luther. The program seemed to have a Protestant bias, but it was interesting nonetheless.

A couple of points I found interesting were the following tid-bits:

- Pope Leo X was in power when Martin Luther first nailed his 95 thesis to the church door. Nailing documents to church doors was common - like creating a blog today, or using a bulletin board. It was not a radical act in itself. Saint Peter's basilica in Rome was under construction at the time. Pope Leo X had bankrupted the papal coffers by spending on extravagant parties where young naked boys would jump out of cakes.

- The Dominican Friar, Tetzel, who was criticized by Luther and who made up the famous jongle, "When the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs", was personally commissioned by the Pope to raise funds to complete Saint Peter's. Among other abuses, Tetzel preached that purchase of an indulgence would even buy one forgiveness for sexual intercourse with the Virgin Mary. In Tetzel's preaching, one could not avoid thousands of years in purgatory without purchasing an indulgence - and he had Rome's approval to use this message to raise funds to build Saint Peter's so that Leo would have his new palace! He also was also likley the first preacher to ever suggest that indulgences could be purchased for already deceased relatives.

- When Luther was monk prior to his 95 thesis, he went to confession up to four times per day among other acts of extreme asceticism. Apparently, he was truly a tormented soul, which I had always heard, but never really realized just how serious his scrupulosity was.

There is much in Lutheran theology that makes me uncomfortable - especially the extreme individualism of it. Nevertheless, understanding a bit about Luther's personal struggle with faith and the historical context of his conflict with the Church can give a Roman Catholic today a more sympathetic view of the man.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Brief Thoughts on Class Conflict and Liberation Theology

Earlier today, a reader broadly criticized my enthusiasm for liberation theology by stating that class conflict does not seem to follow the golden rule.

I think that the assumption of the reader is that liberation theology either causes or contributes to class conflict.

That's not true. Liberation theology simply says that class conflict exists, and because it exists, we need to discern where God is in the midst of it.

Liberation theology posits that in the inevitability of class conflict, God is always found on the side of the poor and the marginalized and oppressed as they experience liberation from that which binds them.

Theologically, the interpretation of texts and history and morality by the poor and oppressed is always assumed to have a higher truth value than an equally compelling Argument by the rich and powerful.


500 Die in Haiti Flood

I was watching the BBC news tonight and they ran a story saying 500 people died in recent flooding in Haiti. Eternal rest grant unto them O, Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the departed rest in peace, and bring comfort to their families, O Lord.

In the United States, when Hurricane Isabel struck, our death toll was well under 100 people. I believe it was less than 50. All death is tragic, but the magnitude of death in Haiti is so truly tragic because so many of these deaths were preventable.

The BBC news spot mentioned that President Aristide recently "fled" the country. According to Aristide, himself, he was kidnapped and flown to Africa - a move that could likely only be pulled off by an organization like the CIA. Aristide was opposed by forces supportive of Halliburton interest, which is Dick Cheney's former company. The Republicans have never been fond of Father Aristide (a valid priest) because of his stances embracing liberation theology.


Give Us Epidurals!

My wife and I were watching a video from the library on Lamaze and natural childbirth. This is an old video, and probably dated. A very young John Ritter (long before his recent death) was one of the hosts.

One of the narrators stated that natural childbirth involved women learning to use meditation techniques similar to yogis who walk on fire to get through labor.

Well, I pray and meditate every day, and I say that's a load of crap. Give us the epidural.


U.S. and Britain Differ Over Iraq

Prime Minister, Tony Blair, wants to hand full sovereignty over to the Iraqi people on June 30, 2004. This means that the Iraqi government has ultimate command of the troops, including U.S. troops. Powell and the Bush Administration tried to downplay any appearence of conflict with Blair, but ultimately signalled this ain't going to happen.


Noli Irritare Leones Describes Experience of Being Bullied

Noli Irritare Leones quotes Eve Tushnet on the experience of being gay and being bullied. The passage that really caught my eye is this one:

Mainly, it caught my eye [Noli's] because, on the one hand, I am, like Eve, bisexual, and, on the other hand, I've often felt like an alien, freakish, outsider. Only, for me (maybe because I'm just straight enough not to feel too ill-fitted?), the memory of being alien and freakish is more tied to my experience of being teased and bullied for eight years after skipping a grade than to anything related to sexual orientation. If I had to put an adult label on my alien, freakish, outsider self, the label would be not "queer," but "geek."
It is that last sentence that grabbed me. I, too, was bullied and picked on in grade school through high school. I experienced twelve long years of torment. I was actually thinking of this when I wrote how great my 30's have been a couple of days ago on my birthday.

In my case, I am not gay. But perhaps I was a geek. I was always small for my age, and still am. At 39 years old, I am 5' 6" and 135 lbs, a natural introvert, a bit bookish, and not the greatest athlete.

But perhaps my experience of being bullied through most of childhood drives my empathy for the cause of the marginalized, oppressed, poor, and people like gays and lesbians, women who want to be ordained, and so forth.

Perhaps I've developed a bit of hypersensitivity to bullies, and I perceive many of today's Republicans and many of today's Catholic curia as a bunch of big bullies in the way they set and push their agendas. The real question is whether my experiences sharpened my sensitivity to real and genuine bullying, or distorted my perception. That's where I try to use reason, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition to test my perceptions. It's up to readers to decide where the "Truth" with a capitol "T" really lies....


This is So True

I don't really like Kerry myself. It isn't about Kerry. It's about the fact that I cannot vote for Bush in good conscience, or even allow my vote to let Bush win.


Week 16 of Pregnancy

Take a look at that ultra-sound. It's not our baby, but there is absolutely mistaking a baby is there by week 16. My wife is clearly showing now too, and maybe starting to feel some movement.


Republican National Committee Convention Schedule 2004

6:00 PM Opening Prayer led by the Reverend Jerry Falwell
6:30 PM Pledge of Allegiance
6:35 PM Burning of Bill of Rights (excluding 2nd Amendment)
6:45 PM Salute to the Coalition of the Willing
6:46 PM Seminar #1: Getting Your Kid a Military Deferment
7:30 PM First Presidential Beer Bong
7:35 PM Freedom Fries served
7:40 PM EPA Address #1: Mercury: It's What's for Dinner
8:00 PM Vote on which country to invade next
8:10 PM Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh
8:15 PM John Ashcroft Lecture: The Homos Are After Your Children
8:30 PM Round table discussion on reproductive rights (men only)
8:50 PM Seminar #2: Corporations: The Government of the Future
9:00 PM Condi Rice sings "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man"
9:05 PM Second Presidential Beer Bong
9:10 PM EPA Address #2: Trees: The Real Cause of Forest Fires
9:30 PM Break for secret meetings
10:00 PM Second Prayer led by Cal Thomas
10:15 PM Carl Rove Lecture: Doublespeak Made Simple
10:30 PM Rumsfeld Lecture/Demonstration: How to Squint and Talk Macho Even When You Feel Squishy Inside
10:35 PM Bush demonstration of his trademark "deer in headlights" stare
10:40 PM John Ashcroft Demonstration: New Mandatory Kevlar Chastity Belt
10:45 PM Clarence Thomas reads list of black Republicans
10:46 PM Third Presidential Beer Bong
10:50 PM Seminar #3: Education: A Drain on Our Nation's Economy
11:10 PM Hilary Clinton Pinata
11:20 PM John Ashcroft Lecture: Evolutionists: A Dangerous New Cult
11:30 PM Call EMTs to revive Rush Limbaugh again
11:35 PM Blame Clinton
11:40 PM Laura serves milk and cookies
11:50 PM Closing Prayer led by man claiming to be Jesus Himself (Republicans insist he's the real deal).
12:00 AM Nomination of George W. Bush as Holy Supreme Planetary Overlord


Monday, May 24, 2004

The Importance of the Golden Rule

From the Sacred Scriptures:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets. (Matt 7:12)
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Lk 6:31)
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Matt 22:36-40)
"One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." (Mk 12:28-31)
From the most recent Ecumenical Council of the Church:
According to the almost unanimous opinion of believers and unbelievers alike, all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown. (Gaudium et Spes no. 12)
In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. (Gaudium et Spes no. 16)
From the Holy Father in an Apostolic Constitution upon promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law:
Granted this, it is sufficiently clear that the purpose of the Code is not in any way to replace faith, grace, charisms and above all charity in the life of the Church or of Christ's faithful. On the contrary, the Code rather looks towards the achievement of order in the ecclesial society, such that while attributing a primacy to love, grace and the charisms, it facilitates at the same time an orderly development in the life both of the ecclesial society and of the individual persons who belong to it. (Sacrae Disciplinae Leges)
From The Catechism of the Catholic Church on "To Choose in Accord with Conscience":
1789 Some rules apply in every case:
- One may never do evil so that good may result from it;
- the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them."[56]
- charity always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ."[57] Therefore "it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble."[58]
56 Mt 7:12; cf. Lk 6:31; Tob 4:15.
57 1 Cor 8:12.
58 Rom 14:21.
We see all these official documents that the constant teaching of the Church proclaimed at the highest levels of authority in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition is that the entire moral law of the Church can be summarized in the golden rule and the two greatest commandments.

It is fitting that a religion that proclaims the incarnation of God in human flesh would be a humanistic religion. Pope John Paul II states that the incarnation reveals "the incomparable dignity of the human person." (EV no. 3).

When a rich man approaches Jesus in Mark's Gospel, and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life, Mark's Jesus responds as follows:
You know the commandments: 'You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'" (Mk 10:19)
What is interesting in Jesus' response is that the first three commandments regarding idolatry, using the Lord's name in vain, and the Sabbath commandment are omitted. It seems that in the moral theology of Jesus, our love for God is expressed by our love for our neighbor:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. (Jn 15:12)
Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. (1 Jn 2:9-10)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 Jn 4:18-21)
In dealing with the question whether it is more meritorious to love God or to love our neighbor, Saint Thomas Aquinas argues that we must love God above our neighbor. However, he makes some interesting clarification and nuance in his conclusions:
the comparison may be understood to be between the love of God alone on the one side, and the love of one's neighbor for God's sake, on the other. On this way love of our neighbor includes love of God, while love of God does not include love of our neighbor. Hence the comparison will be between perfect love of God, extending also to our neighbor, and inadequate and imperfect love of God, for "this commandment we have from God, that he, who loveth God, love also his brother" (1 Jn. 4:21)....A man's love for his friends is sometimes less meritorious in so far as he loves them for their sake, so as to fall short of the true reason for the friendship of charity, which is God. Hence that God be loved for His own sake does not diminish the merit, but is the entire reason for merit.
In other words, Aquinas is stating that love of God without love of neighbor is an imperfect love of God, and love of neighbor without love of God is even less perfect. Yet, all love has some merit, and if one must chose, then love of God will naturally lead to love of neighbor and forms the basis for loving one's neighbor.

It would seem from all that is said above that ALL moral teaching of the Church must be demonstrably based on the golden rule.

In making a moral judgment about any act whatsoever, in order to deem an act immoral, one must be able to show that it causes harm to a human being.

This seems to be clear in most of the Church's moral teaching by example, as well as the explicit statements above. It would seem obvious that the moral teaching against murder follows the golden rule. None of us want others to threaten our lives, and therefore, we consider it wrong to threaten the life of others. The same could be said for theft. Nobody likes it when something is stolen from them, and therefore, we must respect the property rights of others. We do not want our spouses cheating on us. Therefore, we accept that adultery is morally wrong. The list goes on and on.

Even non-believers can make sense of the golden rule. Confucius, Socrates, Plato and Seneca all advocated a form of the golden rule. Most of the world's religious and ethical systems teach a form of the golden rule.

Enlightenment philosophers such as Emmanuel Kant argued that the basis of all ethics is to act in such a way that you treat people as ends in themselves, rather than means to an end, and your actions could be translated into a universal principle or law. This amounts to a rational equivalent of the golden rule.

Some Christians are fearful of demonstrating that a core teaching of Jesus can be rationally understood by everyone, including non-believers. However, the Roman Catholic Church has always taught that there is no conflict between natural reason and faith. The first Vatican Council states:
Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason.
Saint Peter admonishes us that we should always be able to offer a reasonable explanation of the hope that lies within us, and offer such rationale with gentleness and respect (1 Pet 3:15-16). Saint Paul points out that the laws of God are inscribed even on pagan hearts that have no explicit knowledge of revealed truth (Rom 2:14-15), and he praises the pagans who have come to a limited knowledge of God and righteousness through their natural powers of reason (Acts 17:22-23).

Roman Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit protects the Church from error. The Holy Father and the college of Bishops are "infallible" when defining matters of faith and morals under certain conditions. Likewise, there is an infallibility that extends to the whole Church called the "sensus fidei" as described in Lumen Gentium no. 12.

Authority can be persuasive in certain circumstances. A parent persuades a child to act rightly by asking the child how she or he would feel if someone did to the child what the child is doing to another. Because of the position of the parent to the child, the child is forced to think through a response. Yet, the answer lies within the child. Right moral conduct is not necessarily revealed from without. It lies within us in the depths of conscience.

When the conditions of infallibility were not invoked, the Church has erred in the past. Teachings on slavery are usually the best example, and the inquisitions and the crusades can also be used. These errors could have been easily avoided if all theologians, deacons, priests, bishops and popes would simply apply the golden rule in a rational way to their own teachings before promulgating them.

Saint Thomas Aquinas argues in the First Part, 1.8 of The Summa Theologiae that argument from authority is the weakest form of argument. He advises that heretics can be brought back to truth by leading them "from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another." He points out that frequently, we can find common ground with one another, and from this common ground, we can lead each other to truth by reasoning from these common principles.

Many Roman Catholics try to by-pass the reasoning process by quoting an authoritative document that seems to demonstrate whatever point they wish to make. Then the other person is labeled a "heretic" or a "dissident" if she or he does not simply quietly acquiesce. One reader recently quoted Saint Ignatius of Loyola to suggest that if the Vatican said black were white, she would accept it.

Furthermore, "ad hominem" attack - name calling - is neither a logical argument, nor an effective means of persuasion. Calling someone a "heretic" or "dissident" doesn't really mean much except as an expression that you disagree with the person. If the names are nasty enough, it violates the golden rule to use them.

Blind obedience to a human being holding authority does not strike me as a virtue that God demands. Indeed, if blind obedience to a human being holding authority were salvific, the Nazis running the death camps were the holiest people on earth. The Scriptures say that the state has authority from God. Some German Catholic bishops preached anti-semiticism, and believed the Jewish religion endangered souls for all eternity. Pope Pius XII was silent on the issue. Therefore, being an S.S. officer in the concentration camps was virtuous.
Hopefully, all readers understand that this is absurd!

Based on revelation and reason, it follows that any matter of moral theology defined infallibly by the proper authorities in the Church will need to be consistent with the golden rule according to her own teaching, and this teaching will readily gain assent by the faithful. The golden rule forms the common ground that I believe all Catholics accept, whether liberal, progressive, conservative, traditionalist, or "orthodox". Even if someone in one of these camps is treading in heretical waters, we should be able to bring the person back by appealing to our common assent to the golden rule.

There are some issues of Church teaching today that do not seem to me to meet the test of the golden rule. Rather than simply appealing to authoritative statements from the Vatican, I would like to readers who support the Vatican's position to explain to me how the golden rule applies to these scenarios:

1) Church governance: In any hierarchical secular organization, such as a business corporation, we each appreciate if those of higher position ask for our input on decisions that will effect us. Does the current style of Church leadership follow the golden rule in the way authority is exercised in the Church? In light of the sex abuse scandals, how long can this question be ignored? Bishops were elected in the early Church. Does the golden rule demand a retrieval of tradition?

2) Contraception: Natural family planning is permitted because the intent to express unitive love without intending procreation is not, itself, sinful. How does it violate the golden rule for a married couple to mutually decide to use non-abortificient means of artificial contraception to temporarily prevent pregnancy within the context of their marriage relationship?

3) Women's Ordination: Optatam Totius nos. 3 and 19 call ministerial priesthood a "state of life". Gaudium et Spes no. 29 acknowledges that people have different gifts, but states that it is contrary to God's intent to deny a woman a state of life bases solely on gender. Through baptism, we are all conformed in an ontological way with Christ. It would seem contrary to the golden rule to deny a qualified woman desiring ordination the right to the state of life she experiences as her vocation. How is the exclusion of women from ordained ministerial priesthood not a violation of the golden rule?

4) Priestly Celibacy: If a CEO running a multi-national corporation were demand that all employees must forsake marriage so as to give themselves totally to the corporation, the Church would likely condemn this CEO. Workers would likely strike, and the employer would likely be sued. Most of us would rebel against forced celibacy. Such a rule would seem obviously contrary to the golden rule. Indeed, while Saint Paul freely embraced healthy and holy celibacy, he warns that those who demand celibacy of others are being deceived by demons (1 Tim 4:3). Jesus selected married men for apostolic ministry who took their wives with them (1 Cor 9:1). How is mandatory celibacy for ministerial priests consistent with the golden rule? The faithful also have a right to the sacraments. How is holding the Eucharist hostage in exchange for more male celibates consistent with the golden rule?

5) Gay unions: We saw in the prior question that Saint Paul states that those who force celibacy on others may be deceived by demons (1 Tim 4:3). If someone demanded celibacy of most of us, we would rebel against it. In official Church teaching, free and mutual loving consent has always been considered a part of the sacrament of matrimony. The proverbial "shot-gun wedding" can easily be annulled because of free consent was not given. The Church also recognizes limits to physiological freedom in granting annulments. This is good and right. What does the golden rule demand of us in the case of people who have same sex attractions as a permanent homosexual condition through no fault of their own, and who desire to live out the married vocation? It would seem that the golden rule forbids forcing such people into heterosexual marriage, and forcing a celibate commitment that is not desired. Furthermore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine how adults freely and mutually consenting to a permanent homosexual unions are hurting each other or anyone else? They would seem to be following the golden rule, while those who would stop them seem to be violating it. Even if sacramental marriage cannot include homosexuals for sound theological reasons, can a blessing rite equivalent to religious vows be developed that supports gay unions? What does the golden rule demand?

6) Divorced Catholics: Is there anyone among us who wants a mistake - even a sinful mistake - to be held over our heads for the rest of our lives? Let the one among us without sin cast the first stones. Why can't the Church make reconciliation for divorced Catholics who have remarried somewhat more real and meaningful? Isn't the Eastern Orthodox solution just as effective at preventing divorce (if not more so), even as it provides a way for remarried people to come back to communion eventually?

7) Missionary Activity: No Catholic would deny that the state of the person in eternity is more important than a person's physical condition here on earth. Nonetheless, don't we have a moral obligation under the golden rule to listen to others before we preach? And shouldn't we be concerned about the elimination of poverty and oppression along-side of our evangelical efforts? Indeed, would our evangelical activity not be more effective if we stood with and for the poor and oppressed of the world? And doesn't standing with and for another mean that you first have to listen to the other and learn from the other and come to see the world from their point of view? Rather than coming to others with the patronizing message that we have all the answers and a lock on all truth, shouldn't we go out to the world in the spirit of mutual dialogue and respect?

In formulating a response to any one or all of these questions, please try to demonstrate how your answer is rationally consistent with the golden rule without using appeals to authority alone or ad hominem name calling.


Archbishop Pilarczyk on Kerry and communion

"The last thing any church or any representative or agent of the church wants to do is to deny the sacraments to anybody unjustly."
"It is my understanding and my impression that Cardinal Arinze did not intend to solve an extremely complex theological and sacramental question with a one-liner at the end of a press conference."
"It seems to me at this point that it makes a lot more sense to presume people’s good will, presume erroneous conscience or perplexed conscience and give them Communion, rather than say, ‘I think you think such-and-such,’"
"What about people who don’t like Humanae Vitae? What about people who don’t like the church’s teaching on the death penalty or on homosexual marriages? Are we going to refuse them?"
- Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and former President of the USCCB.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

Greeley Gets Fiesty With the Bishops!

Father Andrew Greeley is well known for his sharp tongue, but I'm not sure I've ever seen him this riled up. He takes on the bishops (especially those banning communion to politicians), the curia (as always), the press (for not reporting the about bishops who are doing good), and the sexual abuse review board all at once. This article is prophetic, and well worth the read.


Israel and Palestine?

I have been praying and puzzling for months over the issues in Israel and Palestine. The more I read, the more discouraged I become.

As one who believes the Gospel calls us to take the side of the poor and oppressed and marginalized, this is a real dilemma.

Throughout history, Jesus' own blood relatives, the Jews, have probably been the most mistreated people on earth. One could not stand with a more oppressed people. As a Christian, I feel obligated to sort of take their side against worldly power.

I also believe that we Christians can learn more about Jesus through his people. And despite years of training in modern rational higher criticism of the Bible, I can't help but wonder if the re-creation of Israel by the U.N. in 1948 doesn't fulfill some sort of prophecy. Even Vatican II says that God's promises to Israel have never been revoked. And there has always been some sort of Jewish presence in Israel since the days before the Davidic kingdom. So they have a rightful claim to a homeland, as the U.N. decided in 1948.

At the same time, when I read of the actions of Ariel Sharon, I am sickened. Furthermore, I can't help but feel that the Palestinians who lived in the land prior to 1948 do have a legitimate claim that their homes have been stolen and their rights have been violated. They deserve a homeland and just compensation for thier losses. These people, too, have been oppressed unfairly, mistreated, marginalized by the global community, and now live in poverty!

The Palestinian people may also share in some blood relationship with Jesus if the Arabs truly descend from Abraham. These people, too, are worshippers of the one God.

I believe Israel has a right to exist. I wish they would avoid the heavy handed tactics they have been using. I also believe that the Palestinians deserve a home, and I wish they would not use terrorist tactics that target civilians to achieve their ends. Both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. And the U.S. is mixed up with both sides as well.

If the U.S. withdrew all support from Israel, I believe that Israel would likely be over-run and the Jewish state destroyed - at least at this time. I do not believe this should happen.

At the same time, many Muslims feel strongly that the entire Holy Land has been in Islamic possession for over a thousand years, and that it is an insult to Islam to give up possession of any part of the land to Jews, Christians, or the international community.

I don't know what the solution to the crisis will be. I think anything short of a two state solution is probably unjust, and neither side seems wholly satisfied with this solution as it has been historically proposed. In the midst of it all, I keep trying to discern what a believer in active non-violence can and should do in this situation.

I do know one thing. The Bible admonishes us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This sounds like a good place to start. Does anyone else have any ideas?


Thirty Nine Years Old Today!

Yep. I'm thirty nine years old today. If I have any younger readers (high school or early twenties), I just want to say that for me, I can honestly say that my thirties have been the best decade of my life so far, and it seems to just keep getting better. Don't listen to people who say your best years are happenning now. The best years can lie ahead.


Halliburton is Everywhere!

I just learned this morning that the company Dick Cheney headed all the way up to innaguration day, Halliburton, has interest in Haiti that benefit from the deposing of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.



Boycott Taco Bell!

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is leading a boycott against Taco Bell that is being supported by Pax Christi. Farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida pick the tomatoes that are used by the restaurant giant that reported $5.2 billion earnings last year.

The CIW states that the farmworkers are selected from undocumented immigrant workers who make about $7,500 per year income, and are charged about $1,200 per month rent to live in trailers. To make ends meet, the farmworkers crowd the trailers about 8 to each trailer.

The CIW does not want the workers deported or fired. Rather, they are demanding that Taco Bell pay these workers a just and living wage, and help them obtain proper work permits. Until Taco Bell does so, CIW asks patrons of the food chain to boycott and write the company explaining your reasons. Several hundred Notre Dame students have already been boycotting, and have asked the University to cease its contracts with Taco Bell.


Friday, May 21, 2004

The Problem With Narrow Definitions

It struck me some time today that, for many Catholics, the problem with the pro-choice movement is that they define human personhood too narrowly, and wind up excluding people that pro-lifers wish to include.

Narrow definitions have deadly results in the physical world.

The same is true in the realm of the spirit. Narrow definitions of who is saved and who is not saved - who is a good Catholic and who is not - are deadly definitions.

Just as we should seek to define human personhood as broadly as possible to include the unborn, the critically ill, the elderly, those of other races, even criminals, and so forth, so should we seek to include others in the mystery of the Church.

Vatican II did this. Lumen Gentium no. 8 states that the true Church founded by Christ "subsists" in the Roman Catholic Church, and yet, points out that sanctification occurs outside of this institution. In LG nos. 15 and 16, the Church speak eloquently of people united to the Church in some mysterious fashion even though they belong to communities that are not in union with Rome, and even though they may not be explicitly Christian!

This union is real, and not merely a metaphor.

For example, a child of Catholic parents who has the child baptized in water and the Trinitarian formula has a full-fledged Catholic child. If that child died immediately after baptism or before the age of reason, it is a matter of doctrine that the child would go straight to heaven.

In a like manner, many Protestant Christians belong to the Mystical Body of Christ by virtue of their baptism in water and the Trinitarian formula. Though they may not understand many doctrines held by the Roman Catholic Church, they are no less "Catholic" than that child. To deny this is to deny the Church's own doctrinal statements on the effects of Baptism.

It is true that the Church has always struggled to put some more "meat" on defining what it means to be a good Christian. We have always recognized that even if the grace of water baptism is certain, a person must respond to that grace. We want to know when and how someone crosses a certain line where they cease to be Catholic so that we can avoid getting too close to that line ourselves.

However, what I am saying is that it is as dangerous to draw that spiritual line too narrowly as it is to draw the line defining who is a human person and who is not. The risk is a rash judgmentalism - the very thing that Jesus most frequently and most harshly criticized in his earthly ministry!

As you judge, you will be judged.

The one who is most inclusive, most forgiving, most compassionate, most patient, most willing to listen to an opposing view, most generous, most "liberal" and "tolerant" and "accepting" wins some leeway with her or his personal failings.

The one who draws very narrow definitions sets her or himself up for judgment for their own hypocrisy.

God often gives us hints of what we will face in the next life through other people. Human beings seem to be born with an innate sort of sixth sense for judgmentalism and hypocrisy in others.

We see this even as Bishops threaten to exclude politicians from communion on certain issues. The question many people are immediately asking is "Why abortion and stem cell research, but not the war in Iraq or the death penalty? Why those who vote for the pro-choice Kerry, but not those who vote for Bush (who is also ultimately pro-choice)?" The proponents of this view are not consistent with their own standard.

Almost all of us miss seeing our own rash judgmentalism and our own hypocricy. I know I do frequently. One of the tools I use to combat my own judgmentalism is to try to remember that narrow defintions can be deadly.

Inconsistency and irrational thinking drive me a bit batty, but too much consistency often means I am drawing a line too narrowly too. If it seems simple, I am probably missing something. The real world and the mystery of God may not be irrational, but neither is simple either.

Rather than trying to draw narrow and tight definitions of what it means to be a good Catholic, we should have hearts that seek to make the definition as broad and embracing as possible.

Yes, there is a line between right and wrong somewhere. There are moral standards and we can act against God's will. There is even a time and place for prophetic challenge and admonishing sin, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful or correcting error.

However, even when this occurs, charity should be our guide. The golden rule is an excellent standard for us.

When I think I need to correct an employee with a position that reports to me, before I say anything, I try to be as sure as possible that I have all the facts and that I've given the person a chance to state their side of the case before launching into my corrective action. Even if correction is needed, I do not want to fire the person. I have never wanted to fire anyone!

Charity demands the humility to seek the facts and listen to the other side with an open mind. Charity demands that we approach the other with a heart that desires to resolve the issue and maintain the relationship, rather than driving the other away. Charity is willing to change my own mind if the other has good reason for what they did. Charity is forgiving when sin is admitted by the other. Charity is patient in trying to resolve the issue, and not in a rush to resolve by exclusion.

We learn God's will through other people. For example, as Catholics, we believe that words written by human beings in books 2-3,000 years ago are God's words. We believe that God guides the Pope and the college of Bishops when they define doctrines with infallible authority. We believe that saints in heaven intercede for us. We believe that God's divine providence is active in human history. We believe that our marriages make us better people. We pray to be instruments of God's grace!

But if we are to believe that we are instruments of God's grace to others, we must accept that they may be instruments to us as well.

Perhaps when someone is questioning a non-infallible teaching of the Bishops, or questioning the application of an infallible teaching to a temporal situation, rather than rushing to the judgment that this person is a bad Catholic, we might try to slow down and listen.

And perhaps, if we try to keep our definitions of who is Catholic as broad as possible, we might actually start learning from these people who ask a lot of questions and say a lot of startling things.

Will there be instances where the question has an answer, and you were sent to provide it. Yes. The other person will learn from you even as you learn from her or him. Disagreement is the means of learning from one another.

The key is not to give up one another - but continue to hope and pray and believe and act as though that each of us is a member of the Body of Christ and an instrument of God's grace to one another. In order to do this, we avoid the temptation to define Catholicism too narrowly.


Setting Our Ecclisial Gauges

This article by Ron Rolheiser, OMI, is a very interesting perspective on the divisions in the Church. Rolheiser speaks of how the gauges of hwat makes a good Catholic are more complex than most people imagine. Rather than a single gauge, he imagines a set of gauges as complex as the gauges on the instrument panel of an airplane. And rather than one extreme measure being correct, he points out how good pilots look for ideal ranges and points on a continuum between two extreme measures on the guage.


Let the One Without Sin Cast the First Stone

I received an email from Ashley linking to her site above. She writes of her struggle to understand the right moral course of action in the upcoming elections based on statements from Bishop Sheridan of Colorado:

I am confused. Because President George Bush and Senator John Kerry both support stem-cell research to a certain extent. Thus, under Bishop Sheridan's test, I should not vote. However, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that voting is a moral obligation. Therefore, I will violate my beliefs, my Church teaching, and -- most importantly, my own conscience -- no matter what I choose to do.
I would point out that both Bush and Kerry also support abortion rights, though Bush would limit that right more than Kerry. And as Ashley points out, Bush supports the death penalty (against the teaching of the Pope), and Republicans generally disregard the Church's social justice principles. Last but not least, wars of aggression have always been condemned by the Church, and nearly the entire college of Bishops world-wide, including the Pope, voiced opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Sheridan states:
Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. (emphasis mine)
According to Sheridan's criteria, it is abundantly clear that Catholics cannot vote for either G.W. Bush or John Kerry. Both men support abortion rights and stem cell research. While Bush may be less forceful in his support, and more open to compromise with pro-lifers, he has clearly and repeatedly supported these things.

In the 2000 election year, Bush said he will not use abortion as a litmus test to appoint Supreme Court justices. He also said he would not sign a Right to Life Amendment unless it contained certain exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother. He claimed that the President is powerless to do anything about the abortion pill. His ban on late term abortions only blocked a very rare procedure that can be performed in other ways. The only real pro-life victory in Bush' abortion stance has been that he opposses federal funding for abortions. Bush is laughing all the way to the White House as Catholics tear into Kerry on this issue while he can sit back, avoid controversy, and do nothing but pay occassional lip service to pro-lifers.

On the issue of stem cell research, Bush referred to the unborn as "potential" human life, and while he blocked federal spending for creation of new stem cells, he permitted federal funding for research on existing stem cells. Furthermore, he has not supported any legislation banning the creation of new stem cells through private funding.

Ashley voices confusion at Sheridan's judgment that support for either candidate "jeopardizes salvation". She posits that only one without sin could make such judgment in good conscience. Therefore, she urges us to send Bishop Sheridan and others like him a rock, so that they may be the first to cast the stone.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Thoughts on Ascension

I have just a few brief thoughts about the Ascension, which is celebrated today.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. (Mt. 28: 17)
My first observation is that even those who first witnessed the resurrected and ascended Christ had doubts. Faith is not the same thing as intellectual certitude, and faith does not preclude questions. Saint James reminds us that even the demons know God intellectually, but they are not saved! (cf Jam 2:19). Faith is trusting in the midst of darkness.

Which brings me to my second observation about the ascension. The Apostles had to learn to live without the physical presence of Jesus in the way they were had been accustomed to experiencing him. They had to learn to find God in apparent absence.

Which brings me to my final reflection on the ascension. The Scriptures say Christ ascended into heaven, and Christ taught us that the reign of God is at hand - in our midst. Christ ascension is not to a distant place. Rather, Christ ascended to a reality that is present everywhere throughout all time. He ascended so that we may encounter him here and now 2,000 years after his resurrection. He is present in the proclamation of the word, in the breaking of the bread, and the gathering of the community of faith to become the Body of Christ.



Wednesday, May 19, 2004

God is Not Dead

This week's cover article in Newsweek was on the authors of the best selling "Left Behind" series popular among Evangelical Protestants. The authors are Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

I am not sure why these books are so popular, but I confess I haven't read a single one. I am just not all that interested in someone's speculation about the end times. If the world is really coming to an end in my life-time, I have better things to do than reading someone's imaginative speculation about it. I believe we should live each day ready for the end and hoping we will have a lot more time.

I may read one of the books simply because they are becoming so popular, and I need to understand other people if I am to properly love them. However, I haven't read one of the books yet.

It is interesting to me that some of the top selling stuff in popular culture this year has been Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, Mel Gibson's The passion of the Christ and now these books. Then, in politics we are debating the war in Iraq, abortion, and gay marriage.

No matter what you think of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Dan Brown, Mel Gibson, George Bush or John Kerry, it is refreshing to see so many people considering such important topics from a theological or spiritual perspective. Whoever said God is dead was obvioulsy mistaken.


The Will and Grace Effect

In the past couple of issues of Newsweek, there have been some articles with Newsweek polling data on attitudes toward gay marriage.

An issue or two ago, they reported that among middle and southern American conservatives - especially Evangelical Protestants - opposition to gay marriage ranked ahead of opposition to abortion on their political agenda.

Think about that one. Somehow, a matter of sexual morality between consenting adults ranks ahead of murder of innocent children. Something is askew in this set of priorities.

In this week's issue (linked above), their polls indicate a generation divide even in these key geographic areas, and even factoring for religion. Those younger than 29 are far more likely to support gay marriage than those older than 29.

This is true whether Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, or whatever. It seems that many young people see a strong correlation between this issue and changing attitudes about interracial marriages over the last several decades.

Another interesting set of polls indicate the strongest single determinant to a person supporting gay marriage is actually knowing a gay person on a personal basis, rather than reading about the issue abstractly and engaging in intellectual arguments. Even very conservative religious people are far more likely to change their minds if someone close to them is gay than if they go through life never knowing anyone around them is gay.

Another interesting tidbit is that positive images of gays and lesbians on TV effect attitudes about gays and lesbians. "The Will and Grace Effect" refers to the fact that people who watch the show will indicate less "homophobic" response to polls than they did before watching the show. The effect is similar to knowing a gay or lesbian person personally.

I know that I, personally, became more liberal on the issue of gay marriage after I interacted on a daily basis with healthy and holy gay men in the seminary. It saddens me that many gay seminarians and priests are feeling forced back into closets these days.

The most effective way to change society's attitudes on these issues is for gays and lesbians to simply speak up - especially to those they expect the most negative reaction from.

On the other hand, given the number of gay bashings that occur each day, and other negative reactions from a homophobic society, I do not blame a single gay or lesbian person for not revealing their orientation.


Marriage Versus Celibacy

In Familiaris Consortio no. 16, the Holy Father states the following:

Virginity or celibacy, by liberating the human heart in a unique way, "so as to make it burn with greater love for God and all humanity," bears witness that the Kingdom of God and His justice is that pearl of great price which is preferred to every other value no matter how great, and hence must be sought as the only definitive value. It is for this reason that the Church, throughout her history, has always defended the superiority of this charism to that of marriage, by reason of the wholly singular link which it has with the Kingdom of God.
What does this actually mean?

The vocation to celibacy has long been recognized as an eschatological witness to day of the resurrection of the dead. In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus is posed a question by the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead. They ask him about a case where a woman was married to a man who died before they could have children. The deceased man's brother then takes the woman in marriage, and he dies as well before any children are begotten. This continues through a total of seven brothers. The Sadducees then ask which of the seven brothers the woman is married to on the day of the resurrection of the dead. In response, Luke records the following words on Jesus' lips:
Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. (Luke 20:34-36)
Celibacy originated among the disciples of Jesus after the resurrection in large part out of the belief that we were live in this life as though the reign of God and the resurrection of the dead were already occurring in our midst.

Saint Paul would later advise that celibacy was preferable to marriage for himself because he believed it freed one from worldly concerns to focus on the concerns of God (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-33). Yet, Saint Paul was very clear that there was no sin in being married, and that it would be immoral to demand celibacy of all Christians (cf. 1 Cor 7:9 and 7:28 and 1 Tim 4:3).

The desert anchorites would chose celibacy as a means of focusing intensely on prayer. Most celibates in the early Church were not ordained priests, and most monks throughout history have not sought ordination. Jesus chose married priest as Apostles, who took their wives with them on mission (cf. 1 Cor 9:5, 1 Pet 5:13 and Mk 1:30 for evidence that Pope Saint Peter was a married Apostle who took his family with him on mission).

Indeed, for over 1,100 years, married priests were the norm in the Roman Catholic Church, and even today, married priest are permitted among the Eastern Rite Catholic united to Rome.

While it may be true that in the next life or the final day of resurrection, we will not be married, I wonder whether it is a correct statement that celibacy is a "superior" vocation than the vocation to married life.

Indeed, such a statement seems contradictory. the word "vocation" is taken from the Latin vocare meaning "to call". The notion of a vocation is that God calls each one of us by name to a specific way of life. A "vocation" is not merely a personal choice based on personal predispositions. Rather, a vocation is a response to the voice of God in the depth of conscience.

Christ commands us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5:48). throughout the Gospels, Christ states that trusting obedience to the Father rooted in love for God and neigbor is the core of perfection. If God issues a person a "vocation", it would seem to me that it would be sinful to not embrace that vocation and put into practice in your life.

If celibacy is somehow "superior" to marriage, then it would always fall short of perfection to embrace marriage over celibacy. Marriage would not be so much a "vocation", as a compromise between our fallen nature and our desire to follow Jesus. Married Christians would be sort of a second class citizen.

On the other hand, perhaps the superior vocation for any individual is precisely the vocation God gives that individual. If you are called to marriage, you must respond to that call, and marriage would be the superior calling for you. If you are called to celibacy, then celibacy is the superior calling for you, and celibacy would be the superior calling for you.

However, it cannot be the case that a married person is really called to celibacy and simply too weak to embrace the superior calling. If this were true, marriage could not rightly be called a vocation or a sacrament.

This is an important point in the debate about married priests. If God gives a person a calling to both priesthood and marriage, as he did with Pope Saint Peter, it would be wrong to block that individual from fulfilling one of his God given vocations.

The highest calling for any given person is the calling God gives you. Anything other than the calling God gives you is an inferior vocation for you.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Progress of Pregnancy

With all the travel, illness, and extra work, I have been remiss in providing pregnancy updates. We have completed week 14 and moved into week 15. My wife is defintely starting to show now, which is really neat.

It's hard for me describe how I feel because I have been so busy lately that I don't reflect much on my feelings. Sometimes, it doesn't feel real. I pray for the baby and my wife every day, of course. Yet, there is this sense that it really isn't sinking in yet that I am truly a father.

Keep praying for us.


Monday, May 17, 2004

A "Just" Response to Evil, Verses a "Loving" Response to Evil

A reader left some comments to my post on the Iraqi prison situation below. I had stated that it is always and everywhere less than loving to kill another human being.

Trying to summarize the reader's thoughts, he seemed to say that while war is always tragic, there is a "virtuous" use of military force, even if killing does fall short of love. He also felt that the conscience guided by reason to act in a just war needed to be respected. He appealed to the traditions of Aquinas and Augustine as evidence that there is a just use of military force, even if Iraq may have failed on these criteria.

I accept that conscience and reason need to be respected, and I am not making so much a moral judgment on supporters of the war in Iraq (or soldiers), as a sort of psychological judgment or clinical diagnoses on the nation as a whole.

I am not a psychologist, and I don't mean this in a strict technical sense of the word. What I mean is that our society suffers from a sort of delusional thinking.

I do not think it coincidental that the United States has the highest gun death rate in the entire world - higher than all of the rest of the world combined, and we would wage such an obviously unjust war or create a situation where Abu Graib occurred. All these seemingly unconnected things are connected, along with the fact that we spend more the military than all of the rest of the world combined.

All these things are symptoms of a single spiritual sickness, and I "understand" how people make their judgments of conscience because I suffered with the sickness myself for awhile as a member of this society.

Yet, I don't have to have a fever at the moment in order to diagnose someone is suffering delirium from fever. Indeed, it's better if I am free of fever to make such a diagnoses, and I don't have to have ever had a fever to recognize a fever is causing delirium in someone else. While the condition may be understandable, it is still delirius.

I do accept that there is such a thing as a "just" war, or a "just" use of deadly force.

In this sense, I have no conflict with Church teaching or with the traditions articulated by Augustine or Aquinas.

However, the question I am raising is whether there is such a thing as a "loving" use of deadly force, and I believe the answer to this is always and everywhere "no".

Think of it this way,..., a man rapes a child, or commits a brutal murder. It would be neither just, nor loving to the victim to simply ignore this.

Now, imagine that you are the mother of the rapist or the murderer. Your own sense of justice may say, "My son deserves to go to jail, and even suffer punishment." But most mothers would also say, "I don't want my son to receive the death penalty."

I'm not simply hypothesizing here. I have done prison ministry, and I've met mothers who feel this way. The love of a mother is fierce and powerful - and it more often than not seems to look past the most grave offenses.

The Bible says that even if a mother forgets her child, God will not forget one of us (Isaiah 49:15)!

Love looks beyond justice - and I think God looks at us with love more powerful than any human love we can imagine - more powerful than mother or father or spouse or child. God loves Saddam Hussein, even as God loves Saddam's victims.

The Gospel calling is to love, rather than mere justice.

Perhaps an analogy to physical laws of science would be helpful. The laws of gravity lead us to believe that a hunk of metal weighing a ton cannot fly. For centuries, humanity simply knew this was impossible.

Yet, the laws of aerodynamics operate in such a way that we now know that a hunk of metal weighing a ton can fly when shaped correctly and propelled at the proper speeds.

Are the laws of gravity "violated" by the law of aerodynamics?

Of course not. However, a sort of "higher law" operates in such a way that the laws of gravity appear to be violated.

So it is with the command to love our enemies. We act "justly" and even avoid mortal sin when we engage in a just war to defend innocents against an unjust aggressor. Soldiers do often display great virtue, as indicated in allusions to a "virtuous war". There is virtue in the courage to lay down one's life for the cause of the oppressed, and there is even love for those the soldier defends.

Yet, war does not demonstrate love for the enemy in the way that active non-violence resistance might. "Active non-violent resistance" to evil is the tactic of MLK Jr., or Gandhi, or St. Francis of Assisi when he went to talk to the Sultan to try to end the crusades, rather than taking up arms.

Active non-violent resistance is not doing nothing. It is not passivism, because it demands action in the face of evil. The victim must be vindicated and the evil must be stopped. Active non-violent resistance, like soldiering, requires the virtue of courage that would lay down your life to defend the cause of justice.

However, active non-violent resistance to evil refuses to use violence as the means to confront evil. Active non-violent resistance tries to love both victim and perpetrator when injustice occurs.

I believe Jesus is the prime example of active non-violent resistance and his courage is displayed on the cross. The effectiveness of his action is evidenced by the more than 2 billion disciples he claims nearly 2,000 years after his courageous and loving act!

I believe that active non-violent resistance is also a technique or doctrine that needs further development. We need to put the same creative energy that went into the invention of the hydrogen bomb into finding ways to apply active non-violence resistance to situations like Iraq, Nazi Germany, or even the crime on our local streets.

I don't claim to have all the answers to how active non-violent resistance applies to each and every conceivable situation anymore than any single soldier has all the answers to the best military strategy, tactic, or weapon in each and every conceivable stratagem of war.

What I am inviting people to do, however, is to begin imagining the possibility that there are non-violent solutions to nearly every conceivable situation of injustice (and perhaps even all situations of injustice), and that the non-violent solution should always be sought before there is even any whisper of war.

The United States has been a rush to use military force either overtly or covertly since our earliest history, often in cases that do not even meet the minimum requirements of justice, much less love. Our founding "fathers" were simply tax evaders lead by a wealthy Virginian land-owner. We started a war over an evasion of responsibility!

The result of our mind-set has been the near elimination of the Native American population in the past based on over-hyped charges of terrorism against a people who were simply defending themselves from our aggression.

Now we are waging a similar war of aggression against another people who see themselves as defending themselves from our global aggression. We have made ourselves international outlaws in the eyes of most of the world, and every single assumption we held about Iraq seems to have been false. Iraq had no WMDs, no ties to Al Queda, was not an "immanent threat", and our own army is treating Iraqi's as badly as Saddam, and our withdrawal would leave thugs to run the country.

There are too many people who have thought of rationalizations for war for so long that we have lost sight of what a "just war" really is, and we cannot even imagine a loving response to evil.

Recall that the US backed Saddam in the 1980's (and Rumsfeld and Saddam were buddies back then). The US was also training and supplying Osama Bin laden in that time period.

So deep was our duplicity that during this same time period, we sold weapons to the Contras to be sold to our enemies in Iran to use against our allies in Iraq, while also supplying the Sandinistas against the Contras. As a back-up plan, we've supported Israel throughout, no matter what they do. We justified everything by saying they're all bad guys, and if they all kill each other, so be it, so long as we make money and control the oil while we do it.

We were just being "realistic". We even called it "realpolitik".

It's time to stop being realistic and start being idealistic. It's time to stop settling for justice and start demanding love. It's time to channel our imaginative energy to new means of active non-violent resistance instead of the creation new ways to kill people more efficiently.

If we had been doing this since the end of WWII instead of starting an arms race with the Soviets, we might have realized a long time ago that TV, coke-a-cola, rock and roll, blue jeans and religion could undermine the communists faster and more surely than our own stockpile of WMDs larger than anything Saddam ever imagined.

We, as a society, must stop training our youngsters for war through video games. We must stop imagining a violent world in the movies we watch and the music we listen to. We must stop living on the constant defensive where "guns make a polite society". We must stop acting as the police force for the world. We must stop thinking in terms of "us verses them" and think in terms "we".

Instead of war, we should spend over $87 billion on combating AIDs. We should develop the largest peace corps service in the world, instead of the largest armed service. To quote the popular bumber sticker, it's time our schools had enough money while the air-force had bake sales to try to repair a bomber.

We must create innovative techniques for promoting real democracy and real peace with the global community through ecumenical prayer, ecumenical dialogue, ecumenical social service work, and ecumenical works for justice - where Jews, Muslims, Bhuddists, Hindus and Christians: Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, all come together to share our common sense of moral vision and our common desire for peace.

We must look for ways to strengthen the UN instead of tearing it down and making it less effective than it already was.

We must pay attention to the voices of women (who have started very few wars in history). We must listen to our children (out of the mouths of babes will come wisdom).

We must stop rationalizing this war in Iraq, and all war in general, and start realizing the ideal of peace!

And all of this begins in the imagination of each and everyone of us, and it would be a potent witness to the love of Christ if the world's one billion Catholics (and the U.S.' 64+ million Catholics) lead the way.

Imagine peace....