Friday, October 28, 2005


This has been a trying week for me in blogdom. I start out innocently saying that it saddens me that an unbeliever might associate Handel's Messiah with George W. Bush.

In subsequent debate, I mention seeing this image on the web:

This leads some readers to ask what Catholics have done this sort of thing.

I point out that the very person who asked, Elena has a Bush logo scrolling on her page filled with Catholic devotional imagery.

Many Catholic bloggers placed Bush logos on their blogs during the election.

This leads to a debate about whether placing political symbols near religious symbols really implies any deep meaning.

I maintain that Catholic bloggers should be very careful not to mix religious and political symbols in their templates, or place religious and political symbols in too close proximity anywhere.

It implies idolatry to me at worst, and sends a mixed message at best.

To demonstrate that it does send a mixed message, I place Bush symbols next to swastikas and symbols of the KKK - not so much to imply Bush is a racist Nazi as to show my readers what it does to mix symbols.

But my readers attack me from both flanks. The left says it is over the top to a swastika next to Bush, which the right agrees but expects from me.

The right is still insisting that there is no comparison between what they do and this Bush fish. They want examples of Catholics who have specifically done the Bush fish sort of thing in a way they can obviously see.

I decide to go back to the fish with Bush's name in it at just to see who is running the site.

And I stumble on their resources section, and in the recommended blogs are the following:

Oswald Sobrino's Catholic Analysis
The now defunct link to Times Against Humanity
And, Against the Grain, popularly known as the Ratzinger Fan Club

Did these popular Catholic bloggers give permission to "Bush Fish" to link to their blogs?

I hope not, but these sites do each show up on a site called Catholics in the Public Square upon which they clearly collaborate.

They also seem to collaborate on Catholic Kerry watch.

They also all collaborate with The Curt Jester, who admittedly should never be taken seriously no matter what he says (because he often intends humor).

It would seem at least possible that the origin of the Bush fish does originate with a Catholic blogger, though I cannot be certain. Maybe it even started as a joke.

Yet, one reader sympathetic to my concern commented in my comboxes that it spread and is taken seriously in non-Catholic Christian communities.

But if you think it did not give poor witness to the unbeliever, consider the letters they received that they decided to publish:

You Christian fundamentalists are no better than the Taliban. It's called religious
extremism and fanaticism.

Not everybody thinks the way you do. Go to church, do what you want to do in your
own life and your own community, but stop trying to force it down everyone else's

And for those of you Creationists who dispute the theory of evolution, you are beyond insane. The fact that you would deny the discoveries of science for something simply based on faith is blindly foolish and ridiculous. You should be locked up for trying to poison childrens' minds with ideas based on magic, mysticism, superstition and blind faith, which is what religion is.
Brilliant concept and design. Although I think it looks much better if you rotate it 90 degrees counter-clockwise. Because, frankly... it looks just like a bomb with our beloved President's name on it. I think we'll adopt your wonderful symbol for our next anti-war campaign. And remember, imitation is purest flattery. Thanks again!
We DO have enough Christian values and beliefs in our governmental institutions; like "IN GOD WE TRUST" on every dollar; bibles swearing in all officials, etc. Therefore, you are not being honest about your goals.

As a historian, I must remind you that "good Christians" -stole this land from native people and are responsible for their genocide; - enslaved Africans that built this nation with their labor at no cost to Christians; - and terrorize poor nations with military-violence all over the world.

Thank God, we are not all Christians in this nation.
If you want proof that religious zealotry mixed with political zealotry can border on idolatry and turn others off to the good news of Jesus Christ, this "Bush Fish" site is it.

And what makes it worse is how evil many of Bush's policies really are. No matter how noble you think his intentions were, George W. Bush decided in March of 2003 that people will die - a people who did not attack us and posed no imminent threat.

There are other big faults with Bush from a Christian perspective ranging from acceptance of abortion in cases of rape and incest to enthusiastically supporting the death penalty to supporting torture to giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans while the poverty rate climbs.

It all amounts to a poor witness to Christ, and yet, those who voted against Bush were threatened with being denied communion.

Meanwhile, the Bush machine led by Rove masterfully manipulated as many people as possible into thinking Bush is the moral values vote for church-going people of faith, regardless of aby real consistency between Bush's policies and the Gospel.

If you want proof that Catholics are either willingly or unwillingly and unknowingly associated with people who put Bush's name in a symbol of Christ, it's right there on the "Bush fish" site that sells the image.

Do I need to continue to "defend" the position that no matter what your intentions were, Catholic bloggers who happen to be Republican and those other Christians who may have linked to them often did a piss poor job of witnessing to Christ in this last election.

Yeah. You got your guy elected. But did you give good witness to Christ in the way you did?


"Scooter" Libby Indicted

For now, Karl Rove has been spared, but remains under investigation regarding the leak of CIA agent, Valerie Plame's name to the press in what appeared to be retaliation for her husbands anti-war stance.

Libby, Cheney's Chief of Staff, is not charged with the leak, per se, though he did speak about Plame by name with reporters. The charge is with five counts of perjury and presenting false information to FBI investigators and the grand jury.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Meirs Withdraws Nomination

It seems Bush has the chance to save face.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bush v. Benedict

This is an interesting article from The American Conservative published a little over a month ago.

In some ways, the article is not deep enough. It names the players and what teams they are on and what conclusions each reaches, but not the arguments that lead to the those conclusions.

Yet, the article, written by a conservative for a conservative magazine, is clear that Novak, Weigle, and Neuhaus not only disagreed with a private opinion of John Paul II or Benedict XVI, or the application of doctrine, but are fundamentally questioning the traditional interpretation of just war doctrine.


Krauthammer's Out For Mier's Nomination

If the Bush Administration doesn't take this advice, or do something similar, they are more foolish than anyone thought.


The Power of Symbols

Several of my readers have expressed that the permanent placement of a Bush logo in proximity with religious symbols on a blog in no way has any sort of inherent meaning.

It in no way implies that support for Bush is inherent to being Christian, and never comes close to idolatry.

I got to thinking that if my readers are correct, we can place Bush symbols amongst many other types of symbols, and my readers will see no inherent connection.

If anyone finds a connection among these symbols, that's the reader's fault, not mine.

Therefore, I offer the following collage, just as aesthetic expression of pretty colors with no inherent meaning or connection to each other or any content on my blog, and any association of these colors with some wider meaning is your own association since I make no explicit endorsement of anything here:


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Death Tolls in Iraq

Posted less than an hour ago, The Washington Post reports that the death toll for the American troops reached 2,000 last week. Of these, 357 were under the age of 21. At least 15,222 Americans have been wounded. The most conservative estimates of Iraqi civilians dead is now at 26,661, and most estimates are far higher.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Why Does Bush Bug Me?

Is this really Christian?

..., and, of course, we've all seen this one....

In 2004, Bush seemed to have had at least tacit endorsements of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, Billy and Franklin Graham, and Catholic bishops Burke, Sheridan, Chaput and O'Malley, not to mention Catholic apologists Deal Hudson, Michael Novak and George Weigle.

Yet, let's review the policies once again:

Abortion: Forget about what the other guy had in his platform, and focus your attention on Bush's own stance. He has repeatedly said abortion should be legal in cases of rape and incest, and that he will not use abortion as a litmus test in appointing judges. His Administration has not done a single concrete thing to reduce abortion rates, and I never really expected him to do so.

Torture: Bush supports it. The Church calls it gravely and intrinsically evil. The military advises against it. The majority of the American people are disgusted by it. The world condemns it. It is inflaming terrorists. Nothing in the Gospel even remotely supports it. I don't understand those who stay loyal to a torturer claiming to be Christian.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Again, forget about the other guy and focus on two important things: Bush is the first President to federally fund such research, and when doing so, called embryos "potential human life".

Death Penalty: Whether like the Pope, the bishops and I, you think the death penalty is immoral in a nation with a prison system, or you think there are instances where it is justified, Bush lead the free world in executions as Governor of Texas, denied the use of DNA testing that may have exonerated people, allowed juveniles offenders to be executed, ignored evidence of racist bias, mocked a born again convert pleading for her life and, as President, presided over the first use of the death penalty in 34 years!

War: In the first 400 years of Christianity, the new religion was persecuted in part because Christians refused to serve in the military. Christianity always leaned towards non-violence. Just war tradition arose in the fourth century as a recognition that there could be instances where the just use of defensive force against an aggressor as a last resort may be permissible. Just war has always been defensive. The man known as Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict, stated that unilateral preemption "obviously" violated the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II was "unequivocal" in his opposition to the war, as were the bishops and religious leaders across the globe. I turned compeltely against Bush in March 2003 when he declared this unjustifiable, unbiblical and unnecessary war against a nation that never attacked us.

Social Security: The Bible commands us to honor our parents. The New Testament demands special care for widows and orphans. The Bible speaks some 3,000 times to care for the poor as the basis upon which a society is judged. Yet, Bush wants to divert funds from the only federal program running at a surplus into risky business ventures - a program that guarantees an entitlement to a safety net for every citizen. This is a program originally proposed decades agao by a Catholic. It is a program that a society that was hypothetically nearly 100 percent Christian would have built spontaneously, and Bush wants to tear it down incrementally.

Taxes: Bush has given the wealthiest 2 percent of the population who control 80 percent of the nation's wealth huge tax cuts while running up the largest deficit in American history and cutting successful anti-poverty programs like Headstart. He has been soft on corporate crime while these business people ship American jobs oversees to start sweat shops in developing nations. He also fails to fund his own "no child left behind" initiatives or the aid promised to Africa, and he refuses to allow the United States to give a mere 0.70 percent of its GDP to eliminating dire poverty by 2025. He supports TORT reform and opposes any form of affirmative action. On his watch, unemployment and poverty rates have been on the constant slow rise. Inflation is currently higher than since the 1980's. Forty five million Americans remain uninsured for basic health care. How is this either "fiscal conservatism" or "compassionate conservativism"? How is any of this rooted in Biblical mandate or historical Christian thought to care for the poor and support the common good?

The International Community: Bush mocks the United Nations calling it ineffective, but completely ignoring anything it has to say. How do you make the U.N. effective as the world's sole superpower when you mock it? The Roman Catholic Church has authoritive teachings that state that there is an international common good that must be supported by international institutions, and the United Nations is specifically mentioned as such an institution. Bush acts like bullying the world is a moral obligation. I believe that bullying - especially with military might - is unchristian.

FEMA: Recent events expose how the Administration's tendency to view federal government agencies as a waste of tax payer money is an attitude that gets people killed.

Gas Prices: Maybe the president has little to do with this, or maybe a lot. One thing is certain, if prices were low, Bush would take credit.

Honesty: Was Bush honest with the American people about the reasons for going to war in Iraq? Is he being honest today about what is happening in Iraq? Is he being honest with pro-lifers? What about Republicans in general? Is Cheny honest about Halliburton and the war? Is Rove being honest about the Plame leak? Is Delay an honest man?

Leadership: Bush has been the most polarizing President in my life time, and good leadership is bringing diverse people together in a time of crisis like 9/11 or Katrina. But for those who want to stand by him still, the obvious question mark dividing his loyalist has been Harriet Miers - what leadership was shown in nominating her?

Gay marriage: Bush has ticked everyone off on this issue with his waffling depending on the direction of the politcal wind. Liberals see a homophobe, and conservatives see one who is ineffective and even a bit liberal on the issue, but better than the other guy.

The environment: Need I say anything?

The Patriot Act: Since when is the creation of a police state either a conservative or a Christian value?

The whole point here that "conservative" Christians need to be asking themselves - is whether Bush is really a stalwart Christian president, or simply the lesser of two evils, as I thought we all thought back in 2000.

Let's see here.

We have someone who is ultimately pro-choice, but knows how to talk the pro-life language, who is pro-torture, pro-ESCR, pro-death penalty, pro-war, a liberal spender running up a debt our kids will need to pay, who doesn't seem to really care about the poor in any concrete way, doesn't lead well, and has ticked off the global community at a time of war, while expanding police powers at home.

He doesn't even appear to be very bright in his speaking manner, if intellect is any sort of virtue a President should display.

Maybe he was the lesser of 2 evils in 2000. I voted for him in 2000 under that line of argument.

Maybe he was even the lesser of 2 evils in 2004 (though I voted for the other guy by that time around, believing the other guy was the lesser of two evils).

But the last I checked, the canonization process of the Vatican is not to put a halo on a person because he or she was the lesser evil than another candidate for sainthood.

And it smacks of plain idolatry to have Bush' name in a symbol of Christ.

Please explain to me how this man is a "Christian President"?

Oh, he may be a President who is genuinely Christian. I think the same of Bill Clinton, and I never voted for Clinton.

Bush may even be a nice guy in person, though his aides report a bit of a temper.

Christians are not perfect, by definition. We are all sinners. But we don't hold our worst sins up as public policy for emmulation!

There's a big difference between saying someone seems to be on the road to salvation, and saying someone is a model of what it means to be a Christian.

What bugs me about Bush is precisely that he is held up as a model as if he were the definition of a good "Christian President" while his policies are those of an anti-christ.

Even if you agree with his policies, how are these Christian policies?

I know all sorts of people who call themselves Christians and somehow separate the Gospel from practical politics, and just say so. They'll say, "I know the Gospel says X, and I don't care. I support Y."

I'd be OK with that. But pleeeeeze don't tell me that Bush's policies are Christian policies, because they simply aren't.

There is no way to back up anything he stands for up with scripture or tradition or authentic Church teaching or what used to pass for natural reason. So don't call it Christian.

And Pleeeeze do not make the case that he is a paragon of Christian leadership by saying what a bad guy any Bush's opposition is, or was, or how bad the rest of the world's leaders are, because that is not the issue.

The issue is not that anyone else is better or worse than Bush.

The issue is that I don't see what makes people want to put a halo on this guy who has such anti-christian policies, and who only recently gave up drink and drugs, was not a great businessman, and is rumored to have paid for an illegal abortion decades ago.

Can he be saved? Yes. I hope and pray he will be. I also pray he will allow God to start guiding him in his policy decisions.

But he's got a lot of conversion to still do, which is obvious in the discconnect between his policies and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What has he done that deserves putting his name where the name of Christ should be in the fish?

What has he done that deserves a halo?

What has he done that deserves the fawning attention of our religious leaders?

That's what bugs me so much about Bush and the religious right.


An Interesting Perspective

I've never heard the term "Dominionism", and I don't know from this article whether this is a self defining term for those described, or a designator asigned by the author.

She applies it to Pat Robertson and George Bush and several other well known figures.

I was actually looking to see if I could find some simple table on the web that would line up a Bush policy against a passage of the New Testament to show that his policies are not Christian.

While searching for such a table, I ran across this article which sketches a history of the rise of neconservativism, its "machiavellian" use of Christianity, and how a distorted brand of Christianity with no roots in historical Christianity has arisen.


Friday, October 21, 2005

The Saddest Thing About the Bush Presidency

I came home early from work so to stay with my daughter because my wife had to go out.

I was feeding Serafia, and I decided to put a CD in the player. I wanted to expose Serafia to some classical music, and yet listen to a Christian theme.

I put in Handel's Messiah....

Moments of pure ecstasy wash over me as I'm taking in the beauty of the music and holding my daughter in my lap and feeding her....

The thought crosses my mind how it would be wonderful to live in an age when, like Handel's day, popular music told the Christian story in such a powerful way....

And I realize in a sickening moment that the average non-christian in America can associate this wonderful symphony of the incarnation with warmongering sexist homophobic torturers who blow up abortion clinics and execute blacks and destroy the environment while paying lip service to care for the poor and who elect complete idiots as a president who will appoint corrupt friends opposed to the principles of the offices they are appointed to serve,..., who elect presidents who think it appropriate to teach that the world was made in six days in public classrooms,..., and if that's what it means to have a culture that produces Handel, they'd rather find another source of beautiful music....

The saddest thing about the Bush presidency is that he has made utterly embarrassing to be Christian who is excited about Christian faith and Christian culture at its best.


John Allen's Word From Rome

Posted today, Allen gives a sneak preview of the final set of synod propositions, a fanastic meditation on Eurcharist by Fr. Francis Moloney, who has been at the synod as a theological expert, and news of a miracle through the intercession of John Cardinal Henry Newman.


Centesimus Annus on Matters of Work

Pope John Paul II issued his own meditation on May 1, 1995 on the hundredth anniversary of his predecessor, Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum.

In response to a recent accusation that my thinking on matters of work are socialist, I wish to merely point out what two popes have taught as authentic or authoritative Catholic doctrine on the matter.

What do the popes say about working long hours?

..., the Pope [Leo XIII] explicitly acknowledges as belonging to workers, or, using his own language, to "the working class", the Encyclical affirms just as clearly the right to the "limitation of working hours",....

It is neither just nor human so to grind men down with excessive labour as to stupefy their minds and wear out their bodies". And referring to the "contract" aimed at putting into effect "labour relations" of this sort, he affirms with greater precision, that "in all agreements between employers and workers there is always the condition expressed or understood" that proper rest be allowed, proportionate to "the wear and tear of one's strength". He then concludes: "To agree in any other sense would be against what is right and just"....(CA 7)
Does this teaching, by itself, indicate that the work week should be reduced to 30 hours?

It does not specifically reference the number of hours that are just by itself, but stay with me here, and I'll show how it is implied.

What is a just or living wage according to the popes?
The Pope immediately adds another right which the worker has as a person. This is the right to a "just wage", which cannot be left to the "free consent of the parties, so that the employer, having paid what was agreed upon, has done his part and seemingly is not called upon to do anything beyond"....

"..., every individual has a natural right to procure what is required to live; and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work"....

A workman's wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children. "If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice"....

The Pope [Leo XIII] attributed to the "public authority" the "strict duty" of providing properly for the welfare of the workers, because a failure to do so violates justice; indeed, he did not hesitate to speak of "distributive justice".
(CA 8)
One reader stated to the person accusing me of socialism that my politics seem to be "Anglo Catholic distributivism" rather than socialism.

I'll take that as a compliment if it places me in the political party of the popes when it comes to economic justice.

Here's what Leo XIII says of "distributive justice":
Among the many and grave duties of rulers who would do their best for the people, the first and chief is to act with strict justice - with that justice which is called distributive - toward each and every class alike. (RN no. 33, italics in original)
At any rate, it is clear that a "just wage" or "living wage" is adequate to care for a family on a single income.

If a worker is not paid enough to support a family, it is an injustice which public authorities are called upon to address!

Leo XIII and John Paul II seem to be willing to say that children and women could be paid differently than men, but should work even less hours than men and have different types of work then men.
Women, again, are not suited for certain occupations; a woman is by nature fitted for home-work, and it is that which is best adapted at once to preserve her modesty and to promote the good bringing up of children and the well-being of the family. (RN no. 42)
I think even most "conservative" Catholics today would find it troubling to suggest that Margaret Thatcher or pro-life activist, Helen Alvarez, or current Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, or Condoleeza Rice are all "by nature fitted for home-work".

I am not putting down the choice of women who desire to stay home with their children. Indeed, I believe there should be the equivalent of one parent at home at all times.

If I withhold assent from any part of the papal social justice doctrine, it is this notion that the one to stay home must be the woman.

While I would support child labor laws, I believe that all workers should be paid equally for equal work, and that the minimum wage for full time work should be a living wage that would support a family.

It then would fall to the family to discern which member of the family will be the primary wage earner, or whether they wish to split up the work so that no one person is working full time, but together, they add up to one full time equivalent.

In today's day and age, we can say that both husband and wife might work part time (15 to 20 hours each), where their combined salaries add up to a wage that supports the family!

In some families, one parent may wish to stay at home all of the time, while the other parent works full time (30 to 40 hours).

Yet, the full time worker needs adequate time off from work to nurture family relationships, gain adequate rest, participate in culture, (all of which are explicitly mentioned in the encyclicals) and PRAY.

Is there any basis for saying that a person needs adequate time off from work to pray?
To these rights Pope Leo XIII adds another right regarding the condition of the working class, one which I wish to mention because of its importance: namely, the right to discharge freely one's religious duties. (CA 9)
John Paul II is primarily concerned with preserving the Sabbath.

Yet, we saw in yesterday's post on the notion of a religious life for married people that the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium) calls upon the laity to join with the priests and vowed religious in daily eucharistic worship and saying parts of the liturgy of the hours.

John Paul II also wrote an Apostolic Letter called Rosarium Virginis Mariae encouraging frequent, even daily, recitation of the rosary.

If we are to take this invitation to become a priestly and holy people seriously, we must free up workers for the capacity to pray without detracting from time to nurture family relationships, or impacting physical health by loss of sleep, food, or exercise.

What is the role of the state in all of this?
"When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the defenceless and the poor have a claim to special consideration. The richer class has many ways of shielding itself, and stands less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back on, and must chiefly depend on the assistance of the State. It is for this reason that wage-earners, since they mostly belong to the latter class, should be specially cared for and protected by the Government". (CA 10)
The Church is not socialist.

Throughout the Church's social justice teachings, she affirms the right to own private property, to make a fair profit, to enjoy a just reward for labor in proportion to the effort, and to practice subsidiarity, restraint from totalitarianism, and ethical fiscal responsibility in the manner of operating government.

She also also admits that government alone cannot solve every problem, and that we must contribute to the common good not only through political action but through acts of private charity and primarily meeting the obligations of family life.

Yet, even in affirming these principles, the Church is adament and crystal clear in matters of authentic or authoritative doctrine that even if the state cannot solve every problem, it can and must play a role in every solution, and to say otherwise is even labelled variously as "unjust", "an injustice" or even "evil".

Here is another Pope on the matter, Pope Paul VI:
"If someone who has the riches of this world sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?." It is well known how strong were the words used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the proper attitude of persons who possess anything towards persons in need. To quote Saint Ambrose: "You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich". That is, private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditioned right. No one is justified in keeping for his exclusive use what he does not need, when others lack necessities. In a word, "according to the traditional doctrine as found in the Fathers of the Church and the great theologians, the right to property must never be exercised to the detriment of the common good". If there should arise a conflict "between acquired private rights and primary community exigencies", it is the responsibility of public authorities "to look for a solution, with the active participation of individuals and social groups". (Popularum Progresio no. 23)
What the Church is saying is that there is a distinction, or perhaps even a difference, between a "fair profit" or "just reward of labor" and gross inequity of wealth that would make a man a millionaire while another literally starves.

If there are people anywhere in the world who are not having their basic needs met, it falls on society to correct that situation by redistributing the wealth from those who have accumulated more than a fair share of wealth and more than a just reward for individual labor.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it in the following manner:
1938 There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel:
Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace. (CS 29 no. 3)
1947 The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities.
The Church teaching is that the role the state plays gives a "preferential option" or "preferential love" for the poor - the former term used by Pual VI, and the latter by John Paul II.

The USCCB has even explicitly supported the notion of "progressive taxation" in instances, which many economist and philosophers believe is the foundation of secular democracy.

The first experiment with progressive taxation known to recorded history actually occurred in ancient democratic Greece. The Church supported the notion through the middle ages, and America has long been doing it.

The best arguments for progressive taxation on moral grounds that I have heard apart from arguments to Church teaching have been framed by William H. Gates II, Microsoft founder's father in reference to inheritance taxes.

He argues that only in America could he and his son accumulate the wealth that they accumulated. The ability to accumulate such wealth is dependent on an infrastructure supported by taxes.

Only in a nation with adequate police and fire, roads, water, electricity and other public works, could the Gates make the sort of wealth they have made.

Therefore, they owe it to society to pay something back to sustain that very infrastructure that empowered them to become rich in the first place.

In saying they owe it to society, Gates is clarifying that the rich become rich on borrowed money in a sense - taxes paid by others helped make them individually rich, and they owe back in proportion to their wealth.

To drive home the point, Gates points out that if he were born of the exact same parents with the exact same genetic make-up in Rwanda, he simply would not be anywhere near as wealthy as he became in the United States.

The simple fact is that if we taxed Bill Gates III, his son, and the richest man in the world, at ninety percent, he would still be a multi-millionaire at the end of the day.

Even if Gates is quite charitable with his discretionary wealth, and reinvest much of his wealth back into the economy in other ways, he still owes something to the institutions that built and sustain the infrastructure that made him rich in the first place - and he owes in proportion to what he "borrowed".

Aside from the this argument, the Church argues on the basis of the theological principles of Thomas Aquinas that there is a "common good".

The common good is not simply the sum total of the goods of a society. Nor is it the greatest good for the greatest number. Nor is the common good a good above the good of the individual.

Rather, Aquinas argued that the good of each and every individual member of society is the basis of the common good. Only when everyone's needs are met, and all rights satisfied, and the individual person is fully able to flourish is the common good being met.

Human instititions, from the nation state down to the institution of the nuclear family and up to the institutions of the international community and the institution of the Church itself all exist for one reason: to promote the incomparable dignity of the individual human person revealed in the incarnation event. The human person is the center of all activity!

We do not live to work. We work to live.

Our work can have deep meaning in itself and become a spiritual activity that contributes to the common good and provides a sense of meaning to our lives. Work does have dignity and value, and our work can be elevated to prayer in itself.

But work is the sole purpose of the human person, and is always a means to an end to some extent, and mere part of the totality of who and what we are.

We are not what we do.

We are human persons who share in the nature of Christ, and by his grace are being divinized in the entireity of the human condition.

The human person needs time for adequate rest and relaxation, and time to nurture relationships with family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, fellow parishioners, political associates, and even percieved enemies.

The human person needs time for self education, contributing to culture through arts, letters and music, and time for developing a deep spiritual life through committed prayer, meditation and contemplation.

The human person has a right - rights which are universal - to the freedom to pursuit such things and to have the basic means of life support that make such things possible: food, medicine, housing, clothing, freedom from threats of bodily harm or death from other human persons, etc....

It is true that the Church and I would place right to life issues, like those outlined in the consistent ethic of life argument of John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae, as "foundational" rights upon which the right to freedom and a living wage and work and adequate time off from work rest.

Nevertheless, opposition to abortion, the death penalty, embryonic stem cell research, unjust war, euthansia or human cloning cannot be an excuse to ignore other universal human rights or the common good rooted in the dignity of the human person revealed in the incarnation.

Indeed, the only political teaching of the Church that cause me any reservations whatsover are the anxiety the Vatican expresses that allowing gay unions will promote more homosexuality (which seems to me absurd), and the role of women belonging solely in the home (I think male and female should share home responsibilities more or less equally in an ideal world).

It is true that the poor will always be with us, and that sometimes, a person places themselves in degrading conditions of poverty through their own choices.

Yet, it always and everywhere remains a duty and responsibility - a moral obligation - for the rest of society to help lift the person back out of that condition.

Sometimes we give a hand out. Sometimes we give a hand up. And sometimes we examine political and cultural forces that create the conditions that foster poverty, and we change the system to begin to help alleviate that condition.

According to Matthew 25, to turn your back on the poor is to turn your back on God himself!

To say that the way out for the poor lies entirely in their own hard work - a willingeness to work two or three jobs like your ancestors, is simply not a moral option.

Though your ancestors, or you yourself, may have seen some results in long and hard work, what happened to you or your ancestors was an injustice.

Nobody should have to work to the detriment of developing a deep spiritual life or the detriment of family.

The solution to the grave injustice, in the United States and the entire world, is to acknowledge that full time work needs to be defined in accord with the dignity of the human person, and the minium wage for full time work must be a living wage that would support a family.

To begin to grasp the ideal as it is proposed by the Church, I would suggest an imaginative exercise based on current reality.

Consider that the top private employer in the United States today is Wal-Mart. The Walton family - children of the man who founded Wal-Mart - takes up five of the top 20 richest people in the world.

The Church's social justice vision will only be achieved when we can envision that a full time employee at Wal-Mart could support a family, including health coverage and education, on a single income without overtime, and have time left over for praying Mass, the hinge hours of the office, and the rosary every day, with time for family meals, exercise and adequate sleep and recreation.

It is considered just to take some wealth from the Waltons to make that happen, even as we ensure the Walton's do receive a truly just reward for any personal individual labor, and that the Wal-Mart company makes a fair, though not obscene, profit.

Until we see this occurring as a reality, we live in an unjust society where private charity is demanded, but also potential structural reform of the system.

Once this is accepted, all political and cultural and economic and business decisions must support those ends.


Afghans Outraged by American Abuses

This is not Al Queda who is outraged. The so-called good guys - our allies against Al Queda - are fired up by American abuses ranging from torture to intenitionally desecrating the bodies of the Muslim dead.


White House Worries About Leak Probe

The Washington Post reports that there is palpable concern of a Karl Rove indictement over the leak of CIA agent, Valerie Plame's, name to the press in what may be retaliation for her husband's criticism of Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

Andrew Sullivan has been speculating based on the Washington rumor mill all week that Cheney is directly involved, though Sullivan has remained clear and explicit that he lacks enough evidence to publish this speculation based on rumor in a respectable journalism outlet.

On thing seems certain. Insiders are telling reporters that as special council Patrick J. Fitgerald draws near to completing his investigation, anxiety in the Bush Administration has increased to a fever pitch.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Religious Life for Married People?

Why isn't there a real religious life for married people? Or is there?

Oh. I know that there are Third Orders, be they Franciscan, or Dominican or whatever.

I also know that there are lay apostolates.

But that's not exactly what I mean.

One of the things I liked about religious life is precisely that it was "a way of life".

It wasn't just something you did in your free time.

It wasn't even something for which you carved out a part of your life to make room for something new.

It was your entire life.

It was very wholistic.

The rule of the Frairs Minor and its constitutions that we followed set up an ideal, and everyone more less strived for achieving the ideal as a community.

The "problem" with theThird Orders or the lay apostolate seems to me to be that none of them are really an entire way of life, per se, the way the First Orders are.

By this, I mean that if you join the Third Order Franciscans, you'll have some meetings and some retreats, and maybe some classes and you'll receive a book of prayers to say on your own, or with your family, and maybe you take some vague promises to live simply.

It's not really a "way of life" so much as committing to do some things in addition to what you would already be doing anyway.

You'll still have the same job you might have had were you not in the Third Order. You'll live in the same sitz en laben (situation in life) you already had.

You will have many of the same commitments, relationships, hobbies and so forth. Maybe you replace a hobby, but you don't change your entire life.

Yet, if you join the First Order, you will have to quite your job, at least temporarily during the formation process.

There were nurses and lawyers and social workers and laborers and full time students who joined the Friars. All of these candidates, no matter what they were doing before, had too quit what they were doing to go through postulancy, novitiate, simple vows and eventual solemn vows.

Throughout this process, formation was your full time "job". Even after taking solemn vows, formation remains an ongoing way of life.

Once one made it through the process of formation, you might go back to what you were doing, but only on the condition that you had the approval of the community and your superior, and that the work you did before was consistent with the Franciscan charism and did not interfere with your ability to live according to the way of life of the Frairs Minor.

If you join a Third Order, you'll still live where you would have lived anyway. You'll have the same obligations you had before joining the Third Order that competed with the things you are now adding to your life. You'll have the same job.

Most importantly, you'll have all the same obstacles to living a Gospel life that existed before.

But if you join the First Order, those obstacles in your life to living the Franciscan way of life were removed.

In the Third Orders, it will be almost as hard to take these additional things such as committed prayer on after joining as it was before joining. Perhaps the only thing making it easier is going through the challenge with others.

But if you join the First Order, you may sacrifice much, especially in regards to personal freedom. Yet, in exchange, you will actually live with those who are committed to the same purpose, and who structure the entire community such that it is conducive to the life you have embraced.

I'm still thinking in part about my desire for a reduced work-week. When I was with the Franciscans, praying 90 minutes per day was a piece of cake, because we all did it. In fact, our rule demanded more than that!

Frairs never live alone. We minimally had to have three to a house, because a man living alone is not living as part of the fraternity, and only two makes a marriage instead of a fraternity. Where there were three or more people living for the same ideals, the ideals become more achievable.

Our rule demanded Matins, Lauds, one of the Mid-Day Prayers, Vespers and Compline from the Liturgy of the Hours - not just the two hinge hours.

Our rule demanded an hour of silent meditation, not just daily recitation of five decades of the rosary. Speaking of the rosary, many of us wore them on the cord of our habits.

And daily Mass was a no brainer for a community with so many priests.

Of course, even the Friars struggle to say certain parts of the Office during the day or dedicate the full hour to meditation. Nevertheless, we were faithful to the hinge hours (Lauds and Vespers) in common and daily Mass in common.

If an entire community is shooting for about 150 minutes of prayer per day, an individual hitting 90 minutes will have the support he needs.

And in my argument the other day for a reduced work week, I suggested that a reason to reduce the work week is so that the laity may take up the invitation issued by the Vatican to pray the hinge hours of the Office, as well as repeated invitations from the Vatican to participate in daily Mass and the rosary.

The liturgy daily builds up those who are in the Church, making of them a holy temple of the Lord, a dwelling-place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ. (SC 2)

..., the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows. (SC 10)

Jesus Christ, High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He attaches to himself the entire community of mankind and has them join him in singing his divine song of praise.

For he continues his priestly work through his Church. The Church, by celebrating the Eucharist and by other means, especially the ­celebration of the divine ­office, ­­­is ceaselessly ­engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the entire world. (SC 83)

By the venerable tradition of the universal Church, Lauds as morning prayer, and vespers as evening prayer, are the two hinges on which the daily office turns. They must be considered as the chief hours and are to be celebrated as such. (SC 89.a)

The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually. (SC 100)
After the Council, Pope John Paul II issued the Apostolic Letter entitled, Rosarium Virginis Mariae in which he stated that the Rosary is the perfect complement to the liturgy, and his favorite personal prayer, which he recommended frequently.

What if a group of married people were to commit to a communal life-style of evangelical poverty (in the sense of owning all or many things in common) where there was a rule that they prayed the hinge hours and daily Mass in common and committed to saying the rosary on their own during the day?

By owning all or many things in common, I'm envisioning the community forming a sort of legal coporation that might buy a row of townhouses, leaving a center home empty as a common area for prayer and meals and homeschooling.

Or, they might buy a large plot of farmland with a common building in the center, and several smaller homes around it.

The initial start up money would come from the sale of current property, and the goal would be to self sustaining like the monastics, rather than relying largely on donations like some of the active orders. Of course, there's nothing wrong with fostering some humility if begging becomes necessary, but I would hope that the communal life could be self-sustaining as a model for wider society.

The community could commit to meeting for Lauds and Vespers every day in the central meeting location, which would be just short walk from home. If a priest is available, daily Mass could be said in the common area, or, the community could make sure that the entire cluster of homes is close to a parish church building for daily Mass.

The common area could also serve for common meals three or more nights per week.

If the community decided to homeschool, this could be done, or if close to a parish with a Catholic school, the community may decide to send all the children to the school.

The common area could also house an office for the corporate body. Leaders would be elected by the community.

The common area could also have guest rooms for visitors and those discerning the way of life.

In order to ensure that everyone in the community can participate in the common prayer and meals, the community would need to create its own work to sustain itself. A farm is an easy solution, but similar to Friars living in an inner-city, the community might decide to function more like Catholic Worker.

This may raise the question as to what is the difference between what I describe and Catholic Worker?

Actually, I'm not entirely sure that there is a huge difference in practice. Catholic worker has no real rule and no real ecclessial sanction. In broad strokes, the procatical difference might be largely that Catholic Worker tends to put everyone in the same house, which discourages many families from joining.

At any rate, if the community were not on a self sustaining farm, each adult member might be expected to work about 30 hours or so at a paying ministry, preferably in the non-profit world.

What I am envisioning is a community with a rule, like the rule of saint Francis, and clear lines of leadership. I'm envisioning vows: poverty, obedience and chastity - where the vow of chastity does not mean celibacy. I envisioning ecclessial sanction such that bishops look to the community as a resource for ministers and workers in Catholic institutions. I'm envisioning formal networking and macro-leadership between various local communities.

I don't know. Maybe this does exist, and I just don't know about it.


NCR Editorial on Life in Prison Without Parole

Did you know that only four nations on earth have juvenile offenders in prison with life sentences?

Israel has 7, South Africa 4, Tanzania 1, and the United States 2,200.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hat Tip to the Curt Jester he says, Pope Benedict seems to be making some astounding ecumenical progress.


A Thought

If we assume that women's ordination and married priests are either a long way off, or never going to happen, is there still any reason than women and married men could not run a parish?

By "run a parish", I mean that most of the work a priest does on the day-in and day-out is not really sacramental ministry, per se.

Male celibate priests could continue to be the sole administrators of eucharist, reconciliation and annointing of the sick, while calling on the married deacon to do all the parish baptisms, weddings, funerals and holy hours.

In turn, a nun or a married deacon, or any lay person could act as the business and operations manager of the parish.

There could also be a professional fund raiser on staff, reporting to this manager, who might be a religious, or any lay person.

Any lay person with training and some moral character could handle roles or tasks such as catechesis, counseling, spiritual direction, bible studies, devotions such as the rosary said in church, etc...

Along with lay teachers in the parish schools, the janitors, the parish secretary, and so forth, everyone would report up through the business manager who oversees the budget and provides strategic vision and performance management.

An MBA might do all of this as well or better than a priest with an M.Div. If the MBA is also a permanant deacon or has a M.A. in theology, he'd be supremely qualified.


More Info on Harriet Miers Emerging

Sixteen years ago, she indicated in writing that she supports an amendment to the constitution for the right to life which would criminalize abortion except when a mother's life is threatened.

I hold a very similar view, and that doesn't mean she would overturn Roe, bacause, she may feel like I do - that the law should change through the legislature, rather than the courts.

But her attitudes about abortion shoudl not really be the main issue anyway.

According to this article, she simply lacks experience and shows a certain carelessness in responding to the Senate that demonstrates very clearly that it is an utter insult to the American people for Bush to have even nominated her.

She simply lacks the qualifications for the position.


Saddam Hussein Pleads Not Guilty

I guess this is to be expected.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Letter to Vatican Seminary Investigators

This letter was sent to me by email by one claiming to be a member of the organization:

To: The Apostolic Investigators
From: The Association of Formerly Gay Seminarians
Re: Investigation of Homosexuals in the Seminaries
Date: Halloween, 2005

Thank you for undertaking this very worthwhile project to remove homosexuals from our seminaries. Since most of them will probably answer "no" when you ask them directly if they are gay, you will need to devise alternative methods to identify the deviants. We suggest the following.

1) Check his music collection. If he has more than 2 CDs by Streisand, Cher, or Madonna, boot him.

2) Check his vocabulary. If before entering they knew the meaning of "baldachino," "humeral veil" or "Spencer Abbey," boot him.

3) Ask him about cooking. If, from memory, he can concoct more than three recipes that require gureyere, arrugala, or caramelizing, toss him.

4) Find out what he wears at the beach. If he wears Speedos for purposes other than lap-swimming, throw him out.

5) Dig deeper into the cooking issue. If he knows the difference between parsley and cilantro, and REFUSES to cook with the former, get rid of him.

6) Ask him about his room in the seminary. If he refers to its curtains, drapes, blinds, or shades as "window treatments," dismiss him.

7) Learn about what keeps him awake at night. If has ever lost sleep because he thinks the altar flowers would really be prettier if they had just a little more baby's breath, throw him out.

9) Investigate the contents of his song memories. If he knows the lyrics to the entire score of any Broadway play that won the Tony award for the best musical during the years 1963-1987, throw him out.

10) Watch how he enters a room. If he immediately goes to the lamp in the corner and turns the shade so that the seam faces the wall, he is history.

11) Ask him about his decision-making ability. If he has ever spent an entire weekend painting a seminary prayer space honey dew melon only to decide on Monday that it isn't quite right and spends the entire NEXT weekend repainting the chapel mint #377, throw him out.

12) Find out what distracts him in prayer. If he has ever been bothered by recurrent concerns about cilantro and window treatments while in prayer, throw him out.

13) Research his sense of history. If he recalls exactly where he was when Lady Di crashed, but cannot recall how he learned of the Pope's death, show him the door.

14) Listen for hints of his understanding of New York. If the mention of "The Mets" gets him talking about the Opera and Museum rather than the baseball team, throw him out.

15) Learn about his ambitions. If he would ever want to investigate the presence of gays in the seminary, throw him as far away as you possibly can. That is the most flaming of all indicators.


Information Question

I've been blogging now for a little over two years, and it occurs to me that maybe there's enough material here to convert into a book.

I even put together a rough outline of the flow and started copying and pasting the appropriate posts into the flow of this outline for some later editing.

I don't know anything about publishing a book.

What's the first step, assuming you have a rough draft and some sort of working outline?


LA Archdiocese Releases Reports on Abuse

The 155 page report details the the archdiocese policies, as well contining a list of 26 priests with allegations against them and a section on civil lawsuits against teh archdiocese.


Dialogue Not Monologue

This Commonweal article by Francis X. Clooney is an excellent and ultimately favorable overview of how Pope Benedict seems to view ecumenism.


Geena Davis for President in '08

Why not? She's at least as qualified as Ronald Reagan, maybe even more so! At least she played a President on TV, and nobody else is exercising any real leadership in this country. Besides, we'd have the best looking President in the free world...


Monday, October 17, 2005

A Christian Argument for a Reduced Work Week

I've written on this subject in the past, largely from the point of view economic and social justice.

The notion I am addressing is specifically the American work-week of a minimum forty hours per week for about fifty weeks a year.

Once, I wrote on the subject from the viewpoint of suggesting ideas to strengthen the institution of heterosexual marriage (by allowing families to spend more time together).

I was thinking about the subject from another angle today, and what actually prompted the thought was looking at Matthew Fox's site the other day.

Fox makes a sharp distinction between spirituality and religion, claiming the world doesn't need religion, but it does need spirituality.

I've heard a lot of this sort of attitude in recent years, and it troubles me. In my mind, religion is nothing but personal spirituality expressed communally.

Of course, the challenge in expressing personal spirituality in community is that one needs to make time for it, precisely because you are doing it with others, even when you do it alone.

What do I mean by that? How can you do spirituality alone with others?

I like to pray the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, and I also like to say the rosary.

When I pray these sorts of prayers, I am usually by myself, but I always feel that I am praying with thousands of other Catholics.

Of course, I also like to go to daily Mass, where I can see and even touch other people who are praying with me.

Further, I know that the hundred or so people gathered in the chapel for noon time Mass are united with thousands of people around the globe who are also participating in daily Mass that day.

And, in receiving the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we are united with Jesus and all the saints throughout all time.

Yet, so much formal prayer does only take one so far, and we all need some time to just be quiet and listen to God.

For me, one of the few moments I am really alone is on the commute to and from work, and I can take in God's creation from the vantage point of my car.

I also catch some moments for spontaneous communion with God while standing in line at a grocery store or other times when I am forced to simply wait.

Let's not focus on the commute time, because I'd be commuting even if I were not praying in the car.

The same goes with waiting in line at a grocery store. I'd be doing that anyway.

Looking solely at the desired time for daily prayer, on a weekday, we'd be looking at about 20 minutes in the morning and evening, about thirty minutes for Mass, and about twenty minutes for five decades of the rosary.

This is very difficult to do consistently every day, as I'm sure readers know.

So far, I am mentioning specifically Catholic prayers. Yet, I am mounting a "Christian argument" for reducing the work week.

Those of the Anglican tradition could substitute the Book of Common Prayer and about twenty minutes of centering prayer.

The Liturgy of the Hours or Book of Common Prayer involves praying the Psalms in a cycle established by the Church, but an Evangelical Protestant could substitute a mix of an hour and a half of Biblical study and prayer with weekday prayer meetings and charismatic devotions.

So, we're looking at about an hour and a half of formal prayer every day - a little more on Saturdays and Sundays when Mass may be longer, or we may wish to use the sacrament of Reconciliation if Catholic, and I presume the worship of others is a little longer over the Sabbath as well.

And in calculating the timein a week, we really ought not count the Sabbath as a work day.

One and a half hours on a weekday....

And there are other things than prayer we need to do for ourselves as good Catholics or good Christians. I believe every Christian should feel inspired to do some volunteer work.

I do about 3 and a half hours per week minimally, which would average to 30 minutes per day over a seven day week.

Unless we are fasting, I think an hour for breakfast, lunch, and snacks during the day time is not unreasonable.

For the sake of the family, would one hour to sit down together and eat dinner be unreasonable - especially if we count the time to set and clear the table?

So, we have an hour and a half of formal prayer, a half hour of volunteer work, and an hour and a half for meals. We're up to three and a half hours.

Let's throw in a half hour of physical exercise, be it walking, jogging, swimming, weight-lifting, yoga, aerobics, or whatever method of exercise you like. We're now at four hours.

Remember that commute where I said I have some alone time with God? That's another hour a day easily just driving from one place to another. We're up to five hours.

Some folks may live in small towns where an hour of commute seems too much, but bear with me, because there are other estimates where you may think I don't give enough time.

Is eight hours of sleep really too much to expect when you are not intentionally pulling a vigil for the sake of prayer?

I know that many people "get by" with far less sleep. I often get less than eight hours myself.

Yet, there was once a time before WWII when soldiers who slept only eight hours per night were considered "tough".

The human body can function for quite awhile on as little as four hours of sleep per night. Less than four hours can lead to day-time hallucination or falling asleep on the job.

Sadly, our society has somehow adopted to the notion that the right amount of sleep is between four and eight hours based on this minimum amount to avoid hallucination.

Well, I'd argue that this lack of sleep is killing us early, because it is a demonstrable fact that people who do manage to get eight hours of sleep on average are healthier than those who don't.

The human body was not really designed for less than eight hours of sleep, and I'd argue that Christians ought to make the moral argument that we need to minimally give ourselves that eight hours.

And since I started this argument by examining time for prayer, we know we need more sleep when prayer puts us to sleep!

So, let's give eight hours to sleep, and now we have accounted for 13 hours of the day.

We still haven't accounted for routine daily housework: buying a carton of milk on the way home from work, paying the bills, taking out the garbage, cooking that hour long sit down meal, dusting, vacuuming or tidying up, cleaning the bathroom, changing the lightbulbs, put oil and gas in the car, etc....

I'm not talking about the big "day off" projects here, but the stuff you need to do every day.

On your day off from work, you'll need to go buy the groceries for the week, mow the lawn, paint or do major repairs, and other projects that can't be done in thirty minutes.

If there is not a big project, there will be a wedding, baptism, or funeral, unless you wind up working through your day off too.

Is 30 minutes per day on housework on a work-day an unreasonable demand?

Actually, it is probably too little time, but let's use a conservative 30 minutes. We have now accounted for 13.5 hours of our day.

What about time to shower, shave, dress ourselves, or just take a shit? Sorry for the crassness, but this has to be taken into account.

Is another thirty minutes per day for all of this too much? I don't think so, and many people probably take longer.

We're up to 14 hours now.

Of course, we Christians care a great deal about our relationships. Having the family meal together is important, but don't we want a little more than that?

Is an hour more to play with the kids, bathe them, get them ready for bed, tuck them in etc...too much time to be spending with the kids? I think not.

We're up to 15 hours now.

What about some time with your spouse just talking with one another one-on-one and really listening?

Would 30 minutes be too much time to build your marriage?

We're up to 15.5 hours. That leaves us 8.5 hours.

Now I'm going to throw out here that it is not unreasonable to want some time for yourself just to read, watch TV, tinker with a hobby (like blogging, painting, playing a musical instrument), check your personal email, and so forth.

And I'm going to throw out here that this personal time is really about an hour or two per day.

I'm also going to throw out here that we need some time with other people than the family or time for ourselves.

It's a good thing for a Christian to want some time to simply "hang out" with friends - even go for a drink with a co-worker, or enjoy a party, or play a game of basketball on a Sunday afternoon, or visit your parents, or have a barbecue with the neighbors, or go dancing, or some other way of reinforcing relationships outside of the immediate family.

But if you were following along, you don't have an hour or two, either for yourself or people outside of your family, because all that was left was 8.5 hours per day, and we haven't accounted for the time one spends at work yet.

And the average person spends more than eight hours on a work day at the job.

How do we do it if there wasn't that much time left?

We cut back in the very areas where we, as Christians, should not want to cut back - the things that should be most important to us precisely because we are Christians.

We skip prayer, avoid any long term volunteer commitments, don't talk to our spouse every day, eat meals in a rush and often alone, skip exercise, and sleep too little - all to get the job done.

But if anyone says that the work week should be shorter, we start thinking that idle hands are the devil's workshop, and our pastors have always told our work is a form of ministry, and we don't want to live in a society that does not produce like the United States.

Well, I am basically arguing that it is impossible to devote as much time to prayer as we say we should with a forty hour work-week fifty weeks a year.

Some may ask if we should really pray as much as I suggest: morning and evening prayer, the rosary and daily Mass if Catholic, and some equivalent for the Protestants?

I do not see how any pastor, saint, or "spiritual person" would disagree with the fundamental assumption that this sort of discipline is ideal.

If we were spending this much time communing with God, people would not seekign the spiritual outside of religion, and they would recognize that to be religious is to be spiritual.

Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church is very explicit in advocating that the laity pray the hinge hours of the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary and daily Mass.

Popes, bishops, priests, saints and religious have been advocating such practices or similar disciplines for centuries.

And when people start speaking about distinctions between spirituality and religion, I think it is partly because we get frustrated trying to do the impossible.

Our religion gets reduced to following moral codes and acting ethically at work - and we aren't even good at this because we don't spend enough time in prayer to feed ourselves witht he grace needed to act morally.

We look for some way of expressing spirituality that is less formal and disciplined precisely because we know we can't do what oour spirituality would demand!

But why not build the sort of society where we could pray and build relationships, instead of shrugging it off as impossible?

Granted, a single income family where one of the parents can stay home with the kids and complete much of the housework will help one of the members of the couple to achieve some of this ideal.

Yet, many families today cannot afford to go single income because the economy is not structured for it with housing cost through the roof.

And even where one partner can afford to care for the rest of the family, the working individual is often working a 60 or 70 hour week, rather than a 40 hour week.

This means that the working individual can not pray or take proper care of him or herself or be involved in the family as he or she should be.

What I am driving at is that the very basis for creating a society where real spiritual renewal formed in the cauldron of prayer is possible is that we reduce the work-week!

The ultimate reason to reduce the work week to create more time for prayer and our fundamental relationhips that we all believe are more important than work.

For this reason, I would advocate a 30-hour work week with four weeks of vacation minimum and a living wage as defined by John Paul II for every job - that is, a wage that can support a family on that 30-hour work week.

Granted, not everyone will use the extra time to deepen his or her prayer life, my point is that those who are already serious about prayer should already know that the 40-hour work week for fifty weeks a year makes spiritual renewal of the culture almost impossible.

Work has become the greatest idol in America.

It's time to reject the idol and reduce the work week so that we can pray!


Welcome to a Culture of Life

Inflation and unemployment are trending Upwards. Inflation in September reached its highest level since March of 1980, and Unemployment is back up over five percent.

The number of Americans living in poverty has been on the rise for years.

The federal deficit, though smaller than a year ago, now sits at least $319 billion.

Forty eight million Americans, 20 million with jobs, remain uninsured.

Let us not forget the human effects of so much corporate scandal we have read about over the past few years at places like World-Com, Enron, Tyco, and even Martha Stewart.

Yet, despite being jobless, poor, or uninsured, the CBO estimates that every man, woman and child currently alive in America, whether a tax payer or not, has paid the equivalent $727 for the war in Iraq.

That's more than I saved in tax cuts, personally, if the number is not even adjusted for the cuts.

Recall that this war was unsanctioned by the United Nations, and has taken the lives of 2,000 American troops and likely more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians in an unjust act of aggression against a nation that never attacked us, nor posed an imminent threat.

Recent hurricanes have contributed to the current economic crisis, and some analyst insist that lower taxes for the rich and tweaks to the interest rates have spurred enough economic growth to mitigate the worst effects of an inevitable slump in the economy.

Yet, those hurricanes also exposed how cronieeism and anti-entitlement mentalities among incompetent appointees in the federal government of a country where racism lingers have contributed to the current state of affairs.

We're told that if we just loot, errr, I mean, divert funds from Social Security to put into the stock market, all problems will solve themselves. The free hand of capitalism will make all things right.

I'm told that the good news is that abortion rates have flattened, when they were on a downward trend. Just over a million abortions a year continue.

The solution proposed by the GOP and Bush was to sign a law containing language the courts already rejected banning partial birth abortion.

Don't fear. Bush can read the heart of Harriet Miers, whom he never asked about abortion (wink, wink).

I'm against abortion, but I'm troubled that lip service to the cause seems to carry the GOP pretty far with the religiously active rather than results.

I'm also told that the good news is that we have a party in power where subsidiarity can be ignored and ethics violations are rationalized for the sake of ensuring that an amendment against gay marriage was proposed, even if it was certain to be defeated.

The Pope seems to go along with bans on gay marriage and caution on ordaining gay priests, because everyone knows that if we allow such things, homosexuality will spread, unlike hate crimes against gays and lesbians if we treated persons with SSA with dignity.

We can seemingly presume that the Republicans must be doing something right if Pope Benedict gives part of the platform the thumbs up.

We can also overlook that Bush was the first president to authorize federal spending on embryonic stem cell research, since at least it was only for existing stem cells. In this speech, embryos were referred to as "potential" human life.

We can overlook Bush's pledge to veto a ban on torture, since it is non lethal only for terrorists.

We can also overlook his death penalty advocacy, since at least he is not for euthanasia, willing to even go out on a limb to protect the life of one whose brain was arguably liquid.

I'm not for removing feeding tubes myself, but there is something out of whack when this symbolic gesture outweighs all else.

Welcome to the culture of life!


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Happy Birthday to my Angel!

This little miracle, Serafia, named for the angels, was born a year ago today.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Schillebeeckx's Own Words

Here is the key answer to the question as to whether God acts in the Eucharist to make real presence occur such that we can refer to his invitation as the condition for the possibility of transubstantiation and transignification:

If reality (in the potent sense of "what really is" ) is not man's handiwork and cannot be traced back a human giving of meaning, but only to God's gift of creation, and if it is clear from the entire tradition of faith and from the Tridentine dogma of the Eucharist that the Church, in her consciousness of faith, strongly inists on the reality of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, then it must be clear to the Catholic theologian that eucharistic transsignification is not identical with transubstantiation, but is inteimately connected with it. (p.p. 148-149)

I have struggled with this mysterium fidei and, in faithful reverence for what the Catholic confession of faith has for centuries allowed Christians to experience in the celbration of the Eucharist, I cannot personally be satisfied with a purely phenomenological interpretation without metaphysical desnity. Reality is not man's handiwork -- in this sense, realism is essential to the Christyian faith. In my reinterpretation of the Tridentine datum, then, I can never rest content simply with an appeal to a human giving of meaning alone, even if this is situated within faith. Of course, a transsignification of this kind has a place in the Eucharist, but it is borne up and evoked by the re-creative activity of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ sent by the Father. God himself acts in the sphere of the actively believing, doing and celebrating Church, and the result of this divine saving activity is sacramentally a "new creation" which deepens our eschatological relationship to the kingdom of God. (p.p. 150-151)
This is from Schillebeeckx's The Eucharist, Sheed and Ward, NY (1968) with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, library of congress catalogue card number 68-13846. Italics and quotation marks are in the original.

Are these really the words of a man denying transubstantiation or real presence or the activity of God apart from the individual subject in the event?


His point is merely that God also works through us by the Holy Spirit who infused grace (God's life) in us and who gives us the free gift of faith wereby we can project the very meaning that God intends us to project on bread that God has changed in reality into his self offering.

The projection of faith in the act of percieving is subjective, and increases the power of what Aquinas called the supernatural sense fo faith to abstract the true nature of the substance before us.

Transsignification is different than transubstantiation in that it says the meaning of the bread and wine change, and there are levels of meaning in phenomenon.

Yet, the ultimate meaning to the ultimate interpreter is the reality of the phenemom, and the ultimate interpreter or ultimate perceiver is the mystery of God, who we believe by the gift of grace and faith is offerring himself to us as food in the Eucharist.

The more we open ourselves to the perception, the more we perceive the meaning and reality of the event.

Yet, it God workign within us to help us to see his own self offerring before us.

Trent correctly tells us what is before us: really and substantially.

Schillebeeckx is telling us Who is within compelling us towards what lies before us, and reminding us that when we actively project meaning onto what we perceive, it is the Holy Spirit working within us to do this projection.

If transsignification helps one to make the effort of opening the eyes of faith, then I hope all I have posted this week is helpful.

Here is Schillebeeckx on Resurrection:
The Father's acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice is the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection is the sacrifice of the Cross heard and answered by the Father. And answered precisely as messianic sacrifice; as the sacrifice, therefore, of all mankind. Only in this response does the "objective redeption" become a reality:only then are we all already redeemed in principle (in principe), i.e., in Christ our Head. The Father exalted Christ as a result of his sacrifice -- "Sit at my right hand" -- this is Christ's enthronement by the Father as Kyrios. "The government is upon his shoulder." Only in his resurrection and exaltation with the Father does Christ become unconditionally Messiah: he is then, in his humanity, "the Son of God in power." Through this acceptance by the Father of the whole life of Jesus lived as the expression of his adoration of God, the entire cycle of mutual love between the Father and the Son is fully incoporated in the shpere of Christ's humanity. Only in this does Jesus reach his consummation. Thus, in virtue of Jesus' sacrificial love for the Father, the Father, through the resurrection, calls a "new creation" into being in the sarx of Christ: humanity in glory. Only in this is redemption of humanity a reality.
This si from Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter of God, Sheed and Ward, Mission, KS (1960), library of congress number 63-17144 with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur

A new creation in the sarx, meaning flesh!?!

The sarx of Christ in resurrection is the only redemption of humanity!?!

Are these the words of a man who would deny the bodily resurrection of Christ?

I think not.

Rahner on Eucharist

Now let's look at one of Rahner's finest expositions on the Eucharist:
The sacrament of the Eucharist should not simply be counted among the seven sacraments. However much it involves the individual and brings him time and time again into the community with Christ, it is nevertheless the sacrament of the church as such in a very radical sense. It is precisely the institution of the Lord's Supper which is of decisive importance for the founding of the church and for the self-understanding of Jesus as mediator of salvation.

Because of the importance and special nature of the Eucharist within the framework of the sacraments we feel the need to mention here a few things from biblical theology. However, we can only give a brief sketch of this material. The reality which is designated by the term "Eucharist" has its foundation in the Last Supper of Jesus (cf. Especially Luke 22:14-23 and 1 Cor. 11:23-26). There, according to his own words, Jesus gives his "body" and his "blood" to be eaten and drunk under the appearance of receiving bread and wine. The content and meaning of this action follow from the situation and from the concepts which are employed. The idea of death is of decisive importance. Jesus accepts his fate consciously and connects it with the central content of his preaching. Moreover, Jesus understands this meal in an eschatological way as an anticipation of the joy of the final and definitive banquet. Finally, at this meal with Jesus the idea of community is constitutive, that is, the union of Jesus with his friends and the foundation of the community of these friends among themselves.

From the concepts which are employed there results the following: according to Semitic usage "body" designates the corporal tangibility of the person of Jesus; in addition to the word over the bread Jesus is said to be the servant of God in an absolute sense (cf. Isa. 42:6, 49:8). This characterizes Jesus as dying a bloody death. The gifts, therefore, are identical with Jesus, the servant of God who accepts a violent death in free obedience, and thereby establishes the new covenant. The identity between the Eucharistic food of the church and the body and blood of Jesus is defined quite exactly in the First Epistle to the Corinthians: it is the body which is offered by Jesus at the Last Supper. It is the crucified body of Jesus, and hence in eating it the death of Jesus is proclaimed as salvific and is made efficacious. It is the flesh and blood of the exalted one, and by eating it an individual is incorporated into the community of the one pneumatic body of Jesus Christ. The permanence of this food in the church and as the food of the church follows from the command to remember him which is connected immediately with the words of institution: "Do this in memory of me." In the mandate to continue to do "this" there is an assurance that the total reality of Christ is always present and efficacious wherever the Lord's Supper is celebrated legitimately by the disciples of Jesus.

At the same time the bloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross becomes present in the repetition of the Lord's Supper which Jesus himself wanted, because it is the flesh and blood of the suffering and dying servant of God as sacrificed and poured out for "many" which become present, and according to the institution Jesus himself it is only as such that they can become present; and also because this presence of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ is found in liturgical, sacrificial action of the church. The Eucharistic celebration of the church, therefore, is always a real meal insofar as the body and blood of Jesus Christ are really present there as food, and at the same time it is real sacrifice insofar as the one sacrifice of Jesus continues to be efficacious in history, and continues to be made efficacious in the celebration of the Eucharist by the liturgical act of representation in a church which is essentially historical. Hence these two realities in the one celebration of the Eucharist cannot be completely separated in theological reflection. Moreover, the incarnation, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus also become present.

In the context of our reflections we do not have to present the historical development of the Eucharist in dogma and theology, for example, with regard to the questions about real presence and transubstantiation.

In the celebration and reception of the Eucharist the church, and the individual believer really give "thanks," which is what "Eucharist" means, and they do this in the fullest possible and specifically "ecclesial" way which is only possible for the church of Jesus Christ. But at the same time this is imposed upon the church as a basic law: by really "having" Jesus Christ himself in her midst and by really accepting him as food - although she does this in the courageous reality of faith - the church "says," that is, she realizes and actualizes her thankful response to God's offer of grace, namely his self-communication. Hence this self - communication is the most intense self-communication because it is "formulated" in flesh and blood by the life of Jesus which has always been loved and has been definitively accepted. The "effect" of the Eucharist, then, is not only to be understood as an individual effect which takes place in the individual, the effect through which the individual receives his personal participation in the "Christian life" in the strictest sense, that is, the very life of Jesus Christ in love, obedience and gratitude to the Father, a life which represents forgiveness and patience. But this effect is also and especially a social and ecclesiological effect: in the Eucharist the gratuitous and irrevocable salvific will of God for all men becomes present, tangible and visible in this world insofar as through the Eucharist the tangible and visible community of believers is fashioned into that sign which does not only point to some possible grace and salvific will of God, but rather is the tangibility and the permanence of the grace and salvation. It is obvious, therefore, that, insofar as the Eucharist is the sacrament of the most real presence of the Lord in this celebration in the form of a meal, the Eucharist is also the fullest actualization of the essence of the church. For the church neither is not wants to be anything else but the presence of Christ in time and space. And insofar as everyone participates in the same meal of Christ, who is the giver and the gift at the same time, the Eucharist is also the sign, the manifestation and the most real actualization of the church insofar as the church is and makes manifest the ultimate unity of all men in the Spirit, a unity which has been founded by God in grace.
Excerpted in whole from the following work: Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, by Karl Rahner,
Crossroad: New York 1978/1994, Chapter VIII: Remarks on the Christian Life: The Sacramental Life: Eucharist, pp. 424-427, ISBN 0-8245-0523-9.

This does not sound like one who denies real presence?


Rescuing Jesus From the Right

Alessandro Camon, writing in Salon, builds a strong case that Bush and some of his backers on the religious right have literally turned the Gospel on its head, violating almost every principle taught in the Gosples.


Has Matthew Fox Toned it Down???

A few days ago, a reader and I reached an agreement that neither of us were too fond of the theology Matthew Fox.

Don't get me wrong.

Just the idea of "original blessing" and "creation spirituality" is not bad, and I am very, very sympathetic to some of Fox's feminist concerns and concern for gays and even his concern for ecumenism.

I have not read anything by Fox in probably ten years, and I don't have anything on my shelf.

I decided to do a web search, and ran across the link above and a few others and I can't find the stuff I was looking for that really made me think ten years ago that he was "Way Out There".

Oh. Don't get me wrong.

There's some things on the current sites that I am not particularly into myself (such as chakras).

But even if I am not into the spirituality of chakras, I respect it as an ancient spiritual tradition belonging to a valid religion that promotes holiness. It's not my bag of tea, but it certainly a bag of tea.

But I seem to recall walking away from Fox's work ten or more years ago thinking he admitted no concept of evil and sin, which always seemed to me empirically false.

Yet, he is clearly aware of evil in the world today. Was he always aware of it, and I just didn't "get it" ten or more years ago?

I seemed to think over a decade ago that his sexual morality implied pedophilia was OK if that was your thing, but he clearly condemns it today.

Was I reading too much into something a decade or more ago?

I thought that somewhere he advocated drug use as a way to God, but he clearly is against drug use today. Was he always, and I just missed a nuance somewhere?

Afterall, even I believe that some people find God while they were high, and God even uses the high to bring the person to him, but I do not advocate any sort of drug use.

If the drug user did not get high, God would have gifted the person with a different and better high even sooner.

Was that what Fox was saying all along?

And for some reason, I got the impression Fox was into astrology, but today, I find all sorts of references to his writings where he explicitly denies belief in astrology and instead says he is using the language of astrology as a metaphor to make a point.

Was he always that clear, and I missed the nuance?

The site linked above references resurrection and reincarnation side by side as though they are not mutually exclusive beliefs, and I suppose that to the extent both affirm an afterlife, they may not be.

Here I can see something I clearly do not believe, but it's not as "weird" as I once remember. Have I simply grown a little more tolerant of those I don't agree with entirely?

I don't know. Are there fans of Fox that can clarify this for me?

Was he "weirder" ten or fifteen years ago, or have I just grown more tolerant and learned to appreciate some of his nuance a bit more?