Thursday, October 28, 2010

St. Josemaria Escriva on Purgatorio

¡Qué fuerza tiene la contrición a los ojos de Dios! Alfonso el Sabio, en una de su cantigas, habla de un pecador —como nosotros, que también somos pecadores— que recibió por penitencia llenar un vaso de agua. Aquel pobrecito fue corriendo a un río, y el vaso no se llenaba; y a una fuente, y el vaso no se llenaba. ¡Y a otra fuente, y a otro río; y a un lago, y al mar! Y el vaso no se llenaba... Ninguna cosa de la tierra, nada podía colmar aquel pequeño recipiente.

Pensó entonces en su vida mala y en el Señor, en su miseria y en su Dios; y unas lágrimas corrieron por sus mejillas y cayeron en el vaso, que se llenó hasta rebosar. ¡Había cumplido la penitencia!

Feast of All Souls - 11/2/10 (repeat)

II Maccabees 12, 42-45: “And they found under the coats of the slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbiddeth to the Jews, so that all plainly saw that for this cause they were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain t o pray for the dead). And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them, it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed form sins.”

1) What is Purgatory?

1 Corinthians 3, 10-15: “…it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each ne has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Ratzinger: “If…we hold that Purgatory is understood in a properly Christian way when it is grasped Christologically in terms of the Lord himself as the judging fire which transforms us and conforms us to his own glorified body, then we shall come to a very different conclusion” [than J. Gnilka who says: “There is no fire, only the Lord himself. There is no temporal duration involved, only eschatological encounter with the Judge. There is no purification, only the statement that such a human being will be saved only with exertion and difficulty;”Eschatology” J. Ratzinger, CUA (1988) 229]. Does not the real Christianizing of the early Jewish notion of a purging fire lie precisely in the insight that the purification involved does not happen through some thing, but through the transforming power of the Lord himself, whose burning flame cuts free our closed-off heart, melting it and pouring it into a new mold to make it fit for the living organism of his body? … In what does such ‘exertion’ and ‘difficulty’ consist?... Surely these terms must refer not to something external to man, but to the man of little faith’s heartfelt submission to the fire of the Lord which will draw him out of himself into that purity which befits whose who are God’s? One really can’t object that Paul is only talking here about the Last Day as a unique event: that would be hermeneutical naiveté, though exercised in the opposite sense from the type we considered [earlier]. Man does not have to strip away his temporality in order thereby to become ‘eternal;’ Christ as judge is ho eschatos the Final One, in relation to whom we undergo judgment both after death and on the Last Day. In the perspective we are offered here, those two judgments are indistinguishable. A person’s entry into the realm of manifest reality is an entry into his definitive destiny and thus an immersion in eschatological fire. The transforming ‘moment’ of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of ‘short’ or ‘long’ duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The ‘temporal measure’ of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing over where we are burned ere we are transformed…[1]

“The essential Christian understanding of Purgatory has now become clear. Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where man is forced to undergo punishment in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather is it the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with out own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy. This insight would contradict the doctrine of grace only if penance were the antithesis of grace and not its form, the gift of a gracious possibility….Purgatory follows by an inner necessity from t he idea of penance, the idea of the constant readiness for reform which makes the forgiven sinner.”[2]

2) How can a third party enter into this need for internal purification? “How can a third party enter into that most highly personal process of encounter with Christ, where the ‘I’ is transformed in the flame of his closeness? Is not this an event which so concerns the individual that all replacement or substitution must be ruled out? Is not the pious tradition of ‘helping the holy souls’ based on treating these souls after the fashion of ‘having’ – whereas our reflection so far have surely led to the conclusion that the heart of the matter is ‘being,’ for which there can be no substitute? Yet the being of man is not, in fact, that of a closed monad. It is related to others by love or hate, and, in these ways, has its colonies within them. My own being is present in others as guilt or as grace. We are not just ourselves; or, more correctly, we are ourselves only as being in others, with others and through others. Whether others curse us or bless us, forgive us and turn our guilt into love – this is part of our own destiny.[3]

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Eschatology” CUA (1988) 230.

[2] Ibid 231.

[3] Ibid 232.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mildred Jefferson, M.D. - Requiescat in Pace:

Mildred Jefferson, 84, Is Dead

"I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live."

Dr. Mildred Jefferson, a prominent, outspoken opponent of abortion and the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, died Friday at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She was 84.

Her death was confirmed by Anne Fox, the presidentof Massachusetts Citizens for Life, one of many anti-abortion groups in which Dr. Jefferson played leadership roles.

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, “gave my profession an almost unlimited license to kill,” Dr. Jefferson testified before Congress in 1981.

Dr. Jefferson, a surgeon, was speaking in support of a bill, sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, and Representative Henry J. Hyde, Republican of Illinois, that sought to declare that human life “shall be deemed to exist from conception.” Had it passed, it would have allowed states to prosecute abortion as murder.

“With the obstetrician and mother becoming the worst enemy of the child and the pediatrician becoming the assassin for the family,” Dr. Jefferson continued to testify, “the state must be enabled to protect the life of the child, born and unborn.”

By then Dr. Jefferson had served three terms, from 1975 to 1978, as president of the National Right to Life Committee, a federation of 50 state anti-abortion groups with more than 3,000 chapters nationwide. She had been one of the founders of the committee in the early 1970s. Besides also serving as director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Dr. Jefferson was a founding member of the board and a past president of the Value of Life Committee of Massachusetts and was active in Black Americans for Life.

It was in 1951 that Dr. Jefferson became the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, said David Cameron, a spokesman for the medical school. She later became a surgeon at Boston University Medical Center and a professor of surgery at the university’s medical school.

Born in Pittsburg, Tex., in 1926, Mildred Fay Jefferson was the only child of Millard and Guthrie Jefferson. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas College in Tyler, Tex., and a master’s degree from Tufts before being accepted to Harvard Medical School. Dr. Jefferson, who was divorced, had no children.

“She probably was the greatest orator of our movement,” Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said Monday. “In fact, take away the probably.”

In a 2003 profile in The American Feminist, an anti-abortion magazine, Dr. Jefferson said, “I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.”

Benedict's New Metaphysics: Christ Lives! Transcendent in the Immanent: To Be = Relation

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"On 11 October 1962, 48 years ago, Pope John XXIII inaugurated Vatican Council II. At the time, on 11 October, the feast day of the Divine Motherhood of Mary was celebrated and, with this gesture, with this date, Pope John wished to entrust the whole Council into the motherly hands and maternal heart of Our Lady. We too begin on 11 October. We too wish to entrust this Synod, with all its problems, with all its challenges, with all its hopes, to the maternal heart of the Our Lady, the Mother of God.

"Pius XI, introduced this feast day in 1931, 1,500 years after the Council of Ephesus, which had legitimated, for Mary, the title of Theotókos, Dei Genitrix. With this great word Dei Genitrix, Theotókos, the Council of Ephesus had summarized the entire doctrine of Christ, of Mary, the whole of the doctrine of redemption. So it would be worthwhile to reflect briefly, for a moment, on what was said during the Council of Ephesus, on what this day means.

"In reality, Theotókos is a courageous title. A woman is the Mother of God. One could say: how is this possible? God is eternal, he is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human being be the Mother of God, of the Eternal One, since we are all in time, we are all creatures? Therefore one can understand that there was some strong opposition, in part, to this term. The Nestorians used to say: one can speak about Christotókos, yes, but Theotókos no: Theós, God, is beyond, above the events of history. But the Council decided this, and thus enlightened the adventure of God, the greatness of what he has done for us. God did not remain in Himself: he came out of himself, He united himself so closely, so radically to this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and if we speak about Him, we can also speak always about God. Not only was a man born who had something to do with God, but in Him was born God on earth. God came from himself. But we could also say the opposite: God drew us to Himself, so that we are no longer outside of God, but we are within the intimate, the intimacy of God Himself.

"Aristotelian philosophy, as we well know, tells us that between God and man there is only a non-reciprocal relationship. Man refers to God, but God, the Eternal, is in Himself, He does not change: He cannot have this relationship today and another relationship tomorrow. He is within Himself, He does not have ad extra relations. It is a very logical term, but it is also a word that makes us despair: so God himself has no relationship with me. With the Incarnation, with the event of the Theotókos, this radically changed, because God drew us into Himself and God in Himself is the relationship and allows us to participate in His interior relationship. Thus we are in His being Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are within His being in relationship, we are in relationship with Him and He truly created a relationship with us. At that moment, God wished to be born from woman and to remain Himself always: this is the great event. And thus we can understand the depth of the act of Pope John, who entrusted the Council, the Synodal Assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into Himself, and thus all of us with Her.

"The Council began with the icon of the Theotókos. Upon its closure, Pope Paul VI recognized Our Lady with the title of Mater Ecclesiae. And these two icons, which begin and end the Council, are intrinsically linked, and are, in the end, a single icon because Christ was not born like any other individual. He was born to create a body for Himself: He was born as John says in Chapter 12 of his Gospel to attract all to Him and in Him. He was born as it says in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians to deliver the whole world. He was born as the firstborn of many brothers. He was born to unite the cosmos in Him, so that He is the Head of a great Body. Where Christ is born, the movement of recapitulation begins, the moment of the calling begins, of construction of his Body, of the Holy Church. The Mother of Theós, the Mother of God, is the Mother of the Church, because she is the Mother of the One who came to unite all in His resurrected Body.

"St Luke leads us to understand this in the parallel between the first chapter of his book and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which repeat the same mystery on two different levels. In the first chapter of the Gospel the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and thus she gives birth, giving us the Son of God. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Mary is in the midst of Jesus' disciples who are praying together, pleading with the cloud of the Holy Spirit. And thus from the believing Church, with Mary at its heart, is born the Church, the Body of Christ. This dual birth is the only birth of the Christus totus, of the Christ who embraces the world and all of us.

"Birth in Bethlehem, birth of the Upper Room. Birth of the Infant Jesus, birth of the Body of Christ, of the Church. These are two events or the one event. But between the two lie truly the Cross and the Resurrection. And only through the Cross is the way towards the totality of Christ, towards His resurrected Body, towards the universalization of His being in the unity of the Church. And thus, bearing in mind that only from a grain of wheat fallen into the earth can a great harvest be reaped, from the Lord pierced on the Cross comes the universality of His disciples gathered in this His Body, dead and risen.

The Downfall of the Gods (Ideologies)

"Christ Lives"

(St. Josemaria Escriva: The Way, #584)

"Keeping this connection between Theotókos and Mater Ecclesiae in mind, we turn our attention to the last book of the Holy Scripture, Revelation, where, in chapter 12, we can find this synthesis. The woman clothed with the sun, with 12 stars on her head and the moon at her feet, gives birth. And she gives birth with a cry of pain. She gives birth with great suffering. Here the Marian mystery is the mystery of Bethlehem extended to the cosmic mystery. Christ is always reborn in every generation and thus he assumes the gathering of humanity within Himself. And this cosmic birth is achieved in the cry of the Cross, in the suffering of the Passion. And the blood of the martyrs belongs to this cry of the Cross.

"So, at this moment, we can look at the second Psalm of this Midday Prayer, Psalm 81, where we can see part of this process. God is among gods they are still considered as gods in Israel. In this Psalm, in a great concentration, in a prophetic vision, we can see the power taken from the gods. Those that seemed gods are not gods, lose their divine characteristics, and fall to earth. Dii estis et moriemini sicut nomine (cf. Ps 81: 6-7): the weakening of power, the fall of the divinities.

"This process that is achieved along the path of faith of Israel, and which is summed up here in one vision, is the true process of the history of religion: the fall of the gods. And thus the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the loss of power by the forces that dominate the world, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel we can see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition "Only He is God" is achieved with great pain, beginning with the path of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabeans, to Christ. And this process of the loss of power, spoken in the Book of Revelation, chapter 12 continues throughout history; it mentions the fall of the angels, which are not truly angels, they are not divinities on earth. And it is achieved truly, right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how with the blood of the martyrs comes the weakening of the divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of Mother Church that brings about their fall and thus transforms the world.

"This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of witnesses of Christ. And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses. Let us remember all the great powers of the history of today. Let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man which is no longer in man's possession but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power that threatens the world. And then there is the power of terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.

"These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the Saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall. What is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the domination, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning this battle in which we find ourselves, of this taking power away from God, of this fall of false gods, that fall because they are not deities, but powers that can destroy the world, chapter 12 of Revelations mentions these, even if with a mysterious image, for which, I believe, there are many different and beautiful interpretations. It has been said that the dragon places a large river of water before the fleeing woman to overcome her. And it would seem inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river and it cannot be harmful. I think that the river is easily interpreted: these are the currents that dominate all and wish to make faith in the Church disappear, the Church that seems no longer to have a place in the face of the force of these currents that impose themselves as the only rationality, as the only way to live. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple people, that does not allow itself to be overcome by these rivers and that saves the Mother and saves the Son. This is why the Psalm says the first psalm of the Hour the faith of the simple at heart is the true wisdom (cf. Ps 118: 130). This true wisdom of simple faith, that does not allow itself to be swamped by the waters, is the force of the Church. And we have returned to the Marian mystery.

"And there is also a final word in Psalm 81, "movebuntur omnia fundamenta terrae" (Ps 81: 5), the foundations of the earth are shaken. We see this today, with the climatic problems, how the foundations of the earth are shaken, how they are threatened by our behavior. The external foundations are shaken because the internal foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that follows the right way of living. And we know that faith is the foundation, and, undoubtedly, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if they remain close to the faith, to true wisdom.

"Then the Psalm says: 'Arise, God, judge the world' (Ps 81: 8). Thus we say to the Lord: 'Arise at this moment, take the world in your hands, protect your Church, protect humanity, protect the earth.' And we once again entrust ourselves to the Mother of God, Mary, and pray: 'You, the great believer, you who have opened the earth to the heavens, help us, open the doors today as well, that truth may win, the will of God, which is the true good, the true salvation of the world.' Amen."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Walker Percy's Insight - But - Without Supernatural Patience

1) Benedict XVI’s Theology of the Church:

“The Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.”[1]

David, Dressed in the Armor of Saul, To Battle Goliath

“There are some very real grounds to fear that the Church may assume too many institutions of human law, which then become the armor of Saul making it difficult for the young David to walk. We must always ascertain if institutions which were once useful still serve a purpose. The only institutional element the Church needs is the one given to it by the Lord: the sacramental structure of the people of God [Baptism and Orders], centered on the Eucharist.”[2]

2) Walker Percy’s Insight – But - Without Supernatural Patience

“You see, Barrett, Val had a dream of what the Church should come to. (And I agree! Absolutely!) For example, she did not mind at all if Christendom should be done for, stove in, kaput, screwed up once and all. She did not mind that the Christers were like everybody else, if not worse. She did not even mind that God shall be gone, absent, not present, A.W.O.L., and that no one noticed or cared, not even the believers. Because she wanted us to go the route and be like Sweden, which is not necessarily bad, but to go the route, to leave God out of it and be happy or miserable, as the case might be. She believes that then, if we go the route and run out of Christendom, that the air would be cleared and even that God might give us a sign. That’s how her own place makes sense, you see, her little foundation in the pines. She conceived herself as being there with her Delco and her butane tanks to start all over again. Did you notice how much it looked like one of those surviving enclaves after the Final War, and she’s probably right: I mean, who in the hell would want to bomb South Alabama? But yes, I agree with her. Absolutely! It’s just that nothing came of it.”[3]

P.S. I take "Christendom" to be the clericalized theocracy closer to an ideology than to the living Person of Christ.

[1] [1] J. Ratzinger, The Ecclesiology of Vatican II, L’Osservatore Romano N. 4 – 23 January 2002, 7.)

[2] J. Ratzinger, 30 Days, No. 5 – 1998, p. 22

[3] Walker Percy, “The Last Gentleman,” Ballantine (1993) 297.

Divine Person - The Meaning of "Being: A New Metaphysic of Relation"

Thus the deepest meaning of "IS" is to be in relation.


1) The human person is the meaning of being: “Reality and truth do transcend the factual and the empirical, and to vindicate the human being’s capacity to know this transcendent and metaphysical dimension in a way that is true and certain, albeit imperfect and analogical. In this sense, metaphysics should not be seen as an alternative to anthropology, since it is metaphysics which makes it possible to ground the concept of the person’s dignity in virtue of the person’s spiritual nature. In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being [actu essendi], and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”[1]

2) Jesus Christ is the meaning of the human being: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word make flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings tonight his most high calling.”[2]

3) Benedict XVI on October 11: “God did not remain in Himself: he came out of himself, He united himself so closely, so radically to this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and if we speak about Him, we can also speak always about God. Not only was a man born who had something to do with God, but in Him was born God on earth. God came from himself. But we could also say the opposite: God drew us to Himself, so that we are no longer outside of God, but we are within the intimate, the intimacy of God Himself.

“Aristotelian philosophy, as we well know, tells us that between God and man there is only a non-reciprocal relationship. Man refers to God, but God, the Eternal, is in Himself, He does not change: He cannot have this relationship today and another relationship tomorrow. He is within Himself, He does not have ad extra relations. It is a very logical term, but it is also a word that makes us despair: so God himself has no relationship with me.

With the Incarnation, with the event of the Theotokos, this radically changed, because God drew us into Himself and God in Himself is the relationship and allows us to participate in His interior relationship. Thus we are in His being Father, Son and Hly Spirit, we are within His being in relationship, we are in relationship with Him and He truly created a relationship with us. At that moment, God wished to be born from woman and to remain Himself always: this is the great event. And thus we can understand the depth of the act of Pope John, who entrusted the Council, The Synodal Assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into Himself, and thus all of us with Her

(Meditation of His Holiness Benedict XVI During the First General Congregation of the "Special Assembly for the Middle East" - Monday October 11, 2010)

[1] John Paul II, “Fides et ratio,” #83.

[2] Gaudium et spes #22.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Navarro-Valls on the Abuse Crisis

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls

The Holy See press office director under John Paul II, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, has today criticized the media for “a raging phobia” against the Church over pedophilia while ignoring the problem in the rest of society which he says is widespread.

Writing in the Italian daily La Repubblica, the former medical doctor did not lessen the “grave criminal phenomenon” in the Church, but quoted alarming figures of abuse against children in society in general, adding that to focus only on the Church was “very misleading.”

The current papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said over the weekend that the recent media attacks “have without doubt caused damage” to the Church but added: “The authority of the Pope and the commitment of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith against sex abuse of minors will come out of this not weakened but strengthened.”

I reproduce Dr. Navarro-Valls’ article in full below (my translation):

The Pope and the Pedophilia Scandal

In the last two weeks, the media has filled the public space with the agonizing reality of criminal cases of pedophilia. The charges have risen gradually in response to a series of revelations coming from several European countries concerning instances of sexual abuse perpetrated against children by priests. To read the news, it even seems this is a huge scoop, and that now, thanks to these ingenious revelations, a rotten undergrowth is emerging in the breast of the Catholic Church.

Certainly, in Austria, Germany and Ireland, but no less in almost all countries where there is a consistent presence of Church schools and educational organizations, there has been the grave criminal phenomenon of violations of the dignity of childhood. That has been noted. Not by chance, during the Via Crucis of 2005, did the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger not mince his words when he noted with disappointment: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him! How much pride, how much self-complacency!” Perhaps we have forgotten it. But you can without fear of contradiction point out that the problem exists in the Church, is known by the Church, and has been addressed and will be further addressed in future decisions by the Church.

But let’s try, for a moment, to reflect on the manifestation of pedophilia in itself. From my experience as a doctor I can highlight some important data useful to understanding the seriousness and the extent of the problem. The most reliable statistics speak for themselves. It’s certified that 1 in 3 girls have been sexually abused, and that 1 in 5 boys has been subjected to acts of violence. The truly alarming fact has been disclosed not only in scientific publications but even CNN reports that the percentage of respondents, in a representative sample of the population, has sexually molested a child ranges from 1% to 5%. That is a frightening number.

The acts of pedophilia are perpetrated by parents or close relatives. Brothers, sisters, mothers, uncles or babysitters are the most common abusers of children. According to the U.S. Justice Department, almost all accused pedophiles, 90 percent, are male. According to Diana Russell, 90% of sexual abuse is committed by people with direct knowledge of the young victims, and remain closed in the familiar ‘conspiracy of silence’. A notable aspect, unfortunately, is that 60% of the cases of violence affected people younger than 12 years, and in most cases abusers are males with blood ties.

These statistics show, therefore, a clear and fairly broad practice of sexual violence against children. Taking into account that these figures refer only to those that have been reported, are known or otherwise known, we can easily imagine the dramatic degree of perversion that lurks behind this reality, most common in countries whose cultures do not consider this violence to be an aberrant obscenity. Now, focusing exclusively on those abusers and singling out one group, such as priests, can be very misleading. In this case, the percentage has fallen to become a minimal phenomenon, statistically. Certainly, nothing can take away the emotion and shame that comes from these recent revelations in the Church, even when they refer to events that took place decades ago and perhaps covered by the most grave ‘conspiracies of silence’. We can be certain, beginning with the pastoral letter to Ireland last week, that Benedict XVI will take all measures that are needed to expel the guilty and judge them, based on real crimes committed by those involved.

Let us not, however, fall into the trap of hypocrisy, especially in the form of that recently staged by the New York Times in its report on the case of the Rev. Murphy. There, the author of the article does not evaluate, draw conclusions or give appropriate attention to the fact that the police had received complaints about him and had released him as an innocent man.

Which country has made an in-depth study of this grievous phenomenon, also taking clear and explicit preventive measures against the abuses of pedophilia among its citizens, in families or in public schools? What other religion has moved to find, publicly condemn and assume the problem, bringing it to light and explicitly pursuing it? We avoid, first of all, being insincere: namely to focus on the limited number of established cases of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, but without opening our eyes to the tragedy of a childhood violated and abused very often and everywhere, yet without scandal.

If we want to fight sexual crimes against children, at least in our democratic societies, we must avoid dirtying the public consciousness, looking only at the phenomenon where the moral gravity is perhaps even more, but in quantity certainly less. Before judging someone for something, one should have the guts and honesty to recognize that we [in society] are not doing enough, and look to do something similar to what the Pope is doing. Otherwise, it’s better to stop talking about pedophilia and start to discuss the raging phobia unleashed against the Catholic Church. This seems, in fact, to be being done with the meticulous care of an investigation, but unfortunately bad faith is in evidence.

The Human Person: Transcendent - Immanent? Walker Percy

Percy says neither, or rather both. The answer is “wayfarer.” This means: tending toward transcendence by ontological structure yet trapped in immanence by organic and historical situation. What are the alternatives? Dramatically, they are “God or no-God. … (Sex) or blowing your brains out. Whereas and in fact my problem is how to live from one ordinary minute to the next on a Wednesday afternoon.”[1]

Prior to that, Percy wrote in the diary of the character Sutter [himself]:

“Let us say you were right: that man is a wayfarer (i.e., not transcending being nor immanent being but wayfarer) who therefore stands in the way of hearing a piece of news which is of the utmost importance to him (i.e., his salvation) and which he had better attend to. So you say to him: Look, Barrett, your trouble is due not to a disorder of your organism but to the human condition, that you do well to be afraid and you do well to forget everything which does not pertain to your salvation. That is to say, your amnesia is not a symptom. So you say: Here is the piece of news you have been waiting for, and you tell him. What does Barrett do? He attends in that eager flattering way of his and at the end of it he might even say yes! But he will receive the news from his high seat of transcendence as one more item of psychology, throw it into his immanent meat-grinder, and wait to see if he feels better. He told me he’s in favor of the World’s Great Religions. What are you going to do about that?

“I am not in favor of any such thing. We are doomed to the transcendence of abstraction and I choose the only reentry into the world which remains to us. What is better then than the beauty and the exaltation of the practice of transcendence (science and art) and of the delectation of immanence, the beauty and the exaltation of lewd love?”[2]

Me (Blogger): But, as Percy says, he must re-enter to live out Wednesday afternoon minute by minute.

And I ask: what is involved in that? Not escape into emotional or intellectual transcendence, nor even the world religions, nor the self unravelling in lewd love. Rather, to achieve transcendence by walking the way of Christ who willed obedience to the call of the Creator (Mysteriously Himself and the Father) with his human will laden with all sin – our sin. This is Christological anthropology. And this "quid divinum" occurs in the quotidian ordinariness of Wednesday afternoon. The hard conversion to giftedness in obeying the call to do this and that apparently inconsequential nothing (processed by the “immanent meat-grinder:” reason) brings about the joy of transcendence amidst the gloom of Wednesday’s immanence.

[1] Walker Percy, “The Last Gentleman,” Ivy Books – Ballantine (1966) 279.

[2] Ibid 278.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Mary and the Muslims - Fulton J. Sheen

Islam is the only great post-Christian religion of the world. Because it had its origin in the seventh century under Muhammed, it was possible to unite within it some elements of Christianity and of Judaism, along with particular customs of Arabia. Islam takes the doctrine of the unity of God, his Majesty and his Creative power, and uses it, in part, as a basis for the repudiation of Christ, the son of God. Misunderstanding the notion of the Trinity, Muhammed made Christ a prophet announcing him, just as, to Christians, Isaias and John the Baptist are prophets announcing Christ.The Christian European West barely escaped destruction at the hands of the Muslims. At one point they were stopped near Tours [in southern France], and at another point, later on in time, outside the gates of Vienna. The Church throughout northern Africa was practically wiped out by Muslim power, and in recent times the Muslims are beginning to rise again.If Islam is a heresy, as Hilaire Belloc believes it to be, it is the only heresy that has never declined.Others have had a moment of vigor, then gone into doctrinal decay at the death of the leader, and finally evaporated in a vague social movement. Islam, on the contrary, has only had its first phase.The missionary effort of the Church toward this group has been, at least on the surface, a failure, for the Muslims are so far almost unconvertible. The reason is that for a follower of Muhammed to become a Christian is much like Christian becoming a Jew. The Muslims believe that they have the final and definitive revelation of God to the world and that Christ was only a prophet announcing Muhammed, the last of God’s real prophets.At the present time, the hatred of the Muslim countries against the West is becoming a hatred against Christianity itself. Although the statesmen have not yet taken it into account, there is still grave danger that the temporal power of Islam may return and, with it, the menace that it may shake off a West that has ceased to be Christian and affirm itself as a great anti-Christian world power. Muslim writers say, `When the locust swarms darken vast countries, they bear on their wings these Arabic words: “We are God’s host, each of us has 99 eggs, and if we had a hundred, we should lay waste the world with all that is in it.”’The problem is, How shall we prevent the hatching of the hundredth egg? It is our firm belief that the fears some entertain concerning the Muslims are not to be realized, but that Islam, instead, will eventually be converted to Christianity and in a way that even some of our missionaries never suspect. It is our belief that this will happen not through the direct teaching of Christianity but through a summoning of the Muslims to a veneration of the Mother of God. This is the line of argument:

Mary in the Koran:

The Koran, which is the Bible of the Muslims, has many passages concerning the Blessed Virgin. First of all, the Koran believes in her Immaculate Conception and also in her Virgin Birth. The third chapter of the Koran places the history of Mary’s family in a genealogy that goes back through Abraham, Noah, and Adam. When one compares the Koran’s description of the birth of Mary with the apocryphal gospel of the birth of Mary, one is tempted to believe that Muhammed very much depended upon the latter. Both books describe the old age and the definite sterility of the mother of Mary. When, however, she conceives, the mother of Mary is made to say in the Koran: `O Lord, I vow and I consecrate to you what is already within me. Accept it from me.’ When Mary is born, her mother says: `And I consecrate her with all of her posterity under they protection, O Lord, against Satan!’The Koran passes over Joseph in the life of Mary, but the Muslim tradition knows his name and has some familiarity with him. In this tradition, Joseph is made to speak to Mary, who is a virgin. As he inquired how she conceived Jesus without a father, Mary answered: “Do you not know that God, when He created the wheat, had no need of seed, and that God by his power made the trees grow without the help of rain? All that God had to do was to say, `So be it,’ and it was done.”The Koran has also verses on the Annunciation, Visitation, and Nativity. Angels are pictured as accompanying the Blessed Mother and saying: `Oh, Mary, God has chosen you and purified you, and elected you above all the women of the earth.’ In the nineteenth chapter of the Koran there are forty-one verses on Jesus and Mary. There is such a strong defense of the virginity of Mary here that the Koran, in the fourth book, attributes the condemnation of the Jews to their monstrous calumny against the Virgin Mary.

Our Lady of Fatima:

Mary, then, is for the Muslims the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Muhammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Muhammed wrote: `Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.’ In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: `I surpass all the women, except Mary.’This brings us to our second point, namely, why the Blessed Mother, in the 20th century, should have revealed herself in the insignificant little village of Fatima, so that to all future generations she would be known as Our Lady of Fatima. Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as `Our Lady of Fatima’ as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Muslim people and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too.Evidence to support these views is found in the historical fact that the Muslims occupied Portugal for centuries. At the time when they were finally driven out, the last Muslim chief had a beautiful daughter by the name of Fatima. A Catholic boy fell in love with her, and for him she not only stayed behind when the Muslims left but even embraced the Faith. The young husband was so much in love with her that he changed the name of the town where he lived to Fatima. Thus, the very place where Our Lady appeared in 1917 bears a historical connection to Fatima the daughter of Muhammad.The final evidence of the relationship of the village of Fatima to the Muslims is the enthusiastic reception that the Muslims in Africa and India and elsewhere have to the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima, as mentioned earlier. Muslims attended the church services in honor of Our Lady; they allowed religious processions and even prayers before their mosques; and in Mozambique the Muslims, who were unconverted, began to be Christian as soon as the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was erected.Missionaries in the future will, more and more, see that their apostolate among the Muslims will be successful in the measure that they preach Our Lady of Fatima. Mary is the advent to Christ, bringing Christ to the people before Christ himself is born. In any apologetic endeavor, it is always best to start with that which people already accept. Because the Muslims have a devotion to Mary, our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and to develop that devotion, wit the full realization that Our Blessed Lady will carry the Muslims the rest of the way to her Divine Son. She is forever a `traitor’ in the sense that she will not accept any devotion for herself, but will always bring anyone who is devoted to her to her Divine Son. As those who lose devotion to her lose belief in the divinity of Christ, so those who intensify devotion to her gradually acquire that belief.Many of our great missionaries in Africa have already broken down the bitter hatred and prejudices of the Muslims against the Christians through their acts of charity, their schools and hospitals. It now remains to use another approach, namely that of taking the 41st chapter of the Koran and showing them that it was taken out of the Gospel of Luke, that Mary could not be, even in their own eyes, the most blessed of all the women of heaven if she had not also borne One who was the Savior of the world. If Judith and Esther of the Old Testament were prefigures of Mary, then it may very well be that Fatima herself was a post figure of Mary! The Muslims should be prepared to acknowledge that, if Fatima must give way in honor to the Blessed Mother, it is because she is different from all the other mothers of the world and that without Christ she would be nothing.[1]

[1] From “The World’s First Love, Mary Mother of God” by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Chapter 17; Ignatius Press.


CONCLUSION of John Paul II’s “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”

“Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain linking us to God”

39. What has been said so far makes abundantly clear the richness of this traditional prayer, which has the simplicity of a popular devotion but also the theological depth of a prayer suited to those who feel the need for deeper contemplation.

The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation.

Today I willingly entrust to the power of this prayer – as I mentioned at the beginning – the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family.


40. The grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new Millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high, capable of guiding the hearts of those living in situations of conflict and those governing the destinies of nations, can give reason to hope for a brighter future.

The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, since it consists in the contemplation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is “our peace” (Eph 2:14). Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ – and this is clearly the goal of the Rosary – learns the secret of peace and makes it his life's project. Moreover, by virtue of its meditative character, with the tranquil succession of Hail Marys, the Rosary has a peaceful effect on those who pray it, disposing them to receive and experience in their innermost depths, and to spread around them, that true peace which is the special gift of the Risen Lord (cf. Jn 14:27; 20.21).

The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God's plan?

In a word, by focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world. By its nature as an insistent choral petition in harmony with Christ's invitation to “pray ceaselessly” (Lk 18:1), the Rosary allows us to hope that, even today, the difficult “battle” for peace can be won. Far from offering an escape from the problems of the world, the Rosary obliges us to see them with responsible and generous eyes, and obtains for us the strength to face them with the certainty of God's help and the firm intention of bearing witness in every situation to “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Noble Prize for IVF: Advertising Unto Ignorance: No Life Without Love (In Vitro), As No Love Without Life (Contraception)

Persons are Constitutively Relational. IVF = No Relation. Prepare for the consequences

The Event: Noble Price for IVF

British physiologist Robert Edwards (L) is seen attending the 30th birthday celebrations of Bourn Hall, a fertility clinic he co-founded in Cambridge, with Lesley Brown, her daughter Louise - the first baby to be conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) - and Louise's son Cameron, in this July 12, 2008 handout file photograph, received in London on September 4, 2010. Edwards, who helped revolutionize the treatment of human infertility, has clinched the 2010 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology, a Swedish daily reported on Monday.

By Mia Shanley

STOCKHOLM | Mon Oct 4, 2010 5:09 pm EDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - British physiologist Robert Edwards, whose work led to the first "test-tube baby", won the 2010 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology, the prize-awarding institute said on Monday.

Sweden's Karolinska Institute lauded Edwards, 85, for bringing joy and hope to the more than 10 percent of couples worldwide who suffer from infertility.

Known as the father of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Edwards picked up the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5 million) for what the institute called a "milestone in the development of modern medicine".

As many as 4 million babies have been born since the first IVF baby in 1978 as a result of the techniques Edwards developed, together with a now-deceased colleague, Patrick Steptoe, the institute said in a statement.

"Bob Edwards changed the way we think about having babies," said Dr Alan Thornhill, scientific director of the London Bridge Fertility, Gynaecology and Genetics Center.

The Roman Catholic Church strongly opposes IVF as an affront to human dignity that destroys more human life than it creates because scientists discard or store unused fertilized embryos.

"In vitro fertilization has led directly to the deliberate destruction of millions of human embryos," said Professor David Albert Jones, director of the Anscombe Bioethics Center, a Catholic research institute in Oxford, England.

Nevertheless, Edwards and Steptoe, a gynecologist, pursued their work despite opposition from churches, governments, many in the media and skepticism from scientific colleagues.

They struggled to raise funds and had to rely on private donations but in 1968 they developed methods to fertilize human eggs outside the body.

Working at Cambridge University, they began replacing embryos into infertile mothers in 1972. But several pregnancies spontaneously aborted due to what they later discovered were flawed hormone treatments.

In 1977, they tried a new procedure which did not involve hormone treatments and relied instead on precise timing. On July 25 of the next year, Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, was born.

"We hold Bob in great affection and are delighted to send our personal congratulations to him and his family at this time," she said in a statement released with her mother.

The 32-year-old, who has stayed in touch with Edwards all her life, is married and has one son who was conceived naturally.

Her birth caused a media sensation as it raised questions about medical ethics, drew religious concerns and piqued basic human curiosity. Many wondered in the early stages of treatment whether an IVF baby would grow up normally.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


The first thing to think is to ask the question: what is a human person? If a human person is not a “thing,” then we have a problem since we have just “engineered” a human person, reducing him to a function instead of an end and value in himself. The problem is not simply moral or immoral action. It is a question of Who is the Creator of the human person. If God is the Creator of the human person who is autonomous free spirit and matter formed into a human body, then we have replaced the Creator by technology and reduced person to thing that can be “used” and manipulated – or discarded – as “thing.” Usurping the place of God by the technology of “making” a human is an atheistic act. It contradicts the most profound ontological tendency in man to seek love, truth, beauty and the Absolute as his source and ultimate end.

This is a moment to become conscious of what is going on before we are herded into an unconscious conformity that will be cemented into our thought patterns while mesmerized by the sensible images on the screen.

If we understand the human person to be created by God in the image and likeness of the Persons of the Trinity, then the nature of the person is constitutively relational. The Person must be created by and in love and for love.

The Catholic Church has consistently taught that love and life cannot be separated. It has taught this because the very nature of the divine Persons revealed by Jesus Christ are the meaning of love and life, and that they are relations constitutively. That is to say, that the very Being of the Father is the act of engendering the Son, and the very Being of the Son is the action of obedience and glorification of the Father, and the Person of the Spirit is the Personification-Love of the mutual irreducible, Self-gift of the Two. We are made in the image and likeness of this relationality. Hence, the origin of the human person as image and likeness of the divine, must be another, or other, persons.

Therefore, the Church teaches through the SCDF (Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith): “b)… the procreation of a person must be the fruit and the result of married love. The origin of the human being thus follows from a procreation that is linked to the union, not only biological but also spiritual, of the parents, made one by the bond of marriage. Fertilization achieved outside the bodies of the couple remains by this very fact deprived of the meanings and the values which are expressed in the language of the body and in the union of human persons.

“c) Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person. In his unique and unrepeatable origin, the child must be respected and recognized as equal in personal dignity to those who give him life. The human person must be accepted in his parents’ act of union and love; the generation of a child must therefore be the fruit of that mutual giving which is realized in the conjugal act wherein the spouses cooperate as servants and not as masters in the work of the Creator who is Love.

“In reality, the origin of a human person is the result of an act of giving. The one conceived must be the fruit of his parents love. He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to reducing him to an object of scientific technology. No one may subject the coming of a child into the world to conditions of technical efficiency which are t o be evaluated according to standards of control and dominion.

“The moral relevance of the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and between the goods of marriage, as well as the unity of the human being and the dignity of his origin, demand that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses The link between procreation and the conjugal act is thus shown to be of great importance on the anthropological and moral planes, and it throws light on the positions of the Magisterium with regard to homologous artificial fertilization.”[1]

[1] Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation, J. Ratzinger, A. Bovone, February 22, 1987.