Thursday, 14 March 2013

Reservations About the Pope and Liturgical Reform

The liturgy is MERELY an expression of our love. If the liturgy is dysfunctional, it is because we (the community of believers) are dysfunctional. Yes, the liturgy is what you say it is: "The meeting of earth and heaven, the normal means by which we encounter the source and summit of our faith, Jesus Christ Himself." But is it anything more than vanity to express what is not genuine? Yes, the liturgy is a means of catechesis, the most important means. But there was a time when the liturgy was without blemish, and it wasn't good enough. Why? Because it was vanity; it wasn't a true reflection of what was in us. Fix what is on the inside," Clean the inside of the cup and behold all things shall be clean unto you." By cleaning the inside, you accomplish the cleaning of the outside, which is our outward communal expression of love and cooperation.

We need to walk the path that JP II & B16 showed us. We need real metanoia. We need real conversion. When that happens, then people will not only want the kind of reverent, sincere liturgy you and I love... they won't be able to help but express that kind of reverence and sincerity, because it will flow naturally from the abundance of their love. That's not something that everyone will be able to participate in... that's why Benedict XVI made his remarks about the coming catharsis.

Fixing the liturgy isn't as little as putting a bandaid on the problem, but it isn't curing the problem either. If having perfect liturgy was the end all be all of what we have to do, Christ might have come before Vatican II and received his perfect Bride. What does it matter if we have the perfect liturgical form, but lack the perfection of liturgical essence? Nothing... it's vanity. You like good liturgical form because you are a devout and pious person. That's why. Having good liturgy requires getting everyone to that point... and that is so much more than just having good liturgy. I mean, this isn't 'Field of Dreams' where "if you build it, it will come."

Think about it like this: When Christ comes back, and he asks us what we did for the Church, what do we want to say? " I zealously defended the liturgy. I even held the Pope and all the bishops in suspicion over the matter. And I scolded anyone who deviated, Lord." What's he supposed to say to that," Good job, Phineas!" I suspect a lot of people who allow their bitterness to take the form of liturgical scrupulosity will much rather say," Shiiiiii..." when they realize that's all they have to say. No, we want to say that we were full of good works, charity, counsel, piety, faith. The liturgy is just an expression of those things. If they aren't there, how can the community express them? Those virtuous things predicate a good, sound, and holy liturgy. The liturgy is a sacrificial love offering, and it must be without spot or blemish... even the blemish of vanity and pretense.

Liturgy is extremely important. You know I believe that. But we need to fix the sickness that is destroying it, not just fix "it." So, it's ridiculous, and counter-intuitive for so many to be harboring all these negative reservations about the Pope, and to hold him in suspicion, to start the petulant whining and nagging about the liturgy... especially when we have every reason to hope in the selection of the Holy Spirit, who is the Pope. Because here is a man who might show us by his example how to clean out the inside of the cup, to live the life that predicates a good, clean, and wholesome liturgy which is the outside of the cup. If all we care about is the outside of the cup (the liturgy), then we are as the Pharisees.

And to close, let's look at that passage of holy scripture in Luke:
"As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn't God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things."

And to cross reference it with Matthew:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." ~Aristotle~

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Why Didn't They?

One of the common question you hear, and therefore presumably one of the questions which automatically comes to mind when we look at the Holocaust on the whole is," Why didn't anyone do anything about it?" Well, there are several answers. The first answer is really stupid," Because everyone in Germany was a Nazi! Duh!" The second is more practical, but still doesn't quite make the cut," Because everyone was too scared to do something about it." Which might be more or less true. It follows from the second answer that it was a minority of Germans who had the notion to do something about it. Which brings us to the question," What good would it have done for so few, who were so powerless, to do anything?" Which leads us into a whole different line of questioning having to do with morality," Was it incumbent upon them to do something, given the evident futility of the act?"

There are two kinds of moral actions, to my mind, which encompass all moral action, inaction, disposition, and thought. The first is those things which fall under moral obligation. We are morally obligated NOT to do certain things, hence," Don't sin." Don't do anything evil, immoral, et cetera, et cetera. We're also morally obligated to DO certain things, like paying those who work for an agreed wage, or worshiping God, or defending the defenseless. The second category is called 'supererogation.' Literally, a work above and beyond the normal work. The things which fall into supererogation are 'morally praiseworthy, but not morally obligatory.' For instance, finding a zit-faced teenager on the side of the road in a broken down vehicle, and then taking the time to fix his vehicle and then teaching him how to prevent it from ever happen again... that's supererogation. Or sending someone who could use it, a large sum of money, not expecting it back, anonymously. The philanthropist who can't really afford to be one is a 'supererogator.' I'm sure that's not a real word, so don't use it. Anyway, you get the idea. Christ talked about these two things in his sermon on the mount and said that, that which is morally obligatory is of no credit to us... "for even tax collectors and sinners do that." He stated in no uncertain terms that it is only supererogation that is a credit to us, " Love your enemies and pray for them."

So, why didn't a group of Catholics, why didn't hundreds of Catholics, stand up under the Third Reich, during the din of war and atrocity to at least blow up a single damn guard tower at Dachau or Auschwitz? Why didn't they knock a single damn hole in the wall? Forget that for the moment. Let's say they had. First of all, how would they be remembered today? It's safe to assume that everyone knows the answer to that. They'd be regarded as heroes by virtually the whole human race. They would all probably be canonized saints, right now... especially if they had all perished in the spray of machine gun fire.

Please don't assume that I am intending to undercut the real life heroics of hundreds, if not thousands of people in Europe who did risk everything to hide and save Jews. In no way! can the heroism and goodliness of those people's actions be delimited. And they ought not be forgotten. But having assumed this hypothetical alternate history, which category of moral action would their deeds fall into? Morally obligatory actions, or supererogation? Ruminate that.

Let's try to make a few analogies. If you saw a gang mugging an old woman, or beating an 80 year old vet to death for their wallet, do you think you would have a moral obligation to do something about it? Or do you think that your intervention would fall into the category of supererogation? Or lets say you saw a man kicking his toddler in the stomach repeatedly at a rest stop. Do you think you have a moral obligation to do something about it? Let me be more exact: To physically stop him? Or would your actions fall into the "morally praiseworthy, but not morally obligatory" category? Hmmm? Let's 'up the ante.' What if the guy stomping his toddler to death was openly armed with a pistol, and you didn't have one. Still morally obligatory? It goes back to that question," What good would it have done for so few, who were so powerless, to do anything?" Would you rather be the person who was shot trying to save that child, or would you rather live in immortal infamy as the person who stood by and watched?

"No-Brainer" questions, right? Okay, good. Congratulations on not being a completely worthless human being. Now, back to the hypothetical question about the our heroes from the alternate history... would their actions have fallen into the category of moral obligation or supererogation? Still hazy? No definitive line of demarcation? I understand. It's hard to grasp genocide, intellectually. How do you grasp a number like 12,000,000? Honestly? As Stalin said," One man is a tragedy. One million is a statistic." I could bring up things like putting people in xylon gas showers, pregnant mothers being injected with acid, people being shot in the back of the head, et cetera, et cetera. But... you've heard it all before. It will never be as shocking as 'the toddler' scenario. That doesn't make you a bastard. That makes you human. You can't fathom the gravity of it, because your mind isn't designed to. It's a thought terminating reality. It's too much. That's why the concentration camps were able to run. It's to much too grasp... Nazi soldiers included.

So, understanding, and accepting our handicap, let's just answer that question logically. Would their actions fall under moral obligation or supererogation? One answer sounds absurd, and it isn't moral obligation. So, if they, the people who knew and wanted to do something about it, were morally obligated... why didn't they do something? Hmmm? It's a good question. Which is why you can hardly think about the Holocaust without asking it, at least once.

Let's say, for the sake of argument that doing something about it would have fallen into the category of supererogation. It's unfathomable to me, but for the sake of argument. There are many situations where it is not better to live. There are many situations where life is subordinate to a goal, or the life of others. Many such situation happen in war. "Greater love hath no man, than to lay his life down for his friends." Do you believe that?.... Why didn't anyone do that violent act of supererogation? Why didn't hundreds do that violent act of supererogation? It's a good question. Which is why it naturally comes to mind.

Perhaps, they wanted to "honor the emperor." Or perhaps they didn't want to criminally damage government property by blowing up a guard tower, or knocking a hole in the camp wall. Or maybe they were worried that if they did, they would build a bigger, nicer, thicker wall in its place. Maybe, they were afraid that one of the soldiers might get burned if they threw a Molotov cocktail over the wall. Or perhaps, all that is complete bullshit. Maybe, they were just cowards. To be sure many were. Maybe, they just didn't have a single clue about what to do. Maybe, they were waiting for someone else to form an armed response that they could join. Maybe, it was too much to fathom what went on behind those walls. Or maybe, the Germans weren't lying when they told the Allies," We didn't know." Maybe...

So, let's talk about something else... killing babies. We've killed approximately 4.58 times the number of people the Nazis have, and they were all babies. And we killed them in the most grotesque place possible... inside of their mothers. People people at the incipient phase of existence. People in a practical sense, more innocent than most of the victims of the Holocaust. Not only, but we have enshrined abortion in law as a right. We have given it the full protection of our law... federal, state, and local. All our power defends and protects it in concert. 55,000,000 murdered babies. Fifty-five million. That's one of those numbers you can't really grasp. That's 6.67 times the population of New York City. That's almost 1 1/2 times the population of California. You could murder every single person living in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark twice, and still have five million more people to murder to match that number. Really, it's an act of futility. There's no figure I can give you that will make it comprehensible.

Don't feel like looking down your nose at those German cowards anymore... do you? Waiting for someone else to do something about it? Don't know what to do about it? Waiting for someone else's efforts to gain momentum that you can join? Too much to even fathom; never seems quite the atrocity that it is? One thing is for sure... there's no way for you to lie about it like the Germans did. You know. You know.

One day, maybe, people will ask about us," Why didn't anybody do anything about it? Oh they waved plenty of banners, sure. But why didn't they do something REAL about it? Why didn't the Church stand up and denounce their 'Hitlers' by name and by party?! Why didn't they do everything in their power? Why didn't they risk everything? Why didn't they risk all for the just and right cause?" Weeell... that sort of response to abortion might have fallen into the category of supererogation..." What a safe and terrible answer." May God spread his mercy upon us for our moral dereliction. Be sure to do something meaningful about this... like talking about it on facebook.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Why Do We Need Priests? We're All God's People!

I've seen so many Christians sneer and scoff at the institution of a priesthood, particularly of a Pope. It is an old complaint. Listen to what they sound like (Numbers 16):

"They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?"

I bet Moses would say something like we would say. Something like," The laity is no small thing. You are all priests, prophets, and kings. The Lord has called you near to himself to do His holy works. What more do you want?" Let's see what he says:

“Hear now, you sons of Levi: ?IS IT A SMALL THING? to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?”

I'm sure that would fall on deaf ears. They'd probably insolently retort:

"Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”

It would be so convenient if we knew what the Lord would say about such a protest, wouldn't it? Oh, yes... that's right. We do know:

"... the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense."

Then, of course the cry babies would come out and say that isn't nice and try to levy some moral argument against God's representative. I wonder what God would want to do to them? Let's take a look:

On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.”  Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”

And they fell on their faces. So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.” Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped."

Hmmm... imagine that. Moral of the story: "Know your role and shut your hole." Be grateful for your place in the Body of Christ. Give due honor and respect and deference to the priesthood, and to God's representatives. Lesson over.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

What Ought To Be Done

Si Deus pro nobis quis contra nos? If God is for us, who can be against us? In English that doesn't really make sense. Lots of people can be against us. We glance over the word 'be.' In this case, it has a profound operation. What it really means is, if God is for us, then what else is there? None can contend with the will of God and succeed.

It's so important to remember simple things, like the fact that we are to be doing His will, bringing about His kingdom. " No one will say,' Lo, here it is!' or ,' Lo, there it is!' for the Kingdom of God is within you..." When we say the 'Our Father,' we say," ... Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." The kingdom of God comes through obedience, purity, and uprightness of heart. And when it does come, it brings with it all the benefits of a kingdom," But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." 

Before Christ said the latter, he had been talking about the cares of life. He wasn't talking about the wants of life, he was addressing basic human needs saying," Therefore, take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." What would Christ say to the Catholic Church in America? What would he say about our fiscal dependency upon the federal government that makes us beholden to the point of moral dereliction? What would he say to a Church that values its tax exempt status over its sacred, God given mission to denounce evil and propagate righteousness?

When the clergy conscientiously fails to denounce politicians who support the institutionalization and protection of evils like abortion, homosexual marriage, pornography because it would imperil the finances, the rights, and the privileges of the Church, what do you imagine Christ ought to say? Is it too much to think about? Is it not your problem? Not your business? The same Church that does this is the same Church that teaches that you may not do evil to accomplish good. Is this a real case of the clergy saying, "Do as I say and not as I do and all will be well?" Or is it quite simply what it appears to be... cowardice?

"But we could lose our parishes, our schools, our hospitals, our cathedrals...," So? We should do evil, or fail to do good, then, so that we might obtain the privilege of existing from the wicked? I think not. All who offer this argument are like Peter when he took Christ aside and began to rebuke him, when He told them that He must go to Jerusalem and all the things that He would suffer. Peter had a worldly mind, in which the preservation of what was already was the highest goal. As St. Thomas Aquinas said," If the highest goal of a captain was the preservation of his ship, it would never leave port." In essence, that is the philosophy of the coward. It's very similar to the philosophy of hedonism, which is also the voice of the world, which says that pleasure and convenience are the chiefest goods. Christ rebuked him for it," But he turned and said to Peter," Get behind me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

"But we could literally and radically cease to exist! We could find ourselves in a situation not unlike that of the 3rd and 4th century Church!" You don't say? You mean that bishops and priests and religious might have to work jobs like the early Christians did? You mean that the Catholic Church would have to pay its own way, as it once did? I'm reminded of the 'Fable of the Bees' whose hive through corruption grew to a size they would not have done had they not become corrupt, and how by God taking from them in a single hour that ill gotten gain and restoring to them that virtue lost, they found real happiness and true goodness, though they suffered greatly." Beware the leaven of the pharisees, which is hypocrisy!" That leaven which puffs up and expands, and makes things seem greater than they are. That leaven which has gotten into the Church, swollen it, bloated it, till it is distended and grotesque. 

Now is better than ever for the responsibility of the Church, of the bishops, priests, and the religious to be realized, for them to stand up and say to the flock," Gird your loins... for you are a stranger here." So that the whole Church may say with Christ," I must go to Jerusalem..." For as St. Paul says," If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." And do you so quickly forget the words written to the Angel of the Church of Smyrna? " Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. be faithful unto death, and i will give you the crown of life. he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death."

The Church has the responsibility of St. John the Baptist in this time. Its purpose is to be preparing the Church for the return of Christ. It's to be bearing fruit in season and out of season. Do not forget so easily the fig tree which the Lord cursed and upon which he found no fruit out of season. He spoke out against Herod, because of his marriage to his brother's sister. St. John spoke out against the same Herod from whom the pharisees received monies. Against that same Herod who gilded the temple in gold, and draped it in silk, and built up its colonnades. The same Herod who made the temple more glorious than it had been since the days of Solomon. And what did Christ say when the apostles marveled and pointed it out to him?" Truly I say unto you, there shall not be one stone left here upon another."

That is what the Church must do. At present, that is not what we are doing. At present it is we who are the pharisees. It's our religious institution taking the hush money." Take this and be quiet on politics. Take this money, and let society be the government's business. Take this money and provide the medical care we tell you to. Take this money and teach what we tell you to in your schools."
It is, it has become an adulterous relationship that the Church has with the government. That should make Catholics tremble in fear and with shame." I have seen thine adulteries... for I AM a jealous God."  On the one hand we can make a clean break and experience a liberation of conscience unprecedented. Can you imagine? True freedom! Not that other sort contrived by men that the government distributes arbitrarily at its leisure. The freedom that Christ gives! On the other hand, we can be like Judas Iscariot, the traitor, and take the thirty pieces of silver.

All the succor, all the benefit, all the amicability, influence, wealth, and power in the world can not justify the silence the Church is selling to the government. It cannot. The Church sold its voice, and now wonders why the sheep have scattered. Where is the shepherds voice? Where is his crook? At the risk of ruining the literary flow of this letter, I want to quote from Braveheart when he addresses the nobles who are a type of the clergy in this case, specifically the bishops," Why is that impossible? You're so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank's table that you've missed your God given right to something better." This is precisely the situation we are in.

Make no mistake, if we were to ever be our true selves, it could only result in persecution. When you think of the dullness and banality of your own faith, do not wonder. When you wonder at the timidity of the Church, and you see how the government has us in a convenient little box with all other religions, hope shrinks away. When you wonder what happened, when you read the Book of Acts and you look at the Early Fathers, when you read the lives of saints and you wonder," What happened? Where is this Church? What changed? Why is the Catholic Church just another face in the crowd in the 21st Century?" You know in your heart the reason. It's because we asked for permission to exist. It's because we took their money. It's because we allowed ourselves to be subjugated, literally we became subjects, whereas our fathers would not tolerate such a yoke.

We have been called to suffer with Christ, who gave Himself for the life of the world. It is not always better that we should live. "Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his friends." The Church must lay its life down for the sake of humanity... we were called to do this. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. Are you persecuted? Are you really persecuted? Or do people just disagree with you? Or do people intermittently just not like you? Is your Church really challenging society with its godliness? Or is your Church merely a carping annoyance whose moral opinions are little more than an occasional gadfly that can be shewed away? The answer means everything.

The Church is called to be Christs. What do you think it means? You know what it means! Friendship with Christ is enmity with the world. That is not just a reality for the individual Christian, it is the reality for the Church. Pray for your priests to have moral courage. Pray for your bishops to stand in the day of temptation. Pray for the courage they need to seek first the kingdom of Heaven. Pray for the resolve necessary to accept what will be lost. Pray for them to have a vision of what will be gained, for," Where there is no vision the people perish." Pray for hope, for," He who keeps the law, happy is he." the law of righteousness.