Friday, November 29, 2013

Judge Not?

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.  (Matt 7:1-5)

There are two things, moreover, in which we ought to beware of rash judgment; when it is uncertain with what intention any thing is done; or when it is uncertain what sort of a person he is going to be, who at preset is manifestly either good or bad. If, therefore, any one, for example, complaining of his stomach, would not fast, and you, not believing this, were to attribute it to the vice of gluttony, you would judge rashly. Likewise, if you were to come to know the gluttony and drunkenness as being manifest, and were so to administer reproof as if the man could never be amended and changed, you would nevertheless judge rashly.

--St. Augustine, Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount #61.

One line of attack against the moral teaching of the Church is the use of Christ's statememt on not judging others.  The general argument is along the lines of:

1) Jesus said not to judge.
2) But by saying homosexuality (or another sin) is wrong, you're judging.
3) So you're going against what Jesus said by saying homosexuality is wrong.

The problem is, using that line of reasoning, you couldn't condemn Nazis or rapists or murderers either. That's absurd of course, so it demonstrates that the argument is flawed.

Moreover, Jesus also said, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (John 20:23). Obviously one cannot forgive and retain sins without judging. Therefore Jesus cannot be interpreted in the sense of being unable to say an act is morally wrong.

What we have here is the fallacy of equivocation -- the using a word with a different meaning than intended.  An example of this would be:

1) Nothing is better than a diamond.
2) A cheap rhinestone is better than nothing.
3) Therefore a cheap rhinestone is better than a diamond.

The Equivocation is in the word "nothing."  In the major premise, it is used to mean the diamond has no rival to exceed it in value.  In the minor premise it is used to mean it is better to possess something than not to possess anything at all.  The result is a false conclusion.

The concept of judgment also has multiple meanings:

▪the ability to make considered decisions or form sensible opinions.
▪an opinion or conclusion.
▪a decision of a law court or judge.

Now it is reasonable to assume Jesus is not condemning making considered decisions or sensible decisions.  Nor, when considering John 20:23, can we think Jesus was denying the authority to decide questions of law.

However we can jump to unreasonable conclusions about the motives or ultimate destiny of a person who sins.  We can't know that a murderer is irredeemable and doomed to Hell.  We don't know that the suicide deliberately acted with full knowledge and free consent and is thus damned.  We don't know if a person died unrepentant. We don't know if a person who is holy now will perservere or not.

Ultimately what we don't know is the role of grace granted by God to others and what the ultimate choices of free will result in at the end.

So I can't say Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi are doomed to damnation because of the evil they did... not because we can't know that things are evil, but because we can't know whether or not they will repent. Our obligation is to pray for them, not write them off.

If we couldn't judge whether acts were wrong we would never be able to obey Christ when He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

This is why the Church can speak of sin and the danger to the soul and not disobey Christ.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Musings on the Church and Social Justice

When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a Communist.

--Dom Helder Camara, Brazilian archbishop

The concern for the poor is a dual edged sword for the Church. When she cares for the poor, she is praised. When she challenges people to consider their behavior and obligations to the poor, she is considered to be naive, out of touch and unrealistic at best or leaning towards socialism at worst.

And admittedly, some in the Church do lose sight of the Christian obligation and try to reduce the Church teaching to a political or economic way of thinking.  Things like liberation theology are a distortion of the Christian belief.

Unfortunately, some falsely reason:

1) Either Socialism or Capitalism
2) The Pope is not speaking of Capitalism positively
3) Therefore, the Pope is pro-Socialism.

The problems with this assumption is that not speaking of capitalism positively does not mean speaking in favor of socialism. It can merely mean that the Pope is speaking against abuses in capitalism and calling for a change of heart.

The Church social teaching is not about embracing ideologies. It is about reminding people that Christians are obliged to live their faith in all aspects of their life.

People today get offended by Pope Francis speaking about the waste and lack of concern for others. But they forget that in 1937, Pope Pius XI wrote (in an encyclical condemning Communism):

But when on the one hand We see thousands of the needy, victims of real misery for various reasons beyond their control, and on the other so many round about them who spend huge sums of money on useless things and frivolous amusement, We cannot fail to remark with sorrow not only that justice is poorly observed, but that the precept of charity also is not sufficiently appreciated, is not a vital thing in daily life. We desire therefore, Venerable Brethren, that this divine precept, this precious mark of identification left by Christ to His true disciples, be ever more fully explained by pen and word of mouth; this precept which teaches us to see in those who suffer Christ Himself, and would have us love our brothers as Our Divine Savior has loved us, that is, even at the sacrifice of ourselves, and, if need be, of our very life. Let all then frequently meditate on those words of the final sentence, so consoling yet so terrifying, which the Supreme Judge will pronounce on the day of the Last Judgment: "Come, ye blessed of my Father . . . for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink . . . Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren you did it to me."[33] And the reverse: "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire . . . for I was hungry and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink . . . Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least. neither did you do it to me."[34]

(Divini Redemptoris #47).

It's the same message, 76 years before Pope Francis wrote Evangelii Gaudium (in fact, only a year after he was born).  There have been huge upheavals in the political and economic landscape since 1937, but Pope Pius XI wrote what was true then and is true now. People can sin in ways involving the economy. Some in ways always wrong (like the injustices of Communism). Others in ways that misuse the system for personal gain.

Unfortunately people either want to coopt the Church teaching into looking like an endorsement of their partisan views or treat it as if the Church was deceived into endorsing "the other side."

That's happening again. Communism is largely irrelevant today and Capitalism exists even in Communist nations to some extent. So the Pope doesn't need to speak against Communism's wrongs.  Capitalism is alive and well, so when it goes wrong, the Pope would be remiss to be silent on these wrongs.

The Church teaching is not politically motivated. It is concerned with our relationship with God and neighbor -- relationships which should be our highest priority in life.  If we think of these teachings as political, perhaps we should think about where we stand in our relationships with God and neighbor.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

TFTD: Political Critics

I see it reported that Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have begun to disparage the Pope over his Apostolic Exhortation. Now it is understandable that non-Catholics might not understand the Catholic teaching on different subjects. However it is sad to see people judging a Papal statement from the perspective of political ideology.

Christianity is not a political platform. It is not an economic policy.  It is about the love of God for each one of us and His plan of salvation. Not everything about it fits in with what human beings find most economical or politically expedient.

Because Christianity is about our salvation and because the Pope is the successor of Peter, head of Christ's Church, it stands to reason that when the Pope speaks about the moral issues that involve political or economic issues we should take heed of whether our actions or attitudes put us in opposition to Jesus Christ.

Jesus told us (Mark 8:34b-38)

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Our political and economic gain do not outweigh our need for salvation. While capitalism is not intrinsically evil, it can be practiced in an immoral way. Those practices must be rejected by any person concerned with following the Lord.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TFTD: Corporations Have No Rights?

On the CNN newsfeed, I saw an editorial claiming that individuals have rights but corporations do not. Therefore corporations like Hobby Lobby should not be able to get an exemption from the mandated contraception/abortion coverage since such rights only extend to the individual practice of religion -- which the author seems to interpret as worship.

But that's too narrow. The First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The key words in this case are, "prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The free exercise of religion involves all aspects of a person's life... including the right to go into business.

If corporations founded by religious believers may not be run according to the religious convictions they hold, this is a restriction on the free exercise of religion.

Moreover, if religion is merely a right of individuals, then it follows that freedom of speech, press, peaceable assembly and petition of grievances are also individual rights.  That means organized social justice groups, the New York Times, unions and organized protests are also restricted.

That means Elizabeth B. Wydra has the individual right to opine on religious freedom but neither CNN (which published the linked article) nor the group she represents has that right.

Ridiculous? Of course. But that is what follows from her argument.

What we have here is not an appeal to reasonable constitutional law. We have partisan behavior seeking to abuse the laws and courts to compel a group to support a behavior the author approves of but they oppose.

Usually we call that fascism.

Monday, November 25, 2013

TFTD: Judgmental

One irony I see on the Internet is how the people most critical of the Church as judgmental and intolerant are actually judgmental and intolerant themselves when faced with different views in conflict with their own.

Whatever the cause they promote, they will not tolerate a view which contradicts it.  If they favor so-called "gay marriage", they will not permit a view defending marriage between one man and one woman.  In fact they attack the view with as much force as they have the power to use.  Certainly they will bully and intimidate. If they can, they will try to impose sanctions against those who hold other views.

Likewise the issue of abortion. The supporter will not accept the right of the view of the opponent to exist, seeking to bully and intimidate their opponent into silence.

What makes this mindset dangerous today is the corrupted political mindset which justifies any tactic used in favor of a position and any form of harassment against opponents.

What makes this kind of mindset alarming is history is full of regimes that used these tactics and eventually became a one party system when one part of the spectrum had the tools available to silence their opponents.

With that in mind, we should consider the current situation in America. People who publicly hold the views of Christian morality do risk loss of their jobs and perhaps risk legal action -- both of which have happened with businesses which won't recognize "gay marriage", hospitals which won't do abortions and pharmacists who won't sell abortifacient drugs.

That's just America. Canada and England can prosecute people for hate speech if they defend the Christian view of marriage.

But there is a difference between Christian morality and the opposition to it. Credible Christian leaders don't behave like their opponents. Blessed John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have never used slurs or insults in teaching. They have never threatened or bullied or sought to silence their opponents. Small extremist sects have done so, but small extremist sects don't represent the whole.

Yet their opponents have used all these tactics against Christians. This leads me to ask, Who is judgmental? Who is intolerant? Who is a threat to the freedom to do what is right?

Not the Christians.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TFTD: Distorting Christ

Certain dissenters who want the Church to change the teaching entrusted to her make much of the statement "God is love." It is presumed that any Church "rules" interfering with what they call "love" is against Christ.

Christ, however, said "Your sins are forgiven," and "Go and sin no more." His words indicate there are evil acts which He can forgive and we are to seek to stop living in sin.

The dissenters essentially say, "there is no sin." That effectively makes Jesus nothing more than a nice guy teacher, denying His bringing us salvation.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TFTD: God Cares About the Church He Established

I think in dealing with Catholic concerns about the direction the Church is going in, we have to remind them that God has a role to play, and it is not only in the hands of human members.

I think the trilemma is an important thing to keep in mind here. Let us demonstrate it by creating two sets of categories.

1) Either God exists or He does not.
2) God either cares about His Church or He does not.

This leaves us with the following:

1) God does not exist (if He does not exist, whether or not He cares about His Creation is irrelevant).
2) God exists and cares about His Church.
3) God exists and does not care about His Church.

Now, with options 1 and 3, the direction the Church is going in doesn't matter. If God doesn't exist, there is no direction for the Church to go in. If God exists, but does not care about what happens to his Church, then it is pretty irrelevant what direction the Church goes in... since He does not care.

However, if God exists and does care about His Church, it stands to reason He will look after it and protect her. That means He won't permit the Church to teach error in matters involving salvation.  He will not let the gates of Hell prevail against the Church.

So why all the fear? Unless a Catholic denies God exists or believes God does not care for His Church, he or she should have faith that the Pope isn't going to formally teach error or change Church teachings.

That isn't some sort of "papalotry" claiming the Pope can do no wrong. That's faith in God that He will be keep His promises out of love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Deceiving the Faithful?

Two years ago, I asked what if the antichrist wasn't a liberal as is usually portrayed in Apocalyptic fiction. What if he turned out to be someone seeking to deceive the faithful into rejecting the true Church and the Successor of Peter?

Back then, I asked this in a speculative sense of what if we end up looking in the wrong direction? Now, I find myself wondering if it would explain the discontent among some faithful Catholics with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is the legitimate Pope with the protection from teaching error in matters of faith and morals and he has the authority:

Not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world; so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under one supreme Pastor, through the preservation of unity, both of communion and of profession of the same faith, with the Roman Pontiff. (Pastor Aeternus)

Yet we do have Catholics who stood up for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI who treat the Holy Father with suspicion and doubt. It makes me wonder, if a conservative anti-pope appeared, would many be tempted to follow this anti-pope?

And might some be tempted to follow a conservative antichrist who sounds very holy, but makes small corruptions that lead people to emphasize ideology over the faith?

Pope Francis does do things differently than his predecessors, and it is natural to be surprised on occasion. But when people question his orthodoxy, that is a temptation to make oneself the measure of the Church.

That is essentially a victory for Satan to separate a person from the true Church out of pride.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

TFTD: Missing the Point

A fellow parishioner once complained that our Pastor never spoke about homosexuality or abortion. I was tempted to reply, "Why? Are you a homosexual abortionist?" (Thankfully God gave me the gift of prudence not to do so).

The comment wouldn't have been flippant though. It points out a problem with Catholics. That problem is focusing more on judging others than on asking ourselves where we stand with God.

Remember the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18: 9-14.)

All of us are sinners, but sometimes we miss the point in judging ourselves against the sins of others instead of against who God calls us to be.

To be sure, practicing homosexuals and abortionists do need to be warned about their sins. But so do we. The Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium (#14) reminds us:

All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.

If the abortionist or the practicing homosexual repents, but we remain self righteous, they will be saved and we will not.

Let's keep that in mind when the Pope, Bishop or pastor seems to hit close to home instead of talking about "them."

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.