Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What About Us?

Pay attention to the bishop, if you would have God pay attention to you. I offer myself up for those who obey the bishop, priests and deacons. May it be my lot to be with them in God. Toil and train together, run and suffer together, rest and rise at the same time, as God’s stewards, assistants and servants. Please the leader under whom you serve, for from him you receive your pay. May none of you turn out a deserter. Let your baptism be ever your shield, your faith a helmet, your charity a spear, your patience a panoply. Let your works be deposits, so that you may receive the sum that is due to you. In humility be patient with one another, as God is with you. May I rejoice in you always.


—St. Ignatius of Antioch


One temptation Catholics face was described by the future Pope Benedict XVI as taking the prayer in the Communion Rite, “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church,” and changing it, by practice, into look not on the sins of our Church, but on my faith. In other words, we subverted the recognition of our sins and the holiness of the Church by elevating our own perceived superiority to the flaws of the sinful members of the Church… in other words, if the Church does not work the way we think it should, we take it to mean the Church is in the wrong and that is the fault of somebody else. The Catholic who thinks that the Church would be fine if those in charge would do things their way have fallen into the trap. 


We have seen this in articles that portray legitimate incidents of confidentiality as “secret” or decisions to make no changes as “neglect of important issues.” Such people selectively cite Canon 212§3 to justify their actions. Yes, Canon 212§3 exists for us to respectfully express our concerns about the needs of the Church. No, it does not mean we can rudely dismiss the actions of those who are tasked with making decisions on how to handle things.


Of course, the individuals within the Church from the laity to the Pope can and do sin. They can make errors of judgment in the administration of the Church. We should be praying for them because of that fact. But we all too often focus on the actions on the part of them—the “Pope and/or bishops,” while ignoring our own role among the laity. Many seem willing to gleefully cite the sentence—falsely attributed to St. John Chrysostom or St. Athanasius—that “The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lampposts that light the path” when we dislike the things the Pope and bishops have done, while ignoring Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16, and John 14:15 that remind us that our failures of obedience are not a minor matter.


We are all called to follow the Christian life and the specific vocation that God may call us to. That calling may be something official within the Church, or it may be a private action. We do need to act in communion with the Pope and the bishops in doing so. If they should rule that a ministry must be done one way, or must not be done another way, then that should be a huge clue that we cannot impose that conflicting vision on the Church. But, if we take the “look not on the sins of our Church, but on my faith” approach, we will fall into error… perhaps even into heresy or schism if we become obstinate enough.


I recognize that readers might immediately think of the behavior of an individual among the clergy who does wrong and think, the author wants us to follow blindly! No. I do not call for that. I can legitimately express concern about the German bishops for example, because they appear to be in opposition to the Pope and bishops in communion with him. But I do think that when we get indignant over the legitimate exercise of authority in the Church and are tempted to say that the Church is the one in the wrong, we have the obligation to ask ourselves: What About us?




(†) It seems that the origin of the saying was John Wesley who apparently wrote that St. John Chrysostom should have said it: “A lifeless, unconverting minister is the murderer-general of his parish. . . I could not have blamed St. Chrysostom, if he had only said, ‘Hell is paved with the skulls of such Christian priests!’”

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Let Us Abolish the Term

There is a term that some Catholics use, but I utterly loathe. That term is “Pope Francis Catholic.” Before you react in horror—or smugness—I am not repudiating Pope Francis or his teachings in any way. I still do stand with him as the successor of Peter and accept what he teaches as authentic and binding.


The problem is, I find many Catholics using the term use it in the sense of the terrible phrase “Spirit of Vatican II.” That sense ignores what was taught and instead claims to understand what is “really” meant… even though the actual words contradict the so-called “spirit” in meaning and intention. 


The Catholics who think that Vatican II or Pope Francis allows us to reject or explain away the teachings they do not like are not being faithful to the Council or the Pope. They are merely heterodox at best. Catholics who think that the Church was in the wrong before Vatican II or Pope Francis are not being faithful Catholics. They are undermining the timeless teachings of the Church that were reaffirmed by both.


Vatican II was not about reversing Church teaching. It was about making it understandable for the current times. Pope Francis did not introduce innovations contradicting his predecessors. He emphasized the the importance of removing the obstacles that intimidated those not in right relationship with God.


The Catholic who thinks that Vatican II or Pope Francis have taught that certain sins are no longer grave or can be approved of have missed the point. Abortion, contraception, homosexual acts… these remain grave sins and intrinsic evils. We may not do them. We may not condone them in others.


Nor can we blame past Popes for any legalism that has sprung up among certain Catholic factions. It was necessary for St. John Paul II to emphasize the fact that intrinsic evils can never be justified because he was challenging widespread errors of moral relativism. Pope Francis is challenging some Catholics who misunderstood St. John Paul II and overlooked his calls for mercy.


The truth of the Church remains true from age to age. But people do confuse that truth with the legal systems of past eras. That can mean they reject the truth because they think the language of the phrasing is too harsh. Or it can mean they think that those who sin should be treated in the same way that these past documents called for and a change in discipline is falsely equated with a rejection of truth.


So, when I see Catholics invoke Pope Francis or Vatican II to justify dissent from the teachings they dislike, I know these Catholics are just as badly informed about Pope and Council as those Catholics who believe they taught error. Whether they are knowingly dishonest or simply misled, I leave that judgment to God. But I cannot accept their beliefs as authentically Catholic.


As Catholics, we believe that the Church—under the headship of the Pope and bishops in communion with him—teaches with the authority given by Christ in a binding manner that we must obey. We trust that the authority comes with the protection from God so we will not be bound to error. We need to recognize that the ordinary magisterium is binding and is not prone to error. The difference between the ex cathedra teaching and the ordinary magisterium is the ordinary magisterium can be further developed. 


For example, the Church teaching on contraception is binding. But it is possible that science will develop a new method of controlling the number of births a woman has and the Church may need to further develop the teaching on contraception to explain why that method is wrong or permissible. While the teachings remain in the ordinary magisterium, it is not because the teaching can be ignored. As Pope Pius XII taught:


20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me";[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.


The Catholic who accepts Laudato Si and rejects Humanae Vitae is no more a faithful Catholic than one who rejects Laudato Siand accepts Humanae Vitae. Both documents are taught with the binding authority of the Church. Regardless of whether one thinks sins against the environment are worse than sins of contraception or vice versa, the Catholic who refuses to obey and makes excuses for their disobedience is not behaving like a faithful Catholic.


So, let us stop using terms that justify disobedience. Yes, fidelity to God and His Church must be more than a legalistic lip service. But we cannot call it fidelity if we refuse to obey the Church on what we must or must not do. (cf. Matthew 7:21-23, 18:17, Luke 10:16, John 14:15).


Remember: The person who calls themselves a “Spirit of Vatican II Catholic” or a “Pope Francis Catholic” and uses that label to disobey the teaching of the Church only demonstrates that they do not understand Vatican II or Pope Francis.




[†] For example: Prior to 1960, most contraception involved some variant of the barrier method. Church teaching in condemning it did focus on why barrier methods were morally unacceptable. (The IUD was an abortion inducing object that was condemned on those grounds). Since the Pill was not a barrier method, people hoped that the Church might declare it licit. Instead, St. Paul VI declared it was also wrong. The Church teaching expanded to address that new method and why it was wrong. In doing so, the Church was prepared to deal with chemical implants when they were developed.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

It’s Iimi! Seeking Truth Between the Extremes

People often assume that those who have a different view of events from them must be guilty of knowingly siding with evil. But there are other possibilities. So, assuming the worst of others without proof that this is their intent is the sin of rash judgment. We always have to learn the truth before accusing an individual of malicious wrongdoing.

Iimi and Paula discuss the label of “extremism” and assumptions people make about their ideological foes. Sometimes the truth is not on the side of one of the extremes in an either-or argument.

As a side note, the Derek Chauvin verdict came out while I was working on this comic. The behavior of some people on social media seemed like a good example of people assuming the worst about those they disagreed with, so I added it in.

And, for those who like my little “behind the scenes” comments on making the comics, this was a first attempt at creating visible action in a different room from where the main players are talking.

Monday, April 12, 2021

It’s Iimi! Issue Zero (Part II)

This is part 2 of 2 of the comics recovered from my Facebook photos up until the point I started posting comics to the blog (April 11 to September 2020). Part I is HERE.

This comic introduced Kismetta “Kiz” Dhumzur . She was to present Muslim objections to Christianity. She was designed as an American Muslim of European (Bosnian) descent to at least avoid the Arab stereotypes that were going around with Muslim bashing at the time. This comic was also aimed at contrasting Iimi and Kismetta’s civil disagreements with the bozos on social media. (Like Iimi, I’ve actually read a translation of the Quran). The reference to Verbum is the Catholic version of the Logos Bible software.

I ended up redesigning Kismetta’s hairstyle because I belatedly noticed she looked similar to Paula in her seductive mode of dress (the Comipo program has few hairstyles and colors).

As a side note, I accidentally transposed the syllables in her name (it was originally Dzumhur, as it’s spelled in the comic) in so many comics that I had to change it.

My first attempt at a multi-person discussion. Also, my first attempt at giving Ms. Baculum a role beyond “shut up and stop talking in class.” We’ll see her antagonism towards religion explored in Vile Evil.

The parable Iimi uses is from a Patristic writing, but I forget the author. I still hadn’t learned how to link balloons or space them.

Introducing Paula. Originally, she was written as presenting the non-atheist secular attacks on the Church. Reflecting that attitude, she’s belligerent in this comic. That would change as she and Kismetta would become Iimi’s friends.

A follow up to the last comic, I decided to gentle Paula’s character. I dropped hints to consequences for Paula’s lifestyle. I added an epilogue where I introduced Iimi’s mother and adopted sister.

Not much to say about this one except I figured out how to put in objects behind windows.

An experiment with four panel comics.

Stereotypes against Hispanics were prevalent when I wrote this. Chela’s birth mother was supposed to be an unescorted minor who entered the United States during the Obama administration, dying in a camp shortly after giving birth (in my view, neither party is without guilt on this). But since the characters will be saying the same age (Irene is 16, Chela is 6), it won’t be long before that doesn’t fit.

Sad to say, I encountered these anti-Hispanic arguments from fellow Catholics.

This comic was my first attempt at forcing custom poses. Chela clinging to Iimi required three models of Chela. Chela tackling Iimi took four models.

One of the dumbest atheist arguments out there...

Pope Francis is probably the most slandered and libeled Pope since Vatican II. The last panel is a pun based on the fact that Ms. Baculum’s name was taken from the argumentum ad baculum. If you’re wondering what Ms. Baculum means by “AII syllogism,” see HERE.