Showing posts with label Quick Quips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quick Quips. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Quick Quips: Election Errors Edition

Now that we finished the conventions, Catholics on social media are…pretty much doing the same thing they’ve been doing since January. That is to say, fighting over what is the best way to deal with a bleak field of candidates to choose from. The problem with that is we get to hear the same arguments we’ve heard for another four months. When they’re wrong, that gets annoying.

As I’ve said elsewhere, my policy is not putting my personal political decisions on my blog. I do this so people won’t confuse my opinions with Church teaching. Instead I try to talk about Church teaching and what follows from that. So, what I plan to do is analyze a few errors in hopes that people will stop using them.

Arguments of Third Party Voting—and the forgotten Catholic obligation

In my circles, I’m hearing more Catholics debate voting for a Third Party than I heard before (my first election was 1988). That alarms people who believe one of the major parties supports evil and that the other major party opposes it. The argument is that a Third Party vote (I’m lumping in write-in candidates and declining to vote as well) will benefit the other party. 

In 2016, there are three groups who will vote Third Party:

  1. The voter who normally votes Republican but votes Third Party out of disgust for Trump.
  2. The voter who normally votes Democrat but votes Third Party out of disgust for Hillary.
  3. The voter who never votes for a major party.

1) The voter who normally votes for the Republicans but votes for a Third Party this time does subtract one vote from the Republicans but does not affect the votes for the Democrats. That means the Republicans have one less vote while the Democrats’ tally stays unchanged. So yes, in that case, the change of support does impact the election by harming the Republicans but not the Democrats.

2) But, this cuts both ways. If Republicans disgusted with the Republican party leads to voting Third Party and harming the Republicans, the same principle applies for the Democrats who vote Third Party out of disgust for Hillary. Each Democrat who votes this way impacts the Democratic Party in the same way that it affected Republicans in the first case.

3) The voter who has never voted for a third party to begin with does not affect the Democrat vs. Republican ratio unless they decide to vote for a major party.

So, to discover how the third party vote affects the election, we have to discover how many of each major party defects to the minor parties and how that impacts their totals in each state. Sometimes it doesn’t impact much. Sometimes it has a major impact.

Take Florida 2000. Whether or not you think it was fair (in other words, no arguments in the comments), George W. Bush won the state by about 500 votes. But 97,000 voters chose Ralph Nader from the Green Party. 12,000 voters chose Pat Buchanan from the Reform Party. If the 97,000 Greens supported Al Gore and the 12,000 Reform party voters supported George W. Bush, then Al Gore would have won Florida by ~84,500 votes. Or if the Buchanan voters would have voted for Bush while the Green votes stayed unchanged, Bush would have won by ~11,500. In one scenario, the election results would have changed. In both cases, nobody would have contested the Florida vote. So yes, a third party vote can impact the election.

But before anyone starts bashing the third party supporters, let’s not forget one crucial thing: conscience. Catholics have the obligation to properly form their conscience and may never do what they believe to be evil. So, if a person’s conscience condemns a vote for both major parties, he cannot ignore his conscience. We cannot do evil so good may come of it. So, as frustrating as it may be for the champions of a major party, one Catholic can’t accuse a second Catholic with a properly formed conscience of enabling evil just because they vote differently.

So people should stop sniping and have a civil dialogue on what voting means in terms of Catholics seeking to promote good and limit evil. Our task should be to find a greater understanding of our obligations, not to defeat “the other side."

Misinterpretation of "Proportionate Reasons"

Another problem is Catholics arguing over whether one may vote for a pro-abortion rights candidate. Back in 2004, then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a memorandum on politicians, voting and the Eucharist. The part that involved non-politicians read as follows:

[N.B. A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.] 

Catholics argue about what a proportionate reason is every four years. But most don’t seem to know that the terms are technical. “Remote material cooperation” and “proportionate reasons” have specific meaning in moral theology which discover guilt or innocence (see HERE for my explanation). Briefly, remote material cooperation means an action which is doesn’t directly cause the evil but does help bring it about. Proportionate reason is not something the individual decides. We don’t say X+Y+Z > abortion. What it means is, if our action allows an evil, the reason for the action had better outweigh the evil. So, if America kills 1 million unborn children a year, the evil we’re trying to stop had better outweigh those 1 million killings we think we need to tolerate so we can oppose it.

The problem is, none of the other issues in 2016 outweighs the evil of abortion. Yes, both parties support intrinsic evil. But, in limiting evil, we must never allow a greater evil in the name of stopping one which does less harm. Does that mean we let other intrinsic evils go? No, it does not. It means we oppose the President on them. But we need to understand which act does greater harm when deciding how we vote to limit evil.

The Execrable Term “Pope Francis Catholic” 

Popefrancis catholic

The secular media has taken to calling Catholics who dissent from Church teaching, “Pope Francis Catholics.” By this, they mean Catholics who put social justice in contrast to opposing abortion and other moral evils. The problem is, this is not what Pope Francis understands by Catholicism. The Pope has condemned the same things his predecessors condemned and promoted the same mercy they promoted. He neither changed teaching nor condoned what the Church has always called evil. A Catholic who supports Social Justice while rejecting Church teaching on abortion, contraception, same sex “marriage” is not a “Pope Francis Catholic. He is a dissenting Catholic.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, this week is the third anniversary of the media and Papal critics grossly distorted the words “Who am I to judge,” portraying his statement that he would not judge the past of a priest who repented as if he supported changing Church teaching. Never mind that the transcript clearly pointed out that he considered himself “a son of the Church” and in accord with the Church on these issues.

Let’s remember that what the Pope says and does is vastly different than what he is falsely portrayed as being. If you study the writings of Pope Francis and his writings before he became Pope, it is clear his beliefs and practices are entirely in keeping with his predecessors. You can only find “changed teaching” if you start with the unproven assumption that he plans on changing Church teaching (begging the question).


I wrote this Quick Quips edition because some Catholics make false statements, either condemning Catholics who do no wrong or defending Catholics who do wrong. Of course no blog has magisterial authority and I don’t pretend to bind and loose. Nor do I pretend to know which Catholics are simply mistaken or which are acting dishonestly. All I can do is describe what seems wrong and encourage people to reflect on these things.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Quick Quips: Getting Things Wrong

Quick Quips

Once more, here is a series of thoughts too small to rate a blog post on their own, combined into a general theme of people getting things wrong. 

Drama Queens in the Church

There is a phenomenon in the Church where some people look at whatever incident comes along, assumes the worst and says this is the most serious crisis in the history of the Church. Usually they say this  about the modern Western materialism and secularism on one hand, and members of the Church publicly saying things which are stupid and sometimes even sinful. I see this, and I want to say, “More serious than Arianism, or Nestorianism? More serious than when heretics used monks as brawlers to attack orthodox Catholics? More serious than heretical rulers trying to impose themselves over the authority of the Church? More serious than those times when the Freemasons, Nazis and Communists tried to suppress Christianity in different countries?"

I’m not denying these times are harmful for souls and we have to oppose the harmful movements. I’m just saying that we should stop being drama queens, thinking our times are the worst times, as if we could do nothing about it. Faithful Catholics have stood up against the evils of every age. Now it’s our turn to step up and face the challenge.

Ad Disorientum

I have no objection to Cardinal Sarah’s recommendations that the priests say the Mass ad orientem (facing the [liturgical] east). if my pastor follows his recommendation, I’ll support him and explain the reasons why. If the Church mandates it, I’ll give my assent. I won’t let my personal preferences stand in the way of the legitimate authority of the Church in a matter of discipline. The Church had the right to make the change to ad populum (facing the people) and she can change it back again to emphasize different aspects of the faith or stop an error. It’s like the Church allowing or withholding the chalice for the laity.

But I do object to how some combox warriors are portraying it. This is not going to solve all our problems. People are people who get bad ideas. The Church could go back to the 1962 Missal and some idiot would try to turn it into a “clown mass” despite the rubrics. Nor will people “just get used to it.” Remember, some people who grew up with ad orientem bitched for 40 years about the change. We’re supposed to think people who grew up with ad populum won’t react the same way?

They Don’t Just Get the Pope Wrong

People pitched a fit when Archbishop Chaput published guidelines for applying Amoris Lætitia. They’re outraged that the bishop said that to receive the Eucharist we cannot be guilty of a grave sin, and people who remarried when their first marriage was valid need to live as brother and sister if they want to receive. His words are:

Every Catholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. In some cases, the subjective responsibility of the person for a past action may be diminished. But the person must still repent and renounce the sin, with a firm purpose of amendment.

With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist. 

Archbishop Chaput isn’t saying anything new. This has always been the position of the Church and, despite claims from the combox warriors, this doesn’t contradict Amoris Lætitia.

For Mercy’s Sake!

People get mercy wrong. When the Pope speaks of mercy, he’s not advocating moral laxity in the Church. Mercy is (according to the glossary in the Catechism), “The loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance shown to one who offends.” But the Pope links mercy to repentance. If we want God to show us mercy, we must repent and turn away from wrongdoing. Bishop Robert Barron describes Pope Francis’ approach this way:

[M]any receive the message of divine mercy as tantamount to a denial of the reality of sin, as though sin no longer mattered. But just the contrary is the case. To speak of mercy is to be intensely aware of sin and its peculiar form of destructiveness. Or, to shift to one of the pope’s favorite metaphors, it is to be acutely conscious that one is wounded so severely that one requires not minor treatment but the emergency and radical attention provided in a hospital on the edge of a battlefield. Recall that when Francis was asked in a famous interview to describe himself, he responded, “a sinner.” Then he added, “who has been looked upon by the face of mercy.” That’s getting the relationship right.

Barron, Robert (2016-03-31). Vibrant Paradoxes: The Both/And of Catholicism (Kindle Locations 617-622). Word on Fire. Kindle Edition.

When we seek mercy, we seek the healing from the field hospital. When we show mercy, we’re taking a role in assisting the Divine Physician. But either way, we recognize a terrible wound exists that needs treatment. The Pope’s not saying “reclassify that wound as being a natural condition.” We should stop thinking he is.


We need to avoid confusing our thoughts and feelings on a subject with what the Church teaches or with what the Pope says. People get things wrong and, from those mistakes, create scenarios of disaster where there are none. But these disasters are in our own minds. That’s not to say everything is fine and dandy in the Church. Things never were in the Church (See Acts 6:1 for example). But we need to keep things in context to avoid driving ourselves to despair, believing the Church has fallen into ruin. That paralyzes us. We don’t work with the Pope and Church in bringing people to Our Lord. Instead we brawl on the deck of the Barque of Peter over which way we think the ship should be going...

…and that’s the attitude present in every serious crisis in the Church.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Quick Quips: Bulletproof Personal Infallibility

It’s time for some more short observations on topics. I write this set about the rebellion against the magisterium and how we excuse it when we find ourselves in the wrong. We do this so well that whenever the Church teaches something we dislike, we automatically treat it as proof of their error. 

Double Standards Make Us Hypocrites

Dual hypocrisy2

When it comes to people citing Scripture or Church teaching in a partisan attack, it always gets quoted in a way which condemns an opponent but ignores one's own transgressions. The liberal Catholic points to Scripture or Church teaching about charity and care for the poor, condemning his conservative opponent for hypocrisy. But he ignores them on morality. Likewise, the conservative Catholic points out what they have to say about living rightly, but ignores them on the topic of mercy. 

Both of them take pleasure in accusing the other of being bad Christians but both behave hypocritically. They edit Scripture Church teaching to what pleases them and ignore the parts they violate. Our Lord gets transformed into an endorsement of a theological or political position. The problem is, our faith calls us to be both moral and charitable; both just and merciful. If we only obey the faith we profess when it suits us, we disobey and cause scandal to non-believers who can plainly see our hypocrisy.

This does not mean we treat our faith as a checklist of laws to follow. What it means is we must constantly check our behavior and consider whether we are blind to our own wrongdoing. When we discover wrongdoing, we must seek to amend our lives and make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation when needed. It means we must stop making ourselves into Popes and start listening to what the Church’s teaching authority tells us of right and wrong.

If we fail to do that, our actions declare God’s Word and His Church superfluous. When they agree with us, we don’t need them; when they disagree with us, they’re wrong. Who needs a Church that is unnecessary or wrong? If we want to truly bear witness to our faith, let us seek to live all parts of it out of love for Our Lord.

Casting Pearls Before Swine

When it comes to attacking the Church (whether from an anti-Catholic, a radical traditionalist or a liberal dissenter), there is a widely used tactic. This tactic is to take a personal interpretation of the words of the Bible, the Pope or another magisterial document and treat that personal interpretation as if it was the truth and no other interpretation was possible. When the Catholic defending the faith objects to the interpretation, the attacker claims the defender is willfully ignorant and trying to explain away “the truth.” If the defender speaks imprecisely, they pounce and twist words to portray him as holding a position he never held.  If the defender points out that the attacker is factually wrong, the attacker ignores the refutation and continues repeating the same point until the defender gives up in disgust. When the defender does finally walk away, the attacker claims victory, and says nobody could refute their argument.

In terms of reason and logic, this is a sham. There is no dialogue to find truth. The attacker has made up their mind and is only interested in bashing people over the head. It’s simply a case of harassment. When targeted with this tactic, our response should show people of good will what we believe. We should not get into endless debates with people who confuse interpretation of texts with the texts themselves. They’ll just treat the attacks on their interpretations as attacks on the teaching itself.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

A couple of weeks back, I was visiting my father and we watched some Blue Bloods on Netflix. One of those episodes caught my attention. It involved a police officer accused of brutality. Because his bodycam stopped working during the crucial part of the altercation, activists accused him of turning it off. During the episode, the police chief and some of his staff debated bodycams. The police chief said what he disliked about them was they testified to the fact that people presumed the police officer was lying unless there was proof to the contrary.

In the real world, we can (and do) argue about real police brutality and whether they prove a national problem, a regional problem or individual problems, but the program made a good point. It’s unjust to automatically assume one group is guilty until proven innocent. But I’m not going to argue about the police. I write about the Church and morality, after all. What I want to explore is tying together how the above musings illustrate how we assume the Pope and bishops in communion with him are in error unless proven otherwise. 

When the Pope or a bishop speaks about a moral obligation where we’re in the wrong, we respond by questioning their orthodoxy. When the Pope or a bishop speaks in a way when there is more than one interpretation, we choose the one that agrees with what we think. When we want our bad behavior justified, we pick an interpretation favoring it. When we want to disobey the Pope’s teaching on a subject, we choose the interpretation making him look bad. We never ask whether we’re in the wrong. 

As Catholics, we believe Our Lord founded the Church and gave her His authority. We believe He promised to be with the Church always and protect her from error—so long as we happen to agree with the Church. But once we disagree, we presume the Church is guilty of error unless she uses a precise phrasing saying no more and no less than what we demand as refutation. Of course, we make ourselves the judge of that evaluation, so we are never in the wrong.

When we do this, we become just as hypocritical as the people we denounce for disobeying the parts of Church teaching we follow. We don’t bear witness to Our Lord and we don’t evangelize. Instead we tell people they can do whatever they will, excusing their own behavior and condemning the behavior they dislike. Perhaps the first thing to do to evangelize our nation again is to start with our own repentance.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quick Quips: Rush to Judgment Edition

Claiming a person chose wrong and chose so out of malice is a strong accusation. We must prove the accusation is true before we look for motives why the person acted in a certain way. If we don’t give proof, then our charge is not proven and all our speculation on motive is meaningless. This is why so many news articles and blogs aggravate me. People assume wrongdoing, then make wild accusations over why wrongdoing occurred. Here are some examples from the past week.

Struggling to Pull Defeat Out of the Jaws of Victory

The Vatican released Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Lætitia, today. From what I have read so far (about halfway through), it is an excellent document which explores the meaning of marriage and family before considering the cases of people at odds with the Church teaching. The secular media is remarkably subdued, mostly keeping quiet about it. The text contradicts the predictions or accusations made about “opening doors” to changed Church teaching. Even one of the most notorious anti-Francis Catholic blogs posted a relatively subdued article about this Exhortation.

Even so, certain Catholics, unwilling to surrender their preconceived views have tried to portray this as leaving doors open to error—only disagreeing on whether this was good or bad. Despite the fact that there are no soundbites which sound shocking when taken out of context, some try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by saying certain concepts might be interpreted as leniency and saying “It’s not the fault” of those who are at odds with the Church. That’s a far cry from the cheers or wailing over the synod critics who were certain the Pope would open doors to “same sex marriage” and “Communion for the divorced and remarried,” but they’ll take what they can get.

I must ask: At what point do such people realize they have seized their position so irrationally that they can no longer see reality? If they assume a claim is true and then impute bad will to the Pope, they do wrong in not investigating the truth of the matter.

The Papal Invitation that Wasn't

Perhaps because the media and dissident Catholics can’t spin Amoris Lætitia into screaming “POPE CHANGES CHURCH TEACHING” headlines, they latched on to another headline. Now we see the media talking about the Pope “inviting” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the Vatican. The Facebook Catholics started arguing about the fact that Senator Sanders is pro-abortion, pro-same sex “marriage,” and pro-socialism and whether it was an endorsement of his politics.

As it turns out, Sanders wasn’t invited to speak at the Vatican and he wasn’t invited by the Pope. One Bishop Sorondo invited him to a conference at the Vatican on the 25th anniversary of the Papal encyclical Centesimus annus. Sanders may or may not meet the Pope while there, but he wasn’t invited for the purpose of meeting or speaking before the Pope. In fact, there’s some question about whether he should have been invited. In other words, the things that would have made the story newsworthy did not happen.

Religious Freedom is Slavery

Earlier this week, while driving to work, I listened to NPR on the radio. In this segment, they interviewed a self-identified “Christian baker” from Mississippi about the just signed religious freedom law. This baker said he didn’t feel threatened by lawsuits and prosecutions aimed at Christians. He said he saw his job as “baking cakes” and not judging who was "worthy to buy” them.

That’s not even remotely the problem here. Christians who feel the need for religious freedom laws don’t want laws giving them excuses to arbitrarily shun people. They want protection from forced participation in something their religion calls morally wrong. The past seven years gave us growing encroachment on religious freedom. People have lost their jobs for supporting the traditional understanding of marriage.

Business owners involved in weddings get sued, fined and prosecuted for refusing to take part in “same sex weddings” or hire a person openly flaunting their contempt for the religious teachings of the denomination they work for. The Supreme Court refused to hear cases about this. Christians who believe they would do wrong by participating want protection from unjust legal action.

To call this concern “homophobia” or “intolerance” is an ad hominem attack against these people. The accusations do not refute these conscientious objections. They merely assume they are wrong and then impute a “motive” for why the person holds them. CS Lewis once spoke about assuming a person was wrong and then jumping to the argument of why the person went wrong.

The problem is that before you can psychoanalyze why a person went wrong, you have to show where he is wrong. In other words, holding that a person is a  homophobe because of his holding position X is jumping the gun—first you have to show that the person is wrong about position X before using terms like “homophobe” to explain why he holds a “wrong" view.


People must investigate whether a claim is false before speculating over why a person holds a false position. Speculation over why the Pope is changing Church teaching, the motive for Bernie Sanders' invitation to the Vatican, or why people in Mississippi are bigots, is pointless if the Pope didn’t change Church teaching, if Sanders’ invitation was wrongly given or if religious freedom supporters aren’t bigots.

Avoiding false witness or rash judgment means we investigate what is true before falsely accusing people of bad will. Investigating first means we just might have meaningful discourse over right and wrong instead of wrongly accusing people of wrongdoing.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Quick Quips: Bad Perspectives Edition

Just a Pinch of Incense, 2016 Style

I ran across comments attacking the Little Sisters of the Poor over their lawsuit against the Obama administration concerning the contraceptive mandate.  The derision comes from people who say that it is a lot easier to check a box than to fill out paperwork for a lawsuit.

That argument is remarkably similar to the one used by pagan Roman officials who argued that all a Christian needed to do was "burn a pinch of incense" before the state altars--that is, make a token acknowledgement of the values of the State.

The problem was, the pinch of incense was not a mere gesture.  It meant that the Christian was acknowledging the "gods" of Rome as equally valid as the God worshipped by Christians.  No Christian could do that without being unfaithful to their beliefs.

Similarly,  the "checkmark" is not a mere gesture. It is an action that makes the Little Sisters empower another group to do evil on their behalf.  They cannot do this without being unfaithful to the God they profess to follow.

In neither case can Christians accept the "accommodation" the State offers.  It is no accommodation at all. It is an attack on Christian belief and practice.

Rank Hypocrisy from the Rank and File?

Consider Tobit 4:15... "Do to no one what you yourself hate." I think we can apply it to cheering tactics we deplore when applied against our foes. Remember 1 Corinthians 13:6... Love  "does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth."

I am saddened when I witness Catholics respond to the election news. I see Catholics who deplore the rudeness and racism of Donald Trump respond with racism and rudeness.  I am dismayed to see people who denounced violence at Trump rallies sneer when it comes to Trump having to cancel his appearance at a rally because of unrest.

I must ask these Catholics: If you recognize that what Trump does is wrong, why do you respond in kind and rejoice when he suffers the same?  Schadenfreude is no Catholic virtue!

One can justly oppose Trump's ideas, rhetoric and tactics (in fact, I do).  But when one embraces them or rejoices in them when directed against him, that is not Christian witness to virtue.  It's rank hypocrisy. Let's remember that, as Christians, we are called to witness the Kingdom of God in all aspects of our lives.

Tying it All Together

Both of these cases strike me as coming from an attitude of "do good to my allies and harm to my enemies." In other words, do what benefits me and to hell with you if you disagree.

To which, Our Lord Jesus replies, "For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?" (Matthew 5:46-47).

All people are called to seek out the truth and to live it when discovered. That means discarding false slogans and ceasing to use/cheer immoral tactics even if they seem to benefit us.

Now,  we cannot compel people to choose good. We can only strive to create just laws and seek to show people why we ought to live rightly at the level they can understand. Sometimes people will refuse to listen. But let us reject the tactics of the World to achieve our goals. Otherwise they will simply see our beliefs as partisan and will not see the Truth Who powers them.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quick Quips: "Wait, What?" Thoughts on Dubious Things I Have Seen Online


Once more it’s time for quick comments on topics where I don’t feel the need to publish a full blown article, but the topic irritates me enough to want to say something. This time, it’s involving some dubious (to put it charitably) things I have seen on the internet and what bothers me about them.

Papal Press Conferences

I’m not going to talk about THIS press conference. I want to say something about all the press conferences Pope has already done and will continue to do.

I’ll be honest. I would not mind at all if the Pope announced he was putting a moratorium on press conferences. But the reason I dread them has nothing to do with what the Pope says. I dread them because it is becoming more and more clear that we have a secular media which is either incompetent in doing research or willful in misrepresentation and we have a growing number of Catholics who are willing to assume that the reports from the secular media are accurate. Either they think the Pope is a political liberal and approve, or they think the Pope is a political liberal and disapprove. The problem is, neither group tries to start with the assumption that the Pope is speaking as a Catholic, and try to read his words through that assumption. They should.

Every time this has happened, the content shows he said nothing against Church teaching, but people believe the falsehood instead. Personally I think the media needs remedial courses in logic and ethics, while Catholics could stand to relearn the teaching on rash judgment.

The Supreme Court Brouhaha

After the death of Antonin Scalia, a huge debate emerged over the issue of whether Obama, being a lame duck president with less than a year before his successor takes over, should be able to nominate a new Justice or whether we should wait until 2017. Both sides are accusing the other of hypocrisy and both sides are citing the precedents of previous partisan behavior. A number of internet claims have led to people doing research and discovering all sorts of curious historic facts in attempts to debunk the other side. Because I try to make this blog about the Catholic position and not my own personal views (to avoid leading somebody into thinking my personal views are the Church view), I don’t intend to make this an article advocating one side or the other. Rather, I hope to consider what a just approach to this instance should look like.

Catholics have a right to be concerned about the state of religious freedom when it comes to the Obama administration and the decisions of the Courts. Both have come out in favor of things we believe are intrinsically evil (evil always, regardless of circumstances or motive) and have tended to be hostile towards our oppositions on the grounds that we cannot do what we believe to be wrong. So, when a President with a record of hostility towards the Catholic Church intends to nominate a Justice for the Supreme Court, Catholics are not wrong to ask what kind of nominee is intended and what position he holds on these issues. If we find that the nominee holds views which we find offensive, we have a right to oppose that nomination, and those with the responsibility to consider the nomination have the responsibility to reject it.

That being said, we have to do this in a just manner. I think that the current presentation of “We should wait until the next president is inaugurated before nominating a new justice” is problematic. It gives the impression of acting out of partisan motives—the approach of “I won’t support any nominee that comes from this guy!”

It doesn’t help that both parties would adopt the opposite position if their circumstances were reversed.

The Devil Hates Latin?

So, I saw an article claiming that the Devil "hates Latin" because it is the language of the universal Church. I had two thoughts...

  1. The Eastern Rites might have something to say about the “language of the universal Church” bit...
  2. Latin was also the language of the Roman Empire which sought to destroy Christianity.

I suspect what was the actual case was that an exorcist found Latin more effective because translations into other languages were not as good (not being an exorcist, I cannot say). But to turn the language itself into something holy is kind of bizarre.  Let's not turn Latin into some sort of magical incantation like they do in the TV show Supernatural where some guy can play a recording of a Latin exorcism and expel demons.

Besides, does one really want to say that the Devil would prefer “Faith of Our Fathers” sung in English over this?

(How to drive a Latin Mass enthusiast insane?)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Quick Quips—Our Perceptions and God's

Once again, it’s time for Quick Quips where I offer short reflections that I can’t really drag out into a full blog entry.

Does “Everybody” Know Anything at All?


  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Protestant—except the actual Protestants…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Liberal—except the actual Liberals…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Conservative—except the actual Conservatives…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Modernist—except the actual Modernists…
  • Everybody knows that the Church is turning Traditionalist—except the actual Traditionalists…

Basically everybody attributes to the Church a position that they associate with their foes, but those foes disagree with the accusation that the Church has embraced their own views. So maybe instead of assuming that the Church is siding with their foes, maybe everybody should consider the possibility that the Church is not changing for the worse—but rather is just calling for each one of us to change and turn to Our Lord...

Reflections on Psalm 95

Psalm 95 is the Psalm used most often in the opening (Invitatory) of the Liturgy of the Hours. It basically puts us in our place before God. It can be easy to sometimes pray it on autopilot if you have it memorized. At other times, things catch my attention. Today, what caught my attention was:

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord:
Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness,
when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me,
Although they had seen all of my works.

Forty years I endured that generation.
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray
and they do not know my ways.
”So I swore in my anger,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”

I thought about how they challenged and provoked God even though they had seen His works—they did so by finding alternate solutions. They wanted a golden calf, they wanted to go back to Egypt, they wanted a new leader. They wanted the most gain at the least cost. So when God called on them to follow His commands, they were looking for alternate solutions that let them put the most comfort or the least pain compared to what God was guiding them to.

It makes me wonder. Are we perhaps acting like the Hebrews when we complain about the direction of the Church? Why can’t we compromise? Why can’t we go back to the way things were? Why can’t we have a different leader? If we are, perhaps we need to think about what God does with those who grumble. Now God loves us unconditionally, irrevocably as the Pope said in a beautiful homily today, but sometimes He has cause to act sternly with us.


There are always problems with individuals in the Church and, if we’re wise, we’ll realize we’re among the individuals causing problems. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as the role models that the Church should follow if it wants to be right and start thinking about how we stand before Him, and whether we are really any better than the Hebrews in the Exodus or the Pharisees confronting Our Lord. Let us not grow stubborn. Let us not convince ourselves that our preferences are better than God’s call.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Quick Quips: Pope Francis in the USA Edition


So I enjoyed the Pope’s visit and was impressed with what he had to say. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to have been unhappy with the visit, thinking he should have said more on topic A and less on topic B. So here’s another episode of Quick Quips where I put onto the internet the eye-rolling, teeth gritting thoughts I’ve had as I read the news, the blogs and the comments made essentially bashing the Pope. So here we go.

What Radical Nut Came Up With…?—Oh Wait...

So, did you hear the radical words uttered at the Papal Mass this morning in Philadelphia?

"Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance."

What is this radical Marxist agenda being spouted?

Oh wait—the Pope didn't say that. That was from the Second Reading from today’s Mass, the Epistle of James 5:1-6. Maybe, just maybe, the Pope is not spouting Marxist views, but is actually teaching the parts of Christianity that we have forgotten.

So Who’s To Blame For Misinterpretation Now?

So some Catholics have trotted out the old “if he would only speak more clearly, people would not misinterpret him” lament. But after seeing the comments in the (secular) conservative sites where every old bit of anti-Catholic slander going back to the 16th century has been hurled at the Pope (things like “we deny the resurrection because we have a corpus on a crucifix while Protestants have an empty cross” and the old “works alone”), I have to ask—do you really think these people would even want to find out the truth about what a Catholic had to say (as opposed being comfortable in their bigotry)?

If Only The Pope Had...

I've encountered something coming up in blogs and on Facebook, saying that if only the Pope had mentioned abortion directly in his address to Congress, they could have defunded Planned Parenthood successfully in the vote that came up the same day. Personally, I don't believe it. That would require there to be enough Catholics in congress that could have swung the vote that were:

  • Not already determined to vote their position regardless of what the Pope taught.
  • So ignorant of the Church teaching up to now that if the Pope mentioning it directly, they would have said "Oh, wow, what the hell were we thinking? It’s bad for Catholics to support abortion?” after the Pope spoke.

Dissenting Catholics who think abortion to be "a right" haven't changed their views when faced with the Pope's predecessors and I doubt they'd change now either...

The Pope Was So Silent on Abortion That Even Planned Parenthood Spoke Against Him—Wait a Minute...

Also of note is the fact that while conservative Catholics denounced the Pope for not speaking out on abortion, Planned Parenthood denounced him for his pro-life stance, saying the Church needed to change her teaching. When the enemies of the Church know that the Pope is pro-life, maybe—just maybe—the concerned Catholics need to realize that his message is getting through.

Guess the Pope Who Said This...

Here’s a Papal document which speaks on the environment this way:

34. Nor can the moral character of development exclude respect for the beings which constitute the natural world, which the ancient Greeks—alluding precisely to the order which distinguishes it—called the “cosmos.” Such realities also demand respect, by virtue of a threefold consideration which it is useful to reflect upon carefully.

The first consideration is the appropriateness of acquiring a growing awareness of the fact that one cannot use with impunity the different categories of beings, whether living or inanimate—animals, plants, the natural elements—simply as one wishes, according to one s own economic needs. On the contrary, one must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system, which is precisely the cosmos.”

The second consideration is based on the realization—which is perhaps more urgent—that natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come.

The third consideration refers directly to the consequences of a certain type of development on the quality of life in the industrialized zones. We all know that the direct or indirect result of industrialization is, ever more frequently, the pollution of the environment, with serious consequences for the health of the population.

Once again it is evident that development, the planning which governs it, and the way in which resources are used must include respect for moral demands. One of the latter undoubtedly imposes limits on the use of the natural world. The dominion granted to man by the Creator is not an absolute power, nor can one speak of a freedom to “use and misuse,” or to dispose of things as one pleases. The limitation imposed from the beginning by the Creator himself and expressed symbolically by the prohibition not to “eat of the fruit of the tree” (cf. Gen 2:16–17) shows clearly enough that, when it comes to the natural world, we are subject not only to biological laws but also to moral ones, which cannot be violated with impunity.

A true concept of development cannot ignore the use of the elements of nature, the renewability of resources and the consequences of haphazard industrialization—three considerations which alert our consciences to the moral dimension of development.

Pope Francis and Laudato Si? No. Sollicitudo rei Socialis by St. John Paul II, written in 1987. That’s right, almost 30 years ago.

That Guy From Nazareth Would Be A Lot Better Speaker if He Talked About the Unjust Romans...

Continuing the theme of “The Pope didn’t speak on X,” I was struck by how the Israelites and the Apostles constantly wanted to know when Jesus was going to speak out on the corrupt tax collectors, the Roman occupation, the Samaritans and so on. Jesus rebuked them for their attitudes. But wanting justice was not a bad thing in itself. However, when considering His mission, an approach which did not to condemn the sinners but to sought to bring them to salvation, what people wanted to hear and what they needed to hear were often two different things.  

The Pope seems determined to follow Our Lord’s example in how He approaches things. He didn’t come as a firebrand preacher—you know, the type most people cross the street to avoid. He spoke with gentleness and encouragement, addressing the issues that maybe we need to hear, and not putting the other guy in his place. A lot of people don’t like that—but then again neither did the Pharisees.

In Closing

Ultimately I think that people who approached the Pope’s visit with an open mind and heart, seeking to learn, came away satisfied. But those who approached the visit with the assumption that “that idiot is going to screw it up again…” came away disgruntled. I believe the Pope presented the faith in a gentle manner, speaking to a nation that has forgotten how one is to be good, hoping to get them to listen. But Catholics who wanted blood sports where the Pope denounced Pelosi, Obama, Biden and so on, I think they missed the gifts of the visit.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Quick Quips: Thoughts on Synod Agendas and Annulment Concerns

Don t panic

Thoughts on the Claims of Synod Agendas and The Dangers they Hold

It’s popular for Catholic writers, even in normally orthodox publications, to talk about agendas when it comes to the upcoming synod on the family. People scrutinize the appointed and elected bishops to the synod and wonder aloud about the machinations of bishops who are not being faithful to Church teaching and plan to overturn Catholic moral teaching. Some (mind you, we’re talking orthodox publications here, not radical traditionalist sites) have even gone so far as to question whether the Pope agrees with their agendas?

I think those people and publications have lost sight of something important: The Church is not a man-made institution and the synod is not a political undertaking. What the synod is attempting to do is to look at the family and determine how to present the Church teaching in a time when the entire understanding of marriage and family have fallen into confusion.

Are there bishops involved who have expressed extremely dubious views on divorce/remarriage and “same sex marriage”? Yes, unfortunately. But what we forget is that in any Church council or synod, there have always been participants who have had dubious ideas. You can not only trace that back through all the Church Councils to Nicea I, but you can see it in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:1. Some members of the Church have the wrong ideas on what the Church is supposed to be, and the Church looks into the issue and determines how to be faithful to Our Lord in every age.

And that brings us to people looking at the Church as a human organization and the fears that the synod is going to push an agenda. See, when the Pope takes the final results of the synod and issues whatever teaching we are to follow, that is an action of the Ordinary Magisterium, which requires us to give our assent:

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.


 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 236.

So, if we are obligated to give assent to the ordinary magisterium, and the teaching that the Pope brings forth out of the synod is part of the ordinary magisterium, we are obliged to give assent to that teaching. Therefore, for one to expect the final result of the synod will be acceptance of divorce/remarriage and “same sex marriage,” is to expect that the Church will bind us to accept error. But that expectation is to forget the promises of Christ in Matthew 16:18 and Matthew 28:20. The promises are that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church and that Our Lord will remain with His Church always. See, if the Church teaches error on faith and morals, and we are required to give assent to that error, then the gates of hell will have prevailed against the Church and Our Lord will not have always been with her.

That’s a very serious error. If Jesus was unwilling or unable to keep His promises, then He is not God, and our Christian faith is in vain. In such a case, the ultimate result of the synod is irrelevant because we would have been following an error for the past two thousand years.

However, if we have faith in Our Lord, Jesus Christ and believe that He keeps His promises, then let us have faith in Him here and not panic over the possible ways the synod could go wrong.

Thoughts on Annulment Concerns

There are two major themes in articles written that express concern over the Pope’s Motu Proprio over reforming the annulment process. One of them I believe to be a valid concern. The other I believe is not. The two concerns are:

  • Dioceses need to have time to set up the framework to carry out the responsibilities handed to them in determining the validity of marriage and may need to petition Rome for a delay in implementation.
  • This motu proprio is going to effectively lead to “Catholic Divorce” because the bishops will not be able to handle the change and will end up “rubber stamping” petitions.

I believe the first concern is valid. Setting up the framework to handle the reform of the annulment process can take time since not all dioceses can handle the new responsibilities with their current staffing. In such a case, it can be legitimate for bishops to request a delay in order to ensure that the framework is established so a just decision can be rendered—provided that this request is not an attempt to use bureaucracy to block implementation altogether.

However, I think the second concern is not valid because it acts on assumptions I believe faulty. It takes the view that dioceses lack the competence to take on the responsibility and will not be able to correct any deficiencies that currently exist.

Sure, changing the level of responsibility from the current authority to the recognition of the role the bishops can take will result in some turmoil to begin with. But that kind of turmoil can be expected in any restructuring—religious or secular. The term abusus non tollit usum (abuse does not take away use) comes to mind. Bad implementation and even corruption can abuse any reform, but the misuse is not the use and the existence of misuse by itself is not grounds for eliminating legitimate use.


God remains watching over His Church even in the worst of times—which this time certainly is not. Yes individual bishops and even the bishops of entire regions have gone astray in the past, but those events have not changed the official teaching of the Church. Instead, those bishops have simply exceeded their authority and done wrong. We need to remember that whatever the failings of individuals in the magisterium, that has never led to teaching error by the magisterium.

So when we pray for the Church, let us do so with faith that God looks out for her and will not let her lead us astray.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Quick Quips: Faithfulness, Messy Church, Failure to Respond

I thought I would try something different today. Instead of trying to create a long article out of one of the ideas bouncing around in my head and losing much of the other ideas in the process, I thought I’d try posting some short reflections under the heading of Quick Quips

Whoever is Trustworthy in Small Matters...

Our Lord has some things to say which seem especially fitting for our time and the attitude of rebellion which we are facing. In Luke 16:10, He tells us, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

I was struck by this passage the other day when seeing a large number of Catholics on Facebook objecting to Pope Francis’ upcoming encyclical Laudato Si. One of the objections which was voiced was the complaint that, “Why is the Pope focussing on something so insignificant, compared to all the other issues out there?” Some have gone so far as to say that the Pope is neglecting souls while speaking about the environment.

But instead of cataloging and refuting every objection that is made, I’d like to point out one thing here. If you think that the moral obligations towards the environment is an insignificant matter compared to other issues that trouble you more, why not just seek to be faithful in these “small matters” instead of using your belief that it is “unimportant” as a justification to ignore the moral teaching an encyclical involves?

After all, if a person is faithless in what they see as a small matter like heeding the moral obligations of Catholics in regards to the environment, then why should he or she be seen as trustworthy when it comes to teaching the faith in greater matters? If a dissenter sees you rejecting the authority of the Church in a matter you disagree with and find unimportant, then why should this dissenter respect the authority of the Church in a matter he or she disagrees with?

Now I don’t mean we have to hold to a scrupulous or pharisaical legalism, in obedience. But, when the Pope says “We have this obligation,” why not say “OK,” instead of looking for ways to justify disobedience?

The Church is a Mess? Why do you say this like it is Something New?

Dissenting Priests, whacko nuns, bishops who seem weak in the face of sin, corruption and defiance. Such things do scandalize the Church today. But, when you read the unabridged Lives of the Saints, a history, or other works from the past—back before Church teaching was considered debatable—you can see that the Church was always a mess because the Church is made up of people who see things differently on how things should be done, even when they are acting out of good faith.

Sometimes a saint was opposed by a person who misunderstood their calling. Sometimes a person dissuaded a saint from something they wanted to do to keep them on track. Sometimes opposition was rooted in heresy or schism. Sometimes it was rooted in natural disagreements. But when you read the lives of some saints in past centuries, the situations they faced sound remarkably similar to the situations of today.

But there’s a myth today that back in the pre-Vatican II Church, the Vatican stopped every dissent and disobedience cold. Actually, no. Heresies lasted for hundreds of years, kings tried to impose their will on the Church in their realms, people took a lax view towards their faith, and allegations about the immorality of clergy circulated as widely then as now. That’s why the Church back then needed saints who were preachers and confessors in the nations who had formerly embraced the faith.

But I think we need to ask ourselves a couple of things here—Are we willing to answer the call (as opposed to waiting for someone else to do it)? And are we willing to work with the Church (as opposed to treating the magisterium as an adversary)?

What Can Separate Us From the Love of Christ? Nothing—But that Doesn’t Mean We Won’t Fail to Respond.

I was reading Romans 8 this morning and was struck by a thought. When St. Paul was speaking about not fearing the trials and tribulations, it struck me that he was talking about the fact that in the battle for our souls, nobody is going to defeat Our Lord and steal us away from Him against His our will. It’s not going to be a case of Our Lord being left defeated on the battlefield, scratching His head and wondering, “How did that happen?"

So if this is the case, how do people go to hell? I would say that the devil works by convincing people that they don’t need to fight and don’t need to change. Whether he does this by persuading people to reject religion, or to practice religion in a way which is focussed on the self instead of God, he deceives us by having us put our own will first while making what God calls us to be a secondary matter,  Our Lord’s words on straining the gnat and swallowing the camel (Matthew 23:24) come to mind here. We focus on things that may be good in themselves, but do it in a way which neglects the bigger picture—like focusing on liturgy and neglecting social justice; or focussing on social justice while neglecting the moral issues.

In other words, when we make adherence to only part of God’s teaching while choosing to ignore the rest, we are failing to respond to God’s love as we are called.