Monthly Archives: September 2013

“Imagine” there were no “COEXIST”-ers

“Imagine” if there were no people with “COEXIST” bumper stickers, listening to John Lennon and insisting that everyone had to think and act alike so there’d be “peace.”
I was thinking this weekend of the following rather short Socratic dialogue.
Liberal: “Religious people frighten me; spiritual people inspire me.”
Me: “Why is that?”
Liberal: “Because religion is the cause of all the wars. Spirituality is about peace.”
Me: “Oh, so who would you consider an example of a ‘spiritual’ figure?”
Liberal: “The Dalai Lama.”
Me: “Oh, and what about a ‘religious’ leader?”
Liberal: “The Pope.”
Me: “OK, and do you have a specific war in mind? Maybe like Iraq?”
Liberal: “Of course.”
Me: “So, what would you say to the fact that the Dalai Lama supported the war in Iraq, but Popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis have all spoken against it?”

“Can Atheists Go To Heaven?”

Many mountains have been made of molehills regarding Pope Francis’s comments on the question, “Can atheists go to Heaven?” It seems the common “take” on his response to this question (which is really no different than Benedict XVI’s, John Paul II’s, Vatican II’s or various pre-Vatican II teachings) is that he’s somehow denying the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice to say that Christ died “for everyone,” and that anyone can get to Heaven by accepting that gift of salvation. Many who are tempted by sedevacantism are falling into that position.
When people ask questions like, “Do you think non-Catholics go to Hell?” the implication is that one’s “religious affiliation” is somehow immutable and inherent, like race, and that thus salvation is not a matter of a free choice but a question of arbitrary, Calvinistic predestination. Asking “Can atheists go to Heaven?” is, for the questioner, the same as, “Can Asians go to Heaven?” It’s like the atheist has no choice *but* to be an atheist.
Of course, this all derives from the two classic “extreme situations”: the catechumen who dies en route to her baptism or the pagan who dies in some Third World country without ever hearing of Jesus. As I’ve noted many times about the two extremes on this issue,
a) Fr. Feeney was really a radical providentialist who insisted God’s Mercy would not allow a person to die in such a state, and that God would provide someone to evangelize and baptize such an individual; he based this on his own experience in which he claimed to have encountered several people on the verge of death who begged him to baptize them;
b) Fr. Rahner’s (and anyone who reads me knows I’m not a fan) theory of the so-called “anonymous Christian” necessarily involves that hypothetical pagan, so it does *not* justify failing to evangelize those whom we meet. I’ve read quotations from more liberal priests than Karl Rahner who insist that even Rahner’s position is “insensitive” because “my Muslim friend would be deeply offended if I told him I thought he was an ‘anonymous Christian.'” The problem with this, as I’ve previously noted, is that the hypothetical “Muslim friend” is no longer an “anonymous Christian” once he’s met the priest.

What exactly is the situation with the Vatican and “Liberation Theology”?

For the last few months, there has been some talk of an alleged “Approval” of so-called “Liberation Theology” by the Vatican, partly because of the publication of the Italian translation of a book co-written by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, currently Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P.
In June, Archbishop Muller published an interview in _The Vatican Insider_ about Fr. Gutierrez, in which he says that the Liberation Theology “movement” is “one of the most important currents in 20th Century Catholic theology” (quoted here, in a blog post by Frank Weathers). Now, “important” doesn’t necessarily mean “good” or “true”: I don’t think anyone would doubt that liberation theology has had great influence. That said, Weathers also quotes a previous _Vatican Insider_ article in which Muller distinguishes between the “movement” and Fr. Gutierrez’s actual theology (the old “Thomas wasn’t necessarily a Thomist” principle). Nevertheless, to some, including Weathers, who associate “liberation theology” with the Church’s “preferential option for the poor,” this is seen as an outright endorsement. Arguably, it might be to some extent because Muller’s leanings were well known when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
Meanwhile, Weathers and others have taken Pope Francis’s preeminent concern for the poor as a sign of endorsement of liberation theology, even though then-Cardinal Bergoglio was one of its most outspoken critics among the South American hierarchy, and in fact a member of the movement that was counter liberation theology. Indeed, while Pope Francis has spoken often of the poor, he has also condemned the treatment of Catholicism as a political ideology.
So, as the Italian translation of Muller and Gutierrez’s book comes out on Monday, _L’Osservatore Romano_ has published a glowing review of the book by Fr. Ugo Sartorio, and _The Vatican Insider_ is again reporting that “The Vatican and the Liberation Theology” have “made peace”.
However, Sandro Magister suggests that Pope Francis might have something else to say on the matter:

Right from the beginning [Sartorio’s review] takes aim at those who “have even come to the point of giving up for dead and buried liberation theology, the fruit of the season believed to have concluded definitively with the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the implosion of the Soviet empire connected to Marxist ideology.”

Oddly enough, Magister points out, that’s a paraphrase of what then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said back in 2005, a year after the German translation was published:

“After the collapse of the totalitarian empire of ‘real socialism,’ these currents of thought were thrown into disarray. Incapable of either radical reformulation or new creativity, they survived by inertia, even if there are still some today who anachronistically would like to re-propose it.”

So the story is far from over.
Meanwhile, several of the articles I’ve read about the alleged approval have suggested the false dichotomy that the only reason to oppose liberation theology is a support for unbridled capitalism; others go to the opposite extreme of the same dichotomy and saying that any opposition to unbridled capitalism constitutes support for totalitarian socialism. There are other reasons to oppose a theology which attempts to reconcile Marxism with Catholicism, and has been used to support violent revolution, just as there are other ways to support the poor besides a socialist state. It would help if everyone turned to the Compendium of Social Doctrine promulgated by Bl. John Paul II.

Religion is more than just something to do on Sunday

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” –G.K. Chesterton

Football season is beginning. It always strikes me that people who are afraid to talk of “politics and religion” for fear of offending friends or relatives will get into absolute feuds over football. Meanwhile, they treat politics and religion the way they treat sports: a form of recreation; merely something to do on the weekends.
The other thing that football has in common with politics and religion is that people generally seem to choose their religious and political affiliations the way they pick their football teams: as a form of patriotism, or because of their families (either to show loyalty or spite their families), or because of their friends. Thus, just as they support the Steelers, or the Redskins, or the Browns, or the Panthers because of where they happen to live, people tend to simply accept (or reject) their family’s religion or political party without necessarily thinking of *why* they support it.
Thus, people will speak of “religion,” as a concept, in ways that can be quite baffling. On the one hand, you have people who insist that they’re Catholic, even though they reject the Church’s teachings from transubstantiation to the evil of contraception to the very Incarnation itself, because “it’s too hard to leave the Church,” like She is some kind of blood cult or something. They’re attached (rightly) to the nostalgia evoked by the liturgy (particularly the infamous Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter liturgies), and they attribute the devotion of other Catholics to a kind of extreme nostalgia (hence the “People who want the Traditional Latin Mass are just old people who don’t like change” argument).
On the other hand, you have people who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” meaning that they’re not affiliated with a particular denomination or worship service. “Religion” has come to be defined according to the Masonic view as something subservient to “society” or “culture” (which is the main reason the 18th Century popes condemned the Masonic Lodges). The “church” or synagogue, temple or mosque is treated as something like a Lodge: a place to meet every week, have some fun, engage in organized charities, and host major life events like weddings and funerals. The Sacraments become similar “life events”–Baptism (or “Christening”) becomes a ceremony to recognize a birth, and so the same young parents who were offended at the notion in pre-Cana counseling that they should live as Catholics become offended at the notion they must promise to actually raise their children Catholic. They participate in First Communion and Confirmation (aka “graduation from CCD”) for the same reasons. It’s really very sad.
Thus, both the nominal Catholic and the “spiritual” non-Catholic are baffled by the notion that any religion should claim to be superior or to actually teach the Truth about Divine and Human Nature. Theology is seen as arbitrary and superstitious. Ironically, though, the claim that all religions are equal and that people should have “freedom of worship” means that “religion” should not be extended into “public life.” It’s just something to do for an hour a week, and not to actually effect one’s life beyond some base common denominator of being a “decent person” or a “good citizen.” Any religion that claims to do *more* that that is immediately suspect for violating the commonly accepted definition of “religion” that the Masons have taught us for nearly 300 years.
So the Left has fought for legalization of so-called “same sex marriage,” insisting they only want “equal rights,” and that no one should feel threatened by it. Christians warned that it would lead to persecution of those who didn’t want to participate. Others insisted and continue to insist that it was about “marriage equality” and that opponents were “homophobic.” Yet, now that the Supreme Court has essentially legalized it nationwide by throwing out the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the California Proposition 8, a court has ruled that Christian photographers cannot refuse to photograph gay weddings, a Christian bakery has closed due to “LGBT” threats and protests, a millionaire “gay” couple has sued a church in the UK for not performing their “wedding,” and Ugandan homosexuals have sued a Christian evangelist for “crimes against humanity.” Yet, like Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), “conservative” Catholic literary critic Joseph Bottum argues that we have to allow gay marriage to happen to see if it might do some good.
The LGBTQ lobby is powerful, as the UK case illustrates, precisely because it’s rich, but also because of “well meaning” Christians who think it’s about “fairness,” and others who don’t think that “religion” shouldn’t intrude on the “public sphere.” It’s the same reasoning behind the HHS contraception mandate: the alleged “right” to violate Natural Law supersedes the right of employers to chose not to engage in material cooperation. Indeed, the notion of “material cooperation” goes over most people’s heads or is used in the opposite of its intent.

Give Kids The World: Ice Cream for Breakfast

Give Kids the World Village is having a special fundraiser/awareness campaign called “Ice Cream for Breakfast.”

Ice Cream For Breakfast is a grass-roots awareness and fundraising campaign inspired by one of the more unique traditions of our thousands of visiting wish families. At Give Kids The World, families are treated to complimentary, all-you-can-eat ice cream in the Village’s Ice Cream Palace from morning until night- even for breakfast!

We hope you will help support the Village by setting a goal, creating a mini-campaign online and asking your friends and family to join you in your efforts. Once you meet your goal we encourage you to host your own ice cream social or just meet your supporters for a scoop at your neighborhood ice cream parlor.

You can read more and either make a donation or start a mini-campaign by clicking here.
Give Kids the World Village is an amazing entity: an all-inclusive, self-contained resort for “Wish families” in Orlando, FL. The resort itself has enough to fill a week, especially for families with disabilities. While we were there last November, we encountered families who ended up spending most of their vacations in the hospital, although we were all blessed with relatively stable help. Families are supposed to come through sponsoring “Wish” programs like Make a Wish, though I’ve read of at least one family that raised their own funds independently. It’s a “once in a lifetime” vacation, and a particular child can only be sponsored once, but families with multiple children with severe illnesses have been known to come back for other children.
In any case, the wish child and immediate family are always welcome to return and visit the resort for “day use,” play miniature golf, ride the carousel, etc., and eat at the restaurants (below) for a nominal fee. The child gets a “star” in the Castle of Miracles:

Allie's Star is somewhere in this "constellation"

Allie’s Star is somewhere in this “constellation”

Many of the volunteers we encountered were relatives of past wish children. They say that the staff is like over 90% volunteers, and they ranged from teenagers to college students to working adults to retirees.
The Make a Wish process is a lot simpler than one might think. The child no longer has to be terminally ill: just a diagnosis of a condition that may likely cause death before age 18. Indeed, I saw on my Facebook news feed the other day an article from Make a Wish about how “Wish children” tend to have better prognoses. We applied for Allie, got a letter from our primary care physician, and within 2 weeks got a letter that she was approved. This was about a year ago. Two local volunteers met with us, talked in detail with me and with Allie about her wishes, her interests, etc., and with me about our family’s overall situation. I explained that while it was Allie’s “wish”, the urgency pertained to my health, and they put us on a fast track to get in for November.
I hadn’t blogged much about it because I’d intended, and still intend, to write a book about our experience, based around selections from the literally thousands of digital photos we took.
Anyway, a week at GKTW includes 3 days at Disney World, 1 day at Sea World and 2 days at Universal/Islands of Adventure. It includes all the Make-a-Wish amenities (like cutting in line and free professional photos), plus things that are specific to GKTW: every morning and evening at the resort has an “event.” The family gets a food card for 3 meals a day at one of the restaurants (the Ginger Bread House, all you can eat buffet, sponsored by Perkins, a sandwich shop sponsored by Boston Market, or an “Express breakfast” at the Ice Cream Palace). Then there’s all you can eat Ice cream from early in the morning till like 11 at night, and the possibility of having pizza delivered to the villa: an option we used one evening just for the sake of trying it, but they feed you so much you don’t need to.
In addition to the “cutting in line” and free photos at the amusement parks, GKTW has characters representing the various parks almost every morning. There is some sort of party almost every evening, and the family gets copies of all photos taken by GKTW photographers, along with options in the going away package to get different albums, posters, etc. We have a nice poster hanging on our wall of our family with “Belle.”
"Tale as old as time . . ."

“Tale as old as time . . .”

The founder of GKTW, is Henri Landwirth, arguably one of the most amazing “unsung heroes” of the world. A Holocaust survivor, Landwirth got his US citizenship and was immediately drafted to the Korean War, later using the GI Bill to get a degree in hotel management. He worked his way up in the hotel field and got into the hotel business in Florida right when NASA and Disney World were getting started. He also made friends with some of the astronauts. Eventually, he started a number of charities, including an astronaut scholarship, a charity to provide clothes for homeless and abused children, and, of course, Give Kids the World. He had been involved with Make-a-Wish since the seventies, serving as one of the main providers of hotels for wish families. When he learned that a little girl passed away before her arrangements could be made, he started GKTW to expedite travel arrangements. Over the years, it grew from free hotel rooms to the villas to the full resort it is today.
We made ample use of the unlimited ice cream, stopping every day right before we left for the parks to get shakes and/or sundaes “to go,” and having “ice cream for breakfast” on our second to last day. However, we didn’t many pictures there.
Our last meal at the Ice Cream Palace

Our last meal at the Ice Cream Palace

It’s not always a matter of what someone says but how he or she says it.

Years ago, one of my best friends discovered the “Most Holy Family Monastery” website, and, being the kind of person who keeps an open mind in order to shut it on something solid (and also the kind of person to come to people directly rather than third party), he called them up. He said a lady answered, identifying her as “Sister” whatever. He said to her, “I was watching some of your videos, and you raise some pretty strong criticisms of Pope John Paul II. I am inclined to agree with what you have to say, but I have a few questions. This is very important to me because I teach Theology of the Body at my parish, and I want to make sure I’m not teaching something wrong. You’ve done a good job explaining to me what you think is wrong, but what do you teach other than that other people are wrong? What is it that you have to say?”
The “Sister” called him a “Pope-olator” and hung up. So he called back. I forget how it went, exactly, but he was originally interested in an authentic discussion and was so ticked off by her rudeness that he just kept calling, and she kept ignoring his calls or picking up and hanging up. At one point, early in the process, he got hold of her and said her behavior was not becoming of a nun, hanging up on him and refusing to answer his question that he asked in charity. Eventually she said that if he didn’t stop calling, she’d report him for harassment!
There is a certain temptation, into which I fully admit to falling prey, to focus on the negative. Sometimes, that can be necessary, especially on a matter where it’s important to explain to people why a certain line of reasoning is wrong, but it’s also important to emphasize Truth in a positive matter. So, in some of these internecine squabbles among otherwise conservative, tradition-minded Catholics that boil down to style, you will hear both sides say, in defending themselves, “Can you point out anything I’ve said that goes against Church teaching?” And the answer is usually a roundabout “no,” because honestly both “sides” are acting within the relatively broad spectrum of ideas the Church allows (e.g., there are more approaches to philosophy and theology than Thomism). If there are disagreements over *ideas,* they’re usually about the philosophical argumentation than about the core ideas being presented, or else it’s a matter where the Church’s teaching leaves room for interpretation (just as an example, whether “Amazing Grace” is appropriate at Mass).
More often, it’s not the ideas themselves but *how* they’re presented, because the person tends to be, as Diane Korzeniewski, OCDS, puts it, “strident.”
A good example is the criticism of Pope Francis, which satirical Eye of the Tiber sends up in this post. Advocates of a “hermeneutic of rupture” are so eager to paint Francis as a “progressive” that the media are interpreting everything he says or does in as liberal a way possible (and thus contrasting him to Benedict, even though their differences are primarily stylistic), and the “traditionalists” are more than happy to comply with the media’s interpretation. So it gets to where, in some circles, *everything* His Holiness says or does gets nitpicked, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, if someone merely questions some of his prudential judgements, as I have done from time to time, we immediately get lumped in with the sedevacantists.
One of the greatest books on education and rhetoric in Western tradition is St. Augustine’s _On Christian Doctrine_ (the original Latin meaning of “doctrine” being “teaching”-in other words, “How to teach Christianity”). Augustine says, regarding the age old Platonic debate of philosophy versus rhetoric, that it doesn’t matter if something’s true if no one reads it. He says it in the sense of “nobody will read a boring science textbook,” but it also applies to this context as well. A “sinners in the hands of an angry God” approach only works if you’re preaching to a captive audience: the old “preaching to the choir” thing. An argument I’ve used in the past is that the “choir” needs encouragement, but that’s just it: the choir needs *encouragement*. Yes, there are badly Catechized Catholics who need to know that some of what they’ve been taught is wrong, or that they have *not* been instructed that some things are evil. However, they also need to be taught what’s *positive*. We’re supposed to be sharing the “Good News.” When all a person ever shares is the “Bad News,” even if that person is 100% orthodox, it’s going to turn people off.