From the Editors: On Anti-Muslim Sentiment in America

Ignatian Prayer Against Depression 

The Confessions by St. Augustine

The Confessions, by St. Augustine, are “one long prayer, a poetic, passionate, intimate prayer.”  His writing, supposedly written in layman’s language, reflect his rhetorical training.  Steep in philosophy and theology, St. Augustine presents his own journey towards an approximation of being in God’s presence.  He takes on along the way the problem of evil, false prophets, humility, existentialism, human understanding and its limitations, and God’s awesome, unchangeable, presence.  He tackles a series of complicated  “proofs” regarding age old questions of God’s existence and intentions.  If you think you know confession, if you think you know God, if you think you have it all figured out – this is a good read.   Also excellent deconstruction of creation, examination of our imagination, and enlightenment on the Trinity.

“Saint Augustine reflects upon his life in the light of scripture and the presence of God. He begins with his infancy, pondering the many sins of his life before his conversion, and he confesses not only his sins but even more the greatness of God.”


1: Infancy and Boyhood: Was it not all smoke and wind? pg 57.

2: Adolescence: Theft of a pear story.

3: Student Years at Carthage: Take care that no one deceives you with philosophy  and empty, misleading ideas derived by man-made traditions, centered on the elemental spirits of this world and not on Christ:  for in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily wise.  pg. 79

4: Augustine the Manichee: “How can these warring loves be carried in a single soul and balanced against each other?  …….A human being is an immense abyss…..” pg. 106

5:  Faustus at Carthage, Augustine to Rome and Milan:  This in tern leads them into a blind perversity, where they will even prescribe to you what is theirs,  blaming you, who are the Truth, for their own lies, and changing the glory of the incorruptible God, into the likeness of corruptible human beings, or birds, or four footed beasts or crawling things.  pg. 117.  It does harm him, however, if he thinks his view forms an essential part of our doctrines and belief, and presumes to go on obstinately making assertions about what he does not know.” pg. 119.  Augustine also meets Ambrose here.

6: Milan, 385: Progress, Friends, Perplexities:  The Drunkard Beggar story.  “It was my habitual attempt to sate the insatiable concupiscence that for the most part savagely tormented me and held me captive….” pg. 154

7: Neo-Plutonium Frees Augustine’s Mind:  “So I was seeking the origin of evil, but seeking in an evil way, and failing to see the evil inherent in my search itself……and my imagination gave form to them.”pg 163.  (The problem of evil dive not entirely eclipsed for me, but the way of salvation in this chapter is powerful).

8:  Conversion:  “And once we are, will that not be a precarious position?  Will it not mean negotiating many a hazard, only to end in great danger still?   And how long would it take us to get  there?  Whereas I can become a friend of God here and now if I want to.” pg. 197.   “The frivolity of frivolous aims, the futility of futile pursuits, these things that had been my cronies of long standing, still held me back, plucking softly at the garment of flesh and murmuring in my ear, Do you mean to get rid of us?” pg. 204.

9:  Death and Rebirth:    “How long will you be heavy hearted, human creatures?  Why love emptiness and chase falsehood?”  pg. 215

10:  Memory:  “I state that there are four passions that disturb the soul  — desire, joy, fear, and sadness; for purpose of disputation I state whatever analysis of them I have formulated by dividing each according to species and genus; I find in my memory what I am to say and it is from there that I am to produce my statement, yet when I run through these passions  from memory I suffer no emotional disturbance from any of them.” pg. 251  “I hear the voice of God commanding us, Let not your hearts become gross with gluttony and drunkenness.” pg. 266 (Luke 21:34) “Whatever circumstances I am in, I have learned to be content with them; I know how to have enough and to spare, and also how to endure privation.” pg. 267 (Phil 4: 11-13).  (A dense chapter of delving into human motivation and perceptions, temptations such as worldly happiness (through the five senses), curiosity (for its power and sensations), and pride (power, etc). Finishes with the salvation of Jesus Christ, our mediator, for however close we come to ascending, to getting close proximity to God, we fall back).

11: Time and Eternity:  “These are three realities in the mind, but nowhere else as far as I can see, for the present of past things is memory, the present of present things is attention, and the present of future things is expectation.” pg. 300  (Mindfulness?)

12: Heaven and Earth:  “But when they contend that Moses did not meant what I say, but what they say, I reject their claim and have no time for it, because even if what they say is correct, so reckless an assertion is a mark of presumption, not knowledge; it is the fruit of no vision but of conceit.” pg. 333

13:  The Days of Creation, Prophecy of the Church:  “Can anyone comprehend the almighty Trinity?  Everyone talks about it — but is it the Trinity of which they talk?  Rare indeed is the person who understands the subject of his discourse, when he speaks of that.  People argue and wrangle over it, yet no one sees that vision unless he is at peace.” And then there is the human trinity:  “The Triad I mean is being, knowledge and will.  I am, I know, and I will.”   pg. 349

Theology 101: Dangerous Memories

Confessions of a Catholic Democrat:

“Not everyone is called to invest himself intimately in politics, and for some it would be dangerous to do so. Great discernment is needed to work in non-ideal circumstances, finding politically effective messages without sacrificing personal integrity. Those of us who involve ourselves in political struggles ought to pray fervently that God preserve us, lest we betray the faith. I would be humbly grateful if readers would also make it a point, when reading a helpful or enlightening column from any (living) Catholic writer, to say a quick prayer for us that we might have that discernment. Politics is a dirty business.” (Mark Stricherz/Crisis Magazine)

This “discernment” is difficult and personal.  What I propose is that if you read this “confession” you recognize that I hold that we are all collectively responsible for immense failures as a society, as democrats, as republicans, as individual human beings on social justice and dignity of life issues.  I further will challenge you to accept that given we are living in “non-ideal” circumstances as Catholics, where we represent only 16% of the global population, where we are sharply divided within our own ranks, that our beliefs would wisely be presented humbly.    Our great experiment of Democracy is only 239 years old and our faith is 2000 years young.  Our country and our faith have made grave mistakes in our history.  While we have also made immense contributions, we are called by our faith to constantly be self-examining, as individuals and as a collective.

I will make my case here for why my conscience allows me to vote democratic.  At the same time, I want to disavow you of any claim to my ownership of moral authority, superiority, or knowledge.  I could easily argue the other side.  I also have failed personally with indulgences on more than one occasion (mainly inebriation) of which I confess personal failure.  I am sure I have fallen short on countless other yardsticks of morality and am confident that any vote will have strings attached to unholy alliances.  So, do not be angered by positions and recognize I value yours.  I put myself above no one.  I have regrets and successes in life that run deep and expect to have more of both, God willing, may the Holy Spirit be guiding my every action.

I am in good company, at least with people that have strove for knowledge and education.  “Democrats lead by 22 points (57%-35%) in leaned party identification among adults with post-graduate degrees. The Democrats’ edge is narrower among those with college degrees or some post-graduate experience (49%-42%), and those with less education (47%-39%).  Across all educational categories, women are more likely than men to affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic. The Democrats’ advantage is 35 points (64%-29%) among women with post-graduate degrees, but only eight points (50%-42%) among post-grad men.”

And “party affiliation among all Catholics is similar to that of the public: 37% describe themselves as independents, 33% as Democrats and 24% as Republicans. About half of Catholics (48%) affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic while 40% identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP.”

How can Catholics of that magnitude be Democrats given Pro-Choice policies, Women Reproductive rights, and LGBTQ issues (mainly definition of marriage)?   I cannot answer for this large number, but will point out how I have found myself in this camp.  Twenty years of social work services in homelessness and mental health services has taught that fighting poverty and helping the poor is not profitable and our unchecked free market system does not have the answers.  I am not alone in this belief. Mark Stricherz puts it this way:  “As someone who has grown to appreciate Catholic social teaching, I believe that the basic test of any civilization is how it treats its least citizens. In my personal and professional experience, I have concluded that the federal government is a better vehicle than business or the free market to meet that test. That’s why I am a Democrat. As Pope John Paul II wrote in Centesimus Annus (1991),”The more that individuals are defenseless within a given society, the more they require the care and concern of others, and in particular the intervention of governmental authority.”

The history of the national Democratic Party lifted most elderly people out of poverty, gave health insurance to the aged and infirmed, and gave health care to 11.5 million people thru the affordable care act without the doomsday predictions of the opposing party.  My academic studies (master’s in social work, bachelors in philosophy and psychology) has taught me the in-depth the history of social justice issues on our country and the democratic party has had alliance with our catholic foundational beliefs on many fronts.  My experience has demonstrated the same.

One political action group puts it this way:  “Democrats for Life of America exists to foster respect for life, from the beginning of life to natural death. This includes, but is not limited to, opposition to abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. Democrats for Life of America is one of over 200 member organizations of Consistent Life: an international network for peace, justice and life.”   Notice that they are against consistent against a culture of death on all three social issues.   What separates catholic democrats from catholic republicans, in my view, is a belief that catholic republicans avoid social responsibility by riding on a pro-life platform that offers criminalization of women without having any investment at the myriad of social problems that foster unwanted pregnancies and other social problems.    And criminalization of abortion does not and has not been an effective policy.  While catholic democrats “believe that we can reduce the number of abortions because we are united in our support for policies that assist families who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnancies.  We believe that women deserve to have a breadth of options available as they face pregnancy: including, among others, support and resources needed to handle the challenges of pregnancy, adoption, and parenthood; access to education, healthcare, childcare; and appropriate child support.  We envision a new day without financial or societal barriers to bringing a planned or unplanned pregnancy to term.”   This is huge task and requires democrat and republican support to realize.  It is proven that effective social policy, access to health care, and fighting poverty works.

Pope Francis understands the far reaching consequences of poverty and social justice issues.  A Washington Post article implies that if you read his encyclical you have to all but be a democrat.  I disagree.  Be a republican but foster your party to do better in areas of immigration, poverty, capital punishment, labor, environment, and global economic arbitrary disparities that foster terrorism and war.     (

The LGBTQ issue and civil unions I have less to address here.  We as Catholics know too little to address the incompatibility of recent science of biological determinants that indicate it is not a lifestyle choice versus the literal translation of the bible.  My take is the church should not be involved in legal marriage at all.  This is a U.S. issue that the church fulfills a civil union that implies civil rights.  Get out of that business and perform the catholic sacrament of marriage for the catholic faithful in line with our beliefs of procreation.   The vast numbers indicate we are missing something and we should not foster a climate of hatred or denying civil benefits based on our narrow understanding of this area of human genetics and human love.

Now, sometimes catholic democrat’s causes can be hijacked as well by the party and act in name sake only.   Promoting access to abortion services without serious commitment to promoting efforts that increase the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies and abortions is not acceptable as well.  Maintaining abortion is wrong for women and for the unborn while supporting greater access to ability to carry pregnancy full-term, access to prevention services, access to education, access to employment, access to housing, and access to other protective factors is what it means to be a catholic democrat.

Both the democrat party s and some federal policies have failed us here.   As Mark says these “problems merit our concern, not our scorn. What the Democratic Party needs, as the nation needs is a new leadership class that seeks to overcome those obstacles. This class would have the toughness and soulfulness of Bobby Kennedy, the prudential wisdom of David L. Lawrence, and the compassion and Christian conscience of Robert P. Casey. I don’t begrudge good Republican politicians. But at a time when America’s wealthy and middle classes are growing estranged from and sanction violence against the poor and vulnerable, I hope and pray that the great Democratic public servants of years past can inspire those of today and tomorrow.”   Mark has voted for republican nominees at times despite being a democrat.  I state this to make the point that no party owns the Catholic vote.   Only you own your vote.

My opinion is the democrat party does more for promoting my beliefs.  At the same time I respect those that feel the Republican Party does more to represent their beliefs.  A bumper sticker like Pro-Choice or Pro-Life is not a get out of jail free card from social responsibility.  I personally like “choose life.”   It goes much deeper.  And factually, we will do more good with how compassionate we are every day than with our single vote.    That is why I am a Catholic democrat.  I hope you will join me.  And if not, I hope you will bring Catholic ideals to all the other issues facing our nation other than myopia on one topic.

For further reflection

. At Vienne (1311–1312) the council condemned the Knights Templar in the language of “anger and wrath” reminiscent of the prophets.37 Pope Julius II’s decree in Lateran V (1512) against the cardinals who had attempted to depose him minced no words: “We condemn, reject and detest, with the approval of this holy council, each and every thing done by those sons of perdition.”38 The Council of Constance (1418) denounced John Wyclif as a “profligate enemy” of the faith and a “pseudo-Christian,” and handed over his disciple Jan Hus to be burned at the stake.39

On Vatican II:  The genre can be precisely identified. It was a genre known and practiced in many cultures from time immemorial, but it was clearly analyzed and its features carefully codified by classical authors like Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian.49 It is the panegyric, that is, the painting of an idealized portrait in order to excite admiration and appropriation. An old genre in the rhetorical tradition of the West, it was used extensively by the Fathers of the Church in their homilies and other writings. It derives from neither the legal tradition of classical antiquity nor the philosophical/dialectical but from the humanistic or literary.

The purpose of the genre, therefore, is not so much to clarify concepts as to heighten appreciation for a person, an event, an institution, and to excite emulation of an ideal.To engage in persuasion is to some extent to put oneself on the same level as those being persuaded. Persuaders do not command from on high. Otherwise they would not be persuading but coercing. Persuasion works from the inside out. In order to persuade, persuaders need to establish an identity between themselves and their audience and to make them understand that they share the same concerns. They share, indeed, the same “joy and hope, the same grief and anguish.”59 The form prompts and enhances congruent content. It should come as no surprise that reconciliation has been one of the perennial themes of the epideictic genre. Although ecumenism of some form was on the agenda of Vatican II from the moment John XXIII announced the council, it found appropriate expression in the new genre and could feel very much at home there. Since the genre wants to raise its audience to big issues, its content in a Christian context is typically the major doctrines of creation, redemption, sanctification. Implicit in this penc. Implicit in these reciprocity-words, moreover, is engagement and even initiative. In the document on the laity, for instance, the council tells them that they have the right and sometimes the duty to make their opinions known.61 Implicitly the reciprocity words are empowerment words. Closely related to reciprocity words a

In this regard the council’s emphasis on conscience as the ultimate norm in moral choice is remarkable: “Deep within their conscience individuals discover a law that they do not make for themselves but that they are bound to obey, whose voice, ever summoning them to love and to do what is good and avoid what is evil rings in their hearts.”63 WI will summarize in a simple litany some of the elements in the change in style of the Church indicated by the council’s vocabulary: from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to conversation, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical and top-down to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from static to changing, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from prescriptive to principled, from defined to open-ended, from behavior-modification to conversion of heart, from the dictates of law to the dictates of conscience, from external conformity to the joyful pursuit of holiness.

This is the style for the Church that Pope John seemed to be pointing toward in his allocution on October 11, 1962, opening the Second Vatican Council: the Church should act by “making use of the medicine of mercy rather than severity . . . and by showing herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness.”66 The shift of Vatican II in style of discourse

The shift of Vatican II in style of discourse has, therefore, deep ramifications. It and the many other special features I have mentioned distinguish this council from every previous one. By adopting the style it did Vatican II redefined what a council is. Vatican II, that is to say, did not take the Roman senate as its implicit model. I find it difficult to pinpoint just what its implicit model was, but it seems much closer to guide, partner, friend, and inspired helpmate than it does to lawmaker, police officer, or judge.

VATICAN II: DID ANYTHING HAPPEN? JOHN W. O’MALLEY, S.J. Recent emphasis on the continuity of Vatican II with the Catholic tradition runs the danger of slighting the aspects of the council that were discontinuous. Among those aspects are the literary genre the council adopted and the vocabulary inherent in the genre, different from that of all previous councils. Examination of these aspects yields tools for constructing a hermeneutic appropriate to this council, and not only shows how distinctive Vatican II was but also allows us to get at that elusive “spirit of the council.” The substance of this article was delivered as the Roland Bainton Lecture for 2005 at the Divinity School of Yale University and shortly afterwards as one of the “Gathering Points” lectures at Marquette University.

Internal Power

The Lord God did not counter the threats of history with external power, as we human beings would expect according to the prospects of our world. His weapon is goodness. He revealed himself as a child, born in a stable. This is precisely how he counters with his power, completely different from the destructive powers of violence. In this very way he saves us. In this very way he shows us what saves.

More on Vatican II:

Improve Church

I am a cradle born Catholic post Vatican II.  At times I have visited other denominations many years ago at the height of youthful disenfranchisement with my own church, but by and large I found the Catholic doctrine is solid – our delivery still remains an issue!  What our priest say after the Gospel is read is also key.  If I were pope, I would “order” a secret missive that priest slowly start expanding that segment of interpretation and application of the readings by about a minute a week or so until it achieves a significance of lasting impact.  Of course, that would call on our priest to have greater depth and oratory skills in a time of great shortage!  Pulling back quantity (number of masses) for quality (content) may in the long run fill the pews, and eventually increase discipleship.  In poorer communities, the morning mass should be followed by social morning breakfast (free perhaps with a non-public place for donations to help with cost out of sight of kids) where all members are encouraged to sit and dialogue on the sermon.

I contacted my parish several weeks ago to meet with the monsignor over healthcare conflicts as a social worker, first by e-mail with content and than by phone.  We scheduled a week out.  The day of the appointment I was cancelled. .   We came close to finding an appt. another week or two out and than I decided thanks but no thanks.  The secretary was great.  My own crisis of issues had resolved anyway.   Access to spiritual direction is an issue as well.  While I may have the skills and commitment to challenge myself (i.e. like this course), the spiritually fragile would be gone from the above.   They might return if a follow up note was sent by e-mail from the priest – sorry we couldn’t make it happen kind of thing.  The greatest weakness of our church are pastoral, followed by media and politicians appropriation of the faith.

Vatican II and Pope Francis

Michael Novak, author of article “Reconsidering Vatican II,” targets media for overstating and oversimplifying doctrinal shifts during Vatican II as well as currently, with the immense popularity of Pope Francis.

Through triangulation of reading several key documents of Vatican II (Sacred Liturgy, Dogmatic Constitution on the church, Social Communication,  Decree on Ecumenism, Church in the Modern World, and others), historical reviews of Vatican II impact and meaning (traditionalist, progressives, and reformist positions), and actions and words of Pope Francis, I am convinced that the vast majority of people have a misconception of Catholicism, Vatican II, and the living church, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Catholic apologetics (or their offshoot polemic apologist) do not have the ear of the masses or perhaps even of the bishops?

Our church pivots violently between oversimplified watered down catholicism and overly dogmatic traditionalism, neither of which can carry the word of Christ alone.  The former abandons the rich deposit of faith gifted to us over two thousand years of Christian development post Jesus Christ as well as the the morals and teachings the B.C. era.  The latter ignores the challenges of a living tradition subject to an ever changing world and  and treats the historical church as if it was a dead letter, not evolving, and wedded to the definitions of the pre-modern world.   Without a unified presentation that is coherent and consistent the voice of the church is given to “naysayers,” professional politicians, and media.

The media, through no fault of its own, serves the reader’s digest version of Catholicism while being swayed by the temporal desires of the day, The public digest the various forms of criticisms, predictions of doom, and overall negativity without access to well versed theologians, grounded prayer, or a well grounded independent faith. And like our political system, people run to their safe havens of silo’s of belief, sheltered in and bunkered down with like minded people, secured by the comfort of consensus and moral conviction.  The Devil himself is envious of such a well developed trap for dividing humanity – voluntarily built by laity and priestly types alike.

“The public does not go to the press for solid scholarship,” The press understands this and plays to what we want to hear and read.  

There is a depth and a mysticism to Catholicism that defies understanding, defies traditional and social media, and befuddle theologians as well.  Yet, many are willing to proclaim authority and the moral high ground despite ample evidence that we are mere specks of dust, wayfarers on a journey of the Cross that is still 2000 years young.  

The misconception that drifts into the church and the media is to dissect and divide events and timelines, to shape the divine according to our whims and fancies, to redefine without serious contemplation and knowledge of eschatology or grounded theology.  The church is divided by media into liberal versus conservative, pre-vatican II versus post-vatican II, believers versus non-believers, and countless other irrelevant distinctions given our fundamental belief that our beliefs call for an “authentic universal humanism” that serves all humanity, sinners and saints alike.  And again, this is not the media’s fault.

The drama and the divisions in the tabloids and the social media are of our own making, by our  own failings, and desires.  The naysayers and politicians will always be there to speak for the truth as well.  

As we prepare for Pope Francis, how can we learn from this error of oversimplification, demonization, idealization, and other all too human errors of cognition?    

Don’t ask me, I have no idea!  However, Pope Francis seems to be able to live and enunciate the humility and the divine at the same time.  He may have the answers as to what it means to realize Vatican II without jeopardizing dogmatic tradition and divine revelation.  And, the rest is up to you to be a discerning student of life and all things divine.

Vatican II reference

In defense of tradition catholic views

Vatican II reflection 40 years later

A review of “Reconsidering Vatican II” by Michael Novak has led me to believe that the author was originally from the progressive camp at the time of the “event” of Vatican II and with time and reflection firmly can to a reformist camp position.   On the one hand, he acknowledges great gains and insights regarding ecumenical issues and impact on relations with nations, eastern churches, and Jewish peoples.  On the other hand, he clearly depicts the devastating impact on religious orders that he attributes to the progressive expansion of Vatican II that bought the religious orders to a place of meaninglessness, disconnected from the church.  I see it as a laissez faire religiosity that unchecked, like capitalism, leads to dissolution of the main purpose of what the “system” or “institution is there for in the first place:  to improve “authentic universal humanism.”   The unity of progressive and traditional paradigms is required for true pursuit of the divine nature of the church.

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