A Father Altman created this smooth political infomercial in 2020. The proclamation that took off was if you vote Democrat, your not Catholic. Worse, your going to hell. The video is here:
I am, by his definition, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, according to Altman, I am not Catholic. I apparently have a lot of company – any democrat (lay person or clergy) is not Catholic! I have by reciprocity without authority to do so dropped his title. If you research his statements on women, clergy, and politics you will see he is priest who has lost his way.
Now, several months later his Bishop is seeking to remove Altman from his post. Father Altman doubled down with another media creation: Re: https://youtu.be/yVt10eZMN1M. Who is the wolf now! Probably neither of us – but there are wolves in waiting ready to use holy words to their advantage, or even clergy like Altman.
The reality today is the church has lost many Catholics who proudly call themselves ex-Catholics or even Recovering Catholics! They still believe in God, but left the church due to the hypocritical and incoherent spiritual teachings of priest like Father Altman, or worse, those that have abused their position of trust in the most abhorrent ways (sex abuse scandal, orphanages scandal, crusades, and other atrocities).
That does not mean the participation in a democracy does not sully our souls. The Republican and Democrat platforms have huge spiritual deficits built into their popular platforms. Using Altman’s litmus test anybody who voted is not Catholic.
The Democrats lose hands down on the abortion issue by Catholic fiat despite most do not support abortion, they support not criminalizing access to abortion or the women who make that complicated moral choice. Democrat Catholics are by and large pained by the number of abortions performed worldwide. They would counsel, if asked, about the moral consequences, physical consequences, and life ending finality abortion presents. They would also be attuned to the traumatic experience that abortion presents to the mother. They tend to be more focused on fighting abortion by providing true access to a dignified life for women and the unborn child by improving access to education, food, healthcare, housing, meaningful employment, and cultural riches of our society. They intuitively know criminalizing abortion is a superficial moral get of jail card that simply puts the blame on the most vulnerable people (mother and unborn child) without addressing the larger issue.
The Republican Party, especially Trumpism, loses hands down on caring for the poor in the areas of education, housing, healthcare, taxes, and fair wages. Hands down on support of death penalty. Hands down on immigration. Hands down on global participation in defending human rights globally and fighting world poverty. Hands down the Republican Party is built on (these days) a selfish credo of “America First” and “American” being defined by a minority of Americans (loyal to a perverted definition of nationalism).
Of course this high level criticism of Democrat and Republican Catholics does not accurately define all Democrats and all Republicans as to their intensity of political beliefs along the continuum – however each member belongs to the whole party and is responsible for the policy and party outcomes.
On a higher level, our Quasi-Capitalist system promotes wealth distribution in a manner that is fundamentally anti-Christ teaching. We have not witnessed a government or economic system that puts Christ teachings first with regard to sound economic principles that provide for the dignity of life of all – though several developed nations are doing much better then America today. As Americans, we prefer to put on blinders regarding other countries successes with human rights issues and equality issues.
Perhaps being American today is anti-Catholic. There is no doubt that our western beliefs of individualism, excessive wealth attainment, greedy materialism, national pride and hubris, and systemic social class and racial divisions is contrary to Christ teachings.
To be even a little Catholic today genuinely is a radical task if we were to truly live a Christ centric life. Instead I fear we cling to aspects of Christianity that serve us well – and disregard or ignore the rest.
That begs the question…am I still a Catholic? Are you still a Catholic? And does it matter?
To be Catholic is to be imperfect. No one to my knowledge today has lived a Christ-like life. Apparently it is not an easy road to officially not be Catholic once you have been baptized: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/11/how-do-you-become-formally-not-a-catholic-you-take-the-law-into-your-own-hands.
Sebastian T. attempted to deregister his belonging and sent a 5 page letter condemning the church as “cruel on abortion, euthanasia and suicide; as malign on contraception; recalcitrant on women; degenerate and prurient on gays and sex; and as criminal on child sex abuse.” He met with resistance but eventually had his baptismal certificate amended with a statement that he no longer considers himself Catholic.
I would think that such a letter would be grounds to ex-communicate a baptized Catholic. Why the word game of responding with noting “desire to leave” rather then renounced, left, or officially ex-communicated? “Today, a Catholic who lapses to the extent of becoming an apostate, a heretic or a schismatic is automatically excommunicated, and, until the excommunication is lifted, is forbidden to have any ministerial part in the celebration of Mass or other worship ceremonies, to celebrate or receive the sacraments or to exercise any Church functions. This is an obligation that binds the excommunicated person.” But they are still Catholic!
How weak is the Catholic Church today? How many Catholics living are in a state of ex-communication, renounced the faith, or simply are lapsed Catholics (not practicing Catholicism)? Of those left in the pews how many are practicing their beliefs outside the church? How many of those disagree vehemently with one or more of Catholic teachings today? Of those that are left standing strong on Catholic idealism and practice, are they confident the Church itself has not taken a position in error?
One can see very quickly how Altman’s position is untenable as a declarative statement. As much as we Catholics hate relativism we are left at the end of the day weighing human decisions and actions through very human lenses, often corrupted by all too human motivations.
I have not renounced my Catholic faith, though I did renounce my belonging to the Knights of Columbus. Both institutions are represented by many very devout and holy people. Both have people that fall way short of the bar to be able to call themselves sincere followers of Christ.
When does an institution itself become irrelevant or unworthy of carrying the Cross? Did not Christ come to deliver a new covenant to replace or build a new church on top of the Judaic institution? What is next if Catholicism fails it’s role in humanities spiritual evolution?
Catholicism is not dead, but it faces a reckoning within itself to find spiritual coherence or face yet again another schism or continued decline in influence and world relevance. These days when you see a church in America you cannot be sure if it is still a church. I have seen churches converted into apartments, restaurants, and even a nightclub.
Between 2000 and 2017 Catholic Churches have disappeared by 11 percent. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of Catholic schools in the US dropped by 37%. Church attendance across Catholic Western Europe and the United States has been in steep decline for the last 60 years. Still Catholicism as a whole is growing: “Catholicism is now confronted with a new world demography. In the 20th century, Catholics, like most Christian denominations, made huge strides in both Africa and Asia. Between 1900 and 2000 about half the population of Africa converted from primal religions to either Christianity (40 percent) or Islam (10 percent).” The cynical among us will see is as predatory religion – winning converts in underdeveloped nations where poverty and suffering is high.
Pope Francis has consistently guided avoidance of extremes (politics, religion, or economics) and focused on humanness and godliness. He has also struck conciliatory tones on issues mentioned by Sebastian T., but shy of the kind of radical action that might be required to restore a church to a humble institution that leads by attraction and action-oriented love of all people – as opposed to its 2000 year legacy of traditions and enormous wealth. The Vatican’s wealth in 2019 was about 4 billion euros. Local churches however continue to struggle.
Without change the Catholic Church itself maybe subject to being called a “primal religion” or perhaps to a lesser extent, weakened by yet another schism or continued decline in world recognition. This evokes anger and blame among typical dividing lines in the church. Believers and the clergy themselves feel threatened by loss of status as well as perhaps, an inability to explain seemingly incoherent church positions.
It does matter that I am Catholic – though not as much as it matters that I treat people with mercy, compassion, and love. When my church ignores this precept – I must be a dissenting voice, even if I am labeled a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Sadly we pick on the wolf family to make our points here while we are the real villains’ of this story. Especially the Grey Wolf:
- The grey wolf has been the notorious villain of fables and fairy stories for centuries, yet this highly intelligent and sociable animal has done little to warrant its terrifying reputation.
- Once widespread throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, the grey wolf is, sadly, now only found in large numbers in specific parts of the USSR, North America and Eastern Europe.
- The grey wolf has always been feared by man and has probably been persecuted more than any other animal. Did you know that centuries ago, wolves were ‘tried’ by people and burnt at the stake? However its intelligence and flexibility have saved it from extinction.
Environmental groups recently sued the Trump administration for delisting this family of wolves from the protected species list. Love them or hate them – we really treat these wolves poorly literary wise in fables and literally with bullets. We even hide in camouflaged clothing with hunting guides and sophisticated weapons – who is really the sheep in wolves clothing?
I would be remiss to not offer you information on how to help save Grey Wolves: https://www.endangered.org/wolves/
Saving Catholicism will take a little more work!
Catholicism today is out of the orphanage business. Catholic Answers does a horrendous job of defining the holy calling of caring for orphans without detailing the horrific failures to protect those in their charge from abuse and unnecessarily death:
St. Joseph’s pictured above is renowned for abuse and unnecessary death. It is “estimated more than 5 million Americans passed through orphanages in the 20th century alone. At its peak in the 1930s, the American orphanage system included more than 1,600 institutions, partly supported with public funding but usually run by religious orders, including the Catholic Church.” A recent news story in Canada just unearthed mass graves: https://mol.im/a/9630875. Still, a Times article https://time.com/3194832/orphanage-study/ even makes the case Orphanages maybe better. America’s foster care system is ripe with problems.
We are an amoral world guilty of massive indifference to human life and human dignity: https://insamer.com/en/2020-orphan-report_2928.html. The 2020 Orphan report eviscerates the American Pro-Lifer narrow focus on abortion while ignoring world poverty – the typical Anti-Abortion falls into the trap of being hypocritical by failing to support human dignity after birth as evidenced by their silence on the orphan issue. The extent of their advocacy is the march with the sign, the expression of villainizing the other, seeking legalism for enforcing a religious view, and going home feeling morally superior without personal sacrifice to address the systemic societal issues pre and post birth. Who can blame them – shhhh, don’t answer that…
It is an easy reach to criminalize an impoverished women or adolescent teen then to take on world poverty, excessive capitalism, abusive dictatorships, and other systems of government and economic policy that and fail people everyday. We are willing to scapegoat the lowest denominator and stop there. Going any further requires sacrifice that as a society we are not willing to take collectively. The pro-choice movement falls short of the bar as well by ignoring the cost of abortion – physically, morally, and spiritually on women. If we could harness the energy of Pro Choice and Pro Life into fighting the social determinate issues that create the conditions that promote poverty or unwanted pregnancies – we would have sustainable change.
When the demonstration ends or the law is amended – pregnant women living in terrible circumstances are in the same position the day after the protest as they were the day before the protest. Any changed law may increase their immediate legal or medical risk – but will not improve their pre-birth, post-birth, or post-abortion life at all. As a global society we will not own world poverty and collective systems failure. We will blame the victims of indiscriminate economic violence and limit its impact on our collective consciousness by passing persecutory laws or ignoring the issues. The two issues are intrinsically linked as in both – we do not want to look at the larger picture of what our collective and personal responsibility is for the atrocities committed in our names by fiat (law), by our silence, or by our lack of action and sacrifice. Unwanted pregnancies going full-term adds another level of poverty onto the previous levels – not that this is an acceptable answer for the morality question of abortion.
This post started with the plight of orphans and the failure of Catholic orphanages in particular. The larger issue is institutions carved out of society and hidden away behind walls are bound to fail – whether run by Catholics or other well-meaning entities. They by in large are taking in victims of a larger societal issue, put on a poorly managed time out, and returned to the same communities they were in before, more often then not, more damaged then when they went into the institution.
The Catholic Faith has not walked away from its calling to be advocates for Orphans worldwide: https://crosscatholic.org/project-catalog/children/. A better focus noted in this mission is “Building homes for the poor is one of our primary missions at Cross Catholic Outreach, especially in rural areas with limited resources and following devastating natural disasters. Our housing for the poor projects build sturdy and sustainable homes in impoverished communities to help families thrive while supporting spiritual development and offering the love of Jesus Christ.” This is an idealism view built on scripture – but it is a band aid for social ills – much the way the police and the lower-level criminal pay the price for intersection violence that comes from the “haves” and the “have nots” or on a larger scale military soldiers and innocent civilians when societies clash over resources.
Before we blame the victim or the criminal, before we blame the historical institutions or current ones – it is relevant to fully understand what our role is and how we benefit or not from any recommended solutions. In the west, we are hard-wired into a scarcity model where competition and individualism reign to our detriment to live a spiritual life.
The idea of higher taxes is anathema for many Americans. The risk of a lower socio-economic state by the imposition of fair wages here in the west and globally is not discussed. Nor is the dynamic tension of poorer nations need to rise. An economic shift is needed for a “no-growth or slow growth” economy – as world population growth in Richer countries is declining and resources are being challenged. These macro forces create winners and losers – and the losers are the orphans of tomorrow. Band-Aids will be applied to the degree possible by public charity, religious missions, and governmental interventions – often weeks, months or even years to late.
When we farm out personal responsibility to political parties, religious institutions, or other governmental institutions without investment and sacrifice ourselves – we are the problem.
I personally do not have wealth to make a significant difference. I do not have the charisma to ignite or change world sentiment. I do not have the “ear” of God to talk to and demand intervention. It is seemingly a choice of hopelessness or rage.
What to do – to quell our powerlessness or handle our rage? Harness the emotions into action. Quiet the irrational and listen to the calm. Yes, for me, the first tool is prayer its many forms – despite a disquiet understanding that my desires and intentional prayer may not impact the situations for which I pray in the way I want. This step helps sort out the gap between what I can do and what is beyond my influence. After that letting go – other actions and things fall into place. What is my calling? What can I do better today? What can I do additionally after that perhaps outside my calling?
I have just sent in a few dollars to “Save the Children” via the charity navigator tool below. They do the work of rating charities so you don’t have to do it.
Or perhaps this resource – the Lazy Mans guide to saving the world is for you:
You can improve a kids life from anywhere in the world!
If you spent the time to read this blog – please spend an extra fifteen seconds and click on one of the two charity links above and give something extra today – no matter your view on the politics of poverty and the dignity of life issues. Be a part of the solutions.
Pursuing the death penalty is currently in vogue for Trump oriented republican GOP. It is one issue among several that is used to promote rallying the base, getting votes, being perceived as tough, and stoking the Fire of class warfare.
Never-mind that justice of life in prison is the greater punishment. Never-mind that death penalty cases cost society more in legal resources than letting the villain rot in jail. Never mind that the families of victims suffer for years following the legal folly wars rather then swift application of life imprisonments with no parole. The in vogue GOP vote getter is let’s make a statement locally and bring back execution by firing squad:
American opinion has shifted as of 2019 with an upward trajectory:
The Republican GOP is moving in many states to eliminate ballot initiatives where the public can vote on one issue up or down. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/22/us/politics/republican-ballot-initiatives-democrats.html?referringSource=articleShare. They are fearful of their own base switching positions on the death penalty and other issues.
The National Association of Evangelical Christianity starts out with a neutral statement affirming conscientious commitment of both streams of Christian ethical thought. The position statement then points out however, that the American system of justice is incapable of carrying out Capital punishment in a manner that is ethical or safe enough to not kill innocent people: https://www.nae.net/capital-punishment-2/ .
Economically and ethically the Death Penalty is a losing proposition. Still the GOP clings to this issue.
My faith is clearer on Capital punishment, but only recently. Pope Francis released an encyclical in 2020 finally stating capital punishment is wrong: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/committees/death_penalty_representation/publications/project_blog/pope-francis-encyclical-death-penalty-opposition/.
Hopefully you and I will never be in the position to weigh with a prosecutor if we wish to pursue the death penalty against a villain who murdered someone we love. That gives us some objectivity for a moment. However, we are still very much by the power of our democracy responsible for Death Penalty law and application in the United States – Pro or Con.
As a follower of Catholicism I am theologically bound by the Popes Encyclical. Spiritually however, as a member of the faith, I am also bound to oppose my own faith if I come to believe we are at odds with divine law or even universal reality. The latter is a nod to Catholicism as our faith is limited to upholding the Christian ideal – not the day to day human reality of what circumstances prescribe. In the case of the death penalty however, we have the ability to oppose it theologically and as a universal reality – we have other legitimate choices for justice to be served. Seventy percent (70%) have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
It isn’t pretty aging and dying in prison: https://theappeal.org/death-by-incarceration-pennsylvania-photo-essay/. These human beings are invisible to us: https://www.penalreform.org/blog/elderly-life-sentenced-prisoners-a-forgotten-and-invisible/.
Incoherently I almost wish every life timer inmate had access to ending there life 7 days after self-request. Lock them up, toss away the key, let them decide to wait for human decay or check out sooner by state assisted suicide.
I would be dead wrong. Ultimately, in my faith there is no villain. The radical life of Christ and the radical calling of Christianity treats the villain as if he were my brother, as if he were me.
Christ modeled this by preaching the beatitudes (spiritual ideals unlocking the mystery of a holy life) and by dying on the cross (carrying the sins of all men including the very villains that crucified him).
In the gospel of Matthew (5:38) Jesus offers the following words:
The universal reality is we will not let murderers go free to murder again when we can stop the violence by using life term incarceration or the death penalty. The divine law is we will not take life when we have other alternatives.
Instinctually though, when faced with heinous crimes, we want swift and violent justice. The villain must be executed. The villain is not worthy of divine law. The villain is not of us, he/she is something other, an aberration – an animal.
We do not want to accept the villain as one of our own, as our brother, as ourselves. We do not want to turn the other cheek. We do not want to find it in our souls to treat the villain with mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and even love. We don’t want to hear we can do this while still keeping society safe. We want immediate and final justice now, not justice differed to God’s judgement. We want blood now. That emotion is what the GOP counts on to get your vote – the blood vote.
Politics aside, the GOP supporters and the Villains are my brothers in Christ. Radical Christianity calls me to absorb sin and absorb violence for the sake of the savior. There is no “other” or Villain. How can I do that in this world?
It is just as hard now as it was in Christ time. We cannot be silent. We must oppose political parties or policies that promote degrading human dignity while not harboring hatred or ill-will to those supporting the travesties of unjust governance. We must protect the public from murderers (even legal murderers) without hating the murderer.
I am far short of living this ideal in words or in actions. I am hopeful my fellow man and my God can show me mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for my hurtful words, omission of action, and other shortcomings I possess.
The assault on human dignity feels relentless to me. The humanness in us seeks heroes and villains for every issue. With that as the starting point we almost always fail to meet each other’s expectations, never mind meeting a higher ethical or spiritual bar.
We can eliminate the death penalty in the United States. One note, one conversation, one vote at a time.
You can start here regardless of your political ideology, but especially if your a red state: https://www.ncadp.org/action. Renounce the death penalty without giving up your party or demanding justice when justice is due.
Imagine a justice system designed with mercy, compassion, and rehabilitation in mind – even for lifers who will never leave the prison : https://www.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=d7bb68ee71b5413e838a906dcd5b4124 walls. The Danish are leading the industry in services and architecture: https://www.archpaper.com/2017/12/denmark-prison-rehabilitation-architecture/.
I would rather anyone getting out of prison be exposed to humane living with dignity and respect then further indoctrination into degradation and suffering. Those experiencing the latter only come out meaner and further testify against us with more crime and violence.
Catholics have long known Prison Ministries are vital: https://www.catholicprisonministries.org/. There is a soul within all of us worthy of saving. As one body in Christ (or one collective humanity) we suffer as one and are called to carry each other’s weight when needed. Some might say we carry the collective cross of humanity on our shoulders as Christians. Others might say we are doing a terrible job of carrying our own cross, never mind that of our brothers. Both statements are true. Within each of us lies the potential for good and evil. How do we orient our words, actions, and political affiliations to seek the good above evil in all things?
In a “closed” moderator run Facebook group focused on Catholicism and early Christian writings a member posted an innocuous meme of a monk from a long time ago saying the force be with you and a subtitle of the truth is often defined by our perspective.
Within seconds the post got 16 likes and 1 comment to remove this travesty please. The poster without comment removed it for he offended 1.
It was humorous and pointed to modern day handling of good and evil through a Hollywood movie. I can’t find the meme on the web, but the monk also held a saber.
What annoys Christians when movies dabble in mysticism or philosophical spiritual truths? Some feel these types of movies promote heresy or misdirect young minds. Others may feel the magical undefined portraits of spirituality simply under value and assault centuries of religious teachings.
The one truth I know is in general, Hollywood movies are not aimed at spiritually profound and deep contemplation and Christian movies in general rarely get a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Monks and Jedi’s crossover all the time into each other’s domains. Perhaps only the Monk attains anything close to remaining isolated from the interchange between secularism and religious thought.
A good day for me is when my secular life and my spiritual life are inseparable and indistinguishable without effort or thought. A great day is when intense effort is required and grace carries the day. Yoda would agree with this thought. Science fictions fans could tell me what the difference is between the Jedi code and the Sith code below:
We all know what a bad day looks like – days consumed with trivialities, unnecessary conflict, silliness, or perhaps even harmful speech or actions. If you can avoid these bad days by practicing a Jedi Code – more power to you!
Monks, Friars, and even Jedi’s have bad days too! They train and aim for the good and great days!
Catholicism and its messengers don’t have the marketing skills of star wars to spread the “true word.” It is sad and troubling that our children lack the knowledge of the worlds great religions or philosophers but can quote a Jedi code! Perhaps even some concern that the story telling battle of good and evil in Hollywood movies that allude to mystical sources further confuse the historical stories that are in the bible as merely stories.
Pop culture – philosophy – and religion becoming indistinguishable.
A more detailed look below on how to tell the difference between these men in Robes can be found here: https://youtu.be/xwBiBQztbYA. If your looking for spiritual guidance from a master – let me recommend Franciscans or Jesuits – and they have pretty awesome robes or cassocks.
May the force be with you!
This is no small story. The leaders of Germany today are a generation or two removed from the cloud of 1933 dictatorship and allegiance to one man or institution but not ignorant of the dangers of autocracies. Yes, you can have religious or political autocracies – or even more dangerous, when they are one and the same. They come in many shapes and sizes. Some perhaps sincerely well-intentioned. Unchecked individual power as a form of religious or political leadership has proven to be vulnerable to unfathomable evil in the name of good intentions.
German churches (priest) are standing up against church doctrine. They are not silent as some were in 1933. Not this time: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57055162. This little story in the BBC is not so little. Consider that “Germany is no stranger to schism: 500 years ago, Martin Luther launched the Reformation here.” This story has wings and several news agencies recognize the magnitude of this story: https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/toledo/ap-top-news/2021/05/10/german-catholics-to-bless-gay-unions-despite-vatican-ban.
The article above does point out that Pope Francis has already reminded the German hierarchy that it must remain in communion with Rome during its reform process, known as a “synodal path.” The movement though has the supports of German lay people and many priest. “In Berlin, the Rev. Jan Korditschke, a Jesuit who works for the diocese preparing adults for baptism and helps out at the St. Canisius congregation, will lead blessings for queer couples at a worship service May 16.”
No Nazi gas chambers and LGBTQ recognition and acceptance are not equitable on the surface. They are very far apart on the continuum of intolerance, persecution, and genocide. But they share the being on the continuum. Anti-Jew sentiments were present decades prior to these sentiments were turned into denial of human rights to the Jewish people and the atrocities that followed:
“Though persecution of Jews has a history of at least two millennia, the late-19th
and early-20th century witnessed a high-water mark in hatred against Jews,
especially in western Christian societies. In essence, Hitler was handed a loaded gun ready to fire – and he did not hesitate to use it. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0192512104038166)
A steady drum beat of increasing micro-aggressions carried out by everyday people one day ignited by a Hitler wrapped in fabricated nationalism, enforced with promises of glory and fear of loss of life or liberty if you were not on board.
Hitler used philosophy and religious ideas to ferment loyalty. The Catholic Church stance on LGBTQ issues is and will be used against LGBTQ people no matter how nuanced the words are by the Congregation of The Faith writings or the Pope himself.
But what about church teaching today? No disciple of the Catholic Church would argue that our institution of faith has been fast or evenly timely to adjusting Church teachings when it was so clearly necessary. The history of church Synods proves that the life of Jesus Christ and what Christ’s teaching meant was never a static interpretation. Heroes and villain’s are everywhere in Christian history – sometimes the villain’s of yesterday are later proven to be the heroes of today. This is not an anomaly specific to Christianity.
Are the participating German priest heroes or villains? From afar I think they are heroes assuming they are standing up for accepting LGQTQ individuals as whole and equal human beings in the eyes of God and mankind. They are breaking ground for an institution that is not ready for this radical acceptance of individuals that differ radically from accepted Christian thought on gender identity and expression.
Scott T. Allison wrote an article called “Heroic Lag: The Time It Takes Society To Catch Up With Its Heroes.” He describes the long history of how heroes were once villains for their ideas – only recognizance later in life, or more commonly, post-humorously. Society needed time to catch up to their radical ideas – in the meantime they were anathema! His article finishes with the following condemning line of the American system: The American two-party system creates an in-group versus out group mentality in which ones party affiliation often determines one’s position on the issues. Tribal deliberations are rarely a good route to resolve ambiguity. Such delineations only increase heroic lag and prolong cultural suffering.”
The idea of cultural suffering is too watered down for me. Tribal deliberations on “ambiguous topics” are often used as weapons to oppress, demonize, and persecute people. And for most Christians understanding gender identity, gender expressions, science of anatomy and genes, and even the history of early Christian writings and the origins of Christian thought in this area is very ambiguous minus a few comforting catch phrases or scripture phrases taken out of context.
Imagine Germany, the home to one of the largest genocides in history, a nation know for its commitment to law and order, being ahead of America in embracing and standing up for radical change? Don’t imagine – it is real in this instance.
Uncomfortable questions if you accustomed to blindly accepting religious or political ideology of a faith or party that you inherited based solely – for the most part, on where you were born and what circumstances you inherited.
Like science and philosophy, Religion is not immune to development and necessary correction. We are not the same people Christ visited 2000 years ago. We have evolved, painfully slowly, and so to must our spiritual understanding of Christ and humanity. And we continue to take steps backwards.
Germany has come along way: “Human rights in Germany enjoy a high level of protection, both in theory and in practice, and are enshrined in the Grundgesetz. The country has ratified most international human rights treaties. Reports from independent organizations such as Amnesty International certify a high level of compliance with human rights, while still pointing out several issues, in particular police brutality and mistreatment of refugees. The 2008 Freedom in the World report by US-funded Freedom House gives Germany a score of “1” (the best possible) for both political rights and civil liberties.”
“Human Rights watch gives us Americans a bad grade and recent lost ground under Trump: In 2019, the United States continued to move backwards on rights. The Trump administration rolled out inhumane immigration policies and promoted false narratives that perpetuate racism and discrimination; did not do nearly enough to address mass incarceration; undermined the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; further weakened the ability of Americans to obtain adequate health care; and deregulated industries that put people’s health and safety at risk.”
I am wondering how our great cathedrals and churches cast their shadows on secular society. As people walk outside them everyday they cannot see the beautiful light of suns rays through the artisan glass on the insides of these large cavernous buildings. The light, the art, the symbolism of aiming for a higher spiritual plane are out of reach – even for many of those that enter the church doors by accident or with spiritual intention.
It is too confusing for some. No church has successfully presented itself as spiritually coherent – despite centuries of trying, they seem to only become increasingly debilitated by edifices of grand words and rhetorical argument.
Within the blizzard of theological writings, under the rays of the colored glass, in the quiet spaces there are answers for individuals and for nations – if only we can listen and have the courage to express radical love when it is needed. The nation states and religious institutions will not change unless the few brave being the voice of the unpopular.
Perhaps acts of spiritual or political dissent can be the highest form of faith or patriotism – when well informed and acted on for the greater good for all. You know the real thing when you see it. That person radiates light and quiet confidence. They are not seeking your approval or validation. They are not seeking their own glory or fighting for their own cause. They simply are doing what is intrinsically the right thing to do.
You may not know their name today. History may remember them more kindly. They do not care. Somehow they have reached a plateau where they know their actions, whether successful or not, will contribute to the spiritual arch that is man’s destiny – beyond the greatest distances that sound, light, or our imaginations can travel, to a place with no flags.
The symmetry of nature and humanity can be elusive and fleeting before my eyes. The mundane and the irresponsible rule our days, steal our time, sap our spirit, and dull our senses to what is important, beautiful, and present in every moment if we look for it.
I know the symmetry by its absence. I can feel the darkness, the irritability, the hunger for things that cannot satiate the human spirit.
When nature and humanity are bound together by the spiritual force that binds, the radiance of light, strength, and warmth are undefinable.
She is like a water lily in the pond, with radiant colors and delicate patterns, resonating beauty onto all that surrounds, complimenting without negating, soothing pain, while reflecting all around the depth of goodness is life and death, what is worthy, and what is not in the stillness that is required when no words will suffice.
When the silence must be broken, and the actions are taken, a single purple Iris rises, and then a field, healing the wounds that can be tethered, and she gently witnesses those that cannot be removed, sharing the reality in its ungarnished truth.
Regardless of circumstance, she rises like an orchid and caresses the soul, each according to the measure required, without expectation or reserve, a gentle objective love that transcends all, that cannot be owned or unrequited, just received and understood for the moments needed, before passing into eternity as gently as the moment of necessity arrived.
A symmetry of nature and humanity she is, a force of love and compassion beyond bounds of ordinary human understanding.
A great friend to many, mentor to the young, mother, nurse, women, and wife – in each a blossoming flower that knows no seasons. She is the symmetry that conquers the mundane, the trials, and the challenges with a beauty and power that can only be described as a spiritual force bound within an exceptional lovely women.
Dedicated to my wife Theresa
Anyone know the name Thomas Rousseau David’s Byles? In my minds eye he deserves human recognition as a saint.
The United States Conference of Bishops sets the bar low, at least, post-humorously low: “All Christians are called to be saints. Saints are persons in heaven (officially canonized or not), who lived heroically virtuous lives, offered their life for others, or were martyred for the faith, and who are worthy of imitation.”
There is no verification process here, no Congregation for the Causes of Saints, or road of scrutiny gradually being elevated as candidate, venerable, blessed, and for some finally Sainthood in the official Catholic. This latter designation is a steeper hill. It is estimated that over ten thousand saints have recognized by “the Roman Catholic Church.”
This Canonization process, in crude brevity, requires one be martyred for the faith or have verifiably performed a miracle not explained by science.
My bar goes below both definitions: “Any person, Christian or not, alive or dead, who lives a heroically virtuous life, selflessly serves others, is tested by a period of intense acute sacrifice or sustained sacrifice over time, and whose life is worthy of imitation” is Saintly. These people could not care less if we noticed their holy lives unless it furthered serving others, spreading love, and living for the greater glory of humanity and God by whatever name we call the unknown one.
Getting back to Thomas, he bought peace to people facing death by unpleasant means when he himself could have escaped the same fate.
This priest reportedly boarded the Titanic to travel to officiate a wedding request. When the ship hit the iceberg he was on deck praying. He went down to third class and calmly helped people find there way to the deck. He declined a life raft, unlike the captain, and stayed and prayed with those that went down with the ship. https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/04/14/titanic-anniversary-catholic-priest-refused-lifeboat-rescue-240380
Is it by accident that fate can be answered by faith? Or the seriousness of Post Humorous thoughts about our loved ones is sometimes best handled by humorous banter and acceptance of our mortality?
Perhaps even more intriguing about Thomas is that he was a Catholic convert. It says something when an individual seeks out a spiritual practice that speaks to him and is willing to leave one denomination for another, neither being perhaps better then the other.
Did fate bring him aboard that ship? I don’t know. I only hope I could lead like he led when circumstances call for sacrifices, big or small.
An interesting article in NCR looked at wealthy Catholics choreographing think tanks, not for profits, multi-media message to portray Catholic values in a way that supports big business and far right ideology.
Many Catholics are informed by this voice rather then scripture, traditions, and Pope Francis.
The silver lining is enough Catholics are educated enough to sniff out secularized or politicized Catholicism to avoid a repeat of a modern form of Catholic Crusades under a different cover. Not by much though, Trumpism took evangelical Christianity and many Catholics for a political crusade built on anti-Christian values cleverly decorated with a flag, a few causes, and even a bible for a prop.
The tug of war between being a relevant player on the world stage as a major religion and the risk of being co-opted by political or national interest was present at the time of Christ Birth, the time of his death, and still persist today.
The local priest needs a congregation. Even more he needs patrons who can contribute vastly more sums then what most can afford to contribute.
So, 2000 years after Christ death Priest are often giving parables that cleverly avoid disenfranchising constituents that may harm the weekly offering or end of year contribution.
The truth is hidden in the phrases, but only for those awake enough to listen and honest enough to take a self-inventory benchmarked against the words of God.
More often then not, religion shortchanges the essence of a spiritually lived life for a transactional ritual which happens to include tithes.
It is not all bad and certainly not purely the fault of the priestly caste. We all own our little piece religions failures.
We also own today and the opportunity to think, pray, and act purely with clean purpose and conscience, with holy and humble intentionality.
Stand up, push back, and reclaim a version of Catholicism that includes rather then excludes, models rather then condemns, sacrifices rather then hoards wealth and power.
The modern day Christian apologist[i] face a steep hill today defending the faith. The mystery of Christ Life, Death, oft forgotten visiting of hell, and Resurrection and the trials of the the traditions of the Catolicism have led to the mocking of Catholics apologist stance as being “I believe because it is absurd”[ii] . This accusation arose during the enlightenment period as a twist on Tertullian’s work. On this good Friday, it resonated with me after taking some time out this day off for Good Friday Readings[iii] and Stations of the Cross.[iv] I cannot imagine any sincere and honest Catholic believer not feeling absurd at different points in their spiritual life, if not personally, then at least when defending the history and current positions and actions of the church.
The mere word apologist implies to some confusion with the word apology! From the very beginning an apologist maybe fasley accused of admitting wrongfullness and seeking forgiveness. Christian Apologist are not seeking your forgiveness – they are seeking to give humanity faith and hope in Jesus Christ.
What is the steep hill? It is very difficult to “speak in defense” of Christianity theologically when the Catholic Church itself has torn itself into shreds by:
- Committing grave sins in the name of Jesus Christ historically like the Crusdades,
- Complicity by errors of ommission, silence, or support of political systems or political leaders that oppress, victimize, and persecute people,
- And Hypocrissy such as the Church on-going confrontation with Sex abuse, demonization of LGBTQ individuals, cafeteria style application of church social teachings, abandonment of the poor and the oppressed, and unwillingenss as both an institiution and as individuals to sacrifice status, money, and power to truly pursue a Christian life life.
This is less a condemndation of Jesus Christ then it is a condemnation of the Church and of Christians as G.K. Chesterton said:
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”[v]
Our multitudinous failures to live the Christian ideal for me proclaims our apologist history, while theologically important for inter-faith dialogue and preservation of the faith and on-going unveiling of humanities spiritual development, is misplaced when targeted at the common man. It is the cart before the horse. We have no place for apologist or evangelization if our hearts and our institutions of faith are not presenting a coherent belief and actions that bring to life the Christian ideal here and now.
I fear that for many believer’s evangelization and apologetics becomes less about sharing a life worth living and more about self-preservation, egotism, and squashing spiritual fragility within themselves and within the church. It becomes about the best defense of our faith is a good offense joining military and philosophical thinkers like George Washington, Mao Zedong, Machiavelli or Sun Tzu.
This was not the way of Christ. To know the way of Christ we have to know both Christ words and Christ life. His life of course is the greater testimony. His words though left behind provided us lessons in the form of parables or direct guidance on how to live a holy life. Mankind has ever since struggled with the literal versus the allegorical, the context, and the authenticity of the Gospel narratives. PBS did a Frontline piece that reduced the Gospels to “Neither biographies nor objective historical accounts, the gospels resembled religious advertisements.”[vi]
These are fighting words that jolt many believers into non-Christian actions including offensive attacks on the messenger, shabbily constructed defenses of the biblical texts, obfuscation or flight. Christians and those attacking Christians are often very skilled at rhetoric and avoiding carrying any argument forward with an open heart and mind. This is as true today as it was in Christ time. So how did Christ prepare the Apostles to go forward without him knowing the road would be unwelcoming:
“And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. And He said to them, Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece.”
“Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city. And as for those who do not receive you, as you go out from that city, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Luke 9:16
Christ instructed them to go out in twos, to represent him (power and authority), to proclaim his words and message, to heal, to do so selflessly, and to walk away from those who choose to not believe and continue on. He did not say to remain in argument with unbelievers or create laws to enforce his message. Nor did he offer to validate their unbelief but rather in perhaps the least non-confrontational manner, they were to shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against those refusing the message.
How did this teaching and parable take form in two-thousand years past Christ death and resurrection is a testament to both the good and the bad of Christianity’s application of the life of Christ? Paul the apostle shared in Philippians 2:1-30 (roughly written mid-50s to early 60s A.D.) the following:
“2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4
This is not the typical message we hear from apologist, the pulpit, or conservative Catholicism today. To provide anyone encouragement in Christ Paul says nails the meaning of humility and evangelization in 4 lines. He nails the actions we must demonstrate to be able to encourage any participation if belief in Christ. He speaks to the demand for unity and a coherency in “full accord and of one mind.”
The life of Christ and his death exemplified this message in his birth, his ministry, death (Good Friday), visit to Hell (Holy Saturday), and Resurrection (Holy Sunday or Easter).
The life of Christ is not historically disputed. He was born, he preached, and he was executed by crucifixion. All three of these elements are historically supported and accepted by historians and theologians. After that, the debate begins on everything else:
- Born of the Virgin Mary
- Healing stories (real or allegorical)
- The meaning of the last support (and the Eucharist)
- Human prophet or Son of God
- Who was responsible for his death
- Holy Saturday
- His resurrection
- Post-houmous sightings
The power of spirituality and the life of Christ does not lay within the contextual disputes of religious and philosophical scholars, but on the lives we live. My morning reading of scripture and my time reflecting on the 14 stations of the cross have no meaning to anyone I will encounter later today or tomorrow. Nor should it have any meaning or context other then guiding my interior thought and exterior actions.
Achieving spiritual coherence is not easy. If my Catholic belief and practice is coherent and in “full-accord and off one-mind” my encounters with everyone will be embodied with love, compassion, humility, sacrifice, and faith. Not a single word about my faith need be said in the secular world. They will know by my light and by my actions. That is the horse, that is what comes first. Without that, they will have no interest as to what is in the cart. What is in my cart?
- The living word of God including the old and new testament
- Two thousand years plus of church tradition
- Two thousand years plus of my faith’s success and failures
- A guide to universal human dignity and life affirming principles
- A tool-kit for unveiling suffering, bearing suffering, and sharing the burdens of suffering of others
- Awe of everything around me, of the universe, and the unknowable eternal
- Unending writings, biographies, and testimonies of people who have tapped into glimpses of spiritual transcendence and living a meaningful life, not limited to Christian and Catholic believers
- Openness to non-duality
- Appreciation of things large and small
- Knowledge of the temporality of the human condition
- Mentors, priest, family, friends, and living fellowship
- Moments of fleeting spiritual consolation (selfishly sought and desired beyond my station in life!)
- Faith and Hope in the essential meaning of life
In my own life, my faith is “certain because it is impossible.” This was the original Terrellian defense, “prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est” or “It is certain because it is impossible.”
Today in Catholic Tradition Christ will have walked a little less then a mile to be crucified on a cross. The carrying of that cross (weighing perhaps 80 to 110 pounds or more) in his depleted body due to the scouring and beatings by the Romans was no small feat. He passed roughly at 3 P.M. today and yet we call it Good Friday for what is to come. It is impossible to integrate this series of events into a rationale spiritual account as it is for the non-scientist to explain the origins of the universe, the exactness of blackholes, and what lays beyond the depths of our most powerful tools exploring the galaxies beyond our gaze. For that matter it is impossible for the theologians and scientist as well to present a definitive explanation.
What he did during his life and what comes after is what fills my spiritual cart. Your cart maybe different then mine and that is okay by me if the horse that pulls it shines with the radiant light of holiness that transcends our human shortcomings.
I have a preference for the Eastern Orthodox interpretation of Christ storming the gates of hell between the time of his death today and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Christ descends into hell to liberate those imprisoned priors including the Adam, the prophets and martyrs of the Old Testament.[vii] The split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church along with the many denominations of Christianity has left us with ample opportunity to be open to interpretation of biblical history and meaning. I raise this as an example of how easily we can be divided on the interpretation of the life of Jesus Christ and subsequent teachings, symbolism, and images used to convey the faith. The image below is clearly different then the one above, yet both represent Jesus storming hell to conquer Satan after his death. What exactly that means is open to interpretation. There is not one expert among us. I, for example, believe we create hell on earth more so then I am worried about hell after my death. I take comfort rightly or wrongly in the idea that the knocking down of the gates of hell and the defeat of Satan is a message of hope for us in the eternal life coupled with a message to seek to create heaven on earth now.
The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr [viii] presents such an open interpretation of “Christ” that will challenge all Catholics (conservative and progressive) to reevaluate our interpretations of Jesus Christ the son of Man and “Christ” the eternal.
Richard Rohr and other contemporary priest like Bishop Barron, James Martin and even Pope Francis himself are targets of conservative Christianity on many fronts. The early church fathers[ix] as well as Christ himself were often labeled rebels or heretical by the authorities and people of their time and Tertullian who I included here. Even Thomas Merton is accused these days as a dangerous thinker by many. One writer completed a complete list of the tip ten heretics of all time[x] that include people like Thomas Jefferson, Donald Trump[xi], Joan of Arc, Saint Paul, and Jesus himself! Sometimes heretics turn out to be saints.
Time may reveal to the critics that these spiritual authorities are simply revealing spiritual truths that we failed to recognize before now. The book “The American Catholic Experience Through Stories, Memoirs, Essays and Contemporary Saints and Sinners” brings live the dynamic tension of trying to live a holy life in a modern western culture:
“A holy life, like a poem, a painting, or a piece of sculpture, is, as its linguistic roots attest, something of a whole. The root of the word holy is kailo, which is old English for hal, or whole, as in halsum, or wholesome.”[xii]
Achieving holiness through the narrow lens of a specific religious doctrine put into the hands of undeveloped or immature spiritual leaders and their equally unprepared believers is a higher task then that of the great apologist! It is a recipe for disaster that we have seen play out repeatedly over history. If we are not humbled by the errors of our religious and political institutions, we are either ignorant or willfully blind.
Living a holy life offers greater riches then a secular life, but that is not why one lives a holy life. Striving to live a holy life is written in our core, imprinted on our souls. When we ignore that calling, we suffer greatly.
I don’t believe you have to be martyred or crucified to achieve a semblance of a holy life. An interesting post by Adam Powers provides 10 questions for self-evaluation if you horse and cart are aligned with a Holy Life.
The depths of spiritual belief, the actions of daily life, and the mystery of transcending oneself present mystical challenges beyond any post. Catholicism has served as my cart. I have no name for “The Horse” with authority as any attempt by humanity to define it falters by the limitations of our capacity to understand the infinite.
My Catholic faith provides me names of God the father, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ (the Holy Trinity). Delving into this framework is a long path down the road of theology which is worth taking – but not at the expense of our humility and calling to live a holy life. The cost of this path is beyond what most of us are willing to pay, and frankly most of us professed Catholics have not invested fully in what we profess to believe. An yet I believe as evidenced by this writing to you on Good Friday hoping you find yourself living a holy life, content with both your blessings and your suffering, prepared for the challenges of today, and for your last mortal days, and for eternity.
References and footnotes below. All pictures are available on internet and not my own – easy to find by simply using quote attached, referenced below, or subject phrase.
[i] A person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial or a branch of Christian theology that defends Christianiity against objections (wikipedia)
[v] G.K. Chesterton, What’s wrong with the World
[xi] Out of intellectual honesty and spiritual obligation I request you exclude Donald Trump from the list of Heretics or Saints. He deserves no honor with the others on any list of heretics or saints as his positions have proven to be amoral and completely predatorial and self-serving without any substantiative content or individual merit – purely a political figure in history that wielded power of portions of Christian Evangel churches and roughly half of Catholic believers. The Church leaders that supported or defied him are another story.
[xii] Saints and Sinners, Eugene Kennedy Article page 109
My search for living a spiritual life has been hard fought. Not worthy of mention compared to the great biographies of Christian mystics or to the great sinners who eventually had a dramatic conversion experience.
Here I am now on my God quest reading Catholic theology, early Christian writers, the lives of the saints and the primary source – holy scripture. Here I am now actively praying and partaking in sacramentals and the sacraments practiced by my faith.
I am still living in mediocre spiritually. The great veil that hides God’s presence to mankind rarely is parted for me. On the brief encounters where I have felt this grace, while in the moment they are undefinable, afterwards the genuineness and authenticity of these events become suspect, or at least dulled by long periods of aridity.
I am a high maintenance Christian. I need continual spiritual nourishment in my life and crave spiritual consolations more so then I deserve!
Alas, I can put the books and prayer aside. I can rest at home and simply pray on this Prayer Rug:
Never mind that the rug is paper. If I pray right and stare into Jesus’s eyes that are now closed, they will open. I only have this miraculous rug for 24 hours and must return it Saint Matthews Church so they may send it on to other homes. One women’s prayers were answered with 47000 dollars!
Yes, this wonderful prayer rug will provide many blessings if I pray on it tonight and mail it back tomorrow. If I do, a blessed medal will follow. I am guessing after that a request for money will come. After a second of internet research you can see the mailer I received is from James Eugene Gene Ewing representing a by mail ministry loosely affiliated with a brick and mortar church: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Matthew%27s_Churches. The mailer came with several papers and a return envelope pre-stamped addressed to a P.O. Box.
It is easy to see the fraud here. Yet, Eugene lives a very luxurious lifestyle with this pitch. According to wiki above he targets low income, Hispanic, and elderly believers.
How about the prosperity churches? Joel Osteen will tell you praying (and giving) will make you rich. There are over 700 denominations of Prosperity churches that stress prayer, attending services, and a strong emphasis on tithing. Their delivery and message can be quite a theatrical production with charismatic preachers, singing, music, and multi-media assault on the senses. Motivationally a rock concert vibe with a chanting crowd. Like Eugene, Joel has perfected getting super rich and has an entourage beneath him flourishing as well – a spiritual ponzi scheme with building funds, special missions, and other calls for tithing…which will be returned to you ten fold!
Let not my cynicism stop there. My own faith requires tithing, has built immense church structures, has its own city (Vatican City), and once had a system of monetary exchange for indulgences to atone for ones sins!
It is not just the priestly type that may pose as sheep while being wolves. We see it in all vocations: lawyers, doctors, teachers, police, and especially politicians! The common thief has more honesty and spirituality then some of these who pretend to be what they are not. They know what they do and sometimes are even remorseful about their actions.
How do we know the difference between a true “teacher” and a false prophet? We know it when they tell us what we want to hear even when we know it is not there’s to promise. We know it in our intuitive gut if we listen and develop a personal prayer life. And even if they still fool us awhile, they will reveal themselves in short order given human time.
Note I used the word teacher rather then prophet. Theology wise the prophet line ended with Jesus, though the Muslim community would disagree and the Jewish community are still waiting for the true Messiah.
Very few men or women today can or should be put on a pedestal above your own discernment. Guide yes, but not with blanket authority or trust. That is earned.
There are no short cuts to a relationship with God. We can draw closer by prayer, asking, and acting rightly. None of that guarantees anything. We do it because we have come to believe and we have a matured religiosity beyond simply being told to believe. It is wrapped in a thin concept of faith and hope that must be lived and experienced. The experience must over time intrinsically have both internal and external validity and cohesion. When it doesn’t you know it is probably a human desire rather than a divinely inspired influence.
Who aspires for mediocrity? I do aspire to live a holy life that is coherent in thoughts, belief, and action. I do seek out examples of those before me who possess elements of these qualities. I do not seek the fame of some of the great martyrs nor do I have the courage to ask God for more challenges or more suffering! Perhaps I am more apt to ask
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” for the most trivial inconveniences to more serious suffering that I may face.
In essence, I don’t believe our church leaders should be in the promise business. I believe they should be in the dialogue and lead by example business. The dialogue emphasis on what actions are expected of us to live a coherent spiritual life. What God does with that is where we have faith and hope.
We need spiritual leaders to be visible markers in our society initiate and continue the dialogue. We don’t need them to be sending out prayer rugs and promising prosperity or any other human request or fox hole prayer answer. What a disrespect to God and to all those whose prayers are not answered and tragedy visits them personally.
How much damage is splintered Christianity doing today to the faith as delivered to us 2021 years ago? Is it that bad that we expect a mass mailing campaign and prayer rug are the solution?
No, we expect more of each other and of our own individual actions. The rest we give to faith and hope that either our needs or prayers will be answered or that we will have the courage and strength to bear our crosses well. Priest or not, we are not God. We can act in his likeness and share each other’s triumphs and struggles.
Anyone need a prayer rug? I have one cheap….
“But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast of anything at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. . . . After this, let no one trouble me; I carry branded on my body the marks of Jesus.”
—GALATIANS 6:14, 17
This Galatians quote leads off a free book from Word on Fire ministries on the meaning and practice of the sign of the cross (link below). I had a few moments to explore it while at the airport. The book provides a nice blend of scripture, early Christian writers, and current Church writers on the history, meaning, and practice of the sacramental practice of making the sign of the cross.
In general I am wary of free modern day religious writing. Often free comes with a hidden price. At the very least, your time is valuable! This quick easy read was worth my time. The above quote and the chapter on suffering resonated for me. Most importantly, the reminder of the broad intention and desire we have when making the sign of the cross was hammered home as if we held the spikes that pierced Jesus on the Cross.
What are you thinking when you wear the crucifix or make the sign of the cross? Immersed in our secular lives it is easy for this simple gesture to become nothing more then a meaningless habit as evidenced by our behavior moments after our right hand completes the journey to Amen.
Do I deserve to wear the crucifix around my neck proclaiming my belief in Christ? When I make the sign of the cross is my heart, my soul, and my actions aligned with God’s intentions?
If you use the link below please also visit Word on Fire ministries who provided the e-book free. I have no affiliation other then being Catholic myself.
Word on Fire free book:
Catholic video on sign of the cross: https://youtu.be/
I tend to focus on what we do. Others focus on what the Devil is planning! There is no doubt we live amongst evil by whatever name you call it and sometimes it lurks with our own hearts. An intentional sign of the cross can stay our worst human impulses.
Catholic forums and the USBC are ablaze with the meaning of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The term of the day is “Eucharistic Coherence.” George Weigel does a pretty good job summarizing in one article called “The Challenge of Eucharistic Coherence” on February 3, 2021.[i] Why the uproar now?
We have a Catholic President who does not politically support “Right to Life” issues regarding the unborn sufficiently to align with Catholic values on this serious issue[ii] despite the rest of his life and his values being consistent with the overall dignity of life values that the Catholic Church teaches (care for the poor, access to healthcare, housing, education, equality, dignity, capital punishment, immigration, etc.). He is perhaps the anti-trump where the flip is historically accurate where his actions, at least legally on the right to life front, were aggressive but poorly lacking everyplace else.
The Catholic Church is unsure of itself and rightly so about President Biden and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The act of committing abortion meets three elements required that would easily preclude receiving the Eucharistic Sacrament:
- Abortion fits the Catholic Church definition of a “Grave matter” or a “Mortal Sin” as Catholicism considers the unborn child fully human from conception. Abortion is murder.
- Full-knowledge of the sin being committed is also a factor. No doubt President Biden is fully aware of his commitments to Catholicism versus his oath as president. The latter is a civil authority not aligned with Catholicism in all areas of law.
- The person must freely choose to commit or act or plan to do it.
To my knowledge, President Biden has not met any of these conditions. However, the Catholic Church would say he is complicit, as is our nation that ignores this issue, and many others, the dignity of life whether or not we commit an act or do not actively criminalize and incarcerate non-Catholics and Catholics who do not follow our moral definition of when life begins.
At issue is what to do about Catholics who willfully receive communion while not in a state of grace suitable for receiving the body and blood of Christ.
I have myself, on occasion, felt unworthy of communion and willfully opted out until, with the assistance of a confessor, I sorted somethings out to bring myself somewhat closer to an acceptable state of grace to participate in Holy Communion. Was that necessary? I can make the theological case that if I approached communion with genuine intention and placed my faults, the sacrament could absorb my sinful state without blemish. Was I guilty of grave sin? I have been guilty of grave sins or sins that are of grave matter as any premeditated “sin of a serious nature deliberately committed is a rejection of God’s law and love.”
Who among you are free of capital sins such as pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth? All of these are an affront to God by Catholic definition (Capital sins). Or how about St. Pauls list:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Catholic Church has rules for the faithful (doctrine, traditions, etc.), and many of these rules are not suggestions! Immersing oneself in the Catechism of the Catholic Church Article Three[iv] is only a starting point for conducting a spiritual examination before receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist each Sunday. Aside from the prohibitions that are brief, this article contains 21 pages on the Eucharistic Sacrament’s beauty and meaning.
Think of it as an elaborate invitation to the most prestigious human gale, ball, event, or wedding. You are invited with the expectation that you will come prepared. There is no expectation that somebody else has to check you at the door for proper attire, etc.! They were some serious robes to the Last Supper.
What to do when these rules are not followed gets religiously complicated quickly. The Church has rarely managed well its power dynamic with kings, autocrats, dictators, or presidents. Ex-communication is the method used and authorized by Canon law:
“In Roman Catholic canon law, ex-communication is a censure and thus a “medicinal penalty” intended to invite the person to change behavior or attitude that incurred the penalty, repent, and return to full communion. Ex-communication severs one from communion with the Church; excommunicated Catholics are forbidden from receiving any sacrament and refused a Catholic burial but are still bound by canonical obligations such as attending Mass or fasting seasonally. Excommunicated Catholics, however, are barred from receiving the Eucharist or from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). They are still Catholics per se, but are separated from the Church” Wikipedia has a list of excommunicated people from the first century to the current![v].
How many Catholics on Sunday morning conduct a sincere spiritual examination of their state of grace before receiving communion? If equipped to perform such an examination, what percentage would be short of the required grace defined by the Catholic Catechism?
I am less worried about President Biden’s state of grace than my own. I also have a hard time believing that one sinner or a thousand receiving the Eucharist with meaningful intention while not in a state of grace can in any way diminish God or the body of the church. I hold the sacrament as so powerful that it can heal any who come to the table willing to be healed.
The charge being levied at President Biden is Eucharistic Incoherence. I levy the same charge at myself and those throwing the stones first at Catholicism’s broad incoherence historically and current. As an institution we are far from without blemish and “more is being revealed” to us individually and collectively everyday as our humanity strives towards spiritual coherence.
We do strive to be and behave the opposite virtues of the “seven deadly sins.” What are they anyway?
Most of us are there trying our best to live a holy life, falling short individually and collectively. Celebrate and strengthen each other as these virtues are all around us everyday – people doing the right thing in the face of adversity. Let us not rush to judge or condemn with superficial knowledge and righteousness so quickly and may we receive equal consideration when our time for judgement comes today or at the end of days.
The Eucharistic Celebration, at its most basic level as originally intended, is miraculous and uniquely Catholic. Many words and paintings try to capture its essence, but only a personal journey and faith can truly reveal its meaning. Coherent or incoherent post I cannot decipher. I have not answered the President Biden dilemma that is apt to be misused by dividers and antagonist rather than by sincere soul-searching believers seeking coherence within and outside the faith.