When Porn Comes Knocking at the Door By: SEAN FITZPATRICK

With online pornography consumption on the rise during days of lockdown, New Zealand recently launched “Keep It Real Online,” a government safety campaign that provides content to help parents not only protect children from the threats that lurk on the Internet, but also come face to face with them. The movement gained positive attention this month through a video ad about Internet pornography, using their motif of every parent’s worst Internet nightmare knocking on their front door.

The ad shows a lady with bathrobe and morning mug answering the door. To her surprise, she finds a cheerful naked couple standing on the porch. The following dialogue ensues:

SUE: Hiya, I’m Sue. This is Derek. We’re here ’cause your son just looked us up online—you know, to watch us.

MOTHER: Matt, Matt, darling, there’s some people here to see you. So, he watches you online?

SUE: Yeah, you know, on his laptop…

DEREK: iPad, PlayStation…

SUE: His phone, your phone…

DEREK: Smart TV projector…

SUE: Yeah, anyway, we usually perform for adults, but your son’s just a kid. He might not know how relationships actually work. We don’t even talk about consent, do we? No, we just get straight to it.

DEREK: Yeah, and I’d never act like that in real life.

SUE: Nah. (Matt appears behind Mother, looking stunned) Hey, Matty. You alright?

MOTHER: (Aside) Okay, Sandra, stay calm. You know what to do here. (To Matt) Alright, Matty, it sounds like it’s time to have a talk about the difference between what you see online and real-life relationships. No judgement!

Besides being amusing, this ad is gently trying to get parents to wake up and smell the coffee: kids are “learning” about sex through online pornography. That is a problem because pornography is a lie, which is central to the pornographic experience—refusal to engage in the real and revelry in the unreal. What is interesting about the New Zealand ad is that its offbeat, waggish attitude makes the problem of pornography approachable and less distressing. Without detracting from the seriousness of the issue, the ad dodges being condemnatory, preachy, or alarmist. It is a true piece of satire, rendering the problem of pornography in a humorous light and therefore in a palatable light, while leveling a practical and persuasive challenge to parents.

Unfortunately, messaging like this is on the rare side in our porn-saturated age, which is a little surprising since the negative effects of pornography are becoming more widely acknowledged, even by governments and scientific studies. There is still, or course, a “judgement free” attitude about the whole thing. Even though this ad throws in a “no judgement” line, it is nevertheless unabashed about the danger and delusion of pornography and encourages parental awareness with a frankness that one is hard pressed to hear even from the pulpit. The deadly effects of pornography can be lifelong. While the glib nature of the ad concedes to the tacit approval that exits in our culture towards this sort of “adult entertainment,” it may as well be an ad casually encouraging parents not to let their child play Russian Roulette. Both are a question of life and death.

“Keep It Real Online” has a series of commercials like this about online bullying, stalking, and inappropriate content. While they argue, and rightly, that parents should talk to their kids about their online activity, they actually pose an argument for getting kids off the Internet period. Why play in a minefield? Keeping it real online is probably about really keeping kids offline. The Internet is so often used to entrap people, both young and old, through fantasy, the virtual, the unreal. At least as far as kids are concerned, the Internet should be used as a tool and not a toy.

As New Zealand’s campaign says, it’s all about keeping it real with real preventative measures and real communication. Such measures can be difficult to implement, but they are worth it in the long run. At the boarding school where I work, for instance, the boys are not allowed to have cellphones or computers. If a student is discovered with one in his possession, he is expelled. The reason for this hard-and-fast rule, draconian though it may sound, is that we are so adamant about keeping pornography out of our community, that, when it comes to teenage boys, we define the cellphone and the laptop as purveyors of pornography—and we are careful to tell them just that and in no uncertain terms. Again, why run the risk?

The reality is, porn is widespread, strategic, and insidious and must be met with just as much intelligence and intention. Porn is tremendously accessible, but that does not mean that it is inescapable. This is the reality that must be faced without panicking. Prudence demands that parents either plan on pornography rearing its ugly head or presume it already has and act accordingly. Whether children seek porn out or not, nowadays it is unimaginable that most—if not all—have not been assaulted by pornography’s lies in one way or another. It is a question of degree, but those degrees matter, as do the measures we take to mitigate them.

As the New Zealand ad bluntly (and blithely) states, pornography creates a false expectation. Men, for example, have a predisposition to protect women, but pornography depicts a violation of women that breaks down a boy’s sense of an essential characteristic of manhood. These perversions of self-knowledge are a tremendous inhibitor of knowledge of outside things, of truth, of the real. What is more, the disproportionate concept of mastery and manipulation that porn creates can cause boys to shut off instinctively when drawn to receive truths that are solid and supreme. Reality is not something that can be enslaved like a fantasy, and hence reality is often rejected once a taste develops for pornographic illusion. In other words, there is no keeping it real with pornography, so parents need to keep it real when it comes to pornography.

Reality can’t be uploaded or downloaded. Neither should it necessarily be something accessed easily—but it must remain the goal. Connected to the real, innocence and wonder can be safeguarded or even rekindled. Pornography is with us, and we shouldn’t wait for it to knock on the door to remind us, like our neighbor, that we need to do something about it. We have to be good parents, which means proactive parents, and guard our families and our culture from the disrespect and disregard that exploits for pleasure’s sake, ruining lives in the process. Only actual engagement will reduce of the spell of virtual disengagement. In the meantime, do you know what your kids are watching?

Sean Fitzpatrick

By 

Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

Are You Willing to Suffer Shame For the Sake of the Name? By Rob Marco

Are You Willing to Suffer Shame For the Sake of the Name?

By Rob Marco 

Have you ever wondered how many Jane and Joe Catholics are walking around, working, raising families, and wrapped up in the day to day who have no idea what road they might be on? Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, the majority of the average Catholics you encounter on the street have no idea that it is a sin to miss Mass on Sundays, to practice contraception, to get remarried without an annulment (adultery), to have an abortion or live a life totally ignoring the poor?

The Church knows that these situations need a remedy, so it has given us the Spiritual Works of Mercy to remind us of our obligations to help others practice the faith. Two of the seven are very hard to practice today, and I see them as going hand in hand: “Instructing the Ignorant” and “Admonishing the Sinner.”

Prophetic Mercy

With regard to the former, we all know where this has gotten us. Being ignorant or “in the dark” is sometimes happenstance (“You know, I never thought about that before!”), but sometimes it can be willful (“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.”) A shameful example of men remaining willfully ignorant in order to acquit themselves of culpability can be seen in Cardinal Donald Wuerl’s desire to remain “in the dark” when confronted with instances of abuse:

[Fr] Zirwas informed the diocese in 1996 that he knew of other Pittsburgh priests’ involvement in illegal sexual activity, the report found, and “demanded that his sustenance payments be increased” in exchange for that information. Wuerl replied with instructions to provide the names of the priests involved or to “state that he had no knowledge of what he had previously claimed” to get any additional assistance. The priest then disavowed any knowledge of priests being involved in illegal sexual activity in a letter to the diocese. “Zirwas was granted an additional financial stipend and his sustenance payments were continued,” the report said.

Sometimes, however, people of general good will, due to faulty or insufficient catechesis, can be effectively ignorant of the teachings of their religion. If a Catholic couple is fornicating or living together before marriage, they might just believe this is normal in today’s culture and go along with their lives with a skip and a smile.

To confront the situation, one might be afraid of turning them off altogether, or having them shut you down or hate you. But when opportunity presents itself to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), you are presented with an opportunity to save your brother or sister.

We know that the divine law is written onto the hearts of men, even for pagans and unbelievers. We know conscience is an endowed gift of God. So says St. Paul:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. (Romans 2:14-15)

Admittedly, I have always been bad at instructing and admonishing because I’m not that different from most people: I like to be liked and have thin skin, generally. But God is working on me, and I care less about human respect these days, so I’m more inclined to bring attention to these things, when presented with the opportunity.

Need for a Strategy

Practically speaking, though, how does instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner work?

First: get your own house in order. No one likes a hypocrite, and no one likes to be judged. Truth be told, we should not be judging people at all, but that does not mean we cannot judge actions as objectively right or wrong. Live a life of integrity yourself before admonishing others to do the same.

Second: When delivering hard truths that have the potential to knock someone off their rocker of ignorance, have some humility, and remember that you were once in their shoes. Expunge all sense of self-righteousness because people can sense this attitude a mile away. Make it clear by your thoughts, words, and actions that you care for the person you are speaking to and that you speak out of love.

Third: pray for grace and for the Holy Spirit both to give you the words and to speak for you. Do not rely on your own power. You are not a heart or mind reader like Padre Pio, so don’t act like one. If God tells you by the Holy Spirit in prayer that now is not the time to speak, then now is not the time to speak. If He tells you to speak the truth in love, speak the truth in love. Do whatever He tells you.

Fourth: always admonish with a smile. I don’t know if this is kosher or not; in fact, it’s even counter intuitive, but I think it can be disarming and helpful to smile, intentionally and genuinely, when admonishing. The message is important. How you deliver the message may be even more so. Not all of us can pull off being a John the Baptist. But we can deliver his message to repent in concrete ways without sounding like we’re scolding. Our faith is motivated by the joy of being saved from sin and death, and we need to communicate that concretely when dishing up hard truths if we want a greater likelihood of the medicine going down.

Fifth: suffer derision for their sake. Those you address may curse you or strike you even, ignore you or cut ties. They may mock you or accuse you. Take it upon yourself to pray and do reparations that they may have eyes to see and experience a new heart, a changed heart, a born-again heart. Christ took on suffering and derision for the sake of blind and ungrateful men. If we want to follow Him, it might be wise to get used to being rejected and having our love thwarted. That’s ok. God does His part, you do your part, and the rest is out of your hands.

The Cost of Discipleship

A potent image of standing in the midst of such derision and shame is that of the Woolworth’s sit-in during the Civil Rights movement. Blacks exercising civil disobedience had sugar, ketchup, and mustard poured on their heads when they refused to move. They knew what was right, were willing to take the hits for it, and refused to strike back or to be moved or intimidated.

We shouldn’t go looking for suffering when we live righteously. We must only speak the Gospel truth to those who are resistant to it, and suffering will undoubtedly find us. Stand for the truth when it hurts, and you will experience it. Love anyone, and you will suffer for it; it is only a matter of time. Discipleship costs.

But who knows – if you speak out and accept the consequences, they may hate you, but at the same time they may also wake from their fatal slumber. You will have popped their balloon of ignorance, and they will no longer be able to fly it into the careless clouds in good conscience. You will start them on a hard road, perhaps, and they will hate you for it, at least initially.

The Essence of the Matter

And you, my friend, don’t scorn this shame, but relish it, as the apostles did when “they left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). You know you are doing something right, earning your keep and on the narrow road, when you are covered in the mess the world pours on your head in its hatred of you. No matter. For then you will attest, with St. Dominic Savio, “If I can succeed in saving a single soul, I can be sure that my own will be saved.”

The post Are You Willing to Suffer Shame For the Sake of the Name? appeared first on Catholic Stand.

Benedict XVI, Vatican II, and the “hermeneutic of reform” By: Mark Brumley 

Benedict XVI’s approach to interpreting the council is neither a failure nor an attempt to make the most of a bad situation.

pope john xxiii leads the opening session of the second vatican council in st. peter's basilica at the vatican oct. 11
Pope John XXIII leads the opening session of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Oct. 11, 1962. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Recently, Second Vatican Council’s legitimacy and value have again been challenged. Some observers behave as if Benedict XVI saw Vatican II as a problem and proposed a “hermeneutic of continuity” to overcome the problem. Some people who act this way think Benedict XVI’s approach has failed.  Benedict XVI, who as Joseph Ratzinger contributed to the council as a theological advisor, insists on the value of Vatican II to the Church’s mission. His approach to interpreting the council is neither a failure nor an attempt to make the most of a bad situation. Rather, it is a straightforward, theologically cogent way to respond to those who misinterpret the council so they can further a different agenda from the one upon which the Church embarked in concluding Vatican II and promulgating its teachings. Benedict XVI advocates a “hermeneutic of reform”, which recognizes the necessity of essential continuity in fundamental doctrine, while bringing about a measure of change and thus of discontinuity in certain areas, as part of needed reform and doctrinal development, in light of changed historical circumstances and modern challenges.

Of course Benedict XVI’s fundamental commitment to Vatican II doesn’t mean its documents and concerns are beyond all respectful critique by competent theologians and pastors. But he certainly would reject the idea that the council is heretical or otherwise gravely flawed, should be forgotten, or is irrelevant to faithful Catholic life and mission today.

To help clarify Benedict XVI’s understanding of Vatican II, we reprint here a key excerpt from his 2005 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia:

The last event of this year on which I wish to reflect here is the celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago. This memory prompts the question: What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that St Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church’s situation after the Council of Nicaea:  he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things:  “The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamoring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith…” (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG 32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).

We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. The question arises:  Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarreled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform”, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council’s deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

In a word:  it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.

The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.

Through the Sacrament they have received, Bishops are stewards of the Lord’s gift. They are “stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Cor 4: 1); as such, they must be found to be “faithful” and “wise” (cf. Lk 12: 41-48). This requires them to administer the Lord’s gift in the right way, so that it is not left concealed in some hiding place but bears fruit, and the Lord may end by saying to the administrator:  “Since you were dependable in a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs” (cf. Mt 25: 14-30; Lk 19: 11-27).

These Gospel parables express the dynamic of fidelity required in the Lord’s service; and through them it becomes clear that, as in a Council, the dynamic and fidelity must converge.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech inaugurating the Council on 11 October 1962 and later by Pope Paul VI in his Discourse for the Council’s conclusion on 7 December 1965.

Here I shall cite only John XXIII’s well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes “to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion”. And he continues:  “Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us…”. It is necessary that “adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness…” be presented in “faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another…”, retaining the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).

It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith be lived. In this regard, the program that Pope John XXIII proposed was extremely demanding, indeed, just as the synthesis of fidelity and dynamic is demanding.

However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing.

In his Discourse closing the Council, Paul VI pointed out a further specific reason why a hermeneutic of discontinuity can seem convincing.

In the great dispute about man which marks the modern epoch, the Council had to focus in particular on the theme of anthropology. It had to question the relationship between the Church and her faith on the one hand, and man and the contemporary world on the other (cf. ibid.). The question becomes even clearer if, instead of the generic term “contemporary world”, we opt for another that is more precise:  the Council had to determine in a new way the relationship between the Church and the modern era.

This relationship had a somewhat stormy beginning with the Galileo case. It was then totally interrupted when Kant described “religion within pure reason” and when, in the radical phase of the French Revolution, an image of the State and the human being that practically no longer wanted to allow the Church any room was disseminated.

In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church’s faith and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make the “hypothesis of God” superfluous, had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.

In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.

The natural sciences were beginning to reflect more and more clearly their own limitations imposed by their own method, which, despite achieving great things, was nevertheless unable to grasp the global nature of reality.

So it was that both parties were gradually beginning to open up to each other. In the period between the two World Wars and especially after the Second World War, Catholic statesmen demonstrated that a modern secular State could exist that was not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.

Catholic social doctrine, as it gradually developed, became an important model between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the State. The natural sciences, which without reservation professed a method of their own to which God was barred access, realized ever more clearly that this method did not include the whole of reality. Hence, they once again opened their doors to God, knowing that reality is greater than the naturalistic method and all that it can encompass.

It might be said that three circles of questions had formed which then, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, were expecting an answer. First of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be redefined. Furthermore, this did not only concern the natural sciences but also historical science for, in a certain school, the historical-critical method claimed to have the last word on the interpretation of the Bible and, demanding total exclusivity for its interpretation of Sacred Scripture, was opposed to important points in the interpretation elaborated by the faith of the Church.

Secondly, it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practice their own religion.

Thirdly, linked more generally to this was the problem of religious tolerance – a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions. In particular, before the recent crimes of the Nazi regime and, in general, with a retrospective look at a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.

These are all subjects of great importance – they were the great themes of the second part of the Council – on which it is impossible to reflect more broadly in this context. It is clear that in all these sectors, which all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity might emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.

It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church’s decisions on contingent matters – for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible – should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within.
On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.

Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change. Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.

It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.

The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time. The ancient Church naturally prayed for the emperors and political leaders out of duty (cf. I Tm 2: 2); but while she prayed for the emperors, she refused to worship them and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the State.

The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith – a profession that no State can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God’s grace in freedom of conscience. A missionary Church known for proclaiming her message to all peoples must necessarily work for the freedom of the faith. She desires to transmit the gift of the truth that exists for one and all.

At the same time, she assures peoples and their Governments that she does not wish to destroy their identity and culture by doing so, but to give them, on the contrary, a response which, in their innermost depths, they are waiting for – a response with which the multiplicity of cultures is not lost but instead unity between men and women increases and thus also peace between peoples.

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she continues “her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 8).

Those who expected that with this fundamental “yes” to the modern era all tensions would be dispelled and that the “openness towards the world” accordingly achieved would transform everything into pure harmony, had underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent in the modern epoch.

They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history and in every historical constellation. These dangers, with the new possibilities and new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day shows this clearly.

In our time too, the Church remains a “sign that will be opposed” (Lk 2: 34) – not without reason did Pope John Paul II, then still a Cardinal, give this title to the theme for the Spiritual Exercises he preached in 1976 to Pope Paul VI and the Roman Curia. The Council could not have intended to abolish the Gospel’s opposition to human dangers and errors.

On the contrary, it was certainly the Council’s intention to overcome erroneous or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world the requirement of the Gospel in its full greatness and purity.

The steps the Council took towards the modern era which had rather vaguely been presented as “openness to the world”, belong in short to the perennial problem of the relationship between faith and reason that is re-emerging in ever new forms. The situation that the Council had to face can certainly be compared to events of previous epochs.

In his First Letter, St Peter urged Christians always to be ready to give an answer (apo-logia) to anyone who asked them for the logos, the reason for their faith (cf. 3: 15).

This meant that biblical faith had to be discussed and come into contact with Greek culture and learn to recognize through interpretation the separating line but also the convergence and the affinity between them in the one reason, given by God.

When, in the 13th century through the Jewish and Arab philosophers, Aristotelian thought came into contact with Medieval Christianity formed in the Platonic tradition and faith and reason risked entering an irreconcilable contradiction, it was above all St Thomas Aquinas who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time. There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican Council the time came when broad new thinking was required.

Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts, but this determined its essential direction, so that the dialogue between reason and faith, particularly important today, found its bearings on the basis of the Second Vatican Council.

This dialogue must now be developed with great open-mindedness but also with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council:  if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.


 

About Mark Brumley  
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.

Complaints change nothing: Pope’s forceful homily for Sts. Peter and Paul (full text)

PAPIEŻ FRANCISZEK

ANGELO CARCONI/AFP/East News

“It is pointless, even tedious, for Christians to waste their time complaining about the world, about society, about everything that is not right. Complaints change nothing.”

On this feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with a reduced congregation in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he focused on the striking moment the early Church passed through after the first martyrdom of an apostle.~

On the feast of the two Apostles of this City, I would like to share with you two key words: unity and prophecy.

Unity. We celebrate together two very different individuals: Peter, a fisherman who spent his days amid boats and nets, and Paul, a learned Pharisee who taught in synagogues. When they went forth on mission, Peter spoke to Jews, and Paul to pagans. And when their paths crossed, they could argue heatedly, as Paul is unashamed to admit in one of his letters (cf. Gal2:11). In short, they were two very different people, yet they saw one another as brothers, as happens in close-knit families where there may be frequent arguments but unfailing love. Yet the closeness that joined Peter and Paul did not come from natural inclinations, but from the Lord.  He did not command us to like one another, but to love one another. He is the one who unites us, without making us all alike. He unites us in our differences.

Today’s first reading brings us to the source of this unity. It relates how the newly born Church was experiencing a moment of crisis: Herod was furious, a violent persecution had broken out, and the Apostle James had been killed. And now Peter had been arrested. The community seemed headless, everyone fearing for his life. Yet at that tragic moment no one ran away, no one thought about saving his own skin, no one abandoned the others, but all joined in prayer. From prayer they drew strength, from prayer came a unity more powerful than any threat. The text says that, “while Peter was kept in prison, the Church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Unity is the fruit of prayer, for prayer allows the Holy Spirit to intervene, opening our hearts to hope, shortening distances and holding us together at times of difficulty.

Let us notice something else: at that dramatic moment, no one complained about Herod’s evil and his persecution. No one abused Herod – and we are so accustomed to abuse those who are in charge. It is pointless, even tedious, for Christians to waste their time complaining about the world, about society, about everything that is not right. Complaints change nothing. Let us remember that complaining is the second door that closes us off from the Holy Spirit, as I said on Pentecost Sunday.

These three attitudes close the door to the Holy Spirit. Those Christians did not cast blame; rather, they prayed. In that community, no one said: “If Peter had been more careful, we would not be in this situation.” No one. Humanly speaking, there were reasons to criticize Peter, but no one criticized him. They did not complain about Peter; they prayed for him. They did not talk about Peter behind his back; they talked to God.

What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue?

We today can ask: “Are we protecting our unity, our unity in the Church, with prayer? Are we praying for one another?” What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue? The same thing that happened to Peter in prison: now as then, so many closed doors would be opened, so many chains that bind would be broken. We would be amazed, like the maid who saw Peter at the gate and did not open it, but ran inside, astonished by the joy of seeing Peter (cf. Acts 12:10-17).

Let us ask for the grace to be able to pray for one another. Saint Paul urged Christians to pray for everyone, especially those who govern (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-3). “But this governor is…,” and there are many adjectives. I will not mention them, because this is neither the time nor the place to mention adjectives that we hear directed against those who govern. Let God judge them; let us pray for those who govern! Let us pray: for they need prayer. This is a task that the Lord has entrusted to us. Are we carrying it out?  Or do we simply talk, abuse and do nothing? God expects that when we pray we will also be mindful of those who do not think as we do, those who have slammed the door in our face, those whom we find it hard to forgive. Only prayer unlocks chains, as it did for Peter; only prayer paves the way to unity.

Today we bless the pallia to be bestowed on the Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Metropolitan Archbishops named in the last year. The pallium is a sign of the unity between the sheep and the Shepherd who, like Jesus, carries the sheep on his shoulders, so as never to be separated from it.

Today too, in accordance with a fine tradition, we are united in a particular way with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Peter and Andrew were brothers, and, whenever possible, we exchange fraternal visits on our respective feast days. We do so not only out of courtesy, but as a means of journeying together towards the goal that the Lord points out to us: that of full unity. We could not do so today because of the difficulty of travel due to the Coronavirus, but when I went to venerate the remains of Peter, in my heart I felt my beloved brother Bartholomew. They are here, with us.

The second word is prophecyUnity and prophecy. The Apostles were challenged by Jesus.  Peter heard Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?” (cf. Mt 16:15). At that moment he realized that the Lord was not interested in what others thought, but in Peter’s personal decision to follow him. Paul’s life changed after a similar challenge from Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).

The Lord shook Paul to the core: more than just knocking him to the ground on the road to Damascus, he shattered Paul’s illusion of being respectably religious.  As a result, the proud Saul turned into Paul, a name that means “small.” These challenges and reversals are followed by prophecies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18); and, for Paul: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

Prophecy is born whenever we allow ourselves to be challenged by God, not when we are concerned to keep everything quiet and under control. Prophecy is not born from my thoughts, from my closed heart. It is born if we allow ourselves to be challenged by God. When the Gospel overturns certainties, prophecy arises. Only someone who is open to God’s surprises can become a prophet.

And there they are: Peter and Paul, prophets who look to the future. Peter is the first to proclaim that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Paul, who considers his impending death: “From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award to me” (2 Tim 4:8).

Today we need prophecy, but real prophecy: not fast talkers who promise the impossible, but testimonies that the Gospel is possible.

Today we need prophecy, but real prophecy: not fast talkers who promise the impossible, but testimonies that the Gospel is possible. What is needed are not miraculous shows. It makes me sad when I hear someone say, “We want a prophetic Church.” All right. But what are you doing, so that the Church can be prophetic? We need lives that show the miracle of God’s love. Not forcefulness, but forthrightness. Not palaver, but prayer. Not speeches, but service.

Do you want a prophetic Church? Then start serving and be quiet. Not theory, but testimony. We are not to become rich, but rather to love the poor. We are not to save up for ourselves, but to spend ourselves for others. To seek not the approval of this world, of being comfortable with everyone – here we say: “being comfortable with God and the devil”, being comfortable with everyone -; no, this is not prophecy. We need the joy of the world to come. Not better pastoral plans that seem to have their own self-contained efficiency, as if they were sacraments; efficient pastoral plans, no. We need pastors who offer their lives: lovers of God.

That is how Peter and Paul preached Jesus, as men in love with God. At his crucifixion, Peter did not think about himself but about his Lord, and, considering himself unworthy of dying like Jesus, asked to be crucified upside down. Before his beheading, Paul thought only of offering his life; he wrote that he wanted to be “poured out like a libation” (2 Tim 4:6). That was prophecy. Not words. That was prophecy, the prophecy that changed history.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus prophesied to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” There is a similar prophecy for us too. It is found in the last book of the Bible, where Jesus promises his faithful witnesses “a white stone, on which a new name is written” (Rev 2:17). Just as the Lord turned Simon into Peter, so he is calling each one of us, in order to make us living stones with which to build a renewed Church and a renewed humanity.

There are always those who destroy unity and stifle prophecy, yet the Lord believes in us and he asks you: “Do you want to be a builder of unity? Do you want to be a prophet of my heaven on earth?” Brothers and sisters, let us be challenged by Jesus, and find the courage to say to him: “Yes, I do!”

The Secret Roots of Liberation Theology By ION MIHAI PACEPA

Liberation theology, of which not much has been heard for two decades, is back in the news. But what is not being mentioned is its origins. It was not invented by Latin American Catholics. It was developed by the KGB. The man who is now the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, secretly worked for the KGB under the code name “Mikhailov” and spent four decades promoting liberation theology, which we at the top of the Eastern European intelligence community nicknamed Christianized Marxism.

Liberation theology has been generally understood to be a marriage of Marxism and Christianity. What has not been understood is that it was not the product of Christians who pursued Communism, but of Communists who pursued Christians. I described the birth of liberation theology in my book Disinformation, co-authored with Professor Ronald Rychlak. Its genesis was part of a highly classified Party/State Disinformation Program, formally approved in 1960 by KGB chairman Aleksandr Shelepin and Politburo member Aleksei Kirichenko, then the second in the party hierarchy after Nikita Khrushchev.

In 1971, the KGB sent Kirill — who had just been elevated to the rank of archimandrite — to Geneva as emissary of the Russian Orthodox Church to the World Council of Churches. The WCC was, and still is, the largest international religious organization after the Vatican, representing some 550 million Christians of various denominations in 120 countries. Kirill/Mikhailov’s main task was to involve the WCC in spreading the new liberation theology throughout Latin America. In 1975, the KGB was able to infiltrate Kirill into the Central Committee of the WCC — a position he held until he was “elected” patriarch of Russia, in 2009. Not long after he joined the Central Committee, Kirill reported to the KGB: “Now the agenda of the WCC is also our agenda.”

During Kirill’s years at the helm of the WCC, liberation theology put down deep roots in Latin America — where the map now has significant patches of red. Russian military ships and bombers are back in Cuba for the first time since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and Russia has also newly sent ships and bombers to Venezuela.

Pope John Paul II, who knew the Communist playbook well, was not taken in by the Soviets’ liberation theology. In 1983, his friend and trusted colleague Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), who at that time was head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, discarded as Marxist the liberation-theology idea that class struggle is fundamental to history. The cardinal called liberation theology a “singular heresy” and blasted it as a “fundamental threat” to the Church.

Of course, it was and remains a threat — one deliberately designed to undermine the Church and destabilize the West by subordinating religion to an atheist political ideology for its geopolitical gain.

Now names — like Oscar Romero and Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann – not heard since the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was still en vogue, are again making international news. And here we are. The promoters of a KGB-inspired religious ideology, which once embraced violent Marxist revolution, are now denying its link to Marxism and to the KGB.

Each society reflects its own past. Down through the ages, everyone who has sat on the Kremlin throne — autocratic tsar, Communist leader, or democratically elected president — has been preoccupied with controlling all expressions of religion that might impinge on his political ambitions. When Ivan IV — the Terrible — had himself crowned in 1547 as Russia’s first tsar, he also made himself head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Tsarism and Communism may have been swallowed up by the sands of time, but the Kremlin continues this tradition.

Throughout its history, Russia has been a samoderzhaviye, a traditional Russian form of totalitarian autocracy in which a feudal lord rules the country and the church with the help of his political police force. The latter, whenever it had a sticky image problem, simply changed its name — from Okhrana to Cheka, to GPU, to OGPU, to NKVD, to NKGB, to MGB, to MVD, to KGB — ­and pretended it was a brand new organization.

Many deceased KGB officers must have been chortling in their graves on New Year’s Eve, 1999, when their old boss, Vladimir Putin, at one time my KGB counterpart, enthroned himself in the Kremlin. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Now the KGB — rechristened FSB — is the state itself. According to a study published in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, by 2003, some 6,000 former KGB officers were running Russia’s federal and local governments. The respected British newspaper the Guardian reports that President Putin has secretly accumulated over $40 billion, becoming Europe’s richest man.

A few years ago, while Kirill was visiting Ukraine as the new Patriarch of Russia, a newspaper published a photo in which the prelate could be seen wearing a Breguet wristwatch, the price of which was estimated at 30,000 euros. The Russian newspaper Kommersant accused Kirill of abusing the privilege of duty-free importation of cigarettes, and dubbed him the “tobacco metropolitan.” Kirill denied having such a watch. He said the photograph must have been altered by his enemies, and he posted the “real” photograph on his official website. A careful study of this “real” photograph, however, shows that the Breguet watch had been airbrushed off his wrist, but its reflection is still clearly visible on a table surface beneath his arm.

Mikhailov and his KGB, rechristened FSB, are now doing their best to airbrush out the apron strings connecting them to liberation theology. Let’s not allow them to succeed.

— Lieutenant General (retired) Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking Soviet-bloc official ever to defect to the West. His last book, Disinformation, co-authored with Professor Ronald Rychlak and published by WND, is currently being made into a Hollywood movie

Archbishop Viganò On the Brink of Schism. The Unheeded Lesson of Benedict XVI

Viganò

> All the articles of Settimo Cielo in English

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Benedict XVI promoted him to apostolic nuncio in the United States in 2011. The meek theologian pope certainly could not have imagined, nine years ago, that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò – who returned to private life in 2016 but has been anything but hidden – would today be blaming him for having “deceived” the whole Church in that he would have it be believed that the Second Vatican Council was immune to heresies and moreover should be interpreted in perfect continuity with true perennial doctrine.

Because this is just the length to which Viganò has gone in recent days, capping off a relentless barrage of denunciations of Church heresies over the last few decades, with the root of it all being the Council, most recently in an exchange with Phil Lawler, editor of CatholicCulture.org.

Attention: not the Council interpreted badly, but the Council as such and en bloc. In his latest public statements, in fact, Viganò has rejected as too timid and vacuous even the claim of some to “correct” Vatican II here and there, in its texts which in his judgment are more blatantly heretical, such as the declaration “Dignitatis Humanae” on religious freedom. Because what must be done once and for all – he has demanded – is “to drop it ‘in toto’ and forget it.”

Naturally with the concomitant “expulsion from the sacred precinct” of all those Church authorities who, identified as guilty of the deception and “invited to amend,” have not changed their ways.

According to Viganò, what has distorted the Church ever since the Council is a sort of “universal religion whose first theoretician was Freemasonry.” And whose political arm is that “completely out-of-control world government” pursued by the “nameless and faceless” powers that are now bending to their own interests even the coronavirus pandemic.

Last May 8, cardinals Gerhard Müller and Joseph Zen Zekiun also carelessly affixed their signatures to an appeal by Viganò against this looming “New World Order.”

Just as to a subsequent open letter from Viganò to Donald Trump – whom he invoked as a warrior of light against the power of darkness that acts both in the “deep state” and in the “deep Church” – the president of the United States replied enthusiastically, with a tweet that went viral.

But getting back to the reckless indictment launched by Viganò against Benedict XVI for his “failed attempts to correct conciliar excesses by invoking the hermeneutic of continuity,” it is obligatory to give the accused the right to speak.

The hermeneutic of continuity – or more precisely: “the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church”  – is in fact the keystone of the interpretation that Benedict XVI gave of Vatican Council II, in his memorable address to the Vatican curia on Christmas Eve of 2005, the first year of his pontificate.

It is a speech that is absolutely to be reread in its entirety:

> “Your Eminences, venerable brothers…”

But here in summation is how pope Joseph Ratzinger developed his exegesis of Vatican Council II.

He began by recalling that also after the Council of Nicaea in 325 the Church was rocked by the most heated conflicts, which made St. Basil write:

“The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith…”

But why has the aftermath of Vatican II been so contentious as well? Benedict XVI’s answer is that everything has  depended “on its hermeneutic,” meaning on the “key to interpreting and applying it.”

The conflict has arisen from the fact that “two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. ”

On the one hand there was a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.” On the other, a “hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church.”

According to the first hermeneutic “it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit,” making room for “impulses toward the new” that are seen as underlying the texts, “in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless.”

But with this – the pope objected – “the nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one.” When instead “the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord” and the bishops need simply be its faithful and wise “administrators.”

Up to this point, Benedict XVI therefore seemed to attribute the hermeneutic of discontinuity to the Church’s progressive current alone. But further on in the address, in analyzing in depth the Council’s intention to “give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State,” he took up the question on which not the progressives but the traditionalists have stumbled more, to the point of breaking with the Church as the followers of Marcel Lefebvre have done and as Viganò now seems on the point of doing.

It is the question of religious freedom, addressed by the conciliar declaration “Dignitatis Humanae.” A declaration that Viganò too charges with the worst of offenses, to the point of writing that “if it has been possible for Pachamama to be worshiped in a church, we owe this to ‘Dignitatis Humanae’.”

In fact, it is undeniable that on religious freedom Vatican II marked a clear discontinuity, if not a rupture, with the ordinary teaching of the Church of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which was strongly anti-liberal. Benedict XVI explicitly recognized this in his address and also explained the historical reasons for it, which precisely because they are historical have changed over time and allowed the Council, “recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom,” to recover “the deepest patrimony of the Church,” that “of Jesus himself” and “of the martyrs of the early Church,” who “died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith – a profession that no State can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God’s grace in freedom of conscience.”

“It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform,” pope Ratzinger said in that address. “The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.”

There is therefore a “hermeneutic of discontinuity” to which Benedict XVI as well gave his approval, because “it is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists.”

But at this point we might as well let him talk and reproduce below the final part of that address of his on the Council, in which he presented at length what has been summarized above in a few lines.

Viganò’s counterarguments are also available on the websites that cover him. Let the reader compare.

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“In this process of innovation in continuity…”

by Benedict XVI

[…] In the great dispute about man which marks the modern epoch, the Council had to focus in particular on the theme of anthropology. It had to question the relationship between the Church and her faith on the one hand, and man and the contemporary world on the other. The question becomes even clearer if, instead of the generic term “contemporary world”, we opt for another that is more precise:  the Council had to determine in a new way the relationship between the Church and the modern era.

This relationship had a somewhat stormy beginning with the Galileo case. It was then totally interrupted when Kant described “religion within pure reason” and when, in the radical phase of the French Revolution, an image of the State and the human being that practically no longer wanted to allow the Church any room was disseminated.

In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church’s faith and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly proposing to make the “hypothesis of God” superfluous, had elicited from the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.

In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution.

The natural sciences were beginning to reflect more and more clearly their own limitations imposed by their own method, which, despite achieving great things, was nevertheless unable to grasp the global nature of reality.

So it was that both parties were gradually beginning to open up to each other. In the period between the two World Wars and especially after the Second World War, Catholic statesmen demonstrated that a modern secular State could exist that was not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.

Catholic social doctrine, as it gradually developed, became an important model between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the State. The natural sciences, which without reservation professed a method of their own to which God was barred access, realized ever more clearly that this method did not include the whole of reality. Hence, they once again opened their doors to God, knowing that reality is greater than the naturalistic method and all that it can encompass.

It might be said that three circles of questions had formed which then, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, were expecting an answer.

First of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be redefined. Furthermore, this did not only concern the natural sciences but also historical science for, in a certain school, the historical-critical method claimed to have the last word on the interpretation of the Bible and, demanding total exclusivity for its interpretation of Sacred Scripture, was opposed to important points in the interpretation elaborated by the faith of the Church.

Secondly, it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practise their own religion.

Thirdly, linked more generally to this was the problem of religious tolerance – a question that required a new definition of the relationship between the Christian faith and the world religions. In particular, before the recent crimes of the Nazi regime and, in general, with a retrospective look at a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.

These are all subjects of great importance – they were the great themes of the second part of the Council – on which it is impossible to reflect more broadly in this context. It is clear that in all these sectors, which all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity might emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.

It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church’s decisions on contingent matters – for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible – should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within.
On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.

Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change. Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.

It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.

The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time. The ancient Church naturally prayed for the emperors and political leaders out of duty (cf. I Tm 2: 2); but while she prayed for the emperors, she refused to worship them and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the State.

The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith – a profession that no State can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God’s grace in freedom of conscience. A missionary Church known for proclaiming her message to all peoples must necessarily work for the freedom of the faith. She desires to transmit the gift of the truth that exists for one and all.

At the same time, she assures peoples and their Governments that she does not wish to destroy their identity and culture by doing so, but to give them, on the contrary, a response which, in their innermost depths, they are waiting for – a response with which the multiplicity of cultures is not lost but instead unity between men and women increases and thus also peace between peoples.

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she continues “her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 8).

Those who expected that with this fundamental “yes” to the modern era all tensions would be dispelled and that the “openness towards the world” accordingly achieved would transform everything into pure harmony, had underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent in the modern epoch.

They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history and in every historical constellation. These dangers, with the new possibilities and new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day shows this clearly.

In our time too, the Church remains a “sign that will be opposed” (Lk 2: 34) – not without reason did Pope John Paul II, then still a Cardinal, give this title to the theme for the Spiritual Exercises he preached in 1976 to Pope Paul VI and the Roman Curia. The Council could not have intended to abolish the Gospel’s opposition to human dangers and errors.

On the contrary, it was certainly the Council’s intention to overcome erroneous or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world the requirement of the Gospel in its full greatness and purity.

The steps the Council took towards the modern era which had rather vaguely been presented as “openness to the world”, belong in short to the perennial problem of the relationship between faith and reason that is re-emerging in ever new forms. The situation that the Council had to face can certainly be compared to events of previous epochs.

In his First Letter, St Peter urged Christians always to be ready to give an answer (apo-logia) to anyone who asked them for the logos, the reason for their faith (cf. 3: 15). This meant that biblical faith had to be discussed and come into contact with Greek culture and learn to recognize through interpretation the separating line but also the convergence and the affinity between them in the one reason, given by God.

When, in the 13th century through the Jewish and Arab philosophers, Aristotelian thought came into contact with Medieval Christianity formed in the Platonic tradition and faith and reason risked entering an irreconcilable contradiction, it was above all St Thomas Aquinas who mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy, thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason prevalent in his time. There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican Council the time came when broad new thinking was required.

Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts, but this determined its essential direction, so that the dialogue between reason and faith, particularly important today, found its bearings on the basis of the Second Vatican Council.

This dialogue must now be developed with great openmindedness but also with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican Council:  if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.

Rome, December 22, 2005

A Catholic response to racism Deacon by Harold Burke-Sivers 

Racism is learned behavior, and Catholics can play a significant role in breaking down the walls of racism by taking a “hands on” approach to creating pillars of mutual respect and understanding built on the firm foundation of covenant relationship.

 

People in Tulsa, Okla., talk during a racial injustice protest June 20, 2020. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

“Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.”  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these eloquent words almost fifty-six years ago when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He went on to say that if peace and racial equality are to be achieved, “man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Dr. King is speaking of a love rooted in faith, a faith that acknowledges that “God is love, and he who lives in love, lives in God and God lives in him” (Jn 4:16). Racial injustice and prejudice are antithetical to love, truth, freedom, and peace.

In order to adequately address issues of race, it is important to define our terms. Prejudice, with regard to race, is a preconceived notion about someone that is not based on any factual or objective experience, and often leads to stereotyping. Racism is prejudice or discrimination directed toward someone of a different race rooted in the belief that one race is superior to another. For example, during the course of a conversation I was having with an acquaintance, they learned that I am from the Newark, NJ area. The person assumed, therefore, that I grew up poor and surrounded by gangs. This individual clearly expressed a prejudicial opinion based in ignorance, but the sentiment itself is not necessarily racist. Organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups, however, would most certainly be racist.

All of us, to some extent, harbor some level of prejudice. If I am speaking to someone from the South, for example, I often assume they like to eat shrimp and grits. This assumption is not based in fact but simply anecdotal on my part. Since I know lots of Southerners who enjoy shrimp and grits, I ignorantly assumed that all Southerners like it as well. Many of our prejudices or ideas of racial superiority are learned. We consume images and soundbites from television, movies, and social media that inundate us with caricatures of various races that are often belittling and derisive and, even if only subliminally, plant seeds of half-truths in the minds and hearts of the viewer or listener. When you see, for example, images of black people as slaves, domestics, and gang members day after day and year after year, these portrayals work their way into our psyche and unintentionally become, to some extent, “true” or “the way it is.”

Prejudiced and racist attitudes of individuals also infiltrate institutional structures and organizations, thus forming the foundation for systemic racism. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, apartheid, and the Dred Scott v. John F. Sanford Supreme Court decision are clear examples of this. Even in the history of the Church, Catholic leaders and organizations chose to follow civil law rather than the law of God by owning slaves, implementing segregation in the churches, and excluding minorities from participation in the life of the Church. The residual effects of these attitudes are still felt by many Catholics of color today.

That said, we must be careful with the term “institutional racism.” In order to factually claim that an institution is racist, you must show that the institution actively promotes racism through official or unofficial policies, procedures, directives, etc. that enshrine the belief that one race is superior to another. Institutional racism must be distinguished from individuals within institutions who continue to hold prejudiced and racist attitudes. The Church herself, founded by Jesus Christ, is not racist, but there are undoubtedly individuals within the Church (both clergy and laity) who are racists. Likewise, law enforcement agencies, in and of themselves, are not racist, but there are unquestionably individuals within those agencies who exhibit prejudice or are blatantly racist. We must recognize the fact that we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy and that we are still dealing with the effects of original sin.

If we are honest, it must acknowledged that the Church in the United States has been slow to respond to racism. It has only been in the last sixty years that racism has been addressed in any significant way. In their pastoral letter Brothers and Sisters to Uspublished in 1979, the bishops stated:

Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part, it is only external appearances which have changed. In 1958, we spoke out against the blatant forms of racism that divided people through discriminatory laws and enforced segregation. We pointed out the moral evil that denied human persons their dignity as children of God and their God-given rights. A decade later in a second pastoral letter we again underscored the continuing scandal of racism and called for decisive action to eradicate it from our society. We recognize and applaud the readiness of many Americans to make new strides forward in reducing and eliminating prejudice against minorities. We are convinced that the majority of Americans realize that racial discrimination is both unjust and unworthy of this nation.

Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of race. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: “Treat the others the way you would have them treat you.” Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for these words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation. 

On September 9, 1984, the feast of St. Peter Claver, the ten black bishops of the United States at that time issued a ground-breaking document on evangelization and the black Catholic community called What We Have Seen and Heard. In that letter, the bishops wrote:

Black people know what freedom is because we remember the dehumanizing force of slavery, racist prejudice, and oppression. No one can understand so well the meaning of the proclamation that Christ has set us free than those who have experienced the denial of freedom. For us, therefore, freedom is a cherished gift. For its preservation, no sacrifice is too great. Hence, freedom brings responsibility. It must never be abused, equated with license, nor taken for granted. Freedom is God’s gift, and we are accountable to Him for our loss of it. And we are accountable for the gift of freedom in the lives of others. We oppose all oppression and all injustice, for unless all are free none are free.

In recent years, individual bishops have also spoken openly about the issue of race. In 2015, in a response to a series of incidents involving African American men and law enforcement officials that sparked national outcry and protests, Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said:

We mourn those tragic events in which African Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement officials. . . . In every in-stance, our prayer for every community is that of our Lord in St. John’s Gospel, “that they all may be one.” . . . We join our voices with civic and religious leaders in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation. Our efforts must address root causes of these conflicts. A violent, sorrowful history of racial injustice, accompanied by a lack of educational, employment and housing opportunities, has destroyed communities and broken down families, especially those who live in distressed urban communities. 

Bishop Edward K. Braxton, shepherd of the Diocese of Bellville and an outspoken prelate on racism, stated in a lecture given at the Catholic University of America in 2017:

We Catholics, like other Christians, sometimes have only a superficial cultural commitment to our faith. We do not experience our faith in Jesus Christ and his command to love at the deepest levels of our being. Only this deep existential commitment to follow Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, will impel us to truly live the Catholic faith we profess in all of the complex and difficult situations of our lives, including those which will require us to oppose anyone and anything that serves to maintain the racial divide.

Most recently, in 2018, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter against racism called Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love.  The document focuses on the sin of racism in society and the Church, and the urgent need for all of us to come together to find solutions.

The cumulative effects of personal sins of racism have led to social structures of injustice and violence that makes us all accomplices in racism.

We read the headlines that report the killing of unarmed African Americans by law enforcement officials. In our prisons, the number of inmates of color, notably those who are brown and black, is grossly disproportionate. Despite the great blessings of liberty that this country offers, we must admit the plain truth that for many of our fellow citizens, who have done nothing wrong, interactions with the police are often fraught with fear and even danger. At the same time, we reject harsh rhetoric that belittles and dehumanizes law enforcement personnel who labor to keep our communities safe. We also condemn violent attacks against police.

Conversion is a long road to travel for the individual. Moving our nation to a full realization of the promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all is even more challenging. However, in Christ we can find the strength and the grace necessary to make that journey.

Love compels each of us to resist racism courageously. It requires us to reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist. Overcoming racism is a demand of justice, but because Christian love transcends justice, the end of racism will mean that our community will bear fruit beyond simply the fair treatment of all.

Like all of you, I am sickened by the events of the past weeks, months, and years. The solution to what we are seeing and experiencing in this country is not rioting, looting, and vandalism.  Racism is learned behavior, and Catholics can play a significant role in breaking down the walls of racism by taking a “hands on” approach to creating pillars of mutual respect and understanding built on the firm foundation of covenant relationship.

We need to see past stereotypes and see people. Racist ideologies create images that leave negative impressions on susceptible and vulnerable minds and hearts, especially those of children. We need to recognize our own prejudices and racist attitudes, acknowledge them, then work hard to crucify this way of thinking and, instead, see the image and likeness of God in each other. We should stop supporting media outlets, individuals, and organizations that create, encourage, and perpetuate racist stereotypes, or who propose violence and anarchy as solutions.

Appreciate the gift of cultural diversity. Host and attend cultural events in the parish or diocese where the customs and traditions of other races can be appreciated and celebrated, not feared and caricatured. This includes cross-pollination within parishes where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass includes authentic and reverent cultural expressions that acknowledge the unique gifts we all bring to the Body of Christ.

Make a serious effort to promote conversation and dialogue. Back in 2016, rappers Snoop Dogg (Calvin Broadus) and The Game (Jayceon Terrell Taylor) organized a summit where they met with the Los Angeles police chief and mayor. The purpose was to facilitate effective change through dialogue and understanding. Efforts like this need to be applauded and multiplied, where communication barriers are shattered and respectful dialogue is opened between those in power and the disenfranchised. Deep-seeded commitments to building integrity, sharing wisdom, and imparting knowledge can lead to reciprocity of love and change. Reaching out with compassion to those of different races and hearing their stories, responding with empathy, and working through differences with humble, contrite hearts can create a harmonic of love that will reverberate in our hearts and throughout our land. 

Law enforcement use-of-force practices need to be reevaluated. During my twenty-three-year public safety career, I served in various leadership positions in a number of organizations, including the Western Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, and the Protection Specialist Association. I’ve received training through the National School Safety Center, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Crisis Prevention Institute, and the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers.

From 2002-2008, I had the honor and privilege of serving on the Board of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training for the State of Oregon. This agency provides the training and resources public safety officers and agencies need to maintain the highest level of skill, and facilitate excellent service to Oregon’s communities and citizens. I am very familiar with how law enforcement officers are trained and I will be the first to admit that, given the frequent incidents of police brutality over the last several years, there needs to be reform. This sentiment is shared by many front-line officers, including members of the Minneapolis Police Department who have condemned the actions of Officer Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, and “stand ready to listen and embrace the calls for change, reform and rebuilding.”

Reform and rebuilding, yes. Defunding, no. The idea of defunding police departments is a far-reaching overreaction, short-sighted, and irresponsible. In this regard, I wholeheartedly agree with former Officer Brandon Tatum who observes that

[t]here are dangerous, evil people in this world, and when that person comes to your front door and endangers your family who are you going to call? Politicians? Activists? No. You’re going to call a man or woman who took an oath to uphold the law and give their life, if necessary, to protect you and your family. The police officer is not going to turn away from you because of your race, your religion, or your past mistakes.

And what, exactly, are you going to cut? Homicide investigations? Sex crimes and human trafficking? Identity theft? Elder abuse? Drugs and gang intervention? Policing is a vocation, a calling from God. Jesus himself says, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Most police are excellent, and work hard every day to serve and protect—and to give their lives, if necessary, for—the people in their care.

If serial arsonists kill dozens of people and it is discovered that they are firefighters, no one would think to defund fire departments because of the actions of a few rogue fireman. No one is calling for defunding physicians because some doctors perform abortions and euthanize their patients. Police are not trained to kneel on people’s necks or shoot people in the back. No one is more angry about what’s been going on than good cops, just like good priests are angry about those few priests who abuse children. So what can be done?

    • Go on a ride-a-long. See what police officers do on a daily basis, then make an informed decision on how to move forward.
    • Implement better psychological testing/screening to identify bias and prejudice.
    • Implement more effective scenario-based training.
    • Have police departments follow the recommendation of the Police Executive Research Forum to assist officers recognizing the inherent dignity of every human person. This should be part of the required curriculum at every police academy.
    • On-going, mandatory cultural diversity training for all officers. 
    • Work with police unions to toughen accountability regarding moral turpitude and officer discipline investigations, and implement tougher sanctions.

Put God back in society. When we remove God from the public square, we make room for the devil. We have stopped seeing each other as made in God’s image and likeness, and are instead trying to remake God in our image and likeness in fulfillment of Satan’s lie, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). The lawlessness, pejorative rhetoric, and the constant assault on religious liberty and freedom rampant in our culture are signs of this.

As faithful Catholics, we can no longer allow secular culture and ideology—with its promulgation of subjective, relativistic truth—to displace the objective, absolute truth of Catholic doctrine and principles. In order to defeat racism, there must be further introspection and a deeper examination of conscience in order to arrive at the root cause of the disunity and divisiveness within humanity that leads to sinful actions; where we see ourselves and worldly principles as the autonomous center of all truth.

We all live with the reality of human frailty and weakness, both within ourselves and in those we love.  We must recognize and acknowledge the reality of sin; that it affects us and speaks to us within the depths of our being.  Yet, we cannot allow the pain of sin and the suffering it causes to take root in our hearts.  We cannot allow sin to control us, or its anguish to overwhelm us.  Conquering sin in our lives begins with personal transformation; with an interior conversion that reveals the fundamental truth of our being and existence. “God is love,” stated Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, “and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion” (par 11).

Walk by faith not be sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Throughout history, sin has been a major obstacle to achieving true human freedom lived in God’s image and likeness. “So often we try to deny this fact. …”, wrote Reverend King in his 1959 book The Measure of a Man [1], “We know how to love, and yet we hate. We take the precious lives that God has given us and throw them away. We are unfaithful to those to whom we should be faithful. We are disloyal to those ideals to which we should be loyal. ‘We are like sheep that have gone astray.”

The Venerable Father Augustus Tolton was raised in an environment in which it was a common belief that “white people were superior to blacks and for that reason whites had the right or even the duty to dominate and control them and ‘keep them in their place’.” [2] He and his family endured a lifetime of hatred and oppression both within and outside of the Church.

Despite the fact that “from the time he was a small boy he learned, from an association with the white race, to accept the fact that degradation and contempt were the common lot of God’s black children,” [3] Tolton never retaliated or sought revenge. Though he was upset by the circumstances of his time, his heart was never filled with animosity or vitriol. Instead, Augustus Tolton responded with love, patience, and understanding.

What is striking about Father Tolton is that he remained a Catholic despite enduring a lifetime of racial animosity and prejudice.  In the face of such bigotry and hatred, why didn’t Father Augustus Tolton leave the Church?  Father Tolton was able to discern what many fail to perceive and do not fully appreciate: that what the Catholic Church actually teaches is true, good, and beautiful despite the hypocrisy and contradiction of Church members who do not actually live the faith they profess. Father Tolton always acknowledged the great gift of his Catholic faith and recognized that personal sin and human weakness are not greater or more powerful than the strength of objective truth found in Catholicism. Father Tolton was a visionary who saw far beyond issues of race and politics, looking inward—into the heart of the Church herself. “The Catholic Church,” Father Tolton once said, “deplores a double slavery—that of the mind and that of the body.  She endeavors to free us of both. […] In this Church we don’t have to fight for our rights because we are black. The Church is broad and liberal [i.e., generous]. She is the Church for our people.” [4]

Pray constantly (1 Thessalonian 5:17). Our saying “yes” to God’s holy will provides the road map that leads us into a life of prayer.  Even during those times when we forget about God for a while, the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals Himself; as He makes a complete gift of Himself to us in love, “prayer becomes a reciprocal call” (CCC 2567), an acceptance of God’s invitation to covenant relationship: an acceptance of His invitation to intimate, personal, loving, and life-giving communion. 

Prayer is both a gift of grace and a response that takes effort on our part.  In order for us to walk humbly before our God in the obedience of faith, we must appreciate the fact that we cannot do this all on our own; that we need God’s help every step of the way, especially during the turbulent and troubling times we are facing today. Anyone who truly believes in God’s infinite love will abandon themselves totally to Him in prayer and, in that complete self-gift, we will find the courage to defeat the scourge of racism, and discover the peace and certainty for which our hearts long. I recommend:

  • Praying before Jesus who is truly, fully, and substantially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration for personal conversion, as well as the strength and commitment to be a voice and advocate for real change.
  • Uniting the “Life and Dignity of the Human Person,” “Rights and Responsibilities,” and “Solidarity” principles of Catholic teaching with the Beatitudes so that faith becomes not simply “what we do” but “who we are.”
  • Asking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “In God’s eternal plan, woman is the one in whom the order of love in the created world of persons takes first root. The order of love belongs to the intimate life of God himself, the life of the Trinity. … Through the Spirit, love becomes a gift for created persons. […] The dignity of woman is measured by the order of love, which is essentially the order of justice and charity” (Pope John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem, no.29 [emphasis in the original]).

A parable parallel: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The Samaritan, in the eyes of the Jews, was an alien, an unwanted foreigner.  There was strong hostility between the two neighboring peoples. Jews and Samaritans were ethnically related and shared some of the Jewish beliefs, but the Samaritans were seen as heretics. 

Yet, this despised outsider—presumed to have nothing of the spirit of God’s mercy and compassion—gives the Jewish man lying on the ground the attention that the clergyman refused to give. In fact, the Samaritan went to extraordinary lengths to take care of the injured man, sparing no expense. What’s more, the priest and Levite didn’t make any humanitarian effort to help the man all; they could have at least called for help or let someone else know what happened. 

What would you have done in that situation?  It’s easy to say, in retrospect,  “I would help the guy.” But what if the almost dead man was one of the police officers involved in the George Floyd killing? As we walk by the officer on the side of the road, the anger and hatred we feel would burn like a fire in our hearts, and would we want—more than anything—for that person to suffer greatly, even to the point of death.  We would want to leave him lying there and say, “You deserve it!” and not give him a second thought. 

Yet, our Lord tells us that we must be Good Samaritans. “The Samaritan exemplifies a new standard of holiness, where God no longer requires his people to separate from others, but calls them to extend mercy to everyone in need and to exclude no one on the grounds of prejudice” [5] or hatred. Our Lord gives us no other options and makes no exceptions. If we are to defeat the evil of racial injustice, we must always lead with love. We must be the Samaritan.

The truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Despite the efforts of Dr. King and the countless others who gave their hearts, souls, and lives to the cause of justice, peace, and equality, racism remains an evil that endures to this day. It’s not because Dr. King failed, not by a long shot! Racism persists in our world because of the existence of evil and sin.

Some people will tell you that “because the courts have eliminated statutory racial discrimination and Congress has enacted civil rights legislation, and because some minority people have achieved some measure of success, that racism is no longer a problem in American life.” [6] However, when we look beneath the surface, the continuing existence of racism becomes readily apparent.  Racism is alive and well, and is intricately woven into the fabric of American life and culture.

Dr. King and Father Tolton understood that racism is a distortion rooted in the very heart of human nature. “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.” [7] “The ultimate remedy against evils such as [racism] will not come solely from human effort. What is needed is the recreation of the human being according to the image revealed in Jesus Christ, for he revealed in himself what each human being can and must become.” [8] We must not be afraid to live out our baptismal call to holiness with fervor and enthusiasm! We must not be afraid to stand up for truth, justice, and peace! Let us lovingly accept our Lord’s invitation to “go and do likewise” as living signs and witnesses of God’s tender love and mercy, so that the world may see the good that we do and give glory to God.

Everything for the Good: God’s Call to Me By Barbara Padolina 

Everything for the Good: God’s Call to Me

By Barbara Padolina 
In hindsight, I have stumbled many times, gone astray, become distracted, and then forgotten what I was supposed to do. After a near half-century of being alive, I am both amazed and grateful for the life I have led. It humbles me to know I have made it this far and am still breathing. This is no real credit to me and for this, my gratitude to my heavenly Father is boundless.

I am especially grateful for the different people, who have brought into my life something, which has changed me profoundly.  One, in particular, may not even realize how much her invitation to go with her to an activity helped me to get started on what would be a long road towards finding my true vocation.

After School Snack and Sanctification

It all began when a classmate in my all-girls Catholic school invited me to activity after school. I think she told me about going to a meditation and confession if I wanted to. I do not remember much about what she said, to be honest. She had me at the words “afternoon snack” at her house after school. My overly-conscious and definitely less than confident 11-year old self-figured that being in the company of someone who always looked so well-put-together and smelled good would only bring good things into my life. (I suppose it would be fair to say I may have been hungrier than usual when she invited me, seeing as my motivation was quite basal – proof positive that God works with whatever He has and just makes everything come together beautifully.)

The snack was nothing really special, but it was served on a pretty plate with a napkin and a fork. I was impressed and so glad I had said yes to her invitation. I was much happier after I had finally attended meditation. Up until that point, the visual imagery I connected with that word consisted on legs crossed while seated on the floor, eyes closed, and repeatedly saying “Ommmmm……” It was nothing like that, of course. In a small chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, the meditation was a prayer which the priest led, directing our thoughts and reflection around a particular topic or point, always in conversation with God. With the lights dimmed, save for those which were at the tabernacle, our attention was focused on our Lord. I was flabbergasted and amazed: this was praying!

My Work as Prayer

Even before the meditation, my friend had given me a prayer card of then Blessed Josemaria Escriva. I read it with interest, encountering for the very first time in my life the words Opus Dei. What struck me then, and remains significant to me even after nearly 40 years, is what I read about Josemaria Escriva on the prayer card. Since I do not have a prayer card from 1982, I looked up what was on one and found what I believe to be a similar, if not the same, wording:

On October 2, 1928, in Madrid, by a divine inspiration he founded Opus Dei, which has opened up a new way for the faithful to sanctify themselves in the midst of the world, through the practice of their ordinary work and in fulfillment of their personal, family and social duties.

I had never heard of that before. How do you make yourself holy by doing all the regular stuff you have to do anyway? Who, on earth, even wanted to be holy? (Of course, turns out God Himself wants all of us to be holy!) Yet, even if I did not know and understand then what I do now, it sparked a small flame inside my soul to read and consider those words. Anything and everything I do, done well, and offered up to God, becomes a prayer. That is how I understood the basic message of Josemaria Escriva then – and to this day, this is how I would simply explain the spirit of Opus Dei.

A Heart Compelled to Restlessness

It feels like so many lifetimes ago since then, yet this is the same one and I am still going. I do not have an 11-year old, but a 12-year old son and a nine-year-old daughter provide me with insight into the curiosity of my much younger self back then and the yearning to understand what intrigued me then. It is similar, I believe, to the fascination and wonderment kids (mine included) experience in trying to comprehend expressions, such as “eating with your eyes” and “Many hands make light work.”  The timing for me was just right, although it took many, many more years before the seed planted in those very early years grew strong and took firm root.

Married, with six children, 7-years old and below, entering our third year as immigrants in Canada, I found myself in a silent retreat in the middle of a wintry February. It was 2002, around twenty years since I first learned about Josemaria Escriva – his canonization was coming up in October. Since our youngest child then was only 9 months old, I brought her with me on the retreat. I have been on retreats with nursing infants, pregnant and not – and none of those times will ever compare to this retreat. That itty-bitty seed, planted twenty years previously when I grabbed the chance for an afterschool snack at my friend’s house and first “met” Josemaria Escriva through his prayer card, had grown into a plant whose roots reached deep into my soul and took firm root. All those years I had hemmed and hawed, sat on the fence, strayed as far as I could without falling off the face of the earth, pushed the envelope, dilly-dallied, and played footsy with various temptations finally brought me to a dizzying stop right at the foot of the Cross. My restless heart had found the reason for its discontent with the world at large and was beginning to understand what it meant to call God our Father.

All for the Good

It has now been nearly 18 years since that silent retreat and I have been trying to remember to thank God every day for the gift of my life and my vocation. I am a supernumerary faithful of Opus Dei, or the Work, as it is informally called by many. It feels a bit funny to see that in writing and say it out loud, even, because for so long it was never something you had to announce to people. It was and – I believe continues to be – a private matter involving my choice to live out my faith in a certain way.

To realize that one is called by God to live his or her life in a particular way or spirit does change something in oneself, but it is an interior thing. For me, I remained married and we went on to have 6 more children since then! Apart from the 12 kids we have, there are three who have gone ahead to be with their Father God. They are ours, nonetheless, by grace and through the mercy of God. If anything at all changed when I said yes to God’s particular call for me, it was how I saw the world and how I loved God and those around me. Maybe I walked with a bit more of a spring in my step, or perhaps I was ever so slightly happier and quicker to smile. I would liken it to being in love and just feeling the flush of that brand new, intoxicatingly fresh feeling of joy wash over you.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental shifts in my whole perspective is the realization that I am a daughter of God. With God, nothing is impossible – and I am His child.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows  (Matthew 10:28-31).

Why did it take twenty years before I realized what God wanted of me? Was it all a waste of time? In truth, I am more grateful and appreciate what I am and have known full well where I have been and what I have done in the past. I struggle to do what our Lord wants of me because I know it is worth it. I am where I should be, doing what I ought to do when I do my Father’s will.

The test, I don’t deny it, proves to be very hard: you have to go uphill, “against the grain”.—What is my advice? That you must say: omnia in bonum, everything that happens, “everything that happens to me”, is for my own good… Therefore do accept what seems so hard to you, as a sweet and pleasant reality (St. Josemaria Escriva, “Furrow”, number 127).

God’s Call to Everyone

Have you ever looked back at your own life and tried to connect the dots, perhaps realizing how certain people or events led you to where you are right now? Have you ever felt discouraged by the mistakes you have made – do they seem insurmountable?

Every single one of us is called by God and meant to be with Him. He is ready to forgive if we ask for forgiveness – He will not impose Himself on us. He will not be outdone in generosity. However, we must want to be with Him and to love Him. In the world we live in, this is not always easy. It can be a struggle, a long and difficult one at times. We have not been left to our own defenses, though. The Holy Spirit only waits to be asked and does not hesitate to come to us when we call! Let us not hesitate but rush forward, calling on Love Himself to come to us every single time!

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

What is God asking of you? How is God calling you today – and are you willing to say yes to Him?

The Deeper Meaning of Mary’s Intercession at Cana By: STEPHEN BEALE

Woman, what have I to do with thee?

This question—posed by Jesus to Mary after she asks for His intervention at the wedding at Cana in John 2:4—is often cited by Protestants attempted to refute Catholic devotion to Mary. The translation above—which dates back at least to the King James Bible—has even seeped into some Catholic translations.

Of course, as Catholics we know that in addressing her as ‘woman’ Jesus was universalizing Mary’s role in salvation history, identifying her both as the New Eve and looking forward to her role at the crucifixion and later in the Book of Revelation. We know that, even though He hesitates, Jesus relents and performs the desired miracle, thereby marking the start of His ministry and confirming His mother’s intercessory role.

But there’s an even simpler reason why the Protestant interpretation is so wrong: Jesus did not actually say that to His mother.

The original Greek yields a different reading. The most literal translation goes like what the Douay-Rheims Bible has: ‘Woman, what is that to me and to thee?’ This reflects the Greek where the pronouns for ‘me’ and ‘you’ are used with an ‘and’ connecting them.

This seemingly minor error in translations has immense ramifications. Suddenly, rather than seeming like a rift between Jesus and Mary, Jesus’ words make it seem like they are in this together. A fair paraphrase of their words might go something like: How should we intervene? What should we do about this?

His response thus intensifies Mary’s intercessory role. Rather than balking at it and only later giving in to her request, Jesus affirms Mary’s participation in His redemptive mission.

This dynamic recasts our interpretation of His address to her as ‘woman.’ Not only is He affirming the universality of Mary as the New Eve, He is also using a form of royal address. As one commentator notes, the Greek tragic writers employed ‘woman’ in “addressing queens and persons of distinction” and the Roman historian Cassius Dio quotes Augustus as doing the same with Cleopatra.

The reality of Mary’s queenship is relevant because in the Old Testament one of the functions of the queen mother was to intercede on behalf of others for her son. This is illustrated in 1 Kings 2:

Adonijah, son of Haggith, came to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. “Do you come in peace?” she asked. “In peace,” he answered, and he added, “I have something to say to you.” She replied, “Speak” (verses 13-14).

Adonijah proceeds to ask her to pass on a request to Solomon that he be allowed to marry Abishag the Shunamite. She then refers to the matter to Solomon. Notice how he responds to her:

Then Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, and the king stood up to meet her and paid her homage. Then he sat down upon his throne, and a throne was provided for the king’s mother, who sat at his right. She said, “There is one small favor I would ask of you. Do not refuse me.” The king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” So she said, “Let Abishag the Shunamite be given to your brother Adonijah to be his wife” (verses 19-21).

Intriguingly, this Old Testament precedent is also wedding-related. It also occurs at the very beginning of the reign. In fact, it is the first story of Solomon’s reign recorded in 1 Kings. The verse immediately preceding this one reports that Solomon had just been seated and that his thrown had been ‘established.’

In John 2, then, we can see Mary’s intercession as also contributing to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, which was to be a quite different one than visible, material kingdoms. In fact, in some ways it would become the complete opposite of any human standard of what it means to establish a kingdom—ending in the scattering of His already-small band of followers, His condemnation as a criminal, and, finally, the crucifixion of the king.

This event is foreshadowed at Cana where, as many Catholics well know, the changing of the water into wine anticipates the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Moreover, Jesus declaration that His ‘hour’ had not come also points to the cross: in John ‘hour’ typically refers to Jesus suffering and death.

What doesn’t get sufficient emphasis is the significance of Mary’s role in all this. In his book, Life of Christ, Bishop Fulton Sheen suggests that Mary’s order to the servants to do whatever Christ tells them came after she grasped the full implications of what she was asking Jesus to do. We could probably be more pointed than this: there really is a direct line we can draw from her intercession here and what happens on Golgotha. In other words, it would not be an exaggeration to say that her intercession helps to bring about the crucifixion.

Much as her consent was essential to the Incarnation—her ‘Yes’ and fiat to God—so also was her active participation critical to the redemption.

Her queenship intensifies this sense of sorrow. For this involves much more than a mother giving up her son. Just as Jesus contradicts worldly standards of what a king should be and do, so also does Mary depart from the mold of queen mothers in the ancient world. She helps her son establish His kingdom, but she does so in the most strange way—by asking Him to offer Himself up in self-sacrifice.

John reports that in response to Jesus’ message Mary—already anticipating His action—issues this order to the servants at the wedding: “Do whatever he tells you.” Those are her last recorded words in the gospels. Having set in motion the events leading to the Passion of the Son, Mary has no need to say anything else. At that point, her intercession had already achieved more than that of any other mere human being in history, past and future.

image: By © Ralph Hammann – Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Stephen Beale

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Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

Melchizedek and the Mass By: JP NUNEZ

 

We Catholics believe that the Eucharist is truly a sacrifice. When we celebrate Mass, God makes Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross present to us once again, allowing us to participate in it and offer it up to him in union with Jesus. In contrast, the vast majority of Protestants believe that the bread and wine (or water) are just a memorial service whereby we remember Jesus’s sacrifice, but we do not actually participate in it. To help resolve this debate, let’s turn to the story of Melchizedek and see how it connects to the Last Supper and the Eucharist.

The Story of Melchizedek

Back in Genesis, we read that Abram (later to be renamed “Abraham”) rescued his nephew Lot from captivity, and immediately afterwards, Melchizedek showed up seemingly out of nowhere:

“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said,
‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!’
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

(Genesis 14:18-20)

This passage raises a lot of questions but, for our purposes here, I want to focus on just one: why did Melchizedek bring out bread and wine? The text doesn’t explicitly tell us, but it does give us a clue. Right after it mentions the bread and wine, it says that he was a priest, and that is very telling. It suggests that the bread and wine were somehow linked to his priesthood, so he did not bring them out just because he thought Abram might have been hungry. Rather, he brought them out because he was a priest, and since priests are by definition people who offer sacrifice, he must have offered them to God as a sacrifice.

A Priest Like Melchizedek

From that story alone we can already begin to formulate an argument for the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, but if we want to make it as strong as possible, we can’t stop there. Instead, let’s now turn to the only other passage in the Old Testament that mentions Melchizedek, a key verse from the psalms:

“You are a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.”

(Psalm 110:4)

In its original context, this psalm referred to the royal descendants of King David who ruled over the Israelites, but the New Testament applies it to Jesus (Hebrews 7:17), our new Davidic king (Matthew 1:1, 9:27). At first, it might seem odd to say that Jesus is a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.” In ancient times, there were no religious orders like we have today in the Catholic Church. So, what could that mean? It means a few things, but for our purposes here, let’s focus on just one: Melchizedek is an important biblical type (or foreshadowing) of Jesus.

The Last Supper

At the Last Supper, Jesus offered bread and wine to His disciples, an act clearly reminiscent of His forerunner Melchizedek’s. In fact, when Jesus did this, He used sacrificial language to describe the bread and wine, making the connection with Melchizedek impossible to miss. He said that His body was “given for you” (Luke 22:19), which in Greek literally means “given on your behalf,” implying that Jesus was offering His body as a sacrifice for His disciples. Similarly, He said that His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), and in the Old Testament, priests would “pour out” the blood of their sacrifices (Exodus 29:12, Leviticus 4:18).

Now, if Melchizedek foreshadowed Jesus, and Jesus offered bread and wine using sacrificial language, the connection between these two figures almost forces us to take the next step. Just as Melchizedek offered bread and wine as a sacrifice, so, too, did Jesus offer bread and wine as a sacrifice. It wasn’t just a metaphor; He wasn’t instituting a merely symbolic ritual. No: when He instituted the Eucharist, He meant it to be a real sacrifice.

The Mass is a Sacrifice

Melchizedek may not be a major figure in Scripture, but he’s an important one. He was a key forerunner to Jesus, and his story in Genesis helps us to understand what Jesus was doing when He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Since Melchizedek offered bread and wine as a sacrifice, the bread and wine that Jesus gave His disciples was a real sacrifice as well. It was a “pre-presentation” of His sacrifice on the cross the next day. So, every time we go to Mass and celebrate the Eucharist, we too are participating in that sacrifice—a “re-presentation,” as we say—joining ourselves to it and offering it up to the Father again with Jesus.

[Image: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek by Dieric Bouts the Elder]

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JP Nunez has been a theology nerd since high school. He has master’s degrees in both theology and philosophy (with a concentration in bioethics) from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and he spent three years in Catholic University of America’s doctoral program in biblical studies before realizing that academia isn’t where he wants to be. During his time in Steubenville, he worked for two years as an intern at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, where his responsibilities included answering theological questions and helping to format and edit their Journey Through Scripture Bible studies. He blogs at JP Nunez: Understanding the Faith Through Scripture.