Sunday, April 29, 2012

One thing at a time?

This past week, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) issued a document ordering a supervised renewal of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

Since then it has been volley after volley at the bishops with accusations and comments ranging from "after the sexual abuse crisis, where's your moral authority?" to "an all-male hierarchy are again telling women what to do."

What I found the most interesting is the concept where, since there is a sexual abuse crisis going on, the Church is not allowed to work on anything else.  I think this is not a logical nor reasonable approach.

I often see this in secular politics.  "It's the economy, stupid!"  So then government leaders cannot work on any other problems until this is worked out?  Health care has to wait?  Transportation infrastructure has to wait?  HHS Mandate has to wait?  Obviously not.  A government, like a person, can have several things going on at the same time.  I am sure each person reading this has.

Is it simply a red herring?  Is it a distraction to stop the Church's progress on one front because someone doesn't like it?  I don't know.  Perhaps.

Be that as it may, I'd like to point out another "either/or" occurrence within the LCWR situation.  The CDF has pointed out that not enough attention is being paid to doctrinal matters within the Conference.  Media reports were that the sisters were somehow spending too much time on feeding the poor and caring for the sick.  Cries of "what would Jesus do?" and  "the bishops have it wrong" arose.  On and on.

Again, why is it an either/or situation?  In one's life, in your business, in your government, isn't it expected that, in the pursuit of a goal, many different courses have to be pursued simultaneously?  Of course it is.  Yet the women religious are seen by the media as "one trick ponies."  As if they are only able to do one thing at a time.  However, isn't it clear that when one thing is pursued exclusively, balance is sacrificed?

Spending all of one's time reading doctrine on why we should serve poor, and then NOT serving the poor is out of balance.   Conversely, serving the poor without understanding why we should, may achieve a goal, but is that at the expense of another, just-as-important goal?  An outside observation can sometimes be the most perceptive and helpful.

Recall that the CDF is correcting a group who professes to BE Catholic.  To be Catholic, one must both believe all that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, and then one is to go and do likewise.  Why is this assessment not well within the Church's purview?  Of course it is.  Why the sexist rhetoric?  This is not a male vs. female false dichotomy, it is the Church helping the Church.

Why else is spiritual direction so well-advised for those trying to grow in spirituality?  That's exactly what I see here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tribute to B16 seven years on: Professor Ratzinger on “The Supreme Being”

It’s been seven years since Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope; so much for a transition papacy. Seven is often a number that represents completeness or perfection in scripture. I don’t think his pontificate is completed and he is not perfect in terms of impeccability, which is often confused with infallibility, but that is another post for another time.

I do, however, want to share insights from reading his book from the 1960’s called Introduction to Christianity. The title sounds deceivingly simple, but it’s a heavy read (for me anyway). I heard somewhere that this was a favorite book of JP2, and after reading it, I had to put our Pope into a category of people I like to call “scary-smart”.
What do you mean you disagree with me?
Do you know who you're dealing with?
It reminded me of reading Aquinas or Augustine. There were occasions when I may have known the meaning of each individual word in a paragraph and the grammar was perfect, yet somehow, I did not understand. Anyway, I understood some things and I’ll have a series of post to share in the weeks to come. This post is about “The Supreme Being”.
Paraphrasing from Part One, Chapter III…
The God of faith is personal, defined by the category of relationship. The God of the philosophers is “The Supreme Being” and tends to be impersonal.

In this view it seems an absurd idea that this Supreme Being should concern himself with man and his pitiful little world, his cares, his sins, and his non-sins. Oddly, this projects negative human characteristics of pettiness, arrogance and aloofness onto the Supreme Being. We thereby imagine him as a consciousness that will NOT embrace the whole.
By calling God “Father” and “Almighty”, The Creed has joined together the family concept and the cosmic power in one God; the God of faith and the God of the philosophers. This expresses accurately the whole point of the Christian image of God. The tension between:
Ø  Absolute power and absolute love
Ø  Absolute distance and absolute proximity
Ø  Absolute being and direct affinity
Ø  Maximum and minimum
Ø  The greatest and the least
Ø  The first and the last
Ø  BOTH/AND, not either/or
Not to be encompassed by the greatest, but to let oneself be encompass by the smallest – that is divine.
Stay tuned for more as I’m able to process it. As I mentioned, the good professor is “scary-smart”. If you don’t hear from me, you may assume my brain has exploded.
Always study Professor Ratzinger S-L-O-W-L-Y!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

40 Days of Prayer?

The Lord says, “This is My Body”.  The priests for choice say, “This is my body.” These are the exact same words, but coming from opposite ends of the universe. The Lord continues, “…given for you”. The choice clerics continue, “…kept for me.”
This is my body
 A Planned Parenthood affiliate is conducting 40 days of prayer to “support woman”.  On the spiritual side, what evidence is there to back the premise that God approves of killing innocent human life as a personal choice that supports woman? On the secular side, one wonders how supposedly educated people can actually be pro-choice and recognize science & human rights at the same time. (see post Pro-Choice The Moral Blind Spot)

Ironically, 40 days of lent is often used to give up something, mirroring what Jesus did in the desert before starting His public ministry. Fasting and other sacrifices allow us to be more aware of our souls and put less emphasis on our bodies. This 40 Days of Prayer also comes from the opposite end of the universe, using the cry of “my body” that drowns out the soul. It seeks to hold on to something, a depraved choice, instead of letting go.
This is My Body
Some will be sincere in these prayers; some are only mocking the 40 Days for Life campaign. Looking at the big-picture, whenever we make a significant choice in life we should ask, “I’m I doing this more for God or more for myself? This is the question I pose about Planned Parenthood’s 40 Days of Prayer, since prayer is essentially about directing one’s life toward God.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

4-Year-Old Translation Dictionary

This post has nothing to do with faith or reason, but I thought I’d post it for fun anyway. Besides, you might like it. My youngest daughter turns five soon, so I took time to reflect on the creative vocabulary of a four year old in the form of a mini-translation dictionary. Here’s what I came up with:
§  alleluia: Mass
§  alligator: elevator
§  always: too often for her (some grown-ups use this term)
§  baby grown-ups: munchkins from Wizard of Oz
§  band-aid car: ambulance
§  burgers: boogars
§  capiano: piano
§  chest: chess
§  cookie man: Poke′mon
§  friends: school
§  girl cheese: grilled cheese
§  grude:  grew
§  hair nuts: hair knots
§  happy fools day: April fools day
§  hot dog: any sausage like meat
§  peer butter: peanut butter
§  man on the potty: handicap parking sign
§  measure my feet: weigh me on the bathroom scale
§  miss nastics: gymnastics
§  no fair: not my way (some grown-ups use this term too)
§  one more: infinitely more
§  snacker:  food pantry
§  tomorrow: any point in future time
§  whatever: okay
§  yesterday: any point in past time

My favorite…
§  holy bird: Holy Spirit
“Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” Luke 18:16

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reason Rally II

Atheists & Secularists held a “Reason Rally” in D.C. on March 24th. Ironically, God is the source of reason and any true reason rally would ultimately lead to Him. Since the theme of this blog is Faith & Reason, I thought I’d write-up a reason rally of my own.

We had an incredible warm spell in March in the Chicago area. One sunny eighty-five degree day I was driving down a familiar road, when I saw a man in his front yard with some Christmas lights. I thought to myself, “It’s a bit late, but what a perfect day to take down Christmas lights.” I then began to think; maybe he was not a bit late, but a lot early putting up his lights for next Christmas.
I did not actually observe him taking down the lights, but only holding the lights. Taking the lights down was an assumption on my part. Driving by, I had no way to know or prove what he was doing or not doing with the lights. However, based on certain premises from past experience, it would be MORE reasonable to say the man was taking down the lights and LESS reasonable to say he was putting them up, although both are within the realm of possibility. (Yes, I often have strange thoughts like this).
Other examples of such things:
• Speaking of driving, what do we do as we approach a green light? We drive through it assuming the other drivers on each corner of the intersection will stop on red. The red light is in no way connected to their brakes and there is nothing physically stopping them from running the light, but it is more reasonable to think a car will stop at a red light and less reasonable to think a car will run a red light, although both are within the realm of possibility.
• Are your parents really your parents? Suppose you had no access to a birth certificate or DNA test and you don't even look like them. Your parents say they are your real biological parents, but you have no proof. Why do you believe them? If you have learned to trust your parents over the years, it is more reasonable to believe them and less reasonable to assume they are lying.
• How about this one? Someone suffering from paranoia says, “Everyone wants to kill me.” You respond, “I don’t want to kill you."  The person answers, “Of course you would say that to keep your evil plan a secret.” There is some logic there, but the premise is unreasonable.
There are many things in life we simply cannot prove; some argue that we cannot prove anything at all. We certainly cannot prove things like dogmas, philosophies, ideologies, morals, values, goodness, badness, justice, purpose, etc. using a scientific method, so what should we do? Premises are certainly a key; given certain premises we should logically move toward what is more reasonable and step away from what is less reasonable. Also, the more assumptions one needs to make a premise true, and the more complex they are, the less reasonable the premise becomes.
For the atheist, a premise needs to be that the universe comes from nothing for the purpose of nothing. More specifically, it comes from nothing intelligent for no intended purpose. This is a good definition of an accident; the universe is a perfectly fine tuned accident.
Making something from nothing actually defies the laws of physics and we must be careful not to redefine “nothing” to be some scientific “something”. Also, something unintelligent or non-rational making or becoming something rational under its own power and direction contradicts our general experience. I would need to call either of these two unreasonable or at least LESS reasonable when comparing to what St. Thomas Aquinas proposes in his contingency theory for example. See posts Aquinas Regarding Contingency & Fr. Spitzer on the Existence of God. 
Scientism holds that truth can ONLY be found through the scientific method. This poses a problem because we cannot use the scientific method to prove the previous sentence is true. This defies a principle in logic called the principle of non-contradiction. Bible Christians hold that we know what is true through the bible ALONE. The difficulty here is that this teaching cannot be found in the bible, so it is unbiblical. This too fails the principle of non-contraction. See post All Statements are False.
This brings us to the Church in the modern world. Those who do not study Catholicism do not understand the premises for what is taught. From the existence of God to the teachings on Mary, one premise logically flows to the next. For example, let’s look at Mary’s title “Queen of Heaven”.  If we accept the premise that the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament, then we can see how the ancient Kingdom of Israel foreshadows the new Kingdom of Christ, and the King of Israel foreshadows Christ the King of Heaven.  In the ancient Kingdom of Israel, the queen was always the mother of the king (not the wife or wives) and part of her role was to bring petitions to the king (see 1 Kings 2:13-20). Given this premise, it is reasonable to say Mary is the Queen of Heaven and part of her role is to bring our petitions to Christ, in fact, it would be strange if it were otherwise.

Many run with the assumption that Church teaching is a bunch superstitious hooey from the dark ages; this then becomes a premise.  Once we have this premise, Catholicism is instantly dismissed. As a result, we search elsewhere for ultimate truths. We look to other Christian denominations, religions of the East, science or make-up our own. How did we become so arrogant that we automatically dismiss centuries of careful thinking from thousands (millions?) of Catholic intellects without even objectively exploring the premises?  
Bishop Sheen once said that we all have “a philosophy”. We all believe things we can't prove. Spend time exploring the premises for your beliefs. What assumptions are you making for your premises to be true? How complex are they? Always ask “why?” Are you using true reason or reason based only on the premises/assumptions you like best?

Bishop Fulton Sheen