Blog Archives

Pope St. John Paul II on Faith

Pope St. John Paul II on Faith

C.S. Lewis on Saints

C.S. Lewis on Saints

Os Guinness on Evil

Contemporary  language to describe ethics and evil  has grown uncertain and confused.  In the public square, those who speak unabashedly of evil are
dismissed as simplistic, old–fashioned, and out of tune with the
realities of modern life.  However Os Guinness contends that we must come to terms with our beliefs regarding evil and ultimately join the fight against it.  But to do so, we ought to understand three underlying approaches to evil in this world.
Guinness’ talk for the Veritas Forum delineates the Eastern Approach which Hinduism and Buddhism is based, a Secularist world-view on evil and a Biblical approach as embodied in Judaism and Christianity.


Guinness avuncular lecture elucidated a couple of things which are not ordinarily appreciated.  Many know that Buddists believe in reincarnation.  But what they aspire for is Nirvana, which seems a lot less appealing  per Os Gunniness’ translation as “great deathless lake of extinction.”
 One thinks less of Nirvana‘s grungy collection of hit music and more about Kurt Cobain‘s suicide. Focusing on the metaphysical side,  this “lake of extinction” paradigm  tracks Buddhism’s answer to Dukkah “suffering” to have freedom from individuality.
To face unspeakable evil from a biblical perspective, one must grapple with the “trilemma”:
1.  Is evil very evil?
2.  Is God all good
3.  Is God omnipotent?


John F. Kennedy on Religious Liberty

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling in Hobby Lobby (2014) which allowed closely held corporations to follow deeply held religious tenets and not pay for abortifacients which kill human life, the United States Senate considered S. 2578, the so called “Protect Womens’ Health From Corporate Interference Bill”.
One of the more poignant speeches during the Senate floor debate was by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).  Cruz observed that the practical effect of S. 2578 would gut the Free Exercise of Religion clause from the First Amendment of the Constitution and impose federal will upon all 50 states through the supremacy clause.
To bolster his argument, Senator Cruz concluded his speech by boldly invoking John F. Kennedy’s quote on religious liberty to condemn so called “faith fines”.

Seasoned political junkies realize that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought S. 2578 to a vote as a cheap political stunt which had no actual chance of passage but would gin up a liberal base through identity politics and scare tactic campaigns during a tough election cycle.  While the bill won the votes of all Democrat Senators and a few RINO Republicans (Murkowski, Kirk, and Collins), it failed the cloture vote 56-43, with the Senate Majority Leader switching sides for the ability to vote on it again later.

While this vote on S. 2578 was doomed for legislative failure is instructive.  Senate Democrats seem to care more about partisan politics and elections than respecting Federalism, the First Amendment and Religious Liberty. Cruz quoting JFK spotlights the progress (and arguably the devolution) of the modern Democrat party.  And the episode shows how Christianity is endangered even in America,

John Kerry on Religions

While  speaking at the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Secretary of State John F. Kerry remarked about the “cross-currents of modernity” in Africa.  Kerry made these “cross-current” comments in tandem with remarks calling for respecting the rights and liberties of individuals.
It could be a veiled reference to the persecution of Ethiopian Christians as the Islamist group Kewarjah, repeatedly attacks Christians in Southwest Ethiopia.  Moreover, the government has sought to ban all religious messages and talks in public.
However, the Secretary of State’s summary of his talks neither seem to approve  of religious pluralism or respecting religious observance. This hardly reflect President Obama’s recent robust public comments endorsing religious freedom.   Kerry’s  even-handed approach to addressing religious liberty in Ethiopia dismisses religious creed as being relevant in the “cross-currents of modernity” and declines to address what religious fanatics are enforcing their interpretations of faith.

St. John Bosco on Piety


A Bit About Twitter, Tribulations and Talkers

Editor’s Note:  This open letter is in response to a segment on the Jay Severin program, in which he railed about a BBC World Service Report about more sexual exploitation of children.  The Blaze Radio host then took responses from the audience, starting with Twitter replies. 

While  it is preferable  to praise in public and chastise in private, this is impossible in this instance. But this open letter is more than a comeuppance to a cheeky commentator.    What should be of interest to religious readers is insisting on context and combating slander.
Jay Severin in Sede Vacante Contretemp, the Sweet Sistine Edition
To Jay Severin:
I have been a
loyal listener for a year. I appreciate that you are open to diffuse means to engage in talk radio dialogue, including Twitter.  However, my experience shows that your Twitter treatment could use some tweaking. In addition, your knowledge of things Catholic could use some catechesis.
You started the 2/6 show  in a lugubrious monologue keying off of a BBC World News report about rampant sex abuse in the Catholic Church.  Your laborious lead up to the break lamented yet the “umpteen” report about systematic child abuse among Catholics. immediately responded on Twitter wondering: 
 You chose to read my Tweet on the air, characterizing my opinion as irrational and then went on to also excoriate my grammar.
I read the report which the BBC piece was based.  It came from a UN Conference on Children.  The UN report also recommended that the Catholic Church change its views on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.  Those subjects were not in the UN Conference’s purview and expose its bias as an ideological cudgel for progressive politics, which I succinctly characterized as a “kangaroo court”. 
Your radio retort mocked my grammar.  It is worth nothing that Twitter only allows 140 characters to respond.  In that short span, I included your handle, three hashtags (letting others interested in subjects know of the exchange) and
a shortened hyperlink which gave the source to my views.   The tweet in question was rewritten several times to include all elements under those limitations and was posted within minutes. Apologies for the kangaroo typo in the tweet.
 It would be  would be wise for you to  revise your analyses of Twitter communications.  Remember, it’s only 140 characters.  Sometimes terms are used in hashtags to draw wider attention.  The writer may use phraseology intended to be brief for that form of communication.  Had I not had a length restriction, I probably would have written: “Why are you leading with a story based upon a UN Child Conference which went beyond its scope in  to tell the Holy See to change to the Catholic Church’s beliefs on contraception, abortion and homosexuality?  This report failed to consider  changes in Catholic child safety practices or to critically analyze the  UN’s own woeful record with Congolese troops rapes of children”  Granted the message is a little long, but it succinctly packs in the argument.
I  dispute your accusation that my viewpoint was irrational. My tweet noted the originator of the report (the UN), gave a link for a detailed point by point refutation by Catholic Voices and allowed for the possibility that the  radio raconteur may put  a different spin on the news item  (hence the “where are you going w/”).  That would seem to be both charitable and rationally argued.
Since you admit that you are not religious in nature, you are naturally ignorant about most Church matters.  You quibbled about Catholic and the Vatican being the same.  Well, there are 23  churches which comprise the Catholic Church.  You rightly identified Roman rite as being one of them (and by far the largest).  Vatican is often a synonym of
Catholic but it refers to the Bishop of Rome.  There are over 2,000 bishops in the world, each rules his diocese.  Juridically, the Holy See can not simply issue an edit and immediately overrule the local bishop—there is Canon Law
which regulates the Church.
Regarding the sexual molestation of minors—only 4% of Catholic clergy have been accused of sexual impropriety with minors (with 1.7% being proven guilty).  This rate is lower than the general US population. Research from Richard Blackman at the Fuller Theological Seminary (an evangelical  Protestant seminary in Pasadena, California) indicates that 10% of Protestant clergy suffer the stain of pedophilia.  While the figure from Blackman’s dissertation may be inflated, it certainly indicates that it is not just a Catholic thing.
 Yet the charges of Catholic pedophila  draw an incredible amount of ire because of the Roman Catholic discipline of celibacy for the clergy, an influx of “lavender ordinations” (misson minded persons who took vows as a vocational beard for their sexual orientation), and hazy pop psychological practices in the ‘70s.  Following liberal psychology practices of the times, those who slipped up were given second chances by being quietly transferred to another parish without serious discipline or other precautions.
The lax treatment of these child molesters in priestly garb was wrong.  Some diocese in the US have paid a heavy
legal price for their wanton discipline on the matter.  Steps have been taken to correct them.  Consider that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI laicized (canned for the church challenged)  400 priests during his reign (2006-2013) on the Petrine Throne.  The USCCB (The U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops enacted the Dallas Charter in June 2002 which has a zero tolerance policy and a stringent background check for any church members having contact with children.   
It might have been interesting for a conservatively oriented show hosted by a news junkie to do critical analysis.  Although the BBC can do fine and seminal reporting, it is a state owned news enterprise.  It is also true that Britain
nominally has a state religion (the Anglican Church) and has a history of Catholic bigotry (does the Bloody Mary and  Remember the 5th of November ring any bells?).  The BBC has reputation for a pan-Arabist sensibility and follows a progressive internationist intellectual path.  Ironically, the BBC had reported Benedict XVI’s defrocking 400 priests weeks before, but made no mention of them in context of the UN Conference on Children’s damning report. Instead the reportage just pointed to what seemed like vacuous Vatican rhetoric soft pedaling the charges.  Might there have been some agenda journalism slandering the faith and bolstering a progressively lead public perception?
Did the  BBC World News report or the underlying UN Child Conference report consider these abatements
by the Catholic Church and the Holy See?  The short answer is no.  Did you? I have no personal knowledge after being rhetorically round-housed and hearing the first couple of callers just Catholic  bashing since I need not listen to no nothings on the issue.  Thus, my pithy Twitter characterization of “besmirching” seems accurate.

G.K. Chesterton on Life

Gl.K. Chesterton

A Different Approach to Come My Way

Fr. Austin Litke, O.P. singing “Come My Way” at NYC Grand Central Station 
Pope Francis in Rio, 2013

During the 2013 World Youth Day celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Pope Francis exhorted the youthful pilgrims to “I want you to take to the streets. I want the Church to take to the streets.”  BlackFriar Films, a project of the Dominican Friars based in New York City, interpreted this call to the New Evangelization by taking a different approach to the Christian patrimony and take it to the streets.

In the “Come My Way, My Truth, My Life” video, Fr. Austin Dominic Litke, O.P. sings the traditional Anglican hymn on the streets of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge while donned in his medieval Dominican habit.

The initial juxtaposition of ethereal beauty with the backdrop of the frenetic city which seemingly never sleeps underlines the timeless message which the George Herbert poem (1633) is based.

George Herbert (1595-1633)

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:

Such a way as gives us breath;

Such a truth as ends all strife,

Such a life as killeth death.

Such a way as gives us breath;Such a truth as ends all strife,Such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:Such a joy as none can move,Such a love as none can part,Such a heart as joys in love.

By exposing youth to the beauty and truth to Christian tradition, Dominicans have experienced a boom in vocations.  Moreover, breathing life into tradition by taking it to the streets makes it contemporary and contemplative. 

Susan B. Anthony on Theology

Susan B Anthony