Archive for the ‘Catholic dogma’ Category


The Feet of Judas

George Marion McClellan

CHRIST washed the feet of Judas!
The dark and evil passions of his soul,
His secret plot, and sordidness complete,
His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole,
And still in love he stooped and washed his feet.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him,
His bargain with the priest, and more than this,
In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim,
Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And so ineffable his love ’twas meet,
That pity fill his great forgiving heart,
And tenderly to wash the traitor’s feet,
Who in his Lord had basely sold his part.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And thus a girded servant, self-abased,
Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven
Was ever too great to wholly be effaced,
And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven.

And so if we have ever felt the wrong
Of Trampled rights, of caste, it matters not,
What e’er the soul has felt or suffered long,
Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot:
Christ washed the feet of Judas.

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Uncivil-war2 copyI began blogging as a reaction against the venom spewed in com-boxes. Not the venom against the Church by those outside it – that, I can understand and even (in a prideful and totally inappropriate reaction) delight in. Generally, such venom is based on total misinformation and often on wilful misunderstanding. Even those who are informed betray a double-standard about morality that shows, deep down, the commenter expects the Church to be better. Which is a compliment, in a twisted, backhanded kind of a way.

My reaction was to the venom of Catholic commenters against anyone who didn’t agree with their views. It seemed to me that there was a scale to the nasty, insulting, cruel comments. Agnostics were treated with reasonable compassion; atheists got it with both barrels; Protestant Christians received both barrels plus grenades; but all out war was reserved for other Catholics whose views on what it was to be Catholic differed from those of the commenter.

This isn’t a nice way to behave, folks. It isn’t productive. It isn’t a good witness for Catholicism. All in all, it sucks big time.

Yesterday’s readings sum up the way we should be with everyone we meet: showing good judgement (of course), but not judgemental. The worst persecutor of the young Christian community doesn’t spend the rest of his life apologising for his misdeeds, but instead works himself to the bone to spread the Christian message. Jesus doesn’t condone the sin of the adulteress, but neither does he condemn her.

Please read a beautiful post by Calah Alexander on why we Catholics shouldn’t be tearing the Pope (and one another) apart in com boxes. It’s a powerful argument for a cease fire. Here’s a snippet:

We had Benedict because we needed him. We have Francis now, I think, because we also need him. We need beauty in the liturgy. We also need to help the poor. These two forces seem so ludicrously opposed to each other in American Catholicism. Either you’re a conservative, rad-trad, pro-Liturgy Catholic or you’re a liberal, social-justice, pro-guitars-and-holding-hands-during-the-Our-Father-Catholic. And anyone who takes the blogosphere as an example probably thinks we Catholics spend all our time hunkered down in our trenches, lobbing carefully-worded-blog-post-bombs at each other, waiting for the other side to go over the top so we can mow them down and cleanse the Church of that crap for once and for all.

We’re waging a pointless and counterproductive war on each other. Both sides are defending deposits of the faith. Good, beautiful, true things that we have learned through our mutual faith, things which our faith needs equally in order to flourish. Can you imagine what might happen if we stopped haunting each other’s comboxes, accusing each other of heresy, and instead spent that energy working together to make the Church better? Maybe we could even *deep breath* try and see what’s true, good, and beautiful about the other. Like, maybe I could go to a Tridentine Mass and viciously repress my inner Jan Hus and really, really try to see the beauty in that ancient liturgy that bequeathed to me the faith I hold so dear today. And maybe whoever runs Rorate Caeli could go to a Novus Ordo Mass in Spanish in Immokalee, the town down the street from me, and instead of being horrified at the abuses in the liturgy really, really try to see the beauty in these migrant workers shuffling into the pews after a day of back-breaking work in the Florida sun, sweaty and dirty and wearing jeans, but resisting the urge to go home and collapse until they’ve seen Jesus.

Our faith is so multi-faceted. That’s why we have a gazillion saints. They’re all doing something different, giving us different examples to follow. Not everyone can be Francis of Assisi, living in blissful poverty, fasting and praying. Someone had to be St. Thomas Aquinas, puzzling out the finest points of theology while remaining very very well-fed. And our Church would be infinitely poorer if Francis and Thomas Aquinas had spent all their time arguing over whose way was better instead of just doing the work God had set before them. We all have different work to do in the Church, and God wants all of us to help make his Church complete. But we can’t very well do that if we’re busy tearing each other to shreds.

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Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay.
Behold, the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me!
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood hast mark’d the path!
Bright Torch, which shinest, that I the way may see!
O, with Thy own Blood quench Thy own just wrath;
And if Thy Holy Spirit my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

[Ascension, John Donne]

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Ignitium Today has a post on common misunderstandings about Catholicism. It covers: the immaculate conception, purgatory, annulment vs divorce, birthcontrol vs NFP, masculinity and priesthood, sin vs sinner, hard cases of abortion, mortification, Crusades and Inquisition, and Galileo.

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Now as myth transcends thought, incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying God without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other is.

[C. S. Lewis, “Myth Became Fact,” in The Grand Miracle and Other Selected Essays on Theology and Ethics from God in The Dock]

The above quote is taken from a fuller essay on the resurrection by Jonathan Bennett published at Ancient and Future Catholics.

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Mark Shea has posted a video clip of a discussion between Cardinal Dolan and Fr Benedict Groeschel:

….one implication of [Ordinatio Sacerdotalis] is that women can be created cardinals of the Church (since the office of cardinal does not require holy orders and it is *only* the sacerdotal office to which the Church lacks the authority to ordain women). When I say this, I invariably get chewed out as a subversive modernist.However, the other day, Fr. Groeschel and Cdl Dolan noted exactly the same thing…

…Should it happen, do not freak out that the Church is “abandoning the Tradition”. Cardinals are a bit of bureaucratic machinery for taking care of housekeeping in the matter of getting a new pope. They are not The Tradition. The Church could abolish the entire college of cardinals tomorrow (just as she invented it a thousand years ago) and it would not alter the Tradition a jot.

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Here’s the essence of the US Bishops’ argument, from their own letter dated 14 March:

…we wish to clarify what this debate is—and is not—about. This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the Church’s hand and with the Church’s funds. This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block. This is not about the Bishops’ somehow “banning contraception,” when the U.S. Supreme Court took that issue off the table two generations ago. Indeed, this is not about the Church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the Church—consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions—to act against Church teachings. This is not a matter of opposition to universal health care, which has been a concern of the Bishops’ Conference since 1919, virtually at its founding. This is not a fight we want or asked for, but one forced upon us by government on its own timing. Finally, this is not a Republican or Democratic, a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American issue.

So what is it about?

An unwarranted government definition of religion.

The mandate includes an extremely narrow definition of what HHS deems a “religious employer” deserving exemption—employers who, among other things, must hire and serve primarily those oftheir own faith. We are deeply concerned about this new definition of who we are as people of faith and what constitutes our ministry. The introduction of this unprecedented defining of faith communities and their ministries has precipitated this struggle for religious freedom. Government has no place defining religion and religious ministry. HHS thus creates and enforces a new distinction—alien both to our Catholic tradition and to federal law—between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need, of any faith community or none. Cf. Deus Caritas Est, Nos. 20-33. We are commanded both to love and to serve the Lord; laws that protect our freedom to comply with one of these commands but not the other are nothing to celebrate. Indeed, they must be rejected, for they create a “second class” of citizenship within our religious community. And if this definition is allowed to stand, it will spread throughout federal law, weakening its healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity. All—not just some—of our religious institutions share equally in the very same God-given, legally-recognized right not “to be forced to act in a manner contrary to [their] own beliefs.” Dignitatis Humanae, No. 2.

A mandate to act against our teachings.

The exemption is not merely a government foray into internal Church governance, where government has no legal competence or authority—disturbing though that may be. This error in theory has grave consequences in principle and practice. Those deemed by HHS not to be “religious employers” will be forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions. This is not only an injustice in itself, but it also undermines the effective proclamation of those teachings to the faithful and to the world. For decades, the Bishopshave led the fight against such government incursions on conscience, particularly in the area of health care. Far from making us waver in this longstanding commitment, the unprecedented magnitude of this latest threat has only strengthened our resolve to maintain that consistent view.

A violation of personal civil rights.

The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing “services” contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption. This, too, is unprecedented in federal law, which has long been generous in protecting the rights of individuals not to act against their religious beliefs or moral convictions. We have consistently supported these rights, particularly in the area of protecting the dignity of all human life, and we continue to do so.

I’m interested to note that they say that it is the first issue, the Government’s narrow definition of religion, that has precipitated the struggle. In the commentaries I’d read, this was always a side note, with the second point taking the lead. But the bishops seem to me to be saying that their top concern is that they’re being told that religion is limited to providing religious services, and that other ministries are not part of religion. This ties in with an earlier kerfuffle, when Obama was quoted as talking about “freedom of worship”, rather than “freedom of religion”.

To my mind, our faith is seen at its best precisely in the work that the Catholic charities do. When I think of the great Catholics of the 19th and 20th centuries, I think of those who took Christ’s love to those in need: the Fr Damians, the Mother Irenes, the Mary MacKillops, the Dorothy Days. Religion is worship? Indeed – but the best worship we can offer, as God himself has told us, is to serve to Christ’s body in the poor, the needy, and the distressed.

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I’ve been taking a bit of annual leave recently – to sit around hospitals and more recently to help my mother pack up all her belongings ready to move to a flat closer to my sister.  Someone at work asked me how I enjoyed my holiday. Well, for a given meaning of the word ‘holiday’, I suppose it was (and is – I’m immersed in the packing this week). It isn’t my idea of a holiday – but then some people do marathons in their holiday. Some camp in primitive tents on lakeshores. Some run the bulls in Pamplona. Some give their time to build houses in storm, earthquake, or flood-torn third world countries. Some ride horses over the mountains from Middlemore to Cromwell. A holiday is, I guess, what works for you.

All this is by way of introducing a post by Bad Catholic. I was going to yield to Toad’s request for a post on Heaven, and begin my post with a quote from Lewis’s Last Battle. But Bad Catholic did it first and better, and even quoted from the Last Battle – although not the quote I had in mind. I was thinking of Aslan’s welcome to Heaven: “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

Without further ado, I invite you to join Marc as he explains: “Why Modern Man Wouldn’t Like Heaven (If He Had the Balls to Get There)”

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When our granddaughter was seven, I began teaching her English spelling and grammar; and crashed almost immediately. We struggled for weeks, with her becoming more and more resistant. One day, we had bitter tears over the spelling of a word; one that didn’t follow the rule that she’d learnt only the week before. And I had my light bulb moment.

Our problem was that we had a kid with a black and white view of the world trying to cope with a subject that came in shades of every colour of the rainbow. She knew that rules were made to be obeyed, and here was her own grandmother was telling her to break them. Was I lying to her? Was I a subversive? How could she trust a world in which the song said  ‘i’ came before ‘e’ , and all around her were words that reversed the proper order of things!

We banned the word ‘rule’ from our English lessons. English had patterns, I told her. Different words fitted into different pattern groups, depending on where they came from. Patterns had various effects on meaning. The more patterns she learned, the more clearly she would be able to communicate with others. My craft-talented grandchild, already familiar with the concept of using a pattern to make something, and of adapting it to make something else, immediately understood. And we never looked back.

That whole episode was a revelation to me. I’m a congenital fence sitter – a shades of grey person. I have no trouble with the concept that the term ‘rules’ has multiple meanings. But there are many people out there who struggle with the idea. The rules are the rules, they’ll say. And give the same weight to the rule ‘do not kill’, the rule ‘say grace before meals’, and the rule ‘cover your head in church’.

It seems to me that there are layers of rules, rippling out from a solid centre. There are laws built into the fabric of our universe – the laws of physics. There are rules for decent community living – do not kill, look after your old people, protect the weak. There are cultural traditions – don’t sit without being invited (or sit straight away so that your head is lower than your leader, depending on your culture). There are social habits – put the knife on the right of the plate, and the fork on the left. There are family practices – open the Christmas presents after breakfast. There are game rules – such as for card and board games, and sports – that set the parameters for two or more people to carry out the same activity.

Rules are a good thing. They help people to get along with one another. They let people know what to do and what to expect so that they can put their energies into enjoying the activity. But if you behave as if the rules of Scrabble are backed by armies of angels or the civil justice system, you’re heading for a disappointment.

It seems to me that many of the arguments between the Church and its critics (internal and external) circle round and round the term ‘rule’, miring the discussion in mutual incomprehension because one or both parties fails to understand what level of rule they’re talking about. Married clergy – clearly not an immutable law of physics, nor a rule for decent community living. Is it a practice, a habit, or a tradition? What about the election of a Pope? The Order of the Mass? The governance of a diocese or a parish?

(The title of this piece comes from the joke ‘I don’t drink as a rule; as a habit I do, but not as a rule’.)

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I’ve read two posts in the last week challenging the idea that we are fundamentally souls who currently have bodies, as much popular piety appears to suggest.

David Schultz touches on the topic in his post: Is it the Church’s mission to ‘get people into heaven‘?

And Bad Catholic, in a post called How Descartes Ruined Sex, suggests that sex is made pallid, unappealling, and unhealthy by a philosophy that separates body and soul.


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