Support This Website! Shop Here!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Have Spine, Will Travel

The president of the Canadian Catholic Bishops Conference (CCBC) is upset. It seems the CCBC has been providing enormous financial support to organizations that promote abortion in South America, financial support so enormous that the bishops of Peru have actually told the CCBC to stop killing South American Catholics. And Catholic bloggers have found out.

Bishop Weisgerber is upset that this whole story is becoming very well-known in North America through the tireless work of John Pacheco, Lifesite News and other Catholic media outlets.
The Catholic Register reports: "The role of web sites in stirring controversy has become a challenge for bishops." Weisgerber told the Register: "These bloggers who claim to be more Catholic than anyone -- I think first of all they're not part of the church, they're not Catholic in the sense that they have no mandate, they have no authority, they have no accountability. And they speak very, very definitively about what it means to be Catholic, and they're followed by so many people."
It is sad that a Catholic blogger like myself must point out the theological blunders of a bishop but, at the risk of being excommunicated for telling the truth, here goes:

1) Catholic bloggers do have a mandate. This mandate is endowed on us through baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, the sacraments of initiation, which empower every Catholic to preach the Gospel to all nations. Certainly a Catholic bishop should know this.

2) Catholic bloggers do have authority. This authority is endowed on us through baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, the sacraments of initiation, which authorize every Catholic to preach the Gospel to all nations. Certainly a Catholic bishop should know this.

3) Catholic bloggers are accountable. If the local ordinary over any Catholic blogger doesn't like what that blogger writes, he can call that blogger into his office and chew him out. Catholic bloggers are exactly as accountable as Catholic politicians, Catholic book publishers and Catholic universities. Of course, most bloggers are safe in the knowledge that a bishop who won't even get rid of the homosexuals on the parish staff or the pro-abortion parish priest is unlikely to be willing to tangle with a Catholic blogger.

But, the lack of courage on any particular bishop's part is not a commentary on the accountability of the Catholic blogger. If bloggers aren't held accountable, that would be the bishop's fault.

4) More Catholics would follow their bishops instead of their bloggers if Catholic bishops taught the Faith with the same level of assiduous care that is found amongst Catholic bloggers. Everyone gravitate towards people who are serious about being orthodox because the Truth is enticing. Everyone ignores "politically astute" types who, for fear of offending others, never take a stand for Truth. We ignore them if only because they make us throw up a little bit in our mouth.
6. The Church's mission is concerned with the salvation of men; and men win salvation through the grace of Christ and faith in him. The apostolate of the Church therefore, and of each of its members, aims primarily at announcing to the world by word and action the message of Christ and communicating to it the grace of Christ. The principal means of bringing this about is the ministry of the word and of the sacraments. At a time when new questions are being put and when grave errors aiming at undermining religion, the moral order and human society itself are rampant, the Council earnestly exhorts the laity to take a more active part, each according to his talents and knowledge and in fidelity to the mind of the Church, in the explanation and defense of Christian principles and in the correct application of them to the problems of our times. (Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, Apostolicam Actuositatem, Pope Paul VI, Nov 18, 1965).
It's a pretty sad commentary when you hear more about the doctrines of the Faith from the laity then you do from their leaders.

It's also a sad commentary when the very bishops who claim to be in tune with "the spirit of Vatican II" seem to be completely unaware of the actual contents of Vatican II.

Bishop Weisgerber's commentary reminds me of nothing so much as the whining whimper made by the MSM as it slowly declines into obscurity, if only because the reasons for obscurity are identical in both cases.

The politics of major North American newspapers and television shows are indistinguishable from the politics of many North American bishops. Anyone who holds views like Bishop Weisgerber's are going to be ignored. That's not a call to ignore him, it's just a simple statement of fact, a fact that he has already implicitly acknowledged.

As Vatican II remarks, we have to "read the signs of the times."
And today's sign is, "Nobody likes a whiner."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Bishop, the Pope, and Chris West

When John Paul II wrote Love and Responsibility as archbishop of Krakow, he included a section with a fairly detailed discussion of the sexual act. It shocked a lot of the people he sent drafts of the manuscript to, but he included it anyway, despite warnings against the idea.

Today, Chris West and other TOB advocates point to this when they themselves engage shocking language.

Probably the most shocking passage in John Paul II's papal audiences on the theology of the body is his July 4, 1984 audience.

Many people have used this audience to argue that "sex is liturgical" or "sex is a sacrament." In fact, it should be noticed that JP II doesn't call sex a sacrament in this or any other audience, nor does he say sex is liturgical, although the uncareful reader could easily come away with either idea. Instead, he says conjugal life is a SIGN of the sacrament.

Furthermore, he says, "The spiritual maturity of this attraction is none other than the blossoming of the gift of fear - one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul speaks of in First Thessalonians (cf. 1 Thes 4:4-7)."

He keeps insisting that the liturgy is what elevates marriage, and it does so through "chastity as a virtue and as a gift.In this way, through the virtue (of chastity) and still more through the gift (of chastity) the mutual attraction of masculinity and femininity spiritually matures...."

He ends the audience by pointing out that "the light of truth and beauty, expressed in liturgical language" is transferred to the body through chastity which he defines here as "the language of the practice of love, fidelity, and conjugal honesty," but even then notice how JPII hedges the ending: "conjugal life becomes in a certain sense liturgical." But only in "a certain sense."

In my first conversation with Chris West, lo!, these many years ago, Chris got rather upset when I referred to the phrase, "in a certain sense" as Pope John Paul II's favorite weasel words. But they are. When JP II wanted to say something that sounded shocking or odd without getting nailed for it, he used the phrase "in a certain sense." That kept him from violating the Magisterium while still allowing him to say things that sounded edgy.

So, does he say, as some like to assert, that sex is as important as the Mass for saving the world?
No, he doesn't.

Instead, he says that the liturgy empowers chastity in such a way that it has the capacity to transform "conjugal life" into something that is somewhat liturgical.

Or, to put it more simply, the liturgy is lived in chastity and chastity lifts marriage up towards the liturgy.

And when we remember that the whole series of talks is supposed to be commentary on Humanae Vitae, what he's really saying is "contraception is unchaste, so stop it."

But it isn't particularly shocking if said that simply, so JP II gussied it up with a lot of PhD talk.
As a result, uncareful readers have a greatly increased probability of totally misreading the audience. And they do.

Did John Paul II really mean to be edgy?

Well, remember, that he had taken a lot of hits for his Love and Responsibility as archbishop. Also, keep in mind that, as Pope, he cannot overcome the charism of his office. He can't mis-teach to the whole Church on matters of faith and morals. And, even the Pope is not impeccable. He is at best only infallible.

Now, the TOB teachings were certainly a matter of faith and morals.
But was he teaching to the whole Church? Well, that can be argued.

He certainly didn't invoke his full Petrine authority during the audiences.

Some would argue that the TOB teachings aren't infallible because Wednesday audiences are not normally considered a vehicle for infallible teachings. This argument ignores the fact that any communication CAN be the vehicle for infallible teachings. Heck, any time even you or I say "God is one Divine Nature in three Divine Persons," we have taught infallibly, even if it's just in an e-mail to our sainted aunt, because that particular doctrine is an infallible part of Church teaching. We don't have the charism by our office, as the Pope does, but we have the capacity to participate in the sensus fidelium simply by virtue of the gift of reason and our baptism.

So, "in a certain sense" every person has the capacity to teach infallibly, as long as what we teach accords with what the Church has always taught.

Now, the phrase "in a certain sense" is clearly meant to sharply limit the phrase it modifies.
JP II was a wordsmith in multiple languages - he knew darned well how to keep wiggle room alive in his phrasing as needed.

That particular phrase was a favorite of his in the Wednesday audiences, to an extent that's virtually unequalled in any of his other papal works.

I've read probably a third of his encyclicals, by no means all, but a fair number, and the only place you really find that phrase consistently is in the TOB audiences.

Remember, he had ALREADY shocked fellow churchmen with his Love and Responsibility, he KNEW it shocked his fellow churchmen, and he published it anyway, despite advice that he shouldn't. That was as archbishop. Archbishops can commit sins just like anybody else.

Was that chapter a sin? I don't know.
All I'm saying is that it didn't necessarily represent good judgement on his part.
Maybe it was a good idea, but just because Karol Wojtyla wrote it doesn't make it a good idea.

As a priest once remarked to St. Teresa of Avila, a man can go to hell by imitating the imperfections of the saints.

Now, once a bishop becomes a pope, the Holy Spirit is going to sharply curtail certain lapses in judgement that the bishop might previously have made. For instance, more than one bishop has become pope because the cardinals who elected him knew that he had always taught councils had greater authority than popes, that is, men have been elected Pope because they taught conciliarism. But invariably, as soon as the man got consecrated, his mind cleared and he stopped advocating conciliarism. You can't judge a pope's teachings by what he wrote when he was just bishop of Timbuktu. Or Krakow.

As an aside, a couple of years ago, right after Pope Benedict XVI got elected, John Allen of NCR came to town to give a talk on Benedict's attitude towards Islam. I asked him, "Pope Benedict hasn't said much of anything about Islam yet. Won't you have a short talk?" He replied, "Well, Cardinal Ratzinger has written quite extensively on the subject."

I didn't want to be rude, so I didn't point out that Cardinal Ratzinger's writings were not necessarily going to coincide with Pope Benedict's attitude. Before the talk started, I predicted to a friend that Allen, being a smart man, would say virtually nothing about Benedict and Islam during the talk, no matter the title for the evening. In fact, while he discussed Islam and he discussed Rome, John Allen never did discuss Benedict's attitude towards Islam, or even Cardinal Ratzinger's attitude, for that matter. But no one noticed (or they were too polite to notice) because John Allen is also a good wordsmith.

All of this is to note that when we get to the Wednesday audiences, they are not just a toned down version of Love and Responsibility. They are DIFFERENT. In the Wednesday audiences, he says he's giving us a "theology of sex" on at least one occasion, but he doesn't mean "sex" the verb, he means "sex" the noun, what we today incorrectly call "gender." And even in saying something as mundane as "liturgy empowers us to be chaste in marriage", which is really all the July 4 audience says, he recognizes that the converse is not going to be true in the full sense - conjugal life is never going to be fully liturgical, if only because the liturgy is participation in heaven and there is no sacrament of marriage, no conjugal life in the human married sense, in heaven.

He seems to WANT to make the connection go full bore both ways, heaven to earth and earth to heaven, but his office and his judgement prevents him from saying it. So, what he ends up saying is correct, as long as it is understand "in a certain sense."

And that's the difference between John Paul II and Chris West.

You might be able to argue that Chris West is just picking up where Karol Wojtyla left off.
I don't know that I would argue against that position very strongly.
I suspect that "in a certain sense" that is true.

I would just note two things:
a) Even as archbishop, Karol Wojtyla DID leave off there - he didn't continue into the territory that Chris West has so energetically entered,
b) John Paul II didn't go anywhere near where Karol Wojtyla went. In fact, JP II arguably began to walk away from some of Karol Wojtyla's work.

Too much stress is placed on Love and Responsibility.
Not enough stress is placed on the papal encyclicals.
The context for John Paul II's papal encyclicals is not Love and Responsibility, nor even the theology of the body Wednesday audiences. The context for John Paul II's papal encyclicals is 2000 years of Magisterial documents.

That's why the Catechism quotes writings of the Fathers and Doctors, other encyclicals and ecumenical councils. It doesn't quote from Love and Responsibility. Indeed, it doesn't even quote from the TOB Wednesday audiences. In fact, I can't recall a single encyclical or apostolic letter of Pope John Paul II that does make reference to his Wednesday TOB audiences. Not even his encyclical on human suffering, Salvifici Doloris, which is written and released while he's giving the TOB audiences, refers to them or is referred to by them.

Indeed, in his closing TOB audience, John Paul even notes that the TOB audiences are woefully inadequate because they don't address important themes like human suffering, but even in making this remark, he still refuses to refer even to his own document on human suffering. Instead, he keeps pointing us to Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio, and the latter doesn't reference the Wednesday audiences at all. This is all the more interesting given that Familiaris Consortio does reference Humanae Vitae eight times, and footnotes a Paul VI General Audience once (footnote 152).

Is it the case that John Paul II built his whole papacy around Love and Responsibility and/or the Wednesday Theology of the Body audiences? That assertion has been made by people who style themselves scholars, but it is remarkably difficult to find explicit evidence to back it up. Indeed, one might easily argue the reverse: that the whole of his papal teaching is walled off from those particular Wednesday audiences.

In any case, if we are going to use Love and Responsibility to justify how we address the subject of human sexuality, we have to remember that Love and Responsibility is not Magisterial - it is just some local bishop writing his thoughts on sex and marriage.

The local bishop ends up getting consecrated pope.

OK, but his prior writings didn't get consecrated with him.

Like the "conciliar" popes before him, we have to remember that some ideas may have gotten changed when the charism of his office cleared his mind.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nixon and Obama: Blood Brothers

Alright, I don't get it.

Nixon is getting razzed because he said he was fine with abortion in cases where a white woman would otherwise be punished with a black child.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, was praised for saying that he didn't want his own black daughters to be punished with his (presumably) black grandchild.

And the difference is....????

Nixon was, once more, ahead of his time, channeling the One-der of the World.


Big Tent Republicans and Democrats really CAN get along.
Richard Nixon was America's first Black President!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Philosopher, Healy Thyself

In his wild attempts to defend the indefensible Chris West, Dr. Michael Healy, a philosophy professor at Franciscan University, has now taken to providing inadequate quotes to moral theology texts, in much the same way that Drs. Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein deliberately mis-referenced Dr. Schindler's response to West.

Watch how this works. It is instructive.

Dear Steve,
Thanks for the sarcasm, but I’m afraid you are displaying your own ignorance. Are Janet Smith and Michael Waldstein also to be lumped with Grisez, West, and myself as suckering, deceiving heretics? [No. While Grisez is someone who already deliberately misteaches Catholic theology, as he explicitly denies the hierarchy of good, Drs. Healy, Smith and Waldstein are just Kool-Aid drinkers] Janet Smith mentions the same facts that I do about incomplete anal-genital contacts (while noting that both she and West find such acts completely unappealing, not to be recommended, and rather to be cautioned against, as do I); she also mentions that West’s books have received the Nihil Obstat after being reviewed by no less that Bill May. Is he also a heretic? If so, then we are rapidly running out of good theologians. [Notice the logical fallacy of "morality by acclamation." Everyone supports me, thus it must be true, an argument Arians used to excellent effect during a time when we rapidly ran out of good bishops.

Janet Smith has failed to back up her claims that sodomitical foreplay is morally acceptable. You have failed to do this as well, Dr. Healy. As for Bill May's opinion and the nihil obstat, I don't really care a fig for either. Neither is an expression of the infallible Magisterium. Bill May isn't even a bishop.]

Concerning the object of your ire here, it is certainly true that any orgasm, or even unjustifiable risk of orgasm, outside normal intercourse would be a grave sin against chastity. Everyone mentioned above fully agrees with this, so it is hardly parallel to denying the sin of abortion. [Straw man. The question isn't about orgasm, it's about the moral acceptability of sodomitical foreplay.]

Concerning such contacts as incomplete, preparatory acts, let me quote extensively [but not completely, as we shall see - click the link and check for yourself] from Frs. Ford and Kelly (both impeccably orthodox and writing in the late 50’s and early 60’s for seminarians, again with nihil obstat and imprimatur from Patrick O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington, at a time when there was certainly no “fudging” in the granting of an imprimatur):

Practises such as these [Already he's implemented the bait-and-switch - used at all the finest used car dealerships - and you don't even know it's been done. Yet.] are repugnant and shocking to a great many people, and intolerable to some, but their morality cannot be decided on the basis of emotional reactions which, though normal, are apparently not universal. People differ very widely in their estimates of what is shameful or disgusting in sexual matters, these differences being the result of differing cultural backgrounds, family attitudes, sexual education, natural temperament, and other factors.” They go on to say that while no one should ever “speak as though there were no objections to these practises [which practices?] from the viewpoint of the Christian law,” neither is it justified to make “any universal a priori judgment as to sinful or inordinate hedonism” here, though these are the dangers. Further, of course, it would always be a grave sin against charity and justice to try to force such acts on an unwilling partner; they are not part of the marital debitum. It seems to me that all the authors mentioned above, including West, fit solidly within these guidelines. [What did the good Dr. Healy leave out of the quote? Why the sentence that preceded "Practices such as these" of course! But, because I'm a spoil-sport, I'll throw it in for you:

"As a practical matter, we feel it would be unrealistic nowadays to pretermit altogether discussion of the morality of oral-genital contacts preparatory to intercourse." (emphasis added)

See? There moral theologians being quoted are NOT referring to anal-genital contact at all. Drs. Healy and Smith being unable to distinguish the mouth from the anus, think anal-genital contact is parallel to oral-genital contact. In fact, while oral-genital contact is described as permitted above, NO ONE prior to 1970 has ever said anal-genital contact, whether as completed act or merely as foreplay, is anything other than a sin.

West supporters consistently twist the texts they quote. WHY?

If, as Augustine said, "God does not need my lie," why does God's messenger, Christopher West, ALWAYS require what Dr. Healy just did?]

Now this is not to deny that in the past even such incomplete acts have been condemned as intrinsically wrong by some theologians—and if you think so too, you also have support within the Catholic tradition. [Notice how he completely sidesteps the fact that his quote is deliberately taken out of context and actually refers to something else. He accuses me of being ignorant, and I cannot deny it - I am. But I prefer being called ignorant to dealing with the charge that can now be laid firmly at Dr. Healy's door.] But this is a question which has not been finally decided and closed—compared to the question of artificial contraception for instance. [Father Bernard Haring said abortion is not finally decided and closed. Drs. Janet Smith and Michael Healy would like to add anal-genital foreplay to the list, so as to cover Chris West's... back... with their waggish... words...] And as Ford and Kelly say (before Vatican II, before the massive rejection of Church teaching on sexuality), “most theologians today” would not describe them as always intrinsically wrong, but simply as dangerous and to be cautioned about. This is a fine distinction, but one that theologians have to make. [Would that these theologians had actually made the distinction Dr. Healy pretends they have.] However, as Janet Smith says, we really should not take up any more space about such topics in connection with Chris West, as such things are completely tangential to his message and his work. Yet if he is accused of betraying the Catholic teaching here, he has to be defended, despite the fact that I too, like Janet, would prefer not to mention the topic. (Quotes from Ford and Kelly are from Contemporary Moral Theology, Vol. II, Marriage Questions, Ch. 11, Special Problems of Conjugal Intimacy, pp. 228-230). [In short: don't bother about the man behind the curtain, the one who has been passing sin off as virtue. That's really not an issue. Let's move on to something substantive. Like where to buy a Krispy Kreme.

On the other hand, I am SURE that neither Dr. Smith nor Dr. Healy is interested in talking about this subject, since they can't defend it and it keeps coming up to bite them in the ... well... ]

If you bother to do a word-search on "anal" in the work of Frs. Ford and Kelly, as Dr. Healy obviously failed to do, you would discover the deeper problem in Healy's analysis. On page 309-310, the priests point out:
In surveying one of the Anglican defenses of contraception, we pointed out that the author's refusal to define coitus makes his arguments open to serious objections. In particular, since he refuses to concede even the minimum definition of coition as an actus per se aptus ad generationem, he must logically admit that any practice that has "relational value" for spouses (e.g., coitus interruptus and anal intercourse) is licit. (emphasis added)
This, of course is right up Chris West's alley. John Paul II's TOB audiences famously fail to discuss the generational aspect of the sexual act to any great degree. It is one of the odd but true aspects of those Wednesday audiences that those audiences, a commentary on Humanae Vitae totaling in excess of a quarter million words, mention the word "family" only once, whereas Humanae Vitae itself uses the word "family" 15 times in just 7000 words. Similarly, the words "parents" or "parenthood" occurs ten times in HV, but only three times in the TOB audiences (TOB figures based on the index in the first St. Paul edition of the TOB audiences).

The Theology of the Body audiences are 40 times longer than HV, but discuss the primary purpose of the sexual act between much less frequently in absolute terms. Yet isn't the point of contraception precisely the cutting off of any need to discuss family?

If TOB is not about the generational aspects of sex, then what is it about? It's emphasis is all on relationship - the "relational value," that the good priests warn against above.

As a result, the TOB audiences, while fine insofar as they go, do have huge theological holes in them, holes large enough to drive an ocean liner through.

Someone who primarily studies the TOB audiences and spends very little time with other JP II documents, or other Magisterial teachings in general, is very likely to mistake the importance of the relational aspects of the sexual act. That is, someone who is a largely self-taught "expert" on the Theology of the Body is likely to make precisely the mistake Chris West makes, and label anal foreplay acceptable.

Worse, Drs. Smith and Healy have leapt to defend West's statements not because they are defensible, for there is no defense available from the Magisterial documents. Rather, they have begun a "theology of personality", in which Chris West's statements have to be defended because of he who made them. Catholic theology is being bent to fit the predilictions of a specific personality.

I am a graduate of Franciscan University, but I was fortunate enough to never have Dr. Healy as an instructor. I'm sure he counts himself lucky he never had me as a student.

This is the kind of nonsense that is all too prevalent in Catholic institutions: mistaking fad theology for Magisterium, inability to distinguish between the orifices for nutritive intake and waste disposal, he literally doesn't know his ... from a... well... you get the idea.

This is often what passes for philosophy at Franciscan University. As a former graduate student, I can firmly attest and witness to the fact that, while Franciscan University's theology department is competent, their philosophy department has only a few decent thinkers. Far too many are of Dr. Healy's stripe. That's why I have never recommended the university to people.