Saturday, February 01, 2003


High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds-and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of-wheeled and soared and
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie McGee

Friday, January 31, 2003

The Bishop's Problem

Catholic World News Service reported the following today:

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 31, 03 ( - A judge in Washington declined to sentence three gay activists for disrupting a meeting of the US bishops' conference last November, saying that the Church had done "tremendous violence" to them by denying them the Eucharist.
The three activists from the group Soulforce said they went to hotel in the District of Columbia where the bishops were meeting on November 12 to demand that they be given Communion and an explanation of why they were refused Communion the day before during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. They were arrested for refusing to leave the private building.

In the nonjury trial, Judge Mildred Edwards, who identified herself as Catholic, agreed that the activists had broken the law by refusing to leave the hotel's lobby when requested by police and hotel officials. Although prosecutors had requested a sentence of time served-- the 30 hours they spend in jail-- Edwards said even that sentence was too harsh and did something she said hadn't done in 15 years on the bench: she dispensed with a sentence.

"Tremendous violence was done to you . . . when the Body of Christ was denied to you," Edwards said, referring to the contention of the three that refusal of Communion had prompted their actions. "As a member of your Church, I ask you to forgive the Church."

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington said the three activists were denied the Eucharist at the November 11 Mass because they were misidentified as members of the Rainbow Sash movement, a group of gay activists who had said they were planning to receive Communion as a form of protest against the Church's teaching on homosexuality. "The Eucharist is the core of our faith and a sign of our unity," spokesman Susan Gibbs said. "It is very rare to deny Communion, but since it was publicly announced it would be a protest and not a sign of faith, the Rainbow Sash group was denied the sacrament."

All three defendants, Ken Einhaus of Arlington, Virginia, Mike Perez of Seattle, and Kara Speltz of Oakland, California, said they were emotionally shattered by the refusal of Communion at Mass and went to the hotel to "find healing among the people who caused me so much suffering," Einhaus said. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit flew into Washington to testify on their behalf.

Now there are a number of points that could be made about this action by Judge Mildred Edwards and over the next day or so I will probably end up saying them. But can anyone explain to me why a BISHOP would fly from Detroit to Washington to testify on behalf of the three offenders? How clueless can you get???

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Deleting Blogs

A week or two ago I made a sincere attempt to delete a couple of blog postings I had just done. I deleted them twice and each time they appeared to be gone. Each time they reappeared for no reason I can determine. The reason I wanted to delete them is that they were such twaddle I was ashamed of having written them. I have since convinced myself that for some reason the Holy Spirit is working to keep those blogs in place, so they will stay. I don't necessarily, however, have to point them out and draw your attention to them. The reside in well deserved obscurity.

Karen Marie Knapp did a post a few days ago on this very topic which I thought was quite insightful. One passage I would like to quote:

But embarrassment never killed anyone; actually it liberates in the long term. It's secrets that bind and kill.

I think I would phrase this a little differently, but I wish I had written it. As you may have guessed, I am stuck on the idea that what we are missing most in our culture today is truth. Thus, I might have said that it is the truth that sets us free and lies that bind and kill us. It would have been a denial of reality, a lie, to have deleted those blogs. As Ms. Knapp said (sort of) elsewhere in her post, I wrote the damn things so I might as well live with having done so.

On my trip to Alaska I came face to face with this issue on a bit larger scale. I happened to have the opportunity to meet with a Dept of Defense photographer and, since we had some time, he took to showing me all the newest and latest gadgets that he gets to work with in the course of his labors. The gear looked somewhat familiar to me but then I realized that he was holding a digital camera and that his "film" would be processed and the shots printed on a computer. Being a mid-twentieth century kind of guy I was duly impressed and amazed. That is until he started telling me how this new fangeled gear had changed the way he works.

You see, the problem is that with digital photography you can no longer be certain that what is printed out as a photograph is indeed the subject that was photographed. There are so many ways that pictures can be digitally edited and enhanced that there is no way to ensure that the photographs represent the reality of the event. This is a huge problem for our Government and they are having to institute all kinds of procedures and measures to ensure that the photograph are reliable. But he was smart enough to know that they weren't really enough. He said, "It all comes down to the integrity of the photographer."

Isn't that kind of the problem we all face these days? It is so easy to abandon reality that we are no longer sure there is any such thing as reality. If we take a picture and we don't like all the gray hair and wrinkles we just push a button and "delete" them. There we have a picture of ourselves that looks great, but we deceive ourselves if we think that we have changed the reality of our being.

In the same way, we can delete a blog post, but the reality is that our stupidity was there, at least for a while for all to see. On the other hand, maybe I'll buy a digital camera.
Welcome Bishop Sheridan

Today the Diocese of Colorado Springs has a new bishop, Bishop Michael Sheridan succeeds Bishop Richard Hanifan who is retiring. We forward our best wishes to Bishop Hanifan and offer a warm welcome to Bishop Sheridan.
Dissent - Final Word
I would like to do another short post to summarize my previous two posts regarding dissent in the Church. I'm doing this because I thought that, between my two previous posts, there might be some confusion as to what I was saying. I think this will be the last one on this topic.

First, I view dissent as the willful not acceptance of Church teaching in matters of faith and morals. It is an active disregard of God's will as expressed through the constant and clearly defined dogma of the Church. (Sen John Kerry yesterday gave a perfect example of this when he said that he could not be bound by Church teaching in his political career. He reasoning is that he, as President, would represent a broad range of Americans, many of whom are not Catholic. Enough said.)

This dissent can take many forms, the most common being that which arises from ignorance of true Church teaching. Many people will openly state that they do not agree with Church teaching on abortion or adultery or contraception who have no real idea what these teachings are. The reason I call this dissent is that they make no effort, in fact, they have no interest in learning the truth, they simply persist in their ignorance year after year. This form of dissent is due, I think mainly, to poor catechesis. That is, catechesis that was insufficient either due to the ignorance of the instructor or the willful dissent of the instructors themselves.

Then there is the more active version of dissent in which the subject knows precisely what the teaching of the Church is in the areas in question and willfully refuses to accept them. Think certain prominent politicians who support issues which are inimical to Church teaching and yet continue to proclaim themselves Catholic. I sometimes think, especially in light of the recent scandals in the Church that these prominent public personalities do more to affect the teaching of the Church, and the conduct of the faithful, than the bishops do. I might point out, their teaching is not for the good of the Church.

Neither of these versions of dissent is to be confused with simple and honest misunderstanding of Church doctrine. I have been accused, in a comment below, of picking on RCIA students. Nothing could be farther from the truth and if anything I have written gives that impression I hereby withdraw it. None of us who have gone through the RCIA process could ever hold that someone new to the Church would come in knowing and accepting everything there is to know. That is simply impossible; I know it was not true in my own case. What I do say is that, whether an RCIA student or a cradle Catholic, we all have an obligation to honestly seek the truth, where ever that leads us. We are on a journey to union with God and that journey necessarily involves personal and spiritual growth. Anyone honestly engaged in this process is not in dissent from the Church.

I do believe that anyone who is thinking of coming into the Church who is not willing to study, pray about and seek Gods grace in understanding the difficult doctrines of the faith should think twice before taking the final step of accepting the sacraments of the Church. I believe that anyone in the Church, say for example, the Governor of California, should think carefully about taking Communion if they are not willing to accept the Church's teaching on such issues as abortion. It is this kind of close minded obstinence that I think is contrary to God's will for our lives.

I hope this is an adequate summary of what I have written in my two previous posts on the subject of dissent.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Dissent - II
Steven, at Flos Carmeli, has written an excellent post that describes at least one aspect of the process of adult initiation into the Church.

I think all of us who have converted and come into the Church have not come in with complete understanding and acceptance of all the Church teaches. Who of us in the Church today can claim to be in that position? I share the experience of Steven that as I came into the Church I had difficulties. However, as John Henry Newman wrote: ten thousand difficulties do not make a single doubt. But those who come into the Church honestly willing to admit our failings and willing to make the effort to understand what the Church's position is on any given issue is an honest seeking after the truth. I do not consider this to be dissent from Church teaching.

I consider dissent to be present in the case of someone who says, in effect, "I know what the Church's teaching is on this issue, I do not accept it and I never will accept it. Furthermore, I will do my best to make sure everyone I come into contact with knows how I feel on this issue." This is an attitude of rejection of the truth, a rejection of Christ. Anyone who is an adult and holds this position and is thinking of coming into the Church, in my opinion, should delay his or her reception of the sacraments. These folks are not in communion with the Church and would put their eternal destinies in serious jeopardy by accepting the Eucharist. Again, to use a more mundane example, would you join the Kiwanis Club if you rejected all or part of what the Kiwanis Club stood for? If not, then why would you join the Catholic Church under similar circumstances?

I think this is the point made so forcefully by Bishop Weigand of Sacramento last week in the case of Grey Davis. Here is a governor of a large state who holds himself out to be Catholic and yet rejects Church teachings that are central to its understanding of how we as human beings are to live. This, it seems to me, is an intolerable situation, both for the Church and for the governor. It is open, outright, dissent. And this is exactly the type of thing I am referring to when I speak of dissent.

This type of dissent is also practiced by catechists (commonly, I might add) who know well Church teaching, reject it, and teach their own view to their hapless students.

Steven describes an honest, open search for the truth, and even if he felt at the time that he was in a dissenting situation I do not believe he was. The difference is that he was willing to be lead by God's grace and the work of the Holy Spirit to the Truth. You can't ask more than that of anyone.

A final note. All of the above having been said, those who are in a position of dissent are still children of God. They must be treated in every way as a human person, worthy of respect, created in the image and likeness of God. We should pray for them, argue with them, love them. Where we see what we believe to be error we should point it out to them, forcefully if necessary, but do so as Christ would do so.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Steven over at Flos Carmeli has posted a comment on a post by Tom at Disputations and I feel the need to put in my two cents worth.

Steven is correct when he says that we should always treat those who proclaim themselves to be in dissent with civility, in short we should treat all with charity. These folks are not our enemies and very often they are operating out of sincere, but confused, motives. Yet there is a problem that is common among most of those who proclaim themselves in disagreement with Church teachings. That is a lack of real understanding of not only what those teachings are but why there are what they are. They simply have not been taught what the Church believes.

Since coming into the Church nearly 8 years ago I have noticed the almost incredibly poor quality of catechesis available to most Catholics. As a result, most people in the pews simply do not understand their faith. It's little wonder that they don't believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist; they don't believe the Church's teaching on abortion and contraception, and so on. For most of them it is not their fault, they have been taught that there is little, if anything, of any substance to understand and believe.

But, in the case of some of these folks their ignorance is intentional, they want things to be as they want them and nothing will change that. The young lady at Not for Sheep has more or less stated this outright. This is a serious error. It usually results from a willful decision not to teach the true teaching of the Church but to teach one’s own view of what they want that teaching to be. I know that I sat in classes during and shortly after my journey into the Church in which this was the case. This is, at best, a serious disservice to the Catechumen; it deprives them of the opportunity to truly understand what they are committing themselves to by becoming Catholic.

I think all of us, to the extent that we are able, have a duty to explore the depths of our faith. After all, every Sunday we profess our faith and acceptance of all that the Church teaches. To come to Communion while not accepting Church teaching is a serious problem.

We also have an obligation, in love and with respect, where we think we see others either in dissent from or confused about Church teaching to point out the difficulty and try to suggest the correct teaching. We should always try to do this with honey but there may be times when a 2x4 is required. Their eternal destiny may be at stake.

Technical Assistance

I was wondering if someone could tell me how to link, within a post, to a post in another blog and or to my own blog?

I'm gradually learning some of this stuff but have not cracked the code on this particular procedure. I would appreciate any help.

Paz y bien

Sunday, January 26, 2003

When I taught RCIA I faced a common question. The question typically came from folks who were coming into the Church but were either new to Christian belief or had not been seriously committed to the faith in the past. The question they had arose generally after a period of spiritual growth and after they had developed a desire to go more deeply into their new found faith. They were troubled because they had assumed that as they become more "religious" doubts or questions about their faith would disappear. Of course, it didn't. I would point out to them that if their belief in Jesus Christ amounted to an absolute certainty it would not be faith, it would be knowledge.

Cardinal Ratzinger points out in his Introduction to Christianity that these doubts are common among believers in moments of temptation. He also points out that similar doubts are also common among unbelievers. He writes:
". . . the non-believer is troubled by doubts about his unbelief, about the real totality of the world he has made up his mind to explain as a self-contained whole.. He can never be absolutely certain of the autonomy of what he has seen and interpreted as a whole, he remains threatened by the question whether belief is not after all the reality which it claims to be."

I have a license plate from on my truck that reads: "If you're living like there is no God, you'd better be right." Faith is a gamble, there is no such thing as certainty concerning the ultimate questions. Christians know that applies to them and they take up the challenge daily. I think they sometimes forget it doesn't apply only to them.
A Thank You

I would like to thank any and all of you who kept me in your prayers during my trip to Alaska. I was very conscious of your prayers. A trip that could have been very difficult and stressful was much easier than expected. I am grateful.