30 January, 2010

Evangelical Catholicism as expressed by John Allen (NCR)

John Allen, in the National Catholic Reporter opines on the rise of priests and lay Catholics who are claiming the mantle of being "evangelical Catholics".  His perspective is interesting if not entirely persuasive. It's worth the read.

KEEP PRAYING FOR DR. ROB SUSIL

Please continue to pray for Dr. Rob Susil, son in law of my friends George & Joan Weigel. He continues to fight for his life this morning having survived a harrowing night but his condition is still grave.

I recommend praying as well for the intercession of John Paul II as George is the author both of his biography (Witness to Hope) and the soon to be released "Pope John Paul II -- The Struggle for Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy."

John Paul the Great, pray for him!
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for him!
Saints of God, pray for him!
All holy men and women, pray for him!

Totus Tuus!

Atheists go postal over stamp honoring Mother Theresa

The National Post has published an article outlining the efforts of atheists to kill a US stamp honoring Mother Theresa. It is their contention that such a stamp is a violation of the principle of separation of Church and State.

I wonder if they were as outraged when issues of stamps bearing the likeness of Martin Luther King or Malcolm X were published?

I admit that one should not separate Mother Theresa's faith from her good works (given that it was her faith that inspired these works),  but one would think that works which merited the awarding her a Nobel Peace Prize would justify her qualification as meriting this "postal" honor.

What do you think?

Pope Benedict - and his great drive for ecumunism... an exercise in the papal office as true pastor of the Christian flock

If there has been one constant value that is evident in the pontificate of Benedict XVI (aka B16), it has been his creativity and openness to searching for ways of bringing back into the Catholic communion those who have broken away. His overtures to the Anglican communion and the Pius X Society have been well published and debated.

This current overture to the Orthodox Churches is another example of his willingness to explore every avenue possible to heal the 1000+ year old rupture that split the western and eastern halves of the ancient Catholic Church. Clearly he is willing to explore new liturgical forms (as with the Anglicans). Now he has evidently opened up the possibility of redefining the role of Peter's successor in a way that maintains the essential truth of this divine office, while at the same time presenting it in a manner that is palatable to those in the Orthodox communion.

Check out this article is you want to learn more.

29 January, 2010

Your prayer help is URGENTLY and IMMEDIATELY needed

I beseech all who read this blog to please immediately offer a prayer for Dr. Rob Susil, son in law of my dear friends George and Joan Weigel. He has developed a sudden grave complication during his treatment for cancer as is at this moment fighting for his life.  Rob is husband to Gwenyth and father to a young 3 year old son, William.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE... storm the gates of heaven with prayer that God will grant him either a miraculous return to health or a merciful entry into eternal life. He is a man of great faith, who deserves all the support that we can merit for him through our prayers.

Venerable John Paul the Great, intercede with Jesus for the recovery of this wonderful and kind man. Spare his family the pain of his loss. Pray for him.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for him.
St. Joseph, pray for him.
St. Perigrine, pray for him
St. Jude, pray for him

Point to remember when posting comments

Folks,

It is my default position on this blog to freely post comments. However, comments that include offensive language or personal insults will not be published. Overall the comments that the posts have generated have been exceptional, but there have been a few that have not been posted.

I simply ask that this simple guideline be followed: charity in all things.

Fr. Tim

28 January, 2010

An excellent reflection on the Church's use of the new media forms

Matthew Warner of the National Catholic register writes and excellent column in response to the call from Pope Benedict XVI for Catholic priests to embrace the internet and various other social media, to evangelize and propagate the faith. In it he makes an essential distinction between simply have a presence in these media as compared to using them as tool to further the Kingdom of Christ.

May dioceses (my own included) have impressive looking websites which offer an abundant array of information, but they serve as little more than a virtual version of the bulletin board and pamphlet tables that do little more than accumulate dust at the entrance to our churches. To truly embrace the Pope's challenge, priests as well as Catholic laity and Chanceries must come to understand that to be effective, these foray's into the virtual fields must be much, much more.

Check out your own parish or diocesan websites and see whether, in your opinion they meet the challenge as expressed in the Holy Father's document. If not, suggest ways to those responsible to show how their virtual offerings may be improved so that they can truly be the instruments of evangelization that B16 hopes they can be.

27 January, 2010

Here's you chance to put your "John Henry" on an important document

Have you signed the Manhattan Declaration yet?  This breakthrough document brought together Catholics, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestant and Orthodox theologians, clergy and lay people together to put together paper outlining a common position on the major hot button religion/state issues.

They are trying to garner 1,000,000 signatures and are almost half way there.

If Christian faith and values are important for you, take a moment to put your virtual "John Henry" on this landmark document.

US Federal Buildings closed for people of faith

Meghan Duke recounts on the First Things webblog how it was that she was denied entry into the US National Museum of Art because she was wearing a pro-life lapel pin. It seems that security guards have been trained to ask all patrons of the museum to remove any item that might be interpreted as being "religious" on the grounds that expressions of faith cannot be demonstrated within publicly owned buildings.

Aside from the fact that to be "prolife" does not require that one necessarily hold religious beliefs, this seems to be just another example of the enmity that is growing between the forces of the state and voices of faith, even within the borders of the country which holds to their "freedom of speech" so forcefully as to vitiate their own electoral campaign regulations to permit the voices of corporations and other groups the spend without limit to ensure that politicians will create legislation that will benefit their benefactors.

It's one of those little paradoxes of life to contemplate: a button (which costs a few pennies to produce) is a threat to civil discourse within the halls of public buildings, but incomprehensible numbers of millions of dollars can be spent by anyone to determine who gets elected to govern the land.

Be careful though. Pondering the logic of such decisions can give a believer a headache.

26 January, 2010

Today is a fruitful one on the internet

Today is a fruitful one on the internet. Found this tidbit on the National Post, Holy Blog.

------------------
by Barneyrubble

Jan 26 2010
4:33 PM
I live in a part of Canada that does have a Muslim population. I don't see too many burkas though. When I see them I think they are strange looking however, kind of like a Jew wearing a skull cap or a Hindu wearing a turban - or even a Christian with a cross dangling about his or her neck.
Religion is weird if you are not part of it. As an atheist I have taught myself to respect other peoples' ideas about religion, however.  I know that they believe strongly in the things that they do.
Is it my right or my duty to make them conform to my way of thinking? I don't think so. I guess that is why I continue to be proud to live in a country that respects the rights of individuals and in their right to express themselves and to carry on in their own ideas regarding faith and religious dress.
When I read articles about banning burkas I get very suspicious and begin to look for motive. That is where I usually start my own enquiry on such matters.

A quick and easy post!

We all get those emails. You know, those jokes that make the virtual rounds. Thank God every now and then one gets recycled that's been out of the loop for so long, it's new again! Here is one such example.

Thank you to Fr. Michael Smith.

--------------------------------------
God and the Scientist

God is sitting in heaven when a scientist says to him,"Lord, we don't need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning."

"Oh, is that so? Tell me," replies God.

"Well," says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into your likeness and breathe life into it, thus creating man."

"Well, that's interesting. Show me."

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.

"Oh no, no, no," interrupts God. "Get your own dirt."

Another civil exchange of the challenge the Church faces in today's cultures

A welcome follower of this blog is a person who writes under the handle of "reddog". Recently he responded in the threads of the BlueWave link to the threat atheism poses to freedom of religious expression. I follow with my response.

Your comments are always welcome!

Fr. Tim
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"Atheism poses no threat to freedom of religion. It's the freedom itself that threatens organized religion. Most people will always possess some type of spiritual beliefs. Once they can believe anything they want without the coercion of a dominant religion, they do. Cafeteria style. They borrow from friends more than model after priests.

JPII was an attractive and charismatic figure, he helped the RCs regain some ground, though the faith of those that came back was diluted and had a lot of ecumenical pollutants. Benny 16 is back to the model of a self loathing, closeted, Gay, that RCs suffered through with Paul 6. No help there.

Priests no longer have the luxury of teaching. They have to sell. They need to be heroic in the image of Jesus, not Peewee Herman. You need a good, long, dark age, full of ignorance, pestilence, poverty and fear. You can always hope."
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Reddog: I appreciate your opinion, but it seems to me that somewhere in excess of 1 billion others would disagree. I point out that this claim is made at a time when the world has not experienced widespread dark ages, ignorance, poverty or fear for almost 1000 years - and thrives among the hearts and minds of some of the brightest in human history. I appreciate too the challenge these times present the Church, but the internet has provided one of the most effective media by which to speak to untold thousands of people in a variety of cultures, (all in a "one on one" based encounter) with one post or recommended article that is put before people to select in the "cafeteria" of faith.

Cafeterias can be a source of wholesome eating if the food served is healthy and nutritious. Let's use the same methodology that Satan worked in cleaving souls away from the faith. It's not the method that was evil or somehow ineffective or immoral. As C.S. Lewis would write, minds and consciences are formed (or deformed) in a slow bit by bit approach. What was evil was his intent, not the tools he used to accomplish them.

Persuasion is an effective tool, if done with charity and fidelity to church teaching. I try to personally ensure that for this blog by sending posts to priests who exemplify these same virtues, and edit my posts if they offer sound advice to so. This "spiritual buddy" system taught to us in Kindergarten is still an effective way of keeping each other safe... or to return to the food metaphor again... ensuring that our offering is nutritious and pleasing to those who pass by to graze.

Now is the time for the church to establish its presence in these buffet of information that is modern communications and culture. We should not fear setting up our offerings beside the spiritual McDonald's of our adversary either. Offering a healthy menu in places people go when they are hungry is always a good choice appreciated by many.

As President George H. Bush proposed in his winning campaign for office... "do not curse the darkness. Rather lift high your candle. Become one of a thousand points of light to guide our nation in dark times". This metaphor propelled him the highest office in the land (and stands in stark contrast to the eloquence of "W", thus proving that a gifted tongue is not a trait that is inherited by the child!) The same metaphor applies to the issue of evangelization in this age. (I think I can offer this particular piece of personal opinion without having to state whether the Bush's represent the voice of faith or not; politicians do not always offer credible witness when one is arguing for the faith, at least in this country)

An old priest once counseled me that it is always wise to know your enemy for he might have much to teach.

Wisdom then... wisdom now.

Thoughts to consider before leaping into reaping virtual souls for Christ.

In the light of the Pope's current endorsement of priest's bringing their ministry onto the pages of the internet, I thought it might be instructional to describe what commitment it takes to maintain and produce as much text and postings as I do in the pages of this blog.

There is no question but that the up-keep of a virtual presence does require time, commitment and a discipline if any priest does not succumb to the allure of the internet. It can be quite an ego stroke to have even hundreds of people think enough of one's intellect and argument that they would visit one's blog - especially if one is feeling less than fulfilled with the numbers who regularly listen to him on any given Sunday. The seduction of letting this misordered intention can lead a priest to become a focal point for those who bear a grudge due to some grievance, perceived or real. This might lead a priest to become a point of opposition and conflict, bring injury to the Body of Christ. To this end, a strong conviction to the truth of obedience and respect is an essential prerequisite for any cleric on the net.

I myself have skated over this line and have felt the "tug on my heart" to somehow convince myself of the "righteous" of this role.  I am fortunate enough to work under a Bishop who offered a stiff verbal warning, and chose not to put me into the penalty box. As my seminary professor, Fr. Michael Prieur of London, Ontario taught: in any situation of conflict with the church (or it's higher clergy members), a priest must acquiesce in obedience to our superiors and to the Magisterium of the Church. The benefit of the doubt must always be given to the church. To hold that one's writings or thoughts to be so "unique" or "powerful" that they MUST be heard, requires an ego that's very heavy to carry. "The only safe path" Fr. Prieur often intoned, "is to bind your heart, mind and soul with 'hoops of steel' to the Church. If what is offered is legitimately of God, He does not REQUIRE you to make His will known".  This reminder that not all grace is active/efficient, but most often it is simply "sufficient". Thus any inspired message I may perceive, is capable of being received and promulgated by others.

I endeavor to do the same, but it is a fight that must be addressed each and every day, with every thought and idea posted. 

Again I think back to an earlier time in my life when I considered delaying my academic studies as a social worker to serve for a second term as Student Union president. A mature student who had befriended me, presented me with a wonderful physical demonstration of this spiritual truth. He carried a bucket of water into my office and plunked it down on the middle of my desk. "Make a fist" he said "and stick it into the water." He then commanded me to remove my hand and look upon the surface of the water. "If there's still a hole there" he quietly said, "then you're indispensable! If there is no hole, you can be replaced." This life lesson was gratefully accepted and I refrained from taking my focus off of why I was attending University in the first place - to get an education; not to be a Messiah for the student body politic. So too one must enter this virtual ministry with humility and fidelity to one's primary obligations. Being transferred from one pastoral assignment to another is another reminder in any priest's life of the truth of this wisdom.



Next comes the discipline to maintain the time demands of of such a ministry. It is easy to spend endless hours reading, writing and chatting with people online and this can be time stolen away from our primary obligations as priests. As Fr. A.T. Harrington, a priest of my diocese under whom I worked as his parish assistant, used to say "It's easy for you young priests to think you're busy, when all you're really doing is splashing in a bathtub." As a general rule, if the "demands" of the virtual ministry impedes one's need to daily carry the obligation to pastor where he is assigned by his Bishop, then it is taking up too much of a priest's focus and should be set aside.



My experience has taught me however with even rudimentary understanding of free internet tools (such as RRS readers and Comment Moderation settings), the amount of time needed to read what is offered on the net can be reduced into a series of short 5 - 10 minute blocks of time that can easily fit into the schedule of a parish priest. By just deciding to forgo hours spent watching the television, or making use of early hours over a morning cup of coffee, it is easy to dedicate enough time to read, respond and post, both in a blog like this, and in one (or two at the most) comment threads of a major web newsites. Personally I choose to participate on the National Post's Holy Blog site. Again, with the use of various internet tools, new comments in these threads are automatically sent to an email account. Modern wireless technology provides the variety of tools to access and respond to such messages in free moments.  Most of these comment postings are limited to a few hundred words and require little time.


I believe that another important element of any priest's intention to work the web for Christ, is that he have sufficient years and pastoral experience under his belt before launching forth. The enthusiasm of a newly embarked ministry as priest needs to be tempered by the realities of life, as witnessed in the every day ministry of our elder priest brothers and faithful laity. God speaks within the heart and mind of any priest as he is being formed in the Seminary through the study of the faith, but he also speaks to us through the lived experience of these ordinary vessels of grace.They often God's wisdom that is tested by years of life's challenges. Again, to turn to inspiration from one of my former seminary spiritual directors, Fr. Jack O'Flaherty, a priest should wait at least ten years in ministry before he begins to presume to have sufficient wisdom to speak or serve in a leadership or teaching role within the Church. I have heeded his advice (twice over) before I undertook this ministry, and I believe myself to be at most barely adequate to the task.


Finally, and most importantly, this virtual life must be rooted in a priest's daily prayer life. Just as some priests convince themselves that their sacramental obligations suffice as a prayer life, so too it is easy to think that time spent conversing with others and defending and debating the faith is also an "inspired" communication. The only way that a priest can be certain of the appropriateness of a virtual ministry, is if it brought every day into that inner sanctuary where he encounters Christ on a personal level. Put in the language of the evangelicals, it is through a life of prayer (and service) that we can develop a personal relationship with Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior strong enough to sear away the temptations and seductions that the internet offers. I am inspired in this by the example of Catherine  Doherty of Madonna House in her prophetic vision of the soul being a room with two pieces of furniture: a throne and a cross. If we insist on sitting on the throne, we keep Christ on the cross; if we accept to share in carrying the cross, then we permit Christ to reign as Lord within our lives. 


Any commitment less that this, and any priest will find himself an illustration of the wisdom C.S. Lewis details in the Screwtape Letters and bit by bit he will be seduced by the dark forces of our earth.


The Holy Father is wise in calling his priests to charge into these virtual fields. The least that we can do is strive to ensure that we are just as wise in balancing the virtual and real demands of such a dual track focus.


Keep you eyes fixed on Christ, your ears open to the Church and heart open in charity to others. These are the essential elements of any valid ministry no matter is form.

25 January, 2010

BIG BLUE WAVE: Atheism: a danger to freedom of religion.

BIG BLUE WAVE: Atheism: a danger to freedom of religion.

Christianity: A Threatened Belief (The arrival of persecution for Canadian Christians)

It once was held as gospel that Quebec was one of the most Catholic jurisdiction in the world. The clergy dominated virtually every field of public life, even to instructing the faithful how to vote, under pain of sin (“Le ciel est bleu, l’enfer est rouge”). Then came the cultural transformation known as “la revolution tranquille” and the Church was, in an instant wiped from institutions, government and influence in the public square.
In fact, for any idea, policy or moral position to be come from the Church was to automatically cast it in a disparaging light; discarded as out of date and unbefitting modern societies.
Through the years, this atheist orientation of sensus fidelium has inexorably moved Quebec from a position of just denying the Church, and the values it embodies, a public role in society, to now attaining its ultimate goal of punitively sanctioning the very expression of all theist voice, but particularly the voice of the Roman Catholic Church.  Now, that wave of “anti-theism” has washed over the entire country.
One need only review the succession of anti-life, pro-homosexual and secularist initiatives from various Human Rights Commissions (the 21st century incarnation of a “drum trial” where laws of evidence and truth need not apply), bureaucratic persecution (such as its unfair application of a 10% limit on a Churches resources which can be used to teaching its view own view of the faith - a restriction not placed on other charities such as Planned Parenthood or other organizations that receive direct government funding) and successive court rulings (such as the reinterpretation of the word “sex” in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms from it’s original designation of ones gender to its current understanding as license for any and all forms of sexual orientation). Evidence is certainly mounting for the rights of current believers, individually and collectively in their Churches.
This is not a popular position for a priest to espouse, neither within and outside of the Church.  Yet if we do not examine why the Church failed so completely in having any claim on the lives of today’s Quebecers, we will be doomed to repeat the process throughout the land.  To do the same thing over & over again expecting a different result, is the very definition of insane.  Bishop’s tend not to take kindly to such criticism from within the priestly ranks. It is certainly not the path for career advancement within the Church.  The enemies of the faith love nothing more than to find and exploit any perceived division within the faith.  No theologian ever receives more publicity than when they speak in opposition to Church teaching, usually seducing them further and further outside the embrace of orthodox teaching (ie:  Matthew Fox, Charles Curran). This is not the case here.
Priests who are calling for the Canadian episcopal college to not keep silent as the Quebec Bishop’s did, are doing nothing more than fulfilling their mandate (as expressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his call for priests to embrace the new media forms of today to present the arguments for the faith and the rights of the Church) and pointing out the realities of todays ministerial challenges, as experienced by they who work in today’s spiritual trenches.
Lest dear reader you believe this to be little more than Christian (or Catholic) whining about its current situation, I point out that anti-Semitism has deep roots within western cultures, and Muslims who are demographically surging within western countries are also facing opposition to the public expression of their faith. It is upon this evidence as well that I support my contention that the modern secular model as applied today has revealed itself to be atheistic in its orientation.
After working for the many years in church ministry within Quebec and in bilingual parishes in Ontario, I understand only too well the challenge that faces the theist argument today. With these recent government and juridical initiatives, Canadian churches are indeed facing an increasingly hostile cultural environment, bent upon extinguishing every vestige of it voice from the public square.
Yet, it is not all doom and gloom for the Catholic Church. Vocations to the priesthood have been growing since 1985 worldwide.  American branch of the church has recently rediscovered its voice in the great question of the day with more & more Bishops stepping forward to argue cogently and effectively for Christian values to be respected in legislation and within their courts. Given that they function this way within the most successful and powerful society in modern times should point the way for their Canadian brothers. 
American politicians have also not been as reticent as their northern brothers to allow their faith to guide them in their legislative endeavors. (“If we ever forget that we're one nation under GOD, then we will be a nation gone under.” Ronald Reagan - is a good example).  Perhaps their witness might also prod our Canadian politicians to honor their moral convictions and not continue to cave in the opponents of theist positions. If they cannot reconcile their faith and their politics, they should choose which camp they are in and cease to claim the cloak of faith in their electoral campaigns.
The voices of faith indeed have a hard row to travel. They need all the help they can get from their leaders if they want to withstand the assaults and persecution visited upon them by an  atheistically oriented state. Let all people of faith pray that their leaders hear their cry,  even from a simple parish priest.

Interesting statistics of the life of the Catholic faith

The New Advent blog has posted an article linking to a comprehensive list of Church statistics. It is worth noting that whereas the media would have us believe that the Church is in severe decline as evidenced by the declining numbers of priests, the actual truth is that priest numbers have steady increased since 1985.

To apply the wisdom of Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the church are greatly exaggerated.

24 January, 2010

One of Bishop Fred Henry's (Calgary) classics

Here is an excellent article to contemplate when challenged to prove that the voice of faith has a right to be heard within every medium of modern society.

In a letter, written in defense of Pastor Steven Boissons, Bishop Henry of Calgary viscerates the philosophic underpinnings of modern day secularism as practiced today in Canada. It is this philosophy which dominates the public square these days, creating an ever increasingly hostile atmosphere for the free expression of one's religious convictions. You can say that a church is still free to speak and preach its creed and beliefs, however you demand that they be punished for believing in values contrary to current public opinion, then their speech is hardly free.

Given Bishop Henry's involvement in the NP Holy Blog story about a Calgary church being stripped of its charitable status, thus denying it the right to offer tax receipts. This decision is not made because they are not a charitable organization...they serve over 150,000 meals per year to the homeless and urban poor of the city. They are being stripped of this right because the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) has decreed that churches cannot spend in excess of 10% of their resources to argue for a traditional Christian interpretation of what constitutes a sin. This is nowhere established (yet) in law, but it is the actual policy, as it is currently being applied in Canada.

It's really is this simple. The government is over and over again punishing voices of faith publicly expressing their understanding of what is moral, and is using the instruments of the state to try to intimidate their expression in the public square.

Boissons was not only forced to pay a $5,000 fine directly to a person that claimed to be "injured" by his traditional christian teaching on sexuality written as a letter to the editor of a local newspaper which he did not agree with it, (thankfully overturned later by the Courts after a great deal of financial suffering by the minister), but he was prohibited from even talking about these subjects in any public forum... including in his own religious services (again tossed by the Courts after much expense - without Crown compensation I might add)!

People have the right to believe as they choose. They have the right to say so. They also have the right not to be financially punished for the expression of their belief. 

It would be nice if secularists would at least be as open and honest in admitting to the philosophy behind their arguments against religious expression in the public square, and own up to their prejudice against the arguments of faith.

Insightful editorial on the issue of God & Haiti from the NY Times

The relationship of the disaster in Haiti has occupied quite a bit of recent space on this blog. In that same spirit I offer this Op Ed piece from the NYT in which James Wood delves into the subject.

23 January, 2010

From the "now I've seen everything" file

Pope calls on priests to use the internet to spread the faith!

Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement today in which he encourages priests throughout the world to better use the internet and all the virtual media to promote the cause of faith.

As a blogger, it does my heart good to receive this message from the Holy Father as it is evident that with a few exceptions, the Bishops of our lands have been slow to use these new mediums to spread the good news of Jesus. In fact, it is not at all uncommon for priests who have chosen to speak out for the faith to run afoul of their Bishops who are threatened by the clarity and faithfulness of their blogs and webpages in the promotion of our Catholic faith. Perhaps we might stand in better stead with the support of the Pope for our endeavors.

THANK YOU Pope Benedict... and thanks as well to Catholics everywhere who have taken up the challenge of promoting the faith in every venue possible, real or virtual.

Canadian Government continues its ATTACK against institutions which promote Christian values

In today's National Post you can find an article about a church in Calgary, Alberta that has been stripped of its Charitable Institution status (allowing it to offer tax receipts for donations) because it has publicly spoken out in support of traditional Christian values on marriage, sexuality and life. This is just one more example of a (tragically) growing body of evidence that Christianity is under attack by the state in Canada.

This story, along with many of the anti-faith comments that accompany the article should chill the soul of any believer (no matter the creed or church) for it proves just how hostile the Canadian government has become to any organization that speaks in opposition to the social experimentation that has afflicted our country since the 1960's. Despite years of promises from politicians that Churches would be protected in their ministries, the facts prove that politicians and bureaucrats cannot be trusted.

I am left to wonder how much longer it will take before Christian will once again be called upon to shed their very blood for the faith. It may be FAR SOONER than we had dared to fear.

Click on the title of this post to be taken to the article in the National Post.

22 January, 2010

A theologian-pope sidelines theology | National Catholic Reporter

A theologian-pope sidelines theology | National Catholic Reporter

More on the connection between evil, sin , grace and the Haitian earthquake

Fr. Michael Smith, a former philosophy professor and current pastor in Temiscaming, Qc (my next-door-neighbor... even though he's almost 60 miles distant) has offered the following  in response to my previous post on Epicurus' dilemma on the existence of evil. I thank Fr. Mike for the kindness of his response and trust that it might serve to prompt further comment on this subject. The italicized (not) is my addition to his message as I believe that it was omitted in error when he sent me his post.

I include my response to him at the end of his post.
-------------------------------------------
Tim,

I have read your appeal for help with the problem of evil. The whole argument is subject to a number of limitations:

1. If one grants, as Augustine does, that God would not permit evil unless a proportionate good could come out of it, the problem is that we have such limited knowledge that we cannot possibly know what good can come from some forms of evil (e.g., the Holocaust). Quite bluntly, we do not know why the earthquake occurred in Haiti, other than the natural causes at work (tectonic plates moving).
One thing is clear: Augustine’s argument does not mean that God uses evil as a means to an end.

2. If one grants the argument that a world where there is free choice, but moral evil, is better than a world where we are all good, but programmed to be so, this has nothing to say about natural evils such as earthquakes.

3. Another thing is clear: This life on earth does (not) give us any guarantees of safety from accidents, tragedies, and natural disasters. Miracles exist, but they are exceptional.

4. No explanation of evil could ever come to the point of a scenario where evil fits perfectly into the picture. As radical nonbeing, evil is that which, in principle, does not fit in.

5. To paraphrase Albert Nolan, to believe in God means to believe that good will ultimately triumph over evil. The problem, for each individual, is this: Given my necessarily limited knowledge of the grand scheme of things, can I trust God? Each of us spends his or her life living out the answer.


Mike

------------------------------
Mike,

With regards to your 2nd point, can we not say that creation suffers from the imperfection of sin (Romans 8:22) and that such events as an earthquake is a manifestation of this imperfection? After all, when creation is renewed with the coming of Christ at the end of time, could we still expect that this new existence will still be prone to such events? If we can assume that there will not be earthquakes etc. in the renewed world, is it also not logical that we could find what exists (or is lacking) now which would explain the existence of natural disasters?

Further, if can conclude that what is different is the presence of sin, and if I can say that sin is a direct result of  the misuse of the gift of free will, can it not be said that then that it is sin which is responsible for the death and suffering of an earthquake?

Perhaps I am using at least one of my terms in an analogous fashion for I am tying this entire schema into our Catholic understanding of the preternatural gifts (with its perfect understanding of death as a normal phase of life by which we leave time and enter into eternity), gifts that were lost to us via the "original" sin.

I does seem to me that the key to comprehending of all of this is to understand "free will" as the penultimate gift of God - the freedom God gave us to chose Him (presence of God = grace) or not to (privation of God = evil).

21 January, 2010

Looking for help with an ancient theological puzzle

"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?"  Epicurus (341-270 bce)


This quote was offered today in the comment threads of one of my earlier posts. 'Martin' suggested that this mystery cannot be solved without  one "miring themselves in confused, byzantine, and self-contradictory poraxisms of illogic."

I would appreciate some input from others in the blogosphere in formulating an answer to this question, either in the form of suggested reading or perhaps a proposed answer that you might wish to propose.

I responded by suggesting that the problem inherent in this conundrum is that it imposes on God the limitation of existing in time - a conclusion I tried to back up using Einstein's formula of relativity (something that I have been pondering for a while as it seems to support classical formulations on the qualities of God)

20 January, 2010

A summary for Martin - a fellow seeker for truth in the face of evil, pain and death

I have started an exchange with a former classmate (Martin) from my philosophy days that has been sparked by my postings re: Haiti, evil and the existence of the devil. I spent some time between appointments  typing out the following response to his most recent questions, only to discover that it was too long to be posted as in the comment threads. So, I post it here in the hopes that he will find it and respond - as I hope others will as well. I do not claim that what I am developing is entirely orthodox (I hope it is, but I'm open to being corrected) but I have found that it provides a solid foundation from with to deal with such questions.

I look forward to your comments, pro or con.

Fr. Tim

---------------------------------------------------

Ok Martin...here goes.

1. I introduced the concept of free will into the discussion because I believe it to be the key to rationally understanding the question of the existence of evil and ultimately for the existence of Satan as the penultimate example of such.

First off, you know that it is my contention that God (a spiritual being) exists and that he is directly responsible for our existence.

Next, I believe that what scripture refers to as humans being created in his image and likeness, refers to our capacity to exercise free will in the moral decisions of life. If you will, it is the incomplete fruit of the tree of knowledge by which we judge "good" and "evil". (Lots more to say about this, but for now this will suffice)

Since God granted to us this capacity to act freely in either choosing to follow him or not, he cannot compromise this gift without being unfaithful to himself - something that he cannot do. Nor can God do so without fundamentally changing the human equation, changing our nature into less than what it is now. In effect, changing us from free souls into marionettes that he directs. I think you would agree that this would make a farce of all of history - if none of the advancements, sufferings and insights of human history mattered since he could just change us at will to erase them all.

If God granted us the gift, and cannot compromise it without injury to us or to himself, then we must  permit the consequences of our action to exist as well, irrespective of whether they further or retard our progress towards our ultimate goal (to be with God).

It then follows that freedom of will by its very existence necessitates the existence of both good/grace and evil/sin. To hold to a counter position would necessitate invalidating the initial gift from God (if we can't choose evil, are we really free?)

Next, it is also part of our nature that we are social animals. We share collectively in the blessings and failings of the totality of human experience. Therefore we share in the advancements won by right ordered reason and acts, and we suffer individually and collectively from those acts that are ordered to a different priority ("anti-God" if you will).

Thus evil exists as an essential corollary of the existence of free will. (darkness exists because of light - for its very definition is a negation - the absence of light which cannot exist on its own, at least not yet.)

2. Starting from the premise that it is possible for a spiritual being to exist who is capable of creation and endowing us with free will, so too it is also logical that he could create other beings (in this case non-corporeal or spiritual) to whom he would endow with at least the same gifts as he would give us ie: free will. Just as it is possible for us to choose to follow God or not, so too would these creatures, for what the lesser being can do is surely possible for the greater (I use lesser/greater to mean that we can influence only one sphere of existence - the physical, whereas these spiritual beings seem to be able to have influence in both the physical and spiritual realm). The Church has taught consistently that Satan is one such being: an angel who rejected God (light/grace/goodness) and chose to follow another path (darkness/sin/evil).

If we can hold to the belief that such non-corporeal beings could exist, and if they too are permitted the same freedom of choice as we do, they would similarly share in an existence that it deformed or polluted by the accumulation of their anti-God choices. In their case, the corruption would be all the greater for they KNOW of the existence of God (they see him "face to face" in the spiritual realm) thus the effects of their turning away from God would result for them in the ultimate of darkness. Therefore they embody evil in a much more pure form than can we.

In summary then, we as humans both assist in the progression of grace in this world and impede the same by sin. We suffer the consequences of sin just as we benefit from the effects of grace (grace being at all times at least "sufficient" to achieve its end, provided our cooperation with it).

Therefore if God exists and created us; if he granted us the ultimate power to decide whether to follow his path or not; then evil must also exist or else we do not truly possess the freedom of choice.

It's late for supper and mass and appointments await me so I ask your pardon and understanding if I have not perfectly expressed myself. I have done the best I can on short notice to explain my position that the key to understanding the existence of good and evil is to understand and appreciate the gift of free will.

Thoughts? Improvements? Questions? Comments?

Tim

How did "sex" change from meaning one's gender to one's orientation

If there is one topic that is certain to generate responses in the blogosphere, it is whenever any one posts something that is considered by others to be homophobic (which now is defined as contrary to the gay rights agenda). The basis for the charge of discrimination that always follows such a post (at least within Canada) is usually based upon the philosophical and legal foundations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Part I, section 15-1) which states:

 Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. 

My question to anyone interested in such matters is this:  is the use of the word "sex" in this section not supposed to refer to one's gender and not one's sexual orientation?  If my memory serves, that was the interpretation that was accepted at the time. How and where did one's sexual preferences.orientation come to replace what was considered to be a word intended to deal with gender discrimination.

If one were to stretch out the concept of gender to include transgendered individuals - this I could understand as you are still dealing with a definition of gender. How is it that it came to be seen in a completely different light and meaning than is carried by the word "sex" in the context used in the Charter?

Let me express my reservation about doing so as follows:
1) sex in this legal sense meant gender
2. gender is determined by one's physicality
3. therefore this section of the charter (or similar other legal documents) offers no protection to people based upon their sexual preference as the defining characteristic of their personhood.

Anyone's input would be very much appreciated.

Thanks.

Fr. Tim

19 January, 2010

Another thought produced by the tragedy in Haita

A brother priest sent me the following in response to a comment from 'Martin' in the threads of the Haiti post. It contains a wisdom that expresses better than I had via a vis Christ's relationship with us and we with him.

Fr. Tim

H/T to Fr. MS
----------------------
I was particularly struck by Martin’s point about God not lifting any stones to rescue the victims.

In the Living with Christ missalette, the introductory blurb for this coming Sunday takes Martin’s point and turns it on its head. The author, Teresa Whalen Lux, quotes St. Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands, no feet but yours.”

In the Incarnation, God gave up the use of omnipotence to take on the limitations of human flesh. Because of this, we are saved THROUGH our humanity, not FROM it. We also become God’s instruments in saving the world. An incarnate God without human agency is a contradiction in terms.

Kate McGarrigle R.I.P.

Video report on Pope Benedict XVI to Jewish Synagogue

Moral/Mental Reservation

Earlier today, someone offered a series of comments in which were pasted a document that explains 'moral/mental reservation', a religious teaching that has been (mis)applied by some Churchmen to keep abuse cases secret. I decline to publish such a long series of comments, but I offer here the link to the Wikapedia article on the subject. I trust that this will honor the intentions of the poster.

Here is my response to the implicit question posed by the posting of this material.

In essence the practice is founded on the concept of the 'greater good' ie: it is for the greater good of the faith to keep offenders protected rather than to report the abuse. While there are evident cases where this is practiced in everyday life ("No, those pants don't make you look fat" jumps to mind), it very clearly is not appropriate in matters as grave as the sex abuse scandal.

I believe this to be so for two simple reasons:

a) it is not proper to protect those who are guilty, irrespective of the motivation, if doing so results in the sacrifice of the faith/lives of innocents.

b) it does not work! In country after country, diocese after diocese and church after church, the attempts to keep victims silent or offenders compliant have failed. As I often say, it is the very definition of crazy to believe that one will get a different result by doing the same thing over and over again.

18 January, 2010

Robert F Kennedy: 4 April 1968.... man of peace and faith

"Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.... Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much."

RFK
4 April 1968


Truer words were never spoken. In this, the authentic Catholic voice was presented, purified by the fires of despair, hate, grief and Christian hope at a time and place of great anger and rage. A testimony that is a pure illustration of where calling people to their better natures, even at the cost of ones own life, is worth the effort. For those six short weeks that spanned their respective assassinations, RFK offered a model of Christian and civil service that helped a nation survive after standing on the precipice of a race war.

He was not a perfect man, but on 4 April 1968, he was the right man, at the right time, with the right message. He showed us how to confront and overcome evil in our society. If only his family had maintained his Catholic witness.

John Paul II expressed the same truth in his calls to the people of the former Soviet Empire. It was by rejecting the path of violence, and simply refusing to accept the illegitimate infringements of the state into the human rights that all people share by virtue of being redeemed by Jesus Christ, and thus all by adoption, brothers and sisters with him, and through him with each other.

Evil can only exist if we decide to permit it to do so, for ultimately it will be vanquished by Christ and his Church.

A little humor at the end of the day

Good night. Pleasant dreams all. Enjoy this little tidbit before turning in yourself.

Fr. Tim

This puts the current War in Aghanistan into the perspective a Christian soldier. A more powerful inspiration to pray for them I do not know. Read, listen and enjoy. Then PRAY for them

This is well worth the time to read and listen to get some perspective in these troubled times.

Quebec defines that heterosexuality cannot be taught as being normal

With thanks to CA, I offer this report on the latest addition to the secularist formula as expressed in Quebec with the publication of the "Quebec Policy Against Homophobia."

Whereas I agree that it is right to accept that the State has the right to establish what will be considered legal or "normative" in its own curriculum and policies, it should not infringe on the right of the Church to argue for that which it believes to be moral.

Morality is a priori within the very mandate of religion. There should not be subject to the limitations of State, beyond the consensual understandings of what is needed for civic health. To do more is an infringement of the freedom of religious expression. The State cannot tell the church what they may or may not teach as essential tenet of their faith, any more than the Church should have the right to dictate to the State how to manage affairs within its purview.

The Church must be granted the right to argue for its understanding of the morality of human activity, so long as individuals are free to make these decisions for themselves for it is the collective expression of these understandings that becomes the law of the land.  To quote Pope John Paul II, the church must propose but never impose. It is up to citizens to decide the rules and values reign within civil society. The Church must be allowed to both publicly and privately engage in the public square to try to win the hearts and minds of those whose will is expressed in public policy.

To deny freedom of belief to one is to deny it to all.  This is not a road that leads to civilizational growth and mature societal debate. It's the road that leads to oppression and state domination. It's the model that has stripped societies of their cultures as the rule of the mob leads inevitably to the rule of one.

Judge for yourself. Read the document and decide if I am right or wrong.

=============

Help!! I lost the Red Cross!!

Can someone please tell me where to find the gadget I need to bring back the link to the Red Cross Haiti Relief site to make a donation? I inadvertently deleted it and cannot find it again.

Any assistance would be appreciated!!

Fr. Tim

Pope B16's visit to the Roman Synagogue

I wanted to share a note I sent to a friend earlier today who knows better than I how the Vatican works. I've edited out his name so that he is not forever linked with my opinions in the virtual world. I believe it speaks to the issues raised by the Pope's recent visit to the Roman Synagogue and the responses to it as reported in the media.


Fr. Tim
------------------------------------

G'day -------
Taking a break as I am from reading a book on comprehending, E=MC2, I took advantage of the timeout to check some reputable news sites, only to discover that Pope Benedict's visit to the Synagogue was less than an overwhelming success.

How can it be that he seems to be an blending of the intelligence and orthodoxy of John Paul, and the public relations skills of Paul VI ? I'm mean, "discrete"... really that's the best he could come up with? Perhaps coming from the mouth of JPII, as a victim of Nazism such a word would carry the meaning B16 intended, but from the mouth of a German it rings as hollow as the "we were only following orders" defense of the Nazi's themselves.  What an incredibly sad illustration of this man's understanding of the media and public relations. You know that I mean this in the most respectful way I can, but really....

Does he not have people with whom he discusses these issues before he makes such pronouncements? ---- (another friend) shared with me that JPII on occasion would ask for his opinion on a document or thought before going public with it. Are there not people who do the same for B16?

The juxtaposition of an action resurrecting the Williamson nonsense in the immediate days preceding this visit (with the statement on the outreach to the Pius X Society), the scheduling of the elevation of Pius XII to venerable with the fact that the archives were not yet ready to be examined by secular scholars was not hard to be problematic. Even if one posits that church makes this decision in its own time, could not the statement on the schismatics have been delayed a week or two, and the Pius declaration not be made "in pectora" (sp?) until the archive was ready? When B16 had twice already as Pontiff visited a Synagogue, why was this visit even scheduled before the archive could be examined? -------, this is the same sort of "tin ear" that seems to afflict those Bishop's who keep improperly handling the sex abuse allegations; those enlightened men who keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result... the very definition of crazy!

All I can say is that as sad as this situation with the Holy Father is, it would no doubt have been much worse to have a Pope with the mind anything less than the fullness of the faith, blended with the charisma and understanding of public relations of John Paul. That would have been an authentic disaster for the church. Such a Pope would do more than just "smell the smoke of Satan", he'd no doubt be half way to burning the place down.

Such is the state of my mind today. I think I'll spend the rest of the day with Einstein. He's easier to understand.

Coffee, book, quiet jazz, and my dog lying at my feet. It's a great way to spend a day off anywhere, anytime.

Talk to you soon,

Tim

Friendship



Friends...

Friends are like butt cheeks.
Crap might separate them,
But they always come back together.

The devil is real... and he is us.

The Haitian earthquake has brought to the floor a discussion about the role of evil in the world. The musings of Pat Robertson claiming that the death and destruction of that impoverished nation come from a "pact with the devil" should and has been opposed. (Click here to read Rex Murphy's contribution or click here to read what is most likely the best response to date)

There is however one small grain of truth in his malicious claim: evil (sin) is indeed responsible for death and destruction, but this evil was wrought by human hands.

Consider if you will this column from David Brooks (NY Times) in which he points out that when an earthquake of the same magnitude struck San Francisco (1989) it resulted in the death of just over 60 people. Yet the same strength event resulted in over 50,000 deaths in Haiti. What was the cause of this horrific difference? Poverty, unenforced building codes, and lack of civil services. Each of these causes can clearly be laid upon human shoulders.

To find the real root of this tragedy, one needs to look for the "devil in the details". It is from the sinful roots of the human heart that kept Haiti in such extreme poverty, both within the Haitian people and from the lack of justice that this nation experienced at the hands of richer nations. Greed, prejudice and the lust for power were the determinative factors in the thousands of deaths in the most recent earthquake.

The true question for us to explore when we plumb the depths of darkness in the human heart is how these evil impulses are spawned. This is where we will find the fingerprints of the devil.

Sin exists in this world only because we permit it to. Christ has been victorious in his battle with evil; we need only accept his teachings to share in his victory. The devil has reign in this world only to the degree that we cooperate with his seductive initiatives. His ability to manipulate the human heart and mind must be countered with actions of faith, love and charity if we truly want to bring about a better world for all.

It was the shifting of tectonic plates that caused the earthquake. It was from our cooperation with evil that makes us the agents of death and despair as has been made manifest in Haiti. Our generosity in responding to this tragedy is only the first step in dealing with the devil's handiwork. Choosing to follow the path offered to us by a loving God and forgoing our selfish participation with the devil is the only way that we can authentically deal with the existence of evil in the world.

16 January, 2010

Does Haiti teach us any lessons about God?

One cannot open a newspaper or watch TV without witnessing the unimaginable horror that is Haiti today. As the images of death and destruction assail us, questions about the goodness and love of God comes to the fore for any believer.

Many people are using this tragedy to denounce people of faith as being fools. After all, if we believe that God is all powerful and loving, how could he permit such death and destruction?

Aside from the easy response of challenging such people with the question as to whether they are willing to grant to God the responsibility for all that is good in the world as they logically must if they are going to hold him liable for all that evil, it is essential that we understand that we too are the ones responsible for the role of evil in this life. It is mankind that is as responsible for what has befallen Haiti as God.

I say categorically that we are responsible for what has transpired in Haiti because it is our own participation in sin that permits evil to exist in this world. Each time we face a situation where we must choose to follow the path of good or evil, we are either strengthening the forces of God or Satan. And it is the fact that Satan exists in this world that it is the cause of the effects of sin; death, despair and suffering such as the media puts before us these days in Haiti as with ever other example where evil reigns.

Let us respond with all possible kindness and generosity to the immediate needs of the Haitian people. Click on the Red Cross icon on the top of this blog or offer your assistance in whatever manner you choose to bring our aid and assistance to our brothers and sisters in their time of great need. Let us also commit ourselves to keep from strengthening the forces of evil by participation in sin.

Our Christian faith demands no less.

Click on the title to this post if you want to participate in the debate about the role of in this crisis. It will take you to an article on the Holy Post blog of the National Post where these questions are being debated.

Keeping "clean" on the muddy paths of the internet

Being new to the world of blogging, I am still learning many "virtual life" lessons. This fact has been made abundantly clear to me over the past day or two.

I was reminded that it is difficult to comprehend the line that separates our private from public lives. I have chosen to take the position with my own life to use my proper name and life situation in the public forum. Others have made different choices. Neither is right or wrong but it brought to mind the fact that there ought to be some sort of etiquette that applies to these internet exchanges. To date, I have not found such an item.

In one case, I had posted a request for prayers for a person that I have come to respect who had made know to me a particular prayer need. Alas in doing this I inadvertently crossed over the line where the private and public are divided. While he was (as always) gracious in pointing out my error, he did help me to see that whatever is posted on the internet lives on for a very long time.

This same lesson was taught again in another way when one of the posters on this site (and others as well) who repeats ad nauseum various charges and allegations about the Catholic Church was "outed" as a possible purveyor of child porn sites. I have always enjoyed my debates with the man I call "O/C", for amidst the nonsense he posts, he often demonstrated a keen mind which can bring elements to the topic that we are discussing that I had not previously known or considered. For this reason, I chose not to take offense at his allegations and personal insults and continued to participate in conversation with him.

However, a comment posted by someone else pointed out again the lesson about the permanence of our internet footprints by showing that if one were to google his online handle, one could see that there are incidents when someone with this same handle has visited and posted comments on various child pornography sites.

This somewhat shocking revelation put before me something to hurl back at him in the threads of the National Post's religion blog ("Holy Post") when he pushed on further with his insults and insinuations against the Church, its clergy and its practices.

He has subsequently challenged me to bring the matter to the Police, and this I have done. However, given the prevalence of aliases and on-line handles throughout the internet there may be little if anything that they can do. This being said, the scourge of child sexual abuse demands that we do all that we can to fight it in every way possible.

Yet, having done so in as clear and charitable manner as I could think of (asking why a search of his handle produced such disturbing results), I cannot help but feel "dirty" by participating in the exchange.

This is I fear not what the internet was intended for.

If anyone is aware of a site that publishes any form of etiquette or rules that one can follow which permits the free exchange of opinion while remaining unsullied in the process, I would appreciate knowing about it.

Until that day comes, I will try to follow two simple rules:

1. not to post any information that identifies anyone without first asking permission to do so, thereby respecting their right to privacy, and

2. I will use any information that I discover about fellow commentators in the most charitable manner possible.

The internet seems to be a muddy road to travel. It is difficult to journey without being sullied by the dirt thrown by others. I pray simply that I might be able to continue this virtual ministry I have undertaken in a manner that is right and proper as a representative of the Church, and of Jesus the eternal high priest.

Fr. Tim

15 January, 2010

Getting the most out of Mass

If you find the experience of attending Mass to be less than you might hope for, then this is the article for you. In this concise article, Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. offers some tips to improve ones personal experience of the eucharist.

14 January, 2010

Confession by the Numbers

In the year following my ordination to the priesthood, I had the opportunity to gather a few of my classmates together for a small celebration of our first year in ministry. As we sat around a campfire taking in the beauty of the Ottawa River, conversation turned to what we considered to be the best experience of the priesthood.

The first answer that quickly came to the lips of my brothers was the incredible grace that comes from celebrating the Eucharist. To know that, thanks to the grace of ordination, we could make present the very person of Christ in the Eucharist brings immense joy to any priest.

However, this was not the first thing to came to my mind. For me, the greatest moment as a priest comes when I have the opportunity to offer the forgiving, healing presence of God in the sacrament of reconciliation. These moments when as a priest, I can become an instrument of God's hands and bring the peace of a spiritual healing of some of the most intimate wounds have sustained me in my understanding of what "alter Christos" means.

Here is an article published today which provides a perspective of this great sacrament from the lay perspective. It is a tonic for any priest who has experienced sitting alone in the confessional waiting for someone, anyone to take advantage of this healing gift of God.

Canadians cannot withhold taxes in abortion contest

David Little, a Canadian prolife activist has been refusing since 2000 to pay his income tax as a protest that his money could/would be used to provide for abortion services, something that he found morally unacceptable.

In refusing to take up his case, the Canadian Supreme Court seems to be agreeing with lower courts that there is no connection between the payment of taxes and agreeing with particular policies of the government.

Read the National Post account of this battle here.

12 January, 2010

ROME REPORTS TV News Agency - Best keep secrets of John Paul II revealed, his sacrifices

ROME REPORTS TV News Agency - Best keep secrets of John Paul II revealed, his sacrifices

Finding God in clay vessels

Every now and then I find other bloggers republish earlier posts, so it is in that spirit that I once again offer this personal homage to a musician from Mattawa, Roy Payne (The Goofy Newfie).

clay vessels: Drinking a Beer with Jesus
I have been fortunate to come to know personally the writer and performer of this song. His name is Roy Payne.

To say that Roy has has lived life "in extremus" would be kind. Any polish or veneer that once adorned his countenance has long since been burned off by the trials of life; some of his own making, others by the trials of fate.

Yet having visited the joys of fame during the '70's on the country music scene, he has also lived that sad state of life memorialized in those ballad and songs of woe.

I am also privileged to be able to talk with him about how it is that he continues to experience (if not always heed...) the gentle touch of God in places we would not always think to look: like "Drinking Beer with Jesus". Without a doubt, we hear inspiration and authenticity in the lyric of a song offered with a raspy voice bespeaks years and years of smoky bars and hard living.

Whether the muse for this work be divine or not, Jesus was certainly there in that crucis where inspiration was born.

Download the song here and listen for yourself and let me know how you would respond to his final line.

11 January, 2010

She'sGotYou.wmv

A little more clean humor that anyone who have ever attended a high school reunion can relate to.

A Group worthy of support, praise and reading!!!

Click on the title of this post, or here to visit the website of the "Pave the Way Foundation", an organization that stands for faith, but against any extremist elements that would threaten each others religious and civil rights. There message is powerful:

Pave the Way Foundation is dedicated to achieving peace by closing the gap in tolerance, education and the practical relations between religions, through cultural, technological and intellectual exchanges. We strive to eliminate the use of religion as a tool which, historically has been used, by some, to achieve personal agendas and to cause conflicts.

Through our inter-religious projects of identification and elimination of obstacles and our concrete gestures of good will, we utilize our earned level of trust, in order to "pave the way" towards improving inter-religious relations and by encouraging intra-religious relations. We task the faithful of all beliefs that the true danger to international peace is the extremists that exist within every faith.

Pave the Way Foundation is committed to ending religious hatred and intolerance by removing the tool of “religion” from those who will use it for malevolent purposes. We have taken and continue to take decisive steps to educate the every day person. We promote projects which have demonstrated enormous historic gestures of good will. When the “silent majority” learns the truth, they will act rationally, rethink past hatreds, oppose stereotypical lies and act with tolerance for their fellow man.

We hope to motivate the every day person not to just sit there and say "tsk, tsk, tsk" after reading their morning paper - do something! Your life, your family, and the survival of the whole human race may very well be at stake.

One must be careful not to trust everything they read in the paper or see on television. We encourage everyone to seek out the unbiased facts about any story before rendering an opinion. Mark Twain once wrote "If you do not read newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read newspapers you are misinformed."

The philosophy of how we have achieved our successes at PTWF can be summed up in this fact of problem solving: "If there is a problem somewhere, this is what happens. Three people will try to do something concrete to settle the issue. Ten people will give a lecture analyzing what the three are doing. One hundred people will condemn or commend the ten for their lecture. One thousand people will argue about the problem. And one-person -only one- will involve himself so deeply in the true solution that he is too busy to listen to any of it."

Fr. Elias Chacour- Israeli Priest and First Palestinian to graduate Hebrew University

"The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything."

– Albert Einstein, physicist

Embrace our similarities Savor our differences.

The meaning of our slogan is simple. We must embody the messages of charity, love, and responsibility for every human being, common to all of our faiths, our beliefs and to the code of human behavior. We focus on our similarities and savor our differences by learning, through the positive and practical appreciation of the World's diverse religions and beliefs. We must not allow the differences to poison us, with bigotry, hatred, and intolerance. Instead, we wish to learn, enhance our own beliefs and in turn savor our differences.

Where Rights came from. A video series by Dr. Tom Woods Jr.

Here are the successive links that will allow you to this enlightening series in which Dr. Wood's (NY Times bestselling author and EWTN contributor) presents the truth about the churches role in history as the agent in which our essential human rights were engendered.

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Part four:

Part five:

Part six:

Accessing the historical memory of the Catholic Church

Here is the start of a promising series that helps to see the actual role that the Catholic Church played in history. If one wishes to learn how to access the wisdom she contains, gleaned from being one of the few institutions that has a memory that spans back to the beginnings of recorded history.

10 January, 2010

Amid the hysteria... some perspective

The threads of commentary on the internet is polluted with those who refuse to grant to Muslims the rights of religious freedom, opting instead for a "tit for tat" policy. While I grant that we are in the midst of clash of cultures and convictions, I question both the efficacy and the appropriateness of their strategy in the conduct of this war. In short: I agree with their cause for concern, but I believe that the actual reading of history, as seen through the lens of the historical memory of the church, leads to an understanding of the most effective and proper manner in which cultures have both succeeded and failed in negotiating a peaceful coexistence. Society ignores her advice at its own peril.

Let's just for a moment, consider the following. In this Time Magazine article, we gain some perspective with which measure the level of fear and hysteria which is inflamed by those who pretend to be 21st manifestations of Winston Churchill. First we demonize, then we open the door to seeing "others" as the enemy who threatens our way of life. Remember that it was the most cultured and civilized of countries, Germany which for a time malformed itself into an evil parody of civilization by first dehumanizing the Jews, Slav's and Anglo-Saxon while at the same time lifting themselves as the very height of evolution and breeding. To paint all of the Islamic faith as being incapable of making peace with our western culture is to use the same logic that seduced the German people. Thus people trying to emulate Churchill, (most often unwittingly) find themselves playing the role of Goebbels in this new century.

If the examples of Desert Storm I & II and the subsequent debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything, it is the knowledge that the first act of any group bent on the path to war, must first paint his compatriots view of "the enemy", (or the "evil do-er's" to co-op a previously misused phrase) as too extreme and savage to be able to comprehend or engage in a successful negotiations of our common cultural peaceful existence.

In truth, the voices of those who cry that the "savages are coming over the walls", (each armed with copies of Sharia Law in hand no doubt!  It's Mao "Little Red Book" all over again)  neglect to consider the facts such as they are presented in this article: facts which do not support their contention that this war cannot be won if we offer Islam the rights of religious freedom.

Now, with popular opinion running against the voices of extremism within non-Arab Muslim countries, it follows that they will be far less open to Saudi money to fund their schools. After all, if the graduates of these Maddrasses are now bringing a virtual orgy of internecine Islamic killing into the neighborhoods of their very countries (Pakistan, Indonesia, Philipines, Africa) The schools will be seen as the cancer they are. A cancer that needs to be exorcised.

In global terms, it is fair to say that there will always exist tension along the geographic and cultural fault lines of this world; but the overall experience of the world (as reported in the main stream media and within academic institutions) is one of peace. In fact, I believe it is fair to say that there is an entirely different dialectic at work which will necessitate that those of Islamic faith to respect and honor the universal right. This will be the interaction not of Christian vs Islamic faiths, but rather one between Muslims and the modern western materialist secular humanism. Muslims will be no more immune to the seductions of that siren song than the Christian institutions have been.

Again, this time it is post WWII history that provides the evidence of his, a lesson that was repeated 40 years later within the borders of the former USSR. As first waves of pious immigrants settled into western society, it took barely one generation for their faith to crash upon the shores of our consumer culture which heralds the owning of possessions and prestige above everything else. When the Iron Curtain fell, societies like Poland in which the Church held the preeminent place, a tidal wave of consumer oriented advertising washed the former soviet state which over a surprising short time has drowned out both many a persons faith, and the effective voice of the Church as well.

Muslims may well be "at the door" but our society is (in at least one way) sadly well prepared to meet the challenge. There is no need to restrict the Muslim faith by infringing upon their religious freedom. They're going to need all the help they can get.

09 January, 2010

Defending the indefensible!

If you click on the title to this post, you will be taken to an article from the Catholic News Service (USA) in which the Archdiocese of Milwaukee defends the installation of a bronze relief in which former Archbishop Weakland is depicted kneeling at the holy creche of Christmas.

Aside from the question as to whether it is ever appropriate for a church to insert local clergy into holy pieces of art ( in my opinion it is not for it is a simple expression of the ego of the person depicted), the revelations that were made public of his ongoing sexual relationship with another male (thank God not a minor, as if this makes his actions any less reprehensible) and the fact that literally a tens of thousands of  dollars taken from Diocesan funds were used to keep his partner silent) one would have thought the such a piece of art, commissioned by Weakland himself,  should have never seem the light of day. It most certainly is offensive to all victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy to know that such an article was installed within the Cathedral of the Diocese. It should be offensive to all faithful Catholics, and particularly to we clergy who continue to faithfully live out our vows of celibacy.

Pray that the new Archbishop might see fit to move this offensive bronze into a more appropriate place. (perhaps in the closet where the floor mops and pails are stored, given the clean-up job that needs to follow the perverted clerical witness of the former Archbishop).

Calls for moderation within the greater world wide Islam faith condemning violence and terrorism

There has been an ongoing debate as to the role of Islam in western societies. One place where these conversations have been taking place is within the threads of the National Post’s “Holy Post” blog, especially in response to any article dealing with the Islamic faith.

Today the HP blog has posted a story about 20 Imans establishing a fatwa against those who would threaten violence against either Canada or the United States, and as per usual there are many people who are commenting. Yet absent from the threads of this exchange are the voices of those who continue to deny that there is such a thing as a “moderate” Muslim, a fact that is belied by the almost 20 million of adherents of Islam who currently are peaceful citizens within both of these countries who successfully live as Muslims within our predominately Christian cultures.

Islamic extremism continues to be a threat to all western countries, yet it is important to note that they in fact comprise a small minority within Islam. These adherents of the Wahhabbi sect (springing from Saudi Arabia and has spread to Pakistan, Afghanistan and to a lesser degree within other countries via their funding of Maddrass Schools which spread their particular interpretation of Islam ) are a clear danger, both for political and religious motives.

We (non-muslim theists) need to continue to dialogue with Islamic scholars and Imans to assist them in this internal fight for the heart of Muslims world wide. If one is willing to look past the headlines that scream out the carnage of suicide bombers and the killing of innocents by these extremists, we can find many Koranic scholars, Imans and faithful who have been fighting this battle on our behalf.

To learn more, check out this link to the National Post story.

07 January, 2010

How to reach lapsed Catholics

Here is an article that examines the issue of how to reach out to and bring home lapsed Catholics. This is a challenge that every priest (and minister for that matter) faces almost on a daily basis. The conclusions might surprise you. Give it a look by clicking here

Eleven steps to a better ministry

Every clergyman, priest, deacon or bishop has faced the questions about how to better minister to his flock. There is certainly no shortage of books written on the subject. Yet it is not often that one can find in a simple and concise article an 11 point plan that would work for any of us who find ourselves searching for the direction to take to better make Christ present within our communities than this one written by Todd Lemieux in the pages of the Catholic Exchange website.

Here are his eleven points, pared down into short pithy titles.

1. embrace limits
2. utilize limits
3. begin again
4. dump the ego
5. what is the experience you are creating?
6. tell the story
7. communicate
8. think about the idea
9. be deliberate
10. break the rules
11. pray

Read the article to discover what each means. It might just help some of us find our way to better minister and make present the Good Shepherd to those for whom we have taken the responsibility to pastor.

Questions about genetic research... is it about to boom or bust?

“Human geneticists have reached a private crisis of conscience, and it will become public knowledge in 2010. The crisis has depressing health implications and alarming political ones. In a nutshell: the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.”

This is the lead into an article found in The Economist by Geoffrey Miller in which he examines the advances and trials of genetic research. His concern seem to be that further exploration down this “yellow brick road” might nor bring us to “Kansas” but instead might provide fodder or justification for the type of ethnic based violence that marked so many years with the last century.

I do find it interesting that the great concern is that such research might bring about a widespread conflict between humans of difference ethnicities, but seem to have little concern about the possible perversion of life in the name of science. It reminds me of those feminists who are rabid supporters of a woman’s right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy via an abortion… so long as it isn’t done as an exercise if gender selection (don’t want to tips the scales of power even further into the grips of we patriarchal types!)

It does make one think thought, and that in itself can be an excellent idea, especially when it comes to whether or not we (as a society) are willing to let scientists try to “improve the species” through genetic manipulation.

A Bishop faces and angry parish in France when he moves their pastor

Wow... and my Bishop thinks I bring HIM grief!!


05 January, 2010

Why Catholic scandals are treated differently than those of other faith communities

Written in response to the question "Why do Catholic clergy failings garner such national salacious  coverage when Protestant failed clergy often get little or no national media coverage?" --------------------------------------
If I may point out one essential difference between the protestant vs catholic experience of their respective scandals: in their case the institutional response was too one-sided with the alleged victim over and against their paid and ordained staff. I personally can remember ministers who were ridden out of town when they were found to be be without the support of their employer in the face of such allegations, even when they were later proven to be unfounded. And by God, it was splashed across the pages of local papers on a regular basis from coast to coast so often that they no longer warranted coverage by the national media.

We Catholics on the other hand, have been found culpable of dealing with these same sorts of matters in a deceitful and harmful manner, both in terms of permitting those accused to "retreat, repent and return", all in secrecy, so that any one would have to have had virtual moral certitude that there were going to be future victims. This practice was wrong. This practice is bereft of any claim of being Christian. These practices resulted in untold and almost incomprehensible suffering for more children and women than any number a practicing Catholic would dare to contemplate.

There is nothing to be gained by denying the truth... and humbly I submit that what ever Catholic priests and Bishops may have intended with their actions, they were wrong, morally, scripturally and legally.

Pope John Paul said this. Pope Benedict has said this repeatedly during his American visit and elsewhere. He is the Pope who (for the first time in my lifetime that I can remember) put his moral suasion behind the call of the current Archbishop of Dublin that those Bishops implicated in such acts should resign, and all but one of them have. This is why the fall of Catholic priests garners such public notice and infamy. It's the harvest of many, many evil acts that were sown over many years. There is no surprise that these fruits taste so foul in our Catholic mouths.

But as right as it is that we should eat our bitter meal without complaint, so too can I still hope that our leaders (Bishops, priests and religious) might do what is needed to ensure a better tasting harvest in the future. The bile of these scandals grows too bitter for most Catholics to bear, especially if there is no hope for better fare in the future.

Maybe following the Irish example of a government run inquiry into the Church, might offer the antiseptic needed to cleanse again the soil so as to produce the harvest that Christ intends from us.

Then we might be able to go about our Master's business in peace as he taught us by his sacred example.

I know I'm past that point when I can claim that I am "just going grey", but hopefully I'll still be around to taste that harvest of sweet fruits promised by God and expected of those charged with the care of the vineyard.

Fr. Tim

"You might be a redneck" as morphed for Catholics! Enjoy!

Here's some catholic humor that might illicit a warm chuckle in these cold winter days. Enjoy.

OPEN FORUM

As the title says, this is the place to start any conversation you would want. If different themes develop, or if new items are offered for discussion, I will set up new postings to "host"  individual topics.

To use a scriptural quotation... "Speak Lord. Your servant is listening."

Fr. Tim

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