Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Nice words

Fernando Karadima, Chile’’s most infamous pedophile priest, sits in court before testifying in a case that three of his victims brought against the country’’s Catholic Church in Santiago, Chile, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The Vatican ordered Karadima to life of penance and prayer in 2011 for abusing three young boys. A local judge determined the abuse allegations were truthful but absolved Karadima because the time limit had expired for prosecution. The three victims who filed the suit accuse the Chilean Catholic church of a cover up.


From left James Hamilton, José Andrés Murillo and Juan Carlos Cruz

http://www.lastampa.it/2018/05/02/vaticaninsider/karadimas-victims-the-pope-asked-for-forgivgeness-now-exemplary-actions-needed-kUfgAvkSFdkJlNjuDffMgI/pagina.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karadima_case

A Wounded Church

Alter Christus

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, deign to imprint Your likeness on my poor soul, so that my life may be a reflection of Yours.

MEDITATION

The imitation of Christ should not be limited to some particular aspect of His life; it means living Christ and becoming completely assimilated to Him. The life-giving principle of our resemblance to Christ is grace: the more grace we possess, the greater our resemblance to Him. The principal characteristic of Christ’s soul is the unlimited charity which urges Him to give Himself entirely for the glory of His Father and the salvation of souls. This same charity increases in our souls in the measure in which we grow in grace and live under the influence of Jesus, who is the source of grace, and to the degree in which our souls are directed by the same divine Spirit that directed the soul of Jesus. Each one of us will be an alter Christus (another Christ) in the measure in which he receives Christ’s influence, His grace, His virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and, above all, the motion of the Holy Spirit, which urges us to make a complete gift of self for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. However, in order to accomplish this fully, we must continually die to ourselves, “always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest … in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11). Jesus lived a life of total abnegation in order to save us; we too must follow in His footsteps that He may live in us and we in Him. “For to me, to live is Christ.” (cf Philippians 1:21) is the cry of the Apostle who had so lived Christ that He was able to say, “I live, now not I but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20).

COLLOQUY

“O my Christ, Whom I love! Crucified for love! I long to be the bride of Your heart! I long to cover You with glory and love You … even until I die of love! Yet I realize my weakness and beg You to clothe me with Yourself, to identify my soul with all the movements of Your own. Immerse me in Yourself; possess me wholly; substitute Yourself for me, that my life may be but a radiance of Your life. Enter my soul as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior!

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend upon me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word; that I may be to Him a super-added humanity wherein He may renew all His mystery!” (St Elizabeth of the Trinity, Elevation to the Most Holy Trinity).

O my Jesus, this is my great desire: to be an extension of Your humanity, so that You can use me with the same freedom with which You used the humanity that You assumed on earth. Now in Your glory in heaven, You continue to adore the Father, implore Him on our behalf, give grace to our souls; You continue to love us and offer the merits of Your passion for us; but You can no longer suffer. Suffering is the only thing that is impossible for You, who are glorious and omnipotent, the only thing which You do not have and which I can give You. O Jesus, I offer You my poor humanity, that You may continue Your passion in me for the glory of the Father and the salvation of mankind. Yes, Jesus, renew in me the mystery of Your love and suffering; continue to live in me by Your grace, by Your charity, by Your Spirit. I want my humble life to be a reflection of Yours, to send forth the perfume of Your virtues, and above all the sweetness of Your charity.

You know O Jesus, that the world needs saints to convert it—saints in whom it will be able to recognize and experience Your love and infinite goodness, saints in whom it will find You again. O Lord, although I am so miserable, I also want to be of the number of these Your faithful followers in order that through me You may continue to win souls for the glory of the Blessed Trinity. O Jesus, give us many saints and grant that many priests may be counted among them.”

Love,
Matthew

The Church

“O Christ, our Lord, You have transmitted to Your Church the sovereign power which You have received. By virtue of Your dignity, You have made her Queen and Spouse. You have given her supreme power over the entire universe. You have commanded all men to submit to her judgment. She is the Mother of all the living, and her dignity increases with the number of her children.

Every day she gives birth to new children by the operation of the Holy Spirit. As a vine, her branches cover the whole world. Her boughs are upheld by the wood of the Cross and they reach up to the Kingdom of heaven.

Your Church, O Christ, is a strong city built on a mountain, visible to all and enlightening all. You are her Founder and foremost Citizen, O Jesus Christ, Son of God and our Lord.

We beseech You, eternal King of souls, Christ our Lord, stretch Your omnipotent Hands over Your holy Church and the holy people who belong to You; defend them, guard them, preserve them; combat, challenge, subdue all their enemies.

May Your Church always remain pure and living! May she chant Your praises under the guidance of the holy angels! We pray to You for all her members; grant them pardon and remission of all their sins; grant that they may sin no more. Be their defense; take away from them all temptation. Have pity on men, women, and children; reveal Yourself to all, and let the knowledge of Your Holy Name be written in their hearts.” (-from an ancient Liturgy).

Love,
Matthew

Filial Obedience 2

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – O Jesus, teach me the secret of humble obedience which submits to every superior and every command.

MEDITATION

Although obedience is precious because it places our whole life in God’s will, nevertheless, in practice it has its difficulties and these arise chiefly because the command itself does not come directly from God but through His representatives. Thus it often happens that we fail to see God in our superiors and to recognize His authority in them. For example, when, as often happens in religious life, we have as our superior a former colleague or perhaps even a former pupil, younger and less experienced than we, one whose weaknesses and defects we know only too well, we could easily be tempted to have insufficient respect for his authority and his commands. Then a life of obedience becomes especially difficult: it is hard for us to obey, we do not have recourse to the superior with childlike trust, and what is worse, we justify this attitude to ourselves. Here we are making a great mistake in perspective; we forget that, no matter who the superior is, he is invested with authority which comes from God, authority placed on him solely because he has been called to this office. This authority is unchangeable and has the same force whether the superior is old or young, experienced and virtuous or inexperienced and less virtuous. Basically, if we find ourselves in these difficulties, we must lay the blame on our lack of a supernatural spirit, a spirit of faith. We are judging spiritual matters according to natural standards and from the point of view of human values, which makes it impossible for us to live a life of real obedience, a life entirely based on supernatural values and motives. We must learn how to rise above human views concerning the person of our superior—his good qualities or his faults, his actions in the past, and so forth—to look upon him only as the representative of God and of His divine authority. It is true, we often find it absolutely necessary to use all our strength and efforts to do this if we do not wish to lose the fruit of a life of obedience. It is certain that the more we force ourselves to see in our superiors the authority which comes from God, so much the more perfect and meritorious our obedience will be, and God Himself will guide us by through them.

COLLOQUY

“My sweet Savior, can I see You obedient to Your creatures for love of me, and refuse to be obedient out of love for You to those who represent You? Can I see You obedient unto death, the death of the Cross, out of love for me, without lovingly embracing this virtue and the Cross on which You consummated it?

“I will force myself to the utmost of my power to imitate Your example, and for love of You, obey all creatures—my superiors, equals, or inferiors—in all things, without argument, murmuring, or delay, but joyfully and lovingly. Therefore, I will not question the reasons why I am told to do this or that; I will not think about the way in which the order is given to me, or the person who gives it. I will consider Your will alone, letting myself be moved like You in any direction, by anyone, in agreeable or disagreeable, suitable or unseemly circumstances. It matters not! Grant me the obedience You desire.

“O Jesus, who willed to make reparation for Adam’s disobedience and mine at the cost of Your life; O Jesus who by Your death acquired for me the grace of knowing how to obey, I wish to live longer only to sacrifice my life by perfect, continual obedience” (St. Francis de Sales).

“O Lord, You desire to infuse obedience into our hearts, but You cannot because we will not recognize that You speak and work through our superiors, and also because we are attached to our own will” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).”

Love,
Matthew

Making real love possible

“Prayer and asceticism, then, are part of the Catholic intellectual life. Disciplines of soul and disciplines of the mind go together. One of the most attractive things about the Catholic intellectual vocation is that it calls us to be people of a holistic integrity. Every facet of our life needs to come progressively into the light of Christ, not so that it may perish but so that we may live in a more truly human and divine way. When human beings are integrated morally, intellectually, and spiritually, their intellectual concerns and their moral pattern of life cohere…Their relationships of human love are deeply related to their aspiration to divine love.

…De-Christianization leads to re-paganization…Without the grace of Christ, the “integration(Ed. integrity) of the human person is made more difficult, and even on many levels impossible. (Ed. the word “holiness” is related to the word “wholeness”.  Sin & evil are associated with “disintegration”.  Rm 6:23)

The intellectual life of the human being needs to be coupled with an inner life: worship, prayer, the search for God’s mercy, and the pursuit of Christian virtue…The Church provides us with a storehouse of living wisdom, and it is in being connected to her life, and to fellow Christian thinkers, that we are likely to grow best intellectually.

…Our own conversion to an integrity of life, especially an intellectual life of faith, is one that speaks to our contemporaries, who so often are bereft of orientation and who are on some level seeking a deeper meaning that only Christ can give them. To be a living member of the Church in our own times, then, is a witness to the world around us. For this, the pursuit of theological wisdom is essential. Without genuine knowledge, no real love is possible. We cannot love what we do not know. And so, likewise loving God in the truth depends upon understanding God truly. The study of theology can detract from Christian love if it leads to the loss of faith, or becomes a formal academic exercise devoid of existential conviction. But as Aquinas notes, the study of theology can also be genuinely “meritorious”: it can stem from charity, and can also intensify love, as we draw closer to what we know. 45 In fact, when we begin to love others, we seek to get to know them better, and even “study them in love” in a certain way. This is true not only in our natural experience, but also in the domain of supernatural life. Intellectual engagement with the Christian faith is essential to our personal relationship with Christ.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 966-972, 974-977, 981-992). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

45. Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a. 10.

Who cares?

“Intellectually serious Catholics need to come to terms with (basic theological questions)…(As Catholics, we need to speak about the faith in a) coherent and serene way, but also as people who are intellectually happy. Theology is never reducible to the utilitarian function of apologetics. Theology is about happiness. Happiness is as much in the intellect as in the heart, and it stems from understanding the truth about ultimate things, and being headed in the right direction, being oriented existentially. We derive our moral stability in large part from having a perspective on the world that is realistic and profound. Happiness for Aristotle is unimpeded activity. The highest, most vivifying thing we can do is contemplate the truth. So understanding God deeply and rightly in light of revelation gives the intellect unimpeded activity and liveliness about what is most ultimate. It also gives us the stability of seeing things in perspective, and a peace that cannot be diminished even in the midst of the trials and travails of life. What grim stoicism and utilitarian efficacy cannot deliver, the work of theology can: the serenity of rest in God Himself.

The idea of leaving our intellect behind to become spiritual is very strange and inhuman. However, it is a view that is very widespread, sometimes in conservative Christian circles, but more often in liberal Protestant and Catholic spheres. The vulgar commonplace form is the saying “I’m spiritual but not religious(SBNR).” The idea is that dogma constricts, and that religious practices blind us to the fact that God is larger than our conceptions and rituals. Spiritual people transcend the limits of dogma, creed, and regulation to live on a higher plane of spiritual awareness or a unity with God and others that is beyond all concepts. In fact, that is a very anti-intellectual viewpoint, marked by a latent despair of finding the truth about God.

But what about the counter-charge? Don’t religious intellectuals simply seek to trap God within the constraint of their manmade systems? It is true that our conceptual knowledge is partial and that the mystery of God is not reducible to our partial knowledge of God’s mystery. But we only aim rightly at God in and through our real knowledge of God, and this does entail language, concepts, thinking, and acting in ways that integrate us into the life of the Church. In other words, to live spiritually for God we need to make right use of dogma and theology. The early twentieth-century Catholic Modernist movement claimed that profound religious experience always transcends dogmas and relativizes them. This idea is based, however, on a superficial notion of mystery. Religious experience does not take place merely in our conceptions of the truth (as if holding to Church dogmas were somehow a sufficiently spiritual act), but it also does not take place by transcending conceptions either (as if giving up dogmas of faith were a super-spiritual act of mental asceticism). The goal, in fact, is to pass through the dogmas to the mystery that they signify, and to find God in and through the true teachings of scripture and tradition. Dogma is the guardian of mystery. It alerts us to its presence, and orients us toward God in constructive ways.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 936-958). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Christian failure

“St. Francis Xavier, SJ died on a small island six miles off the coast of China, his ultimate destination in sight. Not having reached his goal, Xavier felt himself something of a failure. Here is Walter Burghardt, in his book Saints and Sanctity, reflecting on times of failure even after we have worked hard:

“This is dreadfully difficult for a human being to accept— even for a Xavier. Just because I am trying to do God’s work with every ounce of my being is no guarantee that my plans will prosper. There is no guarantee that an effective Christian apostle will not be cut down in his prime. . . . There is no guarantee that because you have given yourself to a Christian marriage, your oneness will be lasting . . . that because you love God deeply, you will not lose your job, your home, your family, your health. . . . There is no guarantee that because you believe, you will not doubt; because you hope, you will not despond; because you love, your love will not grow cold. There is no guarantee that a Xavier will reach China. In this sense there is a Christian frustration, a Christian failure. . . . You do your Christian task as God gives you to see it; the rest, the increase, is in His hands. God still uses what the world calls foolish to shame the wise, still uses what the world calls weak to shame its strength, still uses what the world calls low and insignificant and unreal to nullify its realities. . . . In this sense, there is no Christian frustration and no Christian failure.

-Martin, James, SJ. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (Kindle Locations 6236-6247). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/07/opinion/pope-francis-catholic-church-sexual-abuse.html

-Rm 6:23

Love,
Matthew

Catholic Church: eating w/sinners & tax collectors – the difficult way of mercy, part 3 of 3


– by Jan Cornelisz, Vermeyen (circa 1504-1559)


-by Dr. Randall B. Smith, is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston where he holds the Scanlan Foundation Endowed Chair in Theology. His book “Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide” was published in late October 2016 by Emmaus Academic. Born and raised near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Randall Smith also lived in Philadelphia and Chicago before attending college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, graduating with a BA in Chemistry from Cornell College. During his time at Cornell, he converted to Catholicism, and after college, went off to study his new-found Catholic faith. He subsequently earned a Master’s degree in theology from the University of Dallas and then completed a Master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Notre Dame.

“…People will fault me for writing a long article….and, I’ve never written anything that I didn’t look at in print and wish I had said something differently. Nor have I written anything, no matter how faithful to official Catholic teaching, that didn’t bring me excoriation in the “comments” section as a fool, a scoundrel, or worse…

…At the present moment, however, I’m more concerned with what culturally “conservative” Catholics will say and do, largely because I am one. It’s easy enough to vilify the other side; but are we willing to turn that critical eye around on ourselves? Are faithful Catholics willing to interpret this apostolic exhortation charitably and in accord with the document’s overall intention? Will we be willing, then, to do the hard work it challenges us to do?

Will bishops, for example, strive to do a better job and expend more resources on Pre-Cana programs and tribunals? (Ed. INSTEAD OF REAL ESTATE? ARE YOU SURE the Catholic Church is NOT in the real estate business? Really? Can you hear the non-Catholics laughing? I do. I always do.) Or will pre-Cana continue to be the notoriously bad, pro-forma exercises many Catholics have come to know and dread? I know someone who says—only somewhat tongue-in-cheek—that if 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, then 50 percent of the people sitting in Pre-Cana probably shouldn’t be getting married. I’m not saying I agree with those numbers, but the serious point behind the comment is that, if so many marriages are failing, the kind of two-day quickie marriage preparation we’re currently asking couples to participate in clearly isn’t doing the job.

Are bishops going to undertake the hard steps needed to help couples considering marriage avoid a spiritually and emotionally devastating set of mistakes? Good ones have. Or will they continue to take the easy route of simply passing along the problem to their understaffed marriage tribunals for them to take the heat, and to their priests in the local parishes to figure out how to deal with the “irregularities” caused by these bad marriages?

…We are called upon to live as members of Christ’s Body, seeking more fully to make ourselves into the image and likeness of God. And if, as St. Thomas says, mercy is God’s primary act, then we must go out of ourselves to extend mercy. How we do that in various situations will take wisdom—the sort of wisdom we don’t characteristically develop in a society of autonomous individuals.

And it precisely because we have allowed ourselves to become a society of autonomous individuals that we depend more and more upon the law to bring order in society rather than building fellowship and community from the ground up, by serving as a leaven in society through the exercise of the virtues, both intellectual and moral; through countless conversations with others with whom we disagree; and by living the Gospel message fully and truly so that our light will shine before men. When the Gospel is a matter only of words and rules, it has no power to transform. Or at least that’s what St. Paul thought.

Is no one else concerned about Paul’s warnings about the law: about its tendency to tear down and destroy, and about its failure to bring life? Is no one else concerned about Christ’s harsh condemnations of the self-righteous and complacent scholars of the law?

In these endless conversations about the precise interpretation of the canons and who should or should not be received at Christ’s table, I’ve heard comparatively little about how we can find ways of talking to our fellow Catholics, of calling each other to account for our failures while still maintaining a spirit of charity.

Does no one else hear the warning echoing repeatedly in their ears: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to carry, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them”?”

Love, really, and His mercy,
Matthew

Catholic Church: eating w/sinners & tax collectors – the difficult way of mercy, part 2 of 3

-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Dr. Randall B. Smith, is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston where he holds the Scanlan Foundation Endowed Chair in Theology. His book “Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide” was published in late October 2016 by Emmaus Academic. Born and raised near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Randall Smith also lived in Philadelphia and Chicago before attending college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, graduating with a BA in Chemistry from Cornell College. During his time at Cornell, he converted to Catholicism, and after college, went off to study his new-found Catholic faith. He subsequently earned a Master’s degree in theology from the University of Dallas and then completed a Master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Notre Dame.

“…Christ never said that ours would be an easy task. He illustrated this truth by suffering and dying on a cross for our sins. What if the author of our imagined apostolic exhortation were to insist that mercy, as Thomas Aquinas says, is the property that “befits God to the highest extent because His merciful deeds are over all His works, and He saved us not on the basis of works of justice that we have done, but according to His mercy”? What if he reminded us that mercy is hard both going out and coming back?

The way of repentance is hard, but so is the way of mercy, and this for two reasons. First, because acting with mercy is to be most like God and is thus most contrary to our natural sinfulness. And second, because the moment when we force ourselves to the hard business of embracing others in mercy is when we often have to be most honest with ourselves about our own sinfulness. We need God, and we need others. If we don’t show them we’re willing to sacrifice for them, to help them carry that cross, then what motivation will they have to pick theirs back up after falling and move forward?

Catholics believe that we are born in original sin, and that it is only by God’s grace that we can become free, by what is often a slow process of moral development over time. Step by painful step, gradually, God has led us, often carried us, if we have made any progress at all. And He has often led us and carried us by means of the blessed people He sent into our lives, people who patiently put up with all our selfish foolishness until, bit by bit, we turned toward God, began to crawl, then take a few stumbling steps, and then walk.”

Love, really, and His mercy,
Matthew

Catholic Church: eating w/sinners & tax collectors – the difficult way of mercy, part 1 of 3


-by Jan Van Hemessen

In the rapping lyrics of will.i.am, “Where is the LOVE (more than just a word), y’all?” As a fellow sinner & tax collector, I just wonder if fifty years, or thereabouts, of enduring worse sinners and tax collectors is a limit? I feel like the words to the country song, I need to go find a “better class of losers”? Some with more love would be nice; which, and I am not alone, hardly, I have only occasionally seen in fifty-one years. Inspiring, though only occasionally. Sure they’re hippies, but I’ll trade. Is being Catholic itself a penance? Surely, St Therese of Lisieux would say “YES!” Very likely, it is also highly redemptive and sanctifying to remain Catholic, in an extreme way. Suffering is redemptive in Catholic theology, even, almost certainly when, inflicted by stupid Galatians, especially. I wonder. I’m sure; out loud.


-by Dr. Randall B. Smith, is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston where he holds the Scanlan Foundation Endowed Chair in Theology. His book “Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide” was published in late October 2016 by Emmaus Academic. Born and raised near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Dr. Randall Smith also lived in Philadelphia and Chicago before attending college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, graduating with a BA in Chemistry from Cornell College. During his time at Cornell, he converted to Catholicism, and after college, went off to study his new-found Catholic faith. He subsequently earned a Master’s degree in theology from the University of Dallas and then completed a Master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Notre Dame.

“…Christ sat down to eat with tax collectors and other sinners as a way of opening up a conversation with them. It didn’t always work: some repented and reformed; others hardened their hearts. But He went out into the world to call sinners back. And we killed Him for it.

What would happen if a pastor’s first words to a transgender person were: “The Catholic Church demands you stop this foolishness, get yourself to a surgeon, have him change you back, and start acting like a real man”? I can tell you what would have happened if the first words I heard from a Catholic priest had been: “You know, if you keep going on the way you are, you’re going to hell.” He would have been right, but I wouldn’t have gone back to the Catholic Church.

Priests who start out with the bad news rather than the Good News usually aren’t going to see that person again. Embracing the faith will often require us to make some serious changes, perhaps even to make what we may see as real sacrifices. Who among us isn’t in need of real change and reformation? The question a pastor must ask is how he can get the person in front of him up to that point where he or she is willing to entertain the possibility of change.

So what are we to say to the transgendered? How about those with same-sex sexual attractions? What state must they have attained, what actions should we insist they undertake, to show they are worthy of (a) entering the Church, (b) participating in the life of the Church, or (c) partaking in any of the sacraments (including confession)? Must those with “gender dysphoria” agree to psychological treatment before coming to confession so they can promise honestly that they will be able to make good efforts not to cross-dress anymore? The Catholic Church has never demanded this. How about those with same-sex sexual attractions? How much chastity must they be able to document before entering the confessional or receive anointing of the sick?

Question: Were you with me on the apostolic letter condemning “transgenderism” right up until the point where I started talking about reaching out in mercy? At that point did you start drawing back and asking yourself: “What’s going on here? He was lying when he said he was opposed to transgenderism. The moral condemnation I understand; this squishy ‘reaching out in mercy’ stuff is what has gotten us into trouble.” Has it? Or has the problem been that we’ve allowed ourselves to become a Church with only two gears: moral condemnation and moral approbation?

Is there some third way, we might wonder, between hosting drag parties and “coming out” events on Catholic college campuses and simply turning away cross-dressers and transgender persons from the church door? Is it possible to invite transgender persons into the activities of the Church without necessarily making them Eucharistic ministers day one? If we take seriously the demands of the Gospel to be Christ for others, there simply has to be.”

Love, really,
Matthew