Urbi Et Orbi 2013

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours (Lk 2:14)

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Christmas!

I take up the song of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on the night when Jesus was born. It is a song which unites heaven and earth, giving praise and glory to heaven, and the promise of peace to earth and all its people.

I ask everyone to share in this song: it is a song for every man or woman who keeps watch through the night, who hopes for a better world, who cares for others while humbly seeking to do his or her duty.

Glory to God!

Above all else, this is what Christmas bids us to do: give glory to God, for he is good, he is faithful, he is merciful. Today I voice my hope that everyone will come to know the true face of God, the Father who has given us Jesus. My hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him.

May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.

Peace to mankind

True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely “façade” which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ.

Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick… Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!

Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.

Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.

Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favourable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.

Lord of life, protect all who are persecuted for your name. Grant hope and consolation to the displaced and refugees, especially in the Horn of Africa and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Grant that migrants in search of a dignified life may find acceptance and assistance. May tragedies like those we have witnessed this year, with so many deaths at Lampedusa, never occur again!

Child of Bethlehem, touch the hearts of all those engaged in human trafficking, that they may realize the gravity of this crime against humanity. Look upon the many children who are kidnapped, wounded and killed in armed conflicts, and all those who are robbed of their childhood and forced to become soldiers.

Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, in this world, in this humanity, is born the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Let us pause before the Child of Bethlehem. Let us allow our hearts to be touched, let us allow ourselves to be warmed by the tenderness of God; we need his caress. God is full of love: to him be praise and glory forever! God is peace: let us ask him to help us to be peacemakers each day, in our life, in our families, in our cities and nations, in the whole world. Let us allow ourselves to be moved by God’s goodness.

The Holy Father said the following words in Italian after giving his urbi et orbi message:

“To you, dear brothers and sisters, gathered from throughout the world in this Square, and to all those from different countries who join us through the communications media, I offer my cordial best wishes for a merry Christmas!

On this day illumined by the Gospel hope which springs from the humble stable of Bethlehem, I invoke the Christmas gift of joy and peace upon all: upon children and the elderly, upon young people and families, the poor and the marginalized. May Jesus, who was born for us, console all those afflicted by illness and suffering; may he sustain those who devote themselves to serving our brothers and sisters who are most in need. Happy Christmas!”

What are we to fight for?

My friend and I had a brief discussion today about the proper role of Christians in politics, a discussion that was prompted by the common secular refrain that Christians should avoid trying to “impose” their beliefs on others through legislation, i.e. voting. We could probably argue for all eternity about the true meaning of the concept of being “in the world and not of the world” (a paraphrase of John 15.19). It is my belief that in order to reconcile our command to make believers of all with our command to live by Christ’s teachings, we cannot exclude introducing those we hope to be believers to those teachings. From a more practical, just standpoint, why do secularists get to do so much belief imposing while we should sit aside and wait for God to act?

CrusaderWait for God to act, right? Yes, pray, but how does God typically act? Is it a thunderbolt from the sky? A booming voice in the clouds? He acts through us! We act on His behalf and yes that even includes voting, political activism and other uses of the inherent power of the state and the mechanisms set up by the state for individuals to act as policy influencers.

My friend argues that not acting, as an opportunity to bring upon persecution (say the state decides to ban Christianity) is a worthwhile step as that persecution is what we should welcome. But here is the problem. If we sit back and never say “Abortion is wrong! Gay marriage is wrong! Capital Punishment, unjust war, and ignoring the sick and poor are all wrong!” we will never be persecuted! Persecution only comes when someone stands up to the wrongdoers. Christians sitting on their collective butts will not bring persecution and it certainly will not bring Parousia. What it will bring is irrelevancy and, I would guess, Satan’s will being done on a massive scale.

I am not calling for Christians to be Republicans or Democrats, liberals nor conservatives. The teachings of Christ are decidedly independent and non-partisan. Even better than the one time promise of our current American President, Christ is absolutely pre-partisan. I am calling for Christians to be vocal outside of the Church instead of allowing this world we are in to be shaped by those who may well not be of the one we claim to inhabit. You may shy away from imposing your beliefs on others but you are naive to think others–today’s secularists are not very much different from the Caliphs that prompted the Crusades–are not going to be very enthusiastic about imposing their beliefs on you.

The Nature of Justice

Scales of JusticeI have a friend who lives in the same res hall as I do, and we also share the same calculus class. She hates calculus; she is a music major and she just wants to get her math requirements over with and has no problem with doing so with a D. She doesn’t really study, she doesn’t take the class very seriously, and she only does the minimal amount of work on the assignments. I work extremely hard in this class; as math is not a strong subject for me, I still need to put in a lot of extra effort to get my A. I probably spend more time studying and getting extra help for calculus than any other class and I take the assignments very seriously. So, imagine if, when grades are posted, that I get my A and the instructor decides that she likes my friend and doesn’t want to punish her for disliking math so she gives her an A, also. How would I feel? The word “unfair” comes to mind. Instead of saying it’s unfair or not fair, I could also say the result of our grades was also unjust or not “just”.

When we think about justice, we think about the law, or God, or even our parents dishing out punishment that is rightfully deserved because of our actions. Justice is served when the bad guys get their just desserts. But that is justice in action. What exactly is the nature of justice? What makes justice right and deserving of being sought, be it by man or God? The Catechism defines justice as “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.” Let’s go back to me and my friend. A nihilist or an objectivist, for example, might say “Megan, what do you care? You got your A. Don’t worry about her grade.” But thinking about what the Catechism says, we need to remember the objective of justice. In this case, it is our instructor who is wronging both of us; she is failing to give what is due to me because she is discounting my work by demonstrating that the end result of my efforts is the same as the end result of my friends lack of effort. Justice is not only punitive toward the offender, it is an example for those who make the effort to not offend. Those who do wrong get their due through punishment and those who do right get their due, in part, by reward and lack of punishment.

There has been a lot of Christian hand-wringing in the last 24 hours over the concept of justice. We need to be careful to separate Eternal justice and Earthly justice, of course, but there is no question that Osama Bin Laden’s fate yesterday was a just result for his actions. It may seem simplistic to say that it would be unjust for those of us who avoid terrorist murder sprees to see him be allowed to live, but that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect. It is just that those who do bad are punished be it death for those who do bad in an act of war, Hell for those who offend God, or a bad grade for those who offend calculus. Reward and lack of punishment, Heaven, and a good grade are the opposite ends of this virtue that I think we sometimes misunderstand.

Lila Rose and James O’Keefe: When is it OK to lie?

Lila RoseJames O'Keefe

I have thought about how to write this for some time now and I admit that I still find myself in an ethical quandary. Here is some background.

James O’Keefe is the person who did undercover videos that exposed the group ACORN, showing that some ACORN employees had broken laws, ultimately leading to the end of the entire organization. I have argued this with a few friends of mine and my argument rests on the basic premise that by using a hidden camera and claiming he is someone he is not while claiming he wished to procure a service he didn’t really wish to procure, O’Keefe was, basically, lying. Legally, he was committing fraud. If he were a law enforcement officer, he would be guilty of entrapment. But, most simply, what he was doing was a blatant violation of the Eighth Commandment.

You shall not bear false witness against your
neighbor.

You may be less familiar with Lila Rose. She is the leader of a group named Live Action. Before I go on, there is one thing to clarify: Lila Rose is very clearly and very publicly a Catholic Christian. I cannot speak at all to if James O’Keefe is a Christian. Lila and her group have went to locations of Planned Parenthood and, using hidden video cameras, posed as people they are not and asked for services they didn’t actually want. This has led to quite a few problems for Planned Parenthood, including videos of their employees offering to break the law and cover up instances of sexual abuse of teenage girls. All of these videos have been the main impetus behind the current effort to de-fund Planned Parenthood. There is no dispute that Lila and her organization, like James O’Keefe, have lied in these Planned Parenthood exposès. Fraud. Entrapment. Lies. There is no question that these are lies, and violations of the Eighth Commandment, either. In both cases, there is a misrepresentation of the truth in a relation with another person, and the intent was to deceive. The Church does not let anyone off the hook in its teachings here.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to be morally and intellectually consistent. I have tried to explain away my discomfort with an argument from ends. O’Keefe was lying to further a partisan political goal, Rose is lying to save innocent lives. Their means may be the same, but their ends are far different. I am not entirely convinced that there isn’t some merit to that distinction and we have long accepted lies to save; the priests who forged birth certificates during World War II in order to save Jews, police undercover actions and spying are all examples of how we condone lying by not only our government but even our clergy in order to save the innocent. But would I tolerate Lila Rose’s lies if Planned Parenthood didn’t do abortions, but still provided birth control, something that is still intrinsically evil but not at the level of abortion?

So the disappointing finale of this post is that I still haven’t decided, for sure, what I think. I think I am still forming my conscience on this one, and even great thinkers within the Church today are split on this issue. So, in that case, I guess it’s OK that I can’t decide.

Vaginas, Catholic universities and the fake Magisterium

There have been some occasions that I have read about, over the last few years, where Catholic universities have been disparaged because they have hosted performances of a play called The Vagina Monologues. The very title of the play, of course, says that it’s about sex and probably pushes the limits of good taste. I have never seen it, nor read the book on which it is based so I don’t know the graphic specifics of the content.

The most recent example is that Gonzaga University is hosting a performance of the play. The charge of outrage on Catholic blogs seems to be lead by a faculty member at Gonzaga named Dr. Eric Cunningham who, like Notre Dame’s own Dr. Charles Rice, has a lot of problems with the supposed “Catholicity” of his employer yet has no problem continuing to accept a paycheck.

There are two concepts that are peculiar to the Catholic Church that are involved with the current uproar. One is the Magisterium, the official teaching body of the Church, led by the Pope and comprised of the world’s Catholic Bishops. The Magisterium, either extraordinary (acting as a group as in an Ecumenical Council) or ordinary (acting as individual Bishops) is the only means by which Church teaching can be officially promulgated. The rest is just opinion. No Catholic layperson, or even a member of the vocations who is not a Bishop, can claim to authoritatively put forth Church teaching or claim to authoritatively speak on Church teaching or belief.

The other concept is that of the Catholic university. There have been numerous writings about what constitutes a true Catholic school, as universities are not, generally, connected to and operated by a diocese or parish as high schools and elementary schools are.  My school is, for example, operated by an independent Board of Directors and has always been run by the Congregation of Holy Cross (priests with a C.S.C. after their names); the archbishop of Ft. Wayne has some influence but no official capacity to tell the school what to do. What he can do, hypothetically, is say the school can no longer call itself Catholic. But, in that the word Catholic is not copyrighted, there is no real meaning to that power.

So how do these two things connect? The hysteria of the fake Magisterium, those who have appointed themselves as arbiters of who and what is really Catholic, over The Vagina Monologues is just the most recent example of how Catholic laypersons use universities not to further the goals of the Church, but to further their own personal agendas, be they economic or political. Catholic universities, like any other, exist to educate. A large portion of education is a free discussion of ideas, even many that we may find offensive. The common reason the fake Magisterium uses to decree Catholic schools as no longer Catholic is that a play such as The Vagina Monologues is harmful to the faith and conscience formation of college students like me. Of course if they were truly concerned, they would say Catholic schools aren’t Catholic if they don’t demand their students refrain from watching graphic sexual movies, or TV shows, or listen to music with sexual themes. But the reason the fake Magisterium gets so (fake) upset about this play is that the name catches attention. We don’t often hear the word vagina, a clinical term, in polite conversation. Rename the play The Girl Monologues and no one notices that it even exists. Make Barack Obama a pro-choice Republican and no one cares that he speaks at Notre Dame’s graduation.

If Dr. Cunningham truly thought that Gonzaga was no longer Catholic, he–apparently being a pillar of the faith–would no longer be materially complicit in Gonzaga’s failings by accepting financial gain. Think of it like an observant Catholic working at Planned Parenthood. The Ignatius Press blog publishes him to make money: selling books and getting ad revenue from the blog. The Magisterium, on the other hand, has no economic nor political interest in anything they teach. They don’t make money off blogs or get paid based on who stays in the Church or who doesn’t. Mostly, they just don’t get paid. The chances of any one of them moving to a position more authoritative than the one they are in is about one in a million since the only chance at promotion for any Bishop is to get fitted for the Ring of the Fisherman.

There is a reason that Jesus put Church authority in the hands of a few and made them leave their possessions and families behind. There’s probably also a reason He didn’t give them the internet and blogs (he could have!).

Is Gonzaga Still a Jesuit University

Surreal: Gonzaga VP invokes “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” to justify production of “The Vagina Monologues”

Apostolic Constitution Of The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On Catholic Universities

Happy Meals and so-called “gay marriage”

Happy MealI suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that San Francisco would decide that it can tell McDonald’s they are no longer allowed to sell a safe, legal product. If you have not heard about this, San Francisco, a city dominated by very vocal and powerful homosexuals, has passed a law that says McDonald’s can no longer put toys in Happy Meals unless the meals meet certain guidelines, mainly being under a certain amount of calories. Trying to keep little kids from becoming fat is a good thing, but I don’t see how Happy Meals are the main cause of obesity as opposed to lack of exercise and parents who let kids go overboard. I ate plenty of Happy Meals, I still like them sometimes, and I have never been overweight. Millions of other people are the same. But San Francisco’s “progressive” idea that they (homosexuals) know what is best for everyone and their hatred for big companies makes this type of insanely ridiculous law OK by them. Of course McDonald’s should do the right thing and ignore the law and sue all the way to the Supreme Court when it is enforced, but the fear of bad public relations will stop that.

Let’s not forget that San Francisco is the same place that has, as an official act of the city, condemned the Catholic Church in clear violation of the First Amendment and they have been upheld by a federal court in doing so. When I am asked the same question, over and over, by so-called “gay marriage” advocates why I oppose redefining marriage, I say again and again that I don’t trust homosexual activists to not attempt to force the Church to marry gay people (they already have talked openly of doing so and groups like “rainbow sash” have proven that homosexual rights advocates are openly hateful of the Church and want to see it brought down). I also don’t trust our courts or legislatures to protect the Church. Given the homosexual proclivity to use the power of the state to enforce their own brand of “morality” on everyone else, does it seem unreasonable for me to be concerned? You not being concerned is unreasonable.

God spelled backwards is Dog

My friend, Paul, sent me these pictures; these two churches, a Catholic Parish and a Presbyterian church, sit across the road from each other. I think it’s funny how the Presbyterians didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor about the whole thing :-D

Catholic Church sign says "All dogs go to Heaven"

Presbyterian church sign says "Only humans go to Heaven, read the Bible"

Catholic Church sign says "God loves all His creations, dogs included"

Presbyterian church sign says "Dogs don't have souls, this is not open to debate"

Catholic Church sign says "Catholic dogs go to Heaven, Presbyterian dogs can talk to their Pastor"

Presbyterian church sign that says "Converting to Catholocism does not magically grant your dog a soul"

Catholic Church sign that says "Free dog souls with conversion"

Presbyterian church sign says "Dogs are animals. There aren't any rocks in Heaven either"

Catholic Church sign says "All rocks go to Heaven"