Friday, February 29, 2008

William F. Buckley vs. Noam Chomsky on Intervention

From The Firing Line, 1969

Part I

Part II

"No provisos, no quid pro quos..." :-)

Funny to see them both so young.... A million people are blogging these videos today, but I thought I'd post 'em up anyway. It's enjoyable and edifying to listen to two guys who understand elocution and the power of language when used precisely... although it does drive me a little bit crazy when Buckley uses that little wink of his when he thinks he's made an unassailable point.

N.T. Wright on the Resurrection of the Body

Wright challenges the conventional view of Heaven

Paul looked intently at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have conducted myself with a perfectly clear conscience before God to this day." The high priest Ananias ordered his attendants to strike his mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall. Do you indeed sit in judgment upon me according to the law and yet in violation of the law order me to be struck?" The attendants said, "Would you revile God's high priest?" Paul answered, "Brothers, I did not realize he was the high priest. For it is written, 'You shall not curse a ruler of your people.'" Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead."

When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the group became divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.

A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, "We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" The dispute was so serious that the commander, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, ordered his troops to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him into the compound.
-- Acts 23:1-10

Christ in Majesty,
by Matthias Grünewald (1510-1515)

I urge everyone to bookmark Kevin McManus's fine "Portinexile" blog, Stranger in a Strange Land. He always has links to, and excerpts from, great topical articles on matters of faith (he had a pretty good one recently linking to some Irish Hurling clips too). One of his links that caught my eye a couple of weeks ago was Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop, which made reference to this Time Magazine article, an interview with the biblical scholar and Anglican Bishop of Durham, N.T. (Tom) Wright.

In his new book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Wright appears to be challenging the conventional view the Church has had of Heaven. He raises interesting questions, using scriptural exegesis, of what was meant by the "Resurrection of the Dead" in the Gospels and in the Letters of St. Paul. Have our traditional views of Heaven been shaped more by Hellenistic Neo-Platonism, or by the Pharisaic view of "resurrection" enunciated in the scriptures? Do we see the soul trapped inside the body, like the Greeks did, or do we see a body animated by a soul, like the Jews did? In the Time interview, Wright explains what he interprets the biblical view to be... It's challenging and though-provoking, although I'm not not necessarily sure that I find it as comforting as the traditional viewpoint...

It … comes as a something of a shock that Wright doesn't believe in heaven — at least, not in the way that millions of Christians understand the term. In his new book, Surprised by Hope (HarperOne), Wright quotes a children's book by California first lady Maria Shriver called What's Heaven, which describes it as "a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk... If you're good throughout your life, then you get to go [there]... When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you heaven to be with him." That, says Wright is a good example of "what not to say." The Biblical truth, he continues, "is very, very different."

Wright: There are several important respects in which it's unsupported by the New Testament. First, the timing. In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state. St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, "Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven." It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation….Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are we are all going to heaven. They all say, Jesus is raised, therefore the new creation has begun, and we have a job to do.

We know that we will be with God and with Christ, resting and being refreshed. Paul writes that it will be conscious, but compared with being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says "the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God," and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well.

Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I've called the life after life after death — in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth. Jesus' resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration that he will complete upon his return. Part of this will be the resurrection of all the dead, who will "awake," be embodied and participate in the renewal. John Polkinghorne, a physicist and a priest, has put it this way: "God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves." That gets to two things nicely: that the period after death is a period when we are in God's presence but not active in our own bodies, and also that the more important transformation will be when we are again embodied and administering Christ's kingdom.

TIME: That's very different from, say, the vision put out in the Left Behind books.

Wright: Yes. If there's going to be an Armageddon, and we'll all be in heaven already or raptured up just in time, it really doesn't matter if you have acid rain or greenhouse gases prior to that. Or, for that matter, whether you bombed civilians in Iraq. All that really matters is saving souls for that disembodied heaven.

TIME: Why, then, have we misread those verses?

It has, originally, to do with the translation of Jewish ideas into Greek. The New Testament is deeply, deeply Jewish, and the Jews had for some time been intuiting a final, physical resurrection. They believed that the world of space and time and matter is messed up, but remains basically good, and God will eventually sort it out and put it right again. Belief in that goodness is absolutely essential to Christianity, both theologically and morally. But Greek-speaking Christians influenced by Plato saw our cosmos as shabby and misshapen and full of lies, and the idea was not to make it right, but to escape it and leave behind our material bodies. The church at its best has always come back toward the Hebrew view, but there have been times when the Greek view was very influential.

More on this, from an older article here :

In the New Testament portrayal, Jesus arose with a different, glorified body, which is promised to all believers as part of the Easter hope.

Wright's acceptance of that point runs into objections from Alan F. Segal, a Jewish historian at Barnard College who is completing a major work titled
Life After Death, covering Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Segal and Wright agree on many basic issues, including that the Gospels teach a material, physical concept of resurrection. But Segal opposes Wright's contention that first-century Jews and Christians all meant the same thing when they spoke about resurrection.

According to Segal, they "all talk about a bodily resurrection but not all believe it is physical," and the Apostle Paul conceived of a "spiritual" body in the pivotal passage, 1 Corinthians 15, written about 20 years after the Easter events.

In this crucial and rather technical argument, Wright insists that what Paul meant by "spiritual" was that after Resurrection the body is "animated by the spirit," not that it is a nonmaterial body.

Segal and Wright agree that many Christians today think their immortal soul will simply "go to heaven" when they die -- and ignore their own bodily resurrection.

Yet Wright says Christianity has always believed that after death and an undefined period in the presence of God, each individual will receive a resurrection body like that of Jesus.

What difference does it make whether resurrection involves material bodies?

First, Wright says, because the church should teach what the first Christians believed. Second, the physical reality of a future world after death shows "the created order matters to God, and Jesus' Resurrection is the pilot project for that renewal."

With that sort of robustly materialistic theology, Wright will be a fitting successor to another former bishop of Durham, A. Michael Ramsey, who later went on to become archbishop of Canterbury.

Writing at the end of World War II, Ramsey stated that eternal life without a body would be "maimed and meaningless," although he acknowledged the Easter message is mind-boggling.
"The resurrection of the body is inconceivable," he said, "because it suggests a richness of life, in the blending of old and new, that defies human thought."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I'm Ecumenical

A gift from the Production Support Manager

You can say a lot of things about me, but you can't say I'm a poor sport.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If Humans by Nature Feel a Need to be Tribal...

This is one of the better ways to do it...

From Last Year's Six Nations Rugby Tournament

Ireland vs. England at Croke Park 02/24/07

No need for soccer hooliganism. There's plenty of mayhem on the pitch.

Give blood. Play rugby. ;-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mall Dad

A man wrestles with his mid-lfe issues while chaperoning his teen-aged daughters and their friend at the mall.

Back in the days when I had to wear a tie to work, I used to buy my preppie uniform at Abercrombie & Fitch. This venerable company offered comfortable, high-quality chinos and the best oxford shirts you could find anywhere. They were 100% cotton, tough, durable, and nicely cut. Really good stuff...

One day, back in the 90's, I stepped in there to replenish the wardrobe and was stunned to discover that they had been bought out or something, and had completely revamped their image and marketing strategy. The store was full of the teen-age grunge fashion that was in style at that time, and there were huge posters on the walls that looked like they were of questionable legality, considering the age of the models concerned. Suddenly, "Biff" was in the buff! "Buffy" was in the buff too. The L.L. Bean and Lake Wobegon image was gone, gone, gone... This was a curious thing to me. What had happened? I remember when movies like Animal House used to make fun of the notion of WASPs attempting sex. Now all of a sudden Mayflower-stock, Yankee sex was all the rage. It was like seeing "The Choate Squash Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution Gone Wild." I guess this merchandising switch turned out to be a profitable move for them, and saved them from Chapter 11. Shopping malls have never been the same since... By the way... If you feel hard-body-enough, and you've got your six-pack in order, you can apply to be an Abercrombie model here.

What the heck is it with men shaving off all their body hair anyway? Is that a metro thing? What's that all about? See, like with thumb rings on guys and tattoos on women, this shows how out of touch I am. There's nothing like a visit to a shopping mall, when you haven't been in a while, to bring it home to you how much older you've become and how your own generation's time has come and gone. I honestly can't really tell the difference, for example, between the music and the fashion of this decade, and those of the 90's. It all seems pretty much the same to me.

Ah, the mall... Welcome to the Universe of the 14-Year-Old Girl...

A lot of parents just drop their kids off at the mall and leave them there. That just seems incredibly lax and irresponsible to Anne and I, so one of us always accompanies them when they go, which isn't very often. My daughters actually prefer to go with me, because Anne rushes them and usually goes off on a rant about all the skin on display, how expensive everything is, how much she hates the crowds and the traffic, and how much she hates... well.. the mall. My daughters and their friends often feel bad about making me wait so long every place they go, but I don't mind because I'm sort of fascinated by the whole sociological aspect of it, and I tend to get caught up in my own reveries, hearkening back to the days when I actually felt comfortable browsing and shopping in a place like Urban Outfitters in Harvard Square. For a father chaperoning his kids, the most challenging aspect is to assume a stance in the entryway of a store like Aeropostale in a way that reassures the hired help that you are a "mall dad" and not some stalking "mall perv". Thankfully, I'm usually not alone. There's usually another foot-weary dad or two around with whom you can exchange the wry look or comment.

To my wife's point, it is amazing how much expensive and absolutely useless junk there is to be found for sale across the wide acreage of a mall, where hardly anything is a necessity. It's hard not to get caught up in it, though... Cruising through the paneled rooms full of piles of soft jeans and sweatshirts in Ruehl, I almost can see myself wanting to try to wear some of this stuff until I pass one of the full-length mirrors and see the guy with the gray hair staring back at me. NNYAAGHHH! My daughters laugh. They assure me with precise acumen that the age of 38 is about the limit that someone can get away with for wearing this stuff. It sort of feels like when someone call you "sir" for the first time.

Jeans, jeans everywhere, and the rest of everything else is downright fugly. Do you know, I haven't bought a pair of jeans for myself since I was married 15 years ago? That's right. When I got married I had a 31-inch waist. Anne's a really good cook, and I put on the "stomach of happiness" within a year, going up to a 33. I never bothered to replace my jeans, and I guess there was some ethos that I inherited that told me that now that I was a married grown-up, it was time to put away the blue jeans for good in favor of chinos, dockers, and boxer shorts. Now, I know that designer jeans have always been expensive, going back to the Calvin Klein era, but when my daughters point out to me that Sevens for All Mankind go for a couple of hundred dollars apiece, I'm thinking to myself, "What the ...?" Who in the world doesn't know now that these things are made overseas for pennies? Where in the world do they get the brass to ask for...? You know what I mean? Ah, whatever...

Different decade, different stuff, but the same kind of young faces I remember from long ago, only they are often jaded faces now. Electronics and flesh everywhere. Ubiquitous cell-phone conversations and texting. Now, everyone who has read this blog for a while knows by now that I am hardly what you would call a prude, but between Victoria's Secret, Abercorombie, and all of their imitators, I do get kind of frosted. Big business has pushed so much skin at kids in their relentless marketing campaigns, that even pubsecent kids have become non-plussed and unfazed by it. They hardly even take notice. Even my daughters, who are more sheltered than most of their peers, consider it a bore and a joke. Big business has not only taken all that is holy and sacred out of sex, but they have managed to take a lot of the excitement and fun out of it too, which is a damned shame. I feel sorry for young people nowadays. If flesh and everything else to with sex has become so commonplace and banal, where is mystery and erotic charge supposed to come from other than hormones?

In spite of all that, materialistic consumerism is the real challenge. A lot of my kid's friends have their own credit cards, charge cards, and seemingly unlimited funds for their shopping. We try to limit ours to what they've earned with their own babysitting jobs (and some small "under $20" loans from dad). It has made them more discerning, I have to say. I'm amazed at some of the deals the've managed to find. It's fascinating to see what the effect is of having to reach inside of their own pockets instead of somebody else's. Like mine. :-)

Anyhow, if you happened to be at Hollister a couple of weeks ago, and saw the middle-aged guy waiting in the over-stuffed chair, squinting in the dark without his reading glasses while he was frantically trying to find something familiar to read about in a copy of SPIN magazine, that was me...

Actually, I did find something familiar! I read that Morrissey was going back on tour in the US. Back in the 80's I was a fan of Stephen Morrissey, avowed-celibate and front-man for the band The Smiths. Morrissey and I were born a day apart. I always got a laugh out of him with his dry, droll sense of humor. Great lyricist. He was the King of Angst, and I was always a fan of the music, even if I couldn't personally identify with the story of the artistic son of first generation Irish immigrants, struggling not to disappoint his parents with his same-sex attraction, because their ideal picture of manhood would be a midfielder for Manchester United FC with no trace of fey ways. Even though I couldn't personally identify, it was a story I've seen played out in my ethnic group many, many times.

Anyway, here's a live version of The Smiths playing a song off of their Meat is Murder album, Barbarism Begins at Home. Nice guitar work by Johnny Marr, and this tune has a great bass line played by Andy Rourke. Too bad there's no Chess King in the mall anymore in which to buy parachute pants...

Unruly boys
Who will not grow up
Must be taken in hand
Unruly girls
Who will not settle down
They must be taken in hand

A crack on the head
Is what you get for not asking
And a crack on the head
Is what you get for asking

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mary As Co-Redemptrix?

Upping the Marian ante...This goes too far, even for me

The Annunciation, by Antonello da Messina (1477)

For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. This was the testimony at the proper time. For this I was appointed preacher and apostle (I am speaking the truth, I am not lying), teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
-- 1 Timothy 2:5-7

I can be ecumenical, but I can also be quite partisan in my preference for, and defense of Catholicism. I'm not a relativist. I think the differences matter, and I do believe that the Church of Jesus Christ "subsists" in the Catholic Church... Read that as Cardinal Willebrands meant it or how Pope Benedict interprets it, if you prefer... However you like.

I revere the Blessed Mother and pray for her intercession, as she is the first and the finest example of the saints. A few posts ago I acknowledged her role in God's plan for our salvation and her unique importance in educating us on the Incarnational Principle:

- God’s plan for divine human cooperation (Doctrine of Mediation). God comes to us mediated throught the human. God works through the human.
- Christ is a divine person who has taken to himself a human nature. His purpose was to be the new mediator. God uses human nature to bring about our redemption.
- Mary is not divine. We venerate, but do not worship her. She was a human person with unique status. The key to this was Mary’s faith. Mary said yes freely, and brought God’s plan to fruition.

As put earlier by Bernard of Clairvaux - “Mary, we are all waiting to find out what you are going to say. Say ‘Yes ‘and move on, because we are all waiting for you.”
I accept the Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. They make sense to me as to what is "fitting" and to what is held by the sense of the faithful even if they can't be explicity spelled out in scripture. I accept the place of Tradition as well as the role of Scripture (both having the same wellspring) - "Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit." (Dei Verbum)

I have no problem with the titles that have been assigned to her; Mother of God, Mother of the Church, etc...

During the pontificate of John Paul II, there was some talk floated around the topic of declaring Mary as a Co-Redeemer, or "Co-Redemptrix", a proposed title that has been alive in some circles for quite some time. Even though JPII was considered to have been favorable to the idea, it never really went anywhere, but now in this climate that is friendly towards restorationist traditionalism, with no countervailing checks or balances, there is a movement underway to have a 5th Marian Dogma declared, assigning Mary with this title. I think this goes too far. Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces? This is too close to deification.

Not only would this be an ecumenical train wreck, which goes without saying, but I, speaking as a Catholic, am troubled by the assignation of a title that directly contradicts scripture. It is one thing to recognize Tradition and Sacred Scripture both coming from the same divine wellspring, but Tradition cannot flatly contradict Scripture, which in my view, these titles do. Why is a dogmatic declaration needed? If it is meant only as I have described above in the incarnational quote highlighted in blue, that is all very well and good, but this title in my mind puts Mary on a par with Christ, and in effect, becomes as sort of deification. Here is the complete text of the petition presented by the five cardinals to the Holy See. I faithfully pray that it not be adopted and proclaimed. I do not believe that Benedict will do so...

The letter was sent Jan. 1, solemnity of the Mother of God, and signed by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, India; Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez, retired archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India; Cardinal Riccardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, Philippines; and Cardinal Ernesto Corripio y Ahumada, retired archbishop of Mexico City.

* * *
Dear Brother Eminences and Excellencies:

In May 2005, we, as cardinal co-patrons, sponsored a Mariological symposium convened on the subject of the cooperation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the work of human Redemption at the favored Fatima shrine in Portugal.

After extensive theological presentations delivered by a significant number of cardinals, bishops, and theologians, we concluded the symposium by enacting a votum to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. The votum reads as follows:

Your Holiness, Benedict XVI,

In an effort to enhance the ecumenical mission of the Church, and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its fullness, we, the undersigned cardinals and bishops who have convened in the favored Marian Shrine of Fatima (May 3-7, 2005), wish to express to you, Most Holy Father, our united hope and desire for the solemn papal definition of the doctrine of the Church regarding Mary Most Holy as the Spiritual Mother of all humanity, the Co-redemptrix with Jesus the Redeemer, Mediatrix of all graces with Jesus the one Mediator, and Advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race.

In a time of significant confusion amidst the many diverse ecclesial bodies of Christianity, and as well among non-Christian peoples concerning this Marian doctrine, we believe the time opportune for a solemn definition of clarification regarding the constant teaching of the Church concerning the Mother of the Redeemer and her unique cooperation (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 61) in the work of Redemption, as well as her subsequent roles in the distribution of grace and intercession for the human family.

It is of great importance, Holy Father, that peoples of other religious traditions receive the clarification on the highest level of authentic doctrinal certainty that we can provide, that the Catholic Church essentially distinguishes between the sole role of Jesus Christ, divine and human Redeemer of the world, and the unique though secondary and dependent human participation of the Mother of Christ in the great work of Redemption.

Therefore, Your Holiness, with filial obedience and respect, we wish to present you with this votum of our solidarity of hope for the papal definition of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God as the spiritual Mother of all peoples in her three maternal roles as Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces and Advocate, as the ultimate expression of doctrinal clarity at the service of our Christian and non-Christian brothers and sisters who are not in communion with Rome, and as well as for the greater understanding and appreciation of this revealed doctrine concerning the Mother of the Redeemer by the People of God at the outset of this third millennium of Christianity.

We thereby submit this votum accompanied by one possible formulation of the Marian doctrine which we, please God, pray may be solemnly defined by your Holiness:

Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, gave to humanity from the Cross his mother Mary to be the spiritual Mother of all peoples, the Co-redemptrix, who under and with her Son cooperated in the Redemption of all people; the Mediatrix of all graces, who as Mother brings us the gifts of eternal life; and the Advocate, who presents our prayers to her Son.

On June 7, 2006, our brother, Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, presented the above votum in Latin to His Holiness on behalf of all the cardinal and bishop participants at the 2005 Fatima Symposium, together with the published acta from the symposium. The Holy Father received the votum and the acta with an accentuated gratitude and his expressed intention to study carefully the acta.

We now write to you, brother cardinals and bishops, to inform you of this votum for the solemn definition of Our Lady as the Spiritual Mother of humanity and its essential roles, and respectfully request your own prayerful consideration regarding the possibility of adding your own esteemed assent to this votum to Our Holy Father. We have enclosed a copy of the original Latin votum for your examination and, if you felt so inspired by Our Lady, you would be free to sign and to forward it on to His Holiness.

Certainly, if it so pleased the Holy Father to proceed with this request, any final formation of the definition would in no manner be bound to the formulation of the enclosed votum, but rather left entirely to his unique charism as the Successor of Peter. It is also noteworthy that over the course of the past fifteen years, over 500 bishops have sent their request for this solemn definition to the Holy See, along with approximately 7 million petitions from the Catholic faithful worldwide.

We thank you for your prayerful consideration of this request on behalf of Our Lady, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles. May she guide you in your discernment of this matter to the wisdom of Jesus Christ, our divine Redeemer, through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, all leading to the fulfillment of the perfect will of our Heavenly Father.

With cordial best wishes in Jesus and Mary,

Telesphore Cardinal Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, India; President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India; Luis Cardinal Aponte Martínez, Archbishop Emeritus of San Juan, Puerto RicoVarkey Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India Riccardo Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, Philippines Ernesto Cardinal Corrippio Ahumada, Primate Emeritus of Mexico

Cardinal Co-sponsors of the Fatima Symposium on Marian Coredemption

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Cafeteria is... Free?

David Cay Johnston explores the Corporate Free Lunch

When I was a freshman in business school back in 1977, we had a mandatory course called 'Management and Society'. Professor John A. Hornaday. Interesting class. One time we had Edsel Ford in as a guest speaker (yes, the very Edsel that the infamous lemon was named after). Someone asked him how long a Ford vehicle should be expected to reliably last. Edsel said, "If you are diligent about changing the oil every 2,000 miles, and rotate the tires a couple of times a year, there's no reason why your Ford shouldn't last for five years." Five years? I immediately thought of the family cars we'd tried to keep going forever with cheap plug and wire kits, glue, duct tape, jumper cables and bondo.

One day Hornaday asked us, "How many of you people have a positive attitude towards unions?" Out of about 35 students, I raised my hand with about 2 or 3 other guys. I had a feeling right then, that I just might be a fish out of water, and that this was going to be a very long four years for me...

Just the same, I remember learning in that class that a corporation was a public charter, set up for public purposes. In return for granting the partners and shareholders limited liability, a corporation was expected to provide something in return for the public good; for the commonweal. In addition, it was recognized at the time that:

- Corporations should be willing and ready to regulate their own behavior, in order to keep the government from having to step in and do so.

- Maximizing shareholder value (the stock price) is a corporate strategy, but it doesn't necessarily need to be the corporate strategy. A lot of that depends upon the cash position of the company, how much debt it's carrying, the long-range view of the market, the nature of the competition, the age of the company, potential for growth, etc...

Bear in mind, of course, that this was during the Carter administration. The Reagan Revolution was just in the process of picking up steam before it emerged triumphant by the time I graduated. In the years after that, we increasingly came to see that the only "stakeholders" who mattered at all were the shareholders, and apparently, the executive class at the very top of the corporations.

The inevitable deregulation, union-busting, and the shifting of the corporate tax burden onto you and me was one set of things to be expected, but was the plan to have new regulations set up that would funnel subsidized wealth into the hands of a priviliged few? This is the charge of Pulitzer-winning journalist David Cay Johnston in his book Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense

There are lots of problems with the government. I've spent my life exposing all sorts of problems with government. But government is fundamentally essential. Government is what creates for us civilization. We created this country so that we could be free, so that we could pursue our lives the way that we want to pursue them. And wealth is a byproduct of that. But the government is being turned into a vehicle not to ensure our liberties and create a level playing field but instead into a vehicle to take from the many to enrich the few.
It takes great fortitude and moral conviction not to go and shop for the lower prices at the big box stores like Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Costco, etc... and to not contribute to the downfall of mom-and-pop businesses around the country, but are we all aware of the extent to which corporations of this kind are actually subsidized, can pit towns against each other to win tax breaks, and even get license from the government to keep the sales tax they charge us?

Listen to Johnston on NPR's Fresh Air

Investigative reporter David Cay Johnston explores in his new book how in recent years, government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the poor and the middle class to the rich and politically connected.

Read and watch Johnston on Democracy Now!

From Democracy Now...

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Between 1945 and the election of Ronald Reagan, we had a government that was focused on creating and nurturing the middle class. When I was a young man, I was able to go to college only because it was free. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have any money—my dad was a 100 percent disabled veteran, and I went to work when I was ten years old and full time since I was thirteen—because it was free.

Today, the cost of a college education, a state college education, is about $10,000 a year. The average income of the bottom half of taxpayers—that’s not families, that’s taxpayers—is about $15,000. Think you can go to college if two-thirds of your income would have to go to college? I don’t think so.

Well, Mr.—what Mr. Reagan did in 1980 was he asked a question that had a very powerful effect. He said, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” And Americans said no, they weren’t. And they elected him to office, and they set in motion a major change in government policy, a change that I think has been perverted. I do not believe Reagan intended all of the things that have been done since he started this happening.

But I’m asking the question in Free Lunch: Are you better off than you were in 1980? And on the surface, America is much better off. The country is more than twice as wealthy in real terms as it was in 1980. Per person, adjusted for inflation, the economy now puts out $1.70 for every dollar that it put out in 1980. Those are absolutely tremendous economic numbers.

So how come we’re not all really well-off? Why is it one-in-seven families has filed bankruptcy in the last twenty-five years? Why is it people are so mired in debt that television ads are just full of debt relief and take on more debt ads, sometimes at 99 percent interest? Why is it that so many people don’t have health insurance and so many people no longer have a retirement plan?

AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t that wealth transfer massively begin—I mean, accelerate with Reagan?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Oh, yes. No, that’s—I’m sorry, that’s exactly my point, Amy, is that what happened is that we put in place all sorts of new programs, many of which were never written about in the news media, that got no attention whatsoever. We created healthcare billionaires while making healthcare unavailable to one-in-seven Americans. And we did this with government money. We allowed people to buy public assets for, in some cases, a fraction of a penny on the dollar and then poured government money into them.

And, you know, our national myth that Ronald Reagan ran for office on was that there were all these welfare queen Cadillacs—welfare queens driving Cadillacs out there. I think there was, in fact, one scam artist who went to prison. But what’s really going on is welfare at the top, and way beyond what’s been reported in the news media as corporate welfare. We have built into the scaffolding of the new economy rules that funnel money to the top.

JUAN GONZALEZ: You also delve into this whole phenomena across America of the big box stores, the Targets and the Wal-Marts and the Kmarts. And obviously they’ve—to some, they at least offer cheaper goods, cheaper consumer goods. Your analysis of their impact?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, they say they offer cheaper goods. I don’t accept that that’s necessarily true. But here’s what happens. And this is a good example of where the news media hasn’t done a good job. I have tons of news clips that say, oh, this new shopping mall is coming or a new Wal-Mart or a new Cabela’s store, and thanks to tax increment financing, this store is going to be built. Well, what is tax increment financing? I’ll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there’s a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government. Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church.

Now, there are two ways that it’s important to think about this. One is, that means your kid’s schools, your police department, your library, your parks are not getting that money. And you’ll notice we keep saying we’re starved for money. We’re twice as wealthy as we were in 1980, but we’ve got to close hospitals, and we’ve got to close schools, and we don’t have money for all sorts of things like after-school programs, even though we’re twice as wealthy. The second thing to think about is, imagine that you own Amy Goodman’s or Juan’s department store across the street. You suddenly have to compete with people whom the government is giving a huge leg up on. You think you would go broke after a while? Well, in fact, you will.

And I tell about a man named Jim Weaknecht who owned a little store in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. He sold fishing tackle, hunting gear, stuff like that. And the way he made his living in his little tiny store, enough that he was able to have his wife stay at home and raise their three kids full time, was by charging less than a company called Cabela’s. Well, then Cabela’s came to town. This little city of 4,000 people made a deal to give Cabela’s $36 million to build a store. That’s more than the city budget for that town for ten years. It’s $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in that town to have this store. And even though he charged lower prices, he was pretty quickly run out of business.

That’s not market capitalism, which is what Ronald Reagan said he was going to bring us. He said, you know, government’s the problem, we need markets as a solution. Well, that’s not the market. That’s corporate socialism. And what we’ve gotten is corporate socialism for the politically connected rich—not all the rich, the politically connected rich—and market capitalism for everybody else.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fate Catches Up With "The Fox"

Live by the car bomb...

“Mugniyah is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else. He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments on a telephone, never is predictable. He only uses people that are related to him that he can trust. He doesn’t just recruit people."
-- ex-CIA Operative Robert Baer

Imad Mughniyeh, the militant accused of attacks that left hundreds of Americans and Israelis dead, including a U.S. Navy diver during the infamous 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner, has been killed, Hezbollah said Wednesday...

Press TV reported that Mughniyeh was leaving his house and about to get into his car when it exploded. However, LBC, a Lebanese television station, said Mughniyeh was attending a ceremony at the Iranian school in Damascus and was killed as he left the function....

Mughniyeh, who had been in hiding for years, was among the fugitives indicted in the United States for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in which a U.S. Navy diver was killed. He was also suspected of masterminding attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the Marine base in Lebanon that killed more than 260 Americans in the 1980s when he was then the Iranian-backed Hezbollah's security chief...

Mughniyeh, 45, was also the reputed leader of a group that held Westerners hostage in Lebanon, among them journalist Terry Anderson, a former Associated Press chief Middle East correspondent who was held captive for six years...

Israel denied killing the militant.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lecture Notes III: Why Are We Catholics?

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir: Reasons, Questions, Reflections

Part III

Faith and Morality

Faith should be reasonable. It takes us beyond reason, but it should never take us beneath reason.

Reasonable faith asks questions. It is through questions that we grow.

To call something a "mystery" is to say that it is infinitely understandable and inexhaustible, not that it can't be understood.

As times change, there will be debates, which will lead either to greater certititude or to changes.

Being Catholic - It has concrete characteristics:
- It makes broad claims on us
- Every dimension of life is under the search for God
- We acknowledge private and public parts of our lives, but none are outside of our claim to be faithful Catholics
- In the West, we have the the highest educational level ever. It makes debate full and fulsome. Lots of testing and inner tension.
- Recent history and the abuse crisis have seriously eroded the trust factor in the community. This makes it harder to carry on the discussion.

Follow the logic of St. Paul.
- Paul's idea is that we still have to come to know who we are
- Then we will know what to do, and what our lives should be like

Who are we?
Look at our humanity, the way God has created us. What does it mean to be a human person?
- We use reason. We are rational beings. We give reasons for the rules that we have. We read Aristotle, but we also read the scriptures.
- We have a capacity for self-determination. We are not predetermined to act in a certain way.
- We are bodily, corporeal persons, not pure spirits.

Grace: A gift of God's life given to us in Christ. It is transformative. Grace perfects nature, it does not destroy it (Aquinas). Through it, we are given a new capacity to live. We are capable of things that our humanity by itself could not accomplish. It comes to us through the Holy Spirit in Baptism. It fits us like a glove, and takes the shape of our being and capacity.

What does it mean to be fully human and fully Christian?

Doctrines concerning holiness:
- God as Creator. It is a fundamentally good world. It is a fundamentally good humanity.
- However, in counterpoint, there is Sin. Original and Personal. Through Original Sin, the world has been scarred. The world is good, but flawed. We feel ourselves tilted towards evil.
- Jesus incarnate heals the scarred universe, but the capacity for sin is still there, always possible, although we are not predetermined to it because we are gifted by grace and transformed so that we can live in the Resurrection.

How shall I live, now that I am touched by God's Spirit?

If led by Spirit, you are not under the Law (St. Paul)

There are two sources of moral wisdom:

1) Revelation (scriptures). We come to them with an attitude of faith. Spirit talks to our spirit, and we are shaped over time.

2) Reason. God, through our reason, will teach us, in our effort to find moral truth.

Scripture has different types of literature.

Creation Story:
It cannot be read literally. There is truth here, but a certain kind of truth. You read poetry, for example, for a different kind of truth. From the Creation Story:
- Each of us is created in the image of God
- God's command to us to take the world and develop it. He has entrusted the world to us. The jobs we do, our vocations, the art we make... are all important. We should think of ourselves as "co-creators" (John Paul II)

Exodus and Deuteronomy:
- God has made a covenant with us, a bond, first with Israel, secondly, with us through Christ.
- Worship and fidelity in our moral lives is expected
- The 10 Commandments. Not everything in them is self-evident (ex: Can it ever be justified to take a human life?)

Wisdom Literature:
How to think about your life in concrete terms. Personal, comforting guidance.

Demanding language that resounds down through the ages (ex: How to treat resident aliens in the immigration debate)

New Testamant:
Different kind of thruth. Jesus knew the Law and the Prophets. Jesus says "I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill... You have heard it said... But I say..."
- Jesus radicalizes them
- Jesus universalizes them
- Jesus deepens and broadens them

Unique to the Gospel of Luke, we see the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son (Father). They both have an eye to the edge of the circle of life.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son could just as well be called the Parable of the Prodigal Father, because the story is about how the father moves first. God moves first. We don't beg for forgiveness. God grants it to us. Likewise, God gives us the capacity to move first to others.

Gospel of John:
Great emphasis is laid on the Incarnation. God comes to us in the human, works through the human, and consecrates through the human. The Incarnate Christ. Jesus as Lord. The moral life is how we walk behind the Lord. "The Way".

Acts & Epistles:
Communities of disciples grappling with these stories, demands, and teachings. All of St. Paul's communities are imperfect.

Sometimes the scriptures make it hard to act specifically. That's why we believe in using reason as well, as a second source of moral wisdom.


1) Complexity. The Word of God will always be true, but it came in a given time, in a given place, in a given culture - 1st century Palestine. How do we take these laws and teachings and apply them today? With reason.

2) The necessity of going beyond the community of faith. How do we talk to a wider community with different faith or with no faith?

3) The conviction that with the use of human reason, we can develop insights into the moral life. What does it mean to be a person? Animals live, die, relate, propagate, but we are different. We look at:
- The dignity of the person
- Our rights and duties
- The fact that we are bound to each other because of our shared humanity
- Issues of Church and State

What do you get with an Ethic of Revelation and an Ethic of Reason?

Imitation of Lord Jesus Christ, in our own time and way, embodying the Spirit of Jesus

1) Revelation
- The 10 Commandments mainly tell us what not to be
- The Two Great Laws (Love God, Love one another) take us in a positive direction
- Because we have been forgiven, we learn how to forgive
- As he gave himself to us, we give ourselves to others

2) Reason
- Ethics of Character
- Ethics of Choice
- Ethics of Community

Ethics of Character:
Virtues. We are a bundle of powers. We think, we know love, speak, relate, create... How do we give direction to the capacity God has granted to us?
- Truthfulness: We don't use our talents to deceive or defraud
- Compassion: We react to the suffering of others
- Justice: We live with others in fairness. We express a preferential option for the poor

Ethics of Choice:
Rules and principles. The scripture give us the 10 Commandments, but they are not self-interpreting in many ways. Much of Catholic moral theology expands far beyond the commandments.
- Distributive Justice: How we share burdens and benefits in this society
- Interpersonal Justice
- Social Justice: The kind and character of our laws.

Ethics of Community:
For whom do I feel responsible? How wide is my responsibility? To all other humans, but there is an Order of Charity (Aquinas).

How do we decide in the concrete? Through conscience (subjectively and objectively).

A capacity, an intersection of our reason and our will. It has 3 levels:
- Potential: The capacity to know the right and the good
- Process: Formation. How you cultivate the capacity
- Action

How does conscience get tutored?

In healthy tension with law.

- The Divine Internal Law: We don't get to see it, but it exists. God's own reasons.
- Natural Law: Our ability to see our place in God's plan through reason.
- Divine Positive Law: The Commandments
- Human Law: Canon and Civil

We struggle with conscience and law all through our lives.

We also have the authority of the Church. We often struggle with it. Law taught well enhances freedom, it doesn't diminish it.

The Church authority is a learning authority.

We live it out in our vocations. Don't forget we are shaped by God (through the liturgy). God lays hands on us in the liturgy. It is not just what we've become, but how we witness.

Next, Part IV: Catholics & American Pluralism

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Lecture Notes II: Why Are We Catholics?

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir: Reasons, Questions, Reflections

Continued from Part I.

Christ as the Center of Our Prayer

In Part I, we were locating where the Church fits in the structure of Catholic faith. The Mystery of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Church.

In worship, we are drawn into the life of the Trinity.

- A dynamic of knowledge and love
- An exchange of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
- In prayer, we are drawn into knowledge of God and up into the love of God.

There were two different approaches to the understanding of Life in God.

- Rome’s
- Constantinople’s

In the West, under the influence of St. Augustine, there is stress on:

- Unity of God
- Going inside the Trinity to point to three people

In the East:

- Do not start with unity
- Start with three persons, and trace from there back to unity.

The Eastern approach is how you encounter God through worship..

- To the Father
- Through the Son
- In the Holy Spirit

The inner life of God is pure spirit (St. John’s opening passage – “The Word”)

How do we come to know who God is? Through the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It opened the life of the Trinity to us.

The Incarnate Christ is two things:

1) The perfect revelation of who God is, revealed in word and deed. The image of the invisible God.

2) Christ as the one who takes us back to God. The perfect response to God’s love. The pattern of our way of life, for those who walked in “The Way”. To be a disciple means to “walk in the discipline.”

For some, this is the totality of Christ. Put all together, there is a two-fold meaning, and that becomes Christ as mediator.

Pius XXII – Mediator Dei. Christ stands between God and us, brings grace to us, and lifts us up to God.

Part of our prayer is dependent on the human Christ.

In the three Synoptic Gospels, we see certain aspects of Christ.

- In Luke, forgiveness
- In Matthew, teaching
- In Mark, action

St. John’s Gospel is the only one we hear for the last two weeks of Lent.

“The light came into the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.”

Christ entered a world separated from God. The journey back to God can only pass through the Cross. The Passover of Christ, or, Paschal Mystery. It breaks the power of sin in the world. In the Resurrection is the triumph over death and sin. At the Ascension he sends the Holy Spirit.

How are we joined to Christ?

When he becomes one of us, he is never separated from God. He is without sin in a world filled with sin. Jesus walks the earth filled with the Spirit of God, but he cannot share it. The darkness must be broken, which can only occur through his death and Resurrection.

The Risen Christ can only be known through faith. He is only available to us through the eyes of faith. He says to Mary Magdalene, “Don’t touch me, I must return to the Father first. Then I will send the Spirit.” Then the Spirit of God fills the world. We receive it in Baptism, and are joined to the Risen Christ.

We cannot know this Christ or grow in him without prayer. Prayer is a means to an end. The Spirit teaches us to pray,

There are two kinds of prayer:

1) Public
2) Personal (Private)

1) Public Prayer – Liturgy (from “liturgia” – “public work”)

Essential meaning is that it is the Risen Christ who prays, and we gather around him as a community. It is expressed in:
- Sacraments
- Liturgy of the Divine Office

To the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit

The Mass is the great study of public prayer. We gather in the Spirit, bound by the Spirit, in the Mystical Body of Christ. This is two-dimensional:

I. In Word
a. Spirit speaks to Spirit
b. Christ is Teacher
c. Holds special power when read in the assembly

II. In Sacrament
a. Christ is Priest
b. Sacrifice of Christ (unbloodied)
c. Once for all

Regarding Christ’s sacrifice: It was not the degree of suffering that mattered, but the offering of obedience to the Father.

We repeat the sacrifice in ritual and symbol so that we can be drawn into the perfect prayer of Christ.

It is Christ the Priest who offers the liturgy. The Priesthood of Believers joins in community with him. The ordained priest links the community with the Risen Christ.

The other sacraments are also examples of the Public Prayer of the Church.

The two great sacraments:

I. Baptism
II. Eucharist

The other sacraments are built around those two.

- Confirmation (Completion of Baptism)
- Reconciliation (Better prepares us to celebrate in spirit)
- Anointing of the Sick (Healing is needed)
- Matrimony (State in life)
- Holy Orders (State in life)

Sacraments include human signs in which the divine presence of Christ is embodied:

Water – Washing, and sign of living water, springing up eternally.

Eucharist – A meal we share, bread and wine

Oil – Healing ointment

God comes to us in the human, but the Incarnation guides us to the sacraments.

Mystery of Transformation: Ordinary human things in a given place and moment and the Word of God, carry divine power. The transformed things transform us.

Seeing the world in sacramental terms… We look for signs of God’s presence in the human, and we are sent to transform the world. We live with the sense that we are surrounded by God, that he is with us, all around us (The Breastplate of St. Patrick).

2) Private Prayer

- Has real ability to relate us to God.
- We see it in relationship to public prayer
- Personal prayer prepares us for public prayer, and flows out of public prayer.
- Allows us to shape our prayer uniquely in our own way. We try to “Enter in Christ” (St. Paul)
- “When we meet God, we don’t want to meet him as a stranger.”
- Characterized by devotions, and other semi-formal ways – Lectio Divina
- Discipleship is only possible if there is an order of prayer in our lives.

Part of being Catholic is knowing how to pray with the Church.

Next, Part III. Faith and Morality

Friday, February 08, 2008

The South is Like Another Country

Live by the Religious Right, Die by the Religious Right?

Exactly one year ago I put up a post asking, Will Mitt Romney Fly With Evangelicals?

He didn’t.

Goodbye, Mitt. At least for this year. I’m sure we’ll see you again in 2012. In a Super Tuesday speech, Mike Huckabee had a pretty good line. He said, “Some people are calling this a two man race… It is.” After seeing Mike Huckabee, presumably left in the dust in the weeks following an Iowan fluke, capture a broad swath of southern states, Romney realized it was all over. One also has to wonder if Mrs. Romney was getting impatient with seeing too many millions of the milk money spent on this hobby, too. After all, he’s a venture capitalist, he knows when to cut his financial losses.

The fact of the matter is, if Mitt Romney had been an evangelical protestant, he would have won the Republican nomination in a cakewalk, despite the documented history of flip-flops. He would have won it going away.

The South is different. We’ve seen a lot of regionalism reflected in the outcomes of these primaries, on both sides. The South has been looking like an entirely different country from the rest of us for a long time, but perhaps no more so than now. Evangelicals, particularly those in the South, simply will not accept a Mormon any more than they would a Catholic. In Mitt’s case, the suspicion may not be entirely unjustified. He did not run like Kennedy did in 1960. He ran as if he wanted a place at the theocratic table, and he was actually a bishop at one time.

(Just a side note to the Catholic neo-cons of the world and their supporters such as George Weigel, Michael Novak, Fr. McCloskey, etc… who believe in Rev. Neuhaus’s ECT project. As we saw with your Opus Dei candidate Sam Brownback, the evangelicals are just never going to get behind your guy. Ever. They aren’t. Understand? Especially if he’s viewed as an apostate like Brownback was. They are not going to go for a Catholic any more than they will for a Mormon, no matter how conservative he is on social issues. Drop these pretensions to a partnership.)

Which brings up the issue of the stress fracture points we are seeing in the Republican Party. It’s been a strange and fascinating campaign season on the GOP side. We have a real maverick in the case of Ron Paul, hanging in there with college kids and net support, swimming against the tide in every debate. We had Fred Thompson being talked somehow into entering the race, despite the fact that he had little desire or inclination to do so, and we had Rudy Giuliani entering the “Real Men of Genius” pantheon with his snowbird-strategy of skipping the early primaries and running for President of Florida. It will probably go down as the most stupid campaign strategy of all time.

Now that McCain is the undisputed front-runner, we see absolute panic on the part of the conservative talk show hosts as if McCain wasn’t actually a conservative. Rush Limbaugh is apoplectic. Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck are throwing conniptions, with Coulter claiming she’d rather vote for Hillary than McCain, and Sean Hannity, William Kristol, and Laura Ingraham on the verge of tears.

Never forget who this party really belongs to and what it is all about. McCain has a strong pro-life record, but does that get him any cachet as a “true conservative” at all? Does his determination to win the war? Apparently not. Despite pro-military sentiment and the importance of social issues for the voters in the evangelical South, that is not where the true GOP orthodoxy lies according to its real power brokers.. It still lies in the country clubs, executive boardrooms, libertarian think tanks, and K Street lobbying offices.

GOP orthodoxy is all about, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, taxes, and fear of brown people and unions.

Of course, there have never been enough millionaires and supply-siders to carry though on that alone in order to win elections, so a marriage of convenience was arranged with the religious right and with disaffected white southerners. Now we are seeing centrifugal forces tearing this alliance apart, and the chickens are coming home to roost.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lent 2008

Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels, by Giovanni Bellini (c. 1480-1485)

Reflections from Henri Nouwen:

A Prayer for Lent

How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?

Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess.... I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.

-- A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee

…but the Resurrection means that…

One thing we know for sure about our God: Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. God is life. God is love. God is beauty. God is goodness. God is truth. God doesn’t want us to die. God wants us to live. Our God, who loves us from eternity to eternity, wants to give us life for eternity.

When that life was interrupted by our unwillingness to give our full yes to God’s love, God sent Jesus to be with us and to say that great yes in our name and thus restore us to eternal life. So, let’s not be afraid of death. There is no cruel boss, or vengeful enemy, or cruel tyrant waiting to destroy us – only a loving, always forgiving God, eager to welcome us home.

-- Called to Life, Called to Love: Lenten Reflections

Monday, February 04, 2008

For Super Tuesday, AEV Officially Endorses...

Wes Welker... The Only Patriot Who Actually Showed Up to Play the Super Bowl. Welker for President in '08

Oh well.... So it goes. I can only get so worked up over it. They don't pay my bills. They don't share my bed... It's tough though, to see your 12-year-old in tears. I suppose it's about time, however, that the kids got some perspective and learned the way Boston sports are supposed to be. Lent will really feel like Lent this year. :-)

As for the Giants, they played a great game and had a great plan. They beat the ___ out of Brady, and how Manning got that ball off and how Tyree caught it and held on, I'll never know.

It was one of the greatest Super Bowl plays of all time, but now, the Dallas Cowboys have finally gotten off the top of my most despised football team list. The Giants can take their proper place in line with the Yankees, Mets, and other detested New York Teams. Anathema sit! I work with a bunch of New Yorkers. Conference calls are going to be torturous for at least the next year on out...

But seriously, AEV endorses Barack Obama.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lecture Notes: Why Are We Catholics?

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir: Reasons, Questions, Reflections

My parish has been very blessed to have had the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir in residence for the past few years. My older kids have often had the privilige of serving at his Masses. He’s a distinguished moral theologian, who has served as an advisor to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (specifically, their letters on the economy and on war & peace), back in the days when the USCCB was still writing pastoral letters, that is… He has been the president of Catholic Charities for the Archdicose of Boston, the president of Catholic Charities USA, and he was the first Catholic to serve as the Dean of the Harvard Divinity School. He has also served as an advisor to Cardinal Sean O'Malley and as Secretary for Social Services for the Archdiocese of Boston.

From his Harvard Profile:

Bryan Hehir is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life. … His research and writing focus on ethics and foreign policy and the role of religion in world politics and in American society. He served on the faculty of Georgetown University (1984 to 1992) and the Harvard Divinity School (1993 to 2001). His writings include: The Moral Measurement of War: A Tradition of Continuity and Change; Military Intervention and National Sovereignty; Catholicism and Democracy; and Social Values and Public Policy: A Contribution from a Religious Tradition.

See more in the Boston College Advisory Board Profile.

Every year for the past few years, he’s been kind enough to take time out of his busy travel schedule to present lectures at the parish during the Advent and Lenten seasons. He has delivered talks on:

- The Second Vatican Council to the Millenium
- Moral Theology (War & Peace, Bio-Ethics, Death and Dying, Capital Punishment)
- The Theme of the Kingdom, the Church, and the World
- Four Gospels: Explaining the Moral Vision

I’ve got a notebook full of lecture notes from all of them, and I asked him once if it would be OK if I put some of them up. I don’t know if he was thrilled about the idea, but he didn’t say no. :-) One that I’d like to start with is a series of talks that he delivered in March of 2006 – “Why Are We Catholics? Reasons, Questions, Reflections.” It was broken up into the following topics:

I. The Church
II. Christ as the Center of Our Prayer
III. Faith and Morality
IV. Catholics, Country, and Culture (Catholics and American Pluralism)

I was trying to write fast to keep up. Any errors in here are my own, not Father Hehir’s…

Part I. The Church

The first item to consider is the Church itself. How do we look at the Church within the Catholic faith? There are 3 levels of faith.

1) Faith as Belief (theistic faith - faith in God). We share that , of course, with other religions of the world. It stands over systematic doubt or outright atheism.

2) Christological Faith. Faith in Christ. We affirm our conviction that God has appeared to us in the human form. The Incarnation is fundamental to Christianity. Christ behind us, with us, yet ahead of us. Christ will come again. The living Christ who has triumphed over death and is available to us.

3) Ecclesial Faith. Faith in the Church. We invest more in the Church than other Christians. It is weightier for us. At times we can be illuminated by it, surprised by it, discouraged by it... We think of the Church as the extension of the Incarnation in time.

The Trinity and the Incarnation... God is above us, before us (with us), and within us. The Trinity leads to the Incarnation, which leads to the Church.

The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. The circle is complete.

Where does the Church fit in our faith? It is an object of our faith. Another way to look at it... “Christ, Our Lady, and the Church” (Yves Congar).

In 1954 Pius XII proclaimed the Doctrine of the Assumption. The doctrine was well-received within Catholicism, but not in the rest of the Christian world. It was considered a setback for the fledgling ecumenical movement.

Yves Congar OP wanted to explain it to Protestants, and wrote a book on it, outlining the following:

- God’s plan for divine human cooperation (Doctrine of Mediation). God comes to us mediated throught the human. Each is an expression of God working through the human.
- Christ is a divine person who has taken to himself a human nature. His purpose was to be the new mediator. God uses human nature to bring about our redemption.
- Mary is not divine. We venerate, but do not worship her. She was a human person with unique status. The key to this was Mary’s faith. Mary said yes freely, and brought God’s plan to fruition.

As put earlier by Bernard of Clairvaux - “Mary, we are all waiting to find out what you are going to say. Say ‘Yes ‘and move on, because we are all waiting for you.”

The Church is another example of divine human cooperation. It is not divine, but it carries divine power. It is human, but it is not purely human. It is a human community carrying divine gifts. This human community is marked by sin. Mary’s role in the Incarnation is central, and the Church’s role in continuing the Incarnation is central.

Church Eras:

Apostolic Church (from the Resurrection to the 2nd Century)

Early Church (2nd Century to 5th Century)
- Augustine
- The Great Councils

Medieval Church (two eras)
- 6th Century to 10th Century
- 11th Centruy to 16th Century

Modern Era (16th Century to 20th Century)

From the time of the Apostolic Church through the Middle Ages, there was no separate section of theology called “The Church”. The Church was simply taken as a given.

After the Protestant Reformation came the first systematic study of the Church. The question was - "What is specifically Catholic?"

- It was counter-point theology. It wanted to stress that we were not Protestants.
- It resulted in hierarchology. It presented the image of the Church as a pyramid. The lay person had two positions - on his knees, and with his hands in his pocket. Everything flowed from the top down.
- This image held from the 16th century to the middle of the 20th.
- It was an immigrant Church in the USA. The laity was largely without much education in a strange and often hostile culture. The Church was their protector. The priests provided strong leadership and had education.

The 20th century can be divided in two periods
- 1900 through 1940
- 1940 through 2000

Henri de Lubac - Stated that the 20th century would be the Century of the Church.
- In the Early Church, the focus was on God
- After Trent , it was the Church in counter-point
- The 20th century was a time to rethink it (the Church)

In the 1950s, there was a lot of ferment in the Church. Some of it was from the top down, some of it was from the bottom up. There was not much ferment in the US Church. The hierarchical setup fit the USA well.

In Europe... The style of Pius XII was top down, but he also put out the encyclicals:
- Mystici Corporis Christi
- Mediator Dei

In these, there was a bit of opening up shown on liturgical movements and biblical scholarship.

There was also a series of movements from below.
- Monastaries (liturgical movement)
- Ecumenism
- Lay congresses
- Social movments

Vatican II
- The discussion blows open
- The bishops build a dynamic council about the Church

The great council document was the Document on the Church (Lumen Gentium). The order of the chapters is key.

I. The Church as Mystery (something of God, rooted in God)

II. There was a big fight on Chapter II... The Church as the People of God. The Curia had wanted the 2nd chapter to be on the Hierarchy, not the "People of God"...

Each of us are called to be like:
- Christ as priest
- Christ as teacher
- Christ as servant

We are a community of equals marked by Baptism.

III. The Hierarchy. It describes the offices, roles, and functions for the good of the order of the Church. The transmission of faith, worship, and order as a way of life, and these offices guide them.

- The bishops are successors of the apostles (not branch managers).
- The Pope is the successor to Peter. The college of bishops cannot act without the Pope.

IV. The Laity. The basis of our status is our Baptism, complemented by Confirmation. It calls everyone to full participation, and recognizes that laypeople have unique charisms. The purpose of the charisms we hold are not to benefit ourselves, but to benefit others. To make Christ present in the wider world.

In addition, LG made references to..
- The Universal Call to Holiness
- The Pilgrim Church (rather than the Perfect Society)
- The Blessed Mother

The issue of Collegiality: How effectively are bishops drawn into the Church?

John Paul II was a centralizing pope. Probably the most centralizing since the High Middle Ages.

As for the laity, we were no longer an immigrant church at the edges of society. Catholics are now at the center of American society. The council invites the laity to take a new role.... There have been enormous struggles. The Church is universal, but the churches are also local (St. Paul). The culture of these places gets imbued in the local churches. This particular society is very democratic.

Vatican II flipped the pyramid. First, there is the People of God, then there are the offices.

What kinds of issues came up as a result? What kind of institutions can you build in the Church?

In the last 20 years, there has been an enormous movement of laypeople into decision-making positions in the Church.
- Ministry (more lay than priests)
- Institutions, like Catholic schools
- Health Care institutions
- Social service organizations
- Colleges and universities
- Lay theologians

Lay people had different expectations about how things should run.

The question of the conscience of Catholics, and the role of freedom and authority in the Church... Is lay experience a resource for what the Church teaches?

Theologians said... "Teach the teaching, but also, teach the teachers."

In the Middle Ages, there was the Magisterium of the Chair (the bishop), but also the Magisterium of the School (the theologians), where we looked for:
- Innovation
- Creativity
- Insight
- Transition

This idea came up again at the council. After the council, however, the theologians and the bishops grew apart.

The role of women was hardly brought up at the council.

To be Catholic is to experience the Church at times as a blessing and a burden. A gift, and yet sometimes something we struggle with.

Next, Part II. Christ as the Center of our Prayer