Sunday, 24 May 2009

Divine Beauty: Our Lady of the Assumption, Malta

From the dedication feast of this lovely Maltesse Church:

A close-up of the main altar:

H/T New Liturgical Movement

Discovering Ethics IV: Basic Questions 3 (Pinckaers 1995)

Yet another post in my series on Pinckaers' book (earlier entries here), with yet more basic questions regarding the relationship between ethics and a number of fundamental issues intrinsic to human existence:

5. Love: Pinckaers notes that, following the New Testament, "all Christian ethicists recognize the prime place of love in Christian morality". St. Augustine redefined the four classical cardinal virtues as different movements of charity. St. Thomas taught that the act of loving something for its own sake was the first movement of the human will and that it was perfected by the virtue of charity through the grace of the Holy Spirit. According to him, without charity no other virtue, faith included, is truly alive.

However, Catholic ethicists of recent centuries have, Pinckaers asserts, turned the issue of love somewhat on its head by placing it within the context of obligation: What charitable acts are required of us? "Practical primacy is given to obedience to the law... obedience to legal obligations is now seen as the true form of the virtues". The issue is this: do we love out of obedience or obey out of love?

This approach has created two distinct strains in modern thought, Pinckaers argues: on the one hand, ethicists are suspicious of love and passion because of its close connotations with sex. On the other, there is a widespread movement both in the world at large and within the Church for spontaneous and care-free love, without due concern for integrity and truth. The absolute necessity of sacrifice for authentic love, so obvious in Scripture, is completely forgotten, as witnessed by the ever-growing number of broken homes. Furthermore, some modern thinkers have developed a thoroughly pessimistic view of human nature, where all human action is placed within the context of the fight for survival and class struggle. To answer this, Pinckaers says, is not enough to introduce a merely sentimental love. A love is needed that dares to confront violence, and knows how to uproot it... This calls for a genuine rediscovery of charity and friendship, our weapons for the combat.
6. Truth: According to Pinckaers, the moralism of recent centuries has tended to confine the issue of truth within the context of the obligation to believe certain truths of the Christian faith. But the scope of the word truth is much wider than that. In Scripture, truth is often associated with love and with upright living and knowledge of that which is true is not something that is gained through purely intellectual activity, but rather from experience, flowering in love.
We might apply here the classical definition of truth - "the mind's grasp of the thing" - but with a new interpretation. The "thing" is not now something material we think about but a personal reality - God or neighbor... "Mind" is not now abstract reason but intelligence united to will, love and desire, informing and directing them.
This kind of intelligence is active, because it leads to action in truth. In this sense we can talk about doing the truth. Truth is beneficial; through upright love it creates a profound harmony between our various faculties and between persons.
Pinckaers concludes that "love of "the fulness of truth," as St. John puts it, or the search for wisdom" is essential in Christian ethics. "We might define the ethicist's task as a search for "the fulness of truth," so that it may throw light on all human actions."

Monday, 18 May 2009

Catholics Persecuted by Catholics

One of the foremost Catholic universities in the US, Notre Dame, decided it would be a good idea to invite President Obama to deliver the address at their graduation ceremony and award him an honorary doctorate, as is apparently a tradition of theirs. The US Bishops didn't agree, with over 70 ordinaries criticizing the invitation - that's about one in four, including the Chair of the Bishop's Conference. Quite a few ordinary US Catholics are enraged as well that the university is not only inviting the most radically pro-abortion President ever to speak (which would not in itself be objectionable) but that they are honouring him as well. An honorary doctorate is an explicit endorsement of a person's politics. The university is playing the tired old record that there are so many other issues on which Catholics agree with Obama. Sorry, but that doesn't really cut it. Increasing federal funding for healthcare etc. is all very well, but it's not really of any use to those aborted people who are not actually around to enjoy it.

This video shows one of the most prepostorous events I've ever witnessed: a Catholic Priest (who is, by the way, 80 years old and fragile) is arrested by the campus police of a Catholic university for demonstrating for the right to life.

Yeah, he was probably trespassing, and he was probably not obeying police instructions, but that's not really the point. The point is that if Notre Dame was true to its Catholic identity, his demonstration wouldn't have been necessary in the first place. Anyway, Obama or not, it can simply not be the case that faithful Catholics are not allowed to voice their support for the unborn on the grounds of a Catholic institution. If this is what passes for freedom of religion in America, I'd take Saudi Arabia any day.

God bless this good Priest, who let himself be humiliated to restore the honour of our great Queen whose name has been so sullied by this sad affair, and to save the lives of her poor children who are condemned to death before they even see the life of day. And may the American public one day realize that what happened at Selma, Alabama is not only part of the same struggle as this, but utterly pales in comparison.

Christ Our Peace

One of the most wonderful homilies I have ever read. From the visit of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem:

Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, I wish to proclaim anew, to the men and women of our time, the Church’s firm faith that Jesus Christ "was crucified, died and was buried", and that "on the third day he rose from the dead". Exalted at the right hand of the Father, he has sent us his Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Apart from him, whom God has made Lord and Christ, "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12). Standing in this holy place, and pondering that wondrous event, how can we not be "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37), like those who first heard Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost? Here Christ died and rose, never to die again. Here the history of humanity was decisively changed. The long reign of sin and death was shattered by the triumph of obedience and life; the wood of the Cross lay bare the truth about good and evil; God’s judgement was passed on this world and the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon humanity. Here Christ, the new Adam, taught us that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, that our future, and the future of all humanity, lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God. The empty tomb speaks to us of hope, the hope that does not disappoint because it is the gift of the Spirit of life (cf. Rom 5:5)... This ancient Memorial of the Anástasis bears mute witness both to the burden of our past, with its failings, misunderstandings and conflicts, and to the glorious promise which continues to radiate from Christ’s empty tomb. This holy place, where God’s power was revealed in weakness, and human sufferings were transfigured by divine glory, invites us to look once again with the eyes of faith upon the face of the crucified and risen Lord. Contemplating his glorified flesh, completely transfigured by the Spirit, may we come to realize more fully that even now, through Baptism, "we bear in our bodies the death of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our own mortal flesh" (2 Cor 4:10-11). Even now, the grace of the resurrection is at work within us! May our contemplation of this mystery spur our efforts, both as individuals and as members of the ecclesial community, to grow in the life of the Spirit through conversion, penance and prayer. May it help us to overcome, by the power of that same Spirit, every conflict and tension born of the flesh, and to remove every obstacle, both within and without, standing in the way of our common witness to Christ and the reconciling power of his love.

With these words of encouragement, dear friends, I conclude my pilgrimage to the holy places of our redemption and rebirth in Christ. I pray that the Church in the Holy Land will always draw new strength from its contemplation of the empty tomb of the Savior. In that tomb it is called to bury all its anxieties and fears, in order to rise again each day and continue its journey through the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee and beyond, proclaiming the triumph of Christ’s forgiveness and the promise of new life. As Christians, we know that the peace for which this strife-torn land yearns has a name: Jesus Christ. "He is our peace", who reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross, bringing an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14). Into his hands, then, let us entrust all our hope for the future, just as in the hour of darkness he entrusted his spirit into the Father’s hands... Jesus asks each of us to be a witness of unity and peace to all those who live in this City of Peace. As the new Adam, Christ is the source of the unity to which the whole human family is called, that unity of which the Church is the sign and sacrament. As the Lamb of God, he is the source of that reconciliation which is both God’s gift and a sacred task enjoined upon us. As the Prince of Peace, he is the source of that peace which transcends all understanding, the peace of the new Jerusalem. May he sustain you in your trials, comfort you in your afflictions, and confirm you in your efforts to proclaim and extend his Kingdom.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

"No More Bloodshed! No More Fighting! No More Terrorism! No More War!"

From the Farwell Ceremony of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land of HH Pope Benedict XVI at Ben Gurion Aiport, Tel Aviv, 15th May 2009:

"Mr President, I thank you for the warmth of your hospitality, which is greatly appreciated, and I wish to put on record that I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people. Friends enjoy spending time in one another’s company, and they find it deeply distressing to see one another suffer. No friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians can fail to be saddened by the continuing tension between your two peoples. No friend can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life that both peoples have endured over the last six decades. Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream. And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a “light to the nations” (Is 42:6), bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict."


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Mexico at War

Mexico is under attack - and no, I don't mean by the inaptly named 'swine flu', which is showing itself to be, as we say in Denmark, 'a storm in a glass of water' (according to the latest update from WHO, initial reports of over 150 deaths were widely exaggerated; only 19 deaths, all in Mexico, have been reported so far). I mean by Socialist politicians who have launched a concerted effort to legalize abortion in state legislation.

In 2007, Mexico City legalised abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Since then, pro-abortion groups have been lobbying for similar legislation to be introduced in other states, most recently in Queretaro, where a proposal to legalise abortion after rape was defeated. I know many will object to this. It is indisputable that a rape is a deeply traumatizing experience and that as a man I might never realize the full extent of this. However, I also believe it to be indisputable that any human life which results from such a despicable act is a full member of human society, with all the rights that entails. I also find the argument that a resulting pregnancy is necessarily a further, unbearable trauma unconvincing. It is a well-known fact that there is also a trauma connected to abortion, and it is not inconceivable that the birth of a wonderful child may just be what dispels the awfulness of the situation. Good can come out of evil. Besides, the wording of the text seems to have been extremely ambiguous, allowing for abortion simply on the grounds of a purported rape.

In fact, the efforts to legalise abortion have prompted a backlash from pro-life forces, which have been successful in introducing pro-life amendments to the constitutions of at least seven states. The Mexican Supreme Court, while ruling 8-3 that the Mexico City law was constitutional, split 4-4 on whether the constitution provided a general 'right to abortion' or whether this was up to the decision of states (in the nature of things, the minority from the former ruling did not vote on this issue).

One of these amendments, from the state of Baja California, has been brought before the Supreme Court. The callousness of pro-abortionists never ceases to amaze me. The amendment lays down that "from the moment in which an individual is conceived, he enters under the protection of the law, and is treated as a born person for all corresponding legal effects, until his natural or non-induced death." I can't possibly imagine who could be against affording this most basic right of equality before the law to all human persons, especially those most vulnerable and unable to seek legal assistance. But the Human Rights Commisioner of the state clearly does not want to do that, and cites among his reasons that it impedes the freedom of women to use contraceptives! This is quite astonishing because it represents a rare admittance of the fact that some contraceptives - among them 'the pill' - have abortifacient properties. So this guy is actually saying that we had better accept that human beings are killed in the womb than discontinue the use of such contraceptives! The Cult of the Sacred Orgasm strikes again.

Via LifeSiteNews.

Americans Evenly Divided on Abortion

According to a recent Pew Research poll, support for abortion in the US has declined dramatically since August - by a full 8 percentage points - meaning that Americans are now almost evenly split on the issue. Last August, support for the legality of Abortion in all/most cases was at 54%, while the opposition was at 41%. Now, the figures are 46% and 44%, respectively.

This is a massive indictment against the unambiguously pro-abortion stance of the present Democratic administration. President Obama has expanded federal funding for abortion and research on embryos, and Hillary Clinton has confirmed that the government will support 'reproductive rights' across the globe. However, as the poll shows, this goes directly against the trend seen in the general population. The Democrats are always banging on about their 'democratic' and 'inclusive' credentials, but what's so democratic about this?

Interestingly, there has been an equivalent increase in support for gun rights.* Strangely, it looks as if Americans are veering more to the 'right' simultaneously with, or immediately after, electing a Democratic President and Congress. Regrets, anyone?

*I want to make an observation about gun rights, because in Europe this kind of thing is easily dismissed as a sign of the crankiness of 'right-wing' Americans, along with opposition to abortion. The reason why very few people in most European countries own guns is not because we're idealistic pascifists but because our governments have historically posed strict restrictions on gun ownership - mostly to prevent popular uprisings. The US developed in completely different circumstances where it was in many places absolutely necessary to own a gun due to a lack of law enforcement and presence of hostile indigenous tribes. This, along with a general (and not unfounded) scepticism towards the state and a set of ideals extolling the freedom and autonomy of the individual, has contributed to create the conviction that it is a basic right of citizens to possess the necessary means to defend themselves from violent attack - a right which the Supreme Court has ruled is inherent in the Constitution. Greater control over gun ownership is difficult to accomplish without curtailing this civil right, which is the reason why many Americans are sceptical of such an endeavour.

Via LifeSiteNews.