Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why are Most (All?) Catholic Politicians Pro-Abortion?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123086375678148323.html

I've always wondered why most (if not all) Catholic politicians are pro-abortion. They weren't always pro-abortion. The above article offers an interesting explanation. Here's the place where it names names:

The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book "The Birth of Bioethics" (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.
Mr. Jonsen writes that the Hyannisport colloquium was influenced by the position of another Jesuit, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, a position that "distinguished between the moral aspects of an issue and the feasibility of enacting legislation about that issue." It was the consensus at the Hyannisport conclave that Catholic politicians "might tolerate legislation that would permit abortion under certain circumstances if political efforts to repress this moral error led to greater perils to social peace and order."
So sad.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today's Readings

Today's readings (Jgs 6:11-24a, Mt 19:23-30) surprised me.

In the OT reading, Gideon is threshing his grain in the basement (the worst possible of places) because he wants to keep out of sight from Israel's oppressor-of-the-day (because they will come and take his grain away?). An angel appears to Gideon and declares he will be the military leader who will take back Israel's freedom.

The (familiar) Gospel reading, Jesus declares the impossibility of a "rich man" entering the Kingdom of Heaven, likening it to a camel passing through the eye of a needle. He elaborates further, talking about a great, eschatological reversal, in which the ostensible disorder and injustice will be resolved.

Why these two readings together? What could the connection be?

A connection: What the Gospel speaks of as "rich" and "poor" are what the book of Judges "speaks" of as oppressor and oppressed. Of course, Judges doesn't actually "speak" of this dichotomy, it shows it in the situation in which we find Israel under the boot-heel of the Midians, "poor" in security and freedom.

Both passages shed some light on how "poverty" precede God's liberation. In the first case, the very immanent, physical, concrete liberation from political oppression. In the second case, what I would call an even more concrete liberation, the liberation from oppression of one's soul by sin and death. In the Gospel, Jesus reinforces the necessity of this "poverty" that precedes wealth, and in other places affirms the need for us to become "poor" in order to enter into His abundant life.

What does this selection reveal to us about the Word of God as expressed in the Sacred Scriptures?

I think this selection illustrates the Bible's incredible interconnectedness and context-sensitivity. Despite the fact that it's actually a small library of documents authored centuries apart in three different languages and of diverse genres, it is an "echo chamber" on some level deeper than literal, declarative statements. It's these "harmonics" that make the Bible truly captivating.

I would have never seen what I had just seen in the Gideon story if I had not followed it with this particular Gospel reading. My reading was radically altered and improved by bringing these two selections together. And if I hadn't brought the Gospel to the Gideon story, I would have brought something else. I actually did this, because I read the Gideon story first, and then adjusted my interpretation with the Gospel.

Monday, August 17, 2009

RCIA Starts in Less Than a Month

RCIA starts in less than a month and, as previously stated, I'll have the pleasure of leading the lectionary reflections that begin each class. Rumination on how I'll be handling this thing has reminded me of how much my fascination-with, and love-of the Sacred Writings influenced my journey to the Catholic Church. I can get really passionate about this kind of thing I'll probably have to hold back tears.

Returning to the technical question of "how", I think the design of the lectionary has really "teed things up" for me. With a preselected reading from the Old Testament (O), the New Testament (N), and the Gospels (G), one can visualize a Venn Diagram in which each of these three selections is an overlapping circle, and then proceed to ask all sorts of interesting questions in a very systematic way.

Q1. How does the Old Testament reading overlap with the New Testament reading? Symbolically: What is O + N?

Q2. How does the Old Testament reading overlap with the Gospel reading? Again, symbolically, we can thing of this as asking: What is O + G?

Q3. What is G + N?

The unities are probably most important, but I think we must also discuss the disunities.

Q4. What is unique to O? What is unique to N? What is unique to G?

I think this dialog will help participants develop the type of awareness and attention necessary to read the Bible like a Catholic. That is, with the awareness that everything is related to everything else, and with special attention to the unities in the text. This seems to put the selective attention in order.

Naturally, this opens the door to talk about the senses of scripture, and help the catechumens to develop an incarnational, mysterious, and mediated understanding of divine revelation, which essential vocabulary.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Against a Preferenced-Based Anthropology


We all have preferences: likes and dislikes. We are all attracted to our likes and repelled by our dislikes. Everyone dedicates some of his life's energy to this preference-centered activity.

Moreover, every one of us identifies with his preferences to some degree. We tend to think of self in terms of preferences, and many go so far as to reduce the person to "an entity with the capacity for preferences".

This preference-based anthropology is the antithesis of the anthropology of Christianity (and even the anthropologies of Buddhism and Zen). In these spiritual traditions, man discovers persons only through the denial of his preferences, whether it be through obedience to the magisterium or hours of agonizing, motionless sitting in a meditation hall.

The preference-based anthropology is a dead-end and explains a great deal of disorder: atheism, euthanasia, contraception, abortion, fear of authority, identification with homosexual inclinations. The preference-based anthropology seems to be at the very root of the culture of death.