Miscellaneous Meanderings on the signs of the times (Vol. 7, No. 81)
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
October 1, 2016 (Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower”)
~Some days I feel like I need a dump truck to hold and haul all of my sins…and a backhoe to dig up the dirt and bury them.
~Religious freedom is a fundamental right that the Catholic Church affirms and supports. But too often discussions that involve it and controversial matters (e.g., Muslim women’s head coverings) forget that the Church has said that this right could be restricted in the name of public order. As Vatican II’s Dignitas humanae #7 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html) taught:
“The right to religious freedom…is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.
Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace…”
~Why do we call bathrooms in public places “rest rooms”? The last thing I want to do in a public bathroom is lie down and rest.
~With kids having gotten back to school already, I couldn’t help recall the traditional image of a teacher returning to her class and finding an apple on her desk to greet her. Today that same teacher would need to test it first for poison.
~As the Left shouts that climate change is heating up our summers to record temperatures, it’s also now the case, more than ever, that they want to severely restrict and/or ban air conditioning (cf. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/439581/air-conditioning-ban-puritan-sumptuary-laws). As someone who perspires profusely in hot, especially muggy weather, this would give me good grounds for justified suicide.
~The recent “Of Many Things” column (http://americamagazine.org/issue/many-things-139) by America magazine editor Matt Malone, S.J., illustrates much that is wrong with modern liberal Catholicism: claiming you oppose abortion, but then saying it wouldn’t disqualify a candidate (in this case Sen. Tim Kaine) from receiving one’s support because it’s merely a policy difference. We would never use this argument with slavery.
~Jonathan Malesic calls for “a new theology of work” in his essay, “Labor in Today’s Vineyard” (http://americamagazine.org/issue/labor-todays-vineyard). He draws on the Benedictine tradition’s understanding of work, as well as the German philosopher Josef Pieper. He writes: “The first step in developing a new theology of work could be to develop forms of worship that more closely resemble celebration. Convincing people to postpone work may begin by throwing a good party.” I will remember these lines the next time I lecture on work in my Catholic Social Teaching courses.
~“Brian Eno Denies Use of His Music at Israeli Embassy-Backed Events” (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/brian-eno-denies-use-of-his-music-at-israeli-embassy-events-w438583). I admire Eno’s progressive music (especially the work he did with Roxy Music, David Bowie, and U2), but not his progressive politics.
~Martin Castro, chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was dismissive of the claims of religious liberty. In a statement accompanying the release of a new report, “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles With Civil Liberties,” he said: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, or any form of intolerance.” (See http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=29286; see also on the controversy: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2016/09/14/archbishop-blasts-claim-religious-freedom-code-discrimination/). Of course, he also singled out Christianity. But here’s my question: How does someone who appears to be ignorant of the positive influence of Christianity’s tradition in this country, and who so misunderstands the nature of rights, get to be chairman of a body devoted to civil rights?
~My list of things the Church must do if the New Evangelization is to be successful keeps growing. It must be around 100 items by now. The latest: The necessity of having the black Catholic Churches integrated more fully into the life of the Church (I think that events such as the one described in this article, which my wife and I attended, are important: http://www.themichigancatholic.org/2016/09/detroiters-offer-powerful-witness-peace-east-side-prayer-vigil/).
~I think the Church should establish a Pontifical Council for Discerning Trends, Movements, and Ideologies. She needs to stay at least a step ahead of the culture.
~Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment (see http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/09/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-basket-of-deplorables/) about half of Trump’s supporters being a bunch of bigoted yahoos, reminded me of Mitt Romney’s supposed sexist “binders full of women.” Too bad the media didn’t remind us.
~On this date 10 years ago, my dad died from lung cancer at age 64. I take great comfort knowing that he died on St. Therese of Lisieux’s Feast Day. He, like St. Therese, bore his great sufferings with remarkable patience and grace.
~In mid-September, I had an experience while out for my daily walk of encountering two young Mormon missionary men on bikes (They’re hard to miss!). When they stopped me to preach, I told them that I am a Catholic moral theologian who teaches at the archdiocesan seminary. That stole some of their fire. But they were still eager to talk! But I took the initiative: I told them of some of the things we are doing at the seminary in terms of (new) evangelization – of trying to do some of the things they are already doing! They then asked me what I thought was the biggest challenge facing young people today. I replied: the secular culture with its constant, but ever-changing pushes and pulls. They gave me a Mormon card and we pleasantly departed in different directions.
~The task of the New Evangelization is, if it’s anything, to convince people – including our fellow Catholics – that Jesus Christ is (as one of my priest-students put it) gratuitous love. And that we find our ultimate meaning and value in him and in him alone (See also Gaudium et spes, 22).
~Here’s another task of the New Evangelization: To help our fellow Catholics to see clearly, to come to grips with reality, and to discern truth from error amidst the secularism, reductionism, and contradictory nature of so much modern morality. It’s Philosophy 101 for Catholics.
~Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.
~There’s been a notable shift in language when it comes to how the Catholic Church speaks of persons and groups who desire the destruction of the Church. In the old days, we spoke of the “enemies” of the Church. Today, we speak of these enemies as “opportunities for evangelization.” Or, we say, “it’s not about condemning or converting, it’s about accompanying.” (cf. Dave Carlin, https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2016/09/21/lets-not-make-a-fuss/).
~The Catholic Church has such a long and rich tradition of settled teachings on faith and morals. Pope Francis could have made life easier for many Catholics if he had simply chosen to focus on and articulate these truths – no need for creative destruction or reinventing the wheel, as they say. He then could have let his famously humble personality slowly win over people to the magisterium’s teaching. That hasn’t happened.
~September 23rd marked the 18th annual worldwide Bi Visibility Day, celebrating bisexuality. I know, I didn’t know about the day either. But of course everybody has their special day nowadays. So as not to discriminate, shouldn’t adulterers have a day in their honor? And what about the incestuous couples?
~The umbrella is one of the greatest inventions of all time known to man, said the man caught in the pouring rain without one.
~In the matter of race relations in this country, I found that the comment of the president of North Carolina’s NAACP is part of the problem, not the solution: “The type of riots we are seeing in Charlotte is a systematic response for people who are drowning in injustice.” (See http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/black-community-sees-charlotte-glimmering-fake-oz-42325588). But is that really true? What about all of the people throughout history past and present who were “drowning in injustice” (many times far worse) who didn’t resort to looting and violent attacks on police and innocent people?
~The “3-parent” artificial reproductive technique, as it is being called, produced a baby boy who is now 5 months old (See http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/critics-find-dodgy-ethics-in-three-parent-baby-conception-52580/). As reported, the doctors “took DNA from the mother’s egg and healthy mitochondria from a donor egg to create a new egg to be artificially fertilized. The doctors created five embryos and only one developed normally…” Because the technique is illegal here, U.S. doctors worked in Mexico. The executive director of a bioethics think-tank was quoted as saying the following: “No researcher or doctor has the right to flout agreed-upon rules and make up their own. This is an irresponsible and unethical act, and sets a dangerous precedent.” This is the usual response: don’t object to the technique itself but to the avoiding or disobeying of the rules and regulations in place. I’m sure, though, that many of these “outlaw” physicians push the envelope because they figure (usually correctly) that the “rules” are going to change anyway in a not-to-distant future – they’re simply rules, after all, not moral norms – and rules are meant to be broken, right? Moreover, when you have what I call the “conquer suffering imperative,” then it’s almost impossible to refrain from procedures – even highly experimental, as this one was – that promise to prevent the mother (a Jordanian woman) “from passing on a genetic condition to her child.” The condition, called Leigh Syndrome, as the article notes, “would be fatal to children due to a defect in mitochondria, the cellular structures that generate energy from food.” Our task is to show why it’s always wrong to generate human life in such a way that it would substitute for the marital act. That covers many acts, including: adultery, fornication, IVF, artificial insemination, and cloning.
~Polls can’t tell us what’s morally right, but they can often be revealing, as a recent Pew Research Center report demonstrates (see http://www.americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/us-catholics-hold-mixed-views-religious-liberty-issues). Many Catholics, even those who attend Mass regularly, are wavering on certain moral issues that involve religious liberty concerns (e.g., the HHS contraceptive mandate). Only 13% of Mass-going Catholics think contraception is wrong. Polls of this sort can tell us where we might have to focus and prioritize (at least for the time being) our teaching, preaching, and resources.
~Almost 50 years ago my alumna mater, The Catholic University of America (Washington, DC), was, with moral theologian Fr. Charles Curran leading the charge, the focal point for the dissent over Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae. How ironic that last month, it served as the location for a press conference devoted to introducing a statement signed by over 500 scholars intended to affirm HV’s teaching condemning contraception and to refute the UK-based Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research’s statement arguing for the moral liciety of contraception (see http://www.americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/catholic-scholars-duel-over-contraception). I was proud to be one of the pro-HV signatories.
~Welcome to Fall 2016.