"Christ lives, he has overcome death, he has overcome all these powers. We live in this certainty, in this freedom, and in this joy." (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 12 XI 2008)
"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks the truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie." (Blessed John Paul II, Canonisation of Edith Stein, 11 X 1998)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Music with Meaning - Third Day - "Carry My Cross" and "Thief"

This is the song that got me hooked onto Third Day's music. It is from the album Wherever You Are, which is a supreme work of Christian rock music. Their new album Move is also a great return to form. The atmospheric build up and the emotion in the song say enough for themselves. Third Day have done a few songs  in this vein, where they are singing from the point of view of Biblical characters. This is the best one, but Thief (sung from the point of view of the repentant thief who was crucified with Jesus) is not far behind. These songs just help me to really get into the Gospels on a different level. The emotions that are put in the songs create an almost supernatural connection.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

An Analogy for the Pope's comments on Condoms (by Dr Janet Smith)

(a brief extract from Catholic World Report)
An analogy: If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it.  It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets.  Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.
If you read the previous blog I quoted today and then read in line with this analogy, it does become a bit clearer. Sometimes B16 does drop bombs of Truth that we need to work hard to catch and share ;-)

The Pope on Condoms - Reality (from American Papist)

(from American Papist blog)

Condoms, Consistency, and the Vatican’s Crisis of (mis)Communication

Name UserAmerican by Thomas Peters
6 hours ago

After an especially busy week, I decided to take today off.
Bad move.
After turning my phone off for (four!) hours, I finally glanced at it only to find my email and voicemail inbox overflowing with messages about the L’Osservatore Romano‘s leaked excerpts of Pope Benedict’s comments on condoms, a tiny portion of a wide-ranging interview with Peter Seewald which will be published by Ignatius Press later this month.
[Aside: as someone who was granted an advance copy of this book, I know we all promised to honor a strict embargo. Whoever authorized the leak at L'OR ought to be fired.]
Like clockwork, the mainstream media has smashed the pope’s nuanced comments through a sausage grinder of bias, ignorance, mistranslation, and agenda into headlines such as this: “Pope says condoms can be justified in some cases.”
[Second aside: where is the Vatican press office? Do they take weekends off? This latest episode is about the gazillionth time the pope's comments on condoms have resulted in a media blitz which harms the witness and true message of the Church while embarrassing and mischaracterizing the pope. I get to turn my phone off once a week. They don't.]
Catholic bloggers and writers have done their best to fill the yawning gap left by the Vatican’s official communications office. I would recommend starting with Dr. Janet Smith, Jimmy Akin and Lisa Graas.
I’m not going to try to track down every media report on this story and debunk it line by line. Instead, I’m going to unpack what the pope said by reordering what he said in a more clear manner and rephrasing parts of what he said to bring out what he means. Context is everything, especially when trying to understand an issue as complex as this. You can read the actual text of the pope’s interview here.
Q: Does the Church oppose the use of condoms? A: The Church of course does not regard them as a real or moral solution, but in individual cases, the intention to reduce the risk of infection may represent the first step to leading a more human and authentic sexuality.
In other words, Pope Benedict never says condoms are good. He says the intention to reduce the risk of disease while engaging in a disordered act is “better” than engaging in a disordered act while in addition recklessly endangering the health of the other person. Just as an alcoholic who begins reducing the number of times he binge drinks may be described as having made the “first step” towards sobriety. But binge drinking is still wrong. Binge drinking is never a “real or moral solution” because it is a disordered act.
Pope Benedict puts it this way: “[Using a condom] is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.” Humanization is an important word: in the pope’s view, it is more human to engage in a disordered act with at least some regard for the other person’s health than to engage in the same disordered act with no regard for the other person’s health. But is the pope saying we are called to engage in the disordered acts in the first place? I’d like to see anyone seriously claim he is.
Let’s get to the line that the media has fixated on: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility…”
At this point, having seen the principle that the pope is getting at above, expressed again, that the use of a condom by a male prostitute is only the “first step” in the direction of moralization (again, the pope is careful not to call this choice even a “moral” one), an example of taking one responsibility (among the multiple irresponsibilities inherent in disordered sexual acts), but how does the rest of the sentence end? “…on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.”
This pathway towards healing and purification that the pope describes is not one where every “stop” along this way is a good act. The serial fornicator who decides to only sleep with one girlfriend instead of multiple girlfriends every week is still committing a gravely sinful act, just with less partners. As Dr. Smith writes, the bank robber who decides to rob a bank with an unloaded gun (lest he be tempted to shoot someone) is still robbing a bank. The heroin addict who decides to find a sterilized needle to inject himself is still killing himself, but may avoid additional infections that will hasten the (tragic) inevitable.
If you think there is a substantial difference between these analogies and the example the pope uses, there really isn’t. The pope introduced no new teaching, made no “real” news with his comments. He simply elucidated (as his private opinion) a position which many orthodox moral theologians have already come to academically. There will be no change in the Church’s policy, or even much in the way of personal moral and spiritual guidance, though hopefully this debate – rehashed now again – will cause more people to attempt to understand the fullness of what the pope is saying, beyond the misleading headlines.
Let me be double-thrice abundantly clear: the pope has not “softened” the Church’s teaching on condoms by talking about the hope we can have that someone’s decision to make a disordered act less immediately physically harmful to their sexual partner may be a first step towards someone’s eventual conversion.
Damian Thompson (whose other work I respect greatly) is simply wrong then when he writes: “Pope Benedict XVI is modifying the Catholic Church’s absolute ban on the use of condoms” because a) Pope Benedict would not decide to “modify” the Church in an interview b) popes never “modify” Church teaching, they formulate it, in an extremely precise manner c) the book is careful to point out that it only represents the pope’s private opinions and d) the pope explicitly repeats 100% of the Church’s traditional teaching on the question of condoms which undergirds the Church’s “absolute ban” on condoms being an authentic part of human sexuality or general pastoral prudence.
Damian’s comments suggest a more rigid support of condoms as a widespread solution to the spread of disease than to the Church’s vision of human sexuality as a more widespread solution to the causes of destructive sexual behavior. Damian writes “the subtlety of [the pope's] moral judgment … pulls the rug from under the feet of certain Catholic conservatives (who oppose any softening of the line on condoms).”
Excuse me, but how does the pope’s ruminations on the possible ameliorated motivations behind a male prostitute’s decision to wear a condom instead of infecting more of his partners with HIV equal pulling out the rug from those who say the Church must continue to uphold an authentic vision of human sexuality in its teaching and charitable ministry?
Again, I deeply fear the interpretation given to the pope’s comments say more about what many in the Church (and in the world) are hoping the pope said, instead of what he said.
[Final aside - because I know the discussion will inevitably stray into the wider debate about whether condoms or chastity do better in combating the spread of HIV, I encourage folks to read Edward C. Green's research (his article in the Washington Post is a good place to start) as well as Deirdre Fleming on what the science on HIV in Africa is actually saying.]
I have plenty more to say and time willing, I will write more on this topic in the days ahead. I hope internet filters don’t begin to flag this page as a result of the subject matter!

And from Another report there is a super analogy here.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Watch yourself: Love is dear

Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass by, spiteful, with ugly words, with wrathful heart; you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen you, and your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain in his defenceless heart. You don't know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow, and all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself a careful, actively benevolent love. Brothers, love is a teacher, but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labour. For we must love not only occasionally, for a moment, but for ever. Everyone can love occasionally, even the wicked can.

(from The Karamazov BrothersKaramazov Brothers, pg 353)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

500 Crosses for Life London

Yesterday there was a great procession in support of life. It was an ecumenical march from Westminster Cathedral to Westminster Abbey covering both Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge as well as the Houses of Parliament. The most touching part of the procession was the Mourning Session at Westminster Bridge where roses were thrown into the river Thames to remember those whose lives have been lost to abortion, as well as the mother’s who have been injured.

When we began at Westminster Cathedral each person was given a white cross to carry and we were introduced to the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe (which I had the privilege of carrying J). This icon is very special as it shows Our Lady pregnant with Jesus (as signified by the brown belt around her waist).
We were told that this icon was chosen as it has been responsible for the most conversions in history (9 million).

During the procession we sang songs and prayed the Chaplet of the Precious Blood. This is a devotion to the shedding of Jesus’ blood. Each of the sheddings is followed by 5 Our Father’s and Glory be. The 7 blood sheddings are: 1) The Circumcision; 2) The Agony in the Garden (Jesus’ sweat turned to blood); 3) The Scourging at the Pillar; 4) The Crowning with Thorns, 5) The Way of the Cross; 6) The Crucifixion; and 7) The Piercing of His Heart

The mourning session on Westminster Bridge consisted of the reading of names symbolising those children killed by abortion as 50 red roses were thrown into the Thames River one by one to the sound of the funeral bell.

We also recited the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It was a beautiful moment standing in Palace yard (across from Westminster Palace) at the analemmatic (“human gnomon“) sundial with it’s motto from Shakespeare’s Henry V: “To carve out dials quaintly, point by point, thereby to see the minutes how they run: how many makes the hour full complete, how many hours brings about the day, how many days will finish up the year, how many years a mortal man may live.”

What a great testimony it was. And as our MC put it: we were not there to make a political statement, we were there to witness through prayer.
We ended the memorial at the memorial to innocent victims of oppression, violence and war around the world. “All you who pass by, is it nothing to you?” it states very appropriately.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Atheists have souls too! A view on atheism from 1880

Here is something from The Karamazov Brothers by Fyodor Dostoevsky written in 1880. Just shows you that Truth is unchanging (emphasis added):
'Remember, young man, unceasingly,' Father Paissy began, without preface, 'that the science of this world, which has become a great power, has, especially in the last century, analysed everything divine handed down to us in the holy books. After this cruel analysis the learned of this world have nothing left of all that was sacred of old. But they have only analysed the parts and overlooked the whole, and indeed their blindness is marvelous. Yet the whole still stands steadfast before their eyes, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Has it not lasted nineteen centuries, is it not still a living, a moving power in the individual soul and in the masses of people? It is still as strong and living even in the souls of atheists, who have destroyed everything! For even those who have renounced Christianity and attack it, in their inmost being still follow the Christian ideal, for hitherto neither their subtlety nor the ardour of their hearts has been able to create a higher ideal of man and virtue than the ideal given by Christ of old. When it was attempted, the result has been only grotesque...
(from Chapter 1 of Book four in Part 2 of The Karamazov Brothers)

Let's read this in conjunction with Jesus' own teaching:
Jesus answered, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But now that you claim to see, you will keep on being guilty."  (John 9:41 CEV)
Let us take a step back in humility and defer to God's timeless Truth in those moments when we can't see the whole picture. And let us especially not force our skewed views onto others in pride. May Jesus take away our blindness each day.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Truth and UK Declaration of Christian Conscience

I would like to share two things today. One is the weekly reflection from the Jesuit Institute of South Africa, the other is an appeal for us all to stand up and be counted in our belief of an objective and revealed Truth. The modern world is lost in a state of relativism, where no objective Truth is accepted. When there is this lack of recourse to objective Truth people begin to hold subjective truth to be the rule of life. This subjective truth tends to suffer from the three sicknesses of modern man: Individualism, Hedonism and Minimalism. Matthew Kelly explains this beautifully in his book "Rediscovering Catholicism". Briefly, this entails asking three questions before engaging in any activity: 1) Will I get something out of it?; 2) Will it feel good?; 3) What is the least I can do to get it?
Rediscovering Catholicism: Journeying Toward Our Spiritual North StarThese are obviously not questions that lead to human progress or any type of development and enrichment of cultures and societies. These questions lead to the Culture of Death, where each man puts himself above all others, and uses all others to further his own desires.
But when we flip the questions around we discover our true selves: 1) Does it benefit everyone?; 2) Does my pleasure make a difference?; 3) What is the most I can give of myself? Are you starting to smell what I am. There is one man who reveals what it is to be fully human, and invites us in this way to experience divinity. That man gave salvation to all (with no benefit to himself), this did not bring him pleasure (indeed it involved a great deal of pain), and he gave his all. Jesus did this. And it is Jesus alone who has revealed to us what it is to be fully human. 

QUOTATION : And you shall know the truth,                                 
 And the truth shall make you free.
 John 8.32
 Truth, said Pilate, what is truth?                                      
 John 18.38                  

REFLECTION: We live in tension between the call to seek the truth and real doubt as to whether such a thing exists. It is significant that Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea at the time of Jesus’ death, a symbol of power, questions the value of truth. For the powerful often think they can control or manage the truth to their own ends. They are ultimately mistaken, as the resurrection of Jesus illustrates within the Christian faith story.

PRAYER: God the source of truth,                               
Strengthen all who seek the truth in our world, Particularly those whose search confronts the ruthlessly powerful. Inspire all to prize this search and to defend the right of all to know.

Please go to http://www.westminster2010.org.uk/declaration/ to sign the "Declaration of Christian Conscience" so we can unite in support of values and morals and be heard.

Westminster 2010 is a declaration aimed to appeal to UK Christians of all denominations who subscribe to the historic Christian faith and who hold orthodox Christian beliefs about life, marriage and conscience.
It is not intended to be a comprehensive Christian manifesto but focuses on those areas of belief and practice where Christians are experiencing most pressure from an increasingly secular society.
It was initially inspired by the 'Manhattan Declaration', which was launched in November 2009 and has now been signed by over 400,000 US Christians. Westminster 2010, however, is a completely independent initiative by UK Christians focused on UK issues.
We launched it on Easter Sunday 2010 in the lead up to the general election on 6 May inviting individual Christians to sign and calling upon all parliamentary candidates to pledge that they would ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’.
Now that the election is over we continue to call upon all those in UK positions of leadership, responsibility and influence to pledge 'to respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express the beliefs outlined in the declaration and to act according to Christian conscience'
You can see some more information on these type of movements at the website of our friends at CFAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute).
house of commons

Monday, 1 November 2010

The smiling Foetus - only 17 weeks old

From http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/6991946-the-smiling-foetus-only-17-weeks-old:

 The smiling Foetus - only 17 weeks old
"According to a recent report, a baby can experience feelings such as happiness and pain much earlier in its development than previously thought.
Many experts dispute these claims, however, and say that a foetus is naturally sedated and unconscious in the womb and cannot experience any senses. 

Professor Stuart Campbell who took the picture at his London clinic with 3-D and 4-D scanning equipment said: 

'This is a joyful expression of the humanity of the foetus. I have seen a foetus making a crying face at around 18 or 19 weeks, but not a nice smile.'
'This is the earliest on record - it is just a delight.'
Professor Stuart Campbell is the former head of obstetrics and gynaecology at King's College and St George's hospitals in London.
The baby is due in January and its parents, Louise and Sam Henry from Swallowfield, Berkshire, admitted they were stunned to see the smiling face during a routine scan. 
This case would will prompt further calls from doctors and campaigners to lower the upper abortion limit from 24 weeks because by this stage the unborn baby can already feel agonising pain and the procedure is therefore inhumane."
We all know that the upper abortion limit should be ZERO weeks, but otherwise a great story.