Monday, November 30, 2009

Father Giussani's Writings Available Free Online

The writings of Father Giussani are available free online at a new website. This site contains all his Italian works and many of his English books.

The English books include: The Psalms, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, Is It Possible to Live this Way (v1 Faith), The Religious Sense, The Risk of Education, The Work of the Movement: The Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and Why the Church.

The website is

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Obama, Relativism, and the Concentration Camp

One danger particular to democratic states is that elected politicians who wish to remain in office have an incentive to bring long-term damage to their country for immediate electoral gain. There is some evidence that the Obama administration has chosen to court China over our traditional allies in order to stabilize our country until the 2012 election. {Italian} If this is true, the domestic costs will be great because the middle class will further erode and family life will suffer as more and more jobs relocate to Asia. Perhaps this is the real reason for the dramatic push to nationalize our health care. Once our manufacturing sector relocates completely in Asia it will be impossible for most families to pay their premiums. In any case, any opening to China is dangerous to the future of the United States.

Many people laughed when President Bush labeled Iraq, North Korea, and Iran the ‘axis of evil’. Although this statement may have been a foreign policy disaster, the problem is that this criticism fails to realize that there is a real evil we must confront as individuals and as a civilization. When we fail to see this reality, we open ourselves to a grave threat. Yet, there is a real danger that in a post-holocaust civilization we will fail to recognize the existence of evil. Culturally, we are embracing relativistic positions that deny the reality and danger of evil. We are naïve to hold to this idea when we have seen the concentration camp and the dangers this institution poses even today. An honest assessment of recent history compels us to change our position and to hold a more realistic understanding of the potential dangers to our humanity and our society. By denying evil we open ourselves to its emergence.

We are endangering our future by following policies that bring us closer to the country that has murdered more of its citizens than any other state in world history. China has killed more people than the Nazis or Soviets combined, and we are becoming subservient to a regime with blood on its hands. In Solzhenitsyn’s commencement address at Harvard, he warned the U.S. of the deadly consequences of this relationship:

At present, some Western voices already have spoken of obtaining protection from a third power against aggression in the next world conflict, if there is one; in this case the shield would be China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall prey to a genocide similar to the one perpetrated in Cambodia in our days.

I hope that Solzhenitsyn was wrong about where we will end up, but we must acknowledge that a friendship with China opens us to grave dangers and as they gain additional economic, and eventually military, leverage over the United States, it will be more difficult for us to resist their advances.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pope Benedict to beatify Newman in Britain

In a clear sign of respect to the great convert, Pope Benedict plans to personally preside at the beatification of John Henry Newman during his upcoming visit to Britain.

Pope Benedict’s Meeting with Artists

On November 21, Pope Benedict welcomed around 250 international artists and greeted them with a short speech in the Sistine Chapel. In the talk, he repeats the welcome extended by Paul IV and John Paul II and speaks of the metaphysical role of beauty. Although beauty wounds us by revealing the disproportion of our experiences and our hopes, it opens us to the fullness of reality because it points to the ultimate source of beauty. This echoes part of Pope Benedict’s homily at Giussani's funeral Mass.

Here are some portions of his speech:

Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy “shock”, it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum – it even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it “reawakens” him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft. Dostoevsky’s words that I am about to quote are bold and paradoxical, but they invite reflection. He says this: “Man can live without science, he can live without bread, but without beauty he could no longer live, because there would no longer be anything to do to the world. The whole secret is here, the whole of history is here.” The painter Georges Braque echoes this sentiment: “Art is meant to disturb, science reassures.” Beauty pulls us up short, but in so doing it reminds us of our final destiny, it sets us back on our path, fills us with new hope, gives us the courage to live to the full the unique gift of life. The quest for beauty that I am describing here is clearly not about escaping into the irrational or into mere aestheticism.

These ideas impel us to take a further step in our reflection. Beauty, whether that of the natural universe or that expressed in art, precisely because it opens up and broadens the horizons of human awareness, pointing us beyond ourselves, bringing us face to face with the abyss of Infinity, can become a path towards the transcendent, towards the ultimate Mystery, towards God. Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality.

In this regard, one may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: “Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another.” He then adds: “Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion.” And he concludes: “We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.” The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: “In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious.” Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: “Art means: revealing God in everything that exists.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New English Translation of the Order of Mass (Draft, But Now Approved by the USCCB)

Scheduled to be promulgated in the U.S. in 2010.


Ralph Wood (Author of Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South) Interviewed in Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

[Her work] can be appreciated, it can be read as a kind of document of its times, it can be read as an illustration of what a southern kind of literature of the 1950s would have looked like, but it can’t be really comprehended in the sense of grasped in all of its fullness apart from her Catholic Christianity. She said if I did not see through the lenses of my faith I’d have nothing to see. I’d have nothing to say. So quite literally there would be no Flannery O’Connor without her profound, life-centering faith in the Catholic Church and the Catholic tradition and the Gospel. You don’t have to have Christianity to understand Shakespeare, although it would help you understand a great deal of Shakespeare, but if you don’t understand O’Connor in the light of her faith, you really don’t understand her. You misunderstand her.

There can be a kind of reductionism and too quick reading of her in Christian terms. She, by the way, did not want to be known as a Catholic writer; she wanted to be known as a writer, that is to say as a woman whose work had its own excellence, that could stand on its own legs, that did not have to be propped up with the crutches of her faith as if it would crumble without it, so in that sense she is not a Catholic writer, and those that say there’s more to her than simply finding Christ figures—there really are almost none, or of tracing down Christian themes—is to misread her, I think they have a point, and she would agree to that point insofar as she said this: remember that reading literature is not like algebra, it is not a matter of finding x, that is to say the kind of extractable meaning that you can lift out of the text—that’s an Enlightenment notion by the way. Instead, she said once you find x you can forget it. A literary text is the embodiment of a whole way of experiencing the world, and therefore it’s going to have depth after depth, layer after layer, but for O’Connor there is nothing larger than the Gospel, nothing larger than the faith, so that those who say you must not reduce her to her faith are engaged in a fundamental category mistake. When you’ve got, as the Book of Colossians says, Christ present in the presence of the cosmos, then in a real sense the Gospel is larger than the universe, so there’s nothing outside it, grander than it, larger than it, and therefore she could encompass all that counts against it. There’s nihilism running rife through her stories. If you don’t pick up that nihilism, you’ve missed it. If you make a kind of sweet, easy Christian reading of her, you’ve missed it. But you can’t get to the core of her apart from her Christianity.

Read the whole thing (well worth your time!!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Janet Smith and the Sociology of Contraception

Janet Smith is a contemporary theologian that has important insights into the Church's teaching on contraception (Humanae Vitae). She articulates a sociological apologetic of this teaching in her talk Contraception: Why Not?.

See also: Overpopulation

Monday, November 16, 2009

Catholic Church Under Attack by The State (Again), This Time in Our Nation's Capital

"The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. has said it will be forced to end its government contracts for social services in the nation's capital, if the D.C. Council does not broaden a religious exemption in a bill to legalize same-sex 'marriage.'

"Without the exemption, says the archdiocese, the Church would be required to do such things as extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples, in violation of its core teachings.

Religious groups and churches, including the Catholic archdiocese and its affiliates, would also have to open up their services to homosexual couples, including adoption and foster-care services, "spousal" benefits for same-sex couples, and church halls requested for non-marriage functions.

It is also important to note that DC's new law "could mean that individuals - from wedding photographers to caterers - will face charges of unlawful discrimination if they refuse their services to same-sex couples for reasons of conscience."

The District will effectively force the Archdiocese either to violate the law or to abandon charitable practice like caring for the poor, hungry and homeless, things that are fundamental to the practice of Catholic social teaching.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kissinger, U.S. Foreign Policy, and the Culture of Death

The origin of the U.S. foreign population control efforts stems from a policy created by Henry Kissinger called National Security Study Memorandum 200. This document details the threats the U.S. domestic economy faces if third world populations were to grow. The expanding population would want to work and this would cause domestic demand for raw materials to increase; the U.S. would thereby have to pay more for imports it receives from these countries. To prevent this from happening, we actively promoted contraception, abortion, and indoctrinated children into the culture of death. Foreign aid was conditional on a state increasing its abortion rate. These policies originated under the Ford administration (another example of anti-life Republican administrations) and, unfortunately, remain our country's preference today.

Our federal government failed to see the intrinsic worth of the person and created policies to destroy life in third world countries; we formally consented to distinction between foreign and domestic citizens and thereby devalued the human person. We allowed the poor and powerless to be destroyed so that developed countries could maintain their standard of living. It is particularly painful to see the economic justification for destroying human life in our country's foreign policy. Please read the document, the links are available below.

National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM 200) (pdf version from Government Website)

National Security Council Summary

White House Summary

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Communion and Liberation's Judgment on European Court Ruling

The lay Catholic movement Communion and Liberation has issued a statement on the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms. Here is an English translation of this judgment.

Regarding the European Court’s ruling over crucifixes


The ruling of the European Court of Human Rights against crucifixes in public school classrooms has generated a vast echo of protests: rightly almost all Italians, 84% according to a poll by Corriere della Sera, were shocked by the decision.

“And you, who do say I am?” This question of Jesus to the disciples reaches us from the past and challenges us now.
That Christ on the crucifix is not a memorabilia of popular piety for which we can nurture, at most, a devout memory.
It is neither a generic symbol of our social and cultural tradition.
Christ is a living man, who has brought into the world a judgment, a new experience that deals with everything: with study and work, with affections and desires, with life and death. An experience of a fulfilled humanity.
Crucifixes can be removed, but the reality of a living man cannot be. Unless he is killed, as it happened: but then, he is more alive than before!

All those who want to remove crucifixes deceive themselves, if they think of contributing in this way to delete Christianity as an experience and a judgment from the “public sphere”: if it is in their power –and everything still needs to be proven and we trust they will be belied –to abolish crucifixes, it is not in their hands to remove living Christians from reality.
But there is an inconvenience: that we Christians might not be ourselves, forgetting what Christianity is; then, defending the crucifix would be a lost battle, because that man would not mean anything to our life.

The European ruling is a challenge for our faith. For this reason, we cannot go back with tranquility to the usual things, after having protested with shock, avoiding the fundamental question: crucifix yes, crucifix no, where is the event of Christ today? Or, said in Dostoevsky’s words: “Can an educated man, a European of our days believe, really believe, in the divinity of the son of God, Jesus Christ?”

Communion and Liberation

November 2009.

This decision could lead to the removal of all public displays of Christianity in Europe.

Read Joseph Weiler's article on this ruling.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Bishop of Providence, R.I. Writes to Congresman Patrick Kennedy

Congressman Patrick Kennedy, although a Catholic, voted against abortion restrictions added to the House Health Care Reform legislation. In a recent letter to his bishop, Kennedy defended his failure to follow the teachings of the Church by saying, “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.”

Bishop Tobin responded. And we are glad he did!

Read Bishop Tobin's letter here.

Bishop Tobin Lashes Out At Rep. Kennedy for Going Public on Communion Decision

O'Reilly interviews Bishop Tobin

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Ambiguity of Islam

The West has problems understanding the Muslim approach to reality and tends to assume that a natural liberalism within the Arab world will eventually emerge. There are severe consequences of this worldview as the West is never able to respond adequately to the challenges Islam presents. Father Samir Khalil Samir has authored 111 Questions on Islam in which he discusses many of the misconceptions widely held in our culture. If you are unable to read this book, Father James Schall has a summary of it in this month’s Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Russian Priest who Brought Muslims to Christ Killed

George Weigel on Fort Hood

The Cross, the Pope and the Fall of Communism

In light of yesterday marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is important to highlight the role of John Paul II and the Church in bringing about the end of communist rule in Europe. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, also a convert to the Faith, is working on a film that documents John Paul II's visit to Poland in 1979. This visit marked the beginning of the end of Communism in Europe.

“Nine Days that Changed the World is a story of human liberation. It reveals how Pope John Paul II’s historic visit helped the Poles not only find their courage, but also reclaim their culture. This film presents the Pope’s message -- that after the lies of Nazism and Communism, authentic human freedom is only possible through a true understanding of our humanity.”

The documentary comes out in January of 2010.

Congressman Bart Stupak: A Hero for Our Day

"First, let there be no more wrangling about the facts. The Bill as proposed by Nancy Pelosi - an unfaithful Catholic who should be ashamed and strongly opposed in her next campaign while we all pray for her return to the truth - promoted the intrinsic evil of abortion. It would have funded the feticide of our first neighbors in the womb. End of discussion. All of those folks who tried to argue that all of us who sounded the alarm over this evil were wrong have been exposed as frauds. The phony compromises and fake amendments were a subterfuge.

"Before the determined and courageous efforts of Congressman Bart Stupak, a Pro-Life Catholic Democrat whose name along with Republican Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania of the 16th District of Pennsylvania is on the now historic amendment, the legislation would have funded more abortions with tax dollars."

Click here to read more from Catholic Online.

Whither Catholic Charities in an Aggressively Secular Culture?

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M Cap., the archbishop of Denver, has written for the blog, First Things, an analysis of the challenges 21st century Western secular culture bring to the core values of Catholic charities. For my money, he hits it out of the park. Here are some brief excerpts:

"Catholic charities, then, belong to a varied and energetic civil society in America—a sphere that the nation’s founders meant to remain distinct from the realms of government, industry, and purely private life.

"Two points are vital here. First, the American proposition presumes that large areas of our common life as a nation exist where government has no special competence and no business intruding. Second, self-government means exactly that: self-government. The solutions to problems in American society are mainly the duty of individuals working together in associations. Government involvement is never the first, and usually not the preferred, course of action. The genius of the American system is that government has found ways to work fruitfully with mediating institutions like the Church to solve problems and deliver key social services.

"To put it another way, American civic institutions have always been nonsectarian, but they have never been hostile to religion. Although the Constitution forbids the establishment of a state-sponsored religion, historically, no constitutional problem has been seen in directing public monies to religious charities that serve legitimate public-policy objectives—so long as these religious groups do not use public funds to proselytize.


"In Boston, the local archdiocese ran one of the nation’s oldest, most respected adoption agencies. Nonetheless, the Church was forced to shut down her adoption ministry. Why? Because the state demanded that the Church begin placing orphans for adoption with homosexual couples—a demand that violates Catholic moral beliefs that children have the right to grow up in a stable family with a married mother and father. Boston’s archbishop, Seán Cardinal O’Malley, sought a conscience clause to exempt the Church from the requirement. State lawmakers refused. The result was the end of more than a century of excellent child-adoption services to the general public.

"This case embodied the 'grave inconsistency' that Benedict XVI writes about in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. A small social subgroup—for example, active homosexuals and supporters of homosexual-related issues—demands that the government defend their right to a controversial lifestyle, a right that is 'alleged, . . . arbitrary, and nonessential in nature,' as Benedict puts it. To meet this demand and promote this ambiguous right, public officials attack the 'elementary and basic rights' of defenseless children without parents.

"When we look closely at Church–state conflicts in America, we see that they now often center on a group of behaviors—homosexual activity, contraception, abortion, and the like—that the state in recent years has redefined as essential and nonnegotiable rights. Critics rarely dispute the Church’s work fighting injustice, helping community development, or serving persons in need. But that’s no longer enough. Now they demand that the Church must submit her identity and mission to the state’s promotion of these newly alleged rights—despite the constant Catholic teaching that these behaviors are personal moral tragedies that can lead to deep social injustices.

"As a result, the original links between freedom and truth, and between individual rights and moral duties, are disappearing in the United States. In the name of advancing the rights of the individual, other basic rights—the rights of religious believers, communities, and institutions—and key truths about the human person, are denied.

Read the whole thing here. It's well worth the time.

Maine Votes to Protect Marriage

Greetings Everyone, since I am a new poster on this blog I thought I should give you a brief introduction. My name is Pete Smyczek and I am a parishoner at St. Peter's in Montgomery along with many of the contributors to this blog. Doug has graciously offered me the opportunity to contribute to this important project.

Enough about me. In addition to last week's elections in NJ, VA, NY (23rd) and CA (10th) was the vote in Maine over the sanctity of marriage. Voters in Maine voted to protect traditional marriage by a margin of 53-47. Despite being outspent 2:1 by those who would redefine marriage, supporters of traditional marriage have won an important victory. Supporters of traditional marriage can now say that every single time the question has been put to voters, the people have chosen to affirm and protect this most sacred institution. A crucial victory, but the fight will go on.

Monday, November 9, 2009

One More Reason to Drink Guiness

The founder of the Guiness Brewery was not Catholic, but he would have made a good one. We could all learn from his example.

The Wall Street Journal on What Is Really Inside the House-Passed Health Care Reform Bill

Very important reading here.

UK Courts Crossing new Threshold

The highest UK court may remove the authority of the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth to decide who is a Jew. This decision will have consequences that could also remove the ability of the Church to decide who is or is not a Catholic.

This is not merely an illustration of the growth of secularism but a dangerous precedent where the state takes upon itself questions of religious truth. All religious authority is threatened. This may create a precedent for the government to intervene in matters of morality and force churches to recognize illicit forms of marriage.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who's in Big Brother's Database?

The Constitution is now ignored by both political parties as the democrats and republicans have consented to domestic surveillance in a way prohibited by our founding governmental document. Our leaders have endorsed a vast project that gives the government the ability to archive all your personal information, habits, and communication records and contents permanently. Big Brother's capacity has increased beyond the imagination of the American public and this creates legitimate questions about the nature of our democracy.

Victory in Maine Against Gay Marriage Legislation

Maine voters stood for true marriage as they repealed with 53% of votes a state law that allowed homosexual unions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Marriage according to Tyra

Ok, let me start by saying that I am NOT a fan of Tyra Banks and that I never watch her talk show. I actually did not even know she had one until one day, at home for lunch, I started flipping through the channels and saw her talking. I was curious to see what they were discussing and listened for a couple of minutes. Then, another day, flipping again through nothingness, I paused for another short time, appalled, like the previous.

The first time the topic of the day was ‘open marriage’ and the guest was woman who authored a book about this (you can look it up if you want, I am not going to waste my time doing that). She was saying how she has been married for 10 years, 6 of which were open, which means that she and her husband had the mutual agreement that they could have extra-marital affairs while still living as husband and wife. Thanks to this, she said, their marriage worked perfectly, because there were no secrets, no cheating (I don’t know how extra-marital affairs don’t count as cheating!), and ultimately no need for divorce. Bottom line: we should all have open marriages so that divorce rate will decrease.

As I listened to this absurd reasoning I though: well then, why did she get married in the first place? Because of the pretty white dress and the scent of the flowers in the air? Because it is the next thing to do on her list after they have lived together for a couple of years? Because the big diamond ring wasn’t enough and she needed a platinum one to complete her collection?

The sad thing is that people today get married because of these reasons, because it’s the next thing to do after years of cohabitation, because the ceremony looks good in pictures you can hang on your walls, and so on. Many people do not get married because they want to give themselves fully to the other for the rest of their lives, or help each other walk toward God, or be open to the possibility of being co-creators of new lives. On the contrary, marriage is a convenient state, and ultimately all about the individual and what he/she wants; the other, the spouse simply becomes an object that can be used at one’s convenience or left behind for another when tired of it.

And when you do get tired of him or her, don’t worry, cheating agencies can help you find a cheating partner. The second show I briefly saw was exactly about this, a man who started a cheating agency that connects married people to other married people who want to have an affair or for that matter, more than one. Simply disgusting. I wonder how his wife (whom was never cheated on as he claims) can even live with such a man and his perverse ideas.

Unfortunately, wherever we turn, whether it is TV, magazines at the checkout line at the grocery store, movies, politics, this is the message we are bombarded with: marriage, in the end, is just a legal contract that does not imply any lifelong commitment, fidelity, sacrifice or openness to life on the part of those who enter this agreement. If it works, good for you, if not, you can find alternatives that can make you ‘happy’.

This is not what God intended for marriage and it’s not what we are to live if called to this vocation. Marriage is a covenant between a husband, a wife, and God, and it is the total giving of self to the other. It has to be exclusive, unitive, and procreative. Anything else is simply not marriage and can’t be called such.

Read this before you get married.