A Masterpiece of Precision
Fr. Regis Scanlon's summation of the problem of homosexuals in religious life (article, Mar.) is a masterpiece in its precision and conciseness. It is the definitive word on a moral point that should exclude further debate; namely, is it permissible for a celibate man with homosexual tendencies to enter religious life? Yet, we witness qualified and ersatz theologians, as well as certain liberal bishops, attempting to justify, or at least obscure, the inherent evil in this supposition.
Father's article would be noteworthy if only for the reason that he posits the presence of a homosexual in a religious community as "an occasion of sin." In its revamped theology, the post-Vatican II period has summarily jettisoned this moral tenet as irrelevant. Yet nothing is more pertinent to the discussion than the physical attraction that a homosexual might experience for a member of his own sex.
It is obvious why the "occasion of sin" principle that guided pre-Vatican II reasoning should suffer a serious blow in an age that eschews the very word "sin." These transgressions could now be referred to in a more comforting fashion as "improprieties" or "offenses," akin to stepping on someone's toes. If the concept of sin could be vitiated, then that tendentious noun "occasion," with its noxious implications, could be expunged.
Holy Orders is a privilege, not a right. There are certain requirements necessary to qualify for this vocation. A primary disqualification is a proclivity toward homosexuality, a sign that God has not called this individual to the priesthood. However, that fact does not impede any of the many opportunities for service available to him in the Church.
I find it inconceivable, after the shame and humiliation the Church has suffered as a result of clerical homosexual scandals, that there is a hierarchical element still advocating the cohabitation of homosexual men in religious communities. At the present time, the secular press is regenerating international interest in these scandals by turning its attention to the abuses in Europe. But more tragically, the press is salivating at the thought of spreading its tentacles to the Vatican to entrap Pope Benedict XVI. This monumental ecclesiastical tragedy could have been averted if the "occasion of sin" precept had been applied from the outset. What a price to pay!
Ed. Note: For our analysis of the media's attempt to implicate the Pope in the German clerical sex scandals, see our New Oxford Note "The Timing Is Just too Perfect" in this issue.
Baffled by Rebellion
It was heartening to read about the appointment of André-Mutien Léonard as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels in Belgium ("Enter the Belgian Ratzinger," New Oxford Note, Mar.). To say that he "has his work cut out for him" is an understatement. Undoing nearly fifty years of damage is a monumental challenge.
It would be bad enough if Archbishop Léonard's predecessors were the exception to the rule. As NOR readers know all too well, there are far too many examples of Catholic clerics and religious who are in constant, open opposition to the teachings and practices of the Church. Moreover, the Church is plagued with professing Catholics who clearly are not in communion with the Church. Is it any wonder that there's confusion among the laity when there are so many bishops, priests, and nuns who are in rebellion? While I'm disappointed by this, I'm not surprised because the Church was warned of the coming of false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1. Due to poor, ineffective, and erroneous teaching, we're left with far too many Catholics who know how to "act" Catholic but were never taught what it is to "be" Catholic.
How fortunate the Church is to have, since 1992, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Completed under the direction of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger at the request of Pope John Paul II, the Catechism "is a statement of the Church's faith and catholic doctrine, attested to or illuminated by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Authority, and the Church's Magisterium," John Paul wrote in his 1992 apostolic constitution Fidei Depositum. It is "a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion." It expresses "what the Church believes."
Anyone can own and read the Catechism and see for himself what Church teaching is on almost any topic. Did Archbishop Godfried Daneels, the predecessor of Archbishop Léonard, not get his copy? Have all the disobedient bishops, priests, and nuns in this country not read theirs?
A Breath of Fresh, Pennsylvanian Air
Reading Heather M. Erb's article "Truth: A Destroyer of Community?" (Mar.) was like inhaling fresh air in the Pennsylvania woods on an early November morn. She writes: "Unfortunately, the heart-clogging, all-you-can-deconstruct buffet of the modern university cannot assuage the hunger pangs of catechetically deprived anemics." Wow! That statement -- her entire article, in fact -- took me back to the 1950s and King's College in Wilkes-Barre, when that school was still a faithful transmitter of truth. Our theology and philosophy professors, both Holy Cross priests and laymen, issued us heavy doses of the Angelic Doctor and Aristotle. In one year-long course titled "The Philosophy of Communism," the professor warned us not to register for the course unless we were prepared to return for the second semester. He then proceeded to turn us (mostly naïve coal miners' sons) into "mildly flaming communists" during the first semester. Applying Aristotle and St. Thomas during the second semester, he refuted -- destroyed, actually -- Marx, Engels, and Lenin point by point, error after immoral error. I imagine that in most universities these days, only the first semester's course is popular.
Erb's vocabulary is Buckleyan. It's the first time in years that I had to refer to Webster's Dictionary more than once to look up the meaning of a word (another habit I learned at King's College). I've read many enlightening articles in the NOR over the years. I would place Erb's at the very top of the list.
Strange as it may seem, I am a longtime subscriber to the NOR and a born-again evangelical believer. I appreciate your straightforward presentation of the doctrine of the Catholic Church based on the Bible, Tradition, and the Magisterium. I read with great interest "Truth: A Destroyer of Community?" by Heather M. Erb (Mar.). Her mention of "the dubious status of a secularized version of Catholic truth'" and "dissident Catholic academics [who] seek to reform' the Church" parallels what is going on in the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopal churches.
I had the privilege of attending the Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue in the 1980s in Rome as an observer. You would be proud of the training and intelligence of the Catholic participants.
A 'Proportional Love,' Not a Preferrential Option'
Gregory Sampson's article "The Undeserving Poor" (Mar.) misses the mark in that it suffers from improper ethical reasoning. Jesus taught us to be "meek as doves" but also "shrewd as serpents." Whenever a beggar makes a request for money, we have a right to consider whether the money will be spent on a "bottle of muscatel." There are ways of discerning this. Does he look like he is starving? Will he allow me to buy him a meal, instead of taking my money? Is his clothing shabby? Will he let me buy him something to wear? Will he allow himself to be guided to a charitable place, like a church or a mission?
The fraudulently "undeserving" can avail themselves of a variety of assistance in this day and age. Sometimes they find ways to skirt the necessity of real neediness while cheating the government and society. They possess some of the luxuries of life (a TV, a cell phone, or even a new car) yet remain on welfare or make purchases with food stamps. Anyone who lives in the real world knows this.
Although Deacon Sampson does not give a direct quote from Msgr. Romano Guardini's 1954 book The Lord, he paraphrases him as referring to "Christ's option for the poor " (emphasis added). Later, Sampson cites the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1986 instruction Libertatis Conscientia: "The poor are the object of a love of preference on the part of the Church '" (emphasis added). The same quote cited by Sampson is contained in paragraph 2448 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The translation into English from the official Latin is erroneous. The Latin Typical Edition, which Pope John Paul II declared in his 1997 apostolic letter Laetamur Magnopere to be "the definitive text" of the Catechism, renders paragraph 2448 as follows: "Propterea, in eos quos percutit miseria, potiore dilectione fertur Ecclesia ." A free but nevertheless accurate English translation would be rendered as follows: "Hence, to those who are afflicted by misery, the Church brings itself with a stronger love ."
In the Latin text, "the poor" are not specifically mentioned. The generic reference is to "the afflicted." Neither is the word "preferential" a correct translation of potiore. Neither is the word "option" a proper rendering of dilectione -- i.e., "love."
A Peruvian priest named Gustavo Gutierrez used the word "option" in place of "love" in his 1971 essay "A Theology of Liberation." He was a Marxist and his theology was influenced by ideas of Marxist liberation. Liberation theology has, of course, been censured by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prior to his election to the papacy.
My understanding of Catholic theology is that God and His Church are to love everyone in proportion to their need, and not with any preference of social or political status.
Constantine C. Kliora
GREGORY SAMPSON REPLIES:
Mr. Kliora is of course correct in saying that our Lord instructed His disciples to be as shrewd as serpents (Mt: 10:16). Naïveté is not an element of the Christian's moral armament. Indeed, we are called to armor ourselves with the hard crust of realism. One of the things we need to be realistic about is our own power of discernment. Kliora seems to place a great deal of trust in his own powers, and even presents a checklist that one might use to determine the worthiness of the prospective recipient of our largesse. I would suggest that many of us lack these powers. Who among us is capable of reading the hearts of supplicants who cross our path?
I readily admit that, although the rest of us cannot achieve a state of certainty about the worthiness of the Lazarus at our doorstep, we can in many cases form some sort of judgment, which takes the form of a probability statement. Kliora would urge us to act -- or not act -- on the basis of those subjective probabilities. This is where we differ.
Mr. Kliora confuses the issue by bringing up things like food stamps and welfare programs. My article examined individual Christians' almsgiving. It is obvious, I think, that mass welfare schemes, which deliver goods out of a community pot, need to be conducted differently than individual person-to-person charity. There is a place in the former for calculation and the desire to maximize utility. That is one reason why it is a step backward when we replace personal charity with mass welfare schemes.
Mr. Kliora's final sentence is worth noting: "My understanding of Catholic theology is that God and His Church are to love everyone in proportion to their need, and not with any preference of social or political status." How well he expresses the underlying theme of my article!
From Blavatsky to Buffy
In his March Líbera Nos a Malo column, "The Spiritual Toll of Pervasive Occultism," Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer mentions that "television shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, and their popular spawn especially target the younger generation and are followed with fanatical fervor." The early 1960s also had popular occult-related TV shows: Bewitched, I Dream of Genie, The Munsters, and The Addams Family. While seemingly innocent enough, these shows coincided with the onset of the current demonization -- figuratively and literally -- of our culture.
Helena Blavatsky's book The Secret Doctrine, written in 1888, has served as the basis for such recent novels as God's Daughter and The Da Vinci Code. Blavatsky's fervent belief in the occult influenced such Nazi concepts as the Third Reich's use of the Hindu symbol for good luck, known to us as the swastika. In his book Liberal Fascism, author Jonah Goldberg wrote that Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown "should have dedicated his book to Madame' Helena Blavatsky, the theosophist guru who is widely considered the mother' of New Age spirituality as well as a touchstone in the development of Nazi paganism and the chief popularizer of the swastika as a mystical symbol."
The current occultism creeping through our culture has deep and disturbing roots.
FR. EUTENEUER REPLIES:
I focused mostly on the dark forces entering the youth culture through movies and television, but as Mr. Spaniola points out, the same can be said about many other trends and institutions that pervade our lives in the modern age. Just a few examples:
- Rock music: Elvis was a big fan of Blavatsky, and atheist John Lennon's wife, Yoko Ono, in 2007 released the album Yes, I'm a Witch. Much, much more could be and has been said on the subject of the occult connections to rock music's beginnings and development.
- Certain liberal ideologies: radical feminism, worship of the goddess Gaia or Diana the Huntress, the green movement's worship of nature, the occult nature of abortion, which we will address in next month's column.
- Children's toys and games: Toys R Us's marketing of a pink Ouija board for girls, Satanic video games like Dante's Inferno, whose trailer ends with the words, "Go to Hell," not to mention role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons that addict and enslave.
- Higher education: modern psychology rooted in atheist Freud, evolution theory rooted in atheist Darwin, modern socialism rooted in atheist Marx, and modern liberal education possessed by the ideology of the atheistic Frankfurt School, etc.
I could, of course, go on and on, but suffice it to say that virtually all the major institutions influencing our society and politics today are rooted in something unholy. A thorough investigation of modern trends in just about any field reveals something occult. Twenty-first-century American culture is not the expression of a healthy and stable society. But that is why we are called to spiritual battle. We must each heed the call to militancy in the practice of our faith. Only the Church militant has the spiritual power and resources to deliver society from the works of all these demons.
Prisons: Satan's Property
I've been receiving the NOR through your scholarship program for the past couple years. As much as I enjoyed the earlier issues, the content has gotten better and better. I especially appreciate Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer's Líbera Nos a Malo columns.
Needless to say, those of us "fortunate enough" to be on the front lines of the Church's war against Satan greatly benefit from articles of this sort. I have been at Macon State Prison for only six months. We have had countless armed robberies and aggravated assaults during that time, and at least two murders. Satan and his demons are quite active hereabouts. The prison staff is ineffective and disinterested in the situation.
There are almost 2,000 inmates housed in a facility designed for 1,200. More than two-thirds are violent offenders. The prison was meant to house minimum- and medium-security nonviolent persons. The State of Georgia has eliminated almost all inmate jobs and educational, occupational, or therapeutic programs. Meals have been reduced in quality and quantity. Virtually no real meat is provided. Cold lunches are served only three or four times a week.
The Catholic Diocese of Savannah, in which this prison is located, seems to have no interest in prison ministry. Matthew 25:31-46 has apparently been creatively edited. There is no full-time prison chaplain here because the state decided such services were superfluous. One of the part-time chaplains has told me that there are over a hundred Catholics incarcerated here. Over seventy percent of them are Hispanics. An average of three inmates attends the biweekly "Communion services" offered by three Catholic laymen -- and sometimes a deacon -- who drive almost an hour to get here. Attendance is so low due to the prison staff's disinterest in announcing call-outs for Catholic services. After all, if Catholics attend these services, they have to be placed on the out-count, and that means work. The lack of a priest, of the Mass, and of anyone who speaks Spanish also contributes to this situation.
Satan is winning this war largely because the Church isn't any more interested in fighting than the staff is. Prisons are Satan's property. The "good folks" need to remember that when they send others here.
This prison does have a character and faith-based program that is trying to make a difference. There is a group of about a dozen inmates in the program who have informally banded together and who actually believe it's worth reading things like the NOR for guidance and moral support. The group includes Messianic Jews, high-church Methodists, and a couple Catholics. I pass around my copies of the NOR and First Things when I'm done with them. They then become part of that program's resource center.
Thank you very much for continuing to send me the NOR. Someday I hope to be able to make a contribution to keep your publication going. It is too good to let go.
Frank J. Schwindler Jr.
Macon State Prison
FR. EUTENEUER REPLIES:
I sympathize with Mr. Schwindler's "complaint": For many years I was involved in prison ministry. In fact, the very first confession I heard -- two days after I was ordained -- was that of a prisoner who was in jail for murder. (He had already confessed the murder in a previous confession.) When prisons receive any real attention from Christians, it is usually from Baptists who take seriously the call to evangelize in the Matthew 25. When Catholics come in, we are usually given minority status. Where the presence of Christians is negligible, Muslims can often be found recruiting aggressively.
Ultimately, these environments, full of criminals, are also seedbeds for the works of the Evil One and therefore are in dire need of Christian ministry. The idea that a person goes to prison to become "reformed" is an absurdity. Oftentimes they become confirmed in their criminal ways.
I would ask Mr. Schwindler, and anyone in prison ministry, to be of good cheer, fully confident that your work is blessed by God because it is a work that Christ explicitly asked His Church to carry out. If the "official" Church does not pay proper attention to this work of the Gospel, then those in authority will be held accountable before the Judgment Seat of God. Ours, however, is not to agonize over what others are not doing, but to do what we are supposed to do with greater fervor, asking God to sanctify us in the process.
I would add that prison ministers can and should pray particular prayers in order to increase the effectiveness of their visits to those environments. These are the "binding" prayers that any Christian can pray in the Name of Jesus. The concept of "binding the strong man" derives from Mark 3:27, which speaks of breaking into the house of an evil man after binding him. It is an analogy of how the Holy Spirit works in taking over strongholds of evil. Accordingly, we can pray prayers of binding that will restrict the power of evil in any place and open up spiritual space for the action of grace to enter into men's hearts. We bind always "in the Name of Jesus," naming whatever evil spirit we may sense is present. Mentioned in Mr. Schwindler's letter were spirits of theft, murder, violence, dissension, apathy, and lack of faith. Certainly there are others.
In the Name of Jesus, good Christians can bind them all and see God's grace act much more efficiently even in the hearts of criminals. Good Friday showed us that there is hope for everyone: At least one criminal stole Heaven at the last moment of his life.