Sunday, October 20, 2002

Knightmare on Elm Street

And speaking of the Democratic Party being in opposition to the Catholic Church when it comes to abortion, I am confounded by people who call themselves Catholic and yet support pro-choice candidates. Today, I passed the homes of three different members of our church, all Catholics, and all active members of the Knights of Columbus. All three had campaign signs in their front lawns supporting the Democratic pro-choice candidate for Congress. The Republican opponent is clearly Pro-life.

Yes, I know there are many issues in question besides abortion, but I can think of no issue more indicative of a person�s moral character. All three of these Catholics are Democrats and apparently pledge allegiance to all Democratic candidates regardless of their beliefs.

The congressional balance of power is at stake in this election. Anytime President Bush nominates a pro-life Federal Judge, the Democrats block the nomination. With this particular congressional district race too close to call, each vote for a pro-life candidate could conceivably (no pun intended) protect unborn children. Tipping the scales to the conservative side may result in a rebirth of morality in our nation during the next four years.

The Knights of Columbus webpage makes the following declaration: �In accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus defend human life from the moment of conception until natural death.� It�s a fundamental principle of membership in the Knights. How do these three guys reconcile their �Knighthood� with their personal actions? More importantly, how can they make their Profession of Faith each Sunday? What hypocrisy!

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Our local Catholic newspaper carried an article critical of the Democratic National Committee web page for carrying links to anti-catholic websites. The CNS story says the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked the DNC to remove Catholics for a Free Choice from their list of �Catholic� site links. Apparently, that link was the only link provided under the �Catholic� heading until the DNC was criticized in a syndicated column.

Checking the DNC site today, I found five sites listed under the �Catholic� heading. Using the Peter's Net Catholic webpage rating, I didn�t find any of them listed with �green lights�, which would indicate fidelity to the Catholic Faith. The Democratic platform seems to be completely out of step with Catholic teaching. I would think the pro-choice stance alone would be enough to prevent any Catholic from voting Democratic, at least on the national level. This is a very important election with the balance of power so closely contested.

The Democrats have done everything in their power to block President Bush�s conservative appointments of Federal Judges. Good God-fearing judicial candidates have been denied even a vote because of their anti-abortion views. This election offers us a wonderful opportunity to make huge strides toward respect for life if we can get a Republican majority in Congress.

Ironically, many Church leaders seem to be more vocal on stances favoring the Democratic Party position. Last week�s Diocesan paper stated that �Church leaders� are condemning the proposed unilateral strike on Iraq. The Catechism of the Catholic Church acknowledges the necessity of a �just war� under certain conditions that make it morally legitimate. One of the determining elements is whether all other means of putting an end to the damage being inflicted by the aggressor, have shown to be impractical or ineffective. Certainly that would seem to be the case here. While I respect the bishops� responsibility to speak out on moral issues, they are not necessarily privy to sufficient information to determine whether war with Iraq is a �just war�. It should also be noted that the bishops quoted in the article were not American.

In the days of strong labor unions and social reform, Catholics were often aligned with the Democratic party. Liberal ideology has now led the party into an area of moral sterility where orthodox Catholics find themselves completely alienated. I don�t see how a good Catholic can cast a vote for a pro-choice candidate. I also cringe when I hear someone proclaim to be a Catholic and pro-choice. In my view, a Catholic is someone baptized into the Faith who accepts the God-given authority of the Church and tries to live life in accordance with her teachings. In my view, Ted Kennedy, Phil Donahue, and Madonna ain�t Catholic.

Of course, one can argue that not all Republican posture is Catholic-friendly either. Being hawkish on war or favoring capital punishment can be at odds with Church teaching, but for the most part, Catholics will find themselves on higher ground morally with the GOP. Vote for Life!

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Get it?

Ok, so I�m a little nervous. I�ve never liked change and I�m pretty conservative. So when change comes, so does a certain apprehension. I attended a discussion group meeting this evening conducted by our new pastor. Only one other person showed, so there was plenty time for one-on-one (or two-on-one) conversation.

Liberal trends in the Catholic Church in America concern me. I perceive them as modern innovations welcomed by Catholics who do not really understand their faith. Some people just don�t �get it.� Unfortunately, many of these Catholics are priests and bishops. During our talk this evening, several red flags appeared. Our pastor hinted at how beautiful certain ethnic liturgical dancing can be, reasons why the altar should be brought out into the church with the congregation gathered around it, and spoke about his theories of why we are separated from our Protestant brethren.

Regarding liturgical dancing, my understanding is that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops prohibits it in US Churches. (Liturgical Dance) Personally, I feel it has no place in the Mass. It may be appropriate for other forms of religious celebration, or in places where it is a cultural custom.

Father mentioned that he didn�t understand why the Christian Churches are separated, pointing out that Christ once scolded his apostles for chastising outsiders who spoke in His name. The point seemed to be that as long as they were doing good, they should not be criticized. After all, we all worship the same Christ even if we have different ideas. He said we should emphasize what we have in common. While I don�t disagree, I believe we need to strive for truth and unity. Some times, that means taking issue with doctrinal disagreements.

I mentioned the reason we were separated was because they denied the authority of the Church. He replied by saying the even though Our Lord gave Peter the keys to the kingdom, he later gave the keys to all of the Apostles, the implication being that the authority was given to many. The conversation went off in another direction and I didn�t get a chance to pursue this topic further. But I will now!

I�m not certain to what he was referring when he said the keys were later given to all the apostles, but I would assume it was Matthew 18:18 where Christ gives all the apostles this authority to bind and loose, similar to what He gave Peter in Matthew 16:18. There are differences, however. For one, there is no mention of the keys in Matthew 18:18. The keys are given exclusively to Peter. In doing so, Jesus was most certainly referring to Isaiah 22:15-25 where the keys to the kingdom of David are taken from Elialim and given to Shebnah.

Generally in a monarchy, the King is ruler over the kingdom, but he doesn�t normally handle the day to day operations of the government. Rather that authority is delegated to a Prime Minister, in this case, Shebnah. In Isaiah 22:22, the Lord says, �I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.� (NAB) The language of Our Lord in Matthew 16:18 is almost identical. In Matthew 16:18, Peter becomes the Prime Minister of the Church. The other Apostles are given administrative authority in 18:18, but they are not given the keys.

So is the authority given to Peter in Matthew 16:18 different from what is given to all the Apostles in 18:18? Most certainly it is, although the exact difference may be debatable. The NAB footnote in 16:18 indicates that 18:18 probably refers to the power of excommunication if you take the context of entire passage into account. For the sake of this argument, however, the intent of this authority is not really relevant. These Apostles were still the first Bishops of the Church. Christ was certainly giving them authoritative power, providing evidence for magisterial authority, but only Peter was given the keys, providing evidence for his primacy.

Our pastor also spoke of the Church building itself � specifically how the entire Church is the Sanctuary rather than just the area around the altar. I believe he referred to this as the monastic approach. The modern manifestation of this idea is to move the altar out into the congregation. This trend has found its way into our Diocesan Cathedral. I don�t know whether this is good or bad or irrelevant, but maybe I can explain what disturbs me about such changes.

First, I wonder how many of these innovations are unique to the Catholic Churches in America. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which all Catholic Churches are procedurally bound to follow, specifies that the sanctuary should be clearly marked off from the body of the church either by being somewhat elevated or by its distinctive design and appointments. (GIRM). As far as moving the altar out into the congregation with the people gathered around it, this configuration derives from the Greek or Roman theater, according to the Catholic Liturgical Library webpage. (Catholic Liturgical Library) I would think it distracting to be able to look past the altar and see other worshipers looking back at me.

Secondly, it disturbs me that we seem to be under a continuous metamorphosis since Vatican II. The Church is nearly 2000 years old. Revelation ended about 90 to 100 A.D. Aside from the gradual development of doctrine, there is nothing new to report. Why have so many changes in practice taken place in the past 40 years?

Prior to Vatican II, the Mass was what some call strictly vertical worship. In other words, all attention was focused on Jesus in the Tabernacle and what was happening on the altar, with very little interaction among the worshippers themselves. We were much more reverent in the Church. Woman kept their heads covered. Everyone was quiet upon entering and leaving. We knelt to receive the Eucharist on the tongue, at a railing with a cloth covering our hands so there was no accidental unworthy contact with the Body of Christ. All of that changed after Vatican II.

It was as if the tether binding our gaze upon God had been severed, releasing our attention to wander in other directions. Our form of worship has become much more �horizontal� with an emphasis on communal interaction. I�m not saying this is all bad, but I do believe we have lost our focus on Christ, and in doing so, we now seem to be searching for something � the result being that we have to constantly tinker with form and posture. While we were previously unaware of what was going on around us, now the environment is a primary concern.

I remember one of the rare times my father, a Methodist, attended one of the old Tridentine Masses in Latin. He was astounded that the whole worship service took place with the celebrant�s back to the congregation in a language nobody could understand. Yet, this form in its own beautiful way left no doubt to its purpose for those who were properly catechized and understood what was happening.

To a certain extent, I believe the post-Vatican II reforms were a concession to those who just didn�t �get it�. Again, I�m not saying all the changes were bad, but I can see where some who did �get it� would find the Novus Ordo difficult to swallow. Father Wathen comes to mind (9-29-02 Blog). But, if he really �got it�, he would not have cut himself off from the Church. Oh the irony of it all!

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Some quiet time before God
Just got back from Holy Hour. What a refreshing way to spend some quiet time, in Eucharistic adoration, face to face with God! And yet, only six people in attendance. Besides the priest, I was the youngest at 52.

We read psalms, sang, two of us received absolution for our sins, and had Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. During Reconciliation, there was plenty of time for quiet meditation. I thought about how skewed our priorities have become. We Catholics believe Jesus is physically present on the altar. Tonight at Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church, we had an opportunity to see Him and talk for an hour. Out of several hundred parishioners, 6 took advantage. I wonder how many were home watching Survivor.

(Followup to 9/29/02)
Equal Time for the Right
And just so we can rest assured that all the in-house public dissention doesn�t come only from the left, we have Father James Wathen expounding his ultra-conservative heresy on our local radio station every Sunday morning. Presenting himself as a Catholic priest preaching the Catholic point of view, the radio broadcasts often attack the authority of the post-Vatican II Church. Wathen is a schismatic by virtue of the fact that he obeys no bishop, answering to no one but himself. That doesn�t mean every opinion he holds about the Church and Vatican II is necessarily wrong. Like Luther, however, he has abandoned the ship and is, in effect, now a Protestant.

My concern is that non-Catholics get much of their knowledge of the Church from what they read in the papers and hear on the radio. Despite some of these sources purporting to teach the Catholic position, much of this information is distorted and biased. Combine this with anti-catholic rhetoric that is often completely wrong, it�s no wonder people develop a misunderstanding of Church teaching.

Today there are many good websites that present Catholic teaching accurately. Of course, there are many more that do not. How does one know when he is getting the truth? One way is to consult a web page called Peter�s Net. (

Peter�s Net rates Catholic web pages according to their fidelity to the Catholic Faith. Most of the mainline Catholic pages are listed. If the website is given a �green light�, you can be fairly certain the site is presenting the Catholic position accurately. Be cautious if a page has a �yellow light�, and avoid any page with a �red light.� If a site is given a yellow or red light, reasons and examples are provided to justify the rating. No, it's not perfect. It too is someone's opinion. However, Peter's Net is generally a good benchmark for determining whether the material presented is orthodox.

Keep searching for the truth.