APPLEBY:NCR has a profile of Notre Dame historian and Catholic commentator Scott Appleby, who has a new book out entitled Strong Religion: The Rise of Fundamentalisms Around the World. In this article, Appleby offers some interesting thoughts on celibacy and the clerical sexual abuse scandal:
Here are Catholics priests trying to maintain a tradition that goes back at least to the 11th century and trying to valorize it and yet they did not have the training that would have allowed them to work through it. As a result, they didn’t always know the theology behind celibacy -- why in fact celibacy was integrally tied to priesthood. If you ask 10 priests, 8 of them will not give you a persuasive accounting of it.
The question is not that they are not disciplined or not believing, it’s that the church in training them in the seminary stunningly didn’t sit down with them or have a course in which they said let’s really talk frankly about eroticism or sexuality and the challenge of celibacy. Instead, for a lot of complex reasons, including Victorian attitudes toward sexuality that were mostly cultural -- attitudes that had little to do with religion -- these bishops and priests were often unprepared for the impact of the sexual revolution.
HEALING IRAQ: The Iraqi blog Healing Iraq has the results of a new poll of Iraqis which is quite interesting. The demographics of the sample are skewed toward men (81%) and urban dwellers, but it is still interesting none the less. The blogger himself is a dentistry student named Zeyad and his thoughts are worth reading.
U.S. Catholic has a page of ethical shopping resources, many of which are worth looking at. The only thing I would say with regard to the clothing side of this is that until some of these shops get into providing basic casual business attire (e.g. kahki pants, button down shirts, etc.), they aren't going to make much of a dent in the problem. I'm not about to start wearing "Hellraiser" t-shirts to the office...
THE NATIONAL CREED:David Brooks looks at the easygoing Judeo-Christianity which he calls "our national creed." Faith in the United States tends to be "optimistic and easygoing, experiential rather than intellectual." Ain't it the truth.
Our task isn't to tear down their faith, but to form them with a determined sense of themselves and shaped by what it means to live the Christian faith...We're trying to teach people that Christianity is about the kingdom of God and living a life according to the Gospel, which is different from what they've heard about Christianity being this tingling mass of kindness.
DON'T BLAME IT ON CONSTANTINE: Lynn at Noli Irritare Leones has a wonderful post about early Church history, the essence of which is "you can't blame everything you don't like about Christianity on Constantine." Worship of Jesus as God, the hierarchy, the sacraments and the main outlines of the Church's christology were all pretty much in place before the Big C.
GUILT BY ASSOCIATION? Todd Flowerday at Catholic Sensibility takes on Archbishop Donoghue's decision to ban VOTF in Atlanta. He notes that that the usual argument is that VOTF is linked to "dissenters" like Call to Action, etc., even though the organization has avoided wading into the kind of doctrinal battles in which CTA is commonly engaged. Todd wonders where this logic of guilt by association takes us:
Granted, there is little precedent for a bishop to call out another bishop publicly on such matters of governance or personal scandal. But if VOTF-phobes in the episcopacy expect a repudiation of VOTF members who hold individual positions contrary to Church dogma or discipline, they are being naive at best, and sinfully hypocritical at worst.
Take a poll. Ask Catholics who is more tainted with guilt by association: VOTF with CTA or generic Joe Bishop with McCormack, Law, Daily, Grahmann, O'Brien, etc.? Then if you want to talk scandal and confusion and banishment, tell a bishop to look in the mirror.
An excellent point, I think. In my view, banning VOTF serves no legitimate end and makes more trouble for the bishops than it is worth. I would note, though, that local chapters of VOTF are not always as circumspect as the national organization in sticking to the organization's limited agenda, which I think is a strategic mistake (see this discussion over at Amy's blog). There really is a need for an organization that can identify some best practices for lay involvement in leadership structures at the diocesean and parish level that are compatible with canon law and suggest where changes to that law (those that raise no doctrinal issues) might be warranted.
The scale of casualties is almost too large to take in. Dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima killed about 45,000 in the first day, which gives you some sense of the scale. Imagine ever single person you know was suddenly gone. Even that doesn't really give you a sense of it.
I was reading yesterday that more than 100,000 people have lost their lives in earthquakes in Iran over the last half-century. An earthquake here in California last week was of similar magnitude to the one in Iran, but killed only two people. It's hard not to see the deaths in Bam as preventable. Let's pray for the dead, but also pray that those who have the power to do so work to make future earthquakes in this country less deadly.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
CHURCH SWAPPING: Interesting piece in the New York Times about people who have moved from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church, and vice-versa. Although this kind of back-and-forth movement has a long history, there has been a recent spike attributable to the ECUSA's decision to confirm Bishop Gene Robinson.
There are some sociologists of religion who believe that the ability to engage in this kind of "church swapping" is one of the reasons that religious practice in the United States--where we certainly have lots of options!--remains stronger than in countries that have an established church or where one denomination is predominant.
"…and all who heard him were astounded because they were accustomed to children his age talking back to their elders or using foul language…and they certainly were not accustomed to seeing a child of that age being openly interested in religious matters…"
(Pardon me - Biblical humor.)
We learn much about Jesus, among other things, when we read the Gospels. Yet we learn these things for the most part without knowing a specific timeline of the life of Jesus. According to Scripture, we do not know how old Jesus was in earthly years when he began his public ministry. We do not know how old Jesus was when he was crucified. In fact, the only specific age-related events presented within the Gospels include the birth of Jesus, the presentation of Jesus in the Temple - which would mark his eighth day of life, and the occurrences presented within today’s Gospel reading. There must be some reason why the specific age of Jesus is mentioned.
If you have either family or friends who are Jewish, then you know the highly possible reason why his age was mentioned. If Jesus was 12 when these events occurred, then he was on the cusp of his 13th birthday, his bar mitzvah, the day when he would have been recognized as a responsible Jewish man. He would not have had a bar mitzvah party as we know of them now because such parties are only a more recent cultural addition. But even then, he would have known that upon turning 13 he would have been expected to accept adult religious responsibilities. These responsibilities included traveling to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover.
Numerous believers stir up a false impression in their minds that Jesus was a hick carpenter from a hick town. Perhaps this attitude carries over from Nathaniel who is quoted within the Gospel of John as saying: "What good can come from Nazareth?" We have reason to believe that the young Jesus received from his parents what they had received from their parents -- a very mature education about God and the practices of the Jewish faith. Jesus was called “Rabbi”. Good rabbis are good teachers who learned well from good teachers. To paraphrase the former President Lyndon Johnson, Jesus might not have been educated from an elite Jerusalem academy, but he showed that his West Texas State Teachers' College-style education received from his parents and neighbors served him well – even in the Big Town.
I ask of our children here to study well and ask tough questions about God and about our Church to your parents, your elders, and to me. We will be astounded by your understanding. Your good seeking will inspire us to feed your hunger well. Your responsible behavior and desire to learn will inspire us to help you as you prepare to become recognized as adult witnesses of the Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation, which will occur for most of you when you arrive at that age of bar mitzvah. I hope that other teachers will be as inspired as I will be if young people show a desire to learn, to live, and to love what it means to be a child of God.
I hope that your parents assist you in this effort. I hope that people praise God when they see and hear how the families of our two churches seek being in the Father’s house most of all. I hope we can show the world that the faithful people here seek to grow in wisdom and in holiness – and may their understanding astound the teachers in the Big Town.
I pray that through the intercession of the Holy Family, all people who come to this church seek to imitate the Holy Family. They sought to learn much, teach well, and reflect upon the plan of the Lord. Truly responsible adult believers seek both greater understanding and the courage to act according to what they know and believe.
Fr. Shawn O'Neal is Pastoral Administrator of Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in Bryson City, NC and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Cherokee, NC.