Monday, December 31, 2007

Milksop Christianity

I would like to commend those few Catholic parishes in which yesterday's 2nd reading was proclaimed in its long form (Col. 3:12-21) rather than in its short form (Col. 3:12-17). The short option omits the part about wives being subject to their husbands. Rather than appear (gasp!) old-fashioned, or (double gasp!) patriarchal, or risk (triple gasp!) offending someone, most parishes simply skip the risky portion. A few priests may feebly attempt a clever it-isn't-what-it-looks-like dismantling of the text. Most just ignore it, and hope nobody notices.

Trouble is, Christianity is, and has always been, a patriarchal religion, as is Judaism. Indeed, marriage itself is a patriarchal institution, and civilization, founded upon marriage, is founded upon patriarchal principles.

A few prophetic voices have begun to descry and decry the effeminate, wan softness of our degenerate culture, a culture that is embarrassed by patriarchal authority. I would say 'Amen' to these prophetic cries, and point to Jesus as a manly man who likewise expects counter-cultural strength in his followers.

It's high time for Christians to realize that the cultural rejection of patriarchy is ultimately a rejection of the family, of traditional moral values, and of Christianity itself. And it's high time to stop our milksop acquiescence towards this prevailing attitude, and unflinchingly proclaim the timeless truth.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Slaughter of the Innocents

...Rachel weeping for her children...(Mt. 2:18, Jer. 31:15 [RSV])

Slaughter of the Holy Innocents In a sort of inverse of the progression from Good Friday to Easter, just three days after the joy of Christmas we commemorate the very first Christian martyrs, those infants who were slaughtered by Herod out of rage and fear towards the newborn Christ. Pro-life Christians have adopted this feast day of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28) as a fitting commemoration of the slaughter of the innocents that continues in our abortion clinics today.

The modern Herods are those who wear a doctor's attire as they ply their vile trade, shedding the blood of innocent and helpless babies for monetary gain. These present-day Herods have a large army of soldiers to help and enable them. They have the arrogant judges who have decreed that this murder must be allowed and sanctioned by the state. They have the politicians who enact legislation to grant them public subsidies and punish those who would rescue the innocent. They have voters who continue to elect such, in tacit approval of the slaughter.

I will repeat the last sentence. Herod today has voters who enable his wicked slaughter by their choices in the ballot box.

Here's a helpful link.

Friday, December 21, 2007


...may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Just think - the infinite, eternal God humbled himself to enter the finite space and time of this world, and become one of us! This awesome Christian doctrine of the Incarnation is, of course, central to our celebration of Christmas.

But there's more. Liturgically, Christmas is the first of several 'epiphany', or 'manifestation' celebrations. The appearance of the star, leading the Magi (us Gentiles) to the Messiah, is a second instance of this manifestation. Next, John the Baptist recognizes and proclaims the Christ when Jesus comes for baptism, a third instance of Christ revealing himself. Next, Jesus performs his first miracle, changing water into wine at the Cana wedding feast, thus beginning his public ministry. Christmas, Epiphany, the Baptism in the Jordan, and the wedding at Cana, are celebrated in close proximity because they are all celebrations of the same thing: of the appearance of the Messiah, the Son of God among us.

The Annunciation In a different manner, Christmas is also closely associated with another liturgical celebration, one that is less apparent, more hidden, but perhaps more profound. That liturgical celebration is March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to become the mother of the Christ, and Mary says 'Yes'. This is the real moment of Incarnation, when 'the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us'. It is at this moment that God becomes one of us and takes on human flesh within the womb of the Virgin. Nine months later, on December 25, Christ is born. He makes his appearance, and the truth that was hidden for nine months becomes manifest.

As noted in an earlier post, belief in the Incarnation has (or should have) some very practical ramifications for the believer. Each of us is also an incarnation of sorts, a union of a physical, animal body with an eternal, spiritual soul. And, like Christ, our personal incarnation began before we were born. The joyous event of birth is but the manifestation of an incarnation that had its hidden beginning nine months before.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Unoriginal sin

The first sin of man was eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Original sin enters in when man decides to make up his own definition of what is good and what is evil.

What might the final sin look like, the un-original sin? This is pure speculation on my part, but there seems to be some hint in Scripture...

The very first command given by God to man is to "Be fruitful and multiply..." (Gen. 1:28 RSV) With rare exceptions, this command has been obeyed throughout human history, even by pagans and heathens. Indeed, fruitfulness has been considered a blessing, and sterility a shame in virtually every culture - until recent times.

Jesus, carrying his cross, spoke his final prophecy, "For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!'" (Luke 23:29 RSV) Those words must have seemed incredible to his hearers. Yet here we are.

The spurning of the first command, and the fulfillment of the final prophecy. Sounds rather apocalyptic.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Crisis of authority

A summary of the past 6 posts would go something like this: The shallow selfishness of consumerism and the myth of overpopulation has led to an irrational fear of human propagation, and to a widespread acceptance of artificial contraception. The acceptance of contraception has in turn led to an ideological divorce between sex and procreation. This divorce then leads inevitably to the acceptance and even approval of abortion, fornication, adultery, pornography, and homosexual practice. It's quite logical: If sex is primarily about the father-mother-child thing, the family thing, then traditional mores make lots of sense. But if it's just intimate pleasure between two partners, these various aberrations are no big deal.

There seems to be one more piece to this puzzle, another fundamental cause for the widespread acceptance of contraception and of all that follows. That piece would be a crisis of authority and of obedience to authority. In fact, if our culture manages to survive into the future, I believe future historians will name the crisis of authority as one of the defining elements of our time.

A happy, groovy hippy I was a teenager in 1968 when post-Vatican II changes were sweeping through the Catholic Church. Those were the heady days of great social upheaval; of hippies, free love, and the questioning of authority. Some priests of my acquaintance - hip and relevant and groovy - were confident, and assured us lay folks, that the Church would soon get with it and relax most or all of her sexual hangups. When Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, and it wasn't what we were expecting, and did not seem relevant (true prophecies are rarely recognized at first), the cold reception it received was to be expected, given the milieu. Yet this was unprecedented, and has proven to be tragic.

Many priests and a few bishops openly repudiated both the new encyclical and the Church's long-standing condemnation of contraception. Other priests and bishops were simply silent, neither openly rejecting nor openly applauding the Pope's teaching. Only a few were vocal in their support. I have no credentials as an historian to say this was absolutely unprecedented, but can report that, even as a progressive-minded young man, I was surprised at this change of posture. For a reigning Pontiff to be thus ignored and even rebuffed was something I had never heard of.

This crisis extends beyond the Catholic Church. Lines of authority within the family are now typically pooh-poohed as well. Patriarchy is summarily dismissed as outmoded and irrelevant, and the father's authority in the home is questioned along with the bishop's and Pope's in the Church. I suppose this revolution took many decades, but the late 1960's have seemed to be the watershed moment.

But notice where authority is still esteemed - in the military, and in our places of business. Occasional exceptions aside, the chain of command in these settings is still clearly defined and adhered to. Heraldic Coat-of-Arms of Pope Paul VI The corporate equivalent of a Fr. Richard McBrien would be quickly shown to the door. Perhaps the difference is: We need our businesses and our military to succeed; failure is unacceptable. But the health and success of the Church, or the family? (yawn) Who cares?

In 20-20 hindsight, it should now be obvious that Pope Paul VI was right. The dissidents were wrong then, and are wrong still. Even more fundamentally, rebellion against legitimate authority is both immature and arrogant. Rebellion against divinely ordained authority within the Church and the family is sinful, and is tantamount to rebellion against God. The 60's mentality - question traditional morality, question the status quo, question authority - seemed cool and relevant at the time, but has turned out to be merely stupid and selfish and short-sighted. Question one more thing, all you old hippies - question the questions!