Peace for the Afflicted

The Church never abandons her children, especially those who suffer.  Dawn Eden, through her book My Peace I Give Youcontinues to be an instrument of Christ for the healing of those who have suffered sexual abuse.

Anthony Esolen, a writer I greatly admire, has written an essay in defense of the innocence of children inspired by reading Dawn’s book.   And The Catholic Herald picked up on her work, occasioned by her recent speaking engagements in the UK.

Her she is speaking on the healing of memory, a subject, which I believe is terribly important:

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Saving Manhood

It seems inevitable.  The Boy Scouts are now “rethinking” their ban on members and leaders being openly gay.  How long did we really think that the actual oath of the Scouts with the words “morally straight” would remain unchallenged?

We have all heard the “evolution of thought” argument made, that, for example, public opinion is shifting in favor of same-sex marriage, and that it is only a matter of time before it is mainstreamed.  The same sex lobby has used a very effective strategy of gradualism.

The advocates of same-sex marriage insist at the beginning of legislative sessions that nothing but the full recognition of marriage equality is acceptable, and then when a proposed bill comes up to a vote they accept whatever they can get.  The whole process starts over again year after year until same-sex marriage is legalized.  In this way, they alternate from defending full legal recognition as the only constitutional remedy for discrimination to pretending that they are only looking for basic protections. FInally, if this is not successful, judicial malpractice solves the problem.

Some call this a “slippery slope.”  I call it “erosion.”  “Slippery slope” denotes a present condition that will lead to a future repercussion (bad precedent leads to worse consequences).  “Erosion” denotes an ongoing process in which present and future only differs by the degree of deterioration (the longer the cause is applied the worse the effect). One might say I am splitting hairs, but it is a better explanation as to why we should all know what is coming. Continue reading

Contracepting Religious Freedom

Thank God the bishops are using their clout against the attempt of the Obama administration to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraception. Although I do not agree with Paul Moses entirely, I believe he has a point in suggesting that the effort could backfire.  But that is a risk we have to take.

Unfortunately, politics today is largely part of our sound bite culture.  So many people are more interested in the outcome of the Twitter war than they are about having an in-depth and clear understanding of the problem at hand.  Political persuasion is to a great extent about perception. Winning a debate  seems more important than dealing with the fundamental issues. Clarifying first principles often clouds the particular agenda and appeals more to the intellect than it does to the emotions. Emotional arguments work better.

Partisanship is also an issue.  I am all for distinctions and hard ones when they reflect reality, but Republican vs. Democrat generally does not reflect the complex reality of peoples real interests and positions.  Certainly, neither political party represents the fundamental interests of the Catholic Church.

Yet the current problem does reflect a reality that could be conveyed easily on Twitter.  It is President Obama against the Church.  The interests of the bishops relative to this issue are not political.  They are not even confessional.  It is the age old problem of the Church maintaining its liberty from incursions into relgious matters by civil authorities.  And the issue even simpler than the current debate frames it.  The real question is not whether religious institutions should be exempted from paying for something considered immoral by their confession.  The real question is why anyone at all is being forced by the government to act contrary to fundamental religious convictions rooted in natural law and in legal history of our country.

During the last presidential campaign Doug Kmiec successfully convinced many Catholics that Barack Obama was the most pro-life candidate in the race.  Many of us were astounded.  Recently, Kmiec wrote to the president in respect to the present debacle.  He said:

In deciding against a reasonable accommodation of Catholic concerns in the implementation of the health care program, you lost sight of your own beliefs.  For this reason, your words this morning touched neither soul nor heart in the room. . . .

Today, Sir, I ask you no longer as an Ambassador, but simply as a friend, why put the cold calculus of politics above faith and freedom?  Please respond, for friendship will not permit me to disregard duty to faith and country.  The Barack Obama I knew would never have asked me to make that choice.

I still think Kmiec is very naive–at best.

Politicians, journalists, pundits and bloggers will now “soundbite” and “twitter” us with irrelevancies about women dying from a lack of birth control because Catholics don’t want to pay for it and about how the bishop’s are too conservative and partisan.  Unfortunately, many will buy it, which is very ironic, since the official voter’s guide of the USCCB is hardly a conservative or partisan representation.

Another irony is Paul Moses’ suggestion that the bishops employ the methods of Saul Alinsky.  This, he says, could build consensus.  Moses counsels the bishops to garner enthusiastic support by community organizing.  Grassroots support, of course, if helpful.  However, the quintessentially alinskian element here is the way in which grassroots support is generated by the ulterior motives of radicals in order to implement a preconceived and elitist agenda.  Moses rightly points out that Obama knows all about this.  But this is not the mission of the bishops. The Church is a voluntary society.  No one has to belong to it, but those who do have an inalienable right to follow its precepts without the interference of the state.   This is not about political maneuvering.  It is about keeping the claws of the government out of religious matters.

Politics is tricky.  We cannot do without consensus because politics is a matter of persuasion.  However, I can hardly think of a situation that is more simple than the present one.  The Church must not sacrifice her independence and the general principle of religious liberty for the sake of some vague measure of political coexistence and popular support. There is hardly any way to prevent those who support Obama’s agenda from casting the bishops’ position as a partisan one.  Caesar must not be conceded an inch of God’s territory even if there are political costs.

Finding the High Road

Ave Maria!

I am off to England today and will not be back until March 2.  Our Marian apostolate A Day With Mary will be the subject of a workshop for friars, sisters and MIM members in London.

Before I go, I wanted to provide some more links to essays and blog posts concerning the ethical question of lying and deception “in the service” of the good, that has been occasioned by the work of Lila Rose and Action Films and which has recently been questioned by Dawn Eden and William Doino.  Be sure to check out there comments section there as well.

The philosopher Christopher Tollefsen has posted an essay, “Truth, Love and Live Action,” over at the Public Discourse website, which finds the organization’s tactics morally troubling, if not worse. Jody Bottum has replied firmly to Tollefsen—whom he otherwise finds much agreement with– with his own column, “The Unloving Lies of Lila Rose?” defending Lila, and Pia di Solenni offers more support for Rose with her post, “Lying for a Good Cause?”

Meanwhile, over at Mercatornet, Carolyn Moynihan, another pro-lifer, has written a sharp piece, “Stung! The Ethics of Entrapment,” in which she warns that, as much as we may like, or be inclined to support these operations, they could-and already have—been used against moral and religious traditionalists, and thus may come back to haunt us.

I have already linked to the New Theological Movement Website, where there are not one but two long posts critiquing Live Action, entitled, “It is a Sin to Lie, Even to Planned Parenthood,” and a follow-up, answering critics, “Lying to Planned Parenthood, or is it Mental Reservation?”

More recently, back at Public Discourse, Professor Christopher Kaczor has written, as a critique of Tollefsen, “In Defense of Live Action.” Pro-life activist Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller has firmly defended the group’s actions, whereas Dr. Germain Grisez and Dr. William May have just as strongly criticized them.

Finally, an interesting discussion has developed between Steve Kellmeyer and Dawn Eden under Steve’s post, “A Rose By Any Other Name.”

A Radical’s Rule

If one defines radicalism as proceeding from the root (“going to the origin, essential“), then one might argue that Our Lord was a radical—of course, a different sort than described by Saul Alinsky in his Rules for Radicals. For Alinsky, “irreverence” is an essential quality of radicalism: “nothing is sacred”; the organizer “detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality.”  Certainly, this kind of radicalism is not constant with the moral integrity, the “rootedness, of Our Lord.  As the Word, Logos, Jesus is radical Truth.  Only the Truth will set us free.

It is radical to say that the truth is worth dying for, for example, the truth that all human life begins at conception and must be protected from that moment onward.  Many pro-lifers have risked life and limb to protect the unborn.  But it is also radical to say that the following truth is worth dying for:  the end does not justify the means, even when the means has the opportunity of undoing the work of Planned Parenthood.

Please check out Dawn Eden’s and William Doino’s Building a Culture of Lie, which offers a fair-minded critique of the work of Lila Rose and Live Action Films on the basis of the teaching of the Church.  See also these two critiques as well.  Dawn and William also have taken exception to the work of James O’Keefe who took on ACORN in much the same manor.  I commented on this myself.

Thank God for the courage of Dawn and William.  These are important issues to resolve if we wish to be radical in the sense of Jesus Christ, and not in the sense of Saul Alinsky.  It is one of the reasons why chivalry (courtesy and honesty) is so important.

Lost in the Archives

Well, not totally lost.  I am just reading most of the time that I don’t have other duties to which I must attend.  I hope to soon have a post on an interesting aspect of the occult pertaining to the difference between Christian mysticism and neopagan, magical consciousness.  The attraction of “alternative religion,” is that it promises “supernatural” or transcendent consciousness, the experience of unity, integration and joy without dogma.  It is a big temptation.

Please pray that I get this book on Harry Potter and the occult done soon.

I am uploading here a very cogent list of 10 non-religious reasons why same-sex marriage should not be legalized for your consideration.  (I am not the author of the list.  I neglected to mention this.  The author is anonymous.) BTW, did you know that 85% of all abortions, according to Planned Parenthood research arm, the Guttmacher Institute, are obtained by unmarried women.  My understanding is that the latest statistic has it up to 87%, but I have not been able to verify that.  Either way, it is a tremendous statistic.  The erosion of marriage is directly related to the incidence of abortion, and the elimination of children from the culture of marriage is obliterating the most fundamental social institution of our race.  If we want to stop abortion we have to address the problem with marriage.

Helper in Childbirth

It has been my intention for many years to install a Marian pro-life shrine in our chapel in Griswold, Connecticut. I wanted something very special that would be an exorcism against the culture of death, but would also be beautiful and positive—something truly representative of the Culture of Life.  I spoke about this with an iconographer we have worked with over a number of years, Marek Czarneki, and he was very excited.  He had thought about doing something along these lines also.

He told me about a devotional image used in the Orthodox Church by midwives, The Helper in Childbirth:

This particular image is not altogether liturgical, as Our Lady’ hair is uncovered, a feature which ordinarily has erotic connotations.  This is why, Marek tells me, Eastern Christian tradition permitted unmarried women to uncover their heads as a sign of their availability, but not married women. In the case of this icon, I surmise the uncovered head indicates the Virgin’s recent delivery, which connects it to the labor of those who were blessed by this image during the experience of childbirth.

Parenthetically, I might note that the liturgical canons of iconography indicate a Theology of Clothing rather than one of nakedness.  The nuptiality of the liturgy is not a carnalization of the sacred mysteries, contrary to the mythology of some.

So Marek went to work in order to make this wonderful prototype more fitting for public veneration in a liturgical context.  Here is the result:

See AirMaria for the Blessing of the Icon, last Epiphany Sunday and for an interview with Marek.

The following is Marek’s explanation of the Icon:

While there is only one Virgin Mary, scholars have catalogued more than 1,100 distinct icons of the Mother of God. Spread out in front of us, it is difficult to understand why there are so many.  In their variety, we wonder if they all could possibly represent the same historical individual?  Every icon represents a different part of Our Lady, emphasizing specific facets of her life, personality, and intercession.  Despite the multiplicity of her icons, no single image has captured her fullness or proven adequate.

Some icons are named for shrines and places where miraculous events occurred, like the Virgin of Vladimir, a city in Russia.  Some are titled with words of praise, like the icon called “Life-Giving Spring” or “All Creation Rejoices in Thee”.  Other icons are titled after our own needs, and testify to Our Lady’s intercession.   We know of icons called  “The Mother of God, Confidence of Sinners”, or “She Who Soothes My Sorrows”, or the very beautiful and famous icon called “Perpetual Help”.

This icon of the Mother of God is called “The Helper in Childbirth“.  The first prototypes of this icon appeared in Western Russia, in the early 19th century.  It was made for a very practical and urgent need – the difficulties in conceiving and giving birth.

A variation of the ancient and famous icon of Our Lady of the Sign, this icon differs by showing the Mother of God folding her hands in prayer over her heart, instead of holding them outstretched to the sides.  Under the protective arch of her hands, we can see the newly conceived Christ Child, emanating from inside her womb in an almond shaped-halo of light.  To show He is the “Logos“, or Word of God incarnate, He holds a small white scroll.  She is filled and radiant with light from inside.

Originally, in a time when too many women died in childbirth, midwives carried this icon to help alleviate the pains and dangers of this life-giving process. Because of the practical purpose of this icon, it belonged more to the life of lay people and popular piety than the public, liturgical life of the Church. It would have been unusual to find it venerated in a church, or depicted on a large panel, since it needed to be small enough to carry among the other urgent, portable tools of a midwife’s work.

This icon is a prayer, from one mother to another: “Mother of God, you know my anxiety. Help me in this time of danger and happiness”.  It is an icon of remarkable empathy, from one Birth-Giver to another birth-giver.  Yet an icon cannot be closed in its meaning and use; it must be open to everyone at all times, in all circumstances, as the Mother of God herself is open to us in all our needs.  It is not an icon only for women in labor.

Every pregnancy is a miracle that fills us with joy, awe and dread at the same time. Surely the Mother of God will help us in this need.

We can pray for the difficulty in conceiving; she certainly understands miraculous conceptions, as did her own mother, St. Anne.

We can pray to her in the difficulty in carrying a child to term, and to safeguard us in the all the possible complications; imagine how she prayed, pregnant and riding on a donkey, only to give birth in a stable.

We can pray in front of it in joy and thanksgiving for her protection and guidance in helping us bear and raise children.

We can pray in front of it in the pain of the loss of a child, as the Mother of God herself knew the death of her only Child.

But what use is this icon of Divine Maternity to the single person, or the celibate?  Despite her miraculous conceiving, she still remains a virgin; one Orthodox hymn calls her the “unwedded bride”.

We can all stand in front of her, and pray in thanksgiving for being born; all of us have experienced the mystery of our own conception and birth.  We all have parents, and all are children.

Through her prayers, the Mother of God stands beside us as our midwife and model. In all ways, through our own human will and the grace of God, we all are expected to give birth to Christ into the world. St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, now we must be His hands, to bless and heal.

The icon will remain in the sanctuary of the chapel for forty days after which it will be installed in a special shrine at the side of the chapel.  Our hope is that pilgrims will come to find strength in Her.  It is an image of life through which mothers (and fathers) who have miscarried or who have had abortions might find healing; through which couples who wish to conceive may find a hearing, through which mothers who are carrying a child might find protection for a safe delivery.  It is also an image through which pro-lifers of all stripes might appeal to the Mother and Son for a victory of the Culture of Life.  We will also have a place for flowers near the image to be decorated at will by the Virgin’s clients.

The Queen of Courtesy will Conquer.

Virgin Mother

Happy Feast of the Mother of God!

This is my homily from December 30, but it fits well with today’s celebration:

Here is an appropriate quote from John Saward from His article “Virginity During the Birth“:

In the late fourth century, the doctrine of the virginity in partu was denied by Jovinian, a monk turned playboy, whose attack on the maidenly motherhood of Mary was part of a wider campaign against the consecrated state of virginity. Jovinian’s heresy was condemned by synods held in Rome and Milan. The Synod of Milan, under the chairmanship of St Ambrose, invoked the words of the Apostles’ Creed,natus ex Maria Virgine, which imply that the very act of giving birth to her Son, not just her conceiving of Him, was maidenly in its manner. (13)

The chief objection raised by the heretics to the virginity in partu is that, in the eyes of its adversaries, it makes our Lord’s human birth and thus His human nature itself seem unreal. Does the doctrine not betray Gnostic or Manichean disdain for the flesh? Was it not a Gnostic, Valentinus, who taught that the Son of God merely “passed through” His Mother, as through a channel? (14)

In reply to this objection, we must again invoke the distinction made within the Tradition between what Christ is as man and how He comes to be man: as St Leo says, just because His conception and birth (how He comes to be man) are miraculous, it does not follow that His human nature (what He is as man) is dissimilar to ours. (15) In the manner of His human birth, says St Thomas, Christ wants to reveal the truth not only of His humanity but also of His Divinity. That is why “He mingled marvelous things with humble ones. Thus, to show His body was real, He is born of a woman, but to show His divinity, He is born of a virgin, for, as St Ambrose says in his hymn on the Nativity, ‘Such birth befits the God of all.'” (16) The heretic Valentinus denied that the Son of God took anything from His Mother, whereas the Church confesses that He is man “from the substance of His Mother,” (17) that His flesh is fashioned by the Holy Spirit from His Mother’s pure blood. The virginity in partu is a miracle of the bodily order, a cherishing and beautifying of the Virgin’s flesh. Such a miracle would be of no interest to the Gnostics or Manicheans, who despised the body and sought for it no splendor. The preservation of virginity in partu manifests a God who not only creates the biological realm but also descends to its depths in person. Our Lady’s virginity is a quality of her soul as well as of her body. But the rational soul is the substantial form of the human body, making it to be what it is, the body of a human being. It is therefore fitting that its beauty should be manifested through the beauty of the body. We could even say that the virginity in partu is a kind of divinely instituted sacrament of the virginity in Mary’s soul. The matchless maidenhood is both corporeal and spiritual. As St Bernard says, “She was a virgin in body, a virgin in mind, a virgin in profession, a holy virgin in spirit and body.” (18)

So the erroneous idea that the Virgin Birth takes away from the reality of the humanity of Christ is almost as old as the Church.  It is not a blinding insight from Theology of the Body, but a tired, old decrepit error.

See also, the work of Raphael Brown on the correlation of private revelation with the teaching of the Church on the matter of the Virgin Birth.

The Holy Grail on Standing Fast

Templar Secrets, Part 3:  The Holy Grail

Posted on AirMaria and found on this blog in the sidebar.

For the introduction, in case you missed it, you will also find it in the side bar, or follow this link.

Friends of the Cross

St. Louis de Montfort on a theme closely related to both Lent and chivalry:

Friends of the Cross, you are like crusaders united to fight against the world; not like Religious who retreat from the world lest they be overcome, but like brave and valiant warriors on the battle- field, who refuse to retreat or even yield an inch. Be brave and fight courageously.

You must be joined together in a close union of mind and heart, which is stronger and far more formidable to the world and to hell than are the armed forces of a great nation to its enemies. Evil spirits are united to destroy you; you must be united to crush them. The avaricious are united to make money and amass gold and silver; you must combine your efforts to acquire the eternal treasures hidden in the Cross. Pleasure-seekers unite to enjoy themselves; you must be united to suffer.

Quite a different standard than that of the chivalry of the world.

Off to help preach a retreat to post-abortive women with the Sisters of Life. Please pray for the 23 women and for those conducting the retreat this weekend. Theme for the retreat:   In the Cross is Salvation.