Tag Archives: Vatican

The Climate Change Pope, Part 3

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I’ve spent a couple blog posts giving the background on why I believe the Pope is wrong about climate change.   Let me start this post by stating my areas of agreement with the Pope.

  1. I am not deligitimizing the overall, general issue of stewardship of God’s creation.     I am not suggesting the Pope has no authority in this area, nor that he should be silent about these concerns.   I am not even saying that the Pope has no right to an opinion on whether or not human-caused global warming (or climate change) is real.    He, as does every person, has a right to an opinion.    As Pope, he has the obligation to instruct the faithful.   More generally speaking, it is proper and correct to challenge all of us as to whether or not we are striking the proper balance between respect for human rights and progress and respect for God’s creation.
  2. There should be many things that we see that should not be particularly debatable as either a good thing or a bad thing in the realm of stewardship of the earth.   Dumping of toxins, breaking the law, leaving a plastic bottle in the woods – some are clearly more serious than others, but all are wrong.   The Pope is correct to suggest that knowingly doing something that is harmful to the planet is sinful.    This statement is not Gaia-worship, it is a simple acknowledgment that we have a responsibility we need to take seriously to keep this planet as healthy as possible, because God made it good, and also because it’s in our best interest to do so.    No matter how pro-capitalism one might be, this should not be debatable.
  3. Consumerism is a somewhat strange word, but we should all be able to agree that, while the economic system is not inherently problematic, the human conditions of jealousy and greed are.   You can point to any economic system ever put in place anywhere, and you will have one thing in common:   greedy people will find a way to take advantage of other people, and will exploit the system to their gain.    I personally believe that the Pope is often a bit too hard on capitalism, as if the system itself is flawed.    Compared to any other system devised, I actually thing it produces the most superior of moral outcomes – you earn what you deserve (generally speaking) and it forces allocation of resources in the most efficient way for a thriving economy, which benefits everybody.     Clearly, there are shortfalls, as will be the case with every system, and we continue to try to create the perfect variant of a social-capitalistic system, which will never happen.   But having said all that, it is certainly worth noting the personal pitfalls of this system.   Capitalism does offer the opportunity for great wealth.   That’s not bad, but is the question is why is that wealth being pursued?     It’s one thing if natural interests or a great idea that can add to the quality of life of others is the reason for the pursuit.    It’s also another thing if an opportunity exists to make your life better without sacrificing other good things (God, family, etc.).   It’s quite another if the drive is purely materialistic, and the time and effort is sacrificing time and energy on more idealistic pursuits.   This is where capitalism, while not bad in and of itself, can be a source of temptation for those who may have a personal weakness in the area of covetousness or greed.    This goes hand-n-hand, then, with the stewardship of creation.   Most Corporations are good, all of which are filled with working people – I hate the generalization of all Corporations as somehow innately evil. This doesn’t mean that greed cannot infect the principal owners/board members of an organization.    As Christians, we can both believe in the goodness of capitalism while speaking out against environmental injustices when they happen.
  4. There are grey areas in the area of stewardship that can be legitimately debated.    Is it immoral to build a factory that will employ people who will be able to provide for their families if it means the endangered snail darter will be at serious risk?    Is it immoral to shutter the entire project, causing community disruptions, lost jobs, and so forth because of an overscrupulous view of stewardship?    Good and honest people will disagree on the moral high ground here.   Perhaps there is a middle ground that makes sense.    One thing is almost certain – not everyone will agree, and it’s almost impossible to say that one side is sinning and the other is not.

So, I think the Pope makes many great points, and challenges us to make sure we are not letting politics steer our religious or moral obligations.    However, where I do take issue is moving from the moral directives to a much more specific proclamation of what our obligations are as a world community, as governments, and as individuals in response to the threat of human-caused climate change.

It is one thing to take a position that dumping a known toxin into a river is a sinful action, and it is quite another to suggest that driving a car is a sin if the option of a bus is available.   If the moral instruction is based on a belief that fossil fuel use is causing destructive warming, it is understandable why that instruction takes place.   But if that underlying premise is false, then the moral instruction is also false.    Put differently, if I do not accept the science-based premise that leads to a particular moral instruction on the basis of that scientific premise – not on simply obstinate grounds, but on grounds of experience and research and (to the extent possible) unbiased human reasoning – then am I obligated to accept the moral instruction that is a response to the flawed scientific premise?    This is different from just saying “I studied the Bible and I don’t believe in Purgatory.”    That is not a scientific question that leads to a religious doctrine.   So, I am not saying that whatever I don’t accept I don’t need to listen to.  In fact, I accept that the moral issue of stewardship is an obligation on my part.   It is the specific nature of this issue that I have a problem with.

One may simply ask, “What’s the big deal?”    Well, it is a big deal, actually.    If the Pope gives moral authority to governments, the UN, and other secular organizations on this issue, it sets the stage for a much more aggressive response with the justification that the Vatican is on board.   I think the Pope, in his own way, has this vision of the goodness of they types of choices that will be made – people just decide to buy fewer things, drive less, think about the environment more, and participate less in the types of things that will drive climate change.   Governments will do reasonable things that benefit everyone.

There is good there, and the good things are the things we should do anyway, irrespective of climate change.   But going beyond personal choices, everything else is problematic even if the theory is correct.   And if the theory is wrong, then everything else is horribly flawed. Governments will tax – inefficient, and a displacement of resources that can help people.   Governments will regulate and restrict production, will deviate resources to unnecessary and expensive areas, and will be an overall drag on growth and incomes.   But far worse will be the continuation and escalation of social engineering:   (a) abortion on demand will continue, be promoted as a good, and will escalate in the areas of the world where it has yet to gain a foothold; (b) people will be encouraged to outright “fear” having children, further encouraging use of contraception,  (c) personal property rights and use of property will continue to be diminished and attacked, and (d) marriage will continue to devolve into an institution of self-happiness rather than as an institution of rearing the next generation.

Now, the Pope doesn’t want fewer children via an increase in abortion and contraception.   And he would condemn that approach.   But the secular world doesn’t care what the Pope thinks, except when he thinks something they can use to advance their agenda.   While it should not be the case that the Pope should never speak pastorally or on social justice issues due to the risk of progressives selectively choosing the words of his they want to use for their purposes, neither should the Pope dismiss or ignore the fact that this reality exists.   He should understand the consequences of his instruction, and at the very least make it clear that when he speaks of these things, he condemns absolutely a number of the human “solutions” or agendas around this issue.

He should, in my opinion, also not speak so absolutely about the truth of climate change as a result of human activity, but instead focus more generally on environmental stewardship and our moral responsibility.

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To Turn or Not to Turn

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His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah stirred the pot and excited some people in early June when he announced that he prefers and recommends that Priests celebrate Mass ad orientem.   As Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, it seemed a legitimate thought that he made these statements in an official capacity.  Waves of cheers rocked the traditionalist community and they saw that it was good.  Most of us shrugged, and said, “whatever.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols chimed in with a different view in July and essentially poured cold water on the idea, at least for his archdiocese.   It seemed that Cardinal Nichols felt like this could lead to a bit of Liturgical anarchy, and perhaps even some sort of competition.    He directed that his priests should not interject preference into the Liturgy.    Cardinal Nichols now became the subject of scrutiny in traditionalist circles – was he even Catholic? – and they feared the tremendous progress made would be sabatoged.   Most of us shrugged and said “whatever.”

Then the Vatican itself went to the replay booth and essentially overturned the play.  It became clear that, despite his official capacity in his role, Robert Cardinal Sarah overstepped a bit and had not run this idea past Pope Francis before springing it on the world.    The traditionalists’ fears were now confirmed, the Pope hates them, and all is still lost.    Most of the rest of us shrugged and said “whatever.”

Personally, I find the entire thing silly on the one hand and troubling on the other.

I love my friends – many of them who strongly prefer a more traditional Liturgy, and would essentially love to see all masses revert back to the traditional Latin Mass.  I respect their preference and would never, ever tell them that their preference is wrong.   Further, even though it’s a little bit longer of a drive, there is an oratory in our area that celebrates the Latin Mass.   They have that option.   I suppose it would be nice to have a few more places celebrate Mass in that way so they didn’t need to work as hard for them to have that experience.

My issue is, as usual, with those who cannot let this go.   Who elevate their preference to a dogmatic level and want to force everyone to accept this as the “correct” Liturgical form – not merely a preference in form – and that anyone who doesn’t see it their way is somehow less serious about the faith than they are.   Unfortunately, this is a very real phenomenon.    It is actually part of what keeps me from adopting a more traditionalist bent, myself.   I see spiritual pride and judgment and I want to avoid that.

Do not misunderstand that I don’t know the arguments that are made for why people really prefer the ad orientem posture.   I do.  There’s a symbolism there I can appreciate.  There’s nice symbolism in all sorts of things, though.   We follow the Church’s guidance on what must be an element of Mass, what should be, what may be, and what cannot be.    We need a certain uniformity among all the faithful, and then there is room for preference as long as it is within the guidance of Liturgical norms.   If you want to go to a church that celebrates in one way, then go ahead, but don’t tell me I need to want or desire that.   The same can be true of more liberal interpretations of the Liturgy, as well.   And I’m not saying there aren’t lines that get crossed – there are.   When things move from a preference that is allowable to something that is actually discouraged or outright impermissible, I don’t shrug.   That is simply wrong, and needs to be called out.   but this is NOT one of those things, as the GIRM currently stands.

The following cartoon has made the rounds:

This is stupid.

I will borrow my arguments from a Facebook exchange I read in discussing this cartoon.    But in general, the cartoon is trying to make the point that the Priest is turning his back to Jesus.    This is just unnecessary divisive.   Which, excuse the tangent here, is my main issue.   Why are we constantly arguing and hating on each other over things like this?    Do we really believe that God wants this to be the issue that leads our heart to determine that the Pope must be the Antichrist?    Seriously…

Anyway – again borrowing arguments from others:  Jesus is actually at the right hand of God the Father.  We don’t praise His image on the crucifix.   We may desire to look at it while we praise Him to help us focus on our image of Him and a reminder of what He went through, but it is not necessary to face the crucifix to pray to God.   Further, God is with us in our midst wherever any number are gathered in His name.    There is no requirement that we all face the same direction to acknowledge that.   Third, the altar is where Christ becomes physically present to us.   When the Priest consecrates the hosts and the wine he is facing Jesus.   So are we.   What difference does it make whether Jesus is between us or at one end of the line?

And yes, I know that there is more to it than that – the Priest is “leading” us.   But that’s not the point of the cartoon, so I’m responding to that whole “what makes more sense” bit.  Probably the only remotely reasonable argument I heard on this from the pro- camp was that it would have been a better representation above if it were the tabernacle instead of the crucifix.   I can buy that to an extent, but it’s not as if the tabernacle is ignored and dismissed during Mass.   Great reverence is paid to it.   Further, again, the altar is more the focus of the Mass itself, anyway, and the physical presence of Jesus that is in the tabernacle until communion became manifest on the altar.

Interestingly, the vast majority of Catholics probably don’t even realize this debate is going on.   If you’d bring it up they’d be all like “Uh…  what?”   Many people would default to the idea that this, in and of itself, is a bad thing.    We all need to be better educated and understand why this is important, and only then can we all be enlightened and think like they do.    I’m being a bit overboard here – I do think it is important to understand, but I also can’t really help but think about all the old ladies throughout the years who never concerned themselves with much other than going to Mass, praying the Rosary, and feeding their families.    The greater debates of the Church throughout the centuries more often than not took place without them having any particular clue about it.

I like that simple faith.    I try to abide by that as much as I can.   If the Church and the Pope says it’s OK, then I’m fine.   If they say it’s not, I’m fine.   If they need to change something, I’m fine.

I guess you need people to push and ask questions and keep things in check.   That’s OK, too.    I think some are called to that, but I think most are not.    Further, those that are called to it have a unique responsibility to do so in a manner befitting a Christian, and not create unnecessary division while they are doing so.   In extreme cases, some division must occur, but in most cases it does not have to.

Until then, I’m firmly in the camp that shrugs and says “whatever.”

News of the Day – June 1, 2012

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Every now and again I like to grab a few of the current headlines and instead of delving into a lengthy post on a single topic, just give my very brief summary of the news as I see it. Today is one of those days.

Unemployment goes up to 8.2%

Summary: A few things are clearly going on here. The continued economic slump is obviously George Bush’s fault, but more importantly is the fault of Catholics waging a war on women who won’t allow free contraception to be included in health plans.

NY City bans large sodas at restaurants

Summary: It’s really not about whether or not soda is good for you, nor is it about whether or not it’s a legitimate governmental function to show the results of studies where people take in too much sugar, and try to promote good behavior. It’s about “Really? We’re now living in a country where the government bans large sodas, because the government has decided what is and what isn’t good for us?” The answer, at least in NYC is… yes. God bless America. I guess they’ve solved all their other problems.

The Green Lantern is Outed as a gay superhero.

Summary: Ugh. I read comics as a kid. Never in my life did I imagine this unnecessary, gratuitious, and outright immoral crossing of religious and social barriers.

The Vatican’s Bertone, the Butler, and a Bumbling Bureaucracy>

Summary: I am sad to see division and leaks and mistrust at the highest levels of the Vatican. As a Catholic, it is important to understand that these unfortunate elements of the Vatican as a political entity as well as a Religious one can cause frustration, but should never result in a crisis of faith. The Holy Spirit is our guide, and the magesterial teachings of the Church guide us. We do place trust in our leadership, but as Ronald Reagan said “Trust, but verify.” Trust Christ and the Church, but sometimes individual men act like… well… men.

Nuns push back.

Summary: Oh, how I was hoping and praying for obedience and humility from the sisters! I wish I could say that I am surprised. After all, once you start preaching heterodoxy on important issues, what difference is it if you give a defiant posture when called on it? I’ve seen it with my 11 year old, I’ve seen it with Jesuit Universities, and now we can officially add the LCWR to the list. I call them the “Liberal Catholic Women Religious.”

Sex-Selection Abortion ban fails

Summary: Due to procedural needs for a 2/3 majority, this measure failed, but it clearly abolished any remaining questions as to whether or not the one true Sacrament of the Democratic Party is abortion. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, all abortion is murder. Like “hate crimes,” I’m not sure why one’s personal motivation for a murder should really make a difference. “Jimmy killed Johnny because he wanted his bike. 20 years. Timmy killed Teddy because he is black. Life without parole.” I mean, I’m digressing a bit, but is it really “better” that someone unemotionally murders someone for a bike than if someone else murders someone else over irrational hatred? I never really got that. So, in that same vein, I am not sure why the reason of aborting based on “sex selection” is any more horrid than purely selfish reasons of “I just don’t want a baby.”

Having said that, it certainly does help paint a picture of distaste that is emotionally real to people. And given that abortion is wrong, I’m certainly in favor if any limitations on it we can achieve.

It is interesting that some of the most liberal countries and abortion-accepting countries in the world have managed to find sex-selection of infants so societally distateful that they have managed to ban abortions in those circumstances without banning abortion altogether. yet, to hear the Democrats argue the case yesterday, you’d swear that this proposed law is an affront to all that’s sacred and holy in the “women’s choice” arena.

One final comment: given that “sex-selction” most often means “I want to abort a girl so I can have a boy,” which party is the one supporting a “war on women?”

Vatican Official Attributes Religious Dialogue in Europe to Muslims

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Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

I read this story with some interest, and with mixed emotions.

Here is an excerpt:

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Catholic Church’s department for interfaith contacts, said religion was now talked and written about more than ever before in today’s Europe.

“It’s thanks to the Muslims,” he said in a speech printed in Friday’s L’Osservatore Romano, the official daily of the Vatican. “Muslims, having become a significant minority in Europe, were the ones who demanded space for God in society.”

The “return of God” is clearly seen in Tauran’s native France, where Europe’s largest Muslim minority has brought faith questions such as women’s headscarves into the political debate after decades when they were considered strictly private issues.

I think this is an interesting take on what has happened in Europe. Let’s be honest… it is disheartening to see the de-Christianization of Europe. But who is to blame for that? The fact that Muslims are immigrating to Europe and having children at a rate 4 times the rest of the continent is not the fault of Muslims. It is the fault of the secularization of a society that was once based on Judeo-Christian principles.

And let’s be honest about another thing, too. There is a major concern with this growth in the Muslim population in Europe from the standpoint of whether or not this will lead to a sort of extreme Islamic take-over at some point, or whether or not this population will prefer to be part of a multi-denominational society. There surely is concern that radical Islam will forcefully and successfully prevail at some point when the population reaches a sort of tipping point. Let us pray that it is not the case, and that the moderate majority of Muslims prevail in the direction of their place in a democratic society.

But the Cardinal is correct. He is in no way saying that the Muslim faith is the truth and correct. he is simply acknowledging that Christians have long ago turned into jellyfish and have invoked “person matter” as a way of stifling all public religious discussion and expression. For their theological faults, at least give credit where it is due: anyone willing to stand up for their faith and the right to practice it deserves credit. And to the extent that they succeed in relaxing this notion of public = secular and private = whatever, then Christians who actually do want to be a little more open may finally feel a little more emboldened to stand up for themselves.

Meanwhile, we continue to fight for our right to display nativity scenes and such in public. Let us never back down from this basic right of free expression as Christians in the U.S. We should not need another religion to pave the way for us to have our own public discussions on faith.