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Category Archives: Morality

Original Sin Debate

The inspiration for this post began as a conversation with my youngest daughter. We were driving home the other night she told me that the Religion teacher assigned a research topic with a written report. Her research assignment was original sin.

She then admitted that she chose the topic. Original sin has long been a topic she feels strongly about.

“The relationship between God and man has been broken by original sin. Man could not pull himself up by his own shoe-strings, and thus the only hope of restoration was from God’s side. Yet it was from our side that things had to be put right. It appeared hopeless. But God found the answer. For in Christ he himself became man, and as man reconciled us to himself.”
– John A. T. Robinson (Honest to God, P. 78)

I am willing to bet this notion, outlined by former Bishop John Robinson, is familiar to us all. After all, the Bible is the word of God. The Bible holds God’s moral codes set down for the Church from the beginning of time. God’s word is then interpreted for the Church through God’s anointed servants within the Church hierarchy. Those Church leaders explain that the Cross represents salvation, as salvation is attained by Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross.

Bishop Robinson originally wrote these words as a challenge to our Church leadership. These notions are outmoded Christian concepts that are really only acceptable to more traditional members of the Church. Bishop Robinson was asking for the Church leadership to acknowledge that other less traditional members of the Church need a voice and a platform for greater spiritual growth.

This would include my daughter.

“For many Christians, the significance of the Incarnation is that it ended with an atoning death, one that cleansed impurity, carried away sin, or purchased salvation… Some concept of the incarnation precedes all their atonement concepts, but does not supply the actual content of their atonement reasoning… These notions may be common, but they turn out not to be essential to Christianity…”
– Stephen Finlan (Problems with Atonement, pp. 3-4)

Original sin is a normal conversation in my family. I realize that other families avoid religious topics but that is not our way. All three of my daughters have been discussing theological topics, such as original sin, since they were in Junior High. The original sin doctrine felt wrong to my youngest daughter, even then.

Because she had two older sisters my youngest was exposed to Scripture study earlier in her education. She remembers expressing some concerns about original sin as far back as the 4th grade. She had been taught that the poem of Adam and Eve was not literally true, but actually a story drawn from much older Babylonian myths.

That is why my youngest chose original sin as her research topic.

“the first man was scarcely self-conscious, knew only privation and the wearisome struggle to survive. He was far from possessing the full endowment of reason, which the old doctrine of paradise attributes to him. But once the picture of paradise and the Fall has been broken into pieces, the notion of original sin goes with it, to be followed logically, it would seem, by the notion of redemption as well.”
– Joseph Ratzinger (Faith and the Future, p. 17)

Adam and Eve never existed and the Fall of man was a myth, yet the Church continues to explain Atonement as if the Fall of man were literal. The quote from Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI was written to say that we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater when we acknowledge that Fall, original sin, and redemption are myths.

As Catholics we don’t have to believe this way. My 10th Grade daughter can separate myths from her faith. Catholics, even in Junior High, can understand that Adam and Eve and the Fall of man is a retelling of an ancient Babylonian myth and still be believe in God.

We pray that the Church will allow traditionalists to hold onto their more literalistic interpretation of original sin and at the same time allow non-traditionalists to accept that there is no need for original sin.

I don’t know how the teacher will respond to my daughter’s research paper, but she has had practice broaching controversial theological topics in school.

When Catholic Church leaders allow room for a traditional and non-traditional response to original sin all of us will be more faith filled.

God bless,

Learn to Love by Loving

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving.”

St. Francis de Sales

Basil, rosemary, marjoram, hyssop, cloves, cinnamon,
lemons, and musk, joined together unbroken, form a very
agreeable perfume by the mingling of their various scents,

but not nearly so good as the water distilled from them, in which the sweetness of all these ingredients combines more
perfectly into a very exquisite perfume, that penetrates
the sense with a much keener delight than when their fragrance is inhaled in the other way.

Even thus love may be fostered in unions in which both corporal and spiritual affections are mingled together,

but never in such perfection as when minds and hearts alone, separated from all sensual affections, are joined together
in pure spiritual love. For the fragrance of affections thus commingled is not only sweeter and better, but more vivid, more active, and more solid.

Love of God, book I. ch. 10.

Homily: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

Jesus doesn’t say, “in his greed,” but “in his joy.” We might safely assume that these three words are important to the meaning of the parable, and that the reign of God has much to do with joy.
Kathryn Matthews Huey

The readings for the seventeenth Sunday in ordinary time cycle A can be found here.

Ask yourself, when you heard or read the parable of the pearl did you focus on the pearl itself or did you focus on the person who sold all to posses the pearl? What was your focus drawn to? Was the point of the parable the value of the pearl? Was the point of the parable the behavior of selling everything to posses the pearl? Take a minute to think about this.

– SHORT INTERLUDE –

Time is up. In the treasure and in the pearl parables, scholars discuss amongst themselves whether the objective is to point out the the value of the treasure and pearl or the actions of the people who sell everything to posses those items. Does that surprise you? Surely scholars have determined the one true meaning to these stories from Jesus?

Here is what scripture scholars do know; these parables are primarily in the writings of Matthew and focused on the Matthean kingdom. There is also a common theme in these parables that cannot be overlooked: Joy. I hope that this point was clear in your hearing of the Gospel.

There is an old idiom that says “victory is seldom won by half measures.” If you want to experience the joy of the kingdom of God, hold nothing back.

For Jesus, treasure is all about what he calls “the kingdom of heaven”. The kingdom of heaven is that place or level of existence where the life of the Divine is fully present and active, where God’s life of love abounds. For Jesus, this is the most valuable treasure you can possess – to live a life that is rooted in the kingdom of heaven, a life that exudes compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness.
-Patricia Rome Robertson

This leads us to the question; what are you holding back? Jesus gave us a “to-do” list, a “honey-do” list of sorts: Love God and love your neighbor. From this list comes compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness, etc. The joy of the kingdom of God is such a priceless treasure that a wise person would jump at the chance to give up everything for an opportunity to get it. We call this a chance of a lifetime. Your lifetime.

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving.”

St. Francis de Sales

If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that if you want to experience the joy of God’s kingdom today, leave nothing on the table.

That phrase [leave nothing on the table] is an intriguing one. It alludes to the fact that in life we want to take utmost advantage of everything available to us. In negotiations we want to walk away knowing we got everything we possibly could. The sports world has similar phrases. Leave nothing on the field (football). Leave nothing on the floor (basketball). Contestants will expend everything they have mentally and physically to win.
Pastor Dave

I have an affinity for sports analogy. I am the king of the sports cliche, so I couldn’t pass on Pastor Dave’s explanation. I will leave you with one last quote from one of my favorite icons of sport.

If you don’t invest very much, then defeat doesn’t hurt very much and winning is not very exciting.
Dick Vermeil

Love wastefully and God bless,

Much Will be Required of the Person Entrusted with Much

It is October 23 and the reading for today is a good one. To top that off the USCCB has offered a video reflection for the readings this day. Most of the time the reflections do not meet my expectations, but every once in a while I find one that inspires me. As I listened to this reflection I had high hopes.

“Listen to those words again of Jesus to Peter ‘Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?'”

“The priest is to be a steward. One who acts on behalf of the Master, to do what? To distribute the food allowance at the proper time. In this life the food allowance is the Holy Eucharist, and we priests are entrusted with the stewardship of bringing the Eucharist to all Christ’s servants until He comes again.”
– Reverend Daniel Merz (Secretariat of Divine Worship)

When I heard this, surfers, I was more than a little disappointed. I was down-right angry. I expect a lot more from Father Merz. I know you are thinking I am perhaps asking too much from a 3 minute video, but you and I deserve better. To quote that same Gospel reading “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much.” Father Merz is entrusted with the providing leadership in liturgical formation and sacramental catechesis. He dropped the ball by spinning the Gospel message to serve his own narrow focused ends. Let me explain.

Problem #1
This portion of the Gospel of Luke is part of a larger section (Luke 12:1-59) that deals with the Disciples facing external and internal opposition to their ministry. This reading is actually related to the Disciples having to deal with problems from selfish church officials. The message of the parable is a warning to those who serve the community that they should not be creating problems but instead be faithful to the community they serve.

I have to admit that the food allowance may be more than just actual food. We count on our church leaders today to feed more than our physical bodies. Eucharist may be one of the aspects of our modern day distribution of food allowance, but not the entirety, as expressed by Fr. Merz. If the desire of the reflection was to spin the responsibilities of modern day priests to only serve the Eucharist, mission accomplished. I will go on record and say that we expect more.

Problem #2

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of 14 September 1994 on reception of holy communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful emphasizes that the Church’s practice in this question “cannot be modified because of different situations” (no. 5). It also makes clear that the faithful concerned may not present themselves for holy communion on the basis of their own conscience: “Should they judge it possible to do so, pastors and confessors … have the serious duty to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts the Church’s teaching”
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller (October 23, 2013)

Is it a coincidence that on the same day Fr. Merz was glowingly speaking about stewardship and bringing the Eucharist to all Christ’s servants – Archbishop Muller was telling priests to deny Eucharist to divorced and remarried Catholics?

So, which is it? Eucharist for all, or only a select few? Perhaps Archbishop Muller had better reread the Gospel of Luke in chapter 12 to realize the parable is a warning about selfish church officials who take on some characteristics of the fool. The Catholic faith community deserves better than to be denied Eucharist because of divorce and remarriage. The Gospel writers of Luke put the words directly in Jesus’ mouth; “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?”

Pedophile Priest Study Published

Surfers, the news is out and it is hard to defend the Bishop’s conclusion. If you have not read the results of the John Jay College study, you might want to become familiar with it.

I know that I have been critical of the Bishops in the past, but this study stepped right into a big steaming pile. One of the biggest indicators that the study was manipulated is the definition of prepubescent children.

The focus of pedophilia is sexual activity with a child. Many courts interpret this reference to age to mean children under the age of 18. Most mental health professionals, however, confine the definition of pedophilia to sexual activity with prepubescent children, who are generally age 13 or younger.

Read more: Pedophilia – children, causes, DSM, functioning, therapy, adults, person, people http://www.minddisorders.com/Ob-Ps/Pedophilia.html#ixzz1N7wtNdtp

The [John Jay College] researchers define pedophilia as abuse of anyone 10 or under, and by that definition, only 22 percent of the cases fall in that category. But McKiernan notes that the American Psychiatric Association puts the line at anyone under 14… “And in fact,” McKiernan says, “when you draw the line in the correct place, it turns out that 60 percent of the victims were aged 13 or younger. In other words, 60 percent of the victims were victims of pedophile abuse.”

Terence McKiernan runs a watchdog group called BishopAccountability.org so he is not an unbiased professional. He has a vested interest in ensuring the Bishops take the maximum effort to resolve this problem. That is why, in my opinion, this is the biggest indicator that the Bishops are not taking this pedophile problem seriously. Why didn’t the Bishops take the maximum age of 17? Some courts go as high as 17, why not the Bishops? They could have just left the age at 13 if they wanted to take the middle road. Nobody would have faulted the study for going with 13. To do less calls for the integrity of the data to be challenged. How do you justify the age of 10?

It is my hope that the experience of the Church in the United States, as illustrated in this study, might help serve as a model, not only for the Church in other countries, but for all of society which is still learning how to deal with the awful problem of abuse
-Archbishop Dolan

Not to say that Dolan is not sincere, but should this study really be a good model for all of society?

The prognosis of successfully ending pedophilic habits among persons who practice pedophilia is not favorable. Pedophiles have a high rate of recidivism; that is, they tend to repeat their acts often over time…The main method for preventing pedophilia is avoiding situations that may promote pedophilic acts. Children should never be allowed to in one-on-one situations with any adult other than their parents or trustworthy family members. Having another youth or adult as an observer provides some security for all concerned. Conferences and other activities can be conducted so as to provide privacy while still within sight of others.

Read more: Pedophilia – children, causes, DSM, functioning, therapy, adults, person, people http://www.minddisorders.com/Ob-Ps/Pedophilia.html#ixzz1N7wtNdtp

I don’t think the Bishops have a willingness to face the reality of this pedophile Priest problem. What do you think?

Definately Not The Present Moment

In an attempt to bring you, surfer, all sides of the present moment teachings, I brought in a ringer.

America has no now. We’re reluctant to acknowledge the present. It’s too embarrasing. Instead, we reach into the past. Our culture is composed of sequels, reruns, remakes, revivals, reissues, re-releases, re-creations, re-enactments, adaptations, anniversaries, memorabilia, oldies radio, and nostalgia record collections… There’s really no harm reviewing the past from time to time; knowing where you’ve been is part of knowing where you are, and all that happy horses**t. But the American media have an absolute fixation on this. They rob us of our present by insisting on the past. If they were able, I’m sure they would pay equal attention to the future. Trouble is, they don’t have any film on it… Another way they avoid the present moment is to look ahead on their schedules. The television news industry seems to revolve around what’s coming next. “Still to come,” “Just ahead,” “Up next,” “Coming up this half hour,” “More to come,” “Stay with us,” “Still ahead,” “Also later…”
George Carlin

I have no idea if George Carlin ever heard of Jean-Pierre de Caussade, or his teachings, but George was a keen observer of our human condition. Poking fun can sometimes do more to bring a better understanding of a tough concept. If we are to get present right now, and make the present moment a sacrament in our lives, we need to know there are barriers to our success.

The mind, with all that goes with it, wishes to take the lead in spiritual matters. It must be reduced to nothing and subdued… Human activity, being substitute for fulfillment, leaves no room for the true fulfillment of divine purpose. But when divine action fulfills this purpose in earthly terms, it brings a true increase of holiness, innocence, purity, and disinterestedness. Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

Surfer, do not get the idea that I am saying human activity is bad, or that the American media is leading us down the path of ruin. No, we do not need those things to create barriers; our minds are enough. It is popular today to blame the American media for all the immorality of today’s youth. This is just another attempt by our minds to take the lead in spiritual matters. With practice we can reduce these notions to nothing.

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” Mark 7:14-15

The authors of Mark clearly knew that it was popular, in the first century, to blame societal immorality on changing old traditions. Christianity was new and the old ways were being set aside for new traditions. People then, like those today, resisted change. Still it was clear to the authors of Mark that the words attributed to Jesus were profound for their time. Those same words are just as profound today.

We need to practice living in the present moment, surfer, and with time we can stop blaming others for our own internal failings. Read the teachings of Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Practice the work for your soul as outlined by Saint John of the Cross. Keep reading this blog, and I will bring modern teachings from spiritual leaders of today.

Human Capacity For Morality

Are human beings good by our very nature, or, left to our own devices, would there be chaos and disorder? What is our human capacity for morality? Where would we be without religion? Do you believe that religious authority is also moral authority? If there were no religion would there be no morality?

I felt compelled to write this blog, surfers, after listening to one of my favorite radio show podcasts. The topic is one that I have been thinking about for 27 years. What? I know what you’re thinking; Neo de Caussade has been thinking about the state of human nature since infancy? You are too kind, and very perceptive. Somehow I always knew this about you.

The state of nature discussion is like the tide. The popularity of the topic ebbs and flows over time; coming into our consciousness and falling back again. For our little discussion I would like to introduce you to Ockham’s Razor, that favorite radio show I mentioned. Specifically, I would like you to read the transcript or listen to the podcast for a talk presented by Tim Dean.

In my first philosophy college course I debated with classmates the state of nature as outlined by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Just to briefly review “Locke believed that human nature is characterized by reason and tolerance.” In another opinion “Hobbes postulates what life would be like without government, a condition which he calls the state of nature. In that state, each person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world. This inevitably leads to conflict, a ‘war of all against all’, and thus lives that are ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.'”

Clearly, there are no absolutes and along the morality scale some people, and I include religious leaders in this group, rate more moral and others less. Human nature just that way, some folks more moral than others. The big question is is humanity more inclined to be moral or less? I will not pull any punches, and I will hit you straight in the mouth with this; I believe human beings are good at their core. Where do you fall on the topic?

…”it was long thought that we learn language, the vocabulary and the grammar, from scratch. Yet in the 1960s Noam Chomsky turned this view on its head. He suggested that much of our language faculty was innate. Essentially, we were born with the tools required for language, and all we needed was exposure to the raw material of the language around us, and the rest wrote itself.” “And the same appears to hold true for our moral faculty. A string of recent research in psychology has shown that we are able to negotiate complex moral issues with little or no internal reflection on the rules leading to the judgment.”Tim Dean.

Surfers, you will run into people who will tell you that without religion there will be no morality. They will say that religion teaches us morality. Science is showing us that morality is innate to our basic state of nature. It is becoming clear that religion is not needed to keep a moral compass for our humanity. What good is religion? You decide.