Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The Mystery Of Church Communion

Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 18 through 20

We move into chapter 2 of CFL, which focuses on the laity's participation in "the life of the Church as Communion". In some previous posts, we have touched on the hints of this discussion of communion that earlier paragraphs of CFL raised. Now we will explore it in detail.

JPII begins by drawing us to the mystery of the Church's communion:

"Again we turn to the words of Jesus: "I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.... Abide in me and I in you".
...
The Church shines forth as 'a people made one with the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.'"
If you read this paragraph of CFL and found yourself very confused, you are not alone. The pope's explanations of communion always leave me saying, "yes ... I think ... huh?". If only mysteries weren't so mysterious.

We can all take away from this paragraph a need to ponder more the mystery of the Trinity. There seems to be two elements in action. We learn from the Trinity what communion of persons is all about and have an image for the communion of Christians. But, more than that, through Christ, we are called to participate in "the intimate life of love in God as Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed by the Lord Jesus." God as both model and source. Still confused? Me too. But I don't think the answers will be found in any way other than intimacy and union with God.

I should have kept reading. The pope does offer us more concrete words about communion:
"What, then, does this complex word 'communion' mean? Its fundamental meaning speaks of the union with God brought about by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. The opportunity for such communion is present in the Word of God and in the Sacraments. Baptism is the door and the foundation of communion in the Church. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the whole Christian life. The Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist sacramentalizes this communion, that is, it is a sign and actually brings about the intimate bonds of communion among all the faithful in the Body of Christ which is the Church."
It is through our union with Christ (the vine) that Christians (the branches) are united in the Church. As the pope rightly emphasizes, this is more than a "sociological or a psychological reality". "The Church as Communion is the "new" People, the "messianic" People, the People that "has for its head, Christ." Although I think most faithful Catholics would recognize the truth in these words, most of us have to admit we live life with more of a sociological emphasis to our identity as Christians. Maybe this is why we find it easy to accept the idea of "one body, many parts" (such as when we are talking about gifts of the Spirit and other positive things), but find it difficult to recognize the full reality of the idea of "many parts, one body" (such as when we are talking about the current scandal and other negative things). "Consequently, if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer it too, and if one member is honored, all members together rejoice."

Within the Church's communion, JPII tells us, we find a "diversity and a complementarity of vocations and states in life, of ministries, of charisms and responsibilities."
"Because of this diversity and complementarity every member of the lay faithful is seen in relation to the whole body and offers a totally unique contribution on behalf of the whole body."
This is a great point. There is a difference between our dignity as Christians and the gifts we may have been given for the benefit of building up the Church. Often, we are tempted to confuse the two, looking at our gifts as some sign of our special status in God's eyes as compared to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Here, we are shown that these different gifts are given so as to compliment each other and benefit us all. I think this temptation is part of why the Church emphasizes that we place our gifts at the service of the Church and that we are called to:
"live in a continual interaction with others, with a lively sense of fellowship, rejoicing in an equal dignity and common commitment to bring to fruition the immense treasure that each has inherited."


Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 21 through 23 of CFL

An American Rite?

Mark Byron posted the idea that maybe an "American Rite" should be created to allow for a married priesthood. (Mark, I take, throws the idea out there in the spirit of a "there-are-no-stupid-ideas" brainstorm session.)

I'm intrigued by the different rites and have tried to learn about them. In my view, they may help explain the idea of the Church being united and yet still diverse. My investigations have led me to read Cardinal Ratzinger's book, The Spirit Of The Liturgy. I think Cardinal Ratzinger would point out that "rite" most directly relates to the liturgy, but is more than that:

"For Christians, then, "rite" means the practical arrangements made by the community, in time and space for the basic type of worship received from God in faith. And ... worship always includes the whole conduct of one's life. Thus rite has its primary place in the liturgy, but not only in the liturgy. It is also expressed in a particular way of doing theology, in the form of spiritual life, and in the juridical ordering of ecclesiastical life."
Still, much of the rest of what Ratzinger has to say in that book suggests Mark's idea won't float:
"[I]t is important that the individual rites have a relation to the places where Christianity originated and the apostles preached: they are anchored in the time and place of the event of divine revelation. Here again "once for all" and "always" belong together. The Christian faith can never be separated from the soil of sacred events, from the choice made by God, who wanted to speak to us, to become man, to die and rise again, in a particular place and at a particular time. "Always" can only come from "once for all". The Church does not pray in some kind of mythical omnitemporality. She cannot forsake her roots. She recognized the true utterance of God precisely in the concreteness of its history, in time and place: to these God ties us, and by these we are all tied together. The diachronic aspect, praying with the Fathers and the apostles, is part of what we mean by rite, but also includes a local aspect, extending from Jerusalem to Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, and Constantinople. Rites are not, therefore, just the products of inculturation, however much they may have incorporated elements from different cultures. They are forms of the apostolic Tradition and of its unfolding in the great places of Tradition."
I can't see the American Catholic Church meeting that test. And the thought of dissenters running wild with the idea of an "American rite" sends chills down my spine.

Monday, April 29, 2002

A Request

I have been at this blog for two weeks now. Let me say how glad I am to know that many of you visit here often. I hope you find the reflections valuable. Although I don't do this site for the fame -- for the record, its JACK, all caps, not "Jack"; those who know who I am should be able to figure out why that is --, I would like to get the word out to more folks who might find the site useful and enjoyable. I don't feel comfortable mass-emailing all of blogland, though. If you visit here regularly and have your own blog, would you consider adding a link to Integrity? I figure your visits might be a sign you think what is here is worthwhile. To those who already link to Integrity, many thanks!

In Defense Of Cardinal Law

Boy, with a title like that, I am bound to get emails.

This will be my last post on the current scandal for a while. I let myself stray this weekend, which is fine. It's time, though, to refocus on CFL.

Before I do, I want to say a few words in defense of Cardinal Law. If you can't handle that, stop reading this entry now. It's the lawyer in me; I have been trained to look for every explanation and solution. I haven't seen a lot of that when it comes to Cardinal Law. So I will step up to the plate and put some possibilities other than the "active cover-up" line on the table for consideration.

Let me confess that I haven't made a thorough review of all that is known about the situation in Boston. I neither have the time nor the desire. Before you email me the latest tidbit you ripped from an on-line news article, ask yourself this question: if proven true, does it negate the explanation offered here? If your answer is no, conserve the bandwidth and the space in my inbox.

Also, don't confuse this post with an apologia for Cardinal Law. I'm tossing these thoughts out so they are available to be examined, not because I'm advocating them in particular. If anything, what I am advocating is prayer, holiness, prudence and wisdom.

With that said, hasn't anyone else considered the possibility that Cardinal Law has not been engaged in some deliberate, massive conspiracy to cover up these cases of clergy sex abuse? That he hasn't been doesn't mean he shouldn't be held accountable. He is the bishop and responsibility rests at his feet. Whether he actively covered it up, was negligent in his duties as bishop, or just committed serious errors in judgment, we still have a problem on our hands that needs to be addressed.

Still, the whole "cover-up" line has bugged me from the start. As I have said before, I have met the Cardinal several times and know many others who know him far better. He has never struck me as the type who would actively endanger children or deliberately cover things up for his fellow clergy. Maybe my impression will be proven mistaken, but it hasn't been so far.

First, let's recognize that Cardinal Law was taking steps to address the problem. He implemented a policy for addressing and reviewing complaints a year after the national guidelines were put in place. As the Cardinal pointed out in his original statement, Fr. Geoghan was defrocked at Law's request:

"However much I regret having assigned him, it is important to recall that John Geoghan was never assigned by me to a parish without psychiatric or medical assessments indicating that such assignments were appropriate. It is also important to state that it was I who removed him from parish ministry, that I then placed him on retirement, and that I finally asked the Holy See to dismiss him from the priesthood without possibility of appeal, even though he had not requested laicization. This extraordinary act of the Holy See went beyond the usual procedures for the laicization of priests."
Second, the archdiocese has a large review board that advises the Cardinal with respect to complaints against priests. Its membership includes:
"the mother of a victim, another parent, a clinical social worker, a clinical psychologist, a psychotherapist, a retired justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, a priest, a civil attorney and, usually, a canon lawyer."
Unless you believe the Cardinal willfully ignored the advice of this board, isn't it possible that all these people -- laity, clergy, victim advocates, legal and medical professionals -- bear some responsibility for giving the Cardinal poor advice? Isn't it possible the Cardinal only reviewed their summary reports and not the raw data and evidence?

Second, there is the matter of the letter Cardinal law sent to another priest-abuser thanking him for his service to the archdiocese. That letter has always struck me as a form letter. Isn't it plausible that Cardinal Law thought it would be a nice gesture to thank retiring priests for their service and long ago tasked someone in his office with the job of collecting the names of such priests on a periodic basis and sending them a standard letter of thanks? Why read into it some evidence of his desire to protect priest-abusers? If you don't think this is a real possibility, consider this story recounted by Joe Fitzgerald in the Boston Herald today:
"A major Catholic benefactor, recipient of a prestigious award a few years back, tells of receiving a congratulatory letter from Law.

``It was so touching that I added it to my book of memories,'' he said. ``Then the next year a friend of mine won the same award. When my wife and I went to his home for a visit he couldn't wait to show me this beautiful letter he'd received from His Eminence. As soon as I started to read it, I smiled; it was almost identical to the one I had at home.

``Now, do I tell you that to suggest the man's a phony? No. I'm sure it was his intention to convey a compliment, but if it had come from him personally it probably would have been handwritten. He's too busy to write them himself, yet he wants to express appreciation. I think that was the case with my friend and me and I wouldn't be surprised if it was also the case with some of these letters we're seeing in the papers now.''"
Finally, it should be noted that Massachusetts law doesn't require clergy to report incidents of child sexual abuse. Now we might say he still had a moral obligation to report the incident. But how much of that is hindsight? How many of us, if in his position, might conclude that things were being addressed well enough through counseling, settlements, disciplining of the priests, etc., that involving law enforcement wasn't necessary?

I'm sure some of you who have read this far are steaming. Cardinal Law is an evil man, you say, and I should just accept it. To you I offer one last consideration. Isn't it important to understand the real cause of the failure to handle these cases properly? Might not we fail to reach a solution -- and give other bishops an easy way to dismiss Cardinal Law's case as not relevant to them -- if we insist on chalking things up to the "evil" Cardinal Law rather than a too-bureaucratic Cardinal Law or a too-willing-to-listen-to-wordly advice Cardinal Law?

You Got Me, Fr. Shawn

If only I had read Fr. Shawn's post after I got back from my hour at the adoration chapel tonight! Just kidding. Fr. Shawn deftly raises two points that many of us forget too easily:

  • We are there to be with Jesus, not to have a quite place to read our bibles.
  • Let our prayers be for others as well as ourselves.
  • Something I needed to be reminded of. Thanks.

    Sunday, April 28, 2002

    Less Than One Half Of A Percent

    A number of bloggers have linked to a report from the AP stating that 176 priests have resigned or been placed on administrative leave since January because of allegations of sexual abuse. None have quoted an equally important statistic cited in the article:

    "Even if the figure were higher [than 176], it would still likely represent less than half of 1 percent of the 46,075 priests in the United States. And many of the complaints come from decades ago. The allegations that prompted Bishop Anthony O'Connell of Palm Beach, Fla., to resign dated from the 1970s, for example."
    I know it isn't P.C., but someone has to point out that this is a small number. Yes, it is too many. Yes, it doesn't justify or minimize the suffering of the victims or the probable negligence of some bishops who didn't take proper action. But let's keep this figure in mind, people. Just as it would be unfair to dismiss the claims of the victims on the basis of how small the number is, it is equally unfair to ignore it and level charges of some massive conspiracy and cover-up against all of the bishops of this country. We can both recognize the seriousness of the situation and the need for reforms along with the fact that the problem isn't as pervasive as some would suggest.

    (Oh and save me the "that's-only-the-cases-we-know-about" emails. If you insist on assuming the worst in the absence of evidence, fine. I don't wish to hear it unless you have something substantive to contradict the validity of the numbers.)

    Saturday, April 27, 2002

    Calling All HTML-Savvy Readers

    Okay here's my problem. I added that Tell-A-Friend form to the left-hand, grey column. Now everytime I make a change to the template code and republish it, the grey column fills the screen and blocks my posts. My only fix to date has been to repaste in the code for the form and republish. I assume that means there is something wrong with the code. (Maybe?) If you have an answer for me, drop me an email.

    Friday, April 26, 2002

    A Solution?

    For those in Catholic blogland who can't stand the idea of a day of reparation because heads haven't rolled yet: How about spend that day praying that unworthy bishops resign? (Although, ideally, let God fill in the names until there's a bit more thorough documentation of the evidence, please.) Personally, I don't intend to try and tie the Holy Spirit's hands that way, but that's me. Better yet, pray that the Holy Spirit raises up worthy bishops.

    Rise Like The Phoenix, C64!

    I hope I am not dating myself with this, but ...

    On a complete tangent and a lighter note, I just finished playing (and emulated on my Mac, no less) one of my favorite computer games from childhood and the glory days of the Commodore 64: Omni Play Basketball. Man, the C64 was a great game machine. And the classic titles! They don't make them like that anymore.

    Saintly Laymen As Role Models

    The Federalist Party offered this on some recent posts here. It was too good and important not to share with you right away:

    "Does the elevation of laymen into Saints in some unfortunate way remove them from our daily lives, though? Is canonization--especially the miracles requirement--a process that disconnects, rather than connects, ordinary people from holiness. The priest in the Power and the Glory is not to my mind a saint, but is a better model of the sort of thing I might hope to achieve with a lot of support from above. But people who after life achieve miracles on Earth seem to me beyond what I can hope for. Yes, I know God can help even the weakest creature achieve anything. But a recognition of my own inadequacy tends to discourage rather than encourage saintly aspirations."
    I have to agree with The Federalist Party's sentiment. As I said before, I take issue with the Church's general approach to the saints at times. The issue of miracles is an unfortunate one. The Church will readily tell you that the lack of an authentic miracle credited to a person doesn't mean they aren't a saint and in heaven. Instead, miracles are a tool the Church uses to verify causes for sainthood. It doesn't want to declare someone a saint who isn't. Unfortunately, though, the miracles emphasize that other-worldly character of saints and has led, in my opinion, to some really bad hagiography where the saints don't come off as human, but as perfect angels. Maybe its true for some, but I suspect most of the saints weren't escaping their cribs to crawl over to an adoration chapel. That's why I think many of us turn to our own "personal saints" -- as one of the priests at my parish calls them: people who live near us and are good Christians and examples for us. I have many of those in my life, too. I may not be able to imagine God working miracles through me, but it wouldn't shock me that some day there might be some miracles recognized by the Church and attributed to them. And I will bet God performs many miracles at their petition even if we never learn of their intercession.

    A Day Of Reparation Is Good

    Let me join Veritas in saying that Emily Stimpson has it right: a day of reparation is a good thing and a thoroughly Catholic response to the current scandal. (See her three consecutive posts on the subject, the most recent linked here.)

    Let's keep two things separate: (1) the culpability of some priests and bishops in this scandal and (2) the health and well-being of the Church. Remember, folks, the Chuch isn't just an institution. It's also the Body of Christ, and that means you are part of it. We may not be the ones responsible for the current scandal, but we certainly aren't sinless and need purification ourselves. More than that, though, we need to realize that we have a part to play in the recovery from this specific scandal and more generally in the life of the Church and the spread of the Gospel. If you don't think that is true, start reading the reflections on CFL to the left. So here's your chance to unite yourselves with the great saints and practice some self-sacrifice.

    It's a shame some of our most prolific and most read Catholic bloggers seem to be missing the point. (I expressed my concern about this in an earlier post. Check out Minute Particulars' cautionary note on blogging too.) Maybe their emotions are getting the better of them. I don't know for sure. Some of their recent posts read more like screeds ripping a political party or club. It isn't the type of commentary I expect from a Catholic, especially those who endeavor to post things from a Catholic viewpoint. Yes, some of the bishops were clearly negligent. Yes, I would love it if they gave loud and booming mea culpas. Some seem unwilling to get past that. They post as if they are the gatekeepers of the bishops' contrition and will tell us when there has been enough. But as a Catholic, I cannot forget that I am still in the boat with them.

    Again, the separation I proposed above. It is fine to call them like you see them when it comes to the bishops' actions or involvement. But let's not lead people to believe that just because they are laity they don't have a part to play in rededicating the Church to the mission of Christ. Many used to complain of the laity not having enough of a role in the Church. Now, the story seems to be, "You screwed this up, you fixed it! This isn't my fault!" Thank goodness God doesn't approach us that way and that our faith offers us something as powerful as the Communion of Saints. Most of us have been borrowing from that bank all our lives; maybe it's time we made a deposit.

    Thursday, April 25, 2002

    Come On In And Stay For A While

    A hearty welcome to everyone visiting from Mark Shea's Blog. I hope you come back again. Although I do post from time to time on other topics, Integrity is dedicated to exploring CFL -- JPII's Exhortation on the vocation of the laity. Links to all of the reflections on CFL posted to date can be found to the left under the "Jump To A Post" section.

    JPII, What Are Their Names?!

    Reflections on CFL: More on Paragraph 17 and St. Joseph Moscati

    In Paragraph 17, JPII writes:

    "It is appropriate to recall here the solemn proclamation of beatification and canonization of lay men and women which took place during the month of the Synod. The entire People of God, and the lay faithful in particular, can find at this moment new models of holiness and new witnesses of heroic virtue lived in the ordinary everyday circumstances of human existence."
    Written in the margin of my copy of CFL is the following: "What are their names?". Given my frustration at the time, it probably should have been, "What are their *%#$ names?!".

    Stop checking the footnotes, my friend. They aren't listed there. I agree, it seems hard for the laity to look to them for example if they don't know who they are. This is my common complaint about the Church's approach to the saints. In reality, JPII has made incredible strides in raising to the glory of the altars many laity who have lived lives of heroic virtue. Still, take a look at any report of those to be beatified and canonized by the Church, and I will bet you that no less than eighty-five percent of them are priests, religious brothers or nuns. Seems odd given that most Catholics don't belong to one of those states of life.

    Before I get flames, let me acknowledge again that I learn from all of the saints. But I can learn different things from a saint who shares my state in life. Again, a resounding theme of my posts is the need to give concrete examples of what it looks like to live the Gospel in the ordinary places of life.

    A few years ago, I decided I couldn't stand it any longer. I did some investigation to find out the identity of the lay men and women whe were canonized during the Synod. It turns out there was only one: St. Joseph Moscati. He has become one of my favorite saints and I thought I would share a bit about him.

    St. Joseph Moscati is our first modern medical doctor to be canonized. Born on July 25, 1880, in Benevento, Italy, he lived out the Gospel through his position as a teacher and physician. As he once wrote, "Remember that living is a mission, a duty, a grief! Everyone of us must have his own battle station." St. Joseph Moscati's station was in the medical field, and, by all accounts, he was a marvelously talented doctor.

    One story tells of how St. Joseph Moscati placed a Crucifix high on the wall in the autopsy room of the hospital where he worked as a professor. It bore the inscription, "O death, I will be thy death." He invited his assistants into the room, pointed their attention to the Crucifix, and said, "We have been invited to render homage to Christ, to the Life which was returning, after too lengthy of an absence, to that place of death." Now, I'm not recommending that everyone race out and purchase a Crucifix for their office and draw their colleagues attention to it. I tell the story to show St. Moscati's awareness of the need to bring Christ into his daily work. His comments are deep and profound. This isn't a WWJD bracelet. He understood how intimately Christ was bound to his calling as a doctor. To quote him:
    "Happy are we doctors, who are so often unable to alleviate sickness, happy if we remember that, as well as the body, we have before us the immortal soul, concerning which it is essential to remember the Gospel precept to love them as ourselves. The sick represent Christ for us.
    ...
    Sick people are Jesus Christ's creatures. Many wicked people, criminals, swearers, find themselves in a hospital by God's mercy, he wants them to be saved! Nuns, doctors and nurses that work in a hospital have a mission: cooperating with this endless mercy, helping, forgiving and sacrificing themselves.
    ...
    Remember that you have to deal not only with the bodies but also with the moaning souls coming to you. How many suffering people you will more easily soothe by advising and going straight to their souls, instead of giving cool prescriptions to be given to the chemist! Be joyful because great will be your reward; but you will have to set a good example of your elevation to God."
    There are a number of stories of Dr. Moscati paying close attention to the state of his patient's soul as well as his body, sometimes even bringing the patient back to the sacraments. The Catholic understanding of body and soul clearly informed his understanding of illness and medicine. He saw Confession and Communion as the "first medicine".

    To help the poor, St. Moscati often donated his medical services or paid for his patients' prescriptions.

    He felt it was important to support priests and those in religious life with his prayers because, as he said, "they are easily forgotten by the living, since Christians often consider that they do not need prayers."

    He carried a rosary in his pocket as a reminder throughout his day and as a way to draw him to Our Lady -- and through her, to Jesus -- when he needed to make important decisions.

    Many suggest his skill as a doctor seemed at times to be divinely inspired. At the very least, he approached his work with a dedication and a sense of duty, which was clearly given meaning through his love of Christ. He tried to give his patients comfort and consolation.

    No doubt, all of this stemmed from his belief in the need to give witness daily to God's love:
    "Let us daily practice charity. God is love. He who loves is in God and God in him. Let us never forget to offer every day, nay, every moment, our actions to God, doing all things for love.
    ...
    Love truth; show yourself as you are, without pretense, without fears and cares. And if the truth means your persecution, accept it; if it means your torment, bear it. And if for the truth's sake you should sacrifice yourself and your life, be strong in your sacrifice."
    If you are in Naples, Italy, you can visit the holy doctor's body at the Church of Gesu Nuovo.

    For more on St. Joseph Moscati, check out Il Gesu Nuovo or Joan Cruz's book, Secular Saints.

    Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 18 through 20 of CFL

    Wednesday, April 24, 2002

    Acknowledge, O Christian, Your Dignity!

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 16 and 17

    JPII concludes his introduction to the dignity of the lay faithful by focusing on our "prime and fundamental vocation": "the vocation to holiness, that is, the perfection of charity."

    As the pope rightly states, this isn't just a moral command. It stems from our connection to the Church and its great mystery. As "branches" of the "choice vine", we are to grow "with the same holy and life-giving energies that come from Christ." But we must cooperate with the Spirit to grow in holiness.

    How many of us contemplate whether we are striving to live out this call? If we aren't, we are doing the Church a disservice. For:

    "men and women saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult circumstances in the Church's history. Today we have the greatest need of saints whom we must assiduously beg God to raise up."
    Does anyone doubt that the Catholic Church in America is in desperate need of such saints? Isn't that what we all hope are bishops were and might still become? As we think about the current scandal -- immersed in its details --, let us think seriously about JPII's focus on the need for saints. I can think of nothing better than saintly laymen to shame, by the example of their holiness, lax bishops and priests into recognizing that they are not adequately devoting themselves to the Gospel. Some may think this too pious of a dream. I think JPII shares the spirit from which it stems, though:
    "The eyes of faith behold a wonderful scene: that of a countless number of lay people, both women and men, busy at work in their daily life and activity, oftentimes far from view and quite unacclaimed by the world, unknown to the world's great personages but nonetheless looked upon in love by the Father, untiring laborers who work in the Lord's vineyard. Confident and steadfast through the power of God's grace, these are the humble yet great builders of the Kingdom of God in history."
    The laity clearly need formation, which may lead some to think this is a chicken-and-egg problem. Still, our dignity as Christians calls us to strive for holiness, whatever the difficulties, "as an undeniable and demanding obligation and as a shining example of the infinite love of the Father that has regenerated [us] in his own life of holiness."

    "The vocation of the lay faithful to holiness implies that life according to the Spirit expresses itself in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities." A life of integrity.
    "The unity of life of the lay faithful is of the greatest importance: indeed they must be sanctified in everyday professional and social life. Therefore, to respond to their vocation, the lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfill his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ."
    Putting this into practice, of course, is often tricky. Yet I wonder if we are too quick to discount the little things, like a quick prayer before a meeting, the kind word for a co-worker. To me, one of the key questions is whether I ever think about my life in Christ outside of mass or Church. In other words, does the fact that I am a Christian impact my daily life. I don't think the answer is a hyper-religiosity. I remember riding in a car with someone who insisted that we pray the rosary so as to not waste the time. Fine, but I would have preferred that she kept her thoughts on the road at the time. I think, though, too many of us don't bother to ask the question, assuming that we already live out the call. Our dignity demands more than that:
    "Upon all the lay faithful, then, rests the exalted duty of working to assure that each day the divine plan of salvation is further extended to every person, of every era, in every part of the earth."
    If nothing else, this call us to be ready, as St. Peter tells us, to testify to the hope we have within. I can remember one vivid example of seeing such a moment more fully. I was flying back home from Boston. Having the same last name as another person on the plane, I was mistakenly assigned their seat and eventually had to move to a vacant one across the aisle. Just before the plane took off, I heard a young man ask if he could sit in the exit row -- the row I was in -- where there was more room. He sat down next to me. I don't know why I knew this man was going to talk to me about Christ, but I did. I casually asked him about the book he was reading and he began to share the Gospel with me. We talked for some time and I quickly realized that he was a new Christian (and a Catholic at that -- have to love those born again Catholics!) riding high on the emotional lift of his conversion. It was like meeting the me of three years earlier. He later wrote to thank me for our conversation, thinking that I had shared more with him than he had with me.

    My point in telling that story is that for a moment I was willing to recognize that Christ had a place in even the mundane event of a Boston-Detroit flight. Do we remember this when the example isn't as vivid?

    Next Post: More Reflections on Paragraph 17 of CFL: St. Joseph Moscati

    Homosexuality And The Priesthood

    A number of bloggers, including Amy Welborn in this recent post, have been discussing whether homosexual men should be ordained priests. I agree with much of Amy's post (though not her ultimate conclusion on this issue). At the heart of it really is the question of whether the candidate is committed to live a celibate life (as is the Church's current, default rule) and to live and teach the authentic Catholic faith. If a man cannot do that -- whether he is heterosexual or homosexual --, he shouldn't be ordained a priest.

    That said, I think the bishops could reasonably decide to adopt a policy against the ordination of homosexual men. This wouldn't be the Church saying that it is impossible for homosexual men to be ordained priests. Most would recognize and agree that there have been homosexual men who have lived chaste lives and have been excellent priests. Instead -- much like the celibacy rule itself -- it would be a statement that the Church believes, considering all the factors, that the Body would be better served by a heterosexual priesthood.

    I see a couple of factors that might lead the Bishops to reach this conclusion. First, there is the current scandal. We would be like an ostrich with its head in the sand if we didn't admit that the reported cases do suggest that, among those priests who engage in sexual abuse of youth, homosexual priests may be disproportionally represented. I think a lot more homework needs to be done, but to ignore the possibility and not examine it further would be naive.

    Unlike the trend among many Protestants, as Catholics we believe the Church confirms whether a man has a vocation to the priesthood. That a man might want to be a priest isn't enough. In carrying out its evaluation, it is proper for the bishops to look at not only what the man says he believes now and says is his commitment to celibacy and Church teachings, but also the likelihood that the man will live out such commitments. Our culture is shifting to one that vehemently opposes the idea that engaging in homosexual acts is wrong and that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman. I think the Bishops can rightly ask the question whether a homosexual man presently committed to a celibate life and the Church's teachings on marriage will be able to maintain that commitment despite the pressures of the culture. I have witnessed too many friends whose views and beliefs have radically changed after they publicly identified themselves as being gay. Too many reject the Church's nuanced position that regardless of whether one's homosexual attractions are chosen or innate, one does have the free will to choose not to engage in homosexual acts. I am sure openly gay priests face the societal pressure to reject this teaching even more so.

    By the way, this isn't to say that the Church should only ordain proven saints. We would be in trouble if that were the case. But the Church should rightly consider whether a candidate is likely to successfully live out the vocation.

    Then there is the question of scandal and perception of the public and laity. In our current culture, it may be of some concern that Catholics ignorant of the Church's position might assume the ordination of a homosexual man carries with it an endorsement and acceptance of everything society says about homosexuality. Certainly, a heterosexual priest would cause scandal and have sinned if he has sex with a woman, given his vow of celibacy and his unmarried state. But the act of having sex with a woman does have a context in which it can be properly expressed, namely, marriage. A homosexual priest would cause scandal and have sinned if he has sex with a man, given his vow of celibacy, his unmarried state, and the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. There is no context in which sex with another man can be properly expressed. This is the reason why the Church often refers to homosexual attractions as being "gravely disordered".

    Whether the differences mentioned in the previous paragraph, along with the other reasons, is enough to justify a rule prohibiting the ordination of homosexual men is a question for which I don't have the definitive answer. Ultimately, it is a judgement call. But it is the bishop's call to make -- not mine -- as the priests he ordains are an extension of his ministry.

    If the bishops adopt such a rule, it will be more important to discern why they did. As a quick fix to the current scandal? If that's the motivation, we can all be disappointed. As has been noted here and elsewhere, the current scandal is a symptom (albeit a serious one) of a deeper problem. If the policy is part of a bishop's true rededication to his vocation as shepherd of God's people, at least take heart that we might see real change and commitment to the Gospel (whether you think this particular rule is necessary or desired).


    Tuesday, April 23, 2002

    Thanks and Links

    First, let me thank those of you who have written me with your condolences about my grandfather's death, especially over at The Federalist Party. Your prayers and thoughts are appreciated.

    Later today, I will return to my posts on CFL. In the meantime, check out The Federalist Party's post on the Rome summit and John Mallon's excellent piece on why he isn't ashamed to be Catholic. Both offer some sound wisdom on a subject where most others are offering rants. Catholic bloggers: hopefully we are helping people understand the difference between complaining about a problem and fixing it. I worry that many posts just feed a culture of complaint that I often find among faithful Catholics. Voicing grievances is good (though maybe not best done in blogosphere), but it should be linked with action.

    So what on earth does the laity need to do as part of resolving this current problem? More on that next time.

    Next Post: Reflections on Paragraphs 16 and 17 of CFL

    Friday, April 19, 2002

    Give Him Eternal Rest, O Lord, And May Perpetual Light Shine On Him For Ever

    No more blogging for a bit. I just found out that my Grandfather Andy died tonight. Apparently, he went into the hospital last night suffering from chest pains. He died earlier this evening. From what I am told, he passed peacefully.

    It is a strange moment. I found out about it badly. My mother calls me and immediately starts telling me how I don't need to come back for a funeral because he is being cremated and there will be no service. See, she didn't get me when she first called, so she left me a message. I hadn't noticed. Needless to say, I was stunned.

    (As an aside -- email and voice mail are not good mediums for bad news. This is the third time I learned of some problem with my grandfather's health that way.)

    I was not close to him. In fact, I would say we didn't know each other well. I'm not about to air the family laundry on this blog, but suffice it to say that my grandfather was far closer to my Aunt and her daughters than my Dad and his sons. Still, I am deeply shaken. Maybe in part because I truly wish I had known him better, even though I long ago resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't going to happen. I am more upset for my Dad and worry about him. I know he wishes he had a closer relationship with his dad -- I can't characterize their relationship, because it was a strange mix. I worry because my brother lives with his wife in VA and I live here in Chicago. Without a funeral or service, it's unlikely our family will get together to mourn and share.

    My grandfather wasn't a religious man as far as I know, but I learned today that in recent years he had been going to mass with his wife (third -- my biological grandmother died when my Dad was a boy and Grandma Rose died probably ten years ago now). I am encouraged by that and place my trust in God's love and mercy and peace.

    If you would, please remember my grandfather and my family in your prayers. It would mean a great deal to me.

    A Surprise In The Mail

    Picked up my mail this evening, which contained my copy of the new issue of First Things. I scanned the cover as I usually do and, to my surprise, there was the name of a good friend of mine as a contributing writer! Congrats, Jay!

    Say a Prayer For The Red Wings

    I am ripping my hair out! Rarely do I get a chance to see my favorite Detroit teams play. (The Lions and Tigers have to pay people to put them on the air.) With a club so stacked with talent, you would think the Wings would be well in control of this series. Instead, I get the heartbreaker of shots off the post! I got to see Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals live and the Wings win it all in 1998. It was an absolute thrill and left me wanting more banners for the Joe. And if you're a Detroiter you know that nothing less than a loss in overtime in game 7 of the finals is acceptable. And we would still grumble in that case.

    Catholic Secularity

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraph 15

    (JACK: Sorry about the heavy reliance on quotes this time. This feels like one of those sections you just have to chew on yourself to get something out of it. As always, I welcome your thoughts.)

    Secular. For most Christians, it is a dirty word. Yet, here is an entire section of CFL devoted to the secular character of the laity. Why?

    Based on our modern parlance, when we hear the word "secular", we think of secularism. "Worldly rather than spiritual. Relating to or advocating secularism." Thus, we fear the Christian runs the risk of turning from God if he is immersed in the secular culture. And it's a legitimate fear.

    JPII is picking up on a different facet. Worldly, yes, but not in the notion of rejecting God. Worldly, as in not of eternity. An age or period. Now. The pope seems to be taking an incarnational tack:

    "[T]he Church "has an authentic secular dimension, inherent to her inner nature and mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Word Incarnate, and which is realized in different forms through her members.
    ...
    The Church, in fact, lives in the world, even if she is not of the world. She is sent to continue the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which "by its very nature concerns the salvation of humanity, and also involves the renewal of the whole temporal order."
    As the members of the Church on the front lines, we find ourselves in all the nooks and crannies of the world:
    "[T]he lay faithful "live in the world, that is, in every one of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very fabric of their existence is woven." They are persons who live an ordinary life in the world: they study, they work, they form relationships as friends, professionals, members of society, cultures, etc."
    Instead of seeing the negative of this, the Church focuses on a big positive -- because we are already there, the laity can play a large part in Church's mission to establish "the proper scale of values on the temporal order and direct it towards God through Christ." This viewpoint seems deeply rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation. "[T]he Word made flesh willed to share in human fellowship.... He sanctified those human ties, especially family ones, from which social relationships arise, willingly submitting himself to the laws of his country. He chose to lead the life of an ordinary craftsman of his own time and place."

    "The "world" thus becomes the place and the means for the lay faithful to fulfill their Christian vocation because the world itself is destined to glorify God the Father in Christ. ... The lay faithful, in fact, "are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially in this way of life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they manifest Christ to others." We are to be the salt, light and leaven by "deep involvement and ... full participation ... in the affairs afiars of the earth, the world and human community," but with the purpose of "spreading ... the Gospel that brings salvation".

    Wednesday, April 17, 2002

    Sharers In The Priestly, Prophetic And Kingly Mission Of Jesus Christ

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraph 14

    Here JPII introduces us to a principle that may surprise some people: Like the clergy and religious brothers and sisters, the laity participate in the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. It isn't really new; the pope has said throughout that the laity are called to spread the Gospel too. But it is the way in which it is presented here -- tying it directly to Christ's mission and as Priest, Prophet and King -- that may cause some to take a second look. To me, it helps drive home in a new way the fact that "Christ, ... in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation". His mission tells us something about ourselves too.

    The Priestly Mission. "Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities." Quoting the Second Vatican Council, the pope writes:

    For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labor, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patiently borne—all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord's body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God."
    Most of us forget this. Especially when it comes to the little daily trials or suffering. United with Christ, it can become redemptive. I remember a priest who lamented that the collection at mass often comes off as something extraneous and not part of the liturgy itself. Maybe if it weren't money -- but the products we produced with our labor -- and weren't set off to the side -- but placed right at the altar -- we might recognize it as both the symbolic and real embodiment of this idea.

    The Prophetic Mission. "Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, ... the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the Gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil." Yes, to identify and denounce evil. Boy, is that taboo in our society. As the front line of the Church, though, we must. For ourselves, so we do not begin to forget the difference between good and evil. For others, so they might come to understand the difference and choose the good. If we don't, we set up our clergy and religious for failure: their special status makes it easy for some to dismiss them and their teachings. Our participation makes that more difficult. We can do that with more than just our words by allowing "the newness and the power of the Gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life" and expressing even "through the framework of ... secular life" our "hope of future glory."

    The Kingly Mission. "They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin, and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve, in justice and in charity, Jesus who is himself present in all his brothers and sisters, above all in the very least." Man, this pope is good. Doesn't let us get too far away from seeing the beam in our own eye, does he? It is more than about combating pride here. Although perfection isn't required for us to live out the Gospel, a desire to grow in holiness each day is important. People watch us. They make judgments and learn from us without us knowing. And that darn thing about being all one body, hmm...

    "[T]he lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value." Read that one over a couple of times. It's appearance is deceptive; the phrase is packed full of meaning. If your like me, as the words all its original value start to sink in, you are starting to feel the burden of a task that is beyond you. And it is. If you are acting alone. Remember, though, we are participating in the threefold mission of Christ. "Precisely because it derives from Church communion, the sharing of the lay faithful in the threefold mission of Christ requires that it be lived and realized in communion and for the increase of the communion itself."

    Where does the pope say the laity's participation in this mission finds its "dynamic sustenance"? The Holy Eucharist, of course.

    More on the mystery of the Church's communion in Paragraph 18.

    Next Post: Reflections on Paragraph 15 of CFL

    Monday, April 15, 2002

    Baptism: The Sacrament of Faith

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 10 through 13

    In my last post, I said that the Eastertide season is a perfect moment to ponder the mystery of our baptism. Well, JPII presents us with some reflections on baptism in this part of CFL. He focuses on three key elements:

    "Baptism regenerates us in the life of the Son of God; unites us to Christ and to his Body, the Church; annoints us in the Holy Spirit, making us spiritual temples."
    A regeneration. St. Peter sings, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading." How many of us have such joy and thanksgiving for the gift of our baptism? I know I usually don't. Intellectually, I may know what he says is true. But do I live it? This seems to be another part of the foundation to living the Christian life in ordinary places: a humility rooted in thanks that God has shown us mercy. Without it, we are likely to end up just going through the motions more often than not.

    Through baptism, we are made part of Christ's one body. Our mystical union in Christ and, thus, with each other is "an image and extension of that mystical communion that binds the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father in the bond of love, the Holy Spirit." The image of Christ as the vine and his disciples as the branches "sheds light not only on the deep intimacy of the disciples with Jesus but on the necessity of a vital communion of the disciples with each other: all are branches of a single vine."

    I think this concept of communion is difficult for us to understand. Partly, I am sure, because it is beyond the reach of our intellect. My search of the Catechism shed no light on the subject for me. Nonetheless, the pope's seems to suggest that, in coming to understand the communion of the trinity, we will come to better understand our comminion in Christ and with his other disciples. Surely this will impact how we live out the Gospel in our lives and interact with those yet to be grafted to the single vine.

    By our baptism, we are made "living temples" in which the Holy Spirit dwells. JPII writes that "the Holy Spirit "annoints" the baptized, sealing each with an indelible character..." and causes "the baptized to share in the same mission of Jesus as the Christ, the Savior-Messiah." The emphasis on the indelible character baptism leaves on us is striking to me. Who hasn't had the experience of someone recognizing our Christian roots, even despite our failure to live out the faith well? Baptism changes us. It makes us witnesses. May we remind ourselves of that often so, through grace, we might strive to be positive witnesses.

    Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraph 14 of CFL

    Church Bells Ringing

    My walk home from the bus stop tonight was timed perfectly with the 6 o'clock chiming of the bell tower of my parish a few blocks away. A beautiful, sunny day in Chicago and the melody of "What Child is This" filling the neighborhood for blocks, the sound ricocheting off the buildings:

    "What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping?
    Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?
    This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring him laud, The babe, the son of Mary."
    And people wonder why I love living in a hundred year-old parish with all of the treasures that come with it.

    Chicago! Chicago!

    To all of my friends from law school who can't fathom ever living anywhere but along the east or west coast: You missed a glorious day in the Midwest today! And what other city has devoted its entire waterfront to long, lush public parks?

    The Mystery of the Vine

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 8 and 9

    JPII begins to immerse us deeper into the biblical images of the vine and the vineyard. It is a complex tapestry, but one worth exploring. (See John 15:1-6, Jeremiah 2:21, Ezekiel 19:10, Isaiah 5:1-2 and Mark 12:1.) I wasn't kidding about there being a lot of them!

    Here's where it pays to have a teacher like the pope. When I look at all those passages I just get confused. My mind tries to craft a single explanation for what the vine represents. JPII takes a different approach, drawing out many facets. The laity are not just laborers in the vineyard, but part of the vineyard as well. The vine represents God's people, Jesus and the Church. And many of the passages speak to the mystery of our God being three-in-one. It is this emphasis on communion that intrigues me:

    "Only from inside the Church's mystery of communion is the "identity" of the lay faithful made known and their fundamental dignity revealed. Only within the context of this dignity can their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world be defined."
    What does this mean? I'm not entirely sure. (I would love to hear from some readers on this one.) Here's what I take away. First, the laity are not some accidental by-product. We are not a regularly scheduled, weekly audience. We are part of the mystical body of Christ. Second, we must be people of prayer. Without prayer we are unlikely to understand much of, or truly participate in, this communion that JPII says is the context from which our identity is revealed. (Any of that make sense?)

    If nothing else, the reader is impressed by the pope's seriousness about the laity and their role. And that should give us encouragement to learn what we are called to do. So what is unique about us? Quoting Lumen Gentium, JPII affirms that the unique character of our vocation is to "seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to the plan of God." The "front lines" of the Church's life, to quote Pius XII.

    All of this means that we need to meditate more seriously on the meaning of our baptism, how it has changed us and what its mark on us calls us to be. A perfect thing to ponder in the remaining weeks of Eastertide. Having just renewed our baptismal promises, we should dig deeper into the mystery of what we have become through baptism.

    Next Post: Reflections on Paragraphs 10 through 13 of CFL

    Sunday, April 14, 2002

    A Break in Policy

    For a couple of days now, I have been thinking about breaking my self-imposed ban on commenting on the scandals, particularly those of the Archdiocese of Boston. I'm still not sure I should, but here goes anyway.

    I have found it hard to follow the scandal because it is painful. I lived in the Archdiocese of Boston for three years, have met Cardinal Law on several occasions, and have many friends among the priests, religious brothers and laity of that archdiocese. They are suffering deeply and the drum beat of this scandal is relentless.

    The focus of everyone's ire is rightly on Cardinal Law. It is clear by now that he has made serious errors in judgment. Should he resign? I think so. Apparently, though, so did he. From the reports, he tendered his resignation to Rome but it was rejected. If that is true, Amy Welborn's one-liner about Law's comments fails to consider the more charitable read: "I don't think I should still be Archbishop, but if I must, my desire is ....". Still, maybe I am being too charitable.

    The one thing we all have to admit is that this problem isn't resolved by Cardinal Law's resignation. It won't be solved by a flurry of "problem awareness" conferences, studies and new policies on sexual misconduct. The problem will only be resolved by bishops rediscovering their calling as shepherds.

    How to accomplish that? I'm not convinced that the call for every bishop's head is the best method. Maybe it is what's needed to get them to recognize the problem, but I don't know. A collective, formal protest by withholding donations on a given Sunday, as suggested by Michael DuBruiel, is another possibility. Maybe Cardinal Law should force the Vatican's hand by announcing his resignation anyway. I really don't have answers to this question. All I know is that pinning all our hopes for positive change on a resignation is naive.

    And it is possible that change can come through Cardinal Law. Need I remind everyone that our first pope denied Christ three times during His passion or that the great apostle St. Paul was a great persecutor of Christians before Damascus? We may not see such a conversion and renewal this time, but we should certainly hope and pray for one.

    My real concern is with how Catholics are letting this scandal affect them. We do have some control over that, after all. We need to ask ourselves whether our focus is on what is best for the Church or an unconscious personal need to see this man go as some sort of vindication. We are hurting, yes, but our faith must have deeper roots than the good behavior of the episcopacy. I worry that the media is forcing us to apply a simple-minded political analysis to this problem that ultimately is going to leave Catholics indifferent and skeptical of every bishop.

    I hope the bishops are listening. As I said above, I do think that Law should resign. But what we really need is a new pentecost. The shape it ultimately takes (bishops resigning, etc.) is secondary.

    Saturday, April 13, 2002

    We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 4 through 7

    A great deal of these sections of CFL are devoted to JPII's read of the "signs of the times". I'm not going to bother discussing them. Most who read this site probably accept his analysis already.

    It's where JPII takes us after this survey of the state of the world that is important to me. Focusing on the dignity of the human person, the pontiff writes:

    "The sense of the dignity of the human person must be pondered and reaffirmed in stronger terms. A beneficial trend is advancing and permeating all peoples of the earth, making them ever more aware of the dignity of the individual: the person is not at all a "thing" or an "object" to be used, but primarily a responsible "subject," one endowed with conscience and freedom; called to live responsibly in society and history; and oriented towards spiritual and religious values."
    Ah, yes, the pope's personalism philosophy. Our philosopher Vicar of Christ couldn't let the Exhortation proceed further without it. (With good reason of course!) Personalism can be tough to digest because of its roots in phenomenology. (The quote captures its essence, but for those interested in learning more about personalism check out the first chapter of Wojtyla's Love & Responsibility.) This is that second fundamental to living out the Gospel that I referred to in an earlier post. Whatever our walk of life might be, it always involves interacting with other people. By not treating other people as a means to our ends, we affirm their dignity in having been created in God's image. In today's society that just might be the most powerful witness possible to the Gospel.

    This is a different form of Gospel-living and evangelism than what normally comes to mind. It is very much in the same spirit as St. Francis' famous quote, "Preach the Gospel; if necessary use words." I often worry that I focus too much on the last part of St. Francis' phrase and let that become a justification for inaction. The pope's emphasis on the dignity of the human person properly redirects our attention to the first half of the phrase: preach the Gospel! The manner may not involve words, but it certainly is active, intentional and done from a foundation of prayer. I think it is this form of evangelization that leads JPII to conclude that the laity is vital to the spread of the Gospel:
    "The lay faithful have an essential and irreplaceable role in this announcement [JACK: the Gospel] and in this testimony: through them the Church of Christ is made present in the various sectors of the world as a sign and source of hope and of love."
    Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 8 through 13 of CFL

    Resources for Legal Beagles

    The resources at the Catherine of Siena Institute reminded of a short list of materials I prepared a while back for Compass. Lawyers and law students who are looking for resources on living out the Christian faith as a lawyer may find them helpful. (A permanent link to the materials appears to the left.)

    Next Post (For Real This Time): Reflections on Paragraphs 4 through 7 of CFL

    Mailbag and Interludes

    Thank you to everyone who has written me. It is great to know that others think this Blog is a good idea and worth doing.

    Before getting back to our reflections on CFL, I thought I would share some readers' thoughts.

    In my last post, I commented that most of us struggle to figure out what it means to live out the Gospel in the ordinary places of life. I think Federalist Party rightly hits on one of the fundamentals: "... it starts by acting according to your "private ethics" in public acts." Thinking that one can have a separate private and public morality is part of the two temptations JPII worries the laity find hard to avoid. That's part of why I chose Integrity as the name of this Blog: it not only refers to honor and good character, but integration of all areas of one's life. I think JPII presents one of the other fundamentals in the next section of CFL, but that's another post.

    A woman wrote me to tell how she's frustrated that the Church doesn't recognize more the importance of the family. It's a shame if her parish doesn't speak more highly of the family, because JPII clearly recognizes its critical importance in his Exhortation Familiaris Consortio:

    "By virtue of the sacramentality of their marriage, spouses are bound to one another in the most profoundly indissoluble manner. Their belonging to each other is the real representation, by means of the sacramental sign, of the very relationship of Christ with the church. Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the church of what happened on the cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.
    ...
    Christian marriage and the Christian family build up the church: for in the family the human person is not only brought into being and progressively introduced by means of education into the human community, but by means of the rebirth of baptism and education in the faith the child is also introduced into God's family, which is the church.
    ...
    The sacrament of marriage gives to the educational role [JACK: passing on the faith to children] the dignity and vocation of being really and truly a "ministry" of the church at the service of the building up of her members. So great and splendid is the educational ministry of Christian parents that St. Thomas has no hesitation in comparing it with the ministry of priests: "Some only propagate and guard spiritual life by a spiritual ministry: This is the role of the sacrament of orders, others do this for both corporal and spiritual life, and this is brought about by the sacrament of marriage, by which a man and a woman join in order to beget offspring and bring them up to worship God."
    Another woman wrote to tell me of the work of The Catherine of Sienna Institute, whose mission she describes as the implementation of CFL. They have some great stuff on their website that people might find helpful. (Check out this post on Veritas for more on the Institute.)

    Next Post: Reflections on Paragraphs 4 through 7 of CFL

    Thursday, April 11, 2002

    And Now The Feature Presentation...

    Reflections on CFL: Paragraphs 1 through 3

    This is my inaugrual entry reflecting on CFL. I suspect most Catholics have never heard of this exhortation nor know what the Latin means ("the lay members of Christ's faithful people"). Yet, clearly the mission and vocation of the laity is important. As the very first sentence of CFL mentions, it was the subject of an entire Synod of Bishops. But how many of us have seen this conversation of the Bishops reflected in our local parishes and dioceses? I remember asking a priest once why many don't make the laity aware of a document that is about us and our identity. I got the weak response that the pope's documents are "too difficult" for most Catholics. I don't buy it. Even if it were true, all that means is a teaching moment has presented itself.

    As he does in most of his writings, JPII begins with a biblical story that will serve as a lens through which to examine the character of the laity. For CFL, he tackles Matthew 20:1-7. Given it's importance it is worth quoting here:

    The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'

    I love this passage. All of God's people are called to spread the Gospel. I think many of the laity find themselves in the shoes of the five o'clockers -- standing around, not realizing that through our baptism we too have been given personally a part in the evangelization of the world. Unfortunately, many of us don't have someone coming by and reminding us of our call, or that it doesn't matter whether we have fifty years or just five left in this earthly pilgrimage; it's never too late to start.

    If we had any doubt about the field of battle, JPII makes it clear it is the whole world: "The vineyard is the whole world which is to be transformed according to the plan of God in view of the final coming of the Kingdom of God." Awesome, isn't it? (I am certain that Veritas agrees.) Where I think most of us struggle is in envisioning what this looks like for the ordinary places of life. The apostolate of a Christian radio broadcaster? I can get my hands around the contours of that. The apostolate of someone in their capacity as a corporate lawyer? Hmm, there it gets tricky. But JPII clearly sees Christ working there too, even if it is in different ways or more interiorly than in other arenas. The difficulty (and the problems it causes) isn't lost on JPII as he recognizes the danger to which many of us succumb:
    [T]wo temptations can be cited which [the lay faithful] have not always known how to avoid: the temptation of being so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that some fail to become actively engaged in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political world; and the temptation of legitimizing the unwarranted separation of faith from life, that is, a separation of the Gospel's acceptance from the actual living of the Gospel in various situations in the world.
    How true. Like with the landowner who went back into the field, though, this is unacceptable to JPII: there is too much work to be done for the laity to remain idle.

    Coming Soon: Reflections on Paragraphs 4 through 7 of CFL

    At the Speed of Blog

    Okay, call me amazed. When I started this Blog less than twenty-four hours ago, I wondered whether anyone would notice. I didn't expect to wake up this morning and find it mentioned on two other sites (thanks Amy and Emily!) and emails waiting in my inbox. I only hope this means that some of you will send me your thoughts on Christifideles Laici as we work through it.

    One alert reader wrote to inform me that there is a group promoting gay/lesbian causes within the Episcopal Church that goes by the name Integrity. The reader wanted me to know in case I was worried people might think this Blog was related. I don't know how far this group strays from traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality, but I find their name choice to be intriguing. Leave it to groups I likely disagree with to know the value in trying to co-opt important words for their own purposes. I wonder how many young people read older english texts now and have no idea that "gay" once was understood to mean "happy".

    In any event, it turns out there are a lot of groups who recognize the values inherent in a word like "integrity". Including several Christian groups and magazines. So it looks like I made a good choice.

    Next Post: Reflections on Paragraphs 1 through 3 of Christifideles Laici (hereafter, "CFL")

    Wednesday, April 10, 2002

    The Vision

    Blogs seem to be everywhere these days; many Catholic ones to boot. Now I have never kept a journal or diary and don't plan to start one now. If you want Catholic commentary on daily events, see one of the links to the left.

    Instead, this Blog aims to be an exploration of John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici. The recent scandals rocking the Catholic Church have left me frustrated and angry, especially having lived in the Archdiocese of Boston during my law school days. Set aside for the moment the pundits seeing an opportunity to push their anti-Church agenda and the media outlets unwilling to do their homework on the actualities of the scandal. As troubling as it is to hear the stories of victims of clerical abuse, I am equally disturbed (if not more so) by the more general problem: some bishops behaving like administrators of companies rather than shepherds of the people of God.

    All of that is somewhat of a tangent, but did serve to motivate me to create this Blog. For a while now I have felt that the Catholic Church in the United States has done little to help the laity develop a true understanding of how the laity is called to live out the Gospel. Somewhat understandable. If you aren't going to preach on the Church's doctrine, are you really going to help the laity thoughtfully develop a spirituality true to their state? I get frustrated by Catholics who are led to believe that the apostolate of the laity is to serve as lectors and eucharistic ministers. How limiting and troubling for the effort to convert society to the Gospel! I learn things from every saint's example, but why do I never hear about saints like St. Thomas More or St. Joseph Moscati? It's always about some monk, nun or priest.

    This seems like such a missed opportunity. I read Christifideles Laici during law school and was immediately struck by the fact that John Paul II has a profound vision of the unique character of the laity -- and one other than the old "pray, pay and obey". But I have never seen his vision fleshed out. I always thought that effort would make a great magazine, which I would call Integrity as it seems to capture the need to let Christ infuse all area's of your life and the responsibility of a Christian to strive for holiness.

    This Blog is a substitute for that magazine. Now I am no theologian; I only offer here my simple musings on Christifideles Laici. My hope is that those who read this Blog will chime in with their thoughts, which I will post too. I am sure most Catholics are struggling to not let the scandals shake their faith. Taking a look at the ideal we are called to may be a good way to stay grounded in the hope that we find in the Lord.