Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The unthought costs

Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs for First Things.com has an interesting article today concerning the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine, awarded to the developer of in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is immoral because it separates children from the natural act of reproduction within marital sex and it is immoral because it invariably involves the destruction of human life. Ms. Scalia offers other considerations as well, what she considers a "global by-pass of the heart:"
we increasingly talk about the “global community” and the need for humanity to get past geographical boarders and boundaries, yet we take every opportunity to circumvent our own heartbreak, our own spiritual challenges by any means necessary. In the case of infertility, it seems we first-worlders hold the needs of third-world global communities—like those with children who desperately need to be adopted—in abeyance, only bringing them into focus once our self-reliant technological options have been exhausted. Their needs finally pierce our awareness when our own desires force us to look their way.
Scalia wants us to consider not just the reality of artificial creation of a natural gift but also how this technology blinds us to those in need. This solution of science has created a larger gap between rich and poor as we find solutions within our power to control rather than our power to be generous. Scalia raises some interesting questions- maybe imperfectly- but they are still worth considering these unthought of costs of this immoral technological marvel. Read it all here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pope Tales

I was privileged to write a column this week for the SDSU Collegian, here it is:

What did or didn’t Pope Benedict say?

As a Catholic priest, I’m always delighted when people are talking about the Church. At the same time, I’m also frustrated when people are talking about the Church inaccurately. What did Pope Benedict really say about condoms in his recent book length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald, “Light of the World?”

According to some headlines, Pope Benedict “approves,” “justifies,” or “oks” condom use. Yet that isn’t what he said. From the actual book:
“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.”
Right away, Seewald—a good journalist—wonders if something new has been said, so he follows up: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms??” The clarification and reemphasis from Pope Benedict follows: “[The Catholic Church] of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.”

The point being made is that some condom use might show the beginnings of humanization or growth in moral awareness—which is a good thing, even though sex outside of marriage is always bad. One Catholic author says the Pope’s phrase can be understood as: “if a mugger started using a padded bat to cause less damage to his victims, it certainly is a step in the right direction.” So while the Church has not, does not, and will not approve of any sex outside of natural marriage, it would be a good step in someone’s moral awakening to act in such a manner. This is far from a justification of condoms.

So nothing has changed in official Catholic teaching. If that is the case, where does blame belong? Is it the media for misreporting? No, blame belongs with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, who released the quote. Why choose this small passage from the over 250 pages of answers? Why confuse the public? In this regard, the Vatican is a mystery to this priest.

What doesn’t have to be a mystery is what sort of man is Pope Benedict. Pope Benedict believes in God, believes in Jesus as the only Son of God, and believes that we can know Jesus and know him best through the Catholic faith. Don’t take my word for it, read the book, read the section on condoms and then get to the good stuff.

A Pope of Continuity

Pope Benedict's new book, Light of the World garnered much initial attention for all the wrong reasons: a Vatican press disaster. It should be known for its unique insight into a sitting Pope, his thoughts, concerns, and worries. Online on First Things today is a great article the man revealed to be Pope Benedict. Here is an excerpt:
In fact, when he moved into the papal apartment, some Vatican officials were a bit taken aback when he brought along some beat up used furniture—his desk and the bookshelves that he has had since his days as a young faculty member. And of course his books, “my advisors” as he calls them. These familiar reminders of his beloved years as a professor are clearly dear to Benedict...“It is like this,” he says, “When a man says Yes during his priestly ordination, he may have some idea of what his own charism could be, but he also knows: I have placed myself into the hands of the bishops and ultimately of the Lord.” Professor, yes, but priest first. He can take along his old furniture. Popes, after all, have prerogatives. But, as Benedict points out, the continuity of his priestly vocation has always meant something both simple and fundamental: I cannot pick and choose what I want.
We see here Pope Benedict's view that he is first and foremost a follower of Christ. Though the press may call him the most powerful Catholic in the world, he doesn't see it that way. Christ must increase, I must decrease. Need to round out that gift list for Grandma? Light of the World?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Approved Marian Apparition

Most Reverend David Ricken, bishop of Green Bay, WI, announced today the approval of the authentic appearances of the Blessed Mother at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, WI. Bishop Ricken said: "I declare with moral certainty and in accord with the norms of the Church that the events, apparitions and locutions given to Adele Brise in October of 1859 do exhibit the substance of supernatural character, and I do hereby approve these apparitions as worthy of belief (although not obligatory) by the Christian faithful."

Thanks be to God! Watch Relevant Radio give the backstory:

Immaculate Conception Homily

It took me a while to fully understand and appreciate the feast of the Immaculate Conception. It wasn't until I had been in the struggle for holiness, the fight against my own sin, that I understood what a gift God gave to Mary. Understanding the gift is the whole reason I love this feast. Today, we honor God for his unique gift of grace to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by which, from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, she was protected from sin. What does this event some 2025 years ago have to do with our own Christian life today? Mother Mary serves as an image of what God desires to do for us.

How can I explain this? There is a family I know with four small children and they are very close. The two middle children are closest of all, why? The parents think it is from when the younger was in the womb, the older one would come up close to her mommy’s belly every day and say: “Hey, its me, your big sister. I love you and I can’t wait for you to be born.” The brother became used to his sister’s voice and presence even before he was born. Though they are human and have their fights they are still very close.

God’s gift to Mary allows her to hear and answer His voice when He calls through the Archangel Gabriel. She may not understand the Father’s plan but she knows and trusts His voice. That is enough for her to say: “Be it done to me according to your word.”

What about us? We often resist the voice of God. Whether because of sin or its fruit: suffering, we confuse the voice of God and the voice of our own desires or of the enemy’s voice. That is why we must pray for and seek healing from our sins. If we feel distant from God or feel separated from His love, when was the last time we sought to purify the ears of our hearts?

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, let us ask for healing from Jesus Christ. Healing through the intercession of Mary, who desires us to hear the voice of her son so we may do whatever Christ tells us.