Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Traditionalist's Agenda for the Church

"Father Baker" 20th century
apostle of Charity who was
a symbol of what the Church
stood for in his day
Yesterday I posted regarding the negativity I find in so many sites in the blogosphere or on the web. I find our Church being dragged into negativity as well.  We need to go back to the past and recover our true heritage as Catholics.  There was a day when everyone knew what Catholicism stood for.  We built schools for the children of the immigrants who were coming to this country, and hospitals to care for the poor who could not afford the physicians’ private clinics.  We were on the side of labor against those “robber barons” who were forcing not only men but their wives and children to work for a pittance while they made outrageous fortunes with which to spoil themselves, their spouses, their children, and their mistresses.  We believed in an America that would be multi-cultural and we founded parishes and schools where Poles could worship and learn in Polish, Germans in German, Italians in Italian.  We established new religious communities to work among the Native Americans and to open schools and orphanages for the descendants of those Africans whom we Americans had held in slavery.  We opened homes for unwed mothers and clinics for the urban poor.  We opened sanitariums for the diseased and for the mentally ill.  We had vocational schools to train the sons and daughters of the poor for jobs that would enable them to climb the social ladder.   Some of the things we did were, by modern standards, coarse and even harsh, but by the standards of the day were among the most humane and enlightened.  Today, however, people only know what the Catholic Church is against.  That is a disaster from the perspective of what the world calls marketing and what we call evangelization. We need to wake up and change the menu.  God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  God did not send his Son to condemn the world but so that the world may be saved through him.  We need to step aside from the cancer of negativity that is eating out our society from within and recapture the mission Christ has given us to be Good News to the poor, Liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed and heralds of a time acceptable to God. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Keep Bad Company

I am "of a certain age" and I live in the ivory tower of academia so am a bit naive about the Blogosphere.  Boy there are some nasty people out there.  I guess I spend too much time in Church and not enough with the local neo-Nazi groups.   I have posted a number of entries over the past year on anti-Catholicism in the United States.  I had always seen this as an aberration but now I am learning not to take it personally.  It is not Catholics that some people hate—it is just about everyone. There is a cesspool of hatred out there.  I have been a little taken aback by just how nasty people can be on comments to blogs or news articles.  Here are some examples.  

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates pledged a further $750 million to the troubled global AIDS fund on Thursday and urged governments to continue their support to save lives.
"These are tough economic times, but that is no excuse for cutting aid to the world's poorest," he said in Davos at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

So what response does this generosity generate:

Yet another tax deduction that I will ending paying. My plan, who ever you are, Buffet, Gates, Winfrey, etc., only American charities, with monies spent in America, are tax deductible. Americans are the ones that built your empires, give to those, not some third world country that hates us anyway.

Why not donate the money for cancer research you liberal fool instead of something that effects mostly perverts? All of my friends and relatives who died of cancer spit upon you from their graves.

I'm glad the overlords of this "charity" have another $750,000.00 to play with.

aids cost in America? Only the rich can afford. Aids cost in 3rd world countries? basically free. American's foots the bill. Hey Bill, give the money to charities or hospitals that use it in America.

What did Bill Gates do for America lately. Its like people adopting from China, as a status trend. As if Americans are #$%$ and don't deserve charity!!!!!!!!!!!

Barney Frank thanks you

Bill should be funding tubal ligation's, vasectomies, contraception, and abortion - not pills to keep AIDS sufferers

AIDS patients have to bear the responsibility for their own diseases as it is their behavior that led to them getting sick in the first place.

“The individual suffering from AIDS certainly is a victim — frequently a victim of his own lifestyle
What a waste of cash. Let them croak.

What's next? Is he going to be bridesmaid at Barney Frank's wedding?

And then they can't Joe Paterno rest in peace.  Granted the man didn't do all that he could to stop kids from being abused, but he's dead.  You would think that they could at least let him pass without condemnation but even those who criticize the hatemongers have to get ugly
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP)—Crediting him with building not just better athletes but better men, some 12,000 people—including Penn State students, fans and football stars—paid tribute to Joe Paterno in a campus memorial service Thursday that exposed a strong undercurrent of anger over his firing.
In a 2 1/2 -hour gathering that capped three days of mourning on campus, Nike chairman and CEO Phil Knight brought the near-capacity crowd at the basketball arena to its feet when he defended the coach’s handling of child-sex allegations leveled against a former assistant. Paterno was fired two months ago by the Penn State trustees.

granny pa should have jerry tell the little pas how great joe pa was at asleepover

poor joe, he's going to miss all those big hot beefy boy's. i know i would :)

Paterno's eternity? A daily insertion of a pineapple up the A$$. Bend over Papa Joe, here's your reward

Joke Pa's coffin looked great with those NIKE' swooshs on each side.....free coffin Joke Pa? Scumbag.

To all you haters ....I will pray for you, pray that you get cancer and DIE !!!

I should go take a @#$% on your mother's face for ever giving birth to such a pathetic excuse for a human being. Get off you pedestal my friend.

so,,,it looks as though all you pedophiles,,and supporters,, may just want to move to Happy Valley(if you're not already there).. you'll have an army of people who will stand behind you,,(literally),,and you can do your child rape thing for a looooong time and no one will say shizz about it!! Maybe you can even get you a job at PSU,,it's the place alot of people like work,,some of have plenty of power,(pull),,and they've been there long enough to call the shots on what goes down around campus.
Myself,,I think I'll stay as far away from that place as I can..I'll bypass waaaaay around Pennsylvania,,,I don't want any of you sicko butt rapers getting near my kids,,,


And then what are the bloggers writing about Mitt Romney?  I'm not a Romney fan but criticize him for substantial issues not his religion.  Catholics who engage in attacks on a candidates' religion need to look at our history a bit closer.  In our day, of course, the crazies wore sheets and hoods but it is the same ugly bias, just directed towards someone else.

VOTE Anyman but Morman.......Mitt Romney - Bishop of the Satanic Cult of Latter Day Saints. America, you will put Satan's brother in the White House.

Mormons despise the Cross, DO NOT believe in the Holy Trinity, and interpret Armageddon as the destruction of all Gentiles (You!) and Jews and... More

DEPORT ALL ILLEAGALS. Enforce the law, we don't need them, or want them.
Romney can donate all he wants to his cult and hides as much money in the tax loopholes as he wants. But this also tells that Romney is clearly not interested in contributing to the US but only his Mormon brothers. He is not fit for presidency.
Mitt was a used car salesman in his former life. No problem giving $$ to his church, but LDS ...? It's nothing more than a very wealthy cult. Lastly, don't forget, he makes millions every year and is in the 15% bracket!! Why was I paying more than 30% when I was earning $75K/yr.?!!

The United States is a Nation founded on the Christian belief. No group, including the mormons have a right to change that. If they don't like what is going on over here, do like Jim Jones and buy land somewhere else and do what ya'll do.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Freedom from Religion and Freedom of Religion V

John Kennedy, First and Only Catholic
to serve as President of the United States
During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Democratic candidates John F. Kennedy—a Catholic—said in a famous talk to the Houston (Texas) Ministerium:

     I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
     Kennedy’s speech to the association of Protestant Ministers in 1960 is one of the landmark speeches in the history of American Church/State relationships and has stood as the defining statement of the relationship of religion and government in the American constitutional system.  In the context of the time it was meant to answer those who were afraid that a Catholic in the White House would have to take direction from his Church and it was meant to criticize those Protestant pastors who were cautioning their parishioners that a vote for Kennedy was a vote to end religious freedom in the United States.  At the time no Catholic saw a problem with this statement—indeed Catholics, clergy and laity alike, endorsed it as they saw the possibility of a Catholic being President for the first time.  As I said it has stood for fifty years as the canon of independence for politician and voter alike.  It has served as a bulwark to protect public officials from religious pressure so that they can fulfill their constitutional mandate.   That being said, I wonder how many Catholics—especially bishops and clergy—would agree with  it today?  Among the laity, Senator Santorum for one has gone on record as disagreeing.  He may be right and the Kennedy doctrine no longer stands.  He may be wrong.  But we do need to give the subject some thought.   

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Freedom From Religion and Freedom of Religion IV

Anti-Catholic cartoon by American polotical
cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) illustrating
fear of Catholic Takeover of the United States
Well, as we have pointed out in our last entries, the Catholic Church was opposed not only to the Separation of Church and State as outlined in the United States Constitution but opposed to the idea of religious liberty or “freedom of conscience” itself.  This put the Church square in conflict with the American constitutional tradition which Americans, including Catholic Americans, for the most part overwhelmingly embraced.  Conflict of ideologies was inevitable and finally came to a head in 1954 when the Holy See silenced Jesuit Father John Courtney Murray for his views on the subject.  In a surprising reversal of the Magisterium, however, the Magisterium itself abandoned its long-held tenet and in the 1965 Conciliar Decree Dignitatis Humanae subscribed to the principle that each person should be free to follow the directives of his or her own conscience in matters of religious belief and be granted in civil law the freedom of worship according to individual conscience.  
    Until the notoriety of the Murray silencing, most American Catholics were unaware of the conflict between the United States Constitution and Catholic Magisterial teaching.  American Protestants, however, knew it. Anti-Catholicism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was primarily linked to anti-immigrant sentiment.  If you look at the right hand column where it is marked “Labels” you will see thirteen postings on “anti-Catholicism.”  One of the reasons that so many Americans feared the growth of the Catholic Church in the American Republic is that they saw that Catholicism posed a danger to American liberties.  We ridicule the idea that Catholics, if they attained a political majority, would take away Freedom of Religion in the United States—but remember, that is precisely what the papacy expected them to do.  I doubt it ever would have come to that.  I think Americans of whatever religious faith make a clear distinction in their public and political life between one’s religious convictions and the commitment we have to the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights.  While we might vote our faith, and while our electoral choices should—like all decisions in our lives—reflect the values our Christian and Catholic faith has given us, I think the civic values of the American Constitutional tradition are a firewall against religious extremism. 
     Now although Catholic doctrine has changed to embrace freedom of conscience, this question does have relevance today.  Just as Catholics can expect neither their faith nor the canon law of their Church to determine the laws of the Nation or of any State, County, or local jurisdiction, we must also insist that no other creed or religious law find its way into public legislation.  There must be no more room for Sharia than there is for Canon Law or the Mosaic Law in public life.  Individuals are free, indeed should be encouraged, to follow religious precepts in their individual lives and within the framework of their particular religious community,  but the anti-establishment clause of the first amendment protects us from having any one religious philosophy imposed on the American people.    
      Sharia law might be the obvious threat today but there are Catholics who still want to see Catholicism established as the official religion of the United States.  I used to think they were all crazies like Solange Hertz, a Leesburg Virginia doyenne with more bats in her belfry than Hogwarts at Halloween but then a couple of years ago along came Michael Voris from Real Catholic TV suggesting that what we need now is a Catholic Monarchy to replace our Republican Government.  Fortunately Voris has no support from the Church for his bizarre ideas and little influence among everyday Catholics but he is articulate and, adjusting for the observation that his reality coordinates are off kilter, within his own world of factoids he invariably has a well thought out and philosophically consistent patter.   Indeed he is not alone in his parallel universe.  There is a considerable faction among the neo-traditionalists who reject the Second Vatican Council whose fundamental opposition to the Catholic Church is not about the liturgy but about the Conciliar Decrees, especially Dignitatis Humanae and its assertion of Freedom of Conscience.  In the end, the ascendancy of Catholic Law over the larger society would be as fatal a blow to the Human Dignity with which our Creator has endowed us as would be Sharia law.  We may be more familiar with Catholic theology and law than Sharia Law, and Catholic hegemony might require less adjustment on our part, but are we willing to yield to any outside force the sovereignty of our conscience, the consciences of which God has made us each a steward and for which God will hold us accountable?
     Religion cannot be banned from public life—nor should it be. We are guaranteed the free exercise of religion.   There is no effective way in a democracy to keep religion out of public life because religious citizens will (hopefully) have their political philosophies shaped by their religious faith.  Even non-believers have their attitudes and values shaped by their non-belief.  Religion (or lack thereof) will all come to the lawmakers’ table but it must only come to the table through the agency of the individual citizens and never through the direct influence of religious institutions over government.   And if the Churches (and Synagogues and Mosques and various Atheistic Associations) are performing their role in raising the consciousness of their individual members, making convincing arguments for the political consequences of their beliefs, those beliefs will be reflected in the democratic process.   But the attempt to coerce believers into voting blocs sorted by religion undermines the constitutional processes.  I expect my pastor to tell me that abortion is wrong.  I expect my pastor to tell me that same-sex marriage is not consistent with our Christian understanding of matrimony.  I expect my pastor to tell me that we have a responsibility to provide for the needy and vulnerable among us.  I expect my pastor to pass on the Church’s teaching regarding immigration and the death penalty as well as contraception and divorce. I hope my pastor will have the coglioni to tell me to vote my conscience (not my religion [collective] but  my conscience [individual]) and not my wallet.  And I hope I will have the intelligence to know the difference and the integrity to be truthful as to which is which. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Freedom from Religion and Freedom of Religion III

The Tomb of Pope Leo XIII in the
Basilica of Saint John Lateran
The United States, including its Catholic citizens, was very committed to the principle of the Separation of Church and State.  The papacy was very committed to the idea that the Catholic Faith should be established by law in every nation and that other religions—and especially heretical “cults” (aka Protestants) should be proscribed.  Two trains running down tracks ultimately destined to collide.  
     The collision was to be a long time in coming however.  In a world without modern communications the American Republic was no more than a vague idea to the Papal Court.  Until the final decades of the nineteenth century, basically until people began to accustom themselves to the transatlantic cable, the American Church in its day to day operations was all but independent from Rome.  John Carroll had deliberately held communications with the Holy See to a minimum and his successors in the American episcopacy followed suite.  It was pointless to involve Rome in local decisions—before steamships for a letter to go to Rome, be considered by a congregation, and come back was at least a six month process and could easily take twice that long.  Whatever decision was needed was long past its time before the Holy See could respond.  And frankly, European bishops were no more inclined to surrender decision making to the Roman Curia were jealous of their own authority in their own dioceses.  That only began to change with the collapse of the Papal States in 1870 when the popes needed to consolidate their religious authority to compensate the diminution of prestige at the loss of the Papal States.  It was after Vatican I—and the fall of Rome to the Italian Monarchy that same year—that Rome really began to take note of the American Church and it was startled to see how “American” (i.e. non-Roman) it was.  This came to a bit of a head with Leo XIII’s 1895 Encyclical Latter, Longinqua Oceani, in which the pope declared  that the Church “ would bring forth more abundant fruits if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority.”  Such favor and patronage, of course, is in direct contradiction to the United States Constitution which declares in its first amendment that “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion…”   Leo further admonished the American Church that while it might have to live with the idea of separation of Church and State at least until a Catholic majority could correct the situation, it “would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.”  In other words, the American situation of the separation of Church and State is not an ideal but an anomaly.
     It could have been worse.  Leo was, unlike his predecessors, not opposed to Republics per se.  To the rage of conservatives he encouraged French Catholics to give their support to the Third Republic which replaced the Second Empire after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.  Conservative Catholics in France wanted to restore the Bourbon monarchy and while Leo wold have preferred that, he conceded that the Republic was acceptable.  Catholicism had always seen monarchy as the ideal, the thought being that civil government should be along the lines of Divine Government and so just as God governs the world, a monarch should govern the people.  Forget this Vox Dei Vox Populi idea—it is dangerous to Church and State alike. (Vox Dei Vox Populi is Latin for The Voice of God [is found in] the voice of the people.  You can see why Popes who consider themselves the Vox Dei don’t like that idea.) 
     Fortunately it took a long time to bring this pot to a boil, but to a boil it was to come.  An American Jesuit, John Courtney Murray, was teaching at the Catholic University in Washington DC.  The experience of Christians of various faiths cooperating against the Third Reich in the years before and during World War II convinced Father Murray that the traditional anti-ecumenical policies of Catholicism and the resultant Catholic isolationism was an obsolete and a dangerous policy in a world haunted by totalitarianism.  He further came to believe that, despite the admonition of Leo XIII in Longinqua Oceani,  religious freedom as outlined in the First Amendment to the American Constitution was an ideal that should be embraced in the twentieth century.  In these ideas he was far ahead of his time—too far ahead of his time for many of his fellow Catholics who saw the ethnic and religious ghettos into which the Catholics of the early twentieth century had retreated as essential to preserve the faith.  Teaching with Father Murray at Catholic University was Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton, one of the most arrogant and acrimonious junior grade prelates the Church has known in its long history of arrogant and acrimonious prelates.  Monsignor Fenton was editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review.  Fenton despised Religious.  Fenton despised anyone who he considered beneath him and his monsignoral dignity him which more or less included the human race as a collective.  He was probably also a bit jealous of Murray and his popularity.  Fenton reported Murray to the appropriate Roman dicasteries and the redoubtable Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, head of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, who silenced Murray and prohibited him from speaking or writing on the topic of Church/State relations.  These were the final years of the papacy of Pius XII who that year had suffered from a hiatal hernia requiring surgery and whose health went into a steady decline during which more and more of the papal prerogatives were assumed by curial officials such as Ottaviani.  Pius’s successor, John XXIII convoked an Ecumenical Council with the express purpose of opening the Catholic Church up to the ecumenical movement which had long been prohibited it by Popes such as Pius XI whose encyclical Mortalium Animos condemned ecumenism as undermining Catholic doctrinal hegemony.  Ottaviani insured that Fenton would be on the various commissions that were preparing the Conciliar agenda and it was planned by Ottaviani that no serious doctrinal shift, especially as regards ecumenism or freedom of conscience would be submitted to the bishops.  When the bishops assembled in the autumn of 1962 for the first session of the Council, however, they would not accept the conservative agenda, however and demanded that the schemata for the council prepared by Fenton and others be abandoned and a new agenda drawn up.  It was at this point that Francis Spellman, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, rescued John Courtney Murray from the obscurity to which Fenton’s accusations had reduced him and brought him to the Council as Spellman’s personal theologian.  Here Murray had his revenge on his reactionary foes as the Council in its decree on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, enshrined the basic principles of freedom of conscience and the very doctrine that Leo XIII had said should not be spread from America to the rest of the world became a universally recognized principle in Catholic teaching.  Eternal Rest to Joseph Fenton, Alfredo Ottaviani, and Leo XIII.  One of those three, despite his fear of freedom of conscience, is probably a saint.  It wouldn’t be Fenton or Ottaviani.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Freedom From Religion and Freedom of Religion II

The Coronation of Napoleon, December 2, 1804
The new American Republic in its 1789 first amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1791) forbad Congress either to establish (a) religion in law or to prohibit its free exercise.  It was a moderate step away from the time-honored practice of European States that recognized either Catholicism or one or another of the Protestant Churches as the official religion of that particular state.  A more radical approach to altering the relationship of Church and State emerged under the various governments of the French Revolution.  In 1790 the French Government, technically still the monarchy but controlled by revolutionary forces in the National Constituent Assembly, required the clergy to swear an oath of allegiance to the new Constitution.  It also required that pastors and bishops be elected by their respective constituencies.  This did not meet with papal approval, needless to say, and clergy who refused the oath (as many did) were subject to fines, imprisonment, and death.  In 1792 the National Assembly, contrary to Catholic belief, legalized divorce and that civil legalization that contradicted the canon law actually was the initial step in separating civil law from Religious doctrine.  The Government also took the responsibility of registering births, marriages, and deaths from the Church thus making baptism and church-marriage unnecessary for those who chose not to practice Catholicism.   This was just the first step in changing the status of the Church and just weeks later a virulent persecution of the clergy and religious began.  This was followed in the first months of 1793 with a spate of “dechristianization” laws which attempted to remove not only Catholicism but all Christian influence on French culture.  The Gregorian Calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 (the calendar we use today in America and most of the world) was abolished in favor of a Republican Calendar with ten day weeks—eliminating any Sunday of Christian worship.  Towns with religious names such as Saint-Antoine or Saint Tropez received new names.  The Deistic “Cult of the Supreme Being” was designed to replace Christianity.  It was forbidden to ring church bells or display the cross and of course there were no religious festivals.  Cathedrals and churches were, for the most part, turned over to secular use or left abandoned. Abbeys and convents were most often destroyed and left in ruins.  Despite the high and mighty language of the Revolution about “the rights of man,” there was no religious liberty, neither for the Churches nor for the individual believer.  Slowly, however, after 1795 while public worship was proscribed the private practice of Christian faith—Protestant or Catholic—was, in fact, tolerated although clergy were still often imprisoned or sent to French penal colonies in the Caribbean. Religion was banished from public life but permitted in private.   With the accession of Napoleon in 1799 the religious situation improved as Napoleon, no believer himself, realized he could use an alliance with the Church to consolidate his political and imperial ambitions.  Pius VII was coerced into crowning Napoleon as Emperor of the French at a Pontifical Mass in Notre Dame Cathedral Paris on December 2nd 1804.  Actually, Napoleon crowned himself—having taken the crown from the Pope’s hands and placed it on his own head before turning and crowning his wife (at the time), Josephine. 
     In the course of their revolution, the French had conquered what is today Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as most of modern Germany.  They also had seized Italy and Spain where they established satellite states under Bonaparte siblings or allies.  Although Sweden was never part of this empire, one of Napoleon’s top generals, Jean- Baptiste Bernadotte was elected King by the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament).  Bernadotte briefly was allied to Napoleonic France but he was no fool and disentangled himself from that alliance when it was clear that Napoleon would not prevail.  Wherever Napoleon held power, however, he established religious liberty giving Catholics, Protestants, and Jews freedom of worship. 
       When Napoleon fell in 1815 the restored European monarchs, including Pope Pius VII, were determined to undo as much as they could of the French Revolutionary influence on European societies.  Religious freedom was among the first things to go.  Outright persecution of religious minorities was difficult to reestablish but limits were put on Catholics and Catholicism in Protestant lands and on Protestants and Protestantism in Catholic countries.  The Catholic Church insisted, for the most part without success, on religious liberty for its adherents in Protestant lands but vehemently opposed Protestant rights in Catholic countries.  The Papal States certainly did not practice religious liberty.  Certain limited freedoms were extended to Jews though they were required to live in the Ghetto until 1882—twelve years after the Kingdom of Italy had taken political control of Rome from the popes.  What liberties Roman Jews had came at the price of various taxes and duties. As difficult as the Jews had it, Protestants had a much more difficult time.  Protestant worship was forbidden in Papal Rome and no Protestant churches could be constructed within the walls of the city.  The Papacy did not approve of religious toleration when it came to “heretics.”  It was only with the fall of Papal Rome and its incorporation into the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 that Protestants acquired the right to worship in Rome and the surrounding area.  As the papacy did not recognize the authority of the Italian monarchy over formerly Papal territory, neither did they accept freedom of religion in the once Papal dominions.   American ex-President Theodore Roosevelt declined an invitation to meet Pius X during a trip to Rome in 1910 because one of the papal conditions on the visit was that the President, an Episcopalian, could not attend a Protestant Church during his visit.  (There were other conditions as well that Roosevelt chose not to meet.) 
     As a result of its intransience on the matter of religious freedom, Rome did not know what to do with the American constitutional policy of Separation of Church and State.  American Catholics, for the most part, accepted the American position without reservation.  Indeed most probably supported it with the enthusiasm with which they embraced life in the American Republic.  Rome chose to ignore the American Constitutional requirement of separation of Church and State as they chose to ignore the reality of republican government.  European prelates found freedom of conscience and republicanism to be too reminiscent of the debacle of the French Revolution.  Yet the Holy See did not want to imperil the health and safety of the Catholic Church which was thriving in the American Republic under the constitutional principle of Separation of Church and State.  It was agreed by Roman officials that American Catholics could live with the Separation of Church and State until such time that Catholics gained the political majority.  At that time they would be bound by Church authority to establish Catholicism as the State Religion in the United States and limit, if not absolutely proscribe, Protestant worship. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Freedom From Religion and Freedom of Religion

"The Mass of Saint Denis" showing the
King of France at Mass in the Days of
the Alliance of Throne and Altar
We spent a considerable amount of time over the past month looking at the issue of whether or not the United States is “A Christian Nation.”   We demonstrated that there are two distinct traditions in American society.  The Pilgrim/Puritan tradition going back to John Winthrop’s famous “City Set on a Hill” speech to the Massachusetts Bay settlers aboard the Arbella in 1630 recognizes the explicitly Christian foundations and goals set for that colony by its founders. Among the founders of the Republic, most likely Sam Adams, Patrick Henry and Charles Carroll would have agreed.  On the other hand, the American Revolutionary tradition, epitomized by Thomas Jefferson in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and copied into James Madison’s Bill of Rights that became part of the United States Constitution would deny the new Republic to be a Christian nation—or an Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist or any other sort of religious nation.  In addition to Jefferson and Madison, this view would be consistent with the statements of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, George Washington, and John Hancock.  Moreover, the Maryland Catholic tradition would argue for the religious neutrality of the State.  But this is the issue: religious neutrality.  The Revolutionary tradition does not ban religion from public life as some today would have it, but rather—in the words of Madison’s Bill of Rights, insists that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  There are those who want to relegate religion solely to the sphere of private life, confining it to home and church.   That is no more consistent with our republican heritage than would be the recognition in law of the special place of any or all religion in the eyes of the government.  No more must we be a secular nation than should we be a Christian nation.  This requires a careful balance. 
     We must remember that there has been a long tradition of Christianity being the established religion in western societies.   Contrary to popular belief, the Emperor Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  He gave the Christian religion legal recognition and freedom from the persecution it has sporadically been subjected to under the Roman Empire for over two centuries and he gave it, and its officials, many special privileges in Roman law. While Christianity was not the official religion of the Empire—under Constantine—the empire was not religiously neutral.  It was the official religion in several places.  King Tiridates III of Armenia had converted to Christianity through the preaching of Saint Gregory the Illuminator in 301 and made Christianity the official religion of is nation.  Abyssinia established Christianity as its official religion about a quarter-century later.  It was only in 380 that the Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  From that time on an alliance between Throne and Altar was normal in European countries whereby the State enforced the religious doctrines of the Church and the Church preached obedience to the State as a moral obligation.  At the time of the Protestant Reformations of the sixteenth-centuries the various national Churches had to choose their alliance—to the Roman Pontiff or to their respective kings.  Almost invariably the Churches stayed tied to the thrones that supported them.  Where the thrones themselves were content with the papal alliance, such as France, Spain, and the Empire this was no problem.   Where the thrones wanted to disentangle themselves from the Roman alliance, the Churches too became disentangled.  In each case, however, the Throne/Altar ties remained intact.  The Enlightenment challenged this alliance and developed an alternate model of the relationship of Church and State suggesting the States should allow a freedom of conscience whereby government would no longer consider itself responsible for maintaining the theological monopoly of any particular religion.  Most of the Enlightenment thinkers had already abandoned orthodox Christian doctrine, whether Protestant or Catholic, and wanted the freedom from religion more than freedom of religion.  The Churches of Protestant England and Scotland and Sweden found their positions undermined as much as the Catholic Churches of France, Spain, and Portugal but the Protestant nations and their national Churches were more likely to accommodate religious dissent than were the Catholic nations—despite the presence of many freethinkers in the royal governments of France, Spain, Portugal and the Hapsburg empire.  In part this was because Britain, Holland, and the Scandinavian kingdoms had learned to turn a somewhat blind eye to persistent Catholic minorities and had learned to live with a pluralism of belief (and disbelief).  The Catholic countries, on the other hand, were more ardent in pursuing and persecuting religious minorities and strove for religious conformity.  Consequently religious freedom came more easily in the Protestant countries than it did in Catholic countries. 
     The fruit of this in the British colonies in North America was a pretty universal conviction that while a particular Church might be established, the citizenry—as long as it remained orderly—might be allowed a freedom of conscience.  This awareness grew faster in some colonies than others.  Virginia was particularly slow in coming to such freedom,  harassing (persecuting) not only Catholics but Baptists and other non-conformists  almost to the eve of the American Revolution though the issue often appeared to be not doctrinal dissent but failure to pay tithes to the established Anglican clergy.  When the Revolution came, however, Virginia was among the first of the new States to disestablish its official Church and write religious liberty into law.  Maryland, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania supported freedom of conscience from the beginning.  When the new Republic was formed it was taken for granted in each State that citizens would be free to follow their own conscience.  That did not mean that the official churches were always disestablished.  Connecticut did not disestablish the Congregationalist Church until 1818; Massachusetts disestablished it only in 1833.  Anglicanism had been the established religion in Hawaii from 1862 but after the 1893 coup that ended the monarchy—and independence—making Hawaii an American colony the American colonial government, comprised of New England Congregationalists, disestablished it.  Several state constitutions still prohibit atheists from holding public office but a 1961 decision of the United States Supreme Court declared such provisions “unenforceable” as they would constitute a religious test probhiited by Article 6 of the United States Constitution which says in part: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Reflections on Doctor Martin Luther King

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. stands alongside the
Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Archbishop Oscar
Romero of El Salvador and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer
of Germany as the Martyrs of the 20th century over the
West Door of Westminster Abbey in London. 
I was using a borrowed office in a church where I was giving a lecture this past week—Thursday—and I noticed on the desk a program for an interfaith concert that had been held at that church the previous weekend to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.  Before I go any further I want to say that I am a great admirer of Dr. King.  His legacy is an important part of building the America we have today where great progress had been made in overcoming the racial barriers that defined our culture within my memory.  Like many Americans this past year I read The Help (and saw the movie).  It reminded me that within my memory there existed this America where doors were closed to people because of race.  (Which isn’t to say that all doors are yet open to all people.)  The Help motivated me to read To Kill a Mockingbird.   I had never read it.  I supposed I had not read it because when it came out (1960) I was in High School and it probably would have been considered “too controversial” though we read Catcher in the Rye,  Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Lord of the Flies—all of which were controversial and none of which were as worthwhile as To Kill a Mockingbird.  But I guess that even in the north and in a Jesuit school, some topics were “too hot to handle.” Certainly race was never discussed. To Kill a Mockingbird made me look not at America but at myself and ask myself to what extent I am a man of character and conviction.  I haven’t resolved that answer yet.  A few years ago I was in Colonial Williamsburg with several friends, one of whom is a very distinguished Monsignor of African American lineage.  We were having dinner at the venerable and celebrated Williamsburg Inn and had both excused ourselves from the cocktail hour to use the facilities before going to the dining room.  As the good Monsignor was washing his hand, an elderly gentleman with whom he was speaking said “There was a day, you know, when you could not have come in here.”  It wasn’t said with any animosity and conveyed no rudeness, hard as that is to explain when one reads or hears the comment without having heard it said in its original context and tone.  It was simply an observation by the elderly gentleman as if he had said “my family has dined here since my great-grand pappy’s day.”  Occasions such as these remind us that America changed direction because of, in part, Dr. King.  
     And yet this man whom the churches honor—as America honors—on the third Monday of January; this man whose statue graces the façade of Westminster Abbey in London, this man who is commemorated in the calendars of both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, this man whom Catholic Cardinals and Jewish Rabbis pay homage to every January was a man of multiple extramarital affairs.  A great man but no saint.  Of course we know his sin because another man—a man for whom there is no holiday, a man who lies in a grave overgrown with weeds in the shadow of the national Capitol, a man whose name had become a national punchline before fading into an ever darkening obscurity, a man whose alleged hypocrisy tried to hide that he was a deeply closeted gay transvestite—thought he could stop King’s social revolution by exposing his adulteries to the American public.  He dragged King through the mud but the mud hasn’t stuck—to Doctor King.  
     There is a lesson here.  Actually there are several lessons.  One is that original sin runs deep in each of us.  Anne Marie Bigod de Cornuel, onetime mistress of Louis XIV, allegedly said: “there are none who are heroes to their valets nor to the Fathers of the Church among their contemporaries.”   Yes, valets know the soiled linen of their employers and the Fathers of the Church knew the soiled souls not only of their contemporaries, but indeed of humankind.  
      Another lesson, dependent somewhat on the first, is that even as saints are not necessarily great men (or women) so too great men (or women) are not necessarily saints.  One of my favorite books is Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.  It is a reminder that virtue and greatness are not the same thing.  (That isn’t an endorsement for Newt, by the way.  Of course, I see neither attribute there.  Nor is it an endorsement for Rick Santorum to whom I will grant a measure of character but in whom I don’t see any potential for greatness.  It is sad the neither Catholic candidate can offer us both character and statesman like gravitas. One would hope that our Catholic stock had some sap of confessors and martyrs left running in it and not only the more pallid juice of virgins.)   There are great men and there are men who do great things.  Or actually, there are great persons and persons who do great things as men have a monopoly on neither character nor deeds. 
      We Americans tend to be sloppy and imprecise in making out distinctions.  Men of great deeds have sat in the White House—Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt.  And there were great men who sat in the White House—Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter to name two more recent ones.  There are men whom if one could get beneath the myths to the historical realities may have been men of great deeds and great character, namely George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but it is hard to objectively assess the former for his character and the latter for his deeds as their presidencies (and for Washington, indeed his whole career) are shrouded in the myths that define our nation.  We have seen the same to be true in the Church.  Men of great deeds such as Gregory VII, Innocent III, Julius II, Paul III have led the Church through times of crisis and led the Church well.  Men of great soul have sat in Peter’s chair: Celestine V, Pius VII, Pius X, Paul VI.  I suspect Benedict XVI might fall in this category when his papacy is finally able to be evaluated. 
      And so back to Doctor King.  A man of great deeds but with a certain weakness of character.  He was not totally without character: he had bravery, he had passion for justice, and he had perseverance.  He was intelligent and articulate.  He wasn’t a saint but he was still God’s instrument as much as some of our greatest popes were.  He was, like Graham Greene’s Whiskey Priest and like so many of us, a treasure in an earthen vessel (2nd Corinthians 4:7).    And better, I suppose, to be such a treasure even if one’s character is but a clay pot to hold it than to be a golden bowl but to be empty and useless.  Granted he was no saint, but a builder of the Kingdom of God nonetheless.  There is a lot to think about here.       

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Commitment to the Future, Not the Past

Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred in
El Salvador in 1980
Why do I write this blog—it takes a chunk of time out of my day and I am never caught up in my work as it is.  Well, for one thing, I do need the discipline to write.  Writing is difficult and this is not my best writing.  Most of the time the blog is just a quick sketch and I go over it no more than once while normally, when I write for publication, I labor over revision after revision, tweaking and puttering until I get the words just right but I have no time for that when doing the blog.  It takes me an hour or more as it is.  But at least it forces me to churn out some piece of writing most days; left to my own I would have a thousand reasons to avoid the task of sitting down and marshaling my thoughts and then forcing them out from within the convoluted channels of my brain onto paper—or actually into the circuitry of my computer.
     But I have another reason, and one more serious than just forcing myself to some discipline.  I have a strong vision for the Church, a vision I want to share.  At times I think it is a vision that I want to rescue.  You see I was brought up before all the Vatican II changes.  I learned that Ad Deum qui laetificat stuff.  To a fifth grader, of course, they were just nonsense syllables and damned hard nonsense syllables to memorize, but I did it. And I loved it.  I was one of those taller altar boys who MC’d Solemn Mass.  I knew the bows and rubrics and in those days before middle age spread and pattern baldness I looked quite distinguished in my violet cassock and stiffly starched white cotta.  In fact I loved the whole old Church thing—bevies of nuns in white wimples and mantles, bowing and scraping before tabernacles, tenors and basses in choirs that sing—these were a few of my favorite things.  I mean it was fun being Catholic.  They didn’t make Hollywood movies or Broadway shows about Presbyterians. 
      I have always been a trivia buff which explains why I ended up becoming a historian.  I have a mind that captures the kind of information from which you can never make money.  But I always knew that the Blessed Sacrament and the Bishop when in Miter (though not when in choir dress) got three double swings of the censer.  Speaking of choir dress I knew a mantelletta  from  a mozzetta and I even knew when the diocesan bishop wore the mozetta over the mantelletta which was a very rare occasion but looked quite majestic.  I knew that the humeral veil should match the color of the mass vestments unless the Blessed Sacrament was to be carried with it when it should be white or gold.   I knew the altars were to have their annual washing on the evening of Good Friday in imitation of Christ’s body being washed and anointed before it was put in the tomb and I knew that the cross was to be veiled in violet during Passiontide except on Holy Thursday when the veil was to be changed to white.  I knew all that stuff and I loved it.  Although you would never know if it you saw my office, I have a mad passion for order and “The Old Church” satisfied that.   But what happened?
     I am not sure.  I was excited about the changes in the liturgy as they gradually were introduced between 1964 and 1970.  (That doesn’t seem gradual in retrospect but it struck us so at the time.)  I have always loved music and I liked it when we began to sing more—when music was not just for the noon mass with Palestrina and choir but at each of the Masses, though, admittedly, Ray Rep was no Mozart.   I liked it when we could go to an Episcopal Church for Evensong without thinking we had to go to confession afterwards.  I thought the nuns looked pretty homely when they moved into their “modified” habits and absolutely ghastly when they started to wear ordinary clothes, usually of the cheapest make and poorest coordination, but hey—I didn’t have to sweat beneath yards of serge on a summer day.  I missed the communion rails at first, but gradually came to prefer the more spacious look of the sanctuary.  But more important, somewhere at this point in life—my late teens or early twenties—I began to pray. I mean I had always said prayers.  We were (sporadically at least) a family rosary family.   We would, especially in lent and advent, kneel leaning into the chairs and couches of the living room with our backs to one another and recite the repetitions of this favorite prayer.  Like my father (and his father before him) I began attending Mass each day.  But I slowly learned about mental prayer.  I am not sure how.  I would go out and sit in the back of our parish church at night.  I would just sit there.  I would begin a rosary or some other prayer, but end up just sitting there in the dark staring at the distant red flickering lamp.  Actually it probably began even earlier when at age eleven or twelve I would just go down to the river and sit by the bank among the day lilies and wild daisies and watch the stream roll by and follow my heart to some inner place I had not yet begun to understand.  But I suppose I was only about twenty when I began picking up some of the books of Thomas Merton and they made me think in ways that other books—even books by saints—had not.  Little by little as I went through my twenties, not Merton but the scriptures became my ordinary book for reflective thought.  I still read Merton—and other authors as well:  Henry Nouwen, John Main, Thomas Keating—but the scripture has long been my book.  I began to see connections between scriptures and the choices I was making—or failing to make—in life.  I started to read some of the Fathers, most notably Augustine but also Chrysostom and Basil.  At the time I was getting a Master’s Degree in Theology.  I came to understand from Chrysostom that one cannot separate the Christ one meets in the Eucharist from the Christ one meets in the beggar in the street.  I began to see in Augustine that to recognize Christ in the Eucharist is to know that you are already by baptism part of his body and so is the woman in front of you and the man beside you.  I came to see how doctrine and worship and ethics are all of a piece.  
      When the American Church women were killed in El Salvador with weapons supplied by my government it hit me that I share in responsibility for the crucifixion.  And when Archbishop Romero was gunned down at the consecration of the Mass by assassins trained in my country I realized that I could no longer live in the cocoon of pious claptrap but had to start weaving a consistency that would integrate my public and pious lives.  I came to realize that the Eucharist is the strongest bond of all and that to share in the Christ present on my altar was to stand in solidarity with all others who share in that one Christ at altars throughout the world.  I realized my faith was not simply the affirming of doctrines but the weaving of a seamless garment of faith and works.  There are a lot of dropped stiches in my seamless garment but my faith today is something far richer and far deeper than the doctrinaire piety of my youth.  And I for one am not willing to go back to that that superficial and supercilious smug Catholicism of “We have all the answers and nobody else does.”  The Church for me has long been a door to be pushed out of into the world with a Message rather than a door inside of which to hide behind from the troubles of the world.  
     I eventually went on to earn a Masters and a Doctorate in history and to take up a career as a teacher and research historian.  History for me acts as a brake against the retro-Catholoism of those who are trying to come back to the Leave It To Beaver Catholicism and Americanism of the Eisenhower years.  History is a medium in which we can see the Good News of God’s Kingdom unfolding.  As the reading said at Morning Prayer today: the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, (that is to say, it is not a matter of the Law and its regulations) but of justice, of peace, and of the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit.   I want to keep that word alive.             

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Of Leesburg Lawns, Gorgeous Prelates, and Minnie Jackson's Pie

 The Loudon County Courthouse in
Leesburg Virginia where the controversy
began between a Knights of Columbus’
sponsored crèche and several atheist
sponsored displays that spoofed religion
leading to an examination of whether
or not the American Tradition has
stamped us as a Christian Nation.   

We all know Patrick Henry for his famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech given to the Virginia Convention in 1775 which swung Virginia into the independence camp of the burgeoning American revolution.  What many people don’t know about Henry is that he was a devout Christian.  Like other Virginia planters he was an Episcopalian but seems later in life to have preferred Presbyterianism which was closer to his Scots roots and evangelical soul.  He was strongly evangelical and while supporting religious tolerance (at least for Protestants) had little tolerance for those of no religious stripe.  (I have not been able to find any evidence of anti-Catholicism but there is something in the back of my memory that associates him with the level of anti-popery common among the Virginia frontier folk who were embracing the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodists revivals of the last decade of the eighteenth century.  I could be wrong on this point.)   He supported legislation that would have required each citizen to pay taxes for the support of the Church of his choice and he also supported legislation that would have paid teachers of religion from the public purse.  This seems to us today to suggest a political conservative but in fact until he saw the excesses of the French Revolution he was pretty radical politically—an extreme democrat who opposed the Constitution for being a threat to personal liberty.  He turned down Washington’s 1795 offer of being Secretary of State because the Federalist Government of Washington and Adams was too powerful for his vigilant concern over individual freedoms. I suppose today he would be a libertarian which makes his evangelical views appear all the more idiosyncratic.  Libertarianism ultimately leaves the door open for there to be no societal brakes on individual moral behavior and that is at odds with the evangelical agenda that believes that moral questions such as premarital and extramarital sex, homosexuality, use of recreational drugs, sale and use of alcohol, etc. need to be regulated if not criminalized.  Of course most of these current issues were not in Patrick Henry’s purview as the social parameters of the eighteenth century were far more restricted than ours but then, like now, there are always those who think that they government should stay out of their business but not necessarily yours or mine. While we cannot know for sure what Patrick Henry’s thoughts would be on the Christmas display on the Loudon County Courthouse lawn, his strong evangelical faith and his minimalist approach to government interference might indicate that he, probably like Sam Adams and Charles Carroll would be likely to support a Christian display on government property without endorsing any right for atheist groups to put up a display disparaging religion.  Again one cannot second guess in history so this is only a likely conjecture given his strong endorsement for government support of religious practice.  It is, I think, a reasonable surmise that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and James Madison would oppose the idea that we are a “Christian Nation” while Patrick Henry, Charles Carroll, and Sam Adams may well have endorsed that position.  But we will never know, not at least this side of eternity.  Ms. Curtis’ claim that “there is no disputing” that we are a “Judeo-Christian Nation” is far from accurate.  It reflects the smug comforts of a Loudon County housewife whose Hilly Holbrook lifestyle affords her the time to blahg blahg blahg Junior League nonsense.  Go have a slice or two of Minnie Jackson’s pie, Hilly, and leave history to those whose profession it is.      
     And this brings me back to why I write this blog.  For one thing I hate to see our Catholic heritage—our real heritage, especially as American Catholics—dressed up in the rags of nineteenth century neo-Baroque ultramontanism and paraded out as if it was somehow or other the answer to the world’s hunger for The Way, The Truth, and the Life.  Frankly I think Cardinals in cappis magnis (that’s not a mistake, “in” takes the ablative case) and priests in pompomed caps make a travesty of authentic Catholicism.  The antiquarian liturgies sponsored in various Cathedrals by the Latin Mass Society reduce the Eucharistic Sacrifice to a pious Aida. The “canons” of Gricigliano in their self-aggrandizing pomposity are nothing less than an Alice-in-Wonderland charade.  And the whole clutch of retro Catholic zombies parade Mother Church like the naked emperor through the modern world.  Avery Dulles wrote that power was characteristic of the Church in the second millennium and service would be the distinguishing mark in the third. It is time that we make the paradigm shift that will conform us to the One who came not to be served but to serve.  Only a Church of service, scrubbed of the trappings of monarchy and aristocracy, can bear the witness of the new evangelization.