Recent Posts

Thursday, 7 June 2012

It's a Wonderful Life

A four-post day---just thinkin'

A quotation from It's a Wonderful Life.

Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he? Clarence the Angel

Zenit article by Dr. E. Christian Brugger

This is from Zenit on Wednesday. Dr. Brugger writes on the website listed here. He has other interesting articles found there.
Three Cheers for the CDF: A Long Overdue Admonition
Errors in US Ethicist's Teaching Pointed Out
By E. Christian Brugger
WASHINGTON, D.C., JUNE 6, 2012 ( For all the weaknesses with Catholic moral theology in the two centuries before Vatican II, one weakness it did not suffer from was a lack of consistency with the settled doctrine of the Church on matters of sex and marriage. 
We all know the story that followed the Council. Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae in 1968. A tidal wave of dissent against its central moral judgment by Catholic theologians crashed on the Church. Since that judgment was not only connected to divine revelation but also to traditional methods of moral reasoning, most prominently Aquinas' moral theory, new methods were explored. Consequentialism, called "Proportionalism" in Catholic ethics, gained the high ground. Within a few years advocates of the new methods in Europe and the US, who included some of the most influential moralists in the Church, began questioning the exceptionless status of moral norms against masturbation, extra-marital intercourse, homosexual acts, and divorce and remarriage. 
The undisputed matriarch of dissenting US Catholic ethicists is the influential emerita professor of ethics at Yale Divinity School and Religious Sister of Mercy, Margaret A. Farley. She's an old woman now and has been in the vanguard of voices calling for change in the Church for decades (she was a signatory in 1984 of the notorious "A Catholic Statement on Pluralism and Abortion," a full-page ad in The New York Times paid for by Catholics for Free Choice to support the VP campaign of pro-choice Catholic, Geraldine Ferraro… who?). She has trained and placed in academic positions a generation of gifted female Catholic ethicists sympathetic to her methods and ready to lay down their lives for her conclusions. 
On June 4, 2012, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) published a  "Notification" on Farley's 2006 text,Just Love: A Framework for Christian Ethics. The Notification states that her text takes positions contrary to Catholic teaching on at least five issues: masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage, and divorce and remarriage. The CDF "warns the faithful" that Farley's book is inconsistent with Catholic teaching, and consequently that it cannot validly be used as an expression of the Catholic faith "in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue."
In Farley's published reply, she says straightforwardly, "I do not dispute the judgment that some of the positions contained within [Just Love] are not in accord with current official Catholic teaching."  She says that she wishes to clarify, however, "that the book was not intended to be an expression of current official Catholic teaching, nor was it aimed specifically against this teaching.  It is of a different genre altogether." In other words, "current official Catholic teaching" is irrelevant to her framework for sexual ethics. 
Why then is the CDF concerned about her text? Because Sister Farley is one of the most visible Catholic ethicists in the US, a member of an influential Catholic religious order, and past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. Academics see her as a Catholic scholar. And her works are treated as (among other things) contributions to Catholic scholarship. She and likeminded colleagues draw a sharp distinction between "current official teaching" and the rich perennial tradition of Catholic theology, to which they see themselves as validly contributing. The cardinal prefect of the CDF is well aware that Sister Farley is widely considered a courageous and far-sighted and utterly integral member of the Catholic theological community. And that's how she'll be presented to credulous college freshman in classrooms throughout the English-speaking world.
The letter published in protest against the CDF Notification by the President of Farley's Religious Congregation, Sister Pat McDermott, RSM, makes transparently clear that Farley means to be seen as a Catholic scholar: "(she's a) highly respected and valued member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas;" "has enlivened the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and enriched the entire Church;" "assiduously attempts to present the Catholic tradition as formative of her own rich experience;" "(is) faithful to her own faith tradition and commitments;" "is an extraordinary teacher and pastoral minister who is deeply committed to the Gospel and the following of Jesus Christ;" and so on. 
Readers might be interested in seeing a few characteristic quotes from Sister Farley's book "Just Love": 
On Masturbation: "Masturbation… usually does not raise any moral questions at all. … It is surely the case that many women… have found great good in self-pleasuring – perhaps especially in the discovery of their own possibilities for pleasure – something many had not experienced or even known about in their ordinary sexual relations with husbands or lovers. In this way, it could be said that masturbation actually serves relationships rather than hindering them" (p. 236).
On Homosexual Activity: "My own view… is that same-sex relationships and activities can be justified according to the same sexual ethic as heterosexual relationships and activities. Therefore, same-sex oriented persons as well as their activities can and should be respected whether or not they have a choice to be otherwise" (p. 295).
On Same-Sex Marriage: "Presently one of the most urgent issues before the U.S. public is marriage for same-sex partners – that is, the granting of social recognition and legal standing to unions between lesbians and gays comparable to unions between heterosexuals" (p. 293).
On Gender Reassignment Surgery: "When transsexuals want to change bodily identity, surgically and otherwise, they do so in a way that their deepest personal identity does not change; they understand themselves, after all, as seeking to become more wholly themselves. I am reminded of the deeply poignant scene in the film Normal, when the husband (who is in the process of changing his body to a woman's body) says to his wife, "It's me. I'm still here"; and she still loves him, for "he is in my heart, he is in my heart, he is in my heart," she tells an uncomprehending minister. No one ought here pass judgment on any configuration of gender" (155).
The CDF ends its Notification with the words: "the Congregation wishes to encourage theologians to pursue the task of studying and teaching moral theology in full concord with the principles of Catholic doctrine." I fear that this paternal and salutary admonition is likely to fall on deaf ears on the girls at Yale.
[For a detailed critique of Farley's book, see William E. May, Critical Review of "Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics by Margaret A. Farley," National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 8.4 (Winter 2008), 703-798.]
* * *
E. Christian Brugger is a Senior Fellow of Ethics and director of the Fellows Program at the Culture of Life Foundation; and the J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Chair of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado

Owls in the Daytime

I have seen many, many owls in my life of various types. But, until the other day, I had never seen an owl out in the daytime in the wild. A large Barn Owl swooped over a small stream, next to a field. I was amazed. Talking with some local people here in Norfolk, I discovered that seeing the English Barn Owl in the daytime was not that unusual. The last time I had seen such a large owl was in Missouri, in August of 2011. Both that bird, which flew very low over the sidewalk by my garage, and this bird, had wing spans of over three feet. These birds create an impression of power and agility.

However many local people here tell me that a sighting of the Barn Owl in the day is common, I find it disturbing. As a child, we had an enormous Western Screech Owl living in our garage. He was there all day, sleeping. I have seen Barred Owls, which are the Hoot Owl, but only at night. The Eastern Screech Owl also was in the Midwest when I grew up.

Norfolk is home to many types of birds, including hawks or harriers of several varieties, some of which I saw today above the fields. I am told there are Short-Eared Owls here as well, but as I am not out at night, I have not seen one. The Barn Owl seems to be the only owl which is appears in the daytime. Comments on owls and other Norfolk or any birds are welcomed.

On Friendship

One subject I have not written about concerning love is friendship. Now, this is a lost art, as the virtual world has created online relationships which are very different from the friendships of old. Some online relationships are merely extensions of friendships made elsewhere, as in college, or the workplace.

What I am referring to here are face-to-face friendships, found and created by shared interests. Many people have friends, especially when married, who are either the husband's friends or the wives friends. My parents had friends in common. They went out together dancing, played bridge together, were in the choir and had choir picnics at the home, went to concerts together, and so on. Some of their friends, in fact, most, were not only Catholics, but from the same parish. Some of their friends were good neighbors, one couple they have known for 70 years.

In this day and age of mobility, friends usually are kept via the phone or Internet if one moves. But, I am discovering a problem when some of my older friends, who are treasures indeed, do not use social networking. They are only comfortable with the phone and face-to-face relationships.

I am all for this, but when one is traveling either for a job or pleasure, friendships with those outside the social networking must rely on trust and that special thing which means that no matter how far away or how long one has not seen or heard from a friend, meeting is like only being away for one day. One can pick up where one left off very quickly with good friends. Such friendships are based on mutual respect.

I have been blessed with friends, mostly Catholics, who are either academics, or moms, or homeschooling moms, or involved in the Church. However, some of my good friends are single women, who are highly intelligent and deeply spiritual. These women, traditional and orthodox, even though we cannot get to the Latin Mass, are guides and real sisters. We may not see each other often, but we can pick up where we left off. Sadly, sometimes, these relationships end in death, as I am entering into the age where people become ill and die.

I hope the art of friendship has not been lost. My dearest friends are, like me, idea people, who love to discuss religion, theology, philosophy, prayer, and who do not gossip or talk about clothes, getting their nails done, hair, weight loss or gain, vacations or other people's business (ugh).

I have friends of all ages as well. My younger friends keep me focused on the world in which they live, and keep me young at heart. These friends are real blessings.

May God bless you with good and holy friends who help you move towards God and eternal life.