Friday, March 30, 2018

On confusion over last things

A ne'er-do-well Communist of whom Pope Francis is fond has leaked parts of what had been a private conversation between them, and what's out there contradicts Catholic doctrine, in that it has Pope Francis, who mentions the devil more frequently than many other religious leaders, suggesting that Hell does not exist.

Father Z has some thoughts about that. The pithiest of those is his wry but also reassuring and exasperated declaration: "The Pope and the Church do not and cannot change the Church's doctrine through unrecorded chats with Communist newspapermen."

Amen to that.

It's too bad that the relationship between this pope and that journalist isn't a lot more like the relationship between Don Camillo and Peppone, because (if my memory of the Don Camillo books is correct) Don Camillo was not the kind of priest to ignore error and apostasy for the sake of friendship.

David Warren, a lay Catholic journalist fresh from a thoughtful Good Friday column, also weighed in on this subject, first writing about the pope's unfortunate penchant for walking jovially into doctrinal controversies, and then explaining what a denial of the existence of hell would actually mean for Christian faith.

Both Warren and Zuhlsdorf are worth reading. John C. Wright is not as theological as those two, but his cogent thinking also illumines the gulf between Christian and Communist worldviews.

There are reliable priests, scripture study programs, and catechisms out there, even apart from the millions of earnest Christians who lean on each other while on this earthly pilgrimage toward heaven.

Me, I'm grateful for my "prayer peeps" (not all of whom are Catholic), inspired by the fierce integrity of my sweetheart, and glad that I saw Andrew Hyatt's new film, Paul: Apostle of Christ the other day. The poor lighting in parts of that film is offset by gems in its script, such as the moving recitation of the Lord's Prayer by several dozen Christians who are about to die in one of the Emperor Nero's infamous circuses.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thunder from the archbishop

"The moral conflicts that permeate our public policy debates are endless and irresolvable because our culture no longer has a rational, mutually accepted way of getting to moral agreement. The answer of the liberal state (including our own) to these stubborn disputes is to remove morality to the private sphere. But that course of government is itself a value judgment, a morally loaded act disguised as neutrality. All law and all public policy embody somebody's idea of what we ought to do, including the notion that we 'ought' to keep personal moral beliefs out of public debates.

"The underlying assumption of our public discourse today is that facts and values are radically distinct. 'The plane crashed' is a statement of fact, and therefore 'real.' Crash evidence is tangible. Nobody can argue with debris. On the other hand, 'Don't kill the disabled' is a statement of value. It's an expression of opinion and sentiment-- so the logic goes-- and therefore not 'real' or 'true' in the same solid sense. For example, the importance of protecting disabled persons is an admirable and widely shared view; surely that's obvious. But some people might disagree. Some people might argue quite sincerely that disabled persons are a waste of precious resources, and we'd be better off without them. Some people did argue that way in Germany in the last century, with great effect.

"Of course, for most of us, murdering the disabled, starving the poor, or deliberately targeting innocent civilians in war is an appalling idea, a crime against humanity. But apparently sucking the brains out of unborn children, or trading in their body parts, is not so appalling. It may even be 'good,' because we already do it. We not only do it, but we also build a fortress of pious-sounding chatter about reproductive rights to surround and bless it.

"This is the kind of obscenity that comes from reducing a nation's politics to a clash of allegedly equal values. What it masks is a transfer of power from proven traditions of moral wisdom to whoever can best lobby the media, the courts, Congress, and the White House."

-- from Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, by Charles J. Chaput (Archbishop of Philadelphia)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Comedy gold

I was talking with my friend Carlo after church early last night. This is our conversation as I remember it:

"Hey Patrick! Do you know why people wear green on Saint Patrick's Day?"

"I think so, but I'm not really sure."

"Because it's one of the colors in the Italian flag! Saint Patrick was Italian!"

"You say that all the saints are Italian."

"Most of them are. But Saint Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland."

"I know about the kidnapping, but he wasn't kidnapped from Italy! It was Wales."

"Would I lie to you? You can look it up! Happy feast day!"

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Conversing with Jesus?

Some thoughts on a recent controversy, with musical help from a couple of legends, meaning Mr. Ray Charles and Mr. Elvis Presley.