Saturday, September 30, 2006

Suffering and the Three Fountains This Sunday's Credo column in the Times is written by Monsignor Roderick Strange, Rector of the Pontifical Beda College in Rome. It concerns a very difficult line in the Letter of James, "You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly ..." (James 4:2-3). Monsignor Strange then asks about a friend who has suffered chronic pain after a car accident, "Is she not getting what she wants because she isn’t praying properly?" He quickly warns us against glib answers. But what does the Letter of James mean? Here is his conclusion. I must confess that I think that he should have mentioned the Cross more directly and made it clear that one might really need to break out of isolation with a language of complaint, of crying out, and of implacable expectation, which, after all, is still directed to God and bears some hope that this God will redeem time itself. But perhaps this is unfair - you tell me. Here, then, is Roderick Strange on suffering and asking rightly:

So often, when afflicted by pain, crisis, or tragedy, we do what she has done, we turn in on ourselves. Our suffering absorbs us, which is entirely understandable. But if that attitude prevails it can lead to a kind of entombment. We become buried, sinking into a sort of grave. Somehow, although it may take a long time, that attitude must be overcome. Like my friend we have to shift our disposition and break free from self-imposed isolation. When we do so, we may begin to discover, not perhaps the answer we had expected, but one of another kind.

Close to where I live there is a dramatic symbol of that, the monastery at Tre Fontane, the three fountains, where it is believed that St Paul was put to death.

The place acquired its name because, according to legend, when Paul was martyred, his severed head bounced, striking the ground three times, and from each spot a spring of water sprang — and so the three fountains. Whatever we may think of the legend, the lesson is full of power: there are no wounds, however incurable they may seem, which cannot become fountains, sources, of new life.

To acknowledge that truth and cling to it is not like balm, soothing and eliminating suffering. If only it could. But it can draw the sting. We may still feel the pain, but it no longer enslaves us, we are no longer its victims. Little by little, as our disposition shifts, our wounds become fountains and we find, not perhaps the answer we had hoped for, but another one which can still refresh and renew us.

Bride and Groom: How Far Do They Go?
According to St Paul, this Scriptural image tells us a lot about the relationship between Christ and his Church. In Ephesians 5:21-33, the apostle begins with a teaching about a loving order within a Christian household, but in the end, has woven an understanding of the relationship of Christ and th echurch into his thought. It's a valuable image, this Bride/Church and Groom/Christ. Jesus himself used the image of the bridegroom a few times (cf. Matt 9:15, Matt 25:1ff.). We also find it in the concluding chapters of Revelation. My issue is that this image is too often used as a club to insist on a pattern of Church involvement. As a metaphor, it tells us something of both marriage and our relationship to Christ that words alone might not capture--or capture succinctly. I have to raise an objection when David, at his thoughtful blog, suggests that female Eucharistic Ministers are somehow a contradiction to God's intended expression of bride and groom:
" ... it seems to me that this clash of symbols further attenuates our already dilute understanding of what is happening at Mass. This same logic applies to those assisting at the altar and mediating God’s Word during the Liturgy of the Word. While I admit this to be a very controversial and easily misunderstood suggestion, it seems to me that extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, lectors and altar servers ought be a male, preferably those contemplating a vocation as a priest or deacon."
If that were true, women in agriculture or ranching would have no consonant place in the Christian world, as Jesus also tells us that he and his Church are also very like sower and seed, shepherd and flock. Saint Paul himself doesn't keep a strict adherence to the metaphor, as we see in his Corinthian (1 Cor 11:3) hierarchy of God, then Christ, then husband, then wife. As a musician, I have a deep respect for the use of metaphor. Often, rather than wave our arms in the air trying to catch that word, or bludgeon someone with thousands of words, a single image is enough to capture much more of the reality of something we cannot fully comprehend. Jesus as lamb, lion, hen, or pelican makes sense. But outside of the liturgical setting, most of us are free to eat lamb and chicken, and to watch and laugh at the antics of lions and pelicans at the zoo. Does that mean we've rejected the relationship with Christ and ourselves? Hardly. At liturgy, women take the roles of lector or Eucharistic minister not as a feminist usurpation of the role of men or the priest, but because they are skilled for it, and they have been called. The Church gathered for liturgy is more than a bride. It is a field of growing plants: mustard tree, wheat & weeds, or whatever--take your pick. A person blossoming in service in the name of God is not rejected for being an uppity and early plant. Saint Paul also tells us that such growth is an occasion for honor and joy (cf 1Cor 12:26b). It strikes me as unseemly that a metaphor should dictate liturgical practice. That said, I realize that some aspects of the Church are unseemly to many of us. We have strong feelings about women in the sanctuary, bishops living in mansions, priests misbehaving, and a lack of prayerfulness in churches. In some cases, we will have to discern these as personal issues, not theological ones. Maybe we need to reread some of the Scriptures and uncover new images that tell us of God and ourselves. The pelican is not strictly biblical, but is soundly traditional as a one-time innovation that Christians latched onto as explanatory of Christ's sacrifice. Maybe it's time for some new metaphors that can steer us to more of a regard for what our sisters and brothers do in service in the name of Christ. That space picture? The Pelican Nebula.
Lumen Gentium 50
Vatican II on saints: a bit of history beginning with martyrs, then working to the veneration of religious, then folks who were just plain good role models.

Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead,(Cfr. Plurimae inseriptione in Catacumbis romanis.) and "because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins",(2 Mach. 12, 46.) also offers suffrages for them. The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ's martyrs who had given the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood, are closely joined with us in Christ, and she has always venerated them with special devotion, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels.(Cfr. Gelasius I, Decretalis De libris recipiendis, 3: PL 59, 160, Denz. 165 (353).) The Church has piously implored the aid of their intercession. To these were soon added also those who had more closely imitated Christ's virginity and poverty,(Cfr. S. Methodius, Symposion, VII, 3: GCS (Bodwetseh), p. 74) and finally others whom the outstanding practice of the Christian virtues (Cfr. Benedictus XV, Decretum approbationis virtutum in Causa beatificationis et canonizationis Servi Dei Ioannis Nepomuecni Neumann: AAS 14 (1922 p. 23; plures Allocutiones Pii X de Sanetis: Inviti all'croismo Diseorsi... t. I-III, Romae 1941-1942, passim; Pius XII, Discorsi Radiomessagi, t. 10, 1949, pp 37-43.) and the divine charisms recommended to the pious devotion and imitation of the faithful.(Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl : Mediator Dei: AAS 39 (1947) p . 581.)

Naturally, the particular make-up of the Communion of Saints is irrelevant when considering how they assist us with their prayers. However, the pantheon of saints also serves the Church on Earth as a body from which to draw models in the Christian life. As such, our late beloved pope, John Paul II did laity, particularly women, no favors by the relatively few numbers of saints he canonized who were neither clergy nor religious. Vatican II speaks of the importance of example in the "state in life and condition proper to each of us."

When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the City that is to come (Cf. Heb. 13, 14; 11, 10.) and at the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world, in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, perfect holiness. (Cfr. Hebr. 13, 7: Eccli 44-50, Nebr. 11, 340. Cfr. etia Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediati Dei: AAS 39 (1947) pp. 582-583) In the lives of those who, sharing in our humanity, are however more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ,(cf. 2 Cor. 3, 18.) God vividly manifests His presence and His face to (people). He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of His Kingdom,(Cfr. Cone. Vaticanum Const. De fide catholica, cap. 3 Denz. 1794 (3013).) to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us (Cf. Heb. 12, 1.) and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel.

Why Catholics appeal to the intercession of saints:

Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity.(Cf Eph 4, 1-6.) For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its Fountain and Head issues every grace and the very life of the people of God.(Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943) p. 216.) It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers (and sisters) and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them (Quoad gratitudinem erga ipsos Sanctos, cfr. E. Diehl, Inscriptiones latinae christianae vereres, 1, Berolini, 1925, nn. 2008 2382 et passim.) and "suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Saviour."(Conc. Tridentinum, Sess. 25, De invocatione... Sanctorum: Denz. 984 (1821) .) For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ who is the "crown of all saints,"(Breviarium Romanum, Invitatorium infesto Sanctorum Omnium.) and through Him, in God Who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them.(Cfr. v. g., 2 Thess. 1, 10.)

The role of the saints in the liturgy:

Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect in its noblest manner especially in the sacred Liturgy, wherein the power of the Holy Spirit acts upon us through sacramental signs. Then, with combined rejoicing we celebrate together the praise of the divine majesty;(Conc. Vaticanum II, Const. De Sacra Liturgia, cap. 5, n. 104.) then all those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Cf. Apoc. 5, 9.) who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and gathered together into one Church, with one song of praise magnify the one and triune God. Celebrating the Eucharistic sacrifice therefore, we are most closely united to the Church in heaven in communion with and venerating the memory first of all of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, of Blessed Joseph and the blessed apostles and martyrs and of all the saints.(Canon Missae Romanae.)


Lumen Gentium 49
What the Church teaches on the role of and our relationship with the dead:

Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him (Cf. Mt. 25, 31.) and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,(Cf. 1 Cor. 15, 26-27.) some of His disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding "clearly God Himself triune and one, as He is";(Conc. Florentinum, Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 693 (1305).) but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having His Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in Him.(Cf. Eph. 4, 16.) Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the (believers) who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least weakened or interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church, is strengthened by communication of spiritual goods.(Praeter documenta antiquiora contra quamlibet formam evocationis spirituum inde ab Alexandro IV (27 sept. 1958), cfr Encycl. S.S.C.S. Officii, De magne tismi abusu, 4 aug. 1856: AAS (1865) pp. 177-178, Denz. 1653 1654 (2823-2825); responsioner S.S.C.S. Offici, 24 apr. 1917: 9 (1917) p. 268, Denz. 218 (3642).) For by reason of the fact that those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification.(Cf. 1 Cor. 12, 12-27.)(Videatur synthetiea espositi huius doctrinae paulinae in: Piu XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis AAS 35 (1943) p. 200 et passilr) For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord,(Cf. 2 Cor. 5, 8.) through Him and with Him and in Him they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us,(Cfr., i. a., S. Augustinus, Enarr. in Ps. 85, 24: PL 37, 1095 S. Hieronymus, Liber contra Vigl lantium, b: PL 23, 344. S. Thomas In 4m Sent., d. 45, q. 3, a. 2. Bonaventura, In 4m Sent., d. 45, a. 3, q. 2; etc.) showing forth the merits which they won on earth through the one Mediator between God and (humankind),(Cf. 1 Tim. 2, 5.) serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for His Body which is the Church.(Cf. Col. 1, 24.)(Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943) p. 245.) Thus by their ... interest our weakness is greatly strengthened.


Sensibly Catholic
If you are one of our scores of new visitors these past few days, welcome. The comment boxes here are polite and peaceable, though the undercurrent of feelings, thought, and prayer is fervent and devoted. One might think after nearly three years of blogging I've solved basic things like getting my e-mail link on the side bar. But no. You'll have to find a comment of mine in a box or hunt me down through my parish link on the left. I respond to any questions sent by e-mail. I presume your e-mail is a privileged communication until you give me permission to use it. Neil is my learned and thoughtful co-blogger. He posts less frequently than I do, but with considerable more elan. His posts are all worth reading and pondering. This blog is mostly theological, with a smattering of my personal life. It also has a small enough readership that you're not likely to get pounded for saying something different.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lumen Gentium 48
It looks to be a busy weekend, so let's get a head start on Lumen Gentium Chapter VII:


The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things.(Acts 3, 21.) At that time the human race as well as the entire world, which is intimately related to (humankind) and attains to its end through him, will be perfectly reestablished in Christ.(Cf Eph. 1, 10; Col. 1, 20; 2 3, 10-13.)

Ah! End things. The ultimate makeover for the Bride: "full perfection." The council reminds us of the saving mission of Christ, and its link with the establishment of the Church, and that the foundation for this makeover is already in progress:

Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself.(Cf. Jn. 12, 32.) Rising from the dead(cf. Rom. 6, 9.) He sent His life-giving Spirit upon His disciples and through Him has established His Body which is the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, He is continually active in the world that He might lead (people) to the Church and through it join them to Himself and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own Body and Blood. Therefore the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation.(Cf. Phil. 2, 12.)

There's nothing much unfamiliar to a New Testament fanatic in the sentences that follow. The references fairly exhaust the funeral Lectionary:

Already the final age of the world has come upon us (Cf 1 Cor. 10. 11.) and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect. However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells,(Cf. 2. Pet. 3, 13.) the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the (children) of God.(Cf. Rom. 8, 19-22.)

Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit "who is the pledge of our inheritance",(Eph. 1, 14.) truly we are called and we are (children) of God(Cf. 1 Jn. 3, 1.) but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory,(Cf. Col- 3. 4) in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see Him as He is.(Cf. 1 Jn. 3, 2) And therefore "while we are in the body, we are exiled from the Lord (2 Cor. 5, 6.) and having the first-fruits of the Spirit we groan within ourselves(Cf. Rom. 8, 23.) and we desire to be with Christ"'.(Cf. Phil. 1. 23.) By that same charity however, we are urged to live more for Him, who died for us and rose again.(Cf. 2 Cor 5, 15.) We strive therefore to please God in all things(Cf. 2 Cor. 5, 9.) and we put on the armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and resist in the evil day.(Cf.Eph.6, 11-13.) Since however we know not the day nor the hour, on Our Lord's advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life,(Cf. Heb 9, 27.) we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed(Cf. Mt. 25, 31-46.) and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire(Cf. Mt. 25, 41.) like the wicked and slothful servant,(Cf. Mt. 25, 26.) into the exterior darkness where "there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth".(Mt. 22, 13 and 25. 30.) For before we reign with Christ in glory, all of us will be made manifest "before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil"(2 Cor. 5, 10.) and at the end of the world "they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment".(Jn. 5, 29; Cf. Matt. 25, 46.) Reckoning therefore that "the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us",(Rom. 8, 18; cf. 2 Tim. 2, 11-12.) strong in faith we look for the "blessed hope and the glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ"(Tit. 2, 13.) "who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory(Phil. 3, 21.). and who will come "to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed"(2 Thess. 1, 10.).

End things always get fantasy/sf and evangelicals excited. Any such excitement in the commentariat today?

Lumen Gentium 47
Closing up the discussion on religious life:

Let each of the faithful called to the profession of the evangelical counsels, therefore, carefully see to it that (she or) he persevere and ever grow in that vocation God has given ... Let (her or) him do this for the increased holiness of the Church, for the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity, which in and through Christ is the fount and the source of all holiness.

Any last thoughts?

The Exchange of Gifts: Spiritual Ecumenism If you are coming to this blog for the first time or just the first time in a while, please read Todd's "Sixty Minute Plan" post below. A good number of Catholics, I suspect, regard ecumenism as an unexciting institutional matter, inevitably associated with such cheerless terms as "bureaucracy," "negotiation," perhaps even "compromise." But the late John Paul II, in a homily at an ecumenical celebrations of Vespers at the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2003, rightly placed stress on "spiritual ecumenism" alongside the necessity of the various bilateral and multilateral dialogues. Without spiritual ecumenism, he cautioned, any external structures of communion would be nothing more than "mechanisms without a soul." What is "spiritual ecumenism"? The Pope referenced his earlier apostolic letter Novo Millenio Ineunte and its discussion of a "spirituality of communion," which implied "the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a 'gift for me.'" We become more receptive to the Gospel through the insights of other Christians, and, in gratitude, recognize that they are "part of me," and that we cannot possibly remain indifferent to their "joys and sufferings." In his 2003 homily, the Holy Father suggested common prayer, listening to the Word of God in Sacred Scripture together, and the examples of recent communities of consecrated life and spiritual movements (perhaps Taizé would be one such example) to guide our path in this "spiritual ecumenism." Of course, none of this is easy: before we can exchange gifts, we will have to overcome the temptations to competition, distrust, and jealousy. To some extent, Catholics and Methodists have taken part in this "spiritual ecumenism." Earlier this year, the World Methodist Council endorsed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. At the signing ceremony, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, noted, "Over the past decades, Catholics have come to respect Methodist attentiveness to the pursuit of personal and social holiness, and commitment to mission centred on the proclamation of the Gospel. We have often joined in the singing of the hymns of Charles Wesley and have appreciated the evangelical zeal which calls forth a commitment to Christian discipleship affecting all aspects of human life." In an editorial beginning a recent issue of Ecclesiology, dedicated to Catholic-Methodist relations, Fr Paul McPartlan of the Catholic University of America further describes this "spiritual ecumenism" between Catholics and Methodists from the perspective of an actual participant in Methodist-Catholic dialogue. The editorial clearly shows, I think, that ecumenism is about much more than institutional concerns, and that ecumenism should affect all of our spiritual lives in some fashion (one can start by singing some Charles Wesley hymns). Here is Fr McPartlan: In his encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint (1995), Pope John Paul II reiterated the Catholic Church's irrevocable commitment to working for Christian unity and stressed that dialogue is "not simply an exchange of ideas." "In some way," he said, "it is always an 'exchange of gifts'" (n. 28). "Full unity will come about when all share in the fulness of the means of salvation entrusted by Christ to his Church" (n. 86). We might say, therefore, that what will concretely mark the stages by which two churches advance towards the goal of unity will be a progressive recognition of ecclesial gifts in one another, and a progressive exchange of gifts towards a growing mutual enjoyment of them in a common ecclesial life. The current round of international Roman Catholic-Methodist dialogue, in which I have been blessed to participate, has had a practical purpose precisely along the lines of the paragraphs above. The title of the forthcoming agreed statement is eloquent of its nature and purpose: The Grace Given You in Christ. In it, Methodists and Catholics acknowledge the gifts given by God in Christ through the Holy Spirit to one another, and give thanks for them (cf. 1 Cor 1:4), with the express purpose of promoting an exchange of gifts. The explicit desire is to acknowledge the considerable measure of agreement about the Holy Spirit, the Church, the apostolic tradition, revelation and faith, and teaching authority, achieved in the previous five rounds of the dialogue, respectively, to take that agreement a further stage forward, particularly regarding the Church, and to promote the practical expression of the degree of agreement reached. In a very different context, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote: "The true union that you ought to seek with creatures that attract you is to be found not by going directly to them but by converging with them on God, sought in an through them" (Writings in Time of War [London: Collins, 1968], p. 143). This profound reflection serves to highlight the importance of spiritual ecumenism as the basis for all dialogue between churches. Catholic and Methodists, and Christians more widely, are in dialogue because they are atracted to one another and want to be one in Christ. Their unity will come about the closer they draw to God with thanksgiving and praise. Moreover, truly drawing closer to God cannot fail to instill ever greater generosity, because God is the God of utter generosity, who so loved the world that he gave his only Son (John 3:16). It is therefore a mark of authenticity to want to share the fruits of dialogue more widely, for an ever wider exchange of gifts.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lumen Gentium 46
Thanks to a kind link from Rock at Whispers, we might be seeing a slight bump in traffic today. If you are new, please feel welcome. Comment on this or any thread. We've moved past Vatican II's look at the call to holiness of all believers, and are into the examination of religious life. Today's theme seems to center on setting a good example for others.

Religious should carefully keep before their minds the fact that the Church presents Christ to believers and non-believers alike in a striking manner daily through them. The Church thus portrays Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in His proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in His healing of the sick and maimed, in His work of converting sinners to a better life, in His solicitude for youth and His goodness to all (people), always obedient to the will of the Father who sent Him.(Cfr. Pius XII Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 19 iun. 1943: AAS 35 (1943) p. 214 s.)

Christ is presented through the public witness of religious women and men. The problem of relevance is addressed also, and a caution for folks not to take lightly the charisms of those who have professed poverty, chastity, and obedience in a religious order. Not everything is as it seems on the surface, and great freedom is to be found when a person willingly models her or his life along that of Christ's sacrifice:

All (people) should take note that the profession of the evangelical counsels, though entailing the renunciation of certain values which are to be undoubtedly esteemed, does not detract from a genuine development of the human persons, but rather by its very nature is most beneficial to that development. Indeed the counsels, voluntarily undertaken according to each one's personal vocation, contribute a great deal to the purification of heart and spiritual liberty. They continually stir up the fervor of charity. But especially they are able to more fully mold the Christian (individual) to that type of chaste and detached life, which Christ the Lord chose for Himself and which His Mother also embraced. This is clearly proven by the example of so many holy founders. Let no one think that religious have become strangers to (other people) or useless citizens of this earthly city by their consecration. For even though it sometimes happens that religious do not directly mingle with their contemporaries, yet in a more profound sense these same religious are united with them in the heart of Christ and spiritually cooperate with them. In this way the building up of the earthly city may have its foundation in the Lord and may tend toward Him, lest perhaps those who build this city shall have labored in vain. (Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 1. c., p. 30. Alloc. Sous la maternelle protecrion, 9 dec. l9S7: AAS 50 (19S8) p. 39 s.)

Contemplatives unseen by the world have a sound and significant role to play, not only in the life of the Church, but of the mainstream of the world's existence. What LG 46 does not mention specifically is the contemplative gift for hospitality. Any guest is welcomed at a monastery. Contemplatives are all too ready to introduce others to their way of living.

Therefore, this Sacred Synod encourages and praises the men and women, Brothers and Sisters, who in monasteries, or in schools and hospitals, or in the missions, adorn the Bride of Christ by their unswerving and humble faithfulness in their chosen consecration and render generous services of all kinds to (hu)mankind.

So it's not just about caramels, fruitcakes, honey, and computer services.


Sixty Minute Plan
I'd like to ask your assistance for a project I've been asked to undertake. The committee at my parish responsible for organizing First Friday Eucharistic Adoration thinks a plan for newbies might be helpful. I've drafted this "Sixty Minute Plan for Eucharistic Adoration," but I'm feeling rather dry and uninspired about the content. What should I add? What should I subtract? How specific or general should it be? The people asked me for something rather directive; would you agree something like this is needed? Be frank, please.
Sixty-Minute Plan for Eucharistic Adoration at St Thomas More Parish
People new to Eucharistic Adoration wonder what to do for a whole hour. Would a list of do’s and don’t’s help? DO - Pray set prayers, like the Rosary - Pray in your own words, like a conversation with God - Read the Bible - Open a missalette and look at the readings for the coming Sunday - Open a hymnal and sing a favorite song or two to yourself - Read a spiritual book: there’s a bookshelf in the Cry Room full of them - DON’T - Get discouraged; your intent and presence in the Church for an hour is itself a prayer pleasing to God - Worry; nobody is checking up on you. Dozing off is not a sin Are you looking for a sixty-minute plan to guide you through an hour of prayer with the Blessed Sacrament? Come to church prepared: a Bible, a rosary, maybe a second book to read. If you keep a journal, bring it along, too. Try this plan or something similar: 0:00-0:01 Walk into church, pick up a book or two from the Cry Room. If you tend to be a browser, give yourself a little time before the top of the hour. When you pass the statue of our patron, pray, “St Thomas More, pray for me.” 0:01-0:03 Settle into a pew, pull down a kneeler, kneel down, take a deep breath, and say the Our Father. Slowly. 0:03-0:05 You can open up the hymnal to #888 and pray the Hymn Tantum Ergo to yourself. Or #874 Precious Lord. Or #831 Take and Eat. Or another favorite. 0:05-0:08 Sit down and take another deep breath. Pray the Glory Be and just sit, watching the host in the monstrance. Or maybe close your eyes. If a distraction comes up, just gently set it aside and keep your focus. Try a prayer with breathing, like this: (Breathe in) Lord (breathe out) have (breathe in) mer- (breathe out) cy. Repeat for a bit. 0:08-0:20 Take out your Bible and try one of these passages: Deuteronomy 8 Psalm 104 Isaiah 40:21-31 Isaiah 43:1-13 Isaiah 55 Habakkuk 3 Matthew 5:1-16 Luke 11:1-13 John 4 John 6 Romans 8:14-39 As you read, go slowly and carefully. If anything strikes you, take a break and look up (or close your eyes). Wait for either an insight or a distraction. Then either write your insight in your journal or go back to the printed page and continue reading. 0:20-0:25 Take a stretch for your body. Walk around the church for a bit, stopping at a statue for a prayer or two. 0:25-0:50 Time for some structure and less concentrated focus. Say the rosary: a whole set of mysteries. If you don’t know how exactly to do that, use a card to instruct you. Without a group setting, you can take your time and say the prayers at your own pace. If you get lost, just backtrack and start where you think best. You can also read a chapter or two in a spiritual book, pray the Stations, or tackle a whole small book of the Bible like Ruth or Jonah. Or start Mark’s Gospel and see how far you can go. 0:50-0:55 Take a second stretch. Walk around the church again. Pull down a kneeler near the front and pray there for a minute or two before returning to your first seat. 0:55-0:59 Time to start back to the real world. Think about family and friends who could use a prayer, even if they haven’t asked you for it.

0:59-0:60 One last prayer: Thank you God for a good and holy hour

Violent Christians? In the current issue of Christianity Today (this article is not online), the Yale theologian Miroslav Volf and his colleagues at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture suggest that, if Christians are to exemplify a "counterculture for the common good," we will have to become aware of various "malfunctions" of the faith. One such "malfunction" occurs when Christianity becomes oppressive. But what exactly could have gone wrong in such a disturbing situation? Obviously, there are many possible answers, but Volf suggests three. His reasons all seem to be based on the lack of confidence that Christianity can survive in perilous times unless we substitute desperate and cruel measures for the apparently quixotic means that the faith actually commends. Here is Professor Volf and his colleagues: So why have Christians, who embrace a peaceful faith, often been so violent? There are three main reasons, and they roughly correspond to the three reasons for faith's idleness. First, a thin faith. Too many Christians embrace the ends mandated by their faith (for instance, maintaining the sanctity of unborn life or just social arrangements), but not the means by which faith demands that these ends by reached (persuasion rather than violence). The cure for religiously induced violence is not less faith but more faith - faith in all its full scope, faith enacted with integrity and courage by its holy men and women, faith pondered responsibly by its great theologians. Second, seemingly irrelevant faith. Can a faith born 2,000 years ago tell us anything useful about democratic governance, running a modern corporation, or defending a nation from terrorists? Sensing a tension, we use faith merely to bless what we think is right to do. It takes hard intellectual and spiritual work to learn to understand and live faith authentically under changed circumstances. This work cannot be placed only on the shoulders of theologians; it must be an endeavor in which faithful people from all walks of life are engaged, and study of a variety of disciplines must be involved. Finally, unwillingness to walk the narrow path. Often "impractical" slides into "overly demanding." Someone has violated us or our community; we feel the urge for revenge - and we set aside the explicit command to love our enemies, to be benevolent and beneficient toward them. Or we believe that our culture is going down a perilous road; we want to change its self-destructive course - and we forget that the ends that Christian faith holds high do not justify setting aside its strictures about the appropriate means. And so we're back at the question of character. In addition to applying an authentically understood faith to various spheres of life, we need properly formed persons who resist misusing faith in oppressive ways. For the Christian faith produces devastating results when it devolves into a mere personal or cultural resource for people whose lives ... may be guided by anything but that faith.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Small Parish Problem
You know: where the Roman disciplinary requirement of mandatory celibacy does a smackdown on the Catholic faithful and their celebration of the Eucharist. On the Communion Service thread below, the issue of ordaining viri probati, proven men, to the priesthood in situations in which an otherwise stable parish is denied the Sunday Eucharist because of the clergy shortage. Lots of "good" obstacles get thrown up on that one: clergy wives will raise a ruckus, celibacy will go down the toilet, morale will drop among celibate priests, the Vatican will deep-six your bishop's ambitions if he mentions it in public, Catholicism will turn into Congregationalism, cults of personality will surface, and every rural pastor will become a Milingo and ordain his own bishops. Well, maybe not that last one. Let me lay out my case and try to sweep aside the sexism, posturing, and outright fear this proposal seems to have conjured: - Reiterate that the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, trumps an optional disciplinary practice when the spiritual need is of sufficient gravity. In other words, we don't ordain Deacon Fred to the priesthood for an 800-family parish because he deserves a plum and we can put another priest in a chancery desk job. - If a parish has the resources, they deserve Sunday Mass and the other sacraments. We're not talking about a Catholic enclave of five in a ghost town where the tornado knocked down the mission church twenty years ago. We might be talking about 100-250 families with a sound building, a long track record, and no other parish nearer than 15 miles. - The local bishop should have the option, especially a bishop in mission lands, to fulfill his duty to the faithful to provide the sacraments. What that means is we trust a bishop, a vicar of Christ ordained to the fullness of Holy Orders to talk to people, pray, plumb the depths of a man, judge his character, ability, and spirit, pray to God, then make a judgment that one guy's going to do a good job. - The parish and bishop together might discern a parishioner of sufficient ability, maturity, and charism. Someone respected parish-wide and not part of a faction or clique. Someone the bishop would feel comfortable with in terms of their spiritual life, religious sensibility, and the like. Let's realize the bishop is actually going to have to do some work on this one, not just appoint someone because their file folder is free of suspicious behavior like VOTF meetings and kidporn.com links. - Sticking to a person of about age 60 to 65 might be good: a person with a proven marriage, no dependent children, and give him a pastorate of about five to ten years with the possibility of keeping options open as need dictates. - I don't get Liam's objection about a stubborn wife. As with the diaconate, wives are discerned with the husband. If the wife is a problem, the diaconate fades from the picture. It does get to be a problem once in a while, but overall, women are sensible human beings. A ruckus doesn't seem as likely as a lonely rural celibate priest pickling his liver in a nightly trip to the bottle. Or some similar misadventure. - Fr Fox's problem with a cult of personality is likewise a straw man. Charismatic pastors gain fawning followings in big parishes. When it's a problem, the bishop moves the guy. With a proven man in the small parish, the same possibility is there: early retirement if there's a problem. People who have gone without a resident priest might get uppity. But then again they might value the sacraments and understand the appointment of viri probati is something under discernment both in their local community and in the Church at large. To me, this situation reveals a fatal flaw in the thinking of the curia and in Rome. It might well be their biggest blunder of the post-conciliar era. Something almost on a par with losing a Catholic China a few centuries ago. Mission lands go wanting while Rome and big First World cities are relatively stuffed with guys in dress blacks. And priests are imported to the US from Poland and Nigeria instead of being sent to Siberia, Angola, or Belize. Jesus nailed it when he said, "Fear is useless. What is needed is trust." Wasn't he talking to the apostles? The timid are concerned about cults of personality arising from local guys making sacramental good. They promote a non-sacramental Christianity in their fixation on celibacy. No wonder evangelicalism is making inroads in the Third World. Do you want to settle for a priest arriving by Jeep once a month or less when a Bible College graduate lives in the village and pounds away on "saving" the Catholics? The hierarchy lost China in the 17th century. Let's hope they don't make the same mistake in the Third World in the 21st. And John Paul's urging to cast out into the deep? I think the Congregation for Bishops knows how to steer into the deep. But they're trying to evangelize hoping the fish will jump into their bare hands. For the hierarchy not loosening up and seriously considering viri probati, I see it as a sign of spiritual immaturity and a dereliction of their duty as shepherds.
Lumen Gentium 45
More on religious life ...

It is the duty of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to regulate the practice of the evangelical counsels by law, since it is the duty of the same hierarchy to care for the People of God and to lead them to most fruitful pastures.(Ezech. 34, 14.)

These "counsels" are the practices of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The importance of the profession of the evangelical counsels is seen in the fact that it fosters the perfection of love of God and love of neighbor in an outstanding manner and that this profession is strengthened by vows.(Cfr. Conc. Vat. I. Schema De Ecclesia Christi, cap. XV, et Adnot. 48: Mansi 51, 549 s. et 619 s. Leo XIII, Epist. Au milieu des consolations, 23 dec. 1900: AAS 33 (1900-01) p. 361. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Provida Mater, 1. c., p. 1145.) Furthermore, the hierarchy, following with docility the prompting of the Holy Spirit, accepts the rules presented by outstanding men and women and authentically approves these rules after further adjustments. It also aids by its vigilant and safeguarding authority those institutes variously established for the building up of Christ's Body in order that these same institutes may grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders.

Strange that the hierarchy is counseled in docility. But hold up: the pope can shepherd religious orders form the oversight of a local bishop to himself. At any rate, members of orders should show due respect to the hierarchy:

Any institute of perfection and its individual members may be removed from the jurisdiction of the local Ordinaries by the Supreme Pontiff and subjected to himself alone. This is done in virtue of his primacy over the entire Church in order to more fully provide for the necessities of the entire flock of the Lord and in consideration of the common good.(Cfr. Leo XIII, Const. Romanos Pontifices, 8 maii 1881: AAS 13 (1880-81) p. 483. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 8 dec. 1950: AAS 43(1951) p. 28 8.) In like manner, these institutes may be left or committed to the charge of the proper patriarchical authority. The members of these institutes, in fulfilling their obligation to the Church due to their particular form of life, ought to show reverence and obedience to bishops according to the sacred canons. The bishops are owed this respect because of their pastoral authority in their own churches and because of the need of unity and harmony in the apostolate.(Cfr. Pius XII, Alloc. Annus sacer, 1. c., p. 28. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Sedes Sapientiae, 31 maii 19S6: AAS 48 (1956) p. 355. Paulus VI, 1. c., pp. 570-571.).

Though not a "s"acrament, the liturgical expression of religious profession is a vital part of the picture. In other words, such a commitment is made publicly, presumably not just for the members of the particular community, but for the benefit of all.

The Church not only raises the religious profession to the dignity of a canonical state by her approval, but even manifests that this profession is a state consecrated to God by the liturgical setting of that profession. The Church itself, by the authority given to it by God, accepts the vows of the newly professed. It begs aid and grace from God for them by its public prayer. It commends them to God, imparts a spiritual blessing on them and accompanies their self-offering by the Eucharistic sacrifice.

Time's running out on commentary from religious on religious life. Any takers?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Sounding Off On Communion Services
Thanks for your posts on this topic from yesterday. On the armchair liturgist series, I try to toss out a question and hang back to see what people will say. Even though this is a fairly radical idea, I'd rather see bishops designate deacons and viri probati to preside at Mass in the absence of a priest than have communities celebrate Communion services. In other words, I'm pretty much against Communion services. I would prefer to see a deacon or lay person bring Communion to a parish from a Mass just celebrated miles away--maybe even the cathedral--rather than have Communion be distributed from the tabernacle. Communion services for the sick and elderly are part of the tradition because they are intimately and prayerfully connected to a rooted parish community. If the bishop is concerned enough about vocations, then perhaps the prayers for vocations should be embodied in a substantial way by having the Eucharist brought from the cathedral to the small rural or urban parish without a resident priest. Parishes staffed by priests share in the responsibility of prayer. I hear the urgings that Communion services or other liturgies without a priest as an opportunity for people to pray for vocations. Count me a doubter on this one, for pastoral and pragmatic reasons. Liturgy, be it Mass, a Communion service, or the Hours, is about the worship of God. I'm a big-time doubter when it comes to special intentions or themes running roughshod over the Church's liturgy. While I'm not advocating congregationalism, the truth is that if a particular rural or urban community too small to be considered for a full-time pastor develops a person for a priestly vocation, that community will not reap the fruit. After ordination, the guy will be assigned elsewhere. A thirty family parish might develop a dozen or more priests, but you can bet that the parish won't see any of those guys until the larger parishes are all filled up. And to top it off, their parish will likely be closed in the bargain. If a bishop were to ask them to pray for more priests, I imagine the colorful response would be to $%#* off. And I can't say I wouldn't be sympathetic. Viri probati should be on the table. If a bishop cannot develop vocations on a diocesan level, and cannot afford to assign a priest to a parish for Sunday Mass, the community should have the option of sending a proven man to the bishop to consider as a presider for the Eucharist. By all means, continue to pray for vocations to a lifelong priesthood. But let's not allow disciplines on one sacrament (orders) to dictate the existence of another (Eucharist). If viri probati were ordained with an understanding of a possible future priest being assigned, or limited to men with grown children or at a certain age (say, 60 or 65) I think we could see an issue of grave sacramental interest avoided. Thoughts?
I should have been more clear on what I wrote about the priest + people dialogues at Mass.
The Lord be with you
And also with you
This frequent one and the other more extended ones for the introductory rites and just before the Preface and Sanctus are what we're talking about. My scholarly colleagues regard the singing of these as among the part of the Mass with the highest importance for singing. While a good singing priest makes this easy, my doubts are not that they shouldn't be sung. I question their relative importance in the spectrum of musical worship. Hymns like the Gloria or Sanctus, litanies like the Kyrie or Agnus Dei, acclamations like the Mysterium Fidei or Alleluia, and the psalms all rate higher in my mind because their texts directly address God and serve as a direct act of worship. The dialogues do not. Because of that, I would not rank them as having similar importance with the aforementioned liturgical items. They serve as conversations in the presence of God, and as such, I don't see why they wouldn't be given a lower status among the various responses at liturgy. Sing them? Sure. Whenever the priest will do it.
Lumen Gentium 44

We continue our close examination of Vatican II's look at religious life in a lightly footnoted section.

The faithful of Christ bind themselves to the three aforesaid counsels either by vows, or by other sacred bonds, which are like vows in their purpose. By such a bond, a person is totally dedicated to God, loved beyond all things. In this way, that person is ordained to the honor and service of God under a new and special title. Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God.

What makes religious life distinct from the baptismal call? Read on:

However, in order that (one) may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, (a person) intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free (the) self from those obstacles, which might draw him (or her) away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship. By (a) profession of the evangelical counsels, then, (she or) he is more intimately consecrated to divine service.(Paulus VI, 1. c., p. S67.) This consecration will be the more perfect, in as much as the indissoluble bond of the union of Christ and His bride, the Church, is represented by firm and more stable bonds.

No problem, right? A permanent commitment gives the freedom of stability, and a certain freedom from second-guessing.

The evangelical counsels which lead to charity (Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. II-II, q. 184, a. 3 et q. 188, a. 2. S. Bonaventura, Opusc. X, Apologia Pauperum, c. 3, 3: cd. Opera, Quaracchi, t. 8, 1898, p. 245 a.) join their followers to the Church and its mystery in a special way. Since this is so, the spiritual life of these people should then be devoted to the welfare of the whole Church. From this arises their duty of working to implant and strengthen the Kingdom of Christ in souls and to extend that Kingdom to every clime. This duty is to be undertaken to the extent of their capacities and in keeping with the proper type of their own vocation. This can be realized through prayer or active works of the apostolate. It is for this reason that the Church preserves and fosters the special character of her various religious institutes.

So religious life, no matter what the particular charism, is always looking outside of the self, beyond the community, to serve the Church's mission in a substantive way. Within the particular charisms of the community, of course.

We lay people and clergy should be heartened by this witness:

The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation. The people of God have no lasting city here below, but look forward to one that is to come. Since this is so, the religious state, whose purpose is to free its members from earthly cares, more fully manifests to all believers the presence of heavenly goods already possessed here below. Furthermore, it not only witnesses to the fact of a new and eternal life acquired by the redemption of Christ, but it foretells the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Christ proposed to His disciples this form of life, which He, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world to do the will of the Father. This same state of life is accurately exemplified and perpetually made present in the Church. The religious state clearly manifests that the Kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally it clearly shows all (people) both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the King and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church.

And an additional reminder that religious life operates not as part of the hierarchy, but as a culture of inspiration and fortification for the benefit of the entire Church.

Thus, the state which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, though it is not the hierarchical structure of the Church, nevertheless, undeniably belongs to its life and holiness.

Comments? From any religious out there?

The Ticking Time Bomb Scenario As I've mentioned, I usually don't post on politics. I wouldn't be very good at it. A few days ago, however, I suggested that you read Bishop Thomas Wenski's September 19 letter on military commissions and the proposed amendments to the War Crimes Act, and then I drew your attention to a short article by Amy Uelmen in the Focolare magazine Living City that argued against the not uncommon position that a "ticking time bomb" scenario would justify the ready availability of torture. The Progressive (a magazine that, I must admit, I only glace at every now and then) has another article against the use of a hypothetical "ticking time bomb" scenario to legitimize the selective use of torture. It is written by the University of Wisconsin historian Alfred W. McCoy. (Incidentally, I must confess that I didn't think that anyone could actually resist torture, despite his claim.) Here are a couple excerpts; as always, please feel free to comment. Advocates of the ticking bomb often cite the brutal torture of Abdul Hakim Murad in Manila in 1995, which they say stopped a plot to blow up a dozen trans-Pacific aircraft and kill 4,000 innocent passengers. Except, of course, for the simple fact that Murad’s torture did nothing of the sort. As The Washington Post has reported, Manila police got all their important information from Murad in the first few minutes when they seized his laptop with the entire bomb plot. All the supposed details gained from the sixty-seven days of incessant beatings, spiced by techniques like cigarettes to the genitals, were, as one Filipino officer testified in a New York court, fabrications fed to Murad by Philippine police.

Even if the terrorist begins to talk under torture, interrogators have a hard time figuring out whether he is telling the truth or not. Testing has found that professional interrogators perform within the 45 to 60 percent range in separating truth from lies—little better than flipping a coin. Thus, as intelligence data moves through three basic stages—acquisition, analysis, and action—the chances that good intelligence will be ignored are high.

After fifty years of fighting enemies, communist and terrorist, with torture, we now have sufficient evidence to conclude that torture of the few yields little useful information. As the ancient Roman jurist Ulpian noted 1,800 years ago, when tortured the strong will resist and the weak will say anything to end the pain.

History is replete with examples of the strong who resisted even the most savage tortures. After the July 20, 1944, bomb plot against Hitler, the Gestapo subjected Fabian von Schlabrendorff to four weeks of torture by metal spikes and beatings so severe he suffered a heart attack. But with a stoicism typical of these conspirators, he broke his silence only to give the Gestapo a few scraps of vague information when he feared involuntarily blurting out serious intelligence.

Then there are the weak. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a senior Al Qaeda leader, under torture told his captors that Iraq trained Al Qaeda in chemical and biological weapons. This raises the possibility that he, like Murad, had been tortured into giving fabricated intelligence. Colin Powell relied on this false information in his now-disavowed speech to the United Nations before the Iraq War.

As Yale legal historian John Langbein puts it, “History’s most important lesson is that it has not been possible to make coercion compatible with truth.”

Proponents of torture present a false choice between tortured intelligence and no intelligence at all. There is, in fact, a well-established American alternative to torture that we might call empathetic interrogation. U.S. Marines first used this technique during World War II to extract accurate intelligence from fanatical Japanese captives on Saipan and Tinian within forty-eight hours of landing, and the FBI has practiced it with great success in the decades since. After the East Africa bombings of U.S. embassies, the bureau employed this method to gain some of our best intelligence on Al Qaeda and win U.S. court convictions of all of the accused.

One of the bureau agents who worked on that case, Dan Coleman, has since been appalled by the CIA’s coercive methods after 9/11. “Have any of these guys ever tried to talk to anyone who’s been deprived of his clothes?” Coleman asked. “He’s going to be ashamed and humiliated and cold. He’ll tell you anything you want to hear to get his clothes back. There’s no value in it.” By contrast, FBI reliance on due process and empathy proved effective in terror cases by building rapport with detainees.

Bush’s example of Zubaydah actually supports Coleman’s point. FBI agents say they were getting more out of him before the CIA came in with gloves off.

“Brutalization doesn’t work,” Coleman concluded from his years in FBI counterterrorism. “We know that. Besides, you lose your soul.” ...

Ironically, though, torture of the many can produce results, albeit at a surprisingly high political price.

The CIA tortured tens of thousands in Vietnam and the French tortured hundreds of thousands in Algeria. During the Battle of Algiers in 1957, French soldiers arrested 30 percent to 40 percent of all males in the city’s Casbah and subjected most of these to what one French officer called “beatings, electric shocks, and, in particular, water torture, which was always the most dangerous technique for the prisoner.” Though many resisted to the point of death, mass torture gained sufficient intelligence to break the rebel underground. The CIA’s Phoenix program no doubt damaged the Viet Cong’s communist infrastructure by torture-interrogation of countless South Vietnamese civilians.

So the choices are clear. Major success from limited, surgical torture is a fable, a fiction. But mass torture of thousands of suspects, some guilty, most innocent, can produce some useful intelligence.

Useful intelligence perhaps, but at what cost? The price of torture is unacceptably high because it disgraces and then undermines the country that countenances it. For the French in Algeria, for the Americans in Vietnam, and now for the Americans in Iraq, the costs have been astronomical and have outweighed any gains gathered by torture.

Official sources are nearly unanimous that the yield from the massive Phoenix program, with more than forty prisons across South Vietnam systematically torturing thousands of suspected communists, was surprisingly low. One Pentagon contract study found that, in 1970-71, only 3 percent of the Viet Cong “killed, captured, or rallied were full or probationary Party members above the district level.” Not surprisingly, such a brutal pacification effort failed either to crush the Viet Cong or win the support of Vietnamese villagers, contributing to the ultimate U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War.

Similarly, the French army won the Battle of Algiers but soon lost the war for Algeria, in part because their systematic torture delegitimated the larger war effort in the eyes of most Algerians and many French. “You might say that the Battle of Algiers was won through the use of torture,” observed British journalist Sir Alistair Horne, “but that the war, the Algerian war, was lost.”

Even the comparatively limited torture at Abu Ghraib has done incalculable damage to America’s international prestige.

In short, the intelligence gains are soon overwhelmed by political costs as friends and enemies recoil in revulsion at such calculated savagery.

Indeed, the U.S. Army’s current field manual, FM: Intelligence Interrogation 34-52, contains an implicit warning about these high political costs: “Revelation of use of torture by U.S. personnel,” it warns, “will bring discredit upon the U.S. and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort.”

These dismal conclusions lead to a last, uncomfortable question: If torture produces limited gains at such high political cost, why does any rational American leader condone interrogation practices “tantamount to torture”?

One answer to this question seems to lie with a prescient CIA Cold War observation about Soviet leaders in times of stress. “When feelings of insecurity develop within those holding power,” reads an agency analysis of Kremlin leadership applicable to the post-9/11 White House, “they become increasingly suspicious and put great pressures upon the secret police to obtain arrests and confessions. At such times, police officials are inclined to condone anything which produces a speedy ‘confession,’ and brutality may become widespread.” In sum, the powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis, not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment.

As we slide down the slippery slope to torture in general, we should also realize that there is a chasm at the bottom called extrajudicial execution. With the agency’s multinational gulag full of dozens, even hundreds, of detainees of dwindling utility, CIA agents, active and retired, have been vocal in their complaints about the costs and inconvenience of limitless, even lifetime, incarceration for these tortured terrorists. The ideal solution to this conundrum from an agency perspective is pump and dump, as in Vietnam—pump the terrorists for information, and then dump the bodies. After all, the systematic French torture of thousands from the Casbah of Algiers in 1957 also entailed more than 3,000 “summary executions” as “an inseparable part” of this campaign, largely, as one French general put it, to ensure that “the machine of justice” not be “clogged with cases.” For similar reasons, the CIA’s Phoenix program produced, by the agency’s own count, over 20,000 extrajudicial killings.

The use of torture to stop ticking bombs leads ultimately to a cruel choice—either legalize this brutality, à la [Harvard law professor Alan] Dershowitz and [President] Bush, or accept that the logical corollary to state-sanctioned torture is state-sponsored murder, à la Vietnam.

Monday, September 25, 2006

On the Bookshelf
I'd recommend this excellent book if your interests lie in history, mythology, travelling, or in cold places. Joanna Kavenna's The Ice Museum takes a look at the mythical land of Thule and explores that theme to the farthest populated regions of the northern hemisphere. Reviewed favorably here and mixed here. Lots of interesting characters and very interesting places. That second review found Kavenna's prose to be clunky and overdone, but I appreciated her descriptions of places and people. A straight-up travelogue, this is not. Kavenna also touches on themes of environment, politics, prejudice, ethnicity, as well as some very human struggles--her own as well as her acquaintances. Robert Reed is a sf author I've enjoyed, if mainly for his fiction on the Great Ship, a massive, planet-sized craft that houses humans and aliens booking passage to various parts of the galaxy. sf Site reviews his books here. Over on the right is a collection of short stories of his, including two tales from the Great Ship. The thing I like about the Great Ship is that Reed doesn't resort to the tried-and-true fallback of faster-than-light (FTL) travel. Human beings are just about immortal in this future, living for hundreds of thousands of years. Reed is prolific, full of ideas, and not always easy to swallow. But I want to read more about the Great Ship. Just in case you thought everything on my bookshelf was theology and such.
Participatio Examples
Richard asked for some specifics on our participatio topic, so let me give these a shot before bedtime. * Is a dialogue response in the readings necessary to ensure PA in this part of the liturgy? Not so much: *can* it elicit PA (I think it can) but is its inclusion a strong guarantee of it? How much should we presume on that? I've gone from promoting it to being a strong doubter. The Word of God needs people, including priests, who are very well trained in the vocal arts. I'd have to say I'm even a doubter when it comes to the Passion gospels. This is an instance in which active listening of the Word is vital. I could see a musical acclamation interspersed into long gospel readings, but it would have to be well done to be a consideration. * Is maximizing the number of EMHC's necessary to increase PA during the liturgy of the Eucharist? No. But it is a nod to the pragmatic sensibility of most pastors. In my parish, the advantage would be that asking people to sing three or more Communion songs might hinder PA. * Are other, more performance oriented liturgical practices, such as dances, necessary to (or even detrimental to) PA at the designated part of the liturgy? (I am not trying to pull out a strawman, since I don't ever recall you being a strong advocate for liturgical dancing - I'm just asking.) I see dance as an artistic parallel to music. If the people are invited to dance and are willing to do so, it makes sense to engage the physical aspect of a person. Outside of Africa and a few other locations, I don't see that as a plausible possibility. * How often are hymns and dialogue responses needed throughout both parts of the liturgy to achieve a desirable level of PA? As a liturgist I place hymns on a lower priority, under acclamations, lianties, and psalmody. I know that the dialogue responses with the presider are considered a very high priority, but I reserve doubts about them. That said, most American Catholics have a high comfort with hymnody. Taking it away without explanation or preparation would be harmful in some places, I think. * Is there ever a point where elimination of Latin (or if you like, Greek in the Kyrie) in favor of vernacular, and rendering of translations into as colloquial a language as possible (vis a vis Bishop Trautman's position) to render the liturgy as simple and understandable to the laity as possible ever be counterproductive to PA, for example by possible diminution of the sense of the mystery or sacrifical character of the mass? First, I'm not sure Bishop Trautman or any progressive liturgist today is in favor of maximal colloquiality. The progressive bent since the 80's has been to a more poetic and beautiful rendering of English. Faithfulness to the Latin original, not necessarily excellent English, would be where the current retrenchment is taking us. Nobody I know approves of the current translation, but turning the argument into one of Vox Clara versus 1975 ICEL is the biggest load of straw off the farm. Bodily attitude and parish priority says a lot more about the sense of mystery or the sacrificial character of the Mass than language. I have no doubt the 1962 Rite works as well as it does because the people involved give a darn about liturgy. * Are there choices made in terms of music genre, outward rubrics, or wording of dialogue prayers which might be actually detrimental to PA by male congregants - a question I ask in regards to the empirical evidence suggesting a growing disparity in many areas by male attendance at mass? Call me a doubter on a so-called "growing" disparity of male Mass atendance. Women have always out-attended men. A sociological study out of U Washington showed this is true across the board in all major religions and many minor ones. Males don't read as much as females and are less concerned about education. The solution: fathers reading to children and taking an active interest in academics, especailly with their boys. I suspect if more dads took their families to church and boys saw their fathers praying, it would do more than cosmetic changes like, "Hell yeah, and also with you." I think the focus on externals, while important, does not quite get at the heart of PA. It's more than people seeing their peers involved as leadership. It's about cultivating a sense of prayer. Coming to Mass and getting involved as a pew person should be so easy that a person sings, responds, listens, and gets inspired without nearly a conscious effort in doing so. The model to which I aspire for my parish I find when I visit monasteries. Religious do PA extremely well.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

The Alliance for Moderate, Liberal and Progressive Blogs

Join | List | Previous | Next