Saturday, March 24, 2012

Morality, Objective Truth and the Obedience of Faith

In his OpEd, "Birth Control, Bishops and Religious Authority" published March 15th in the Opinionator Blog on, Gary Gutting takes us on a rolicking ride of ridiculousness. For a philosopher, I suppose I would have expected more, but I'll let you judge the veracity of his argument for yourself. One of the first unfortunate comments (sadly, there were many) I read was from a Connie Boyd of Denver, Colorado. She wrote,
"Blind obedience isn't morality. By definition, there is no morality without free will and choice."
I do not consider my adherence to the teachings of the Church to be "blind obedience" at all. Christ founded His Church for a reason: to teach the faith and thereby lead mankind to the Beatific Vision. No where does that imply we should be undiscerning. Serious Catholics should be doing all they can to continue deepening their knowledge of the faith and have properly formed consciences, informed and fed by authentic Catholic teaching. Having done that, we should, according to Lumen Gentium, submit to the teachings of the Church.

Conversely, an erroneous conscience can lead us to do things like say...try and justify abortion as a moral good or, it might even be argued, write articles such as Mr. Gutting's or make comments like Ms. Boyd's. I only would wish Ms. Boyd understood that there is no morality without objective truth as well.

Knowing Mr. Gutting is a Catholic and assuming, for the sake of argument, that Ms. Boyd is as well, I would ask them one question. As Christians, what is the better barometer in our faith life, free will or what St. Paul calls the "obedience of faith"?

Just sayin'...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What More Could Be Expected of The Post?

To this point I have resisted commenting on this situation, but I can do it no longer. In their March 17th story Denying Communion: A priest and a lesbian set off a Catholic culture clash,   Michael S. Rosenwald and Michelle Boorstein seem to go to great lengths to paint Father Marcel Guarnizo as some sort of right-wing extremist and to paint Ms. Johnson as a victim.

Here are some of my observations:
1. Ms. Johnson, as the story duly noted, was raised Catholic and should be expected to know the Church's 2000-plus year-old teaching on homosexuality. The Church's teaching doesn't change because you disagree with it.

2. Ms. Johnson, however it was done (giving some leeway here due to the difference in Father Guarnizo's and Ms. Johnson's recollection of events), made Father aware of the fact that she was an actively practicing Lesbian in the moments immediately before her mother's funeral Mass.

3. Ms. Johnson then presented herself for Communion to Father Guarnizo. She could have easily and without any fear of rejection, presented herself to one of the Extraordinary Ministers.

4. The point is, Ms. Johnson, if she were truly a Catholic, should not have presented herself for Communion in the first place.

5. Does the number of "Catholics" who disagree with or ignore Church teaching in any way change Church teaching? See Pope Benedict's quote at the top of my blog please.

6. It seems to me that Ms. Johnson could have avoided all of these issues if she had not confronted Father Guarnizo before the Mass. Therefore, it can easily be concluded that she intended a confrontation in the first place.

7. Does Father Guarnizo's past matter any more than Ms. Johnson's? So it seems to the Post...

8. Are Rosenwald and Boorstein seriously expecting us to take the "testimony" of LeRoy Carhart, a "physician" who makes money doing late-term abortions, about Father Guarnizo seriously?

9. This is not a conservative/liberal discussion. This is a orthodox/heterodox discussion; and from that standpoint the ground Ms. Johnson is standing on seems, at best, very shaky.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 4

And finally, Part 4 of my commentary on a post from a friend's blog.


Couching religion as only "A PERSONAL set of beliefs", is a fallacy. Did the Founders of our country take this tact? Thankfully no. A little over a year ago, I published a post entitled, Our Civic Responsibility as Christians. In it, I quoted Fr. Frank Pavone from a Washington Post article, where he said,
"Religion isn't just private. Beliefs have consequences on public policy, morality, and the safety and rights of citizens."
As I said then, it's a particularly American attitude, being the ultimate individualists that we are, to feel the need to keep our faith in our pocket and not let it out, because it's PRIVATE and PERSONAL, don't ya know. But ultimately, as I said then, it's our responsibility as Americans, to take a stand for what we believe in, and to act on that belief, otherwise we are just hypocrites, right? If, I as a Christian, belief that all human life is sacred, is it not my responsibility to act on that belief in the public square? Is that then, ME forcing my religion on YOU? I can't see how. Isn't that the point of a democracy? Divergent voices coming together to discuss, debate and ultimately vote on the issues? But discussion and debate aren't politically correct any longer, are they?

It is unrealistic, and I would have to say un-American, to expect that citizens of faith just sit on their hands, go to Church on Sunday (or Friday or Saturday, etc) and just shut up when it comes to socially and
constitutionally relevant issues that directly affect us. Let's look, for example, at the current situation with the Department of Health and Human Services mandate. This current tension over religious freedom comes down to a simple fact. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion. It really is that simple...the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion; and that includes the right of religious institutions to define and carry out their ministries. Unlike how it is being portrayed, this issue is not about contraception. It's not even about abortion. And is certainly isn't about "healthcare". It's about the guarantees of the First Amendment. The Obama Administration's HHS mandate that compels virtually all employers to provide sterilization and contraceptives without a co-pay does have religious exemption to it, but it so NARROW that Jesus Christ himself wouldn't qualify for it. The Administration is in effect attempting to redefine what a religious ministry is. A specific ministry would qualify for an exemption only if:
  1. the people providing the service are (insert your religion/denomination here);  
  2. the ones being served are (insert your religion/denomination here) in their entirety; and  
  3. the service itself comes packaged with (insert your religion/denomination here) religious instruction.
What about the innumerable religiously-based hospital ministries, soup kitchens, private non-profits, etc, etc, etc? It seems to me, as I stated above, that it's the church (whatever religion/denomination) that defines its ministries, not Caesar. Christians, for example, are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the imprisoned. That is why these ministries exist. There is no "ID Check" before service, that's simply antithetical to the principle of serving your fellow man (and by "man", I of course, mean "mankind" ;-) ). So by DEFINITION this mandate PROHIBITS the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Yet the Administration and a majority of the media continue to attempt to frame this as a "women's healthcare" issue...and some people are buying that. Scary. And contrary to modern pop-culture belief, the First Amendment was designed to keep government out of the religion business, not the other way around.

So when someone tries to tell me not to FORCE my religion on them, I'll say, I'm not. I'm acting with a fully-formed conscience on the social and political issues in this country that affect me.

In speaking on religious liberty George Washington said,

"For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” - from an August 17, 1790 letter to Moses Seixas and the Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island.
How sad is it that we have reached a point in this country where the Government itself is giving said assistance to a persecution of its own making?

In the end, how should we all respond to hate and persecution? My faith tells me, "with love". God Bless You.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 3

Part 3 of my commentary on a post from a friend's blog.


Getting straight to the point, I do not have an axe to grind against homosexuals, except to defend against the specious argument for "gay marriage"; for it is an oxymoron and I cannot support it. Marriage is and has always been an institution between a man and a woman. Political correctness requires, nee demands, the re-definition of such words, but that doesn't change what marriage truly is. Now, having said that, some will immediately want to label me as "intolerant", "hateful" or a "bigot". Anyone who knows me, knows that isn't anywhere close to being true. In Part 2's discussion on sexism I illustrated some of the societal problems created in part as a by-product of the feminist movement. The calling into question of the family, centered around a mother and a father, and the making of homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of sexuality. To be clear, I am not laying that responsibility solely at feminism's door, but it was, without question, a significant contributor.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines homophobia as:

irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
This doesn't describe my position at all. I do not discriminate against homosexuals. Nor do I have an irrational fear of them. I do, however, contend that homosexual acts are objectively morally wrong; and that contention is neither irrational or discriminatory. I base that argument on the Natural Law (see below) as well as the moral guidance of my faith. My disagreement is not the same as a fear. I can reasonably disagree with something without fearing it, and the attempt, as is unfortunately so often the case these days, to end any rational discussion with the cry of "homophobe!" really falls flat to me; as it is nothing more than an ad hominem attack.

Listen, I understand this is a very emotionally charged issue. I've had the opportunity to discuss the issue in-depth with a former co-worker who is gay and have experienced the emotion first hand. But there is such a thing as objective truth. If you don’t believe in objective truth, then I can see how my contention above would be a problem for you. Relativism by its very nature is flawed. To quickly summarize the basic problems with relativistic truth: 

  1. It is self-defeating.
    The relativist believes that subjective truth is true for everyone, not just from them. This is the one thing they cannot believe, if they are relativist. Therefore, if a relativist thinks it is true for everyone, then he believes it is an absolute truth. Therefore, he is no longer a relativist. 
  2. It is full of contradictions.
    If I believe God exists and you believe God does not exist both would be right. God would have to exist and not exist.
  3. It means no one has ever been wrong.
    No one could ever be wrong since there is no standard for right and wrong. As long as something is true to the holder of that truth; it is true even if it is held to be wrong based on someone else's truth. 
We all intuitively know truth is objective. Admitting it is another issue. Even the Hindu, who denies that truth and reality objectively exist, will look both ways before he crosses the street. Everyone, whether or not they admit it, believes that truth and reality objectively exist. Consequently they also believe that there are actions/behaviors that are objectively right and wrong as well. Isn't this what we teach our children? How can there be a sliding scale of truth? On what is society basing the attempted redefinition of truth?

A Basic Argument against homosexual acts from the Natural Law:
People have a basic, ethical intuition that certain behaviors are wrong because they are unnatural. We perceive intuitively that the natural sex partner of a human is another human, not an animal. The same reasoning applies to the case of homosexual behavior. The natural sex partner for a man is a woman, and the natural sex partner for a woman is a man. Thus, people have the corresponding intuition concerning homosexuality that they do about bestiality—that it is wrong because it is unnatural. Natural law reasoning is the basis for almost all standard moral intuitions. For example, it is the dignity and value that each human being naturally possesses that makes the needless destruction of human life or the infliction of physical and emotional pain immoral. This gives rise to a host of specific moral principles, such as the unacceptability of murder, kidnapping, mutilation, physical and emotional abuse, and so forth. Homosexual acts are contrary to the Natural Law and, by definition, close the sexual act to the gift of life (I am in no way saying "you have sex only to procreate"). They also do not represent a genuine affective and sexual complementarity (see Part 2). In the Christian perspective homosexual acts are not treated any differently than say abortion, the exploitation of children, adultery and rape. All of these are opposed by the call to a high sexual ethic.

There is no hate in what I write, only an attempt to be morally consistent. With no intent to sound trite, this truly is the proverbial case of, "hate the sin, love the sinner". People want to try and equate "gay rights" as part and parcel to the civil rights movement, yet these same people (more than likely), see no problem with the killing of an unborn child. It seems to me that the pro-life movement is infinitely more commensurate to the civil rights movement than the "gay rights" movement, not to mention infinitely more logically consistent.
** Paragraph on Natural Law reproduced in large part from the Catholic Answers tract, Homosexuality. Many other resources on the Natural Law Argument exist and are accessible via the Internet.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 2

Seriously!? As if a pound and
a half of shaved pressed beef
product isn't enough to make
you hit an Arby's Drive-Thru?
If there were only more than 24 hours in a day, I'd get these posts out quicker. Part 2 of my commentary on a post from a friend's blog: 

Does sexism still exist in society today? Sadly, yes. And I would tend to agree with her that society (both men and women) and the media are to blame. I would ask, "How does American companies' use of sex to advertise nearly EVERYTHING not tell viewers, especially impressionable children, that it's "ok" to view women as simply objects?" (please note the ridiculous Arby's ad to the left). It's definitely a problem that needs to be addressed, but where does free speech end and pornography begin? However, there are some feminists that exasperate the problem themselves. An example of this can be seen in an op-ed written by Soraya Chemaly for the Huffington Post. A refutation of which can be found in a blog post by Emily Stimpson. Chemaly's original op-ed is linked therein. My point being that everything done in or by society, or by a church, or even in advertising, is not done for the suppression of women. Is it really about control Soraya? Her presuppositions are based on a misguided feminism and an utter misunderstanding of Catholic teaching and practice.

What IS equality between the sexes? I think it is a mistake to define equality as "equality for a woman is that she is treated as if she were a man". There are some in the feminist movement that use this as a premise (I am by no means saying all). That is a mistake and in and of itself is a disservice to women. Now don't misunderstand my meaning, I am not in anyway saying woman are less valuable or less capable than men or should be dependent upon men. What I am saying is, to my mind, women don't have to "be men" to be equal, nor should they want to "be men". Should women be treated equally in the workforce? Of course, and as I stated earlier, it is sad that that equality does not yet exist in some areas.

However, what needs to be recognized is that the sexes are meant to be complimentary. THEY WERE CREATED THAT WAY. Any biology textbook can show you that. And that complementarity extends WAY BEYOND biology and is one of the foundations of the interpersonal communion between the sexes that IS marriage. What we are talking about here is the concept of integral gender complementarity. Hopefully you'll pardon my referencing Catholic works and writers, but it's there, I believe, we find that complementarity best explicated. Pope John Paul II expressed it well in Mulieris Dignitatem/On the Dignity & Vocation of Women as did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in his Letter to the Bishops on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World. Additionally, Professor Janne Haaland Matlary of the University of Oslo, Norway wrote an excellent article based on the Ratzinger's letter in the January 12th, 2005 edition of L'Osservatore Romano expounding on feminism and a way to approach it that is truer to our nature. It is reproduced here.
Finally, in the Letter to the Bishops, Ratzinger partially outlines the problems of the feminist fight for equality:
"...In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality." (emphasis added)
The road that feminism has traveled in search of a solution to "sexism" has unfortunately, in many cases, spawned more societal issues than it has resolved. The differences between men and women should not be causes for strife, but properly viewed, the means to a deeper union. The problems spoken of in the quote above, I am afraid, are our segue to Part 3...a full reading of all material referenced here is advised.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Racism, Sexism, Homophobia and Religion - Part 1

The other day I read a post from a friend's blog that I found rather thought provoking, and therefore felt the need to offer my one and a half cents. The following 4-part series of posts' titles parrot the four topics she listed as things that she has a passion for and I will attempt to articulate my take on each of them.


Stated plainly, I believe racism of any kind has no place in society. In the study she cited Muslims were the race under consideration. However, it should be noted that adherents of Islam, like those of Christianity, span all races. If you have never read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, you should. His involvement in Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam and their race-based hate was shattered by his participation in the Muslim Hajj. He experienced, as he wrote in his "Letter From Mecca", that,
"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue eyed blonds to black skin Africans.But we were all participating in the same rituals, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had lead me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white."
Now his belief that Islam was the answer to the race problem is something with which I wholeheartedly disagree, but my disagreement with Islam cannot, in any way, shape or form, be construed as racism, unless we expand its definition. Malcolm's epiphany, however, should be a beacon for race relations (I dislike even using the phrase "race relations"). We are all brothers and sisters on this Earth, or in the Christian parlance "sons and daughters of the same God" and we should treat each other accordingly. All that said, simply put: racism, of any kind, is intolerable.

NEXT - Sexism.

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