Thursday, November 26, 2009

Grazie; Danke; Gracias; Domo; Merci; Dziękuję

As our nation celebrates THANKSGIVING, it behooves us as Catholic Christians to ponder what that word really means. We know that the word "Eucharist" comes from the Greek word for 'thanksgiving' but most people never get beyond that.

Using the via negativa method (which Aquinas was fond of) we first see what thanksgiving or gratitude is NOT.

It is not QUID PRO QUO in the same way I pay someone ten dollars to shovel snow off my driveway. Barter or commerce is based on a mutual agreement of exchange of money, services or materials for something of equal value. The donor, unlike the merchant, acts spontaneously and gives without restrictions. The recipient, unlike the customer, is expected to realize it is a gift, not payment.

It is not mere formality or just good manners. Saying 'thank you' is a necessary component, not the only one, however. At the same time, they are not just words one should speak casually like 'hello' and 'good-bye'.

It is not an option. The Angelic Doctor says gratitude is a form of justice. We owe the giver of a gift our gratitude. To NOT be grateful is to be an INGRATE. Ingratitude is more than rude and impolite, it is also UNJUST. Morally, though not legally, we are obliged to be grateful, to express our appreciation and to demonstrate it in a tangible way (often called repaying the favor).

It is not restricted to expensive or only very valuable gifts. One should not be grateful only for big things, but as Saint Therese of the Little Flower reminds us, we should be grateful for all things, big and small, that come from the Lord.

Saint Thomas lists three degrees of gratitude in his Summa Theologica.

a) RECOGNITION of the gift or favor bestowed
b) EXPRESSION of appreciation (verbal or written 'thank you')
c) DEMONSTRATION of gratitude (symbolic or ritual)

A man reaches the first degree of ingratitude when he "fails to repay a favor;
the second when he declines to notice and indicate that he has received a favor;
the third and supreme degree is when a man fails to recognize the reception of a favor, whether by forgetting it or in any other way."

Further, ingratitude turns into the opposite of gratitude; hence:

"it belongs to the first degree of ingratitude to return evil for good, to the second to find fault with a favor received, and to the third to esteem kindness as though it were unkindness."

You and I ought to be GRATEFUL to God for creating us; for redeeming us; and for the many times He forgives us. We also ought to appreciate the many gifts and blessings He has given us. Ironically, many times we focus on what we do NOT have but what someone else has. We ENVY others' possessions while not appreciating what we do have ourselves. Saying grace before and after meals and going to church one day a week is not even the bare minimum but pathetically, it is the full extent some so-called Christians are willing to do.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the supreme and most perfect, eloquent and proper manner in which human beings can show their appreciation and gratitude to God. The Scriptures and prayers and hymns remind us of WHAT we should be grateful for and WHY. The worship of God is HOW we express that gratitude. Kneeling, genuflecting, bowing, etc., are part of that. Giving an hour or more of your time as many days as you can is the best sign possible. This is why we do NOT go to Mass for what we GET out of it, rather, we go to GIVE BACK to God what we OWE Him, i.e., worship, adoration, gratitude, honor, etc.

If we neglect to thank human beings for all gifts, large and small, then we will eventually omit our thanks to God and vice versa. INGRATITUDE is not merely bad manners, it is an act of INJUSTICE. So, on this Thanksgiving Day, let us pray we can all be grateful to God and our family and friends for every GIFT given to us. After BEING grateful, let us EXPRESS our thanks and let us perform ACTS of gratitude as well. Holy Hours, Rosaries, Pilgrimages, Litanies, Novenas, et al. are wonderful ways to show God our thanks.

Doing unexpected or spontaneous favors for others in return for their previous acts of kindness and generosity are things we can do to each other. It is important to DO it and to allow others to do it TO US as well. This is why we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and why we exchange gifts at Christmas and why we have going away parties for people when they leave or move or are transferred.

And that simple "thank you" to the waitress, waiter, cab or bus driver, flight attendant, office secretary, postal worker, delivery-man, cashier, nurse, etc., can become more than just an exercise in politeness. Christians need to be polite because it shows RESPECT and that is one way to demonstrate our LOVE OF NEIGHBOR. You cannot love someone you do not respect. Hence, even in Old Testament as well as in Gospel times, hospitality was more than good manners. It was a sign of faithfulness to the covenant.

I want to thank by former Bishop Kevin Rhoades for his five years as shepherd of our Diocese (Harrisburg). Our loss is Fort Wayne-South Bend's gain. We will painfully miss him. Orthodox and reverent AND respectful. And while we give thanks today for all God's blessings (life, faith, family & friends), in this YEAR FOR PRIESTS I thank the Good Lord for giving me a priestly vocation and I thank him for my priests friends, especially my classmate, co-author and best friend Fr. Ken Brighenti; my mentor, Fr. Bob Levis and very dear friend and diocesan colleague, Fr. Dennis Dalessandro.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chris Matthews Beans Bishop Tobin


MSNBC television talk show host Chris Matthews bullied and attacked Bishop Thomas Tobin (Providence, RI) on his show (Hardball) yesterday. Like a pitcher who intentionally throws a baseball at the head of the batter, Mr. Matthews did all he could to throw everything but the kitchen sink at his 'guest' (better to say 'victim') He never gave the Bishop adequate time to answer his questions as he kept interrupting and resorted to non sequitur and ad hominum arguments which anyone in first year college Logic class learns are FALLACIES.

Thank God for courageous shepherds like Bishop Tobin. After an unprovoked attack and inaccurate description of Catholic teaching by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Bishop Tobin used fraternal correction and exercised his lawful right to impose a canonical penalty in the hope that the offender would repent and reconcile himself with God and the Church. One cannot advocate and support abortion and still claim to be a good Catholic since the Church condemns all abortions as the unjust killing of innocent life (a.k.a., murder or homicide) The doctrine on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death is inviolable as it is rooted in BOTH the Natural Moral Law and the Divine Positive Law.

Chris Matthews was offensive, rude and showed no impartiality. I thought journalists were supposed to REPORT the news and interview people, not ambush them and defend ideologies of a political persuasion. At best, he should demonstrate a neutrality on the issue of abortion instead of coming out of the bullpen presuming the so-called 'right to abortion' is Constitutionally guaranteed. Imagine a reporter interviewing a civil rights advocate like the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and acting as if racial segregation is an exercise of personal freedom of those business owners who want African-Americans to sit in allocated parts of the bus or restaurant. Racism and segregation were and are immoral, unjust and sinful. However, both were legal in the USA at one time and even upheld by Congress and even the illustrious Supreme Court had defended slavery. Courageous religious leaders led the way to challenge the civil toleration of these gross injustices. It was religious people who started the Abolition movement to end slavery. It was Rev. King and others who peacefully and non-violently marched and protested to overturn racist laws and practiced. Bishop Desmond Tuttu helped the fight to end apartheid in South Africa.  In all cases, no one today would say that the religious leaders were overstepping their authority or violating the first amendment.

"What laws would you write" was his constant harassment, implying the Bishop was attempting to usurp the Congressman's civil authority as a lawmaker. This irrational argument never goes away. Neither Bishop Tobin nor the USCCB make any claim to have the right to legislate civil law. As religious leaders, however, they have the MORAL right and by our Constitution have a CIVIL right to TEACH. Part of teaching is to enunciate and explain PRINCIPLES. The application of those are the job of each individual but they are still subject to ethical assessment. For example, the principle that it is never right to intentionally end the life of an innocent human being is absolute. Murder is never allowed. Justified killing is limited to very specific instances (e.g., self-defense, just war, etc.) Killing the innocent, as in abortion and euthanasia, is always wrong, evil, immoral and sinful. It is also un-Constitutional since every human being is endowed by their Creator with an inalienable RIGHT TO LIFE. So, when a Bishop tells a politician that the laws he writes or supports violate the Natural Law, they are de facto bad laws.  Immoral laws are non-binding. Citizens, both voters and politicians, are obliged to eradicate unjust laws. The essence of law is the pursuit of the COMMON GOOD. Killing unborn children, slavery, racial segregation, et al. are UNJUST and IMMORAL and any laws that protect, tolerate or promote these evils are bad laws that need to be abolished.

Would you arrest a woman for having an abortion, was Matthews' question to Bishop Tobin. Making abortion illegal is conforming civil law to the Natural Moral Law just as is the outlawing of slavery and segregation; rape and murder. Nazi Germany had enacted racial laws that allowed the government to incarcerate Jews and seize their property, land and assets. Anti-Semitism was legalized by the Nuremberg Laws of the 1930's but the Nuremberg Trials at the end of WWII made it clear that legalized immoral laws have no authority and must be opposed and disobeyed.  Outlawing abortion does not demand the imprisonment of women who obtain them but do we not have laws that prohibit certain behavior but only incur fines and other penalties without throwing the perp into jail? Arresting the doctor who performs the abortions is something which would be more effective. Fining women for having illegal abortions would be more prudent. Criminalizing the act, however, is not a choice. If we outlaw in civil law such injustices as theft, lying (perjury), assault, homicide, rape, etc., then we must also outlaw abortion and euthanasia since both are forms of murder (killing of innocent human life).

Bishop Tobin does not have to come up with specific legislation, that is the job of civil lawmakers. HOWEVER, it is the job of the Bishop as a religious leader to make a moral judgment on the laws that are made and to assess them as either conforming to the Natural Law or not.  This is not just a Catholic leader telling Catholic followers what to believe or how to behave. The Natural Law was used in the Nuremberg Trials to convict Nazis who claimed they were only obeying orders or just following the law. Cicero and Aristotle, as well as St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas, speak of the Natural Law being known to ALL human beings who have the use of reason. Unlike ecclesiastical law which binds those of a specific church, the Natural Law is rooted in reason which is part of our human nature (intellect) and thus applies to everyone, everywhere, anytime.

Matthews was insisting that the Bishops have no business to interfere with legislation. Is that not what we heard before the Civil War by those who claimed it was an issue of States' Rights to own slaves? Did not the states that permitted or promoted racial segregation claim it was not the Federal government's business? The civil rights of the unborn transcend state and federal law and transcend any Supreme Court decision. These rights come from God, not the government. Just as a parent cannot murder their toddler or adolescent, likewise, no parent has the moral or legal right to kill their unborn child, either. Worse, however, is the doctor who performs these ghastly murders in the womb. The woman is often stressed and under enormous anxiety whereas the abortionist and his/her assistants are more culpable as they are less emotionally attached and supposedly more objective.

Bishop Tobin was in his civil and canonical rights to reprimand Rep. Patrick Kennedy since he claims to be a Catholic and furthermore claims he can support abortion. As a lawmaker, he can be guilty of material if not formal cooperation in evil, by facilitating the legalization of abortion. He can also be guilty of heresy in denying the official church teaching that abortion is a grave evil and that human life begins at conception. It would be a sin of omission and spiritual negligence had Bishop Tobin remained silent once the Congressman spouted off in the media as he did on these issues. Chris Matthews should REPORT not MAKE the news.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Manhattan Declaration

The Manhattan Declaration

Father Miguel, MFVA, mentioned on the televised Mass for Christ the King the Manhattan Declaration that he and I and many others have signed online. It is a joint effort by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical Christians to stand up and speak out against abortion and euthanasia and to defend and support religious liberty and traditional family (one man + one woman in a permanent, faithful and hopefully fruitful union).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King (Christus Rex)


Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Unlike Presidents and Prime Ministers, Kings are not elected and therefore are not submissive to opinion polls. Special interest groups, lobbyists, and the media have no influence over the crown. One either accepts the authority of King and complies with his will OR they reject his rule and suffer the consequences. The question Christians must ask themselves is: WHO IS MY KING? 

Some like the crowd before Pilate, proclaim: 'we have no King but Caesar'  They are the secular progressives who pander to public opinion. They go with the majority even when it is wrong. Those who said women have no right to vote; those who said slavery was a personal choice; those who said states should decide for themselves if they want racial segregation; they are in reality saying WE HAVE NO KING BUT CAESAR. Caesar is the world, secular culture, and business and politics devoid of morality.  Those who advocate or tolerate abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage, etc., reject the Divine Law and Natural Law given us by God. They repudiate the reign of God and therefore refuse to obey His Will or His Bride, the Church. Politicians and voters and sadly even ecclesiastics who place popularity over propriety have no King but Caesar. Whether it is the State, the secular culture, business, political parties, or the politically correct, none of these outranks the majesty of God. None of them are superior to the Supreme Being.

Others reject the kingship of Christ AND of the world. They make themselves king (as did Lucifer, Adam & Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, et al.) since their pride and ego refuse to bow to anyone else. They are self-anointed experts and know-it-alls who condescendingly look down on those of us who faithfully submit to the Magisterium. They refuse to get mandatums and imprimaturs since both are exercises of legitimate teaching authority.

Those who herald CHRIST OUR KING obey Him and His Vicar on earth. The Pope represents Christ and has been given FULL, SUPREME, UNIVERSAL and IMMEDIATE authority to govern the Church. When teaching on matters of faith and morals, he is infallible. The radical left and the reactionary right often sleep in the same bed when they embrace HERESY and/or SCHISM. Saint Ambrose said it well and said it all when he coined the phrase UBI PETRUS IBI ECCLESIA. While the prudential judgments of the Roman Pontiff are not infallible, his authority cannot be appealed and therefore his decisions bind us and oblige us to submit intellect and will. Reject the authority (governing or teaching) of Peter's Successor and you reject the One Who gave it to him (Jesus Christ).

My Blog List

Blog Archive