Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fundamentalism and Islam

Michael has written his paper "Fundamentalism" and asked for comments. What follow are my observations on “Fundamentalism,” especially as it is applied or misapplied to Islam, as in “Islamic Fundamentalists.” (awaiting permission to post Michael's paper)

Westerners in general, our State Department and perhaps your sources or professors have difficulty getting their minds around “ISLAM.” There is the natural attempt to understand it according to western categories. In the West even in the height of the middle ages when the Roman Catholic Church was at its apex of political influence, it did not govern nation states. Spain, England, or Germany, were Monarchies or Principalities with an established that is an official church that being the Roman Catholic Church, but with rear exceptions where some Bishops were actually princes, the Bishops did not rule, govern the nation state. The king and his court did, these states were not Theocracies. They were not governed by religious laws and clergy. The only true Theocracy in the West was the Papal States the remnant of which today is Vatican City State. The pope is the sovereign of this tiny city-state.

This is not true with Islam; Islam is a Religio-Political system and ideology... IRAN is de facto (in fact) and de jure (in law) a Theocracy. It is governed by Sharia, Islamic religious law, and its sovereign is a Muslim religious leader, the President of Iran Ahmadinejad is elected but he is not the supreme authority of Iran.

Islam which means, “submit” was founded by Allah through his Apostle Mohamed (according to the Qu’ran) to subdue the world, to bring all people to the true faith in Allah. It is the divine mission of Islam to bring the entire world to “submit’ to Allah under Sharia, Islamic Law. This is the only road to salvation. Jihad, war against infidels, is considered a manifestation of the mercy of Allah, because it provides them the opportunity to embrace Islam and save their souls. This is the mission of Islam as revealed to the Prophet Mohamed, practiced and taught by him, and continued after his death. Within a generation of Mohamed’s death, Islam had subdued everything from Persia, (IRAN) through the middles east, along the north cost of Africa, up to northern Spain. These were not “fundamentalists” these were the practitioners of Islam. These were the Jihadist, the Mujahedeen. They are the early heroes of Islam. The Qu’ran proclaims in:

Sura 9:5. “Then when the Sacred Months have passed, then kill the unbelievers wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But, if they repent {accept Islam} and perform As-Salta {the Islamic ritual prayers} and give Zakat {alms} then leave them their way free.”

Non-believers have these choices, fight, convert, die, or pay the jizya, which is a heavy tax up to 50% of all earnings of non-Islamic peoples within the territories conquered by Islam and under Islamic Law, Sharia. These peoples were to feel subdued. Those Christians and Jews (people of the book) who wish not to convert, or leave Islamic territory, may live as second-class citizens, with very limited rights and pay the jizya. Pagans, atheists, secularists have only two choices, convert (submit, Islam) or die. That is why there are absolutely no Christian Churches, or Synagogues in Saudi Arabia. Catholic Military Chaplains in Saudi Arabia must celebrate mass for the troops in secret, they are officially forbidden to do so under Sharia in Saudi Arabia. They and the troops are not permitted to wear crosses or any Christian symbols.

The war to spread Islam in the seventh and eight centuries, in the twelfth to the seventh-tenth centuries, ending at the gates of Vienna (please notice the date) SEPTEMBER 11th, 1683, and its modern manifestations in terrorism “officially” commenced by Osama Ben Laden on SEPTEMBER 11th, 2001, is called Jihad, literally “struggle.” It is the responsibility of every Muslim to engage in Jihad, to struggle to bring their communities, nations, states, under Sharia. The participation of some in violent Jihad can excuse others, but all are expected to support Jihad in some way. Therefore, there is plenty of financial support for Jihad, in its modern terrorist manifestation. This is why there is virtually no end to the supply of suicide bombers.

Westerners would like to argue that all this is simply a manifestation of “fundamentalists” Muslims. It is very difficult for westerners to believe that other human beings could actually behave this way. What westerners, even secular westerners, do not understand is that they are thinking like Christians, and more specifically Catholics. Nothing in the Gospels or in the example of Jesus justifies the killing of innocent, men, women, or children, or blowing oneself up to spread Christianity. Therefore, anyone who does this by definition must be some type of fanatic fundamentalist.

A Christian Martyr is one who imitates Jesus. He lays down his life for his faith, not in combat, but in personal sacrifice. History is full of these saints and they exist today, in China, North Korea, and Cuba. They died in Nazi concentration camps and Communist gulags. A Martyr for Islam is one who dies in combat for Islam and Allah. This is sanctioned and approved by the Qu’ran and Mohamed’s life and teaching. Mohamed is considered the ideal man who is to be imitated to achieve holiness, he waged Jihad, and a Muslim must do the same. You perhaps have noticed how appealing Islam is to young men. It is a very macho religion. It encourages behaviors in young men that are forbidden to young Christians. It is truly impressive to see so many men young and old praying in the videos of Mosques. Catholic Churches are certainly not filled daily with men as mosques regularly are. This degree of fidelity among men is very attractive to other young men.

None of this relies on a “fundamentalist” reading of the Qu’ran. It is not based on some perverse translation of the Qu’ran, because Muslims are forbidden to read the Qu’ran or pray in any language except the original Arabic, in which the Qu’ran was written. The Qu’ran was dictated by Gabriel to Mohamed in Arabic, therefore Allah chose Arabic to communicate with Mohamed therefore that is the only language allowed in which to read what Allah communicated and to worship Allah.

Now this may seem very bizarre to westerners. The evidence leads inevitably to the conclusion that Islam is essentially “Fundamentalist.” That is Islam is not a religion of Faith and Reason, but only of Faith. Islam clearly teaches submission to Allah not theological study of him, which is a rational endeavor. Allah has spoken; he has given his Law, he has made his will known to mankind through his Apostle Mohamed, therefore, it is up to each man and woman to embrace Islam, to SUBMIT to Allah.

If you wish to read more on this subject and these assertions, you may want to consult:

Religion of Peace? Why Christianity is and Islam Isn’t by Robert Spencer

Religion of Peace? Islam’s War against the world by Gregory M. Davis

America Alone, by Mark Steyn

God’s Continent by Philip Jenkins

Pax Tecum

Eques

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Recently the following question was put to me by a bright college freshman at NYU. Michael is a former Altar Server of mine. He presently is working on a paper concerning Fundamentalism in the USA and abroad. His questions are below and my replies follow.

What are your thoughts on fundamentalism and how do you think it shapes society in the United States and how the United States deals and should deal with it in other countries?

-Michael

Dear Michael,

My definition of FUNDAMENTALISM can be briefly stated as Faith without Reason. This means that Fundamentalism is actually NOT CHRISTIAN and certainly not CATHOLIC. Catholicism always contains a very important little word “and,” Faith and Reason, Word and Sacrament, private devotions (such as the Rosary) and public worship (Liturgy, mass).

This is not true with Islam, Islam is fundamentally “fundamental.” That is to say, ISLAM is not a religion of Faith and Reason but Faith Alone; this has been true from its inception. Unlike Christianity there is no ISLAMIC THEOLOGY, there is no development of dogma, there are schools in which to study the Qur’an and Sharia, but the highest scholarship for Islam is the memorization of the Qur’an, and the discussion on how best to practice the Islamic law. It was actually to this characteristic of Islam that Pope Benedict was directing his remarks at Regensburg University. You might want see these links [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Benedict_XVI_Islam_controversy]; [http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID={9592215A-31CD-4548-879D-1C8F8A29FA81}]

"Islam" is a religion of 'submission" to Sharia, God’s Law! It is for this reason that Muslims desire the state they inhabit to be ISLAMIC. There is only one way to live Islam that is by following the Law. It is in the nature of Islam to be Fundamentalist and to insist on the Theocratic State. In the Middle East, one sees that there are generally two kinds of Islamic states. Those that are Theocratic like Iran is and Afghanistan was, or like Pakistan were certain Pakistani and Taliban elements are already fighting to transform Pakistan into an Islamic Theocracy. Secondly, there are those, which are Authoritarian, such as Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and as Iraq was, which has been so far the only alternative to the Islamic Theocratic state. Democracy in a state with an Islamic majority is likely to devolve rapidly into a Theocratic state.

What we are seeing in Pakistan is the struggle between the governing Military junta that is trying to prevent Islam from becoming the state, which is complicated by a third minority trying to resurrect a democratic state. If you note Pakistan’s neighbor India, the largest democracy in the world, is inching its way towards modernity. It is not Islamic, it has an element of Hindi fundamentalism, but there is no serious threat of India becoming a Hindu Theocracy. While in Pakistan, where there was once also a democratic government, Islamic militants created so much chaos and violence that, the military was forced to size control to bring about some semblance of law and order, when the democratic government failed.

Terrorism is the method now used by Islamic militants to create such chaos in a particular nation to allow an Islamic Theocracy to arise as the solution to the problems that Islamic militants have created in the first place. In large measure, this is what is happening in Iraq, and why the USA has a difficult road ahead. In Iraq, the so called "insurgency" is really Al Qaeda which is not only killing Americans as a part of their global war of terrorism against the west, but it is also an attempt to destabilize and prevent the elected government from consolidating its legitimate authority over the nation. It is their hope that an Islamic government will emerge from the chaos they create. Recently there has been significant progress by American forces in suppressing this violence and restoring some semblance of order. Presently some Iraqi refugees are returning from Syria. The Shiite and Sunni elements are not only settling old and new scores but they are also have been battling to be the Islamic government. Iran is a Shiite state, Iraq has elements of both, but all other Islamic nations are overwhelmingly Sunni. Iran wants Iraq to be Shiite.

I will attempt some kind of summation to answer your questions.

What are your thoughts on fundamentalism? I believe that my definition of Fundamentalism above covers all types. It is faith in a set of beliefs that are not open to rational investigation, philosophical or theological and secondarily historical and scientific. For Christian Fundamentalists, God created the world in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh day, no discussion, end of story. For Catholics, theology allows for a nuanced understanding of these days as symbolic numbers for the perfect amount of time and method God used. Catholics see evolution as the way God created the universe. Evolution does not contradict Catholic belief that God is Creator. Fundamentalists cannot make these distinctions.

"How to you think it shapes society in the United States?"

I believe that it brings with it good and not so good elements to the culture and political process. Fundamentalists can be allies in the anti-abortion efforts of the Catholic Church. However, they would be less helpful to the efforts of the Catholic Church to provide social services to the poor. Also, they have a tendency to can get involved in controversies in ways that are more harmful and helpful. They are capable of violent attacks on Abortion Clinics and vicious attacks on Gays that the Catholic Church would never condone, and which do nothing to promote pro-life issues or traditional Christian morality.

The present controversy over the teaching of Evolution and Creationism is a needless and confusing battle. There is no real contradiction between the two. Perhaps the best solution is to allow teachers to explain that evolution itself is strong evidence of an intelligent designer. Rather that require them to claim unscientifically that the universe and we are just accidents of evolution, which is as much as SOME scientist will say about the how and why we are here.

I do not see Christian Fundamentalism as a threat to the Republic, but they worrisome. Contrary to the conviction of some the Oklahoma City bombing, was not an act of a Christian fundamentalist. Timothy McViegh claimed that his religion was "Science," which actually would make him an Evolutionary Terrorist. I do fear the volatile combination of Christian Fundamentalism and neo-Nazi, Aryan race type movements that can increase the likelihood of violence. They are capable of death and destruction, but are not anywhere strong enough (at this time) to pose a security threat to the nation. It seems that US Law Enforcement is able to handle these criminals before they become revolutionary threats.

"How does the United States and how should it deal with it (fundamentalism) in other countries?"

This is a more difficult question. Presently the USA is making enormous sacrifices in men, capital, and material attempting to promote democracy in the Middle East. Democracy is the natural enemy of fundamentalism. Islam is fundamentally Fundamentalists. Can the USA succeed? The odds are against it. Is it possible to convince the majority of Muslims that democracy does not threaten their religion? If this is possible, it does not guarantee success on at least two fronts. It does not prevent the less malleable and accommodating Muslims from organizing a Fundamentalists party that will push on the political front for the adoption of Sharia and attempt to turn a developing democracy into a Islamic theocracy. Nor does it prevent the militant elements from using terrorist tactics to destabilize and topple the incipient democratic government. This process is already at work in Iraq, though millions of people voted for the new democratic constitution and for a representative government. This process has also been at work in Pakistan.

The greatest threat to American and western security is Militant Islam, which is fundamentalist in nature. In countries such as France there have already been wide spread riots, with putative causes, with the actual causes being the cultural clashes between the secular French government and Islam, which seeks “sacred” law and government of their own definition. Soon France will be 20% Muslim, this will only heighten the possibilities of cultural conflicts, greater violence and more demands for Islamic law to govern Muslims in France, thus creating a state within a state.

Pope Benedict XVI has his own solution to this problem, the re-evangelization of Europe. If Europe where to reaffirm its Catholic/Christian identity, it may actually help to lessen the pressure from Islam for theocracy. Islam is more adverse to SECULARISM than Christianity. Historically Christians have been allowed some degree of religious tolerance in Islamic countries. They become objects of violence when Islam feels threatened by outside forces. Iraq had a very ancient, small, robust community of Chaldean Catholics since the time of the Apostles. This community has suffered enormously since the commencement of Iraq War II. Many have been kidnapped, murdered, suffered terrorists attacks on their churches and been driven out of their country. Presently, there are Catholic Iraqi refugees in Rome, the USA and other countries. http://www.christiansofiraq.com/homelandJne186.html .

It is the hope of Pope Benedict XVI that a Catholic Europe would be far better able to resist “Islamification” by providing an alternative to the purely secularized culture that Islam detests. His Holiness is not looking to establish Catholic governments again in Europe. He is aware that Jihad is aimed primarily at the decadent west; perhaps a re-Christianized west would be more tolerable to Islamic immigrants.

What the USA can and must do is vigilantly keep the scourge of terrorism form our shores. We were caught off guard by 9/11/01, since then so far so good. Unfortunately, we have had to fight two wars to keep terrorists over there. Afghanistan was just and necessary. Iraq War II perhaps was not necessary. It is a gamble, an attempt, by those who believe that a democratic Iraq would change the balance of power in the Middle East acting as a bulwark against terrorism. This is still a question unanswered. Will we ever succeed in Iraq? We live in hope.

As long as Islam is Islam, I see no long-term solution to this problem. Islam is acting as Islam was designed to act to bring the infidels of the world to Islam by the sword. Financial, diplomatic, and strategic pressure must be kept on all nations that harbor and support terrorists, which is nearly every Islamic nation in the Middle East and in the world. Countries such as the Philippines have fought militant Islam for many years within its borders. The Catholic majority has been able to keep them at bay and support a democratic reform of the once Marcos Dictatorship, which arose in response to the communist and Islamic threats. The regime abused its power. It was eventually forced to abdicate by Catholic non-violent resistance. Islam will resist democracy and any other form of government that does not implement Sharia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia survives because it governs by Sharia. Democratic reform is just not a viable probability. The USA then accepts a less than perfect situation, and supports the Saudi Princess. Who are suspected of supporting Islamic terrorists, in hopes of self preservation. The Alternative of another Islamic Theocracy with a knife in one hand to throat of the USA and its other hand on the oil spigot is unthinkable.

As you can surmise these are very difficult realities that we here at home in the USA and other nations have to deal with, without a great deal of hope that anything will change soon. The world is a dangerous place and we do well to remember that, when considering national and local elections, in the development of foreign policy, and military strength and capability. Fundamentalism in its Islamic incarnation is the single most serious threat to western civilization since the nuclear standoff between the USA and the former USSR. Let us pray and work to keep nuclear arms out of the hands of terrorists and out of the hands of Islam Theocracies. While we do all we can to prevent Islamic Theocracies from developing. This is my best guess as to how the USA should handle fundamentalism home and abroad.

Eques





Monday, October 29, 2007

In Conclusion

Dear Dr. Lavin,

I will end with this, Charles S. Maier writes in Among Empires- American ascendancy and its Predecessors, “…according to John L. O’Sullivan, the Jacksonian editor who coined the phrase manifest destiny a half century later: ’The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In the magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles.’” (Emphasis mine) If we forget the ideals on which and for which we were founded, we will not find greater freedom and liberty, but tyranny and slavery to the darker elements of our nature. As a nation we will be a force for good or evil in the world, this seems unavoidable. Many in the world of Islam, not just radicals and terrorists, see us as a force for evil, as the decadence of our culture spreads around the world. Others perhaps see us as a beacon of hope this was at least partially true among some of the peoples of the former Soviet empire. I hope that our real manifest destiny is to be a source of good and hope for the world. If we choose not “to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles” the alternative is not to manifest moral indifferentism, but moral decadence. We will be light or the absence thereof, but we are too powerful already to be just another dim bulb.

The founding fathers believed they were founding what Jefferson referred to as an Empire of Liberty. “From the outset, however, it was to be different from other imperial states: wiser, freer, benevolent, and peaceful…America, in short, would both expand and act as a force for good.” (Maier pp.1&2) Not moral relativism, but “for good,” the founding fathers were not ambivalent about this word. They new exactly what the “good” was because they all shared the same moral framework, which whether they acknowledged it or were even aware of it was unquestionably rooted in Judeo-Christian virtues; After Virtue by MacIntyre, I believe would support this “self evident truth.”

Pax Tecum

Eques

Dear Eques
Nice ending.
I suppose our difference really has to do with just exactly who should run this country. Not really whether it should be good, or whether its citizens ought to be religious or belong to this Church, or that Synagogue, or that Mosque.
And so my ending is that the American experiment, despite all the countless references to God, Divinity, Morality, and Good, at its deepest root, is a trial to see if a large nation can be ruled without God or King in charge, but with the people in charge. I see no other way to define it really. The proof is that at the moment, at least, we have no King, and no Priest, Rabbi, or Imam who represents God has any special say or power over the nation. This is the first nation in the history of humanity of any power or size to be in this situation, and it is this difference that defines what America is all about. You call for us to be a Christian Nation, but that is nothing new. How many Christian Nations have had a chance to rule their societies? Many. Most were ruled by Kings and Priests, and none seemed to have a history that distinguished them from the course of human history. At times they were great, at times magnanimous. Many of their citizens were extraordinary people. But at times they were cruel and at times brutal, many of their citizens were arch-villains. In short, just like all other human societies.
So it is not an argument about moral relativism, or whether the US should be good. It is rather an argument about a rather more mundane quantity- political power. Who shall own that? A hereditary elite? A King? An institution representing God? I actually favor having the people hold that power. We shall see if that is doable.
In the meantime, I will resist efforts to return political power to where it tends to reside- in Kings and with God.
Your vision is more likely to prevail, since that is how humanity has yearned to be ruled for most of its existence, but I still hold out hope that this American difference will continue to let the great potential of humanity to bloom, prosper, and help each other.
Pace,
Arthur

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Christianity/Catholicism guarantor of our "inalienable rights" Continued

Dear Eques and the C&S Group,

I think my main concern with your line of argument is a Copernican one. That is, people have argued for many thousands of years just where the center of things is.

Is the Earth the center around which the Sun revolves? Or is the Sun the center around which the Earth revolves?

In social realms, every entity of humanity from the 150-person tribe, to the 1 billion person state of China, has believed that they are the Center of the Universe.

Jerusalem is referred to as the Umbilicus Mundi, as is Rome.

How does one choose just who is the Center? Is it Rome, or is it Jerusalem, or is it Shiprock New Mexico, or a Buddhist shrine in Thailand, or even Fenway Park.

One philosopher captured the argument by stating that the fallacy of there being a Center is captured by the following statement:

"There are universal values. They just happen to be mine."

Perhaps we can blame Copernicus, and certainly Newton for bolstering this way of thinking. Newton's main contribution to human thought was coming close to proving that there is an absolute frame of reference. The universe, in other words, has a cosmic x, y, and z axis, and everything can be located on this one universal framework.

Galileo first proposed that there was no such frame of reference in space, so that if someone is moving at a constant speed, and everything around them moves at the same speed they cannot tell they are moving. This is familiar to all of us on Earth which is moving at 25,000 miles per hour, but since everything is it seems when we lie down in our back yard we are not moving.

Einstein added the observation that there is no fixed framework for time either, no universal clock.

So today's science has rejected the notion of a fixed framework, and with it the notion of a fixed Center of the Universe. There is no physical Umbilical Mundi.

And I believe the same is true in religion and other matters human. I consider the whole question of a Center in human groupings to be a deeply flawed, old habit of human mind that has caused nothing but trouble, war, and needless death and oppression.

Yet I do believe that the various, and quite abundant events of human grouping have created much of what is valuable in life. It is only when a group ascribes to itself a sense of unique value, that I find things go sour.

In fact, I can think of no example of a nation, religion, or ethnicity grabbing at a claim of exclusive value without suffering or causing some grave harm to itself and/or others.

And so I would state that your characterization of Catholicism as somehow uniquely central to Western Civilization fits squarely into this dangerous habit of mind. Who is really to say that the Catholic Church's contribution to human progress weighs more than other religion's, philosophy's, and/or polities? Again, no argument with the vast value the Church has given to humanity and the world, but that in no way protects it from the dangers inherent in claiming unique supremacy.

With respect to America, the central core of what America did differently was to say there is no Center, there is no group, religion, identity valued over another. All groups weigh the same here, or will try to. Jefferson's mention of the creator was simply a nod to the religious sensibilities of his time. His statement in the Declaration of Independence created a society that could release humanity from the shackles of groups that would claim domination over others. Each person became equally powerful and equally valuable in his formulation. God was not part of that valuing or formulation, except perhaps as the Power that got the whole process started, hence reference as creator. No particular religion is mentioned in our Declaration of Independence and God is not mentioned whatsoever in the Constitution. These are the first state papers in the history of humanity to not mention the state religion or God, and people noticed. The Constitution was criticized at the time for that omission, and the Founding Fathers made it clear it was not an omission, but an innovation. They clearly were trying to fashion a society in which neither God nor King was in charge, but rather the people.

Your call to make America a Christian nation, which it decidedly is not, but clearly could be, would essentially destroy nearly every initiative the Founding Fathers and Lincoln worked to achieve. It would make Christianity the nation's religion, establishing a State preference for singling out one approach, one group, as Central. The fallacy of one such group so much superior to all others would invite tyranny, it always has in history and always will.

I do not fault you for trying to push for the shift back to the way nations always have operated. After all, most innovations fail, and most long-lasting traditions succeed.

In this one instance, however, I do pray that the still novel concept of a government for the people, of the people, and by the people will prove in time to be a viable innovation, and that humanity can at last find its release from the forms of government headed by God or King that nearly always devolve into one form or tyranny or another.


Pace,

Arthur Lavin


Dear Dr Lavin and C&R group

As you requested I have posted your replies and our entire dialogue on HAA “Conservative and Republican” discussion group.

I believe we are beginning to talk past one another. I do not wish for the USA to be Christian Nation in any established sense. I wish to preserve the representative form of government we enjoy by virtue of arguably the noblest Constitution in the history of mankind. To do so I maintain we must rediscover the moral consensus that once existed in our nation, which most Americans took for granted for most of our history.

Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue exquisitely observed that our culture has suffered at cataclysmic moral event that we somehow missed. We can see its effects in our loss of moral consensus. I am certain that some would see this as a desirable thing. However, I would argue that it is a disaster for our nation and our culture. We are now a nation that turns to our legislatures and courts to tell us what is right or wrong, no longer malum in se but rather malum prohibitum.<;/i>

The result is that we are reduced to the lowest common denominator. Our morality is reduced to, “as long as I do not get caught I can do whatever feels good or benefits me.” We have become moral monads. The moral chaos is not a recipe for the building, but for the deconstruction of our culture and civilization.

It is incumbent upon us as a people to rediscover our cultural roots, which again are a mixture, of Greek, Judeo, Christian, and western “pagan” elements, historically mediated and integrated by Catholicism, which of course means, “universalism.” There is a reason that oaths of office and in courts are taken in the name of God on the Bible. A ritual acknowledging that our entire governmental and legal system is biblically based. As you are aware as you enter the Supreme Court building above your head on the fa├žade of the portico you are confronted with Moses and the Ten Commandments. It is possible to argue that this is purely a secularist nod to the historical importance of the Ten Commandments to the history of law. However, when these rituals and buildings were designed and constructed secularism was not yet on the horizon. These were traditional allusions and recognitions of our biblical heritage.

I do not desire a Catholic US of A. I do wish to renew our culture and this is only possible by returning to its roots, which is exactly what MacIntyre proposes. Although he is a bit more pessimistic than I. He suggests that the only thing we can do is to return to our faith communities and wait for a new St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism, who he credits with preserving the remnants of culture and civilization after the dissolution of the Roman Empire.

Allow me to repeat, I do not propose or support a Christian/Catholic US of A. It is necessary, however, that we rediscover the moral consensus, which makes government for and by the people possible. In addition, a moral consensus would act as a break on tyranny by the majority, or worse tyranny by an oligarchy such as the Supreme Court, which is now free to ignore the Ten Commandments, legal precedent, and the legislative process.

I anticipate the retort that this is just another form of Axis Mundi of moral and religious type. Yes it is. Just as the Sun is necessary for the survival not only of our world and life, as we know it, but for the very existence of OUR SOLAR SYSTEM, not every solar system but ours, Western Civilization will not survive without its particular Axis Mundi. Perhaps we are witnessing the decline and dissolution of Western Civilization and perhaps this is what most people actually desire. It follows that representative government is not likely to survive the end of the Civilization that produced it. No other culture had the ‘raw materials” that could or did produce it. Perhaps the noble experiment is ending; perhaps we are on the brink of a truly Imperial Presidency. Rome moved from city-state, to kingdom, to an oligarchic republic, to empire. Perhaps we are in a transitional historical phase that requires this moral shift in order to move to the Imperial phase our national history.

I am not a historical fatalist. I do believe it is possible to slow or even reverse this historical trajectory. However, a moral renaissance is essential in order to save what you and I both hold dear, our representative form of government.

Pax Tecum

Eques


Friday, October 19, 2007

Christianity/Catholicism gurantor of our "inalienable rights"

The following is an ongoing conversation with the Harvard Alumni Association "Conservative and Republican" online discussion group. The responses to Eques proposition "That Christianity and Catholicism is a guarantor not the enemy of American Democracy and Western Civilization" are worthy of your consideration. You are invited to join the discussion.

Slave Omnes, Hello all members of the HAA "Conservative and Republican" group.

I am a Roman Catholic Priest. I am very interested in the critique of our Western Civilization/Culture and the direction(s) it is taking. My basic premise is that Western Civilization is a product of Christianity and the Roman Catholic and Protestant riff in particular which ushered in the Enlightenment and made the "horrors"of the French Revolution possible.

I am an Edmund Burke conservative politically, but a Catholic in all things. Therefore, I believe that Western Civilization is essentially Conservative because it is essentially Christian. As the culture moves away from its Christian roots we can discern the decline of Western Civilization and the decay of our culture. (I am convinced that the Roman Catholic Church has a major role to play in restoring and renewing Western Civilization/Culture.

I also agree with critique Alexis De Tocqueville in "Democracy in America" that American Democracy will flourish only if it conserves its Christian Soul. Contrary to the secularists Christianity is the guardian of democracy not its enemy.

Have I come to the right place?

Vale
Eques

Hello Eques,
I am sorry, I am not an intellectual, I don't know exactly what you mean by an "Edmund Burke" conservative, and I am not sure this fits me.
America was founded by those who believed in God, and those who felt they were Christians. But many were Deists who did not believe God would want to interfere with the workings of those who made prayers expecting some divine intercession. I am more of this view. I believe in God, and I was raised in the Catholic Church in a French speaking family, but, I am not a practicing Catholic.
But, I have seen families, loyal Catholics, who included priests and nuns in their circle of friends and their lives were enriched by having, so to speak, a moral and ethical guide in the form of a person dedicated to the Church and the moral life. It was easy for them to turn to a priest and ask "Father, I have a dilemma and I would like to ask your advice." And, it seemed to me that the advice was always forthcoming and on the mark as to what should be done. I miss this dialogue because I have left the Church for my personal reasons, and, I feel a certain loss in my life.
My wife and I spend five months a year in our home in Paris, and, I visited the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal there, and I attended the Mass in a wonderful old Church, and it awoke many old memories of my childhood. I am no longer a Catholic, but I am of the faith, nonetheless.
America is fundamentally a Christian nation, but the old testament is shared with our Jewish brothers and sisters and, I feel they too are an important part of our heritage. But, of all the religious groups I have met, I think the Buddhists are among the most civilized and tolerant. We have many Buddhist friends who show more tolerance and sympathy than I could have ever expected. The Religion is very foreign to us, but it deserves a great deal of respect.
I also have friends who are Muslims, not in this country, but those with whom I correspond over the Internet. I fail to understand this Religion and I am appalled at their attitude towards other religions, and, since I spend a lot of time overseas and I see how much they despise our systems of laws and our ethical values. It is very bad in the UK, and the politicians are total imbeciles to let the Muslims have free reign to subvert the laws and customs of the UK.
The Protestants fit in, the Jews fit in, the Buddhists fit in, the Muslims do not fit in. I wait to see what will come of the attempt of the Muslims to reach a conciliation with the great Judeo-Christian block, the Holy See, and the Orthodox Religions of the East. Our experiences with the Muslims, especially the Taliban in Afghanistan are truly horrifying and I fail to see how they can ever be reconciled.
But, perhaps you see things differently.

Arthur

Dear Arthur,

I concur with you concerning the dangers that Islam poses to Western Civilization and Europe in particular, which is in evidence in your beloved France. Your remarks actually fit with my basic Premise. Western Civilization and Culture is Catholic at its core and in its roots. The Catholic Church medicated and integrated many non-Christian western elements such as Germanic “barbarian” cultural elements and Greek Philosophy, and Eastern non-Christian religious thought, chief among these Judaism.

The following link will bring you to extensive essay that will explain, I think, the very issue you sense with Islam and the West, and in fact the World. < http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/2007/10/islam-christian-europe-and-greek.html>.



I too am an 'Edmund Burke' conservative, but I wondered about your vision of the West. How do other religions fit in, in your view?
Best,
Andy

Dear Andy,
Please see my Response to Arthur above and Dr. Lavin, below.


Dear Eques, and Greetings to All,
Thanks for the very interesting posting. It brings to mind a book I just read by the Nobel Laureate in Economics for 1998, and recently Master of Trinity College at Cambridge University, Dr. Amartya Sen:
IDENTITY AND VIOLENCE. This is the best book I have read on the issue of identity and how it provides something positive to human existence, but also what harm it can cause as well. The issue of how groups of humanity identify themselves and how that identification is at the root of much human violence is a compelling concern that Sen develops brilliantly.

I cannot speak for the group as to whether you have found the right place, but I always welcome the opportunity to understand what our potential as humans is and can be, and so I welcome your thoughts.

My response to your proposition is that Western Civilization, Conservatism, Catholicism, and Christianity are each and all vast and complex entities. I would find it hard to say that any one of these contains all of the other three. Certainly one would have to agree that there is much to Western Civilization that at its deepest roots as well as today's everyday situation, is derived from non-Christian sources, as well as non-Western sources. Sen is particularly brilliant in proving that much of "Western" civilization was created in the "East," and much of "Eastern" civilization was created in the "West." Surely one would have to admit that much of Christianity is not Catholic. One could also argue that not all Christianity is Conservative, many consider Jesus as one of history's most potent radicals, the very opposite of a Conservative approach to life. And certainly not all Conservatism is Christian.

And so I would rather argue that Western Civilization, Conservatism, Catholicism, and Christianity are each rich and invaluable parts of the human experience. That each have contributed essential aspects of human thinking, human virtue, human caring to the very core of what it means to be human. But to say that they are all one and the same, or that no other aspect of human experience has been as rich or essential seems to fly in the face of what has actually taken place since modern humanity emerged some 50,000 years ago.

Another point. To me, America is still one of the great experiments in human living. Abraham Lincoln captured that sense of experiment best.
He believed that it was a new idea to ask a large number of people to govern themselves without recourse to tyranny. He also believed that it was not yet clear if this could be done. I agree with Lincoln on both points today. When we look at the world today, we are reminded that for most of human history, at least since agriculture allowed formation of societies, the usual organization of society was tyrannical, the group would grant a king or priest power over the group's volition. These groups would almost always be defined by a religious or political identity and wars would rage between opposing identities. Most of human society existed under such tyrannies for nearly all of human history.

The Founding Fathers embraced a radical notion, that neither king nor priest should rule, but rather the people. It remains to be seen whether this is workable. But the record of the last 200+ years does contain some rather striking successes. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary success stories has been the ability of the citizens of the world to live together in peace in the United States. Surely old habits of prejudice have been active here, but consider how Italians, Greeks, Jews, Chinese, Arabs, Persians, Africans, Turks, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and any other group one might identify all live together in peace. Note how no American Muslim has ever been a suicide bomber, even though many countries in the "West" have sprouted their own. Not only do the various ethnic groups refrain from killing
each other in the US, but they also collaborate in releasing the most powerful blooms of human creativity. Think of the way in which a staggering diversity of people have been able to invent and create the American variety of business success, literature, etc.

It seems most apparent that two keys to American success have been:
1. The attempt to eliminate the inheritance of power, the state is ruled by an elected official, not a dynastic king. We are slipping a bit on this point with the Bush and Clinton dynasties and the concentrations of wealth, but the American vision is to let virtue and merit not wealth or parentage decide who rules.
2. The attempt to eliminate religious identity as a source of power.
This has created the following three advances that at the time of their creation which together were unique in human history:
a. A society in which each person could follow their religious heritage without fear of being persecuted.
b. A society in which no person could wield political power by invoking the power of the Divinity. Political arguments had to be won in open debate, no clergy could settle a political debate by acting as representative of God.
c. A society in which religious wars would not be fought. Not one major war the United States has been involved in has been religious sectarian in nature, a striking contrast to Europe's history.

And so although Western Civilization, Conservativism, Christianity, and Catholicism have been amongst the great treasures of humanity, I am not prepared to limit all of America to be only Western, Catholic, and Conservative. It has never been so, and if the vision of the Founding Fathers, and the hopes of Abraham Lincoln are ever to be achieved, it can never be so. This is a country of diverse humanity, whose politics were built to allow the best of humanity to bloom. To re-make America into a Catholic country whose only choices are Conservative would quickly dim the light of 300 million people thinking, creating, inventing. It would almost certainly invite the return of some religious hierarchy to the role of political power. This is an experiment currently in process in Iran, and being tried to be imposed across the Muslim world. Everyone in the world can see what happens when clergy are granted political power on the basis of their claims to speak for God. It would also likely lead to an inherited political elite, and completely end whatever hope for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

This may be the right place for your post, but these are a few thoughts that your ideas stimulate.

What does everyone think about these issues?

Arthur Lavin, MD FAAP
Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine


Eques Response follows

Dear Dr. Lavin and Greetings to all

Several of your points are worth comment.

1. I agree, “There is much to Western Civilization and Culture that at its deepest roots…is derived from non-Christian sources, as well as non-Western sources.” This is historically accurate. Christianity itself has it roots on the threshold of Asia in the Middle East and is itself rooted in Judaism. Western thought patterns are themselves rooted in Greek philosophy. However, the Catholic Church through the Apostles and early church fathers and missionaries, in particular through Paul who was himself an observant Jew and even a Pharisee, brought the gospel to the gentiles of the West. Catholic Scholars such as Augustine, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, mediated and integrated ancient Greek philosophy into Catholicism and therefore to the West.

2. Yesterday October 17 was the Feast of Ignatius of Antioch who was the successor to Peter in Antioch and Martyred in Rome as Peter was in 107 during the reign of Emperor Trajan. Ignatius was the first to refer to the Christian Church as Catholic. The Church was Catholic for more than a thousand years before the great schism before Easter Orthodox and Catholicism centered in Rome. The West remained Catholic until Luther’s formal break with Rome. So although “one would have to admit that much of Christianity is not Catholic” today, one would also have to admit that all Christianity was Catholic, and certainly all of Western Christianity was Catholic for about 1500 years. It was during this time that what we call Western Civilization was born and nourished by Catholicism when it was if not the only light certainly the brightest after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

3. This is of course my point that what we call Western Civilization is at it roots Catholic. Through which non-Christian and non-Western streams were mediated and integrated. I do not maintain that Western Civilization, Conservatism, Christianity, and Catholicism are at this time all one. They are not! However, Catholicism is the mother of them all. Therefore, I would maintain with De Tocqueville (a devout Catholic) that American Democracy is endangered by the cultural shift away for Christianity and its Catholic roots.

4. You maintain that in ancient times “the usual organization of society was tyrannical.” Actually, it was not. The societies where organized as where nuclear families. They were Patriarchal. The King, Pharaoh, Emperor, was the “father” of the nation. There was a high expectation among the people that the “father” of the nation would care for his children the people of his nation. They were of his blood; they were “family.” It is true that these organizational structures could be “tyrannical.”

However, so can “democracy” be tyrannical, “The Founding Fathers” did not embrace a radical notion. They were demanding the traditional rights of Englishmen. They demanded representation of the property classes in parliament. They were in fact afraid of the Tyranny of the Mob and designed the Constitution with as many safeguards against democracy, rule by the majority, as possible. The only branch of the federal government directly elected by the people, provided by the Constitution was the House of Representative, and here “by the people” means free Men only. The members of the Senate, a non-aristocratic “House of Lords” were elected by the State Legislatures. The election of the president was insulated from the demos by the novelty of the Electoral College, which was intended to be free to the elect the president according to their own best lights, as the College of Cardinals elect the Pope. Judges were appointed by the Executive Branch, with the approval of the Senate. These things have all been altered by amendments and practice. Also, remember the States where free at the time to place all kinds of restrictions on who could vote and who could not. Therefore, do say the Founding Fathers embraced a radical notion is not historically sustainable.

5. I agree with your keys to American success. “2. a” is I think the important aspect.

“Political arguments had to be won in open debate.” This exactly what I hope we are about even in this exchange. The argument that I would like to make essentially is that Christianity/Catholicism is the guarantor of our “democracy.” It is not as Christopher Hitchens argues its enemy. It is its guarantor, because democracy as we know it is a product of Western Political Philosophy, which is rooted in Catholic Theology and Greek Philosophy. We should not hesitate to argue with Thomas Jefferson, “that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, chief among these being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” God is the origin of our rights, he is the ultimate lawgiver, and he guarantees our rights. He has created us and our human dignity is an essential of our human nature.

I am eager to know what others think of my line of reasoning. Thank you Dr. Lavin for this thought provoking and informative exchange.

Pax Tecum

Eques






"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Separateness of the Priest



If we look at the life of Christ as depicted in the Sacred Scripture we see a man who was both of his time and for all times. We see a man who was very different because he was also truly God. Jesus of Nazareth was also Jesus the Christ. He walked and talked, ate and prayed with the people of His particular time, faith, culture and place. Yet, He taught his closest friends and those who would be his disciples “to be in the world but not of it”. He is the Way for Christians to God and all that lies beyond this very temporal existence and experience of life. From among his disciples He choose, He set apart, He separated 12 to be His Apostles, that is those whom He would send out to all the world and on whom He would build the edifice of His church as on 12 foundation stones. He gave to one of these the Keys of the Kingdom to bind and to loose matters on earth and even in heaven.

Jesus, Himself distinguished among family, friends, disciples and apostles. All distinctions carry with them a degree of separateness. We can only call something distinct in itself if it is also separated in some way from others.

The Apostles themselves began very soon to separate some men from the Community of Faith (ecclesia: the church) to serve at table and to minister to the needs of widows and orphans. These were called Deacons (diakonos: servant). The proto –martyr St. Steven was among them. The Apostles also consecrated men to supervise and administer the churches they had founded on their missionary expeditions. These men were called bishops (episcapos: overseers). The bishops themselves soon began to consecrate priests (presbyteros: elder) to assist them in caring for the spiritual needs of the Community of Faith, so that the Word and the Sacraments might be preached and administered to all the faithful. These bishops and presbyters very quickly began to see themselves as the priest of the New Covenant, replacing those of the Old Covenant who sacrifices had come to an end with the permanent destruction of the Temple by the Roman Empire in 70 ad.

The selection of these men to ecclesial office was understood as a consecration, a setting aside of these men for the sacred, exclusive service of God.

It was for this reason that bishops and priests were expected to separate from their wives, and live chastely as though they had no wives. When Paul instructs in, first Timothy 3:2, that men who are to be set apart for the episcopacy should be married but once, in order to demonstrate that they can indeed live chastely. The remarriage of a man after the death of his first wife was taken as a definitive sign that he could not live a celibate chaste life.

First Timothy 3:2

2 Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.

The ordained is separated not only from the world by his episcopal or presbyteral consecration, but he is also separated from his wife for the sake of God and His Kingdom. The marriage vows were not broken by this new reality. The bishop or priest was still responsible for the livelihood of his wife, if she lived, and children, if he had any. He was, however, expected to live separately from them, from this moment on husband and wife was to become like brother and sister.

The letter to the Hebrews speaks eloquently of the separation of every “high priest” by God from the people for the sacred role of offering the sacrifice to God for the salvation of the people. It compares each priest to Jesus Christ the great High Priest of the New Covenant who, when in the flesh was able to offer the sacrifice of His own suffering by which “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him”.

Hebrews 5:1-10

Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

2

He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness

3

and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.

4

No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

5

In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: "You are my son; this day I have begotten you";

6

just as he says in another place: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

7

In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

8

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;

9

and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

10

declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

It is therefore accurate to claim that separateness is essential to the Priesthood. When a man is consecrated to the presbyterate by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, he is set apart. He is separated from his fellow men, so that he may be an instrument for their salvation. He is consecrated, set apart, for exclusive sacred use. He is no longer to beget children of the flesh, but myriads of children of the Spirit. He will become father of many by being father of none. This separateness is truly ontological and fruitful.

It is likely that individual priests will experience this separateness in different ways. It should be expected that each will have different emotional, psychological and spiritual manifestations of this reality in their own flesh. Consistent with this new reality the priest would experience himself as somehow different. Contrary to this new reality would be any attempt by the priest himself or others to suppress these differences or artificially to obfuscate the separateness. A priest therefore is no longer an ordinary man; rather he is an ordained man. Like a cup that has been consecrated and has become a chalice, so also the Christian gentleman has been consecrated by the Sacrament of Holy Orders and has become a priest; both now have a sacred nature and purpose.

It is altogether proper, therefore, for the priest to live apart and to bear witness to the sacred by his manner of dress and his comportment. It is his proper role and sacred function to pray and to offer the sacrificial meal of the Eucharist. He is to model by word and example the faith of Christ for all believers and non-believers alike.

Unfortunately, there are those who wish to trivialize or eliminate the differences between clergy and laity. This is a disservice to both vocations. The laity is called by virtue of the sacrament of Baptism, to holiness and to sanctify the world by their work, witness and prayer. The priest is called by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders to serve the spiritual needs of the faithful. He is now an alter Christus, another Christ. He is to teach, preach, and offer the sacrifice in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). All distinctions are to flow from and be commensurate with these different but complementary roles.

These distinctions are matters of neither power nor privilege, but of consecration and service. The priest as father of the faith community is to lead gently the faithful entrusted to him by his bishop in the manner of Christ who was meek and humble of heart. He is to be careful not to break the bent reed or quench the smoldering wick, yet he is to be bold and brave in protecting his community of faith from the powers of darkness that seek to blind them to the Light of Jesus Christ, who alone can save them.

The priest is a man who is called to live for Christ, to serve Christ in his Body the church, the people of God. . St Thomas wisely taught that grace builds on nature. Therefore the priest is first to be a good man, healthy in mind and body. He is to be emotionally and psychological mature and open to further growth and development. He is to be physically healthy enough to carry out the work entrusted to him by ordination. In this way he can be good soil for the many graces of ordination to take deep and lasting root in him. As a man he will know that he is imperfect and a sinner. Hebrews also reminds us, “He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.”

Recalling once again the words of the letter to the Hebrews, “No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was”. For those who are called, for those who are invited by Christ to “come and follow me” as his priest, there can be no greater life no greater vocation, than that of being a Priest of Jesus Christ. It is a pearl of great price worth being set apart for.

Eques

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Catholic Perspective on Homosexuality

Eques

Revised Post July 12, 2007

Currently there is a great deal of media coverage and interest on subjects dealing with homosexuality and gay rights. The intention of this reflection is to provide a Catholic/Christian perspective on this controversial and sensitive subject. I hope that it will provide sufficient information, better understanding and deeper
appreciation of the teachings of the Catholic Church, enabling a more comfortable and confident participation in the continuing debate. This paper will focus on single young people both Catholic and secularist, who are faced with difficult but possible moral choices.

The Catholic Church (CC) respects the human rights of all men and woman. We are all created by God who loves each of us unconditionally. We in turn are challenged by God’s love and the example of Jesus Christ our Lord to love all our brothers and sisters unconditionally.

Unconditional love is not synonymous with permissiveness. It does not prevent us from correcting or challenging each other in lives of virtue. On the contrary love often calls upon us to teach and correct our brothers and sisters as true friends when their behaviors are manifestly self-destructive this is often referred to as tough love and it is difficult for the corrector and corrected. We can easily see a manifestation of this in the love of a parent for a child. The parent does not hesitate to correct and teach a child in order to protect him from a variety of dangerous behaviors and situations.

Good or evil can be known by understanding our human nature and its requirements as created by God. It is fundamental to this task to ask why God has created us. The old Baltimore Catechism (OBC) gave a very succinct answer to this question. God made us that we may know, love, and serve Him in this life and be happy with him forever in the next. The CC teaches that, we are all called to be “saints.” All those who enjoy eternal life in heaven are in fact “saints.”

The call to “sanctity” which we all share is our starting point (St Paul in 1 Tim 2:4 “God wills all men to be saved”). This universal vocation to holiness points to a set of conclusions that differ from those proposed by our
secular culture. We may express the secular starting principle as “the pursuit of happiness” without any reference to God or eternal varieties. This foundational secular starting point includes what may be called “self fulfillment and expression or self actualization.” “The pursuit of happiness” cannot strictly be called a “vocation,” for there is no “caller” outside of the individual. This starting point recognizes no absolute truths but relies on the individual’s freedom and ability to decide for himself what is true or best for him. This principle of moral reckoning can be named “relativism” or “nihilism” or more benignly “secularism.”

“Secularism” implies relativism or nihilism because it recognizes no “truths” or “behaviors” as “malum in se” (evil in itself). Truths or actions are judged relative to their perceived usefulness to the individual. These decisions are not made relative to “human nature” because no such thing is recognized to exist. Many media and campus debates revolve around these very different starting points. The result being that the debaters do not really engage one another in a building dialectic but rather attempt to win points with their audience. What must be engaged in order to reach any fundamental understanding are the starting principles. These principles must be examined for their interior and exterior logic. Are they internally consistent and logical? Are there expressions truly good for the individual or society and why?

Here we will examine the interior and exterior logic of the CC teaching on “homosexuality” in the light of its definition of “human nature” and fundamental teachings efficiently expressed in the OBC. “God made us to know love and serve Him in this life and to be happy with him eternally in the next,” this is our fundamental call to “Sanctity” that comes from God who created all of us, and all things.

All of us, who hold and teach the Catholic faith, do so by the grace of God. Faith is a theological virtue, which is a gift from God that enables us to be in a loving relationship with God, who we call Father. Faith then enables us to “know” God’s will for us as church and as individual members of that church. Our faith teaches us that we are called to be “saints” we are called to know, love, and serve him in this life, so that we might enjoy eternal life with Him. Logic supports the statement that the imperfect cannot be united with absolute perfection without first being relatively perfected. The Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Reconciliation enable us to begin this journey in this life and give us Hope (another theological virtue and gift from God) that it will be completed in the next after a purification also begun in this life and completed by the grace of God as we pass into the next life. More simply expressed in faith language we may need to pass through “purgatory” in order to be fully united to God in heaven. We hope but cannot be certain that we will pass from this life already having achieved the perfection we call “sanctity”; this is in keeping with our vocation to sanctity, i.e. holiness.

How do we journey toward sanctity in our lives? We do so by doing God’s will in this life “perfectly”, “ you must be perfect (holy) as your heavenly Father is perfect (holy)” (Mt 5:48). This could immediately discourage us, because as human beings we know that we can do nothing perfectly. However, God our loving Father knows our weakness and has provided the remedies in the Sacraments of Baptism, by which we are perfected in God’s grace. If death were to follow Baptism before sin, “sanctity” is achieved as pure gift from God. The perfection of grace exists in that person and eternal life is assured. It is in a sense already present in the newly baptized. Historically you may recall that the first Catholic Roman Emperor, Constantine deliberately deferred Baptism until his deathbed, because as emperor he believed deadly sin was inevitable. After Baptism, the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation feed and heal us in our sinful imperfections.

The Catholic asks how do I know and act on God’s will for me today and throughout my life. In contrast, a person with a secularly informed way of life asks what, do “I” wish to do today or with “my” life. The secularist is directed by his own resources accepting no judge of his well-being outside of himself, or no guide that does not conform to the interior logic of his basic premise “the pursuit of happiness” as self defined.

The Catholic believes that God has a particular will for him. He believes that God has established the CC through His only begotten Son who entrusted Peter and the apostles with the keys to bind and loose His disciples. All of this is subject to the basic project of striving to be saints, to be holy. The Catholic wishes to do nothing deliberately that will put his pursuit of holiness, his reason for existing, in jeopardy. If he does sin out of personal weakness or failed logic, he does not seek to justify his sins but to confess them honestly, sincerely and contritely in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Having been properly catechized by his church, the Catholic is aware of the self-destructive nature of sin. Sin always presents itself as an apparent “good,” as pleasurable in some way that is actually an “evil,” and thus destructive to the sinner.

It is through the practice of virtue that the Catholic gradually develops habits of grace and avoids habits of vice. Where does the Catholic learn what is virtuous and what is vicious? There are several ways this is achieved. First the CC teaches him what has been revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of revelation. He learns through the proclamation of the Gospel how Jesus lived and died and rose again. He learns what Jesus taught and he learns ultimately that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. The Catholic conscience is therefore instructed in the truths of the Catholic faith and is able to make moral decisions based on the logic of these truths. He also has another advantage. In times of doubt and confusion, in times of emotional or moral crisis, he has the rock of the CC to lean on and turn to in faith, believing that the CC is the arbiter of God’s truth in this life.

Practically thinking and speaking the young Catholic who is in the process of becoming a Christian man or woman has a clear guide as to what is the best way to live the life of grace and to become that person that God wills him or her to be. In this way he or she finds true happiness and joy in this passing world, as well as eternal life in the next.

Meanwhile the “secularist” has only personal resources on which to make those moral decisions that are intended to bring happiness. These choices may only bring passing pleasure along with self-destruction in the end. Admittedly these young people may certainly seek out advice and guidance from others who are also “secularists”. However, the advisor himself has only personal experiences or his accumulated knowledge on which to rely and can appeal to no “higher” authority. In addition, the enquirer will most likely accept only that advice that fits with his particular logic and worldview, which is ultimately dependant on himself. A monadic and less than reliable system is constructed. This can be compared with drawing your own map of a country you have never visited, in order to navigate that landscape when you get there. Because the “secularist” in effect creates his own world, there is no one who has been there prior to himself who can provide a reliable map. The Catholic has the advantage of 2000 thousand years of communal accumulated knowledge, historical conscience, and experience, thoroughly examined and tested in the light of the reliable word of God, incarnated in the Catholic Church.

Perhaps, the above has provided a thumbnail portrait of the secular and Catholic moral reasoning processes. It is in the fundamental differences of these basic premises that the moral debate occurs.

The Catholic argument may be presented in this manner. , e.g., our subject is a single young man or woman, who is aware of his call to holiness. He has been taught the minimal requirements of the 10 commandments. He has learned from his church, scriptures, and tradition the more challenging teachings of Jesus that call him to perfection (holiness) in his life of grace. He is therefore aware that as a Christian he is called to sexual abstinence, chastity not only in a negative way, “Thou shall not commit adultery,” but also in the practice of the opposing positive virtues, for the sake of the kingdom of god in imitation of Christ. He strives to be Christ like in all his thoughts, words and actions that concern his sexuality and all other areas of his spiritual life. If he were to fall short of these ideals, he would recognize his sins and confess them completely, truthfully and humbly. His sexual orientation is not pertinent; he is called to purity and chastity whether he is heterosexual, homosexual, or ambivalent in his orientation. He is first an adopted son of God the Father by virtue of Baptism and he is called to holiness and a life of virtue regardless of his sexual orientation.

The “secularist” might argue that the young person in question is free to decide with whom he will engage in genital activity based on mutual consent. For him there is no higher purpose or value to sexuality. The virtues of purity or chastity have no inherent value in fact they are not recognized as virtues at all. These would be defined as unfortunate states of deprivation.

This manner of moral reasoning has permeated our secular culture. It is reinforced in countless ways in both what is referred to as “high” and “pop” cultural.

The counter cultural values are proposed almost predominately by the CC and by more evangelical/fundamentalist Christian churches. Unfortunately, the young Catholic absorbs the secular philosophical panoply of amoral reckoning with little or no awareness, unless he regularly participates in Sunday worship and deliberately seeks out the teachings of the CC. This results in moral confusion in reckoning and behavior, for the inadequately informed Catholic. It is therefore more difficult for him to resist sexual and other temptations, virtue fails and sin is common. Adding to these sins, the secular reasoning effects the evaluation of sin itself. Having committed serious sin the young catholic may appeal to secular reasoning for self-justification. Secular thinking sees no necessity to confess these actions. These are not sins to the “secularist.” They are natural expressions of sexuality. The commingling of secular thought with Catholic values in the minds of young Catholics all too often results in self-justification. It rationalizes away the healing benefits of naming and sacramentally confessing the darkness in their lives. This matrix of thinking and behavior produces spiritual bluntness or callousness, often with accompanying physical, emotional, and psychological harm.

It is a difficult proposition to break through this spiritual bluntness, sometimes referred to as “a callused conscience.” The individual so afflicted becomes insensitive to spiritual and faith based argumentation. His conscience has been overcome by the secular, relativistic, and nihilistic philosophical principles. In thought and action, the young person no longer thinks or acts according to Catholic values.

Not all is lost however, because there is in the secular argument an inherent weakness, “contra factum non valet argumentum,” (“against the facts there is no valid argument”). What facts are we speaking of, the “facts” are the fruits of “sinful” behavior. The secularist does not consider these acts as “sin,” but as acts of self-expression and freedom. They expect to find not only pleasure in the homosexual or premarital heterosexual act but also human fulfillment.

Genital-sexual activity outside of marriage is prone to promiscuity and even addiction. This is especially true in the casual almost anonymous sexual relations that young people seek in the hook-up culture of our times. The demonstrable truth is that casual and promiscuous sexual relations provide a transitory emotional high, followed often by feelings of meaninglessness and emptiness in unfulfilling human relationships. This in turn creates a desire for more sexual activity and a cycle of momentary erotic highs and their consequent emotional lows tend to produce a dependency like any mood altering substance or activity. The “facts” then are that the “secularist” approach to moral reasoning does not achieve the self-actualization or fulfillment that it promises. The “facts” are that casual and or promiscuous sexual activity is emotionally and psychologically harmful and medically risky. Accepting (without approval) for the sake of argument the relativistic and nihilistic starting point of secular thinkers, it is possible to demonstrate with “facts” that it does not deliver on its promises. “Contra factum non valet argumentum” therefore the secularist, relativistic and nihilistic argument fails. It is not a reliable map for human fulfillment. It is an argument that makes the individual the measure of all things, resulting in isolation, self-absorption, and self-destructive behaviors. [For more details concerning the destructive nature of homosexual acts, please see the Statement of the Catholic Medical Association: Homosexuality and Hope .

The Catholic argument for purity, chastity, or any virtue is based on faith and church teachings. Jesus Christ the Son of God came to earth as the God/man to set us free from our sins, not to encourage us to be enslaved by them. The false “Christian Prophets” of our day are very busy attempting to convince other Christians that homosexual feelings are “normal” and homosexual acts are thus perfectly legitimate expressions of these feelings. The scriptures Hebrew and Christian consistently condemn homosexual acts, (the sin is condemned the sinner called to a new life in God). The CC has always considered and still does consider homosexual acts disordered in relation to the natural and God given design of human sexuality. The CC’s teaching contains a very realistic understanding of human nature, tested over millennia, which makes for a happy, well-adjusted, self-disciplined, and responsible person. It delivers on its promises. It is philosophically consistent. It provides a map for the young person provided by countless men and women who have gone before them “marked with the sign of faith” (from Eucharistic prayer II of the Roman missal). It is not self-generated, but part of a consistent ethic and tradition. Thus, it is highly reliable.

The opposition responds, “You cannot tell me what to do or not do. You can not tell me how I may use my body or who I may or may not have sex with.” In a way these statements are true, one individual can not tell another individual any of these things, but independent facts and a long standing and reliable tradition of faith and morals can make a powerful argument as to what is good or evil, what is healthy and what is not for the individual human person.

In the case of homosexual genital acts, it is possible to argue from faith for the Catholic young person that this is just as sinful as heterosexual genital acts outside of marriage. It is also possible to argue from the facts that homosexual genital acts are unhealthy and risky business. “Some homosexual acts are physically harmful because they disregard normal human anatomy and function. These acts are associated with increased risks of tissue injury, organ malfunction, and infectious diseases. These and other factors result in a significantly shortened life expectancy.” (Page 1, Statement by the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, Both arguments involve sexual activity outside of marriage and are by definition disordered and sinful. They are disordered according to the revealed design and will of God. Sexuality is ordered to love and life within the Marriage union of husband and wife, “male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mt 19:5) and “what therefore God has joined let no man put asunder” (Mt 19:6). “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) It is here that the question of sexual orientation comes to the fore. A young Catholic or Christian can readily understand that sexual union is intended by God for the sanctification of husband and wife by their co-operation with the creative power of God. Even if he or she may have difficulty and struggle to be pure and chaste before Marriage and to live the purity and chastity necessary for fidelity in Marriage. The teaching of Christ and His church is very clear and understandable.

Here the “secularist” argues for “equal rights” for those of Homosexual orientation. They too should be allowed to marry to form life long unions, in this, way promiscuity, casual anonymous sex is eliminated, and fidelity to a life long partner is possible. In a purely secular context, this argument appears to have merit. It appears to be the lesser of two evils fidelity to a monogamous homosexual relationship being preferable to multiple transient sexual relations with all the accompanying dangers. However, the dangers and risks stated above are still present.

In the Catholic and Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian context, however it is untenable. In order for sexual intercourse to be truly a marriage act and to be spiritually fruitful for the couple, it must be open to “Love and Life” (see Paul VI, “Humanae Vitae”). The sexual union of a same sex couple is not open to life, even if the partners truly love one another and there is no reason to impugn this possibility, the sexual union is still sinful. They cannot enter into a Sacramental Marriage. Their sexual union is not procreative as God intended. It is according to its nature, disordered. The CC however, greatly values chaste same sex and opposite sex friendships in which many saints were formed, e.g. St John Bosco and St. Dominic Savio, St. Francis and St. Clare, St. Ambrose and St Augustine. The teachings of “Humane Vitae” have consequences for the validly married heterosexual couples as well, for it requires that their sexual union be open to Love and Life, neither contraceptive nor abortafacient and most certainly not coerced. Only in this way are they spiritually fruitful and share in the Sacramental character of Marriage.

The secularist argues this is discriminatory. How can Christians argue for sexual relations to be limited to marriage and at the same time prohibit same sex couples from entering into marriage? This would require all homosexuals to be celibate, pure, and chaste. Yes indeed, it would, as it also requires all single heterosexuals to be celibate, pure, and chaste. The heterosexual however does indeed have the capacity for Sacramental Marriage, barring any preexisting impediments (such as consanguinity or impotency). However, homosexuality, an exclusively same sex orientation, is an impediment to marriage for how can they “be fruitful and multiply.” The CC opposes same sex “civil marriage” because it desires to preserve both the traditional definition of marriage and in the larger context the vestiges of the Christian ethic that once guided our civic polity. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, same sex marriage is now a reality. There is no need however for the CC to stop or alter its teaching.

The Catholic must always be mindful that God’s grace is never lacking for those who seek it. History and human experience testifies that what is difficult is not necessarily impossible. Although a young person may experience same sex attractions, it is not required that he or she act on those feelings and desires. Here we begin to touch on the mystery of the cross and its centrality to Christian life. The CC understands its responsibility to support all those who carry this cross like any other cross with its Sacraments especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist and with making psycho-spiritual counseling and direction available to assist all those who seek it. Despite statements to the contrary science has not isolated “the homosexual gene” (Page 1 part 1, #1, Statement of CMA . The CC teaches from its experience that same-sex attraction is resistible and preventable by assuring that “the emotional and developmental needs of each child are properly met by both family and peers” (Page 2 part 1, #3, Statement of CMA .



Here again the Catholic, Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian homosexual is able to understand the clear traditional teaching of his faith. The difficulty is found in the efforts to be pure and chaste. Here we return to the fundamental call of all Christians to holiness by virtue of their baptism. Remember we are all created by God to know love and serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the next. This is true for the Catholic or Christian without exception. The heterosexual young person may be called to holiness in Marriage or in some form of celibacy lived out for the sake of the kingdom of God. The homosexual young person is also called to holiness, to sanctity, lived out in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. Certainly, for the Catholic homosexual person the road to holiness is lived out in part in the struggle for purity and chastity. This can be seen as a sharing in the cross of Christ and like all crosses that the Christian carries, it has its own blessings that come from God in the midst of suffering. If the homosexually oriented young person by God’s grace can embrace this cross that life presents, the road to Sanctity is difficult but open. Keeping in mind that God’s grace is never lacking and the reality that all vocations to holiness entail the cross no one need be envious of, or impugn another’s call or road to holiness. Accepting the crosses fashioned for us in our universal call to holiness and our individual vocations opens the road to holiness for each and all.

The secular way of thinking cannot appreciate or accept this faith based reasoning. The CC becomes then the voice crying in the wilderness and the light in the midst of darkness. In the face of an unbelieving society, it must continue to pass on what it has received from God. The CC also has history and medical realities on its side. The witness of Catholics young and old who fight the good fight living out their vocations to holiness may provide the strongest arguments. Witness can speak louder than well-reasoned words.