Friday, March 25, 2011


The below is from Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute. 

Western Europe is considered a religiously-barren place these days. The reality, however, is more complex. Books written by two Catholic theologians recently rocketed up Germany’s best-seller list. That testifies to Europe’s on-going interest in religious matters. But the books’ real importance lies in their authors’ rather different visions of Catholicism’s purposes and future – and not just in Europe, but beyond.
One of the theologians is Benedict XVI. The other is the well-known scholar Fr. Hans Kung. His text, Can the Church Still Be Saved?, was published the same week as volume two of Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth.
Though usually viewed as polar-opposites, Benedict and Kung have led curiously parallel lives. Both are native German-speakers. They are almost the same age. For a time, both taught at the same university. During the Second Vatican Council, they served as theological advisors with reputations as reformers.
More-attuned participants at Vatican II, however, immediately noticed differences between Kung and the-then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger. One such person was the Jesuit Henri de Lubac – a French theologian who no-one could dismiss as a reactionary.
In his Vatican II diaries, de Lubac entered pithy observations about those he encountered. Ratzinger is portrayed as one whose powerful intellect is matched by his “peacefulness” and “affability.” Kung, by contrast, is denoted as possessing a “juvenile audacity” and speaking in “incendiary, superficial, and polemical” terms.
Fr. de Lubac, incidentally, was a model of courtesy his entire life. Something about Kung clearly bothered him.
After Vatican II, Ratzinger and Kung took very divergent roads. Ratzinger emerged as a formidable defender of Catholic orthodoxy and was eventually elected pope. Kung became a theological celebrity and antagonist of the papacy.
Now both men are in the evening of their earthly days. What, many wonder, occupies their minds at this time of life? In this regard, Jesus of Nazareth and Can the Church still be saved? are quite revealing.
From Jesus of Nazareth’s first pages, it’s clear Benedict is focused upon knowing the truth about Christ as He is rather than who we might prefer Him to be.
Through a deep exposition of Scripture many Evangelicals will admire and a careful exploration of tradition the Eastern Orthodox will appreciate, Benedict shows Christ is who the ancient Church proclaims Him to be – not a political activist, but rather the Messiah who really lived, really died and who then proved his divinity by really rising from the dead.
So what is Kung’s book focused upon? In a word, power. For Kung, it’s all about power – especially papal power – and the need for lay Catholics to seize power if the Church is to be “saved” from sinister Roman reactionaries who have perverted Christianity for centuries.
Leaving aside its cartoon-like presentation of Church history, the Christ of Kung’s book is one who would apparently disavow his own teachings on subjects such as marriage because they don’t conform to twenty-first century secularist morality. Instead, Kung’s Christ faithfully follows the views of, well, progressive post-Vatican II German theologians.
For long-term Kung-watchers, this is nothing new. He’s been playing the same broken record since 1965. And the worn-out tune is that of accommodation: more precisely, accommodation to secularist-progressivism.
Unfortunately for Kung, he has two problems. One is theological. No matter how much scandal has been caused by Borgia popes, inept bishops, heretical theologians, sexually-predatory clergy or sinful laity, the Catholic Church teaches “the gates of hell will never prevail against it.”
In short, the cosmological battle has already been won. Hence the Church isn’t anyone’s to be “saved.” Yes, all Catholics and other Christians continue to sin, but the Church’s survival has been guaranteed by Christ. In that light, the notion the Church needs to be “saved” by late middle-aged dissenting baby-boomers is more than absurd: it’s also arrogant.
Kung’s agenda also has a practical problem. Put simply, it’s failed. Whether it is interpreting Vatican II as a rupture with the past or banalizing the liturgy with clown masses and 1970s music, no-one can plausibly claim the accommodationist project infused life into Catholicism.
Instead, it produced ashes. In much of the West, it facilitated moral relativism, a bureaucratization of church organizations, and the collapse of once-great religious orders into not-especially coherent apologists for name-your-latest-lefty-cause.
In what’s left of accommodationist circles, woe betide anyone who highlights the dark side of the Greens’ agenda, who suggests the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change doesn’t share in the charisma of infallibility, or who observes that the small number of non-negotiables for Catholics in political life actually are non-negotiable. To do so is anathema.
Benedict’s vision of the Church is utterly different. It does not indulge the fantasy that a “new church” somehow materialized in 1965. Nor does it hanker after an imaginary 1950s golden age.
Instead it’s a Church focused upon deepening its knowledge of, faithfulness to, and love for Christ. It’s also a Church that engages the world, but is not subservient to passing intellectual-fashion. Finally, it’s a Church which is evangelical in the best sense of the word: proposing – rather than hedging or imposing – the Truth revealed by Christ.
But perhaps the most revealing difference between Benedict and Fr. Kung’s books is the tone. Can the Church still be saved? is characterized by anger – the fury of an enfant terrible who’s not-so-enfant anymore and who knows the game is up: that his vision of Catholicism can’t be saved from the irredeemable irrelevance into which it has sunk.
Jesus of Nazareth, however, is pervaded by humility: the humility of one who approaches human history’s greatest mystery, applies to it his full intellect, and then presents his contribution for others’ assessment.
Yes, there are many things going on in Benedict’s book, but in the end there’s only one agenda really in play and it has nothing to do with power. It’s about helping readers to encounter the fullness of Christ in the most important days of His earthly life – to know what God was willing to do to save us from ourselves.
Besides such things, Hans Kung’s agenda seems very trivial indeed.
Dr. Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, and Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Perhaps it is just as well that the teaching opportunity in Japan did not happen.  Still, if it happens for the next school year, we would go.  The hope is that Germany or Italy happens instead.   We always felt there was a reason the Japan move did not happen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


This from "Whispers in the Loggia:

"Now The Scandal Is Amplified Ten-Fold"

And so, on this Ash Wednesday, the fallout begins.... Again.

In the wake of the largest single suspension of priests in the history of the Stateside church, a bishop on these shores -- indeed, a B16 appointee -- sent the following reaction:
I am amazed at what is happening in Philly. For the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to have this many priests who have had an allegation against them still in active ministry years later leads me to believe that someone made the decision somewhere along the road to allow this.

Instead of being overly cautious to protect children from any possible further harm and the church from further scandal, they let these guys back into ministry. Now the scandal is amplified ten-fold because it looks like it is the same old church and the same old leadership doing what it has always done in the past.

What were they thinking? In this day and age, this stuff never stays hidden. And it shouldn't. This is a tragedy for the people, priests, and the church of Philadelphia, all because someone did not exercise due diligence and good judgment.

Sometimes I think that, when we talk about the "new evangelization," we need to start with evangelizing those of us in leadership first.
...meanwhile, the lead force behind the second grand jury into the River City church -- Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, himself a Catholic -- issued the following statement late yesterday:
We have been advised that the Archdiocese has taken action and suspended from ministry 21 of the priests referenced in the recent grand jury report concerning sexual abuse by clergy.

Cardinal Rigali’s actions are as commendable as they are unprecedented, and they reflect his concern for the physical and spiritual well-being of those in his care. We appreciate that the Archdiocese has acknowledged the value of the report, and seen fit to take some of the steps called for by the grand jury.

Going forward, in cases involving allegations of abuse by clergy, my Office and the Philadelphia Police will investigate, and where appropriate we will charge and prosecute. I intend to use the resources of this Office to the greatest extent possible to protect the children of Philadelphia. In those cases where allegations are not prosecutable because of the statute of limitations or some other reason, we encourage the Archdiocese to take the necessary and proper steps to protect the children for whom they are responsible, as they have done here.
* * *
And on the ground, as another out-of-town cleric observed, "I don't know how your guys [who remain] get out of bed and do Ash Wednesday."

Shattered as they are from the "tsunami," my guys will... indeed, they've already begun.

Sure, yesterday might've been the darkest day of their priesthood. But even so, in this town, for the celebrated "long black line," "the life" continues....

And as it does -- as Lent begins -- we are all rocked. We are all shaken. We are all broken.


Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth....

Of this earth.




Another great read from "Callled to Communion."


From "Called to Communion."


Thank you George:

Clarifying 'Double Effect'


The recent controversy over the termination of a pregnancy at Phoenix's St. Joseph's Hospital, which Phoenix bishop Thomas Olmsted determined to have been a direct abortion and thus a grave moral evil, has generated a secondary controversy over the meaning of the Church's traditional moral principle of "double effect."

Some have argued – mistakenly, in my view – that what was done in Phoenix satisfied the classic double-effect criteria of Catholic moral theology.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, an indispensable source of Catholic information and analysis on bioethical and medical ethical issues, recently issued a statement on the Phoenix case. The statement clarified the double-effect issue in language that people without any special training in moral theology or moral philosophy can understand, and is worth quoting at length:
The Principle of Double Effect in the Church's moral tradition teaches that one may perform a good action even if it is foreseen that a bad effect will arise only if four conditions are met: 1) The act itself must be good. 2) The only thing that one can intend is the good act, not the foreseen but unintended bad effect. 3) The good effect cannot arise from the bad effect; otherwise, one would do evil to achieve good. 4) The unintended but foreseen bad effect cannot be disproportionate to the good being performed.
This principle has been applied to many cases in health care, always respecting the most fundamental moral principle of medical ethics, primum non nocere, "first, do no harm."
The classic case of a difficult pregnancy to which this principle can be applied is the pregnant woman who has advanced uterine cancer. The removal of the cancerous uterus will result in the death of the baby but it would be permissible under the principle of double effect. One can see how the conditions would be satisfied in this case: 1) The act itself is good; it is the removal of a diseased organ. 2) All that one intends is the removal of the diseased organ. One does not want the death of the baby, either as a means or an end. Nonetheless, one sees that the unborn child will die as a result of the removal of the diseased organ. 3) The good action, the healing of the woman, arises from the removal of the diseased uterus, not from the regrettable death of the baby which is foreseen and unintended. 4) The unintended and indirect death of the child is not disproportionate to the good which is done, which is saving the mother's life.
In the wake of the Phoenix case, other Catholic hospitals have been asked what they would do in the rare and wrenching circumstance where continuing a pregnancy would put the lives of both mother and child at risk. The first answer usually given is the correct one: "We would try to save both lives." But some have gone on to give a further answer: "But if that were impossible, we would save the life we could save" – by means, one assumes, of terminating the pregnancy.
The Catholic Church is one of the last major institutions defending the Hippocratic principle that the true physician's first responsibility is to "do no harm."

This is not right. It violates the bedrock principle of "first, do no harm." There is no moral casuistry that can justify doing the "harm" that is the intentional taking of an innocent human life – period. Attempts to justify termination in such circumstances by redefining the act of termination border on the Orwellian, further confusing the public discussion. (Recent horror stories from the Philadelphia abortuary should have taught us where the language of euphemism leads.) Furthermore, "we'll save the life we can save" does not meet the standards of the principle of double effect, as outlined above.
The Catholic Church is one of the last major institutions defending the Hippocratic principle that the true physician's first responsibility is to "do no harm." Attempts to chip away at that Catholic commitment – by public authorities untutored in the meaning of religious freedom, or by theologians and philosophers advancing speculative views detached from clinical reality – damage the common good and impede the building of a culture of life.