On How “Building the Kingdom of God” is a Misnomer

May 24th, 2015

In song and in sermon, Christians are often exhorted to “Build the Kingdom of God.” But because the Kingdom of God is a gift, “building the Kingdom of God” is a theological misnomer:

Certainly we cannot “build” the Kingdom of God by our own efforts—what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature. The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot—to use the classical expression—”merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited”, but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behaviour is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as “God’s fellow workers”, contributed to the world’s salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Th 3:2). We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God’s promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad. (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, Saved in Hope, 35)

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.


Cardinal Francis George on Evangelization, Mission, Communion, and the Ecclesiology of Faith and Culture vs. Church and State

May 17th, 2015

Here’s another one of my favorite talks by the late Cardinal Francis George, OMI, on the Ecclesiology of Communion, given at Leeds Trinity University in 2012 —

–in which he made a critical distinction between the ecclesiology of of Faith and Culture versus that of Church and State, and he emphasized the Vatican II teaching on the Church as the sacrament of the unity of the human race (Lumen Gentium, Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1). These distinctions have profound implications for pastoral and educational practice.

This talk requires several separate hearings to capture some of the prescient points the late Cardinal shared.

I’m assuming that some of this talk will be included in Cardinal George’s forthcoming book, A Godly Humanism: Clarifying the Hope that Lies Within, which is due from Catholic University of America Press in June, 2015.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Catholic Christian Answers to an Atheist

May 17th, 2015

Why Do We Follow Jesus as Catholic Christians?

Jesus taught that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13), and to love one another as he loved us (John 13:34). By His willing acceptance of human suffering and death, Jesus transformed and transcended the meaning of suffering and death.

Jesus’ “New Commandment” to love as he loved could not simply have evolved to radical altruism through a biological process, where altruism arises to a point, but could only have been revealed–introduced as something completely new–as a Divine Gift by Jesus.

This love-teaching of Jesus is an historic fact in human culture.

We Catholic Christians remember Jesus’ New Commandment of Love both in the way we live and in our celebration of the Eucharist. By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ in the appearance of consecrated bread and wine as a living, present, continuing act of Love, we declare our unity with this Love, Who is God. In so doing, we proclaim the Resurrection of Christ.

The Catholic Church is first of all the sacrament–both a sign and an instrument–of the unity of the human race in union with God (Lumen Gentium, Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1). We believe that we are not the slaves of God, but his friends (John 15:15). This friendship and freedom are God’s gift to us.

In believing in Jesus and in sharing in his Church as Catholic Christians, we listen to the truth which makes us free (John 8:32). To reveal this truth and freedom Jesus suffered death and rose from the dead for our sake, and gave us the gift of His Church.

Hope requires trust in that which greater than ourselves–not in the state, which in the end can enslave–but in God, Who frees.

Without this Christ and His Church, there would be no transcendence of suffering and death, no hope of human unity, no hope of eternal life, no hope that the poor in spirit will be blessed, or that the meek will inherit the earth, or that the merciful will obtain mercy, or that those who hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied (Matthew 5:5). Those who reject belief in God and His Church risk rejecting these good things. In the end, the atheist to be consistent must reject also the Beatitudes.

A world without the living Love of Jesus Christ is a world without hope of overcoming slavery, strife, despair, and violence.

Science is necessary to offer healing to a point, but cannot offer lasting hope, nor a sure path to human unity without another failed and destructive attempt at totalitarian government–since to enforce universal atheism will once again require totalitarianism.

Belief should not reject science. Far from it. Neither does science contradict belief. But science has yet to demonstrate that it can in and of itself overcome pseudo-science. The (1) persistence of quackery in medicine (witness daytime TV and late-night infomercials, and intellectual thralldom to the unproved theories of Freud for the better part of a century), the (2) politicization of the social sciences which have weakened science as a positive force, and (3) continuing breaches of scientific ethics at universities all speak to the reality of science as an imperfect work in progress, not as a finished product.

Today both Christian belief and science are weakened forces, but both still seek truth. It is possible, and desirable, to embrace Christian belief while respecting and practicing science.

Once one recognizes that there is an aspect of Love that is transcendent, beyond what science can explain, one has entered into the truth of belief in God.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Iraqi Dominican Sister Diana Momeka, OP, barred by State Department from Entering US to Testify on ISIS; Then Visa Granted; Testifies on 5/13/15

May 3rd, 2015

Iraqi Catholic nun Diana Momeka, OP, D. Min., a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena of Mosul, which has ancient roots in her country,


has reportedly been recently denied a temporary visa by the US State Department preventing her testimony in the US about persecution of Christians by ISIS. Sr. Momeka earned a doctorate in ministry at Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union in 2012, where she gave the commencement address, as described by the Adrian Dominican sisters’ website.

Ironically, the news of this denial spread on the 4/29 feast of St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Sr. Momeka’s order. Please see this Reuters story for more.

Here’s a 5/3/15 update on the State Department’s response from religious freedom advocate Nina Shea.

The public witness for peace, justice, and holiness in Christ’s name is a particular charism of Dominican sisters in the tradition of St. Catherine of Siena.

Perhaps the US Congress can hear Sr. Momeka’s testimony via Skype!

Update: on 5/9/15, foxnews.com reported that the temporary visa was granted.

On 5/13/15, Sr. Momeka testified at the US Congress.

Here’s the video of Sr. Momeka’s testimony on 5/13/15 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee–

Here’s the full text of Sr. Momeka’s testimony National Catholic Register.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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A Seminal Lecture on Religious Freedom by the Late Cardinal Francis George; New Book Preview

April 30th, 2015

A more probing and prayerful mind than that of the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago can probably not be found.

Several of Cardinal George’s important presentations can be found on Youtube. Here is one of my favorites, in which he offers, along with his views on religious liberty, something of a theology of history, leading up to his recasting the challenge of religious freedom today as Faith and Culture, not simply Church and State:

Francis Cardinal George. O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago presents Dignitatis Humanae: The Second Vatican Council’s Document on Religious Liberty @ St. Procopius Abbey, Tuesday, September 4, 2012:

Here’s the announcement on Cardinal George’s forthcoming book, A Godly Humanism: Clarifying the Hope that Lies Within, which is due from Catholic University of America Press in June, 2015.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Podcast on St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, on Her Feast, 4/29

April 29th, 2015

Here’s a podcast on St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast is 4/29, from the School of Catholic Thought at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center in Chicago.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Didache Bible

April 10th, 2015

The Didache Bible from Ignatius Press is a very useful edition of the Bible for those studying the Catholic Christian faith. When paired with other editions such as the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) and its notes, along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a student of the faith has access to rich sources for learning and reflection for informing the life of faith in Christ.

PS: I should mention that the late Cardinal Francis George, OMI, had a hand in supporting this Didache Bible project.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Child Abuse and Sinn Fein: The Courageous Witness of Mairia Cahill

March 11th, 2015

The sexual abuse of children is akin to and inseparable from slavery, and thus sadly has molested human civilization for millennia. The past forty years have witnessed a cascade of revelations that have shaken religious, media, business, higher education, and now political organizations worldwide. As painful as have been these revelations, they can be among the most positive advances in human history if in the end they reduce the scourge of abuse. The abused ones who come forward are the heroes whom history should honor and remember.

For the past five years in Ireland, and especially the past few months, the child sex abuse accusations brought forth by the courageous and determined Mairia Cahill (born in 1981 in West Belfast), the grandniece of the former chief of staff of the IRA and herself the former National Secretary of Ogra Shinn Féin, have rocked the Sinn Fein party with greater intensity. Ms. Cahill (pronounced, caa’-hill, with emphasis on the first syllable) claimed to have been abused as a teen by an IRA member at a safe house, and to have been subjected to continual mistreatment by the IRA when she came forward with her accusations. In addition, Ms. Cahill claimed that the IRA simply “exiled” this alleged abuser south to the Republic of Ireland after forcing her to confront her alleged abuser in an IRA-staged extra-legal trial. Ms. Cahill furthermore has claimed that on numerous occasions the IRA secretly exiled sexual abusers to the south of Ireland, and perhaps executed some, and that Sinn Fein has systematically covered up these extra-legal actions for years.

Ms. Cahill has taken a growing, public role in the political arena with her accusations (you can skip to minute 4:05 for her own remarks) —

Sinn Fein for its part began first to respond, like religious and other leaders facing similar accusations, with outright denial, then an appeal for people to come forward with information, then apology, and most recently, their call for an all-Ireland “sex abuse initiative.”

Contrast the decisive statements of Sinn Fein politician Mary Lou McDonald against clergy sex abuse in 2009 —

with Ms. McDonald’s own positively “episcopal” statements about accusations of abuse late in 2014 —

In the past week, another victim claiming similar IRA abuse and coverup, Paudie McGahon, 40, came forward–

–causing a second shoe to drop for Sinn Fein.

There are numerous videos online of interviews and statements by Ms. Cahill, perhaps the longest and most dramatic being from the BBC Spotlight NI program late in 2014 —

I pray for Ms. Cahill’s safety, and for healing and even joy for her and other victims. She continues to put herself at great risk on behalf of others. Her presence of mind and spirit are indeed admirable, and are an example of the grand and good gifts that the Irish people give to the world.

Professor Liam Kennedy of Queen’s University Belfast has called for a wider inquiry into the abuse, both physical and sexual, of children by paramilitary groups, estimating five hundred such cases —

Such inquiries can contribute to what St. John Paul II called the “healing of memories.”

I offer only a theory in reflection: My theory is that the culture of abuse is historically paired with the culture of slavery. Dublin was used as a slave-trade center centuries ago by the Norse. I wonder if patterns of sexual abuse might be traced across millennia from similar ancient, slave-trading ports, which may have established patterns of sick behavior that hid within the more advanced culture that grew over such ancient ills. Abuse and organizations tending toward secrecy made and do make a deadly pair, and can perpetuate the abuse. Happily, the extraordinary witness of Ms. Cahill gives us hope that abuse is foreign to civilization, and not intrinsic to it.

For my earlier blog posts on slavery, see here.

For my earlier posts on pedophilia, see here.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Free Talk: St. Katharine Drexel, Friend of the Oppressed

March 1st, 2015

I’ll be presenting a free talk entitled St. Katharine Drexel, Friend of the Oppressed for the School of Catholic Thought at the St. John Paul II Newman Center at 6PM Tuesday, March 3, 2015, after evening Mass at the St. John Paul II Newman Center Library, 700 S. Morgan St. Chicago, info@schoolofcatholicthought.org, 312-226-1880. Here’s the announcement in PDF format.

Here’s a png version —

A podcast of the completed talk will be posted here. For more about St. Katharine Drexel, please visit the website of the order she founded, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

I chose the subtitle “Friend of the Oppressed,” because it recalls the book on St. Katharine Drexel by African American Catholic author Ellen Tarry, 1906-2008, one of the founding co-directors of Friendship House, Chicago in 1942.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Aphorism LXXXVI

February 26th, 2015

One use of political partisanship is to stand apart from history and to judge it, as one intellectually and morally superior to the mistakes of others. This I call the practice of identity maintenance, and it often leads to no good purpose and to the social pursuit of political illusion.

But one’s own life can change, and sometimes the world can change, when one is compromised by love and engaged by humility to accept the fact of one’s predicament, to cease standing apart, and to remain standing in. While standing in, one can try to shape apparent madness into some form of sanity, to turn despair into joy, even for the briefest of moments.

Jesus called us to carry our cross daily. This force of this call is echoed in the writings of Shakespeare, of Tolstoy, of Dostoyevsky, of Undset, of Pasternak, and of Faulkner.

We live, and love, and die at a particular place, at a particular time. We can accept this particular place and time, and try to do something with it, or else live in illusion.

Love and humility are not so much about being right, but about being alive and sharing life’s burden and predicament for the benefit of others.

© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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