Archive for October, 2011

Update on the Chinese persecution of blind human rights attorney Chen Guangcheng

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

More details have surfaced of the despicable mistreatment of blind human rights attorney Chen Guangcheng and his family by Chinese officials:

From ChinaAid.

From LifeNews.com.

From womensrightswithoutfrontiers.org:

Also here, and here.

Please contact your government representative on Mr. Guangchen’s behalf.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Reasons for a Creator from Physics and Philosophy

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Is it too early to speak of post-atheism?

Move over, Prof. Dawkins. Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, SJ has written an amazing contemporary exposition, New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics.

To those who have read Richard Dawkins and are one step away from or two steps into becoming atheists, think again, if you wish to make a fully-informed and reasonable decision. Fr. Spitzer’s book comes as both a challenge and a very sophisticated alternative.

Along with Stephen M. Barr’s Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, Fr. Spitzer’s book joins in undermining the intellectual foundations of atheism.

If you have committed to atheism and not read these books, you may have jumped too soon.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Gratuitousness and Solidarity

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

In a 10/18/11 address to the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation during its two-day meeting on family and work, Benedict XVI made an important set of distinctions among commutative and distributive justice, and gratuitousness and solidarity:

“In the difficult situation we are experiencing, we are unfortunately witnessing a crisis in work and in the economy, which is accompanied by a crisis in the family: the conflicts of couples, generational conflicts, conflicts occasioned between the times of the family and of work, occupational crises, create a complex situation of unease that influences social living itself.”

“A new harmonious synthesis between the family and work is therefore necessary, and the Social Doctrine of the Church can offer a valuable contribution. In the encyclical Caritas in Veritate I wished to highlight that the family model of the logic of love, of gratitude, and of gift goes together with a universal dimension. Commutative justice — ‘give to have’ — and distributive justice — ‘give to owe’ – are not sufficient in social living. To have true justice it is necessary to arrive at gratuitousness and solidarity. ‘Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place. (…) Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself’ ([John Paul II's 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio] No. 38).”

“‘The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift’ (No. 39). It is not the duty of the Church to define the ways to address the present crisis. However, Christians have the duty to denounce evils, to attest to and to keep alive the values on which the dignity of the person is founded, and to promote those ways of solidarity that foster the common good, so that humanity will become the family of God.”

John Paul II’s words quoted above, “The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law,” spring from a profound insight into the role and contribution of the Catholic family to society.

One cannot define the family contribution or family role simply within the bounds of law and economics. The implications of this point are profound in terms of the present debates on the nature and rights of the family.

The gratuitousness of the family implies voluntary acts arising from the human persons at the center of the family. These human persons are manifold, complex, free to give of themselves, and ultimately beyond complete description by law or economics. These persons and their families are best respected in terms of the constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, property, and person–together bound in solidarity for the common good.

Benedict XVI’s complete 10/18/11 address is worth careful review.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Dorothy Day’s Therese

Monday, October 17th, 2011

In recent years many faiths have educated their clergy and religious to be brilliant, well-educated, entertaining speakers and socially committed individuals. But these qualities do not in and of themselves earn trust.

Nothing inspires, and is so quickly recognized by believers, as is authentic holiness or godliness. Few have won as much trust in the years since her death as has the holy saint, the Little Flower, discussed in the following lines.

During the height of her active maturity in the Catholic Worker movement, Dorothy Day made time over several years to research and to write a biography of the “Little Flower,” St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face, or St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Happily, this book, originally published in 1960, reissued 1979, reprinted 1985, is still in print through Templegate Publishers. This book represents Dorothy Day’s decades-long education in the school of the Little Flower.

Therese is a book about a saint by a likely saint. Despite Dorothy Day’s occasional repetition of phrases due to Day’s busy life, Therese is one of the most thoughtful and inspiring books generated within American Catholic literature. Because its subject is the Little Flower, who has been declared one of the soon-to-be thirty-four Doctors of the Church, it is likely to remain known centuries longer than some of Day’s currently more popular books.

Almost half of Day’s Therese is about family love, whether that of the author, or that of the subject, christened Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin in 1873. But the whole book is about love, divine and human, for love was the means, the end, and the transcendent purpose of Thérèse’s life. Thérèse discovered in her final years that her vocation was to be love.

The arresting first two paragraphs of Therese display Dorothy Day at her spiritual journalist best:

“The first time I heard the name of St. Therese of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face (to give her whole title), also known as Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, was when I lay in the maternity ward of Bellevue Hospital in New York. Bellevue is the largest hospital in the world, and doctors from all over the world come there. If you are poor you can have free hospital care. At that time, if you could pay anything, there was a flat rate for having a baby–thirty dollars for a ten day’s stay, in a long ward with about sixty beds. I was so fortunate as to have a bed next to the window looking out over the East River so that I could see the sun rise in the morning and light up the turgid water and make gay the little tugs and the long tankers that went by the window. When there was fog it seemed as though the world ended outside my window, and the sound of fog horns haunted the day and the night.

As a matter of fact, my world did end at the window those ten days that I was in the hospital, because I was supremely happy. If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure, I could not have felt more the exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms. To think that this thing of beauty, sighing gently in my arms, reaching her little mouth for my breast, clutching at me with her tiny beautiful hands, had come from my flesh, was my own child! Such a great feeling of happiness and joy filled me that I was hungry for Someone to thank, to love, even to worship, for so great a good that had been bestowed upon me. That tiny child was not enough to contain my love, nor could the father, though my heart was warm with love for both.”

(Day, Dorothy. 1985. Therese. Springfield, Ill: Templegate, p. v.)

Thanks to the World Wide Web and the University of Toronto it is now possible to read the same English translation of Thérèse’s autobiographic A Little White Flower that Dorothy Day read in 1928, to retrace Dorothy Day’s steps in her discovery of Thérèse, and also to find the book that eluded Day’s grasp at the time of her writing Therese, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, by Fr. Charles Arminjon, which was an influence on the young Thérèse prior to entering the Carmel at Lisieux.

Dorothy Day’s initial rebuff and later embrace of Thérèse’s spirituality is a familiar story among Catholic intellectuals and men and women “of the world.” Thérèse inspired several twentieth-century generations to enter religious life, and whether in religious life or not, to adopt her “Little Way.” But as Day matured in her day-in day-out tasks of Christian love and charity seeking justice, she returned to Thérèse definitively. Day concluded:

“It was the ‘worker,’ the common man, who first spread her fame by word of mouth. It was the masses who proclaimed her a saint. It was the ‘people.'”

(Day, Dorothy. 1985. Therese. Springfield, Ill: Templegate, p. 173.)

On first glance, Thérèse appears too pious, too simple. To this I respond, “Simple, all right. Simple like Mozart is simple.” A genius of the first rank makes the difficult appear straightforward and sublimely clear. Thérèse’s spiritual genius was recognized almost immediately after her death in 1897 with an intensity that spread as quickly as did the translations of her autobiography across dozens of languages and countries.

On the last page of her book, Day quotes Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, speaking on the occasion of the blessing of the Basilica of Lisieux in 1937:

“The dazzling genius of Augustine, the luminous wisdom of Thomas Aquinas, have shed forth upon souls the rays of an imperishable splendour: through them, Christ and His doctrine have become better known. The divine poem lived out by Francis of Assisi has given the world an imitation, as yet unequaled, of the life of God made man. Through him legions of men and women learned to love God more perfectly. But a little Carmelite who had hardly reached adult age has conquered in less than half a century innumerable hosts of disciples. Doctors of the law have become children at her school; the Supreme Shepherd has exalted her and prays to her with humble and assiduous supplications; and even at this moment from one end of the earth to the other, there are millions of souls whose interior life has received the beneficent influence of the little book, The Autobiography.”

(Ibid., p. 176.)

Thérèse promised “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”

Day lists but a bit of the shower of love from Thérèse:

“So shortly after her death the rain of roses began: cures of cancer, tuberculosis, nephritis, and all manner of painful and mortal diseases. Nuns in need of money to pay off the mortgages on their schools, hospitals and orphanages found it appearing, sometimes in the form of gifts, sometimes carefully placed in a desk drawer. When Therese healed a little Irish child, she appeared to her as a little child in her First Communion frock, and shook hands with her as she left, and radiant little patient who had been unconscious and at the brink of death, sat up and told her mother to bring her her clothes, and food because she was starving. Soldiers saw Therese at the battlefield; she walked in Paris; she appeared to the sick. ‘After my death I will let fall a shower of roses,’ she had said, and sometimes the roses appeared literally, and sometimes just the fragrance of them.”

(Ibid., pp. 172-3)

The persistence of Thérèse’s appeal is surprising. In 2009, Thérèse’s relics were brought on a tour throughout Wales and England in the UK. To the surprise of a highly secularized society (and some of the secularized clergy), hundreds of thousands of people visited the relics, with many confessing their sins and returning to faith after decades.

Here are some of the pilgrims’ stories:

Over 100,000 faithful visited Thérèse’s relics in Westminster Cathedral, with ceremonies ending 10/15/09:

The Carmelite Sr. Patricia Mary of Jesus speaks about St. Thérèse of Lisieux:

Finally, a thoughtful homily by Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols:

In 1997, in a document called Divini Amoris Scientia, the Science of Divine Love, John Paul II proclaimed Thérèse a Doctor of the Church. I highly recommend close reading of this important document for those seeking for truth in the Spirit.

Although Thérèse, like John Paul II, had read and mastered the foundational Carmelite literature, the complete works of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, Thérèse read primarily the Gospels during her final illness, to listen directly the Word of the Lord Jesus whom she loved so dearly in a very direct, straightforward, and completely committed way. As a Carmelite, Thérèse wore a wedding gown at her “clothing” as a nun, focusing all her possible love on Jesus.

To the post-Christian imagination, this kind of spiritual commitment has a scary, terrifying aspect. But for Thérèse and her Carmelite sisters (among whom were three of her own sisters, and a cousin), nothing could have been more joyful.

Dorothy Day may be best known for her phrase, a “harsh and dreadful love,” but no one searches the life of Thérèse without searching for the source of joy, our Blessed Lord, to whom Thérèse is one of the supreme guides.

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As a boy, I was taught at St. Priscilla School in Chicago by several Franciscan Sisters (from Rochester, MN) who were inspired by Thérèse among others to enter religious life. Years later, I visited my music teacher, Sr. Catherine Cecile Dwerlkotte, OSF, who past the age of 100 told me of the joy that was shared among contemporaries as they agreed together in college to enter the Franciscans as a group. Many of these Franciscan Sisters shared with us the tales of the Little Flower, and Sr. Catherine, to the end of her days, cultivated roses in Thérèse’s memory. She was a woman of high intelligence and wit, but joy and simplicity, and I might add, holiness. May she rest in peace!

Here is a 2010 post by blogger Kathy Riordan in thanks of the still-remembered witness of Sr. Catherine Cecile and her Franciscan sisters.

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A few very useful resources on St. Thérèse:

As usual, the Houston Catholic Worker can be relied upon for a thoughtful review, this one by James Allaire.

Here’s some information on the National Shrine of St. Therese, in Darien, Illinois.

EWTN put together a number of web pages during St. Thérèse centenary, here, and here.

Also, please see Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway, which mentions the recent visit of the relics of Thérèse to Peru.

Presently, I’m reading St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations. More on this when time permits!

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Aphorism XLI

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Think very carefully about these words:

Abortion ends the innocent human life of a child.

But in order for an abortion to occur, there must be some degree of consent to five separate but related lies:

1. That the child is not innocent or capable of innocence.

2. That the child is not human.

3. That the child is not alive.

4. That the child is not a child, but a thing.

5. That whatever the reason for the abortion, it is more important than the child who is being aborted.

As these lies unravel, and as the significance of innocence, of humanity, of life, of childhood are better understood, very little indeed can be put forward that is more important than respecting and protecting the innocent human life of a growing child.

But preventing these lies from unraveling is a sort of mental armor that hardens like scar tissue after one has made a decision to kill another. This mental armor constructs around itself a nihilist theory of human knowledge that does not challenge the five lies above.

Thus since Roe v. Wade and other crimes against humanity, multiple disconnected and idiosyncratic nihilist theories of innocence, of life, of humanity, of knowledge, and of action have developed, which taken together don’t make sense. But since understanding and rejecting the complexity of this nihilist intellectual cacophony can take years, and because the young have been denied the very intellectual tools necessary to reject this nihilism through the anti-education many have received, nihilism reigns, rejecting innocence, humanity, life, and integrated knowledge and action.

The consent to abort and to kill thus has played a corrosive role in the destruction of human knowledge and wisdom. After almost 40 years, this corrosion has spread far and wide, and invaded almost every intellectual pursuit that considers the nature of the human person and of human action.

Therefore, in order for innocence, life, humanity, knowledge, and action to be properly understood, the ideologies of nihilism must be weakened through proper education connected to perennial philosophy, giving the young once again the tools to know and to act. Teaching critical thinking, insofar as it teaches students to question without giving them a history of thought and of committed love of others from which to question, is guaranteed to spread nihilism far and wide.

Nihilism fears the human heart, which more and anything wants to belong, to love, to care, and to have this love reciprocated. The human heart will in the end destroy the five lies above, and destroy nihilism.

But nihilism will put up quite a fight, since once it does lose, nihilism will be seen as the killer it is, and the critical theorists who support nihilism will be forced to see and to clean the blood from their hands.

True love keeps blood within the heart, and off the hands.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s 9/20/11 Letter to President Obama on Marriage

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Archbishop Timothy Dolan has sent President Barack Obama a letter on marriage.

This letter follows a 2009 letter to the President from Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Both men wrote in their capacity in service as President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Some have noted that President Obama has not answered either letter from Archbishop Dolan or Cardinal George, or their personal letters on the same subject.

Careful attention should be given to President Obama’s 10/1/11 address to the Human Rights Campaign, a leading LGBTQ civil rights organization–

Until the President responds directly to the two bishops, this 10/1/11 speech might stand as the President’s answer.

It is hard not to conclude that President Obama is pursuing a divide and conquer strategy for American Catholicism. Only with implicit state support can a major, national schism occur. For this reason, I’ve moved the American Catholic schism clock a few minutes closer to midnight.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Blind Forced Abortion Opponent Chen Guangcheng May Be Dead

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

LifeNews is reporting that the noted the the blind Chinese forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng may be dead.

Gao Zhisheng, another human rights lawyer, also cannot be located.

China, like Iran, appears to be one of the most dangerous places on earth for human rights lawyers.

Please contact your Congressional representative on behalf of these two courageous men.

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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God, Freedom, and Public Life

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

I wish I could attend, but a massive bureaucratic task prevents me–

God, Freedom, and Public Life

On the occasion of the publication of God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

featuring

Jean Bethke Elshtain
University of Chicago

Hans Joas
University of Chicago

Martin Marty
University of Chicago

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Chicago

Thursday, October 6, 4-6:00 PM

Mandel Hall
1131 East 57th Street
The University of Chicago

From the promotional material by the Lumen Christi Institute:

“In his latest book, God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, Cardinal George makes the case that religious faith plays a necessary role in American public life. Addressing the challenges of secularism and pluralism head on, he outlines a contemporary vision for our national life that respects human dignity and religious liberty, while also stressing the central contributions that diverse expressions of religious faith make to the common good of society.”

Cardinal George’s essays confront the public predicament facing believers, Christians, and Catholics in particular. They deserve much wider currency.

I offer the following excerpt, which typifies his thought:

If the conversation about human dignity beings not with the human genome but with the fuller understanding of personhood presented by the Church, what shape will it take? There are three points to take into consideration when answering this question.

First, one will speak of human dignity as a property of human nature received at the moment one comes into existence, something that can be neither gained nor lost throughout the course of one’s life. It’s given.

Second, human dignity will also be understood in terms of an identity achieved, for example, as a wife, a father, as servant of the poor. Existential dignity is intrinsic, but it can be either enhanced or diminished by the kind of life one leads. We are not fully the beings we are meant to be at the moment we come into existence; rather, God grants us the freedom and ability to choose in part what we become. This is the stuff of tragedy when promises are not fulfilled and of triumph when capacities flourish.

Third is the dignity that comes to us through freely accepting God’s graciously offered gift of salvation and life in him. We are the kinds of beings who can accept God’s grace and live as adopted sons and daughters of God. The end of this life of grace is eternal life marked by the fullness of truth and love. We have human dignity in that we are beings who possess the capacity to receive the gift of salvation. This is our destiny, and in the beatific vision we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., God in Action: How Faith in God Can Address the Challenges of the World, pp. 110-111. (I separated the original one paragraph into sections for better comprehension).

© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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