Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine of Hippo’

Podcast of 8/28/14 Talk on St. Augustine of Hippo

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

I’ve posted the podcast of the just-completed 8/28/14 talk entitled, Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis: Saint, Bishop, Doctor, Opponent of Human Trafficking, which was presented as part of the School of Catholic Thought at the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center in Chicago.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Sontag and Augustine on Martyrs for Truth, Martyrs for Charity, Martyrs for Pride

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Susan Sontag, 1963, on how each truth must have a martyr:

We measure truth in terms of the cost to the writer in suffering—rather than by the standard of an objective truth to which a writer’s words correspond. Each of our truths must have a martyr.

Susan Sontag: “Simone Weil,” a review of Selected Essays by Simone Weil, translated by Richard Rees, Oxford University Press, published in the New York Review of Books, February 1, 1963 (Premier) Issue, accessed 8/17/14.

St. Augustine of Hippo, 415, on how there are martyrs for charity, and martyrs for pride:

Et videte quanta opera faciat superbia; ponite in corde quam similia facit, et quasi paria caritati. Pascit esurientem caritas, pascit et superbia – caritas, ut Deus laudetur; superbia, ut ipsa laudetur. Vestit nudum caritas, vestit et superbia; ieiunat caritas, ieiunat et superbia; sepelit mortuos caritas, sepelit et superbia. Omnia opera bona quae vult facere caritas et facit, agitat contra superbia, et quasi ducit equos suos. Sed interior est caritas: tollit locum male agitatae superbiae; non male agitanti, sed male agitatae. Vae homini cuius auriga superbia est, necesse est enim ut praeceps eat. Ut autem non sit superbia quae agitet facta bona, quis novit? quis videt? ubi est hoc? Opera videmus: pascit misericordia, pascit et superbia; hospitem suscipit misericordia, hospitem suscipit et superbia; intercedit pro paupere misericordia, intercedit et superbia. Quid est hoc? In operibus non discernimus. Audeo aliquid dicere, sed non ego; Paulus dixit: moritur caritas, id est, homo habens caritatem, confitetur nomen Christi, ducit martyrium; confitetur et superbia, ducit et martyrium. Ille habet caritatem, ille non habet caritatem. Sed audiat ab Apostolo ille qui non habet caritatem: Si distribuero omnia mea pauperibus, et si tradidero corpus meum ut ardeam, caritatem autem non habuero, nihil mihi prodest. Ergo Scriptura divina intro nos revocat a iactatione huius faciei forinsecus; et ab ista superficie quae iactatur ante homines, revocat nos intro. Redi ad conscientiam tuam, ipsam interroga. Noli attendere quod floret foris, sed quae radix est in terra. Radicata est cupiditas? species potest esse bonorum factorum, vere opera bona esse non possunt. Radicata est caritas? securus esto, nihil mali procedere potest. Blanditur superbus, saevit amor. Ille vestit, ille caedit. Ille enim vestit ut placeat hominibus: ille caedit ut corrigat disciplina. Accipitur magis plaga caritatis, quam eleemosyna superbiae. Redite ergo intro, fratres; et in omnibus quaecumque facitis, intuemini testem Deum. Videte, si ille videt, quo animo faciatis. Si cor vestrum non vos accusat, quia iactantiae causa facitis; bene, securi estote. Nolite autem timere quando facitis bene, ne videat alter. Time ne propterea facias, ut tu lauderis: nam videat alter, ut Deus laudetur. Si enim abscondis ab oculis hominis; abscondis ab imitatione hominis, laudem subtrahis Deo. Duo sunt quibus eleemosynam facis: duo esuriunt; unus panem, alter iustitiam. Inter duos istos famelicos, quia dictum est: Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam, quoniam ipsi saturabuntur: inter duos istos famelicos, bonus operator constitutus es; si caritas de illo operatur, ambos miseratur, ambobus vult subvenire. Ille enim quaerit quod manducet, ille quaerit quod imitetur. Pascis istum, praebe te isti; ambobus dedisti eleemosynam: illum fecisti gratulatorem de fame interfecta; hunc fecisti imitatorem de exemplo proposito.

Miseremini ergo tamquam misericordes; quia in eo etiam quod diligitis inimicos, fratres diligitis.

S. Aurelii Augustini OPERA OMNIA – editio latina >PL 35> In Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos tractatus decem, Tractatus 8; http://www.augustinus.it/latino/commento_lsg/index2.htm, accessed 8/17/14.

Consider now the works that pride may do: notice how they may resemble or even equal those of charity. Charity feeds the hungry, so does pride: charity, to the praise of God, pride, to the praise of itself. Charity clothes the naked: so does pride; charity fasts, so does pride; charity buries the dead, so does pride. All the good works that are willed and done by charity, may be set in motion by its contrary pride, like horses harnessed to a car. But when charity is the inward driver, pride must give place–pride which is not so much misgoverning as misgoverned. It goes ill with the man who has pride for his charioteer, for he is sure to be overturned.

How can we know or see that it is not pride that governs the good deed? Where is the proof? We see the works: hunger is fed by compassion, but also by pride; strangers are entertained by compassion, by also by pride; poverty is protected by compassion, but also by pride. In the works themselves we can see no difference. I would go further–though it is not I but Paul who says it: charity goes to death, a man (that is) who has charity confesses the name of Christ and becomes a martyr; and pride also may do both. The one has charity, the other has not; but let this other mark the Apostle’s words: “If I give all my goods to the poor, and if I give my body to burn, and have not charity, it profits me nothing (I Cor 13:3).” So Holy Scripture recalls us from all this outward showing, recalls us from the surface appearance displayed before men to the inward truth.

Come back to your own conscience, and question it. Pay heed, not to the visible flowering, but to the root beneath the ground. Is covetousness at the root? Then you may have a show of good deeds, but of works truly good there can be none. Is charity at the root? Be easy, for now evil can be the issue. The proud may speak fair words, love may show anger: the one may clothe, the other may smite: the one clothes for the pleasing of men, the other smites for the correction of discipline. The stroke of charity is more to be welcomed than the alms of pride.

Come back, then, my brothers, into the place within, and in whatsoever you do, look for the witness of God. See, as he sees, the intention of your acts. If your heart does not accuse you of acting for the sake of display, it is well, be easy. And when you do well, have no fear of another’s seeing. Fear only to act that you may have praise for yourself; let the other see, so that God may have the praise. If you hide what you do from man’s eyes, you are hiding it against man’s imitation, and robbing God of His praise. There are two parties for whose benefit you give alms: two are hungry, the one for bread, the other for righteousness, for it is written: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).” Between these two hungering ones you are set for the working of good: if charity is the worker, it has compassion for both, it seeks to give help to both. For while the one looks for food, the other looks for an example to follow. As you feed the first, offer yourself for the second, and you have given alms to both. You have enabled the one to give thanks for the ending of his hunger, the other to imitate the example shown him.

Let your works of mercy, then, proceed from a merciful heart; for then even in the love of enemies you will be showing love of brothers.

Augustine, Homilies on I John, Sermon 8, in Augustine: later works; John Burnaby, Editor, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1955, pp. 322-323.

A martyr without a merciful heart may witness well, but may not witness to the bond between mercy and truth, and may instead witness to pride.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Talk on St. Augustine of Hippo at 6PM, 8/28/14 at the St. John Paul II Newman Center Library

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

I’ll be presenting a free talk entitled “Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis: Saint, Bishop, Doctor, Opponent of Human Trafficking,” for the School of Catholic Thought at the St. John Paul II Newman Center at 6PM Thursday, August 28, 2014, 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 flyer in PDF format.

Here’s a png version —

Announcement_AureliusAugustinusofHippo_062814

A podcast of the talk has been posted here.

© Copyright 2014, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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Smell as Truth’s Revenge

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Upon the liberation of the Nazi death camps in WWII, Allied forces compelled nearby citizens in Weimar and other areas adjacent the camps to walk through them, and to confront the brutal reality of Nazi genocide, as documented in this film. Please notice, when viewing the film clip, the German townspeople shielding their noses.

The Allies were familiar with the recurrent human capacity for committed self-deception, and wanted to definitively break the Nazi propaganda-hold on the populace. One way to counter this self-deception, and it is still not a 100% guaranteed way, is to do what the Allies did: to force citizens to come to view–and to smell–first-hand the terrible results of their own political choices.

The expression, “rub their noses in it” remains to this day one of the firmest expressions of disproof and refutation. Smell triggers memory, and rarely can ever be forgotten.

History is filled with recumbent and attractive myths built upon self-deception, sometimes bolstered by outright cynical lies by political and intellectual leaders. Holocaust deniers, be they Neo-Nazi punks or heads of state like the current leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, provide but a few examples. The dead, now buried, cannot readily be smelled without significant spadework. So new liars and deceivers arise with each new demographic cohort.

American (both North and South) and European intellectuals, revolutionaries, and radical labor activists for generations have clung to the false promises of Marxist-Leninist government, despite the voluminous documents and criminal evidence released to the world after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on the Russian Gulags, of Robert Conquest on the Stalinist genocide and politicide in the Ukraine, of former French communists in their Black Book of Communism, the relentless and thorough vivisection of Marxism by philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, and the complete moral and historic discrediting of the late New York Times journalist Walter Duranty, who to his and to that newspaper’s everlasting shame, knowingly hid the deaths of millions caused by Stalin in the Ukraine in the 1930s.

But despite its resounding historical failures and crimes, Marxism-Leninism is alive and well as a recurrent fantasy in academia, in journalism, in arts, letters, and film, in labor (despite the role of US Big Labor in supporting Solidarnosc), and among trendy theologians. To these true believers, the Gulags and famines, the Maoist democides of the Cultural Revolution, and the Cambodian killing fields were but mere aberrations in theory and practice, not the true Marxism-Leninism of which they themselves are surely capable. Undoubtedly the failures of Stalin and Mao must have been due to the Russian and Chinese culture or character, these true believers assume, not their own pristine theory.

Latin America, to its misfortune, remains the legacy Marxist-Leninist’s own sandbox of choice for post-fascist fantasy football, more so for some their intellectual playground for “praxis,” translate please as high-minded meddling and social engineering. From the capitalist experimentation by US drug companies with Puerto Rican women to test the dosage levels of newly generated birth-control pills (some reportedly died) in the early 1960s, to the more recent moral and cultural support given to the late dictator Hugo Chavez by Bill Ayers, Sean Penn, and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., misguided beneficent “praxis” on Latin America’s behalf abounds.

It is thus in the opening of graves–and in the smelling of them– that some of history’s most uncomfortable truths, and some of humankind’s most significant hopes, can be found.

Neither is it accident that some of the most determined anti-abortion activists are among those close enough to aborted babies to have smelled them, be they those who have encountered dumpsters of abortion debris, or the nurses who have been faced with the dilemma of an aborted baby surviving, and then forced to be neglected to death (a public policy earlier supported by Barack Obama about which, to use a polite euphemism, he has been less than forthcoming), or worse, intentionally terminated.

Pro-life, anti-abortion activists have for decades tried to force images of abortion into the general consciousness. But only until recently, with the Kermit Gosnell trial, has the stench of abortion as well reached the public. This trial has led prominent pro-choice writers, like veteran journalist Roger Simon, to rethink their positions on abortion.

While the smell of death rarely loses its repugnance (a term recalled recently again by physician and ethicist Leon Kass), the force of smell declines with repeated exposure. It is thus possible for a physician to deliver babies in the morning and abort them in the afternoon, a situation described by the late Bernard N. Nathanson, MD, who only stopped aborting after thousands of cases, upon quiet and persistent reflection after viewing a sonogram of an abortion.

While the English word “odious” is often associated with repugnance as if to a bad smell, it comes from the Latin word for hate.

One of the most olfactory of writers, and the person who coined (with some help from the brilliant translator Maria Boulding, OSB) the term “truth’s revenge,” in citing the memorable line of Publius Terentius Afer, “Veritas odium parit,” or “truth engenders hatred,” was St. Augustine of Hippo, who wrote:

cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem. quia enim falli nolunt et fallere volunt, amant eam cum se ipsa indicat, et oderunt eam cum eos ipsos indicat. inde retribuet eis ut, qui se ab ea manifestari nolunt, et eos nolentes manifestet et eis ipsa non sit manifesta. sic, sic, etiam sic animus humanus, etiam sic caecus et languidus, turpis atque indecens latere vult, se autem ut lateat aliquid non vult. contra illi redditur, ut ipse non lateat veritatem, ipsum autem veritas lateat. tamen etiam sic, dum miser est, veris mavult gaudere quam falsis. beatus ergo erit, si nulla interpellante molestia de ipsa, per quam vera sunt omnia, sola veritate gaudebit.

Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 10.23.34, from http://www.stoa.org/hippo/text10.html, accessed 4/21/13

I’ve posted Augustine’s Latin above so his extensive word-play can be seen even by those readers not conversant with his Latin.

Here is the late Dame Maria Boulding, OSB’s translucent rendering of the passage above, which I’ve paragraphed for easier apprehension:

Why, though, does “truth engender hatred,” why does a servant of yours who preaches the truth make himself an enemy to his hearers (John 8:40; Galatians 4:16), if the life of happiness, which consists in rejoicing over the truth, is what they love?

It must be because people love truth in such a way that those who love something else wish to regard what they love as truth and, since they would not want to be deceived, are unwilling to be convinced that they are wrong.

They are thus led into hatred of truth for the sake of that very thing which they love under the guise of truth.

They love the truth when it enlightens them, but hate it when it accuses them (John 3:20; 5:35).

In this attitude of reluctance to be deceived and intent to deceive others they love truth when it reveals itself but hate it when it reveals them.

Truth will therefore take its revenge: when people refuse to be shown up by it, truth will show them up willy-nilly and yet elude them.

Yes, this is our condition, this is the lot of the human soul, this is its case, as blind and feeble, disreputable and shabby, it attempts to hide, while at the same time not wishing anything to be hidden from it.

It is paid back in a coin which is the opposite to what it desires, for while the soul cannot hide from truth, truth hides from the soul.

Nevertheless, even while in this miserable state it would rather rejoice in truth than in a sham; and so it will be happy when it comes to rejoice without interruption or hindrance in the very truth, upon which depends whatever else it true.

The Confessions of Augustine, translated by Dame Maria Boulding, OSB, 1997, Hyde Park, NY, New City Press, pg. 201; now also available in a second edition with Bibliography, and a critical edition from ignatius.com

It is no accident that early in the development of the field of psychology that scientists claimed Augustine as one of their own. For in his description of the reluctant human apprehension of truth, Augustine went beyond the theory of cognitive dissonance to a theory of self-deception based upon a paradoxical fear of truth as truth unfolds. It is our very selves that must change when we learn the truth. And as long as we hide from the truth, truth also hides from us.

It is thus very useful to truth to open the mass graves of the persecuted and even of the aborted, and not only to look, but to smell, to remember, and to speak. As Augustine noted, speaking truly of such things brings hate. We should not fear to continue this speech of truth, and to conquer this hate.

Christ, who wept outside the grave of Lazarus, about to be raised, was then warned of the smell, but stepped forward to show us that there is more than the smell of death that meets us when we seek for and speak the truth.

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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St. Patrick and Slavery

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Soon after this blog covered the topic of Catholicism and slavery in depth in a 2010 post entitled The Catholic Church and Slavery: a New Look at Augustine and the 1839 In Supremo Controversy, one of my sons suggested that we also look at the Confessions of St. Patrick, and other earlier accounts of the life of St. Patrick. I thank my son for putting us on to the “St. Patrick and slavery” thread, and apologize for the three-year delay in finally completing this post!

Born a roughly a generation after St. Augustine of Hippo (b. 354), St. Patrick (ca. 387) also like Augustine confronted the victimization of Christian faithful by human traffickers / slave traders. I continue to be amazed when the witness of these important early Christian bishops against human trafficking and slavery is omitted from conversations on Catholicism and slavery. Therefore, I’m sharing the documents below to further inform the discussion!

In an 1852 publication entitled–

STUDIES ON SLAVERY
COMPILED INTO EIGHT STUDIES, AND SUBDIVIDED INTO
SHORT LESSONS FOR THE CONVENIENCE
OF READERS.

By JOHN FLETCHER,
OF LOUISIANA.

–one finds the following account:

About the year 462, Niell Naoigiallach, or Neill of the Nine Hostages, ravaged the coast of Britain and Gaul. In this expedition a large number of captives were made. One youth, sixteen years of age, by the name of Cothraige, was sold to Milcho, and was employed by him in tending sheep, in a place called Dalradia — within the present county of Antrim. This Cothraige was St. Patrick, subsequently the apostle of Ireland.

St. Patrick, in his Confessions, states that many of his unfortunate countrymen were carried off and made captives, and dispersed among many nations.

The Romans had possession of Britain, and even had not slavery existed there previously, they would have introduced it ; but, the Britons needed not this lesson ; they had been conversant with it before : we shall see evidence of the long continuance of its practice.

About the year 450, a party of them, among whom were several that professed the Christian religion, made a piratical incursion upon the Irish coast, under the command of Corotic, or Caractacus, or Coroticus.

Lanigan compiles the following account of this incursion from the Eccles. History of Ireland, vol. i. c. iv.

“This prince, Coroticus, though apparently a Christian, was a tyrant, a pirate, and a persecutor. He landed, with a party of his armed followers, many of whom were Christians, at a season of solemn baptism, and set about plundering a district in which St. Patrick had just baptized and confirmed a great number of converts, and on the very day after the holy chrism was seen shining in the foreheads of the white-robed neophytes. Having murdered several persons, these marauders carried off a considerable number of people, whom they went about selling or giving up as slaves to the Scots and the apostate Picts. St. Patrick wrote a letter, which he sent by a holy priest whom he had instructed from his younger days, to those pirates, requesting of them to restore the baptized captives and some part of the booty. The priest and the other ecclesiastics that accompanied- him being received by them with scorn and mockery, and the letter not attended to, the saint found himself under the necessity of issuing a circular epistle or declaration against them and their chief Coroticus, in which, announcing himself a bishop and established in Ireland, he proclaims to all those who fear God, that said murderers and robbers are excommunicated and estranged from Christ, and that it is not lawful to show them civility, nor to eat or drink with them, nor to receive their offerings, until, sincerely repenting, they make atonement to God and liberate his servants and the handmaids of Christ. He begs of the faithful, into whose hands the epistle may come, to get it read before the people everywhere, and before Coroticus himself, and to communicate it to his soldiers, in the hope that they and their master may return to God, &c. Among other very affecting expostulations, he observes that the Roman and Gallic Christians are wont to send proper persons with great sums of money to the Franks and other pagans, for the purpose of redeeming Christian captives; while, on the contrary, that monster, Coroticus, made a trade of selling the members of Christ to nations ignorant of God.”

The following letter attributed to Patrick (alternatively titled, Patrick’s Letter to Coroticus or Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus), is a fundamental part of the lore surrounding St. Patrick, and picks up the next step of the story above. Scholars can determine the authenticity of this letter–

Letter To Coroticus

I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a bishop. Most assuredly I believe that what I am I have received from God. And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He is witness that this is so. Not that I wished my mouth to utter anything so hard and harsh; but I am forced by the zeal for God; and the truth of Christ has wrung it from me, out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death. If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though some may despise me.

With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) — the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people — I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them . Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. Together with him they will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment; for who commits sin is a slave and will be called a son of the devil.

Wherefore let every God-fearing man know that they are enemies of me and of Christ my God, for whom I am an ambassador. Parricide! fratricide! ravening wolves that “eat the people of the Lord as they eat bread!” As is said, “the wicked, O Lord, have destroyed Thy law,” which but recently He had excellently and kindly planted in Ireland, and which had established itself by the grace of God.

I make no false claim. I share in the work of those whom He called and predestinated to preach the Gospel amidst grave persecutions unto the end of the earth, even if the enemy shows his jealousy through the tyranny of Coroticus, a man who has no respect for God nor for His priests whom He chose, giving them the highest, divine, and sublime power, that whom “they should bind upon earth should be bound also in Heaven.”

Wherefore, then, I plead with you earnestly, ye holy and humble of heart, it is not permissible to court the favor of such people, nor to take food or drink with them, nor even to accept their alms, until they make reparation to God in hardships, through penance, with shedding of tears, and set free the baptized servants of God and handmaids of Christ, for whom He died and was crucified.

“The Most High disapproves the gifts of the wicked …He that offers sacrifice of the goods of the poor, is as one that sacrifices the son in the presence of his lather. The riches, it is written, which he has gathered unjustly, shall be vomited up from his belly; the angel of death drags him away, by the fury of dragons he shall be tormented, the viper’s tongue shall kill him, unquenchable fire devours him.” And so — “woe to those who fill themselves with what is not their own;” or, “What does it profit a man that he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul?

It would be too tedious to discuss and set forth everything in detail, to gather from the whole Law testimonies against such greed. Avarice is a deadly sin. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods.” “Thou shalt not kill.” A murderer cannot be with Christ. “Whosoever hates his brother is accounted a murderer.” Or, “he that loves not his brother abides in death.” How much more guilty is he that has stained his hands with blood of the sons of God whom He has of late purchased in the utmost part of the earth through the call of our littleness!

Did I come to Ireland without God, or according to the flesh? Who compelled me? I am bound by the Spirit not to see any of my kinsfolk. Is it of my own doing that I have holy mercy on the people who once took me captive and made away with the servants and maids of my father’s house? I was freeborn according to the flesh. I am the son of a decurion. But I sold my noble rank I am neither ashamed nor sorry for the good of others. Thus I am a servant in Christ to a foreign nation for the unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And if my own people do not know me, a prophet has no honor in his own country .Perhaps we are not of the same fold and have not one and the same God as father, as is written: “He that is not with me, is against me, and he that gathers not with me, scatters.” It is not right that one destroys, another builds up. I seek not the things that are mine.

It is not my grace, but God who has given this solicitude into my heart, to be one of His hunters or fishers whom God once foretold would come in the last days.

I am hated. What shall I do, Lord? I am most despised. Look, Thy sheep around me are tom to pieces and driven away, and that by those robbers, by the orders of the hostile-minded Coroticus. Far from the love of God is a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots. Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ — I cannot count their number. Wherefore, be not pleased with the wrong done to the just; even to hell it shall not please. Who of the saints would not shudder to be merry with such persons or to enjoy a meal with them? They have filled their houses with the spoils of dead Christians, they live on plunder. They do not know, the wretches, that what they offer their friends and sons as food is deadly poison, just as Eve did not understand that it was death she gave to her husband. So are all that do evil: they work death as their eternal punishment.

This is the custom of the Roman Christians of Gaul: they send holy and able men to the Franks and other heathen with so many thousand solidi to ransom baptized captives. You prefer to kill and sell them to a foreign nation that has no knowledge of God. You betray the members of Christ as it were into a brothel. What hope have you in God, or anyone who thinks as you do, or converses with you in words of flattery? God will judge. For Scripture says: “Not only them that do evil are worthy to be condemned, but they also that consent to them.”

I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture says: “Weep with them that weep;” and again: “If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it.” Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate Picts!

Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief — O you fair and beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written, one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor?

Therefore I grieve for you, I grieve, my dearly beloved. But again, I rejoice within myself. I have not labored for nothing, and my journeying abroad has not been in vain. And if this horrible, unspeakable crime did happen — thanks be to God, you have left the world and have gone to Paradise as baptized faithful. I see you: you have begun to journey where night shall be no more, nor mourning, nor death; but you shall leap like calves loosened from their bonds, and you shall tread down the wicked, and they shall be ashes under your feet.

You then, will reign with the apostles, and prophets, and martyrs. You will take possession of an eternal kingdom, as He Himself testifies, saying: “They shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” “Without are dogs, and sorcerers,… and murderers; and liars and perjurers have their portion in the pool of everlasting fire.” Not without reason does the Apostle say: “Where the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly transgressor of the law find himself?”

Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes — for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.

I testify before God and His angels that it will be so as He indicated to my ignorance. It is not my words that I have set forth in Latin, but those of God and the apostles and prophets, who have never lied. “He that believes shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned,” God hath spoken.

I ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God be a carrier of this letter, so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but rather be read before all the people, and in the presence of Coroticus himself. May God inspire them sometime to recover their senses for God, repenting, however late, their heinous deeds — murderers of the brethren of the Lord! — and to set free the baptized women whom they took captive, in order that they may deserve to live to God, and be made whole, here and in eternity! Be peace to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: http://www.yale.edu/glc/archive/1166.htm

As I noted in my earlier post on slavery and Catholicism, Bishop John England (d. 1842) of Charleston, South Carolina, wrestled with the topic of slavery, and especially with St. Patrick’s treatment of it. Please see the following book excerpt for a much more detailed account of Bishop England’s strained and rather convoluted treatment of the moral questions surrounding slavery. For more on Bishop England and slavery, please see my earlier post.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Joshua Casteel, RIP

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Military veteran, conscientious objector, anti-war activist, author, and Catholic Christian convert Joshua Casteel died on 8/25/12 of lung cancer at the age of 32. A friend of our second son, we met Joshua a few years ago in Iowa City where two of our children have studied and written. We together helped our son’s family move into an apartment, and Joshua joined us for a picnic lunch afterward.

Here are some remembrances and tributes to Joshua, most of which were forwarded to me by our son —

From Tom Cornell

From Iraq Veterans Against the War

From the National Catholic Reporter

From Joshua’s book, Letters from Abu Ghraib, where Joshua served as a military translator after the scandal at that prison. He obtained conscientious objector status thereafter.

Here’s a link to the Joshua Casteel website. Please note the financial appeal on behalf of his family.

Here’s a portrait from his student / playwright days at the University of Iowa.

Here’s an Emmy-nominated video story of Joshua’s life —

I’m reminded, on today’s (8/28/12) feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, of Augustine’s touching remembrance of his departed friend from Book IV of the Confessions.

May Joshua rest in the peace of Christ, and may Christ’s same peace bring others to rest from the violence that Joshua faced.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Bury my body wherever you will . . . . One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.

Monday, August 27th, 2012

August 27 is the feast of St. Monica, and no more touching remembrance of a Christian mother by her son was ever written but by Augustine of Hippo of the days leading to Monica’s death. Augustine’s direct words inspire most any reader now sixteen centuries later. They can be found in in the Office of Readings for August 27.

The day was now approaching when my mother Monica would depart from this life; you knew that day, Lord, though we did not. She and I happened to be standing by ourselves at a window that overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house. At the time we were in Ostia on the Tiber. We had gone there after a long and wearisome journey to get away from the noisy crowd, and to rest and prepare for our sea voyage. I believe that you, Lord, caused all this to happen in your own mysterious ways. And so the two of us, all alone, were enjoying a very pleasant conversation, forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead. We were asking one another in the presence of the Truth–for you are the Truth–what it would be like to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man. We desired with all our hearts to drink from the streams of your heavenly fountain, the fountain of life.

That was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. But you know, O Lord, that in the course of our conversation that day, the world and its pleasures lost all their attraction for us. My mother said: “Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have even renounced earthly happiness to be his servant. So what am I doing here?”

I do not really remember how I answered her. Shortly, within five days or thereabouts, she fell sick with a fever. Then one day during the course of her illness she became unconscious and for a while she was unaware of her surroundings. My brother and I rushed to her side but she regained consciousness quickly. She looked at us as we stood there and asked in a puzzled voice: “Where was I?”

We were overwhelmed with grief, but she held her gaze steadily upon us and spoke further: “Here you shall bury your mother.” I remained silent as I held back my tears. However, my brother haltingly expressed his hope that she might not die in a strange country but in her own land, since her end would be happier there. When she heard this, her face was filled with anxiety, and she reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts. Then she looked at me and spoke: “Look what he is saying.” Thereupon she said to both of us: “Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.”

Once our mother had expressed this desire as best she could, she fell silent as the pain of her illness increased.

From the Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo, Lib. 9, 10-11; CSEL 33, 215-219), taken from the Office of Readings for August 27, accessed 8/27/12

Here is Maria Boulding, OSB’s masterful translation of this same passage. Note the words: “Catholic Christian,” which are a direct translation of Augustine’s Latin:

Unum erat, propter quod in hac uita aliquantum inmorari cupiebam, ut te christianum catholicum uiderem, priusquam morerer.

From The Confessions of Augustine, Edited by John Gibb and William Montgomery, 1927, Cambridge, pg. 262.

Here is the trailer for the new film, Restless Heart: the Confessions of Augustine, on the life of Augustine of Hippo.

© Copyright 2012, 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.

===

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.

===

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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The Fr. Pfleger – Cardinal George Controversy: A Guide for the Theologically Perplexed

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Writers and the Christian faithful have been perplexed since the Archbishop of Chicago, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, suspended Fr. Michael Pfleger late on April 27, 2011.

Responses have ranged in a mix beginning with “Why would the Cardinal ‘go to the wall’ over this?” to “Can’t we all just get along?” to “Why suspend this priest and not suspend others?” to “A plague on both their houses.”

This article attempts to describe, for the sake of both the initiated and the non-initiated, a number of the theological issues at stake in this controversy.


Why was there such quick and decisive action by the Cardinal on Fr. Pfleger’s comment about looking outside the Church?

Basically, after years of theological training, it is less likely that a priest will make an off-handed, throwaway remark about theology that has no significance. When a priest publicly makes a theological statement about his belief or his own vocation, it is presumed that he means it.

Early Christian writers who considered the fall of Satan reasoned that because of Satan’s high intelligence and angelic nature, Satan’s rejection of God, even for an instant, was a rejection for all eternity. While priests are definitely not angels, or Satan, their statements about belief are taken seriously by both bishops and the faithful.

Because the faithful may have wondered what Pfleger meant about looking elsewhere, and the unity of the Church was in question, the Cardinal suspended Fr. Pfleger and asked him to take time to reflect, and then to state his intentions.

Isn’t Fr. Pfleger a good priest? Why not suspend the bad priests?

Bad priests are not the only priests removed from ministry. Some very good men who no longer wish to remain Catholic or priests, but who do not wish to leave their parishioners, can also be suspended.


Hasn’t Fr. Pfleger done a lot of good? Doesn’t that count for anything?

Fr. Pfleger and his parishioners at St. Sabina undoubtedly perform many Christian good works, following Christ’s teaching in Matthew 25:35-36, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, etc. Fr. Pfleger also has defended many human rights. He and St. Sabina parish have worked to advance education and community development, and to reduce urban violence.

But the question Cardinal George is asking Fr. Pfleger is not whether he is a Christian, but whether he is a Catholic, and whether he will remain a Catholic priest.

What’s the difference?

While the Catholic faith is difficult to definitively capture in a few words, I offer the following:

A Catholic–

  • is a Christian baptized by water and the Spirit in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who, after the example of Jesus’ mother, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, in union with the Pope and the Catholic bishops as successors to the Apostles, recognizes the same Pope and bishops as representatives of Jesus Christ;
  • follows Christ in union with the Trinity by living the Christian life of both faith and good works adhering to the whole of the Creed, the Tradition, and the Scriptures as continuously taught by the Pope and the bishops;
  • receives the seven sacraments at the hands of the bishops and delegated clergy, recognizing in the Eucharist–this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which Christ is offered and by which we offer ourselves in a sacrificial faith–the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ;
  • intellectually follows the path of both faith and reason, of faith seeking understanding, while holding the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas in a place of honor, nevertheless holds no official philosophy or ideology, continuing to recognize the truth wherever it may be found, because the Way, the Truth and the Life is Jesus Christ Himself; and
  • while stating a preferential option for the poor as an expression of human unity with the least of our brothers and sisters in whom we find Christ, and taking a general approach of subsidiarity and solidarity in addressing social questions, remains critical of both capitalist and socialist forms of civic organization, recognizing that the reality of love is not an idea, but is embodied in the living, resurrected person, Jesus, with whom we are called to become one.
  • As St. Ignatius of Antioch stated about the year 110, “Wheresoever the bishop shall appear, there let the people be, even as where Jesus may be, there is the universal [katholike] Church.” One of the earliest statements about the catholicity of the Church therefore strongly linked the Church to the bishops. This teaching was also strongly affirmed in Chapter III of the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution of of the Church, Lumen Gentium.

    The Catholic Church is not a congregational church formed around a community, but a sacramental Church–a sacrament being an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace (the original meaning of “sacrament” meant, “oath to the death”)–formed around Jesus Christ, with a bishop-successor to the Apostles serving as head.

    In his book The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, Cardinal George described a “Catholic sense of the Church” that both liberal and conservative traditions miss:

    “. . . a Catholic sense of the Church as mediator of God’s life and teacher of God’s truth, the Church as a hierarchical communion, an organic body that comes into being as the gifts of Christ are shared, a body to which one is joined in order to be changed, to be converted, so that, with the help of God’s grace, one can accept Christ’s mission to preach the Gospel to all peoples and transform the world.”
    Francis Cardinal George, OMI, The Difference God Makes: A Catholic Vision of Faith, Communion, and Culture, Crossroad, 2009, p. 159.

    A Catholic not in hierarchical communion, not in union, that is, instead in schism with his or her bishop, is on the path to break permanently with the Church.

    But aren’t the hierarchy themselves the problem? Why must there be a Pope and the bishops for a person to be a Catholic?

    Hierarchy has come to mean, in modern parlance, “top-down,” even “authoritarian and bureaucratic,” but its first meaning, from the Greek hieros, and the Greek archein, pertains to what is sacred and holy, and to one who serves as head. A hier-arch is a holy head of a church. The Catholic Church is hierarchical because Jesus, the very Head of the Church, is sacred and holy, and it is one of the missions of the Church to become holy, that is, absolutely good like God.

    In the Nicene Creed, Catholics recognize the Holy nature of the Church. To strive for a non-hierarchical church would therefore in a sense be attempting a church that did not seek holiness. A church cannot be holy if both its clergy and its laity were not called to be holy. And the clerical abuse scandals are scandals precisely because clergy were not holy as we expected them to be.

    Churches inevitably have those who exercise the role of “head.” If these heads are not holy, it is difficult for the Church to remain holy. It is the role of the bishop to call other Catholics to holiness.

    But isn’t the hierarchical, institutional Church still the Church’s root problem, and isn’t the non-hierarchical, egalitarian Church the solution?

    A friend and also fellow Niles College Seminary alumnus, the Wednesday Journal’s Ken Trainor, has in his 5/3/11 column described the theological viewpoint of some Catholics who are drawn to Fr. Pfleger:

    The beatification of John Paul II highlights the fact that the Catholic Church is, in actuality, two churches (at least): a John XXIII Church and a John Paul II Church. One is pastoral, the other hierarchical — horizontal vs. vertical. It was the hierarchical Church of John Paul II, concerned primarily with protecting the institution and defending its moral authority against perceived threats, that perpetrated the widespread cover-up of the sex abuse scandal, which, ironically, undermined that very authority.

    Fast-tracking John Paul II to sainthood at the very least looks like a desperate attempt to shore up that highly centralized, top-down, bunker-mentality Church. As Sunday’s ceremony demonstrated, this view of Church has many devoted followers.

    The John XXIII Church, on the other hand, is concerned first and foremost with living the gospel and bringing it alive in the modern world. According to the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of human beings. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the kingdom of their Father, and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for everyone. That is why this community realizes it is truly and intimately linked with mankind and its history.” In other words, Church defined as “the people of God.”

    All the people of God.

    Ken Trainor does a good job of describing the popular preference of socially-progressive Catholics for a horizontal, non-hierarchical Church. But this view of the Catholic Church is incomplete, just as is the view of a hierarchy-only church.

    For starters, the Vatican II document to which Ken Trainor refers, Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, has a companion document, Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Both of these important documents address what is called theologically the Mystery of the Church, an awesome and transcendent topic requiring a lifetime of reflection. Both of these two Vatican II constitutions demand to be read and studied by adults claiming to be Roman Catholic.

    The Church defies complete and definitive description structured in one “direction” such as verticality and horizontality. It would therefore be difficult to sustain a credible view that there is a free-standing progressive church of John XXIII separate from a hierarchical church of John Paul II, who earlier as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was himself one of the very drafters of Gaudium et Spes. Some of the most stirring statements ever made from a Christian standpoint about social justice and working people were made by John Paul II. When one fights for justice for workers, one often unknowingly quotes John Paul II. So rejecting the “church of John Paul II” leads nowhere sustainable.

    Unlike the blood libel trying to pin blame for the Holocaust on Pius XII, which unfortunately stuck for decades and is only now dissolving in the face of overwhelming historic evidence, efforts to pin the priest scandals on the aged and Parkinson’s disease-ridden John Paul II are not about to stick.

    The closer one looks at Gaudium et Spes, the more it is incompatible with the modern progressive point of view. Many progressive Gaudium et Spes-only Catholics pass over the fact that Gaudium et Spes itself called abortion and infanticide an “unspeakable crime.”

    Then there is the inconvenient fact that “Good Pope” John XXIII himself authorized a document on 2/2/1961, Religiosorum Instituto, forbidding the ordination of homosexuals to the Roman Catholic priesthood, a predecessor document to a similar instruction issued under Benedict XVI in 2005, an act certainly not compatible with the views of progressives claiming to be Catholic. So the separate church of John XXIII is an imaginary church of an imaginary John XXIII.

    In a way I am happy that Ken Trainor also brought up the charge that the “top-down” church is principally responsible for perpetrating “the widespread cover-up of the sex abuse scandal,” because it allows me to point out that, in perhaps the wide majority of cases, it was the theological progressives themselves who ran (in some places, into the ground) the seminaries of the 1960s to the 1990s and who approved some of the worst miscreants in the history of the Roman Catholic clergy for ordination, in some cases ignoring strong warning signals that there might have been things very, very wrong with given candidates. One need only trace back to the seminary careers of convicted-felon priest-abusers actually jailed, and one might find some of the most lionized liberals among the clergy who did not stand in the way of priesthood or authority within the Church for these felons.

    Hierarchical cover-ups were more than matched in the Church by the naivete and perhaps worse of progressive seminary educators and their colleagues serving in clergy personnel. Both bishops and the seminary educators–and a few lay leaders in the Church–have much for which to answer. But we Catholics cannot step away, and pretend that the burden of healing, seeking forgiveness for, and even forgiving these scandals doesn’t belong to all of us.

    Both the “horizontal church” and the “vertical church” got it wrong in ordaining and in retaining the bad priests. All we Catholics are responsible for cleaning up the mess, because there was always only one Church, not several severed “directional” Catholic churches.

    Which brings me to the salient point of this section: that the very nature of the Roman Catholic Church as revealed by dual teachings of Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium prevents the Catholic faith from being “bracketed” and parsed like one might bracket and parse his or her politics, setting aside positions or agendas or leaders so that each person can have their own special political brand unique to themselves.

    In medicine and politics, we can take a personalized, designer approach to our DNA or our political allegiances. But in Catholicism, we must attempt to accept and believe the whole faith as taught through the ages from the Apostles to the Pope and bishops today.

    (See the modern theological summa by a graduate of Fenwick High School in Ken Trainor’s Oak Park, IL, Fr. Robert Barron, The Priority of Christ: Toward a Postliberal Catholicism, for a thorough walk through the concept of bracketing).

    In politics, one has the luxury of self-segmentation, in which one can disclaim the faults and mistakes of others, and therefore claim some form of plausible separation and therefore moral superiority, as is often done by partisans of many stripes. But in the Church, because of its organic, corporal unity, one cannot. One cannot step outside one’s body, and blame one’s body, claiming to be better than one’s body. One is one’s body. To Catholics, the Church is also our own body, shared as the Mystical Body of Christ.

    When one becomes a Roman Catholic, one joins in unity with both the Communion of Saints and the multitude of sinners, with both the City of God and the City of Man. One is linked by an eternal sacrament of Baptism to the whole Church and the Kingdom of God: to Jesus, to His Mother Mary, to St. John, to St. Augustine, to St. Francis of Assisi, to St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, to the Little Flower, to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to Blessed John XXIII, to Blessed John Paul II, and to all the saints, as well as to Constantine, to the Crusades, to the Borgia Pope Alexander VI, all the way to the vicious Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, and to all the sinners (among whom we also include all the saints, with the exception, perhaps, of the Blessed Virgin Mary). As has been attributed to the Irish novelist James Joyce, the Catholic Church can partially be described by the phrase, “Here comes everybody.” In politics, we bracket. In the Communion of Saints, we can’t.

    When one becomes a Roman Catholic, one embraces the best and comes to terms with–more precisely, forgives and seeks forgiveness for–the worst in human nature. That is why John Paul II’s concept of the healing and purification of memory and Benedict XVI’s theme of the hermeneutic of continuity are so important. Jesus Himself spoke in several parables of a Kingdom of wholeness that could not be separated: the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32), the yeast (Matthew 13:33), the drag net (Matthew 13:47-50), the wheat and the tares, or weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).

    In his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Erich Fromm noted that fanatics like Nazis had no place in their worldview or structure within their social order for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the first antidote to demagogy posing as true patriotism or as true religion.

    OK, but what’s all this have to do with Fr. Michael Pfleger?

    The daily, oppressive beat of violence in certain urban neighborhoods has awakened in some places a suffering church that struggles to face urban despair on a daily basis. This suffering church faces particular challenges, not the least of which for the integrity of its ministry is the temptation of demagogy. This demagogy or demagoguery is a deceptive mimicry of authentic Christian, and especially, authentic Catholic faith.

    Wherever there is poverty, misery, and/or profound unhappiness in a large group of people, demagoguery is never far behind.

    Modern demagoguery often builds upon a central cluster of myth that combines aspects of victim-hood with themes of superiority. This myth not only sets and strengthens the boundary for the demagogue’s group, but also reinforces the illusion that the demagogue is indispensable.

    In a sense, the more idiosyncratic and even false the demagogue’s myth is, the more useful it is in setting boundaries and establishing cohesion among those who follow the demagogue (see, the Big Lie).

    Both the myth and the demagogue tap into a profound need or longing in their followers. Typically, the myth explains to the followers why they are victims, not failures, why their victim status makes them morally superior, and how they can reclaim other forms of superiority.

    To the Nazi partisans in the 1920s and into the 1940s, antisemitism explained why the Nazis were not failures, but victims of a vast conspiracy. This racist, antisemitic myth promised the Nazi common man and woman the status of supermen previously denied their true legacy. A similar myth bound together the Ku Klux Klan, and also drives the antisemitic rants of Louis Farrakhan Muhammad.

    To the initial followers of Rev. Al Sharpton, the Twana Brawley allegations had to be true, despite the fact that a court of law found Sharpton liable for seven defamatory statements, and fined him substantially.

    To the fans of the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., his HIV-US government conspiracy theory explained too much about the world and Rev. Wright’s essential place in it, despite the fact that the myth, as demonstrated by science, itself hurts public health by discouraging HIV sufferers from seeking treatment. To his credit, President Obama abandoned Wright in 2008 over this wacky, but still widely-held, conspiracy theory.

    Each of these three recent demagogues, Farrakhan, Sharpton, and Wright, have found solidarity in Fr. Michael Pfleger. The reason for this solidarity is not that demagogues naturally stick together–although demagogues are sometimes mutually useful to each other, if not used by each other–but that each of them have joined, in their own particular way and style, in serving an even greater myth, the myth of transcendent nationhood, one of the most powerful themes in African American culture. More precisely, this is the myth of the return of the lost nation, denied to generations of persons of African descent by the cruel oppressions of slavery, war, and discrimination.

    The demagogue promises a worldview that attempts to sum together all aspects of life, and also offers a public platform on which to celebrate this coherence, but with a difference–the demagogue offers a myth defining its own reality that ultimately cannot be sustained or realized.

    The demagogue takes the short-cut path of outrageousness to fame, rather than the steady climb to truth and authenticity, which is based upon good works complemented both by faith and reason.

    In many urban ministries this myth of the lost nation has converged with themes of the Kingdom of God, of Dr. King’s “beloved community,” of the Civil Rights movement, of the American Dream, and of music and cultural activity, to make religion, politics, and the arts all of one piece. This convergence of mythology and activity provides a basis for public unity. In such a worldview, an ostensibly Roman Catholic parish such as Fr. Pfleger’s St. Sabina can be offering a talk for purchase on its web page by Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. But it is precisely this mythic convergence that conflicts with true Catholic religion, the Kingdom of God realized first in the person of Jesus Christ. A mythic convergence borders upon the “peace the world cannot give” (John 14:27).

    It would have been astounding thirty years ago to imagine Catholics on the socially progressive side of the aisle finding a hero in a man who did not speak out publicly against the antisemitism of a Farrakhan, did not strongly differ with the pro-abortion pandering of a Sharpton, or did not openly smack down the malicious HIV conspiracy theories of a Wright, and who himself publicly insulted a female presidential candidate, but that is precisely what these Catholics have done in rallying to Fr. Michael Pfleger.

    So this controversy is actually about defining “true Catholic religion”?

    In part. This controversy is fundamentally about whether Fr. Pfleger is a Catholic, and whether he decides to remain a Catholic priest.

    A secondary question, not spoken of directly by Cardinal George in this instance, remains whether Fr. Pfleger’s pastoral ministry has been compromised by his general silence on moral topics important to the Catholic tradition.

    Pastors face very serious challenges, especially about their own purpose and motivation for ministry. At the beginning of his ministry, Christ Himself was tempted in the desert:

    Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.

    The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

    He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.'”

    Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”

    Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'”

    Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

    At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'”

    Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
    Matthew 4:1-11

    Like Jesus in the desert, the religious leader is tempted by appetite, by self-serving fame and glory, and by power. Over the centuries, the “evangelical counsels” of poverty, chastity, and obedience arose in Catholicism as a partial antidote to these three temptations.

    But to the modern, post-Enlightenment and post-Reformation mind, the most difficult of these Catholic counsels or traditions to accept is obedience.

    Thirty-six years ago this very day, 5/14/75, I was present in the back end of the chapel of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, IL on ordination day, when Michael Pfleger knelt before his bishop, placed his hands in those of John Patrick Cardinal Cody, looked directly into his eyes, and responded positively when Cardinal Cody asked, “Do you promise me and my successors obedience and respect?”

    At the moment of these promises at this and perhaps other ordinations of the era, “Priests shouldn’t lie,” in stage whisper came from a wiseacre priest among the group packed in the back of the chapel, followed by a few cackles from the clerical peanut gallery.

    This cynicism was typical of many Chicago clergy then, and to a lesser extent now. This very act of obedience to Cardinal Cody in particular I, a child of the times, earlier couldn’t imagine myself doing, and by 1975, I had taken another path, being already married and a young father.

    But Michael Pfleger indeed made this promise of obedience, in public, on his knees, thirty-six years ago to the day of this writing. I was there to see it. So what, indeed, does such a promise of obedience mean?

    For many at the time, this act of obedience was simply an empty formula spoken so that ordination could continue, something of a Promethean act of stealing fire from the heavens for the good of others. Once ordained, the “real” work of the priesthood, the “building of the Kingdom of God” on earth through acts of social justice could move forward.

    This theory that the church of social justice was the real church was as alive then as it is now. First, a man needed to get the power of the priesthood, in order to leverage that power to do good. So, you say a few meaningless words in front of “the Man,” so what? This rationale still remains strong among some in the Chicago presbyterate, who hold that social justice transcends all. The church of Matthew 25, of the Corporal Works of Mercy, appeared to be the “real” church.

    But I wonder. There is also the church of John 6, of Jesus’ teaching that his Body was real food without which one could not have eternal life, a teaching for which he was willing to endure many of the crowd and of his followers to walk away from him. Remaining at his side was Cephas, Peter, the rock, who said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68).” Note again here the theme of the holiness of God.

    Would Jesus have spent three years teaching about all manner of things besides social justice, would he have called the Twelve to Him and taught them about His own Body and Blood as being essential for eternal life, and stress these points to the degree that people walked away from Him, if His only priority was to establish a Church based upon Matthew 25 alone? Not likely at all.

    Cardinal George’s 4/27/11 letter to Fr. Pfleger was such a “walk-away moment,” for which the Cardinal was willing to endure many levels of controversy in order to appeal to the faith of a pastor, Fr. Pfleger, to ask him in a sense to recognize that the Catholic Church is both a “Matthew 25” Church and a “John 6” Church, and to see that obedience to one’s calling, in the person of one’s bishop, is a moment both of grace and virtue, consistent with Christ’s own rejection of the temptations of ministry.

    This is the “Catholic difference” from Protestant traditions: that there is a person, a bishop, acting in the tradition of the Apostles, responsible for calling Fr. Pfleger back to the Church, and reminding him that his promise to obey and respect back on 5/14/75 was not meant for pro-forma, perfidy, or perdition, but for his own salvation, and thus the salvation of those whom he serves. Fr. Pfleger’s unity with his bishop has very much to do with not only the connection between the St. Sabina’s parishioners and the Kingdom of God, but with their connection with the Communion of Saints.

    The bishop’s calling is to anchor others to the faith. Without such an anchor and authority, it is anyone’s guess whether one is acting out of the temptation of human ambition, or out of faith. Thousands upon thousands of Protestant pastors have split away their congregations from others over individual interpretations of the Scriptures. Catholicism answers the question, “By what authority? (Luke 20; John 5:30-32)” by pointing to Christ’s obedience to the Father, and to the bishop’s, and our, obedience to Christ.

    To politicians and political Christians who see a churches like St. Sabina as institutions of social stability and the kind of church they can understand, the Cardinal’s stance is a puzzle and an irritant. Imagine, a bishop actually acting like, well, a bishop, as if theological questions really mattered, when we have gun violence and poverty to fight!

    Much could be said about the social, political, and factional forces that have aligned in the Fr. Pfleger-Cardinal George controversy, but I will refrain for now, as interesting as they may be, because they are secondary to the question of Fr. Pfleger’s faith.

    What we have here, therefore, is not “a failure to communicate,” but a Catholic priest who needs to have a bishop in order to claim to be Catholic, being confronted by this same bishop asking him to do something that he apparently doesn’t want to do.

    So, whither Fr. Pfleger?

    Fr. Pfleger has a decision to make, and the major choices involve either becoming a Protestant, a marginal Catholic, or remaining Catholic and deepening his Catholic commitment.

    Fr. Pfleger could become a Protestant or a marginal (Vatican I schism, Utrecht) Catholic, but then he would be like any other inner-city pastor, dependent on political “preacher money” from whatever politician he can convince that he and his congregation are important. He may go the way of Rev. George Augustus Stallings, Jr. and Imani Temple, and lose national notoriety, upon which his national status as a Catholic exception depends.

    Or Fr. Pfleger can reconfirm his commitment to being a Roman Catholic. To do so, he will not have to do anything like the scene in Superman II, in which Superman must “Kneel before Zod.” But he will have to accept another Church assignment as other pastors do, perhaps after a sabbatical, as other pastors do.

    Such a departure will not be the end of St. Sabina’s parish or school, or Fr. Pfleger. If the work of the parish and school are truly grounded in God the Trinity as taught by the Catholic faith, they will continue. The work of Fr. Pfleger to be transmitted to memory and tradition, as the work of so many great pastors has been transferred. If Jesus had to “go away” in order that his disciples could be led by the Spirit, so much more so should Fr. Pfleger. If what he has given to the parish has been of the true faith, the Spirit will lead his people on. The longer he stays, at this point, the more the true spirit, and purpose, of his ministry comes into question.

    Here follows also my own suggestion for Fr. Pfleger: During his time of reflection, he might consider clarifying, as St. Augustine did near the end of his life, some of his earlier statements. But this writing should be in Fr. Pfleger’s own words, and not edited by theological partisans, such as his recent biographers.

    The following statement might be among those that Fr. Pfleger might consider, and clarify in terms of his own position: A Catholicism that does not clearly, unequivocally, and publicly reject evils like antisemitism, abortion, and destructive HIV-conspiracy-theory demagogy, especially when spoken by one’s friends, is compromised Catholicism. For example, the pro-life efforts of the National Black Catholic Congress have been notably absent from Fr. Pfleger’s public work.

    The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the duty of a prophet:

    If a virtuous man turns away from virtue and does wrong when I place a stumbling block before him, he shall die. He shall die for his sin, and his virtuous deeds shall not be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death if you did not warn him.

    When, on the other hand, you have warned a virtuous man not to sin, and he has in fact not sinned, he shall surely live because of the warning, and you shall save your own life.
    (Ezekiel 3:20-21)

    In this case, Cardinal George, the archbishop, has prophesied to Fr. Pfleger.

    I have been praying for Fr. Pfleger, that he may choose well, and live forever!

    © Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved

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    On a just God, justification, and social justice

    Saturday, August 21st, 2010

    The teachings of Jesus are attractive in and of themselves, because they manifest a radiant kindness and love, and urge us to treat each other with an unselfish, humble, or just regard that calls upon us to love others as we would love ourselves.

    The Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, the Parables such as the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, the incidents such as the Woman Caught in Adultery, the Priestly Prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, and especially Christ’s Passion profoundly touch both believers and unbelievers, and have inspired many visions of a just society based upon basic human kindness and love, and upon an attempt to see God’s Kingdom come “on earth as in heaven.”

    It is therefore relatively easy to love and admire Jesus the man, as millions from all backgrounds of belief and unbelief have done for centuries, and will continue to do.

    This love and admiration for Jesus the man, for his teachings and example, has had an unfathomable power in shaping civilization and human history. When one considers the cruelty of law and daily life in ancient empires and cultures, one has to admit that Christian ideals, once introduced into cruel society, have literally reshaped these cruel civilizations and have thus to an important degree changed the world. There is therefore a link between the permeation of Christian ideas of kindness, love, and justice throughout cultures in history, and the slow growth of social justice, or of a just society.

    That the world is not a peaceful or just place by any means of course indicates that the Christian mission is incomplete. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which include Christians themselves. In our attempts to love and to shape a just society, we Christians continue to miss the mark, or literally, to sin.

    A modern Christian can accept and love Jesus the man, and form his or her life within a Christian ideal of love, kindness, and justice toward others, without ever believing in Jesus the God. In their ethic, those who follow only the human side of Jesus in a quest for social justice, appear for all the world to be Christians. But in a very deep and meaningful way, because they have not trusted, or believed, in Jesus both God and man, they do not live as Christians as Christ called them to so do.

    It is therefore possible to “live a Christian life,” but at the same time not to “believe in Christ.” It is possible to strive to be “the perfect Christian” socially, but to deeply doubt or reject the salvation narrative, that for some important reason Jesus had to be both divine and human, to die, and rise, so that a new and eternal life would be available to us.

    Many of us modern Christians thus stop short at the Cross, and at the Christian Mystery, the transcendent act of Christ in showing us, by his Incarnation, Life, Teachings, Sufferings, Death, and Resurrection, what perfect and eternal love is.

    It is for this reason that “social justice” Christians who are not believing Christians continue to “miss the mark” by not witnessing to Christ’s love in all its perfection. The very purpose of Christ’s birth and subsequent witness, and His mission in establishing a Church, can thereby be lost. It is only by accepting the Cross, and all that led up to it and followed it, that the fuller meaning of the “Greater Love” as lived by Christ, of laying down his life for his friends, can be received. It does less good to accept only the social justice implied by Christ’s mission, than it does to accept the very stated purpose of His mission, which includes all true manifestations of justice.

    Social justice attempted without “loving one another as I have loved you” risks building a society without leaving room for the transcendent calling of the human person in Christ to live not just for today, but for forever. This transcendent, eternal dimension accepts Christ as a friend, because only if we accept eternity can we know Christ as he eternally is now, as our friend. Friendship with Christ teaches us in ever more deepening ways to become friends to each other, since we share in adoption by the Father. Human friendship, the basis of any just society, is diminished when Christian friendship is incomplete.

    When the human person is seen in an eternal dimension, a life ethic is not only possible, but necessary. When human life is seen as potentially eternal, then the entire span of human life requires our sacrificial respect and friendship, our love. Without belief in the Christian Mystery in addition to acceptance of the Christian ethic, there is no firm connection between life ethics and social ethics. Modern “social justice” Christians often reject the connection between life ethics and social justice ethics. But by rejecting this connection, they reject the very message and mission of Jesus Incarnate, Jesus in his true dimension of both God and man. They reject, often without knowing it, the very reason Jesus is Who He Is. They risk rejecting Salvation, life complete and abundant.

    For anyone who has struggled with the questions—

    “Why was it necessary for God to become man and die?” or

    “What was accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross?” or

    “Why was it necessary for Christ to found a Church?” and

    “From what do we have to be ‘saved’?”

    –the notion of a just God, of justification, and of social justice seem to clash. Modern Christians often accept a quest for social justice, but are perplexed by a just God, or why justification is even necessary.

    Yet in searching and listening for a connection among these three concepts of just-ness, we can ever more discover their very meaning, learn more deeply what Christ teaches us, receive healing and therefore integration of our very selves, and gain deeper insight into the steps necessary to improve human life in general.

    Outside the Scriptures, there are perhaps no more profound, beautiful, and compact summaries of the salvation narrative than are to be found in the Confessions of St. Augustine of Hippo.

    St. Augustine ended the famous Tenth Book of his Confessions, a meditation on memory, with an eloquent summary of the role of Christ as Mediator between a just God and imperfect and mortal human beings.

    For the past several days I have been carefully reading, re-reading, and meditating on this passage, which also appears in the Office of Readings for Friday of the Sixteenth Week.

    I first list the Latin original, then two different English translations:

    Verax autem mediator, quem secreta tua misericordia demonstrasti hominibus, et misisti, et eius exemplo etiam ipsam discerent humilitatem, mediator ille dei et hominum, homo Christus Iesus, inter mortales peccatores et inmortalem iustum apparuit, mortalis cum hominibus, iustus cum deo, ut, quoniam stipendium iustitiae vita et pax est, per iustitiam coniunctam deo evacuaret mortem iustificatorum inpiorum, quam cum illis voluit habere conmunem. hic demonstratus est antiquis sanctis, ut ita ipsi per fidem futurae passionis eius, sicut nos per fidem praeteritae, salvi fierent in quantum enim homo, in tantum mediator, in quantum autem verbum, non medius, quia aequalis deo et deus apud deum et simul unus deus. In quantum nos amasti, pater bone, qui filio tuo unico non pepercisti, sed pro nobis inpiis tradidisti eum! quomodo nos amasti, pro quibus illi non rapinam arbitratus esse aequalis tibi factus est subditus usque ad mortem crucis: unus ille in mortuis liber, potestatem habens ponendi animam suam et potestatem habens iterum sumendi eam, pro nobis tibi victor et victima, et ideo victor, quia victima, pro nobis tibi sacerdos et sacrificium, et ideo sacerdos, quia sacrificium, faciens tibi nos de servis filios de te nascendo, tibi serviendo. merito mihi spes valida in illo est, quod sanabis omnes languores meos per eum, qui sedet ad dexteram tuam et te interpellat pro nobis: alioquin desperarem. multi enim et magni sunt idem languores, multi sunt et magni; sed amplior est medicina tua. potuimus putare verbum tuum remotum esse a coniunctione hominis et desperare de nobis, nisi caro fieret et habitaret in nobis. Conterritus peccatis meis et mole miseriae meae, agitaveram corde meditatusque fueram fugam in solitudinem, sed prohibuisti me et confortasti me dicens: Ideo Christus pro omnibus mortuus est, ut et qui vivunt iam non sibi vivant, sed ei qui pro omnibus mortuus est. ecce, domine, iacto in te curam meam, ut vivam, et considerabo mirabilia de lege tua. tu scis inperitiam meam et infirmitatem meam: doce me et sana me. ille tuus unicus, in quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae absconditi, redemit me sanguine suo. non calumnientur mihi superbi, quoniam cogito pretium meum, et manduco et bibo, et erogo et pauper cupio saturari ex eo inter illos, qui edunt et saturantur: et laudabunt dominum qui requirunt eum.

    The above passage is taken from Book 10, 43 68 of Augustine’s Confessions at:
    http://hiphi.ubbcluj.ro/fam/texte/augustin/augustin-conf10.htm

    An alternative text is at:
    http://www.stoa.org/hippo/text10.html

    The Maria Boulding, OSB translation:

    In your unfathomable mercy you first gave the humble certain pointers to the true Mediator, and then sent him, so that by his example they might learn even a humility like his. This Mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus, appeared to stand between mortal sinners and the God who is immortal and just: like us he was mortal, but like God he was just. Now the wage due to justice is life and peace; and so, through the justice whereby he was one with God he broke the power of death on behalf of malefactors rendered just, using that very death to which he had willed to liable along with them.

    He was pointed out to holy people under the old dispensation that they may be saved by faith in his future passion, as we are through faith in that passion now accomplished.

    Only in virtue of humanity is he the Mediator; in his nature as the Word he does not stand between us and God, for he is God’s equal, God with God, and with him only one God.

    How you loved us, O good Father, who spared not even your only Son, but gave him up for us evildoers! How you loved us, for whose sake he who deemed it no robbery to be your equal was made subservient even to the point of dying on the cross! Alone of all, he was free among the dead, for he had power to lay down his life and power to retrieve it. For our sake he stood to you as both victor and victim, and victor because victim; for us he stood to you as priest and sacrifice, and priest because sacrifice, making us sons and daughters to you instead of servants by being born of you to serve us.

    With good reason there is solid hope for me in him, because you will heal all my infirmities through him who sits at your right hand and intercedes for us. Were it not so, I should despair. Many and grave are those infirmities, many and grave; but wider-reaching is your healing power. We might have despaired, thinking your Word remote from any conjunction with humankind, had he not become flesh and made his dwelling among us.

    Filled with terror by my sins and my load of misery, I had been turning over in my mind a plan to flee into solitude; but you forbade me, and strengthened me by your words: To this end Christ died for all, you reminded me, that they who are alive might live not for themselves but for him who died for them.

    See, then, Lord: I cast my care upon you so that I may live, and I will contemplate the wonders you have revealed. You know how stupid and weak I am: teach me and heal me. Your only Son, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge, has redeemed me with his blood. Let not the proud disparage me, for I am mindful of my ransom. I eat it, I drink it, I dispense it to others, and as a poor man I long to be filled with it among those who are fed and feasted. And then, let those who seek him praise the Lord.

    From: the Confessions of St. Augustine, Maria Boulding, OSB, translator, New City Press, 1999, pp. 220-222.

    Office of Readings translation:

    The true Mediator was he whom you revealed to humble men in your secret mercy, and whom you sent so they might learn that same humility by following his example. This was the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who intervened between sinful mortals and the immortal Just One, himself mortal like men, and like God, just. Thus, since life and peace are the compensation for righteousness, he could, by a justice united with God, annul the death of sinners now justified, since he willed to share death with them.

    Good Father, how you loved us, sparing not your only Son but delivering him up for us sinners! How you loved us, for whose sake he, thinking it no robbery to be equal with you, was made subject to death on the cross. He alone, free among the dead, had the power to lay down his life and the power to take it up again. For our sake he became in your sight both victor and victim – victor, indeed, because he was victim. For our sake, too, he became before you both priest and sacrifice – priest, indeed, because he was a sacrifice, changing us from slaves to sons by being your Son and serving us.

    Rightly then have I firm hope that you will heal all my infirmities through him who sits at your right hand and intercedes for us. Otherwise I should despair. For great and numerous are these infirmities of mine, great indeed and numerous, but your medicine is mightier. We might have thought your Word remote from any union with man, and so have despaired of ourselves, if he had not become flesh and dwelt among us.

    Crushed by my sins and the weight of my misery, I had taken thought in my heart and contemplated flight into the desert. But you stopped me and gave me comfort with the words: Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them.

    Behold, Lord, I cast upon you my concern that I may live and I shall meditate on the wonders of your law. You know my ignorance and my weakness; teach me and heal me. Your only Son, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, redeemed me with his blood. Let not arrogant men speak evil of me. For I meditate on my ransom, and I eat it and drink it and try to share it with others; though poor I want to be filled with it in the company of those who eat and are filled and they shall praise the Lord who seek him.

    Catholic Church. 1983. The office of readings: according to the Roman rite. The divine office, revised by decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by authority of Pope Paul VI. Boston, MA: St. Paul Editions, pp. 912-913.

    (I suggest that you read the above several times until you begin praying or contemplating, then slowly consider the great mysteries Augustine attempts to communicate. Then repeat!)

    The words of Augustine above, as always, are completely permeated with Scriptural phrases and concepts. Maria Boulding cross-referenced twenty-six of these, especially from the letters of Paul (1 Tm 2:5; 2 Tm 1:10; Rom 4:5; 1 Tm 2:4; Phil 2:6; Phil 2:6,8; Gal 4:7; Rom 8:34; 2 Cor 5:15; Col 2:3; 1 Cor 10:31, 11:29), Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 9:28; Heb 7:27), the Gospels (Jn 1:1; Jn 10:18; Jn 1:14; Jn 6:55,57; Lk 16:21), and the Psalms (Ps 87:6 {88:5}; Ps 102 {103}:3; Ps 54:23 {55:22}; Ps 118 {119} 17-18; Ps 68:6 {69:5}; Ps 24 {25}:5, 6:3 {2}; Ps 118 {119}:22; Ps 21:27 {22:26}). The 1927 Cambridge edition of the Confessions also lists a number of other passages echoed in this text (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:55, and more). One could spend weeks reading these Scripture references and meditating on their meaning, and on the interplay between these passages and Augustine’s text.

    What I have drawn from meditating on these readings so far, both from Augustine and Scripture, is that we call God just because of God’s perfection, God’s holiness. We humans are not perfect as God is, but we are called to be as God is. Jesus, as Mediator, makes it possible for us to grow closer to God in perfection, to be made perfect and just like God is, in other words, to become justified, so that in seeing us, God would see the intended perfection of creation.

    The path to justification is humility, the conformance of our persons to Christ the Mediator and thus to God, just as Christ was humble in following His Father’s will.

    In order to make us just, Christ had to break death itself, otherwise, we humans would continue to miss the mark—to sin—in our quest to become just. Sin and death stand between us taking on the justness for which God calls us, and indeed, created us. Christ, the Mediator, both Victim and Victor, both Priest and Sacrifice, calls us to become the free children of God, and to no longer be slaves, or victims, and no longer miss the mark—by sin—and by death. Christ is the Mediator of our adoption by the Father, a gift of loving grace. By partaking in the Eucharist, the sacrament (an oath to the death), both meal and sacrifice, we associate ourselves most intimately with the Mediator, the Christ, and hope, or trust in, a life both just and eternal, by celebrating the Eucharist in a real time and a real place to join us with the living and eternal sacrifice of Christ, in eternal communion with the saints. This trust and hope take place in a real time and in a real place, and in eternity, and empower us to act. Since “the wage due to God’s justice is life and peace,” we follow Christ in respecting life and peace.

    This sacramental aspect has powerful implications. Just as Christ physically was born, lived, died, and rose in order to teach His message of the Greater Love, so also we do as He asked in memory of Him by partaking in the Eucharist, which inextricably links Christ’s act of salvation and our own. We accept, affirm, partake, and participate in this eternal act of justification by celebrating this Eucharist.

    Christ linked us to his life of sacrifice by the Sacrament of the Eucharist. By partaking in the Eucharist, we accept the same friendship that he offered to the Twelve at the Last Supper. Without this Eucharist, there can be no full friendship with Christ in this world, because only in the Eucharist, do we enter the same place and time—the no-time of eternity— with Christ.

    Without the Eucharist, a just God is hidden, justification is impeded, and social justice is denied an eternal ethic of life, thus reducing our vision of human justice to utilitarian or worldly calculations alone. By accepting an eternal dimension to human life, we grow to respect human life’s most subtle, most invisible, most vulnerable, and most dependent manifestations, and we thus can approach social justice in a total, wholistic way, not rejecting any dimension of humanity from our considerations, and therefore, from our love.

    Great progress has been made since the Second Vatican Council in achieving a shared Christian understanding on justification. The historic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church of 1999 affirmed that good works follow justification.

    Now that so many historic theological difficulties have been resolved in such a spiritual and fruitful Declaration, and the Christian basis for good works has been reaffirmed, why not enter the door to Christ in the Eucharist? When such a gift of grace as the Eucharist has been given to us by Christ Himself, why refrain?

    I therefore urge my readers who wish to know the just God, to be justified themselves, and to work for social justice, to meet Christ in the Eucharist, and to acknowledge his real and eternal presence. Who knows where He will lead you next.

    It is not an accident that Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day attended the Eucharist frequently, and spent many hours praying before the Divine Presence.

    © Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
    All Rights Reserved

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