Monday, September 15, 2014

The Third Way
Few issues are as emotionally sensitive and potentially divisive among Catholics as homosexuality.

It seems like there are only two ways to approach the topic:  Either a self-righteous and judgmental condemnation of those who experience same-sex attractions, or a self-righteous and judgmental condemnation of those who want to be faithful to the Christian vision of human sexuality.  Either a blind abandonment of loved ones who are homosexual, or a blind abandonment of Jesus' teaching on marriage, "from the beginning."  Either a blind embrace of homophobic attitudes, or a blind embrace of gay culture.

There is, however, a third voice which has up until now remained largely voiceless.  It speaks with credibility about a way beyond these polarized alternatives.  Indeed, this "third way" gives voice to men and women who have embraced both their homosexual orientations and their call to live the Gospel. 

If your mind and heart is open to hearing about the real struggles and profound insights of this new voice in what too often seems like a tired and tiresome discussion, make a plan to set aside 30 minutes to watch The Third Way.  Please don't judge it until you've seen it, and please stay open to the possibility that there is indeed a way forward for all of us on the topic of homosexuality and the Catholic Church.

If you've never really understood the phenomenon of homosexuality, then this film is for you; if you've never really understood the Catholic Church's teachings about homosexuality, then this film is for you.  This is an opportunity to begin conversations where stony silence or cold condescension has too often prevailed.  This is an opportunity for hope, healing and wholeness for everyone who has struggled either with same-sex attractions or the with Church's teachings on homosexuality.

Consider sharing this gift with family and friends who long to see a new way forward regarding homosexuality and the Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us--

Monday, September 8, 2014

Discipleship and Encounter

Let’s face it, we're all in the same boat. 

Moreover, as G.K. Chesterton noted, "Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all sea sick"!

Our personal sea sicknesses may differ.  They might be self-inflicted, or the result of decisions by people we love; they might involve illnesses, troubled relationships, problems at work or school.  Regardless of its specific details, every type of seasickness has the same remedy--discipleship rooted in a personal encounter with Jesus.

In other words, once we recognize that we are all "in the same boat," the question becomes whether we will allow Jesus into our boat.  Luke's Gospel recounts a scene which needs to be replayed in each of our lives:  With the crowd pressing in to hear the word of God, Jesus climbs into Simon's boat (Lk 5:1-11).  Already tired from a full day of fishing, Simon was washing his nets.  He was finished.

Yet perhaps Simon knew, deep down, just what kind of boat he was in.  Clearly his heart was open just enough to be touched by Jesus' next request, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."  Thus the next question for us becomes:  Will we dare to face the deep waters?  Will we trust Jesus enough to lower our nets again--perhaps in a place where we've never fished before?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Toward an Economy that Serves

TV coverage of Notre Dame's home football games are punctuated by inspiring promotional pieces for the university titled, "What would you fight for?"  Following Labor Day 2014, perhaps the question worth exploring is, "What would you work for?"

Many of us would likely answer, "For my family" or "For my future" or "For my economic independence."  However, economists of all stripes--along with many politicians--would suggest in a variety of ways that we work to serve the economy.  Whether they tend more toward free-market capitalism or state-controlled socialism, the powers-that-be want to frame human work in terms of whether or not it serves national or international economic growth.

Catholic social teaching offers a more "personalizing" vision for human work: We work "for" the building up of the human person.  Indeed, on its deepest levels our work reflects the work of God himself, who creates, redeems and sanctifies.  In a powerful section entitled "Economic Activity and Social Justice," the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes that "Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community" (n. 2426).

Even as he simultaneously offered a profound critique of Marxism, St. John Paul II also incorporated insights from Catholic social teaching in his carefully qualified criticism of global capitalism.  In his encyclical Centesimus annus, John Paul asks whether capitalism is the answer for Third World countries; he then answers, "if by 'capitalism' is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative" (CA, n. 42).  The economy must serve the human person, not vice versa; economic freedom must serve human freedom more deeply understood, in the sense of the ability to choose what is true and good and beautiful. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Witnesses in the Face of Intolerance

"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers,
and if he does listen to teachers, it's because they are witnesses."
+Pope Paul VI
The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer
In light of journalist Jim Foley's gruesome execution, did you find yourself wondering how you would face such a death?  I couldn't help but ponder what my final thoughts and gestures would be.  Would I pray for my enemies?  Would I be able to forgive the man who was about to kill me?  
Based on an essay he wrote following an earlier abduction in 2011, entitled Phone Call Home, I'm guessing that Jim Foley met his death like countless Christian martyrs down through the centuries--that is, filled with God's grace, carried by the Holy Spirit, and sustained by the love of Christ present in his heart.  Perhaps it's more than a coincidence that his murder fell so close to the Church's commemoration of the passion of St. John the Baptist (August 29th).
And what about the Christian witness provided by his family?!  The secular press seemed almost shocked to find a Catholic family which was palpably sustained by its faith.  Again, I couldn't help but wonder what my response would be if one of my loved ones was so brutally murdered.  Would I turn to prayer or thirst for vengeance?   Would I be the Christian witness which (post)modern people so desperately long to see, or would my response be just as worldly as that of any non-believer?
Ultimately, there is one question whose answer points to whether or not we would be witnesses under such extreme circumstances:  For Jesus asks each of us each day, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16:15). 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers

In addition to this bold Beatitude, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount also offers the seemingly unconditional commandment to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44).  Even more radically, perhaps, Jesus provides us with one of the most non-violent teachings possible while being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane: He implores Peter to put down his sword and then pronounces that "all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52).

In the face of the all-too easy tendency to justify the use of violence to resolve international conflicts, the Catholic Church has made a conscious and intentional return to Jesus' non-violent stance since the Second Vatican Council.  From Paul VI's cry, "No more war, never again war!" and John Paul II's bold claim that he would have walked to Baghdad on his knees to prevent the first Iraq War, to Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting to prevent Western military interventions into war-torn Syria, the trend has been decidedly non-violent.

So how can we now make sense of the Vatican's position on intervening in Iraq?  Is Pope Francis flip-flopping, or abandoning what some have called his position as Global Peacemaker-in-Chief? In recently calling the U.N.'s Secretary General and the entire international community to action in Iraq, was the Holy Father merely concerned for the countless Christians being driven from their homes and slaughtered by radical Islamists?  Or is there something more going on here?

The interpretive key comes, I think, from the section of the Catechism which deals with "Safeguarding Peace" (CCC, nn. 2302-2317).

When commenting on the Fifth Commandment, "Thou shall not kill," the Catechism moves from discussion of respect for human life and for the dignity of persons to a discussion of what is entailed in actively promoting peace.  The line of reasoning includes the following highlights: