Sunday, June 28, 2009

Benedict XVI: To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God's call

By Benedict XVI to US Bishops, answering a question on vocations.

Strange to say, I often think that prayer - the unum necessarium - is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue! Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord's will for our lives.

To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God's call. Programs, plans and projects have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God's call.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian

By G.K. Chesterton

At least five times, therefore, with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.

Just going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.

"There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people."

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

"The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost."

"Fairy tales, are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated."

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."

"When men chose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing. They then become capable of believing in anything."

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about."

"It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything."

"The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."

"The Catholic Church is like a thick steak, a glass of red wine, and a good cigar."


Another source:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Myth of Relativism: We are merely embryos who grew up

Bioethics and the Myth of Relativism

Interview with Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk

By Giovanni Patriarca

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JUNE 17, 2009 ( A neuroscientist and ethicist is underlining the need to base bioethics in moral principles, and is affirming that even people who profess relativism count on certain absolutes in life.

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk is the director of education at the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center. He writes a monthly column for The Catholic Herald titled "Making Sense out of Bioethics."

In this interview with ZENIT, he discusses some of the need to base bioethics in absolute moral principles in light of recent events related to his field.

ZENIT: In recent years bioethics seems to have become a battleground where many interest groups try to impose their political views separated from any consideration of the field's moral foundations. The 2005 U.N. Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights could be considered a starting point, but it leaves some questions unanswered. Where is bioethics going in such a globalised world?

Father Pacholczyk: The declaration is, in my opinion, sufficiently vague as to be largely unhelpful when it comes to addressing challenging bioethical discussions and approaching serious moments of decision making.

The final line of the declaration speaks of how no one should be allowed to "engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to human rights, fundamental freedoms and human dignity," but it does not specify any of these broad ideas in an applied or meaningful way.

In my own work, when it comes to fundamental human rights, perhaps the most obvious instance would be the fundamental rights of the human embryo, the youngest member of our human family.

Yet the word "embryo" is not ever mentioned in the declaration. I worry that much of our modern bioethical discourse simply "talks around" the key issues.

ZENIT: Recently in the United States, human embryonic stem cell research has been promoted by new federal funding, and the media reports that this has divided the public. What is the position of the Catholic Church in such a delicate moment?

Father Pacholczyk: The Catholic Church in this delicate moment, as in every moment, expounds and authoritatively teaches the natural law.

The moral truth about human embryonic stem cell research can be known by the light of natural reason.

The issue is a matter of basic human rights. I sometimes remind people that each of us is merely an embryo who grew up.

Once we grasp this basic biological fact correctly, and once we see the truth of the proposition that all are created equal, that all deserve equal protection under the law, human embryonic stem cell research, insofar as it requires the destruction of embryos, can be seen for what it is: an action that is always and everywhere immoral.

ZENIT: Can the field of bioethics survive without moral absolutes or does it face the possibility of remaining persistently adrift?

Father Pacholczyk: Moral absolutes form the bedrock of society and are a sine qua non for its just ordering.

Moral absolutes also stand at the root of all sound bioethics. The proclamation that "there are no moral absolutes by which we are bound" is itself an absolutist moral statement.

Interestingly, nobody really believes in moral relativism today anyway; they simply believe that when it comes to absolute morality, they themselves must be the arbiters of what is moral and what is not.

I have never met anyone who didn't insist on moral absolutes of some kind. Even those of the most liberal-minded, relativist stripe will, when pushed, insist that certain actions are absolutely wrong, whether it is polluting and causing global warming, killing polar bears, or threatening the South American rainforests.

When it comes to killing young humans in the womb, these same liberal-minded individuals will paradoxically insist that everybody should be free to choose to do whatever they want, although such radical freedom of choice will be summarily denied by them to anyone who might wish to take the lives of pandas or dolphins.

In other words, they exercise a selective absolutism, where they are the ones to decide, often based on unexamined sentiment, those matters that are to be held as absolutely wrong. Their own myopic version of the truth, which is really only a partial and incomplete image of it, becomes a kind of central focus and obsession for them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

We are lucky this Pope is 'ecclesiastically incorrect'

Alcuin Reid says Benedict XVI is prepared to suffer ridicule in his battle against relativism. From the Catholic Herald, Britain's Leading Catholic Newspaper

22 May 2009
On April 18 2005 a 78-year-old cardinal, at the end of his working life, preached the sermon for the cardinal-electors before they entered the conclave to elect a new pope. Joseph Ratzinger spoke that evening of the Church "moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires", and reminded the cardinals that the Church's true role is "to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth".

His remarks were direct and incisive. They were the words of a man utterly without ambition who was ready to retire under the new pope. So "ecclesiastically incorrect" were they that one cardinal-elector, a strong supporter of his candidacy, later remarked that he wondered whether, by speaking thus, Ratzinger was deliberately trying not to be elected pope.

But the following day he was elected. Journalists, most famously Margaret Hebblethwaite on BBC television, bewailed that "Rottweiler Ratzinger" now held the Keys of St Peter. Even those of us who had read him for decades and who had known him as cardinal in brief but profoundly convincing encounters could barely believe that the cardinal who had so resolutely held and reaffirmed the Church's teaching on faith and morals - with the clear support of Pope John Paul II - and who had pioneered critical debate about the state of the Church following the Second Vatican Council, in fact emerged on the balcony of St Peter's as the Successor of St Peter.

But the cardinals knew Ratzinger personally, better than anyone, which is why, under the influence of God the Holy Spirit, they elected him. The media and most Catholics only knew his public reputation, which is why we had such hysteria.

The Tablet took a more nuanced tack. Whilst reporting the "shock and dismay" of many at Ratzinger's election, it expressed the hope that the "gamekeeper" would become more of a "pastor". And for a while his critics fell silent as they came to know the professor, the priest and the new pope, almost for the first time. Some asserted that one could no longer attribute to him the stances of the former cardinal - as if his new office had put him above such "intemperate" behaviour.

But events this year have shown that this honeymoon, within and without the Church, is well and truly over. We now have world figures such as Alain Juppé presuming to assert that "this Pope is becoming a real problem', and Catholic journals publishing articles lamenting that Benedict XVI stands "like a solitary monarch in a curia that has lost its bearings". Why? Yes, one can point to some real mismanagement of papal initiatives in the Vatican which do require urgent remedy. The handling of the Regensburg address and of the recent lifting of the excommunication from the SSPX bishops was unsatisfactory. The appointment of Fr Wagner as an auxiliary bishop in Austria may not have been wise (less unwise, though, than Pope John Paul II's 1986 appointment of Hans Hermann Groër to Vienna). And perhaps the Pope should have addressed the "condom question" in an extended discourse rather than in a brief reply on an aeroplane.

But these matters of management are not the root cause of the discontent. When Pope Benedict freed the older liturgical rites from legal restrictions in July 2007, one Catholic commentator stated that "this is the strongest indication so far that the theological conservatism of Cardinal Ratzinger... is still in place in the papacy of Benedict XVI". Until then it was hoped that it was not. "A secret liberal at heart he is not," they lamented.

Indeed. That much ought to have been clear from his seminal and apparently programmatic address of December 2005 in which he distinguished an acceptable "hermeneutic of reform in continuity" from the unacceptable "hermeneutic of rupture" espoused By many following the Second Vatican Council. What Cardinal Ratzinger had been arguing for years was proposed by the Pope.

If we understand this - that the Pope is concerned that all aspects of the Church's life are in (or, where necessary, are restored to) clear continuity with her Tradition, without excluding legitimate development that does not break from her past - we can see why he acted so decisively on the older liturgy, why he does not fear to re-assert the Church's unpopular but life-giving teaching on human sexuality, why he did not hesitate to show real paternal mercy to the SSPX bishops in the hope of reconciliation and why he does not shrink from substantial dialogue with other faiths, even when he may be misunderstood.

We also need to understand that the Pope has a pretty clear understanding of his role. As Cardinal Ratzinger he observed that "the Successor of Peter is the rock which guarantees a rigorous fidelity to the Word of God against arbitrariness and conformism: hence the martyrological nature of his primacy". Pope Benedict is prepared to suffer the price of misinterpretation and even ridicule in his battle against relativism. That's his job.

It is interesting that his assertion in Africa "that without Christ life lacks something" and his insistence on the traditional Catholic missionary stance that "we do no injustice to anyone if we present Christ to them and thus grant them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life," as well as that "it is our duty to offer everyone this possibility of attaining eternal life," has not provoked much reaction. Perhaps the outcry over his refusal to worship the condom-god has deafened people to this clear restatement of the Church's belief in the definitive revelation of God in Christ.

"What he will say next?" Christopher Howse asked recently in the Daily Telegraph. Whatever words Pope Benedict chooses to utter, it will be out of the prophetic fear of Almighty God, to whom he must give an account of his stewardship, and not out of timidity for the opinions of men or the media. Those who seek to understand Pope Benedict XVI would do well to grasp this.

Thinking About Moral Absolutes

By Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk in the Pilot

When Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States in April of 2008, I had the chance to attend the opening ceremony at the White House South Lawn. As I listened to President Bush’s welcoming remarks to the Pope, I was caught off guard by one line in particular, a powerful statement that seemed almost too philosophical to be spoken by a United States president: “In a world where some no longer believe that we can distinguish between simple right and wrong, we need your message to reject this dictatorship of relativism and embrace a culture of justice and truth.”

The President was expressing how we live in a time of history marked by moral relativism. This is the belief that there really is no right and wrong, just your opinion and mine about right and wrong, and we should simply “agree to disagree” and learn to get along. That is to say: you may believe that abortion, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research are fine, and I may not, but there’s really no point in arguing, since everything is relative anyway -- morality is up to me and you to decide individually. In such a view, there are no moral absolutes or universals, and morality shifts freely with each person’s perspective.

Ultimately, however, this position is neither reasonable nor logical.

If morality were merely about your and my moral opinions, the results would be disastrous. If I believe racism against blacks and the institution of slavery built upon it are wrong, but you believe they’re okay, can we both go our merry ways and live according to our own morality? Clearly not, and the United States had to undergo a terrible civil war to address this very question. If I believe serial murder and rape are wrong, but you believe they’re OK, can we both go off and live according to our own positions? Clearly not, since both positions cannot be true.

These obvious examples illustrate what each of us already knows, namely, that in the real world “relative” truth doesn’t work. Suppose you and I each drive towards an intersection with a traffic light. If it were up to you and me to make up our own minds about what color the light is, without any reference to its real color, there would certainly be a lot of accidents at our intersections. What many fail to realize is that the moral world works similarly. Many people’s moral lives are crashing and burning because they fail to respect the non-arbitrary markers of the moral roadmap guiding our human journey. They’ve slipped into thinking that they can make up their own rules as they go along, and that it’s all relative to their own desires or circumstances.

In the movie “Schindler’s List,” much of the action takes place in a Nazi labor camp. The camp commandant decides to take a young, Jewish girl to be his personal maidservant. At one point in the film, this girl has a private and very disturbing conversation with another man, Oskar Schindler, the protagonist of the film. With deep fear in her voice she says to him, “I know that someday my master will shoot me.” Schindler at first can’t believe what he is hearing, and he does his best to reassure her that the commandant is really quite fond of her. But she insists, “No, someday he will shoot me.” She then speaks of what she had witnessed the previous day. She had seen him walk out of his quarters, draw his gun, and shoot a Jewish woman who was walking by with a bundle in her hand. She described the woman: “Just a woman on her way somewhere. No fatter, or thinner, or slower, or faster than anyone else; and I couldn’t guess what she had done [to provoke him]. The more you see of the commandant, the more you see there are no set rules that you can live by. You can’t say to yourself, ‘If I follow these rules, I will be safe.’”

Fr. Raymond Suriani, commenting on this famous scene from the movie noted how this girl was absolutely correct: “In a world of moral confusion, in a world of moral relativism, there can be no safety, and, consequently, no peace.” She understood that in the “world” of that Nazi labor camp, right and wrong had been blurred to such an extent, that she couldn’t determine what was “right” even in the mind of the commandant. What pleased him at one moment might not please him in the next. And if he happened to have power, or to have a gun in his hand when he wasn’t pleased, she knew she could easily end up being his next victim.

There are certain important truths and universal moral absolutes which speak powerfully to us as humans about how we must relate to ourselves, to others, and to society. We can draw strength from the prophetic and protective voice of the Church, which speaks tirelessly to us of these moral absolutes and points out the threat to our humanity posed by every agenda of relativism.

Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in neuroscience from Yale and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. He is a priest of the diocese of Fall River, MA, and serves as the Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. See

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Saints Know They Are Sinners But Ceased to Gaze at Their Wounds

The only thing that separates a saint from a sinner is that a saint looks less at himself and more at Christ and his love, said the Pope during his visit to Lourdes.

"Let us accept; may you accept to offer yourselves to him who has given us everything, who came not to judge the world, but to save it, accept to recognize in your lives the presence of him who is present here, exposed to our view. Accept to offer him your very lives," the Pontiff said in his short address.

Benedict XVI noted that some 2,000 years ago Mary accepted "to give everything, to offer her body so as to receive the Body of the Creator."

"Everything came from Christ, even Mary," added the Pope. "Everything came through Mary, even Christ."

He reflected on Mary's presence with those gathered in Lourdes, as well as the "crowd of saints in heaven" composed of "all those men and women who have contemplated, venerated, adored the real presence of him who gave himself to us even to the last drop of blood; the crowd of all those men and women who have spent hours in adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar."

Look to Christ

"This evening, we do not see them," the Pontiff continued, "but we hear them saying to us, to every man and to every woman among us: 'Come, let the Master call you! He is here! He is calling you! He wants to take your life and join it to his. Let yourself be embraced by him! Gaze no longer upon your own wounds, gaze upon his.

"'Do not look upon what still separates you from him and from others; look upon the infinite distance that he has abolished by taking your flesh, by mounting the Cross which men had prepared for him, and by letting himself be put to death so as to show you his love.

"'In his wounds, he takes hold of you; in his wounds, he hides you. Do not refuse his love!'”

The saints, said the Holy Father, "have allowed themselves to be embraced by his Love," and they "never cease to intercede for us."

Benedict XVI continued, "They were sinners and they knew it, but they willingly ceased to gaze upon their own wounds and to gaze only upon the wounds of their Lord, so as to discover there the glory of the cross, to discover there the victory of life over death."

"Remain in silent adoration of your Lord," the Pope urged the crowd. "Remain silent, then speak and tell the world: We cannot be silent about what we know.

"Go and tell the whole world the marvels of God, present at every moment of our lives, in every place on earth."