Showing posts from September, 2013

The Moral Theology of the Devil

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk and writer who did most of his work in the 1950s and 1960s (he died in 1968 under somewhat mysterious circumstances--he electrocuted himself in a bathtub).  His most famous book is his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which talks about his entry into the monastery.  For my money, however, his best work is a short essay that was included in a collection called New Seeds of Contemplation.  The essay is entitled "The Moral Theology of the Devil."  Every word of it is worth reading (reprinted here), but I would particularly like to focus on this section:

The people who listen to this sort of thing, and absorb it, and enjoy it, develop a notion of the spiritual which is a kind of hypnosis of evil. The concepts of sin, suffering, damnation, punishment, the justice of God, retribution, the end of the world and so on, are things over which they smack their lips with unspeakable pleasure. Perhaps this is why they develop a deep, subconscious …

Friday Fun--A Live Video

Sorry for the delay on Friday Fun--an expected work trip brought me out of town.

I think everyone has a special place in their heart for the music that was popular during their "formative years"--let's say from 14 to 22.  For me, that means the music of 1993 to 2000.  There are worse eras to be linked with, I guess, but it does mean that I find myself in the position of defending some bands that probably can't be reasonably defended.  For me, one of those bands is Live.

Live had some great songs (at least, I think they are great) but they were burdened with the need to show that their music was not just 90s alt-rock, but was about Big Ideas and Spirituality and other weighty topics.  I liked that as a 20 year old, but now it just seems ridiculous.  Still, Live takes it to a level that makes it fun, because it is so over the top.

The Live at its most Live-y can be seen in this video.  The song is called Lakini's Juice off their third album Secret Samadhi.

What Might Reform Look Like?

For those who are not familiar with Hans Kung, here is a quick background.  Way back at the time of the Second Vatican Council (1958-1964), Kung, a Swiss priest, was a prominent member of the group of young theologians that was trying to move the Council fathers toward a more expansive and modern interpretation of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Among even this group, Kung was the youngest and (arguably) the most brilliant, matched only by an obscure Bavarian priest by the name of Josef Ratzinger--the future Pope Benedict XVI.  These Young Turks basically got their way, and their fingerprints are all over the documents of Vatican II.

In the aftermath of the Council, the Young Turks eventually split down the middle over what to do next.  One party, lead in many ways by Ratzinger/Benedict, pulled back from some of the outcomes of the Council and called for some measure of retrenchment.  The other side, led by Kung, called for going farther.  Needless to say, the Ratzinger view …

Archbishop Myers Update

Some time ago, I went on a bit of a rant about Archbishop Myers in Newark.  Today, the Vatican appointed a co-adjutor bishop for the diocese.  To translate that from Catholic-speak, the Vatican appointed a bishop who (1) is guaranteed to take over for Myers when he leaves, and (2) has significant (though not total) authority to do things on behalf of the diocese (as opposed to an auxiliary bishop, who basically works for the main bishop). 

Myers is 72, so he technically does not have to give his resignation for another 3 years.  Nevertheless, with this move the Vatican turned Meyers into a lame duck.  This basically pull the rug out from underneath him, as appointment of a co-adjutor is unusual and, as the article says, is a sign that the bishop "needs significant help in his ministry."  It's hard not to see this as a rebuke.  Is it a rebuke for his handling of sex abuse claims?  Impossible to know, but it sounds likely.

Anyway, more good news coming out of Rome.  The P…

And Now for Something Completely Different

The original idea behind restarting this blog was to talk about a bunch of stuff, not simply things related to religion.  So far, all of the content has had something to do with religion, so I would like to broaden things up a little bit.  Since it's Friday, I figured it's also time to lighten the mood a bit.  Thus, the first of our Friday Fun posts.  The topic (until I get tired of it)?  Classic music videos of the 80s and 90s, and how weird many of them were.

We'll start with one of my favorites--Heaven is a Place on Earth by Belinda Carlisle (1987).

More Thoughts on the Interview

First off, here is the best summary of the significance of the Pope's comments that I have found.  I'll just add a couple of additional thoughts.

If you look at the reaction from the conservative Catholic blogosphere, the most substantive response is to point out that Pope Francis does not signal in the interview that he is about to change any Church teachings.  That's true (though, one is tempted to add the qualification "yet," at least as to some things like divorce and re-marriage).  Pope Francis is not going to issue a decree that abortion on demand is swell.  Nor, it appears, is he going to say that women can be priests (but deacons?...).  But, that's not the point.  The significance of the interview is not about substantive doctrine, nor is it about the amorphous concept of "tone."  My interpretation of the interview is that Francis's vision of the Church is one that meets people where they are and welcomes them in to the fold as they are …

The Jesuit Pope, Part II

Remember how I said that Jesuits like to lob intellectual grenades into the mix to see what happens?  Pope Francis just pulled the pin

I will probably have a couple of posts about this amazing interview, but I have a couple of immediate reactions.  First, particularly if one reads the entire interview, you see the Jesuit-ness of Pope Francis come right to the forefront.  He has a long discussion of how Ignatian spirituality (the ideas of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits) influences his way of leading and thinking.  So, the take away for me is that he is more or less like all of the Jesuits I've met. 

Second, I will be fascinated to see the reaction from the right-wing Catholic blogosphere and conservative Catholic media (EWTN et al.).  The meme that "Francis is speaking off the cuff and is not serious," seems to be unsupportable by even those in the deepest of denial (Update: or perhaps not).  It seems like they are going to have to face facts that …

The Jesuit Pope

When I was exploring the idea of becoming a priest, there were really two groups that immediately resonated with me--the Dominicans and the Jesuits.  I chose the Dominicans, and in hindsight I think that was a mistake.  I am not saying that I would still a priest now if I chose the Jesuits, because ultimately I do not believe I could live celibacy in a healthy way.  But, I think I would have lasted much longer as a Jesuit than I did as a Dominican.  This intuition was confirmed when I spent three years at a Jesuit parish in Philadelphia.  It was, without question, the best parish experience I've had, and I came to respect and love the Jesuits very much.

All of this is a longish way of saying that, while obviously I've never met Pope Francis, I have some sense of his fellow members of the Jesuit order.  If Pope Francis is anything like his brothers, and there is no reason to believe he is not, I think we can conclude a few things about the man.

One constant in all of the Jesui…

I Always Feel Like, Somebody's Watching Me

I live in Columbus, Ohio, and so the big controversy around here in the Catholic world of late was the firing of Carla Hale.  Hale had been a teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus for 19 years prior to her termination.  In March of this year, Hale's mother died, and the obituary mentioned that Hale was in a partnered relationship with another woman.  The parent of a Bishop Watterson student saw the obituary in the local paper and wrote and anonymous letter to the Diocese of Columbus informing them that Hale was in a gay relationship.  On March 28, Holy Thursday, Bishop Watterson fired Hale.  The matter has since settled out of court, but a condition of that settlement is that Hale will not be teaching at Bishop Watterson.

Consider also the case of Lennon Cihak.   Last November, Cihak, 17, was parishoner at Assumption Catholic Church in Barnesville, Minnesota, along with his parents. Cihak was in parish's Confirmation class, scheduled to be Confirmed some time duri…

NALT Video

As promised, here is the video I have submitted for the NALT project.

Not All Like That

In light of my post on my "conversion" with regard to homosexuality (which sure did get more attention than I was expecting), I wanted to pass on the link to a new project entitled "Not All Like That" (NALT).  It is a project for straight Christians to express their support for LGBT people and their opposition to the currents in Christianity that are often hostile to gay folks and gay rights.  It is modeled after the "It Get's Better" Project started by Dan Savage, who is also behind NALT.  You can see the NALT website here.

I'm planning to make a video this weekend to post on the sight, and I will post it here as well.

A Light Shines In...Whether You Like It or Not

The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Church bodies in North America.  It comes out the Russian Church, and has a complex and rather interesting history.  But, as with Orthodox Christianity in general on this side of the Atlantic, the OCA mostly kept a low profile in the religious landscape.

In 2006, a blog representing a group called "Orthodox Christians for Accountability" appeared on the internet.  This blog, which was later revealed to be run by an Orthodox Christian lay person named Mark Stokoe, made allegations that senior officials of the OCA had been involved in financial improprieties.  Later, the allegations expanded to include claims that those financial issues were tied in with sexual behavior by high ranking clergy.  The blog did not simply make allegations, however; it included documents that supported the claims.  These allegations ultimately led to the resignation of the head bishop of the OCA and a formal investigation a…