“You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,” he said.
“They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’.”
Not at all the same thing. He’s not saying the Koran is a prophetic book or that it is a book of peace, just that Muslims say it is.
I would not be at all surprised if Francis thinks the Koran is a “book of peace,” because there are elements of peace in Islam. It’s simply foolish and reductionist to measure an entire faith by its worst elements, even when the worst elements are pretty bad. That’s what our enemies do to us. We shouldn’t then turn around and do it to others. A critique must be both honest and generous. With Islam, violence is baked right in the cake, but so is charity and devotion to God as well. Whatever we think of it, we have to consider the real thing, not a caricature.
More problematic is the, Hey we all have our nuts, amIright? comment from Francis. Christian fundamentalists are tacky and stupid and annoying, but only very rarely violent.
When a Christian goes fundie, you get Jack Chick and bad music and, sometimes, Eric Robert Rudolph.
When a Muslim goes fundie, you get the armies of ISIS, 9/11, jihad, beheadings, Jew-hate, and the destruction of civilizations.
Of the two faiths, one has tendency to violence and extremism that is rooted in elements of the faith itself, while the other does not. It’s a false equivalence.
Before I get started here, let me confess what might ought to be obvious.
The word hell (twice) in the post's title is admittedly gimmicky. It's my sophomoric way of capturing your attention. If you're still reading, it kinda sorta worked.
It is however also relevant to what I'm trying to write about here so stick with me. I'll attempt to make it worth your while and make the connection.
I've been thinking of late about forgiveness... a lot... and exactly what it means.
As a Catholic, I'm forgiven formally of my offenses against God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Confession) when I repent and seek His forgiveness.
So what is repentance? It is sorrow for sin (contrition) coupled with a resolute desire to avoid committing that sin again (purpose of amendment). In other words, my forgiveness is predicated on my repentance. If I have no sorrow for sin and if I have no desire to avoid committing that sin again, I have no forgiveness otherwise I would in essence be given license to continue to sin again and again and again.
God does not desire that I be free to sin with impunity. Can we agree?
Let me let those with more credibility, more depth, more integrity, attempt to convince you of what I'm attempting to articulate:
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part of that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Costly Grace
Or, put another way:
Confession without repentance involves self-deception and does us positive harm. The Sacrament of Penance does not operate like a charm, and absolution touches only those sins for which we are truly sorry.
~Fr. Alfred Wilson, Pardon and Peace.
That speaks hopefully with clarity and conviction, to the forgiveness we seek from God. God's forgiveness is not unilateral in that we must be contrite and we must be actively willing to avoid the occasion of committing that sin again.
Which brings us to the offering (and accepting) of forgiveness to (and from) each other.
The Lord's prayer teaches that we are to forgive those who trespass against us as He forgives us. We've established what is necessary to receive His forgiveness and how the Church teaches this through the mechanics involved in the Sacrament of Confession. We should then, as the Lord's prayer references, forgive those who trespass against us in like manner or we will encourage a continuation of those trespasses.
That's not to say we should be unwilling to forgive. An unwillingness to forgive will inevitably result in bitterness and an unloving disposition. We would in essence, by propagating that unwillingness, be falling into sin ourselves. We don't want to go there.
So what's the bottom line and where do we go from here?
The bottom line is that forgiveness is obviously serious and necessary. Without it, that word used twice in the post's title comes into play and we've already established (hopefully) that we don't want to go there. Hopefully. But forgiveness should not be taken lightly, should not be offered cheaply as it is not offered to us cheaply by God.
We should certainly be willing to forgive and this ad infinitum as to how often but I think it's clear that forgiveness is conditional and dependent on repentance. True reconciliation, with God first and foremost, and with each other, will only take place when true repentance is offered.
I'll close with this reminder from an Anglican priest (of course, we'll forgive his Anglicanism) that I think best summarizes the mindset we who seek true forgiveness, through true repentance, should adopt:
The Scriptural doctrine in regard to repentance is not, that a man must repent in order to his being qualified to go to Christ; it is rather, that he must go to Christ in order to his being able to repent. From Him comes the grace of contrition as well as the cleansing of expiation.
~Henry Melvill, p. 506. (Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895))
Let's be serious about seeking forgiveness by being serious about repenting, and let's be serious about repenting by seriously seeking His grace for both contrition and for purpose of amendment. This is not something we can undertake on our own. We need His help. And he offers that help lovingly, mercifully, willingly. Seek it. Seek Him. Even now.
On his in-flight press conference returning from a three-day trip to Turkey, Pope Francis said that Muslim leaders around the world must speak out against violence and terrorism carried out in the name of Islam.
“I believe sincerely that it can’t be said that all Muslims are terrorists. You can’t say that. Just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists because we have them too, eh. In all religions, there are these little groups,” he said Nov. 30.
“I told the (Turkish) president that it would be nice if all the Muslim leaders, whether political leaders or religious leaders or academic leaders, say that clearly and condemn it, no?” he continued, explaining that “all of us need a worldwide condemnation, also from Muslims who have the identity who say ‘We aren’t that. The Quran isn’t that’.”
The Pope also offered a firm warning on the situation of Middle East Christians.
“Truly, I don’t want to use sweetened words. Christians are being chased out of the Middle East. Sometimes, as we have seen in Iraq, the area of Mosul, they have to go away and leave everything, or pay the tax which doesn’t do any good.”
Speaking of broader violence throughout the world, Pope Francis said he believes “that we are living through a third world war, a war in pieces, in chapters, everywhere.”
In addition, Pope Francis spoke about a particularly intense moment of prayer he had during the papal trip.
He explained that he came to Turkey “as a pilgrim, not as a tourist,” and “the main reason was the feast today to share it with Patriarch Bartholomew, a religious reason.”
“But then, when I went into the mosque, I couldn’t say, ‘No, now I’m a tourist.’ No, it was all religious,” he said. “I saw those marvels, also the Mufti explained the things well to me with so much meekness, with the Quran where it spoke of Mary and John the Baptist. And he explained it all to me and in that moment I felt the need to pray. And, I said to him, ‘Shall we pray?’ And he said, ‘Yes, yes.’ I prayed for Turkey, for peace, for the Mufti, for everyone, for myself because I need it. And, we truly prayed. And, I prayed especially for peace. Lord, let’s end wars. It was like that. It was a moment of sincere prayer.”
He also spoke about his visit with refugee children and said that he would like to go to Iraq.
“For the moment it isn’t possible. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but if I went right now it would cause a quite serious problem for the authorities, for security. But, I would really like to and I want to,” he said.
I'm seeing some Catholics bash the Pope's trip and of course, the Pope himself, whether it be over his meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew but particularly over his trip to the Blue Mosque and of course, certain fundamentalists are claiming that this is THE evidence to end all evidence proving the Pope is the anti-Christ.
In the meantime, I'm sticking to the most Catholic notion that God's Holy Spirit has brought us this Pope, for this time, for sound reason(s) and sounder purpose(s) and I'm going to trust in His providence and not in what amounts to gossip fueled by ego and ignorance.
Isaiah distinguishes five ailments which beset us, and from which we need rescue. We are drifting, demanding, depraved, disaffected, and depressed. But in the end, Isaiah reminds us of our dignity. Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Drifting – The text says, Why [O Lord] do you let us wander from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.
It is a common human tendency to wander or drift. It is a rarer thing for people to reject God all of a sudden, especially if they were raised with some faith. Rather, what usually happens is that we just drift away, wander off course. It is like the captain or pilot of a boat who stops paying close attention. Soon enough the boat is farther and farther off course. At first things are not noticed, but the cumulative effect is that the boat is now headed in the wrong direction. He did not suddenly turn the helm and shift 180 degrees, he just stopped paying attention and drifted … and then drifted some more.
And so it is with some of us who may wonder how we got so far off course. I talk with many people who have left the Church and so many of them cannot point to an incident or moment when they walked out of Church and said, “I’ll never come back here.” It is usually just that they drifted away, fell away from the practice of the faith. They missed a Sunday here or there and, little by little, missing Mass became the norm. Maybe they moved to a new city and never got around to finding a parish. They just got disconnected and drifted.
The funny thing about drifting is that the farther off course you get, the harder it is to get back. It just seems increasingly monumental to make the changes necessary to get back on track. Thus Isaiah speaks of the heart of a drifter becoming hardened. Our bad habits become “hard” to break, and as God seems more and more distant to us, we lose our holy fear and reverence for Him.
It is interesting how, in taking up our voice, Isaiah, “blames” God for it all. Somehow it is “His fault” for letting us wander, because He let us do it.
It is true that God has made us free and that He is very serious about respecting our freedom. How else could we love God, if we were not free? Compelled love is not love at all.
But what Isaiah is really getting at is that some of us are so far afield, so lost, that only God can find us and save us. And so we must depend on God being like a shepherd who seeks his lost sheep.
Thus, here is the first way that Isaiah sets forth our need for a Savior. And so, in Advent, reflecting this way, the Church cries out, “Come, Emmanuel! Come, Lord Jesus! Seek and find us for many of us are drifting.”
5. Depressed - The text says, All our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
One of the definitions of depression is anger turned inward. And while Isaiah has given voice to our tendency to direct anger and blame at God, here he gives voice to our other tendency: to turn on ourselves.
Thus, our good deeds are described as being like polluted rags. It may be true that they are less than they could be, but calling them polluted rags also expresses our own frustration with our seemingly hopeless situation: our addiction to sin and injustice.
Ultimately, the devil wants us to diminish what little good we can find in ourselves and to lock us into a depressed and angry state. If there is no good in us at all, then why bother?
There is such a thing as unhealthy guilt (cf 2 Cor 7:10-11) and a self-loathing that is not of God, but from the devil, our accuser. It may well be this that Isaiah articulates here. And from such depressed self-loathing (masquerading as piety) we need a savior. Come, Lord Jesus!
The Monsignor has more and it's all good stuff particularly for those who are unhappy or down in the dumps.
Read it, digest it and be helped. We are all in need of a Savior and especially in need of knowing of that need. You may be suffering in a way that is indicating that need. Seek help.
I’ve observed a general feeling in much of the world today that looks at the Catholic Church as an outdated group with quaint, if not retrograde, beliefs that just can’t leave well enough alone.
“Who cares if people of the same sex want to get ‘married?’ How does that hurt me?”
“What’s the big deal with allowing divorced and remarried people (without annulment) to receive Eucharist? If it makes them feel more connected to the God, then why not?”
“Why shouldn’t a priest be allowed to report child molesters who confess to them? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible not to do so?”
I’m sure you could think of more questions like these that you’ve encountered in your discussions about the Catholic Church. We are cast as moral busybodies who cannot get with the times.
The thing is that I can completely understand objections like this. They make total and complete sense…IF the Church is just a Church made by man.
But of course, we know that it is not. It is the Church of God. And God uses live ammo.
I recently directed a play. In it, some characters handle a small, unimpressive little cylinder They grab it, shake it, and toss it without much thought. But then they are told that it contains something that could destroy a good portion of the Earth. Suddenly, they freeze and hold the item gingerly and with the greatest of care. Fear and awe overcome them as they cannot take their eyes off of this object of immense power, taking in the grave consequence of its misuse.
The Catholic Church is like that cylinder. If all we are can be reduced to some fallible humans mucking about with our silly traditions, then of course forward-thinking people might find our steadfast resolution to be folly in the modern era.
But the Church is founded by Christ, our Lord and God. And the Church’s teachings are rooted in His teachings.
And God does not play around with our souls.
Christ was insistent to spread his message. He told the Apostles, “Go, make disciples of all nations.” It cost all of them (with the exception of John) their lives in martyrdom.
If Jesus only wanted them to spread His message so that some people could feel slightly better about their connection to God, then that would make Christ cruel. It would have meant He thought very little of the lives of His Apostles, to have them pay so heavy a price for so meager a goal.
No, the more logical conclusion is that He asked them to give everything because everything was on the line.
I left it for too long, while in that forsaken state having what is commonly called shelf faith, beliefs pulled out of the cupboard when some crisis or dilemma or need or event prompts it, and once dealt with, putting that faith back in the closet while trusting that God is satisfied with the token effort.
Thankfully, God, as He will for all of us, continued his pursuit of me and though my faith remains imperfect, I'm more committed now than ever to never put God on any shelf or in any cupboard again.
When is the last time you saw someone display courage?
We know it exists among public servants: soldiers, policemen, firefighters. We know it existed among the first responders at 9/11. We find it in people who sacrifice their lives for the well-being of those dearest to them, such as a father who will dive into water to save a drowning son or daughter.
But how about in Catholicism? Does it demand courage to be a Catholic today? For most of our lives, the issue never arose. Traditional Christian values were commonly accepted in America: to put it succinctly, Catholic values and civic values largely coincided. But in recent times, we have come to realize that it doesn’t take courage to be a Catholic, but only a faithful Catholic. For example, it doesn’t take courage today to be a Catholic politician who is pro-choice, but it does to be one who is pro-life.
How ready are we to stand up for traditional Catholic values and beliefs today?
The Vatican has recently stressed the courage that marks men and women of deep commitment to the faith. Pope Francis called Benedict XVI’s decision to step down as Pope on February 28, 2013, an act of “a man of great courage and humility.” At the canonization Mass of John XXIII and John Paul II, Francis referred to the new saints as “two men of courage” who “bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.” The Pope fired up 500 youth at the Vatican on August 28, 2013, when he said, “I wanted to tell you this, to tell you: courage, go forward, make noise. . . . Please, go against the current. Be courageous, courageous: go against the current.” At his June 23, 2013, Angelus reflection, Francis urged everyone, especially youth, to “have the courage to go against the tide of current values that do not conform to the path of Jesus.”
But is Francis too quickly presuming that youth today experience a clash between the tide of current values and the path of Jesus?
"The days of comfortable Catholicism are past”
It would come as a bit of a shock, I think, to many Catholics comfortable with current developments in our society, to hear the Pope speak of a clash between current values and Jesus’ teaching. It would come as an even greater shock for them to hear the remarks of Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton University, when he addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, on May 13, 2014:
The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel. A price is demanded and must be paid. There are costs of discipleship—heavy costs, costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.
According to George, if one wants to be a good Catholic today, one must be “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel” regarding “Biblical and natural law beliefs”: about “the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions,” about the “core social function of marriage” to “unite a man and woman as husband and wife to be mother and father to children born of their union.” To be sure, it is still possible to be “a comfortable Catholic” and “socially acceptable”; but to be a Catholic who professes openly fidelity to the teachings of the Gospel and Christ’s Church, one must be prepared “to take risks and make sacrifices,” “to make oneself a marked man or woman.” The “costs of discipleship” are high:
It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach. . . . to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society. One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships. It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members. Yes, there are costs of discipleship—heavy costs.
Let me strain the credulity of gentle reader, by blaming everything that happened in Ferguson, Missouri this week on the Catholic Church.
In videos from Ferguson, we caught another glimpse this week of what becomes of our world when this faith has departed. True worldliness enters “progressively” in its place, and the rapacity of fallen human nature is asserted.
Yet even in the midst of the post-Christian anarchy, we have glimpses of what will never depart. I am thinking of a young lady at Papa John’s in Ferguson – herself seen within a video posted by the courageous blogger, Vic Maggio.
Small, and unarmed, she is visible through the smashed glass of that store, standing up to huge, brutish, club-wielding thugs who have come to loot it. And, albeit with characteristically obscene gestures, the thugs back down.
I know nothing about this young lady. I will not presume to guess at her religious affiliation. But I will say that, whatever it is, every faithful Catholic will recognize a sister.
And so, returning to my original point – which had to be extended, to be understood – how did the Catholic Church fail Ferguson, Missouri? And 10,000 other towns?
She failed, of course, through her human agents; she is failing today, where she fails, through the same. She fails in every foot of territory that she surrenders. She brilliantly succeeds in every soul she wins over to the Mystical Body of Christ Jesus.
Cut now, to another video – this one actually splashed on CNN – about another former American wilderness. It is rural Lansing County in Michigan. It is an episode narrated by the self-avowed die-hard feminist, Lisa Ling, which tours territory where the Catholic Church, and a Catholic way of life, are flourishing.
And again, every truly faithful Catholic will recognize his sisters and brothers and fathers – and Father – as the interviews proceed. They are not people in doubt about their calling. They are not the kind of people who make excuses, or waste their time demanding “rights”; not people who look to any worldly government to come running to their aid. Instead: people who look to Christ Jesus.
We are that Church – that Church in this world – and there are no excuses. That world is converted through us; through our own example, and Christian acts. The matter is very simple, really. We must stop failing.
I find something like this to be particularly and personally hard-hitting.
I strayed from my Catholic roots for 40 years. The drift began shortly after my first communion when there seemed no specific impulse for committing to the faith beyond those obligatory and perfunctory occasions marked by someone else's baptism or first communion.
Then the kids came along and while feeling a personal responsibility to in some way introduce and teach the boys about the faith was led by a friend and coworker to the Episcopal Church which ended rather disastrously.
Finally, God gently led me back to my roots and I've been home ever since, thank God. I can't help but ponder however how many lives might I have been able with God's help to impact, influence, or otherwise touchhad I stayed in the Church for that 40 years? Where might my own life be now and how might the lives of my wife and boys and even their significant others have been different?
It's difficult not to have regrets.
The culture has paid a price for the lukewarmness of the faithful who've drifted, strayed and otherwise walked away from the Catholic Church.
How different might things be 40 years from now if those whose faith walk is today decidedly detached and disconnected were to instead re-attach and re-connect and do so with vigor and verve?
The possibilities are endless, the consequences both temporal and eternal.
I watched Monday night's happenings in Ferguson with the wife. I watched up until the looting and mayhem began in earnest, ironically at or about the same time the President of the United States was finishing his disingenuous and ill-timed call for calm and peace.
As I watched, I felt a welling up within me of my own ugliness in reaction to the ugliness picking up steam on the TV. Overcome by the sense I should instead be praying, I asked my bride to turn off the news and reached intently for my Rosary beads.
There seems to be so much ugliness in the world right now.
So much pettiness and the division that results. So much stubbornness and small-mindedness that leads to a deepening spiral of dysfunction. So much ignorance and presumption that can only end in discord and disagreement. So much arrogance that sees vice while ignoring virtue in others. So much madness that ignores God's maxim to forgive. And, of course, so much of my own inclination to engage in this ugliness, to sink to these depths, to wallow in this muck.
It's all ugly. It's all wrong. It's all sin. It's dragging us down.
What I believe is needed to set things right, to replace all the ugly, if only for the moment, is beauty, tangible beauty. Bear with me for a moment.
When I gaze upon the sleeping face of my granddaughter Amelia, I experience tangible beauty. When I watch the magnificent colors created in the evening sky by the setting sun, I experience tangible beauty. When I look upon a majestic mountain or upon rolling hills covered in green, I experience tangible beauty. Of course, those beautiful things won't save the world in and by themselves nor do they rid us of the world's ugliness by any stretch of the imagination but they do, or at least should, makes us ponder Him who can redeem the ugly, He who came to redeem the most ugly, He who is the source of all beauty.
When I reached Monday night for my Rosary beads, I was reaching for a touch of God's redeeming beauty, the beauty through which the the world is indeed saved, this beauty that Pope Benedict XVI described as "totally pure, humble, free from arrogance and presumption." It is through Mother Mary that a Son was born, a Son who will crush the head of the serpent responsible for all this unsettling ugliness, a Son we should all be embracing if only as a response to His embrace of us.
And so Monday night, in the midst of all that is ugly, knowing there was little else I could do, I prayed once again to Him who is the Source of all Beauty, with the help of His Beautiful Mother, for an end to the Ugliness.