Archive for the 'News' Category

Understanding Sex

Alice von Hildebrand has recently taken issue with the way Christopher West explains John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Alice von Hildebrand is someone I greatly admire and respect, so when she speaks I listen. I know many others feel the same. Her main concern with West seems to be his lack of reverence when discussing something as “intimate” and “extremely serious” as sex. Von Hildebrand is also concerned that West does not respect the tremendous danger posed to us by concupiscence. Read the CNA article

Recently, West, in an interview with ABC, made remarks suggesting that Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body takes what was good in the sexual revolution a step further. West sees an explicit and “profound” conncection between Hugh Hefner and Pope John Paul II. Both saw that sex was good and natural, but only one (JPII) saw how sex can be sanctified. There is a good point to be made here, but it does lack reverence. But I think this is exactly what West is trying to do. He is trying to use “the language of the world” in order to show the world a “better way”, like a Trojan horse of Holy Love Making in the temple of the Aphrodite. This is fine as far as it goes, but I do share von Hildebrand’s concerns. If sex is sacred, it should be talked about with reverence. If sex is beautiful then it should be talked about in the language of beauty. This was something her husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand, was very concerned with. He wrote that one of the greatest sins that go unnoticed in our world is irreverence. Giving a proper response to value is what makes us human and a proper mark of reverence. An improper response to value belies irreverence. It seems this understanding of irreverence in response to value is what underlies Alice von Hildebrand’s concerns with West’s approach to sex. I tend to agree with her. Let us not be prudish Puritans, but lets us not be Holy Playboys either.



The “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” news story of the day:

Idaho Teacher Sells Advertising Space on Tests

LC Behind the Scenes

Since I have been referencing the ongoing crisis with the Legion of Christ (LC), I should call attention to the latest post by Thomas Peters at the American Papist. Peters has been covering this story extensively, and, as far as I know, he was the one to actually break the story in early February, getting the scoop before the New York Times. How’s that for the power of the blogosphere!

In the linked post below, Peters gives us some insight into what is (likely) happening within the LC as they deal with this crisis and prepare to address it.

The Legion: What is Happening Behind the Scenes

If you are interested in this story, continue to frequent the American Papist blog, as no one is covering the Fr. Maciel scandal as well as Thomas Peters.

That is all on this story (at least for now). Now onto other topics!

The Register and the LC Update

Before writing the foregoing post, I should have read through my latest issue of the National Catholic Register. There are two items worth mentioning. One is a brief article giving hope for the future of the Legion of Christ (LC). Entitled “Theologian: Legion Can Recover”, the article is a synopsis of an interview by Register correspondent John Allen with Father Ronald Rolheiser, president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. In the article, Fr. Rolheiser gives hope to the LC by pointing out that an order’s founder is not necessarily what attracts vocations. It is an order’s charism that attracts vocations, thus a distinction is made between the founder who infused the order with that charism, and the charism itself. In essence, focus on Christ. That’s sage advice, but I would hope every religious order is doing that no matter who founded them or what their charism might be. At any rate, the article is intended to give hope to the Legion, which is why I can understand why it was printed in a newspaper read by the majority of LC priests. However, this is hardly the hard nose investigative reporting that Fr. de Souza was suggesting the Register undertake. So we continue to wait….

The second item of note, and the item most worth noting, is the weekly blurb from the newspaper’s publisher, Father Owen Kearns, LC. I will quote the words of Fr. Kearns in full, as it gives us some insight into why the general silence prevails:

This has been a painful time for the Legionaries. It is only recently that we learned of the misdeeds of Father Marcial Maciel, our founder, who we now know fathered a daughter.

People would like the Legion to tell them everything – now. We can’t do that because we simply don’t know everything. The nature of these things is such that it will take sorting out carefully over time. In all cases, the Legion intends to do what must be done: Deal with each case in justice and charity.

Please bear with Legionaries as we all try to process this information. The Legion of Christ is preparing materials to inform the Church and the public about all of this. Watch for news.

For now, I want to thank so many people for the words of consolation and support for Legionaries at this time. Your encouragement has meant so much to us. I’m also grateful for those who have expressed their indignation and their hurt. I know that it comes from their concern for the Church we all love so well, and which the Register is dedicated to serving.

This is obviously a very painful time for the LC, a religious order with many, many good priests in its ranks – several of whom write for the Register. We need to keep the LC in our prayers. Understanding that this is a painful time for the Legion, it still remains that the “carefully sorting out over time” that Fr. Kearns mentioned is what I, and many others, hope the Register will be a big part of in the coming future.

The Register and the LC

For those that do not know, the National Catholic Register is an excellent weekly newspaper which happens to be owned and by the Legion of Christ (LC).  I have a subscription to the Register and have greatly enjoyed its coverage on all things Catholic these four years hence. For the most part, the Register is extremely loyal to the magisterium of the Catholic Church (an oft noted charism of the LC) such that its reporting tends to follow “the party line,” if you will. It doesn’t bother me. I’m a party line kind of guy and happen to love my Church. Nonetheless, the Register is also not afraid to proclaim the fullness of Catholic teaching, even if it offends some of their readership; which they have done in the past.

To take one example, in 2005 the Register did an opinion piece on the devastating effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to mention the flat out immorality of dropping the bomb. It’s that last part that caused quite a stir. In the following weeks, there were more than a few letters covering the Editorial pages questioning the wisdom of printing such an article. If my memory serves me correctly, at least one reader was so infuriated that they said their subscription was canceled and there was nothing the Register could do to change their mind. Several other readers threatened to do the same. As the weeks rolled by the Register stood by its story and stood by it firm, backed up by plenty of papal pronouncements, not to mention the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Their case was air tight, and they would not abandon the Church no matter who’s political party was offended. I, for one, was very impressed and promptly extended my subscription for another two years.

So why am I not as impressed now? As I mentioned earlier the Register is run by the LC, a religious order in the grip of turmoil due to the outright betrayal of its deceased founder. If you know not of which I speak, the American Papist has you covered. Thomas Peters has done an excellent job covering this story. The Register has not. In fact, the only thing I have seen in the Register is a brief editorial blurb asking for prayers, but not much more. This is a newspaper that has done tough stories before, but now shies away when it is obvious for all to see that  this is the time they should be the most candid and forthright. This is their religious order. Is it not their duty to report the news, especially when it pertains to them?

On Monday, Father Raymond J. de Souza, a 12 year veteran of the Register, posted a piece on the First Things blog questioning the Register’s lack of reporting in this important time. As one of the newspaper’s subscribers, I ask the same. Fr. de Souza is respectful, yet firm with the LC and their need to change course. He outlines 5 stories the Register ought to pursue:

  1. Just be honest about what has happened. Write candidly about Fr. Maciel and the wrong he has done.
  2. How did Fr. Maciel’s perversion shape the LC formation process in its seminaries? Is this why secrecy is such a noted “feature” of the LC?
  3. What did senior LC priests know and when? Where false statements defending Fr. Maciel made knowingly by those now running the LC?
  4. Did the LC leadership try to frustrate the investigation of the CDF into the accusations against Fr. Maciel?
  5. High profile Catholics were invited by the LC to come to the defense of Fr. Maciel over the years. How were they persuaded, and were any deceptive tactics used?

If the Register did these stories, I would be impressed beyond all measure. This would be reporting, and I would renew my subscription for another two years or more! Furthermore, I am willing to bet (and it is likely a safe bet) that the overall subscriptions for the Register would go up tremendously if these stories were persued with all the tenacity and veracity that they demand. Imagine. A Catholic newspaper going after the dirt in its own Church, and even in its own religious order. A little in-house cleaning, when done with all honesty, is a very revitalizing agent in the life of the Church. I will be watching, and I know others will be as well. The ball is now in the Register’s court. Let’s see what happens. Perhaps the Register can do what the LC leadership has yet been able to do: speak candidly about what has happened and what it means for the order. To be honest, I’m not very optimistic.


Please see The Register and the LC Update post

Come and Get It!

Your worthless journalism of the day.

It’s really hard to take Fox News seriously when this is what they have on their website’s homepage:


Here is the link to the worthless story that is linked with the picture. I call attention to this because it is so confounding. They do a poll (not a Fox News poll, mind you – they just report; you decide) by asking people who their hero is. This is not a pick a name off the list thing – that may have been a tick more worthwhile – but an “interactive” poll. I am a devout Christian (if I do say so myself), but if you were to talk to me about whom I admire, I may mention many people; and Jesus is likely not one of them. I tend to put Him in the God/Savior/Almighty/Transcendent category, not the (merely) heroic category.

This is where my un-evangelical-ness (how’s that for a triple hyphenated word!) comes out. I tend to cringe when I hear things like “Jesus is my friend” especially when these words are put into what they call “praise and worship” music. I suppose Jesus is my friend, if that is the only alternative to enemy. But I prefer to think of Him as one in being with the Father, God from God, Light from Light, that sort of thing. It just makes me feel better and less blasphemous. When I walk into church, I genuflect before my Lord and King, not my friend. Jesus as my BFF just doesn’t fit too well within the Catholic ethos, gladly. I know. Catholics are uptight.

But I have digressed (a lot). To take this to a close (and quickly), so what do we eagerly learn from this “poll”? Obama is more popular than Jesus and the Beatles. Wowser! Obama must be really popular, which means he must be really great. People like him. Isn’t that so nice.


UPDATE: I add this because  what I wrote above can be taken the wrong way. Evangelical is much too broad of a term. I hope the flippancy with which I wrote speaks for itself. What I wrote was not meant to be a swipe at Evangelicalism, a cross-section of Christianity with which I have much in common – even some of that “praise and worship” music. However, I still prefer a Chris Tomlin song about “How great is our God” (which would be proper worship) to a song about “Jesus is my friend” (which doesn’t sound like worship at all).

Pope Approves of Holocaust Denials

Or so the news report would lead you to believe…

It’s nothing new to say that journalism in our day isn’t very good. I’m not sure it ever was. If you read any bit of history from the dawn of the newspaper age to ours, you’ll see that news outlets have always been prone to pushing one agenda or another, sometimes with a passion. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing; it would just be more honest to admit it. The idea of objective journalism, to my mind, is a completely false notion. How someone could ever manage to not bring their views and inherent biases into their work is beyond me, and I think it is foolish to pretend otherwise. Having said that, what irks me about today’s journalists is that they pretend to be fair and balanced (Fox News!) when it is obvious that they are not. Intellectual honesty is far too uncommon.

One of the worst news organizations, when it comes to religious news, has to be Fox News. For some time now I have watched as they have reported one bizarre “religion” story after another, usually with the obvious insinuation that they are putting the spotlight on religious intolerance. Now to be fair, Fox News is hardly alone in this. All of the so-called mainstream media outlets do this, but Fox News seems to be given to sensationalism more than the others.

This morning, as I happen to have the TV on, I see Fox News is reporting a scintillating story about a holocaust denying bishop being welcomed back into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI!


It seems that some bishops of the traditionalist variety (i.e. Lefebvrists) have had their excommunication lifted by Pope Benedict recently. And it happens to be the case that one of these, a Brit, has historical difficulties with the holocaust as an actual event. They have him on tape saying the darndest things.

As I’m watching this, I’m thinking to myself. Looks like we’ve found another nitwit. Our Church has its allotted share, and unfortunately some are bishops (although, I am happy to say, far less than is often imagined). Apparently, this shocks some people. It makes for a good news story, at any rate.

As I keep listening to this fascinating report, the Fox News reporter lets us know that “this is just the latest incident between the Jewish Community and the Vatican”


I’ll leave that one alone. The cable news outlets don’t do nuance. It’s not good for ratings.

Now, I know very little about this story; but the first thing that should be said, and it is embarrassing to have to point this out, is that one is allowed to hold incredibly wrong-headed opinions about any number of things and remain a Catholic in good standing. I can believe the earth is flat, that blacks are thugs, or that women belong in the kitchen, and it doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on my canonical status in the Catholic Church. It just makes me a bloomin’ idiot. And, thankfully, idiots are welcome in the Church, as are hypocrites. Imperfection (and sin) is not a barrier; it is a regrettable fact of humanity and the basis for the doctrine of Original Sin.

Not knowing an awful lot about this story, my guess is Pope Benedict knew about this bishop’s views and that it had no bearing on his decision to lift his excommunication. Now, I am no canon lawyer, but, to put it too simply, the very basic condition for excommunication is a persistent and obstinate denial of the Catholic faith in all the ways in which that can manifest itself. As a point of reference, Fr. Hans Kung has never been excommunicated, but I dare say there are many who think he is or has been. At any rate, it seems our dear Pope knows his canon law better than the Fox News reporter, but we can hardly fault the reporter for that.

It’s frustrating to be a Christian and read (and watch) all of the horrendous news coverage there is out there regarding our faith. It seems the stupidity is only heightened when the topic is the Catholic Church. Far too many news outlets seem to be writing the next storyline for Dan Brown rather than intelligently reporting the news. This is not to say there are no good instances of religious news coverage. The death of Pope John Paul II with the subsequent election of Pope Benedict XVI come to mind, but the exception only proves the rule.

I am usually not a complainer or a whiner (or so I tell myself), so to make up for the preceding rant, I will be on the lookout for journalists that cover religious news well. I know they are out there. Thomas Peters of the American Papist blog has pointed them out on occasion, while also noting the egregious reporting in other cases. It should also be noted that some very good priests are religion correspondents for several of the major TV news outlets, not to mention George Weigel’s good work with NBC News and Newsweek. Then there is Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal.

There. I feel better already.

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