What is Christian Humanism?

August 11, 2009

From Via Media:

Recalling some saints whose memory is celebrated in the weeks to come, Benedict XVI affirmed that they are witness to a “Christian humanism” that differs deeply from an “atheistic humanism”.

The Saints – the pope cited in particular the martyrs Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein – are indeed witnesses of “an antithesis which spans history, but at the end of the second millennium, with the contemporary nihilism, we have come to a crucial point, as major writers and thinkers have perceived, and as events have amply demonstrated. ”

Edith Stein – explained the pope – was “born in the Jewish faith and was won over by Christ in adulthood, she became a Carmelite nun and sealed her life with martyrdom”, St. Maximilian Kolbe, is a “son of Poland and St. Francis of Assisi, a great apostle of Mary Immaculate”. Both are martyrs killed in Auschwitz.  

“The Nazi concentration camp – he added – as every death camp, can be considered an extreme symbol of evil, of the hell that comes to earth when man forgets God, and when He is replaced, usurping from Him the right to decide what is good and what is evil, to give life and or to take life. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not confined to the death camp. It is rather the culmination of an extensive and widespread reality of often nebulous boundaries. ”

This reality is precisely the antithesis that became clear at the end of the second millennium, “the opposition between atheistic humanism and Christian humanism, between holiness and nihilism”.  

“On the one hand – continued the pope – there are philosophies and ideologies, but also on an increasing scale ways of thinking and acting, which extol the freedom of man as the only principle, as an alternative to God, and thus transform man into a god, whose system behaviour is of an arbitrary nature. On the other hand, we note the saints, who, practicing the gospel of love, make reason of their hope, they show the true face of God who is Love, and at the same time, the true face of man, created in image and likeness of God.”


New Nuns and Priests Seen Opting for Tradition

August 11, 2009

From the New York Times:

A new study of Roman Catholic nuns and priests in the United States shows that an aging, predominantly white generation is being succeeded by a smaller group of more racially and ethnically diverse recruits who are attracted to the religious orders that practice traditional prayer rituals and wear habits.

The study found that the graying of American nuns and priests was even more pronounced than many Catholics had realized. Ninety-one percent of nuns and 75 percent of priests are 60 or older, and most of the rest are at least 50.

They are the generation defined by the Second Vatican Council, of the 1960s, which modernized the church and many of its religious orders. Many nuns gave up their habits, moved out of convents, earned higher educational degrees and went to work in the professions and in community service. The study confirms what has long been suspected: that these more modern religious orders are attracting the fewest new members.

The study was already well under way when the Vatican announced this year that it was conducting two investigations of American nuns. One, taking up many of the same questions as the new report, is an “apostolic visitation” of all women’s religious orders in the United States. The other is a doctrinal investigation of the umbrella group that represents a majority of American nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The new study, being released on Tuesday, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, for the National Religious Vocation Conference, which is looking for ways for the church to attract and retain new nuns and priests. It was financed by an anonymous donor.

“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”

Of the new priests and nuns who recently joined religious orders, two-thirds chose orders that wear a habit all the time or regularly during prayer or ministry, the study found.

The study also showed that whites account for 94 percent of current nuns and priests but only 58 percent of those in the process of joining orders.

Asians and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately represented among the newcomers, accounting for 14 percent, far above their 3 percent share of the Catholic population in the United States, Sister Bendyna said.

Hispanics are 21 percent of the newcomers, compared with only 3 percent of the current priests and nuns.

Of women who recently entered religious orders, the average age is 32; for men, it is 30. But retaining new recruits is a challenge. About half of those who have entered religious orders since 1990 have not stayed, and almost all who left did so before making their final vows.

“People come to religious life because they feel they’re being called,” said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, adding that the purpose of the church’s training process “is to discern that call before a commitment is made.” So “it’s not surprising,” he said, “that you would have people that would leave.” 

Fr. Corapi on Notre Dame Scandal

August 11, 2009

Where the Battle May Yet Be Fought

August 11, 2009

From Inside Catholic:

In a previous article, I suggested that the Church in Canada has capitulated to the fads and heresies of the day without a good fight. Let me fill in the details.

In the province where we spend the summer, the Church long ago abandoned all of its grade schools, high schools, and hospitals. Read that sentence again, closely. I am sure it was done for financial reasons, but the result is the same whatever the cause: In the entire province, there is not a single Catholic hospital and not a single Catholic school. Instruction of children has been ceded entirely to the state. 

What that means, of course, anyone familiar with our public schools can tell. The children don’t receive very good instruction in any academic subject. (Since this is Canada, they graduate from grade twelve ignorant of both English and French literature and grammar; this is called bilingualism.) Vocational training has been abandoned. Again, like the “community event” and like what Mass has come to be, school is dominated by the imaginations of older women for the purported benefit of small children; there are a lot of school programs on how to recycle, but none on how to wire a house or sink posts underwater to build a jetty. Sex education is what it is in America, a creepy attempt to corrupt the young, in case television, video games, and old-fashioned sin have not already done the trick. Not that the parents in most cases would mind; the out-of-wedlock birth rate in Canada is approaching one in two. 

So there are no Catholic schools. What about Catholic colleges? Canada does boast one or two defiantly Catholic colleges, out west. Let us pray for ten more like them. Most of the Catholic colleges, like the one near where we spend the summer, have slid into secularism and unbelief. Not by design; the schools merely failed to hire faithful Christians, and one day the trustees awoke and groaned or cheered to find themselves secular. 

There are, however, a few small signs of hope. Church attendance is much poorer in Canada than in the United States, but Canadians have not the same allergic reaction to church-state relations that afflicts American secularists. That possibility of rapprochement between the state and the Church has allowed for a new Catholic Studies program at the local college, a victory won by compromise when the old theology department renamed itself Religious Studies and thereby declared its independence from the Church. There is also a fine Catholic Studies program at McGill University in Montreal; and St. Michael’s College retains its affiliation with the University of Toronto. But in our province there is not a single seminary; the few young men who discern a calling to the priesthood must be sent to Ontario, more than a thousand miles away. 

All this means that there are no distinctly Catholic voices in higher education generally — no Catholic intellectual strongholds, no imposing outposts of resistance or rebellion. Perhaps that is too strong. There’s an excellent Canadian-English magazine, Challenge. There’s an excellent group based in Ontario, with chapters here and there across the country, striving to uphold the civil rights of Catholics. A few Catholic bishops have spoken out against abortion and same-sex pseudogamy; Fred Henry of Calgary is the bravest of these. But they are few, as there are few, or hardly any, Catholic homeschoolers, and no Catholic broadcasting. It is a country whose broadcast regulators long refused to allow EWTN access to Canadian homes (Red China, I believe, still refuses). 

So we have, in one corner of the ring, the ogre of spiritually suicidal Canada, with its single-generation collapse in church attendance, from 70 to 17 percent weekly. All the schools from kindergarten to the doctoral dissertation; all the hospitals; all the ubiquitous social-service people; all the newspapers; all the broadcast media; all the public intellectuals; all the now-common assumptions among the ordinary people about the rightness of feminism and the normality of sodomitical relations; and all (or almost all) the chanceries and established Catholic groups. In the other corner, those Catholics who still understand that modernism, with its combination of personal sexual license and all-devouring state authority, is the mortal enemy not only of the Faith but even of the possibility of a thriving culture — something other than what is fed to the masses by the mass media and mass entertainment and mass education. 

In one corner, people who snicker at the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only Son of God, in Whose name alone we find salvation. In the other corner, people who still believe that Christianity is the true Faith and that no one comes to the Father but through Christ, but who have at their disposal no intellectual tradition to draw upon, and no serious training in the Faith. In one corner, we have one David Suzuki, popular and articulate exponent of environmentalism, probably the most recognizable face and voice in the Canadian media. He is an avowed atheist. In the other corner, nobody — or your local director of religious education. 

I went once to speak to our local director — a very kind middle-aged woman. The people from Steubenville were coming to our diocese (again, a small sign of hope in troubled Canada), and my daughter wanted to sign up for the gathering. The director had heard of EWTN, but not Franciscan University. That might not be so bad, but then we talked a little about what I did for a living. As I said, she was kind. 

I said that I had translated Dante. Said she, “I’ve never heard of him.” 

Wishing to jog her memory and give her a way out, I said that he wrote a poem called The Divine Comedy, about traveling to hell and purgatory and heaven. 

“Sorry,” she smiled. “I’ve never heard of that, either.” 

We in America enjoy a few advantages that my Canadian friends do not. We still have a system of Catholic schools, and many of these have come to understand that they will not survive, nor will they deserve to survive, unless they frankly espouse the Faith and take up arms against the brutish folly of modern education. We still have some Catholic colleges and universities — about one-fifth or one-sixth of those that say they are “in the Catholic tradition,” or some other such nonsense, by which is meant that a priest crosses the quadrangle once a month, and that the Faith, when it is engaged at all, is the object of scorn and spite. Even at schools that have long ceased to be Catholic — Saint Louis University, for instance, whose administrators sued the government, claiming that it was not a Catholic school, and winning their case — there are some Catholic intellectuals of high profile. 

We have a Catholic network, EWTN, and wide-reaching broadcasting (Catholic Answers Live), and Catholic magazines, and a vibrant cadre of Catholic Web sites, including InsideCatholic. We have at least a few dioceses that are well run, and a growing number of young people attracted to the sacral in language, gesture, clothing, music, and art. We even have intellectuals and homeschoolers and bloggers and ordinary Catholics reading Pope Leo XIII and understanding that if you are talking about Catholic social doctrine and you are not talking about the family (that is, about father and mother and children), then you are not talking about Catholic social doctrine. 

What we don’t have yet is a Joshua or a Judah the Hammer, or a Paul with the sword of God’s word, or an Athanasius leading the orthodox into battle, when the world awoke and found itself Arian. In Canada, no battle was fought, and the fields are empty; not littered with martyrs, not littered with anything at all. In America, the battle can yet be fought. The bishops have no stomach for it. But if we would avoid the fate of our neighbors, fight we must.

Swine Flu and Communion in the Hand

August 11, 2009

By Scott P. Richert

In the comments on “Reader Question: Mass, Communion, and the Swine Flu,” and in e-mails I have received on the topic, readers have wondered whether a bishop can mandate reception of Communion in the hand, rather than on the tongue. At the time I wrote the original post, I had not seen reports of any diocese doing so; however, a number of dioceses now have declared that Communion is only to be distributed on the hand, not on the tongue, while others (like the Diocese of Dallas) have strongly encouraged the faithful to receive Communion on the hand.

There are at least two problems with this. First, as I noted in my earlier post, even encouraging Catholics to receive Communion on the hand rather than on the tongue seems an overreaction. Suspending the Sign of the Peace, in which the faithful shake hands, makes sense, because it’s easy to see how the flu virus might be transmitted. The same is true of distributing the Precious Blood of Christ, since there is physical contact with the chalice.

But when Communion is distributed on the tongue, there is no physical contact—as long, of course, as everyone involved is doing things right. In almost 30 years of receiving Communion on the tongue almost exclusively, I do not remember ever having a priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist touch my tongue or lips while giving me Communion.

In fact, observing others receive Communion in the hand, I frequently see the person distributing Communion actually touch the hand of the person receiving it. Since the person receiving it is supposed to cup his or her hands (to ensure that the Host doesn’t fall), and the minister of the Eucharist is supposed to place the Host in the person’s palm, it’s actually hard not to have some physical contact without simply dropping the Host into the outstretched hands.

Moreover, when we stick out our tongue to receive Communion, we naturally hold our breath. Try it—you’ll find that, in order to breathe during the first several seconds after sticking out your tongue, you’ll have to think about breathing. It’s simply a natural reaction—you stick out your tongue, and your body holds its breath for a short period of time. That minimizes the possibility of transmission of the virus through the air.

So mandating the reception of Communion on the hand seems at best an overreaction and, at worst, perhaps the less sanitary way to go.

The second problem with mandating Communion on the hand is that it is, by its nature, a denial of the right to receive Communion on the tongue. And that opens up a real can of worms.

Some quick background: In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, in both the Ordinary Form (the Novus Ordo Mass) and the Extraordinary Form (the Traditional Latin Mass), the normal method for distributing Communion is on the tongue. In fact, until 1969, when Pope Paul VI allowed the introduction of the practice of Communion in the hand in Memoriale Domini, Communion was only received on the tongue in the Latin Rite.

Under the regulations of Memoriale Domini, each bishops’ conference can petition the Vatican to allow the faithful in their jurisdiction to receive Communion in the hand. Until such permission is granted, it is not lawful for the faithful to do so (or for bishops or priests to allow it). The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops petitioned for this right in 1973; it was granted by Pope Paul VI for the United States in 1977.

Pope Paul VI left the decision whether to institute the practice of receiving Communion in the hand up to each bishop. A bishop could still choose to mandate that Communion could only be received on the tongue in his diocese. What he could not do, however, was to replace entirely the traditional practice of Communion on the tongue with the new practice of Communion on the hand. Pope Paul VI had made it clear in Memoriale Domini that Communion on the tongue had to remain an option, and in 1977, the Congregation for Divine Worship reiterated this point:

The practice must remain the option of the communicant. The priest or minister of Communion does not make the decision as to the manner of reception of Communion. It is the communicant’s personal choice.

Which brings us back to today, to public-health concerns over the swine flu, and to bishops who are “mandating” Communion in the hand. No matter what their intentions (and we should always assume the best of intentions), the bishops who have effectively banned Communion on the tongue have overstepped their authority.

That said, what should the layperson who wishes to receive Communion on the tongue do if he is in a diocese where the bishop has mistakenly mandated Communion in the hand? This is a tough question. The faithful are within their rights to demand to receive Communion on the tongue; however, it’s likely that, in certain parishes, they may not be able to do so without disruption, and even after such disruption they may still be denied Communion on the tongue.

The best way to avoid a scene is to avoid the opportunity for one. If you have access to a Traditional Latin Mass or to an Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy, attend that instead. Communion in those rites will continue to be distributed on the tongue, according to their normal practices.

If you do not have access to a Traditional Latin Mass or a Divine Liturgy, then you have three options:

  1. You can receive Communion on the hand. I do not like the practice myself and have avoided it for 30 years, but the Church says that it is acceptable for Catholics in the United States, so you need have no scruples about receiving Communion in the hand if you choose to do so.
  2. You can approach the minister of the Eucharist as you always do, signaling that you would like to receive Communion on the tongue. It is your right, and you should not worry that this may seem “disobedient” to your bishop. The decision is yours, not his.However, be prepared to be refused Communion. If you are, please realize that Mass is not the place to argue the point. Make the Sign of the Cross, return to your pew, and say an Act of Spiritual Communion. Then, when you return home, send a letter to your bishop politely asking him to instruct the priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist in his diocese to respect your right, outlined in Memoriale Domini and reaffirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1977, to receive Communion on the tongue.
  3. You can refrain from receiving Communion, instead remaining in your pew and making an Act of Spiritual Communion. If you do so, please also send a letter to your bishop, as outlined in option 2.

Above all, we need to assume the best of intentions on the part of our bishops. That can be hard to do sometimes, but in this case, it is quite likely that some bishops simply do not realize that they are overstepping their authority in attempting to mandate reception of Communion on the hand. The advent of the swine flu may be a teaching moment—even for some of our bishops.