Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Week of Saints

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Bonaventure, St. Camillus de Lellis but we began the week with the Bavarian Holy Roman Emperor St. Henry II of Bamberg whose saintly wife Cunegunde is buried with him in the Dom in Bamberg, Germany.  I decline to post my plain photos of Bamberg except for the one below. Besides Henry and Cunegunde's Riemenschneider sarcophagus in the Dom and all the other sights of this Bavarian city, the Age of Faith lingers in modern-day Bamberg if you walk around a bit.
A crucifix at the end of a quiet street leading back to the Bahnhof in Bamberg

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dr. Nucatola

Is Dr. Nucatola a good doctor?  She looks presentable, very normal actually, and she speaks well, self-assured and articulate.  She must be fairly well trained in her field.

She's talking about salvaging and selling the livers, lungs and hearts of aborted babies as she chats glibly in a restaurant over a glass of wine and some salad.  She's a professional, looks to be a young woman.  What is the culture that raised up a Deborah Nucatola we might ask.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pillar To Post On Transgenderism

If you read Paul McHugh here and Fr. Robert Barron here ,you go from a medical to a theological perspective on the subject of transgenderism, and there's not much ground left on which to build any kind of rationale for what the Bruce Jenners of the world have done to themselves. Unless, of course, one persists with the kind of thinking described in this article.  Finally, enter a philosopher, here, to discuss gender identity.

McHugh, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University which led the way in sex change operations, lays it out pretty clearly.  Sex change operations haven't been performed at Johns Hopkins since the 70s; no benefits have been shown and in fact the suicide rate and psychological problems increased among those who had undergone the operation.  Gender dysphoria, explains Dr. McHugh, is a psychological problem akin to anorexia nervosa   Using the Emperor-Has-No-Clothes approach, McHugh deftly explains the dishonesty and deception that leads anyone in our society (but most tragically young people who become persuaded to undergo transgender "treatments") to believe that changing their body will cure their dysphoria.  Dr. McHugh writes:  "Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. All (including Bruce Jenner) become feminized men or masculinized women, counterfeits or impersonators of the sex with which they “identify.” In that lies their problematic future."

Enter Fr. Barron who refers us to Gnosticism, that heresy which says that matter is evil, that our physical bodies are an encumbrance, that a secret knowledge, gnosis, will set our souls free from the material world which imprisons us.  Fr. Barron points out the similarities to the transgender cry--I'm really a man (or woman) "trapped" inside a physical body which, if I change it, will set the man (or woman) inside me free.  Fr. Barron writes, .". . . the gnostic heresy has proven remarkably durable, reasserting itself across the centuries. Its most distinctive mark is precisely the denigration of matter and the tendency to set the spirit and the body in an antagonistic relationship. This is why many thinkers have identified the anthropology of RenĂ© Descartes, which has radically influenced modern and contemporary attitudes, as neo-gnostic. Descartes famously drove a wedge between spirit and matter, or in his language, between the res cogitans (thinking thing) and the res extensa (thing extended in space)."

He concludes, "Until we realize that the lionization of Caitlyn Jenner amounts to an embracing of Gnosticism, we haven’t grasped the nettle of the issue."

As for what the Church teaches, we are to believe in neither Cartesian dualism nor Gnostic heresies but in the body and soul as inseparable parts of our humanity.  Extrapolating from what Dr. McHugh says, science, that is, the natural world, and the Church bring us to the same spot.  We are created male and female and any unrest some individual may feel with his or her physical body doesn't mean that God made a mistake.  It means that individual needs some help.

It seemed to me this quartet of articles on gender and sexuality complemented one another and enlightened in a helpful way.  These thoughts are a mere skating on the surface of the topic.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Forgiveness in South Carolina

The example of the good people of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina does make an impression. Their act of forgiveness is being hailed as a demonstration of  Christian virtue, a living out of their faith.  But glib praise for their actions is just talk if there's no understanding of the nature of forgiveness.  It's as easy to say I'm sorry and not mean it as it is to say I forgive you and not mean it.

Fr. Koterski, Jesuit priest and professor at Fordham University extemporized on the subject of forgiveness one evening several years ago at a lecture he was giving on another topic.  Fr. Koterski cautioned first off about forgiveness being offered prematurely.

Forgiveness is not a matter of excusing or dismissing a wrong and one shouldn't feel an obligation to forgive if there's no forgiveness in one's heart. Forgiveness comes from assessing and working through the wrong that was suffered, resulting finally in an interior transformation in the heart of the wronged party. There is relationship to Fr. Koterski's explanation of forgiveness. The wronged party needs to make a good faith attempt to repair the damage that was done even if it was the fault of the other party. The wronged party will seek to elicit 'something better' from the offender, appeal to the good in his soul.   The offender, too, should show a willingness to repair the relationship lest the wronged party simply be manipulated by an empty apology.

To date, Dylan Roof has shown no remorse.  While the victims' relatives may be fulfilling their half of the forgiveness relationship, without the murderer's contrition,  their forgiveness may be incomplete if not simply, well, not forgiveness.

Another caution in the Church's teaching of forgiveness, explained  here,  is not to confuse forgiveness with loving one's enemy.  The former relies on relationship.  The latter relies on our individual ability to see the face of Christ in those who harm us.

St. Maria Goretti, the 12 year old girl who was repeatedly stabbed by her attacker, Alessandro Serenelli, with whom she did have a relationship, uttered her forgiveness before her death saying, "Through love of Jesus, I forgive him with all my heart."   Alessandro is said to have replied that that was impossible.  Some six years into his prison sentence, however, Alessandro came up with his half of the bargain. He repented, asked forgiveness of Maria's mother and spent the rest of his life in a Capuchin monastery. He also testified at the beatification hearings for Maria's cause for sainthood.

Those relatives of the victims in South Carolina may well be saints or saints in the making.  St. Maria Goretti aside, however, their expressions of forgiveness less than a week after the murders seem premature.  Rather, I think what they're giving voice to is their Christian duty to love their enemy, to turn the other cheek. Maybe that's the first step in forgiveness.  Their message to the murderer is admirable and is certainly a worthy public expression of their private faith.  Perhaps Dylan Roof, like Alessandro Serenelli, will one day say I'm sorry and mean it making forgiveness in this callous crime complete.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Tango Interlude

Sitting under the clock (or that black plaque on the wall)  is your writer who had earlier played two tangos on the piano in the corner while her tango friends danced beautifully.  Two professionals performed a bit later in the evening and here they are.

We also saw a tango milonga performed last night by a male/female couple though I don't see the video up yet.  Read about the tradition of men dancing with men in tango here or here.  Be sure to watch the video of the De Fazio brothers dancing a tango milonga.  I've copied it for you below.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


This past year as a catechist a mini theme of my young charges' classes was to review the saint of the day.  A favorite question was always,  Is there a saint with my name?

It's sometimes hard these days to find a saint namesake, especially for the girls.  Very few medieval parents thought to name their daughters Harper, Tiffany or Brooklyn.  To my surprise, however, when I opened my Big Book of Women Saints today, I discovered a St. Audrey.  

My oldest sister is Audrey.  I've always been puzzled as to how my parents came up with the name.  It seemed so formal, maybe British, not exactly old-fashioned, but obscure, nothing like my sister.  Aside from Audrey Hepburn and Audrey Meadows, who would be an Audrey?  

Audrey or variously Ethelreda, Ethldreda, Ethelthryth, Editrudis, was an East Anglian princess who wished to devote her life to God.  However, she was married off at a young age and was given  the Isle of Ely as a wedding present.  When the first husband died, Audrey was again married off by her royal parents for purposes of political alliances. Audrey chose  to live chastely with her new husband as she had with the previous and troubles and a miraculous escape ensued.  Audrey returned to her island and founded a monastery there of which she was the abbess.

Some accounts of the saintly Etheldreda-Audrey tell that she died of a tumor on the neck due to her early love of necklaces. I don't think my sister will have to worry about that, since I've never known her to wear even the most modest necklace. (On the other hand, neither did my sister ever receive an island as a present.)  It's not that we read about saints with our name as a horoscope to predict our future. It's more that we can let our imagination run free for a moment to wonder over the fact that we share something as fundamental as our name with a figure of virtue and holiness distant from us in time and historical setting by hundreds of years.

Audrey's body was found to be incorrupt after her death in 679 A.D.  Butler reflects on Audrey in this way:  "The soul cannot truly serve God while it is involved in the distractions and pleasures of the world.  Etheldreda knew this, and chose rather to be a servant of Christ her Lord than the mistress of an earthly court."

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pope Francis According to Brian Lehrer

As always, Fr. Rutler doesn't disappoint with his article in Crisis about the Pope's ecology encyclical. Fr. Rutler writes, " there is a double danger in using it [the encyclical] as an economic text or scientific thesis."  

Having just listened to Brian Lehrer discuss the encyclical with Professor Christiana Peppard at Fordham University it's clear that the mainstream media will misuse, misunderstand and bungle badly what the Pope has written.

Whatever one may think of him, Pope Francis is at least a Catholic with a fairly good chance of getting to heaven.  Brian Lehrer on the other hand is an East Coast intellectual with a radio program. His knowledge of the faith is such that his follow-up show on the encyclical will consist of a phone-in to learn if and what parishioners will have heard from the pulpit on Sunday regarding climate change.  For Lehrer, apparently, this will reveal a significant truth about the Church.

Given the Brian Lehrers of the world, it's up to us Catholics not to engage in the "double danger" Fr. Rutler writes about.  Jesus came to fulfill the Law regardless of which side wins Brian Lehrer's papal encyclical phone-in derby on next week's show.