Tag Archives: roman catholic church

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

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Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, posing with Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sadiq Khan, Lord Mayor of London.

 

I remember in 1968, my mother enrolled me in a class at the Holy Family parish in Kingston, Ontario. The class was to prepare me for my First Communion. I was seven years old, and in the class, I received my first lessons from the Roman Catholic Church in its perceived need that I learn humility. I have fleeting memories of the classes–on the whole, I think I enjoyed attending them. After our lesson, we got to play games like hide and seek. One night we got to watch That Darn Cat. The experience that lingers in my memory was delivered by the young woman who taught the course. She told us that Jesus, as a boy did not talk back to his parents and teachers; neither did he fight with other children. I think the children in the class took this lesson to heart. The experience was not unreasonable in and of itself–Christianity, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, teaches that we should try to be like Jesus. Knowing that I talked back to my parents on occasion and got into scraps with my siblings left me feeling a little abashed–so I did my best to follow the example set by the boy Jesus. I learned at that early age that I am not perfect–that despite it, I should strive to do good and avoid doing evil. At the time, I did not appreciate that it was easy for the boy, Jesus, as He was Divine, unlike the rest of the children in the class and me. Continue reading

The Christian does no harm even to his foe. — Tertullian

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In Christianity what is the appropriate response to aggression backed by force? There are, of course, the simple precepts found in the gospels to “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” but does this necessarily rule out the use of force to deter such an act of aggression? On August 18, 2014, Pope Francis addressed this question in commenting on attacks perpetrated by ISIS against ethnic and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq. He endorsed the prospect of a United Nations intervention, noting:

In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor […] I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated. […] After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss, ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”(Business Insider)

The Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, clarified the Pope’s comment, stating, “Maybe military action is necessary at this moment.” (Business Insider) Is this standpoint consistent with Christian teachings?

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Society may no longer define marriage in the only way marriage has ever been defined in the annals of recorded history. Many societies allowed polygamy, many allowed child marriages, some allowed marriage within families; but none, in thousands of years, defined marriage as the union of people of the same sex. — Dennis Prager

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Polygamy is a broad term and when applied to human society refers to plural marriage which means having more than one spouse. Facets of this term include polygyny which refers to a form of plural marriage in which a man is allowed to have more than one wife. Polyandry describes the form of plural marriage in which a women has more than one husband. Polyamory is a form of plural marriage where a family consists of multiple husbands and wives at the same time. These kinds of marriages existed historically in human societies and continue in some societies in the present. However, in the Western world monogamous marriage (between one man and one woman) became the norm and was enshrined in law with the rise of the Roman Empire and the ascendance of Christianity as the dominant faith. In the current controversy over same sex marriage raging across the U.S. critics and opponents of same sex marriage often refer to polygamy as a reason to deny marriage rights to same sex couples. The common assertion is that if monogamous marriage is redefined to allow same sex couples to marry, then people who want to enter into polygamous marriages will demand the right to to so pointing to the fact that same sex couples are free to marry. Is there any merit to this claim? Continue reading

The emphasis must be not on the right to abortion but on the right to privacy and reproductive control. — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Controversy rages on in U. S. society over the issues of religious liberty and sexuality. The right to marry, the destigmatization of homosexuality and reproductive freedom are issues that, historically and in the present, conflict with deep-seated religious beliefs and traditions in U.S. society. While the U.S. Congress and State Legislatures addressed these issues, especially in passing legislation to guarantee religious liberty, disputes concerning religious freedom and sexuality more often are settled by the courts. In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled state bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia. In 2013, SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to hear the appeal of Proposition 8 in California. This removed legal barriers to same-sex marriage. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.S. in 2003 when SCOTUS ruled on Lawrence v. Texas. Most recently, the decision handed down by SCOTUS in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is generating heated discussion in the media and blogosphere. In this instance, SCOTUS ruled on a dispute between the issues of religious liberty and reproductive rights. Continue reading

Piety is not a goal but a means to attain through the purest peace of mind the highest culture. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Years ago I remembered while having a discussion of theology with a group of friends, one in the group referred to himself as a pious atheist. I was taken aback by his comment as piety and atheism were not terms I associated with one another. Piety is most commonly associated with religious belief and practice. Since then I gave this notion a great deal of thought: is secular piety a possibility? This question is worth considering in light of the reality that how one expresses their piety in an increasingly secular society such as Canada has become a contentious issue of late as is evidenced by the controversy surrounding the proposed Quebec Charter of Values (Charte de la laïcité or Charte des valeurs québécoises). The stated aim of the charter is to ensure there is a clear separation of religion and state and that public employees have religious neutrality. What this means is the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols or garb on the job will be prohibited. Continue reading

Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand: life itself is the miracle of miracles. — George Bernard Shaw

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A miracle is a form of religious experience, essentially an event without a rational explanation attributed to the divine. What I first remember learning about miracles as a boy in grade school. Religious instruction, Christian, was part of the public school curriculum in Ontario in the mid-1960s when I started school. My first grade teacher, Miss Boss, read bible stories to the class every morning before we started the day’s lessons. If memory serves, I was most impressed by the story of the loaves and fishes. A year later, at junior school in England, one of the teachers, Mrs. Checketts, told us the story of Jesus raising a girl from the dead. As Mrs. Checketts related the story to us, “He called to her spirit “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) and she was returned to life.” Again, I was duly impressed, but as I grew older I began to wonder about the veracity of these accounts and of miracles in general. I have come to wonder, also, just how common is it for people to continue to believe in miracles and how a miracle is identified in the present. Continue reading

“Capitalism itself is not to be condemned. And surely it is not vicious of its very nature, but it has been vitiated.” — Pope Pius XI (1857-1939)

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Pope Francis continues to raise eyebrows with his public pronouncements, the most recent coming from the publication of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in which he criticizes “an economy of exclusion and inequality.” (Evangellii Gaudium) In news reports discussing the publication of Evangelli Gaudium, it is said Pope Francis calls “unfettered capitalism tyranny and urges rich to share wealth.” (Guardian) This led to mixed responses, which is not at all surprising. President Obama cited a portion of the document–seemingly in agreement with Pope Francis–in a speech on inequality in US society, observing “some of you may have seen just last week the pope himself spoke about this at eloquent length. How can it be, he wrote, that it’s not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points. But this increasing inequality is most pronounced in our country. And it challenges the very essence of who we are as a people.” (as cited in SALON) A far less temperate response was delivered by the conservative pundit, Rush Limbaugh, who retorted, “This is the president citing the pope, his new best friend, because the pope is ripping America, the pope [is] ripping capitalism… and Obama’s having an orgasm. Jeremiah Wright is beside himself. Jeremiah Wright thought he was Obama’s preacher, now [the] pope somehow has co-opted Obama.” (as cited in SALON) Continue reading

Much of what is called Christianity has more to do with disguising the ego behind the screen of religion and culture than any real movement toward a God beyond the small self, and a new self in God. — Richard Rohr.

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Some years ago while I ordered lunch at a restaurant in the food court at the University Centre, at the university where I work, I asked the young man serving me if he and his family celebrated the Day of the Dead. I had gotten to know him a little in snippets of conversation we had during times he served me, and I learned he was from Mexico. He replied that they did not as this was a Catholic custom, adding, in referring to himself and his family, “we’re Christian.” I was startled by the remark, though it was not the first time I was confronted with this point of view. The first time I remember being confronted by someone with this attitude toward Roman Catholicism was when I was in my first year at university. I was introduced to people from different Christian denominations on campus and at a meet and greet I was speaking to a man who asked to which church I was a member. When I told him I was a Roman Catholic, he retorted “I used to be Catholic, but now I am a Christian.” Later during my years at university, I was given a book by an acquaintance who was forever trying to get me to join his Church, the title escapes me, but it was the account of a Pentecostal Christian and the subtitle was a young Catholic encounters Christ. Continue reading

Turks were a great nation even before they adopted Islam. This religion did not help the Arabs, Iranians, Egyptians and others to unite with Turks to form a nation. Conversely, it weakened the Turks’ national relations; it numbed Turkish national feelings and enthusiasm. This was natural, because Mohammedanism was based on Arab nationalism above all nationalities. — Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938)

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The Hagia Sophia has become the focal point in Turkish society’s current struggle between secularists and Islamists. The Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 as a secular, parliamentary democracy with a president as head of state. In 1935, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum and opened to the public by the Turkish government led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938). It became a major tourist attraction in Istanbul. It was turned into a museum, presumably, to reconcile the troubled history between Christianity and Islam with the realities of Turkey’s modern, secular state. The Hagia Sophia was the seat of Orthodox Christianity, the Patriarch of Constantinople, for several centuries (537–1204), a Roman Catholic cathedral from (1204–1261) and back to the Orthodox Church (1261–1453) until the conquest of the city by the Turks. It served as the first of several Imperial Mosques for the Ottoman Empire from 1453-1931. In the present, the drive to restore the Hagia Sophia as a mosque gained momentum. In 2013, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, expressing this desire, said: “We currently stand next to the Hagia Sophia Mosque… we are looking at a sad Hagia Sophia, but hopefully we will see it smiling again soon.” (as cited in Ansa med) On July 10, 2020, President Erdogan signed a decree, ordering the restoration of the Hagia Sophia as a mosque. Continue reading

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) in most solemn form, the dignity of a person is acknowledged to all human beings; and as a consequence there is proclaimed, as a fundamental right, the right of free movement in search for truth and in the attainment of moral good and of justice, and also the right to a dignified life. — Pope John XXIII, 1881-1963 Pacem in Terris, 1963

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In essays published earlier on this blog the topic of religion in society, particularly the direction the Western world took in gradually establishing a clear separation of religion and state, relegating religion to the sphere of private conscience is discussed. The last remnants of Papal authority in temporal affairs ended with the signing of the Lateran Treaty between the Vatican and the Italian government in 1929. In the present, in the Western world, religious liberty is guaranteed in law and members of religious institutions are free to comment on moral and political issues just as anyone else. In the Islamic world, this distinction between religion and state never emerged, save for the Republic of Turkey which was founded as a secular state in 1923. The Ottoman Caliphate was abolished in 1924. The constitutional, civil and common law legal systems in effect across the Western world are rooted in the theory of natural rights, primarily as espoused by the men of the Enlightenment, such as John Locke and Thomas Paine. By contrast, across the Islamic world, the system of law, sharia, a religiously based moral and legal code applies. The differences in the legal systems and the place of religion in society between the Western world and the Islamic world are quite noticeable in comparing responses to the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Continue reading