Book Review: Tea Party Catholic? Really?

The Crossroad Publishing Company, $24.95

Some of my friends are put off by the title of Samuel Gregg’s recently published book. I’m sympathetic with their discomfort but I do wish that they had actually read the book and not just complained about the title. For that matter, I wish that if they weren’t going to read the whole book they at least read the whole title.

Oh, I’ve not told you the title yet have I? Let’s remedy this.

Tea Party Catholic: the Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing.

Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of ...

Charles Carroll, Signer of the Declaration of Independence (1776), was a member of a Catholic church in Maryland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first thing that you might want to know is that while Gregg is aware (and I think sympathetic) to the “Tea Party” movement that has emerged in recent years, this is not fundamentally his focus. “Tea Party Catholic” refers to the “sole Roman Catholic signatory” of the American Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton Maryland. In Carroll Gregg finds a man who embodies the distinctively Catholic case for the importance of a limited government and a free economy to human flourishing. Make no mistake, Gregg is not a libertarian or an anarchist arguing for limited government and a free economy as ends in themselves. Rather he sees such limits as serving a more transcendent goal: human flourishing. Or, as Pope Benedict XVI writes in his 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, “integral human development.”

There’s a great deal I can say about the content of Gregg’s argument but let me limit myself to two main points that I think are especially applicable to the situation of the Orthodox Church both here in the US and overseas.

Continue reading

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Pope Benedict XVI: “the happiness you are seeking”

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“Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: it is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own “yes” to God, for he wishes to give himself to you.” – Pope Benedict XVI h/t: Life On Dover Beach

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Metropolitan Hilarion: The Eucharist and Culture

Recently, his Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Head of the DECR, spoke to Roman Catholic bishops, clergy and laity participating in the 50th International Eucharistic Congress that took place in Dublin, Ireland from 10–17 June 2012. You can find the complete text of the presentation on Dom Mark Daniel Kirby’s blog Vultus Christi. An American, Dom Kirby is the Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland.

In his own introduction to Metropolitan Hilarion’s presentation, Fr Mark writes that in his view “no speaker at the IEC delivered a message more reflective of the thinking of Pope Benedict XVI on the current crisis in faith and culture.” Having not attended I can’t attest to the accuracy of Father’s comparison of Pope Benedict and Metropolitan Hilarion’s thinking. What I can say, however, is that the Metropolitan has accurately diagnosed the spiritual problem we face in America and in his teaching on the centrality of the Eucharist offered us a way past our current situation. If this is the thinking of the current pope as well, then thank God!

I have posted the conclusion of Metropolitan Hilarion’s talk after the break. The subheadings are Fr Mark’s.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory Continue reading

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Islam, Orthodox Christianity and Post-Modernism

Russian Orthodox Church, Petropavlovsk

Russian Orthodox Church, Petropavlovsk (Photo credit: GlobalCitizen01)

Off this morning to teach at Acton University.  I’m presenting a lecture on asceticism and consumerism. My thesis is that consumerism is not the fruit of a particular economic system but of human sinfulness. Yes, a given system might very well be more (or less) fertile ground for consumerism, but from my own perspective as an Orthodox Christian and social scientists, consumerism as such requires first and foremost an ascetical response.  Anyway, for those who are interested, I’ll post at least my notes later this week.

What I wanted to offer today are a few brief thoughts about the recent scholarly debate about whether or not Muhammad actually existed (you can read an excellent summary of the discussion here). Let me say up front, the scholarship that underlines the historical debate is well beyond my area of familiarity much less competency. My own scholarly frailties aside however, the discussion does raise an interesting question for the pastoral life of the Orthodox Church. Continue reading

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Defending Infanticide

Well, not me, but there are people doing just that. Let me explain.

When a college classmate was in med school in the early 80′s, she was horrified to hear a lecture advocating what he called “extra-uterial abortions.”  For those playing at home, that’s infanticide.

Telling me about the lecture, she said that there were two speakers at the front of the lecture hall. The ob/gyn who was describing the procedure and an attorney who clarified for these future doctors what was and was not currently legal.

What brought this to mind is an essay by Michael Scaperlanda at the law blog site, Mirror of Justice (It is not surprising that Peter Singer is no longer alone in advocating infanticide). He writes on a “peer reviewed article advocating legalization of infanticide.” According to the abstract from the article “what we [the authors] call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.” Continue reading

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Pope to American Bishops: Secularism Threatens Liberty, Church Must Respond

(AOI Observer).Freedom detached from moral truth, said Pope Benedict XVI in a recent address to American Catholic Bishops, reflects an “extreme individualism” that requires response from the (Catholic) Church. This is an argument not limited to Catholics alone (see: “Has Europe Lost its Soul” by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks) and includes the Orthodox as well (see: “With the Rise of Militant Secularism, Rome and Moscow Make Common Cause“).

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict

“The Gospel,” said Pope Benedict, “proclaims unchanging moral truths,” as indeed it does. If those truths are not proclaimed, particularly in the cauldron of moral confusion that characterizes Western Culture today, then we can conclude that fidelity to the Gospel does not exist. This is a hard saying but true: if religious leaders remain silent on the moral issues that have become flashpoints in the culture, then it is time to question whether they really comprehend this gospel that they say they guard.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be conflated to a political ideology or any other human contrivance. If any structure seeks to contain the Gospel — to claim the Gospel as the justification for whatever the goals of that structure might be, then that structure will face obliteration. The rock falls and crushes anyone who seeks to possess it. This includes ecclesiastical structures as well. If a Church leaves off the Gospel and seeks instead its self-perpetuation and the inevitable accommodation with the dominant culture that this calculation requires, it will face judgment. If it remains unrepentant, it will die.

Source: The Vatican

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights. As the Council noted, and I wished to reiterate during my Pastoral Visit, respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Dear Brother Bishops, in these brief remarks I have wished to touch upon some of the pressing issues which you face in your service to the Gospel and their significance for the evangelization of American culture. No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society. The hope which these “signs of the times” give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love. With great affection I commend all of you, and the flock entrusted to your care, to the prayers of Mary, Mother of Hope, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Pope Benedict XVI

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Light in the Darkness

The National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen has an important column exploring what he calls the “Five myths about anti-Christian persecution.” He offers them to help, as he says, erase the “blind spot…, about anti-Christian persecution.”

Throughout, Allen illustrates his points with examples of Catholic and Protestant Christians who have suffered persecution for the Gospel. If you have a moment, do read the whole article and offer a prayer for those who suffer on behalf of Christ.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory Continue reading

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