Everyone is clearly aware that the Roman Catholic Church has a very clear doctrine on the question of the Sacrament of Matrimony. The Church holds that when two baptized persons commit themselves freely to each other, intending a permanent union and open to the possibility of children a sacred bond is established there that cannot be severed. “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.”
Well, yes, that is the accurate position of the Catholic Church but when tragedy hits a marriage and it completely collapses, the same Church is open to the possibility of looking at that marriage and seeing if one or another of those four conditions is missing. If it can be proven in a Church Tribunal, the Church makes it clear that the sacramental union may be declared null and void. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction over the civil aspects of the union and this opens the situation to a great deal of confusion. If either the bride or the groom later comes to the Church and assert and then prove that they were forced into the marriage, that they did not intend a permanent marriage, that they never intended having children, that one or the other was not actually baptized, then the Church will at least consider a Declaration of Nullity.
In North America, I think that it can safely be assumed that somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the adult Catholics at Mass on Sunday morning are struggling with this problem. For many, it is an agonizing problem. They have a strong faith in Jesus Christ, are living good lives and would do anything that they can to rectify this situation but can’t adequately make their case in a Church Tribunal.
Recently, two of the most prestigious Catholic magazines in the English language have raised the issue and are asking that the Church explore some possible pastoral remedies. The two magazines were The Tablet out of London with an article entitled, “Second Chances: Remarriage and the Eucharist” and the other is from the January 27th issue of Commonweal in an article, “Conscience and Communion: What is a remarried Catholic to do?” by Father Joseph Coriden. Father Coriden is one of the best canonist in this country and teaches that subject at the Washington Theological Union.
I will take this up again in a day or two.
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When we were little kids, we usually tried to protect ourselves from getting in trouble with our parents and older siblings. If one of us who reported on another about bad activities, while our supervisor or parent was not watching, that kid would be at least temporarily ostracized and branded with the terrible accusation “tattle tale.” To a certain extent, that child-like attitude of covering up wrongdoings perdures into our adult years. This is part of the reason why so-called “whistle blowers” are not protected when they endeavor to correct an error that is being covered up.
Graft and corruption are ever present temptations in all areas of life and sometimes graft and corruption can produce tremendous harm to individuals and even to the larger society. Persons who see wrong being done, evil being perpetrated to innocent people, ought to be commended when they bring these moral failures to the proper superiors. What actually happens, however, is that such people are frequently disciplined and often fired. It is a wonderful thing that an organization has grown up to deal with this issue. It is called the Government Accountability Project. This relatively small organization has done some wonderful things in recent years by shining a much-needed light on improper actions or conditions within industries, the World Bank and the military services.
The Corporate Whistle Blowers Survival Guide can be found on amazon.com or purchased directly from GAP. Their address is Government Accountability Project,
P. O. Box 96190, Washington, DC 20077-7001.
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January 29th, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most viewers of this blog are probably familiar with the fact that I only post them six times a week. On Saturday, I make some comments on the Scriptures of the following day and then take Sunday off. I hope that you also have an easy Sunday!
This is always the easiest day of the week for me to post a blog because I have my choice of three different readings. The first and second readings are usually drawn from the Old Testament and from one of the Epistles while the third reading is always from one of the four Gospels.
Today, I am passing all of those over and going to the Responsorial Psalm which I think is beautiful, optimistic and a guide for anyone’s life. The first refrain tells us, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Oh, my friends, what a wonderful challenge. Each of us has experienced temptations to do something that our conscience warns us against and, on the other hand, we sometimes see an opportunity to do good and yet feel that it wasn’t our job or our responsibility. When we have those thoughts and we don’t give the right response, what we are doing is exactly what the psalmist calls us not to do. We are hearing his voice but we have hardened our hearts.
This particular psalm comes from the 95th psalm and it is so beautiful. The psalm tells us:
Let us sing joyfully to the Lord
Let us greet him with thanksgiving
Let us bow down and worship
He is our God and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides
These few words are both a challenge and a source of joy and confidence. We are part of the flock. He does shepherd us and we should endeavor to be open constantly to the various invitations to be better, to walk in his footsteps.
Once again, if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
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When I was a kid in the middle of the last century, Catholics were constantly asking themselves this question: What does the Church say about that? What is the Church’s teaching on that? What does the Church say?
The question might be about a new movie, a best selling book, some unusual conduct or activity present in our society. We had great faith in the Church and looked to her for moral guidance on everything from minute aspects of daily living to profound theological questions.
Because the Church’s moral standing has been so badly damaged by recent scandals, her members, still faithful to the basic teachings, such as about Jesus Christ and the sacramental life of the Church, are, however, somewhat more hesitant to accept the Church’s answer on every aspect of daily living, especially when new situations develop that have not existed in the past.
One example of this would be organ transplants. Remember when that South African doctor, for the first time, successfully transplanted a human heart? Since then, medical science has gone forward at a terrific rate of speed, and awesome things are being accomplished and the donation of organs presents a major aspect on the medical scene. For the most part, organs are donated in one of two ways. When a person dies suddenly one or another of his organs, if removed quickly, can be salvaged to be given to a person who is alive but in need of such a transplant. Another is that friends and family occasionally give one of their own healthy organs to someone they love or care about. For example, this often happens in the case with kidneys.
What does the Church say about that? In this case, it is a positive answer. This development in modern medical science is to be commended and the donors, especially those making a gift from their own body, should be praised for their extraordinary generosity and concern for others. In all of these cases, the intention is not to deform the human body but to stretch its possible accomplishments to a greater extent. Such cases are almost always examples of heroism of generous friends and relatives.
What does the Church say about that? May God bless those who make this possible.
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Picture from CNN.com
Most Americans are woefully inadequate when it comes to a real knowledge of our own history. When older Americans made references to the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Bonus Army of 1932, many young people’s eyes just glaze over. There was a Bonus Army after the First World War and tens of thousands of unemployed men came from all over the country demanding the $1,000 bonus that the government had promised them for fighting in Europe. They were messy, they lived in tents but most of all, they were hungry and desperate.
The hungry Bonus Army of 1932 was driven from our nation’s capitol at army bayonet points at the command of General Douglas McArthur. It is one of those many dark chapters in American history. The camp was burnt and two of the demonstrators were killed. The whole story moved across the country in the weekly newsreels popular at that time and the view of the American people changed dramatically and McArthur and his men were booed.
Occupy Wall Street is not neat, it does not have a political structure to bring leaders to the fore. What it reflects is that the great majority of Americans, who have hardly been affected by this disastrous Recession, are sadly ignorant about the amount of suffering and pain that has been experienced by a sizable segment of the population. In addition, all the forecasts indicate that this situation is to go on for several years and the nation is doing nothing about it – nothing. Should anybody be surprised that people who want to work but can’t find it, who want to support their families but have lost their income, who have pride and dignity in themselves but are losing it by the humiliation that comes with poverty and destitution are angry?
Anger is not usually a productive response but sometimes it is necessary in order to spotlight a problem or weakness.
Wake up America.
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Let me attempt a quick summary of the meaning and purpose of the book of Jonah. As I said the other day, it was a period in Jewish history when God’s people were turned in upon themselves and thought that God loved only them and they prayed for the destruction of their enemies. At Yahweh’s direction, Jonah is sent to warn the Ninevites that they will be destroyed unless they convert their faith in Yahweh. Jonah likes the idea of their pending destruction but was very angry and disappointed when it did not come about. He sat outside the city walls where a scorching sun burnt him badly. God caused a wonderful shade tree to grow up overnight but on the second day it withered. Again, Jonah is furious. It is then that Yahweh speaks to Jonah with the real message of the book.
“Are you only upset about a castor oil plant which cost you no labor, which you did not make grow and which sprouted in a night and has perished in a night and am I not to feel sorry for Nineveh, the great city in which live more than 120,000 people… to say nothing of all the animals?”
That is the wonderful message of Jonah – God’s love for all people.
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The State of Israel is now nearly 65 years old and it has never known a single day of complete peace. The United States and many other countries have attempted to assist the Israelis and the Palestinians to work something out. For the last ten or twelve years, there was great hope put into the idea of a separate Palestinian state. Now those hopes are shattered.
A few months ago, the widow of the great Israeli general, Moshe Dayan, blasted Benjamin Netanyahu stating that for him peace is just a word. She sharply criticized the construction of the wall between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the embargo, the constantly increasing of the Jewish settlements in Arab territory, and a complete failure for any type of ongoing conversation or discourse between the Arabs and the Jews. Mrs. Dayan is now 95 years old and vitally concerned with the issues and threats facing her country, a country that she and her husband certainly helped to form.
Israel, of course, could not sustain itself without the enormous American support over the last half century, and while Israel demands and expects its support, it frequently flaunts policies at odds with those of the United States. Mrs. Dayan is also a great defender of the Israeli Arabs. Many of us forget that a large portion of Israel’s population are Arabs and of the Muslim faith. They face many difficulties and always have.
The future continues to be bleak.
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On the weekend blog, I touched very briefly on Sunday’s excerpt from the book of Jonah and I began an all too brief introduction on a complicated issue – how to read the bible intelligently in order to get the maximum benefit from it. My point the other day was that while everyone knows about Jonah and the whale, very few of us know what really the purpose of the message is and what its meaning is.
We know nothing about the prophet Jonah but the majority of Scripture scholars date the book between the fourth and second centuries BC. It was written at a time in the post-exilic period; namely, after the Jews had returned from their enslavement in Babylon. It was an age when the Israelites were tempted to hope more for the destruction of their enemies than for their salvation. The author of this book conveys a message about the extent of the Lord’s mercy not just for the Jews, but for the whole human family. It is a message that God’s people needed at the time that it was written and it is a message that all of us need today. Jonah is a tremendous gift to us not just as a teaching tool, but as conveying an extraordinarily important component of the Christian message.
God loves the human family!
More later about Jonah.
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January 22nd, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The first reading today is one of my very favorite excerpts from the Old Testament. The reason I say that is because it provides an excellent tool for teaching people how to read the bible. Put a hundred people in a room together and ask them how many have ever heard of the book of Jonah. Virtually, all of them will raise their hands. Ask a second question. What is the book of Jonah about? What is its message? Ninety-nine out of one hundred will quickly tell you that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. They are wrong but their reaction provides a marvelous opportunity to teach something about reading Sacred Scriptures.
The bible is a series of small booklets, written over centuries, in various literary forms. This is tremendously important and it is necessary to understand this if you are going to read the bible intelligently.
Take a look at your morning newspaper. You instinctively know that what is printed on the first page is different from what is printed on the editorial page. You also recognize that the comic strips and the “want ads” are a different literary form designed to accomplish specific goals and it works very well for us. The same is true of the bible. Those many booklets that make the bible have been written in various literary forms, in different times and to accomplish different goals. The book of Jonah is not a catalogue for National Geographic. It is a message about God’s love for the whole human family.
More on that on Monday.
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Have you noticed that the Republicans are getting a bad press these days? The nation and the world face complex and difficult economic issues. Also, the word “crisis” abounds on both sides of the Atlantic. In the midst of all of this complexity, the Republicans have one consistent response: cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes. When did this party of Lincoln suddenly develop a philosophy and rational that involves only one possible line of action?
The GOP once had a great deal of imagination and was committed to the affirmative uses of government. It was the Republicans who instituted the Homestead Act and created land grant colleges, the interstate highway system, student loans, the Pure Food and Drug Act and yes, a malformed prescription drug benefit under Medicare. Two of our best servants in the governmental structure are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration both supported and signed by Richard Nixon. The Republicans of yesterday recognized problems, and developed and passed programs that dealt with and solved those problems. Regretfully, today, they are locked into one expression: cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes and more specifically, cut taxes on the wealthy.
On the Senate side, the Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said two years ago that his main goal was to “make President Obama a one-term president.” All of this in opposition to a president who has inherited an extraordinary explosion of debt from the preceding administration, two wars and a very serious recession? The American people want and need a government, segments of which cooperate with each other. Regretfully, we do not have that at the present time.
I wish that the party of Lincoln would return to its roots and take pride in its history of concern for the nation’s vulnerable.
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