Thoughts in Solitude - Thomas Merton

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” † † †
-Thoughts in Solitude
© Abbey of Gethsemani
"Your way of acting should be different from the world's way"...Rule of St. Benedict.

Friday, July 31, 2009

True Friendship -- None of that Sissy stuff

Are you tired of those sissy 'friendship' poems that always sound good, But never actually come close to reality?

Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship.

You will see no cute little smiley faces on this card -- Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

1.... When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.

2.. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3.... When you smile -- I will know you are thinking of something that I would probably want to be involved in.

4.. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get until you're NOT.

5.. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining..

6.. When you are confused -- I will try to use only little words.

7.. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have...

8.. When you fall -- I will laugh at your clumsy ass, but I'll help you up.

9.. This is my oath.... I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask; because you are my friend.

Friendship is like wetting your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is Assassination Ever Justified?

The recent disclosure that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was developing a program to track down and kill individual Al Qaeda leaders has re-awakened legal and ethical questions about assassination as a tool of national policy. The program had been kept hidden from Congress until this spring, when it was uncovered and cancelled by the current C.I.A. director, Leon Panetta. In a succession of executive orders, Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan had proscribed assassination as a policy of the U.S. government.

President George W. Bush, in “an intelligence finding,” without formally rescinding the earlier prohibitions, authorized “lethal covert actions” against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda operatives. Previously, the government had been using pilotless aircraft to target terrorist camps. The new plan involved deploying teams of assassins to kill individual senior terrorists, requiring the assassins to strike “at two feet instead of 10,000 feet,” according to an intelligence official quoted by The Washington Post. The anticipated benefit of assassination over drone attacks is a potential decrease in “collateral” civilian casualties.

The new program, according to some analysts, violated the spirit, if not the letter, of executive orders issued by previous presidents. Those executive orders came in the wake of a series of government reports on U.S. intelligence activities in the 1970s that detailed abuses of power. Among the matters investigated were attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro of Cuba and the brothers Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu of Vietnam.

Just War Analysis. The new disclosures have prompted a debate about how government-sponsored assassination should be viewed in light of the Catholic moral tradition on just war theory. Traditional just war theory was inclined to prohibit assassination of political and military leaders on two grounds. The first was that to “decapitate” the enemy might make negotiation of peace more difficult and lead to protracted fighting as a result of chaos or competition for command in the enemy ranks. The other was that civilian political leaders were technically “innocents”—that is, they were not bearing arms and directly threatening the other side. Armed personnel were permitted to attack only other armed personnel.

The emergence of global terror networks intent on mass terror raised new questions. Are terrorists, who are not members of a national army, but are carrying out lethal attacks often under civilian cover, open to direct attack as if they were armed military? Is the fight against terrorism best carried out as “a war against terror” or as an international police action?

David L. Perry, a former ethics professor at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., addressed the matter in a 1995 issue of The Journal of Conflict Studies: “Just as it is not a crime to kill the enemy during wartime, so too should it not be regarded as a crime or a morally reprehensible act when a nation, acting in concert with its obligation to protect its own citizens from harm, seeks out and destroys terrorists outside its borders who have committed, or are planning to commit atrocities on its territory or against its citizens.” Yet “the assassin in effect acts as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner combined; the target is precluded from being represented by counsel before an impartial court,” added Perry.

Gerard F. Powers of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, distinguished among targets of assassination. “You’re not talking about killing political leaders. You’re talking about killing Al Qaeda leaders. You’re talking about killing terrorists,” he said. “If terrorism is treated primarily as a crime, then the targeted killings would probably be problematic, unless they occurred in the effort to arrest. And all the normal rules of police work apply,” Powers added.

“But to the extent that terrorism can be seen as an act of war, then the targeted killings of known terrorists who are actively engaged in terrorism, or actively planning terrorist acts, then the terrorist becomes more like a combatant in war,” he explained. “And the same criteria that would apply to war would apply to the killings of terrorists.” In the case of Al Qaeda, Powers said, there “are elements akin to war” and “others more akin to crime. That’s where the issues become blurred.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Oft-forgotten Catholic rite is revived - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

Oft-forgotten Catholic rite is revived - Springfield, IL - The State Journal-Register

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A Disturbing Finding on the Abortion Front

Use of RU-486 quietly on the rise
July 21, 2009

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ru486 Planned Parenthood, the nation's single largest provider of abortions, has recently engaged in some damage control to mend its image, tarnished by association with the chemical abortifacient RU-486. First some background.

RU-486, the "abortion pill" (chemical name mifepristone and not to be confused with the "morning after pill" Levonorgestrel, an over the counter emergency contraceptive) was approved by the FDA in 2000.

Mifepristone works by blocking the normal functioning of progesterone, a hormone necessary for the maintenance of pregnancy. The immediate consequence is the degeneration of the uterine lining and the blocking of nutrition to the fetus resulting in its death. Mifeprex is used in combination with a prostaglandin called misoprostol which then causes the cervix to dilate, and the uterus to contract and expel its lining and the now-deceased child.

RU-486, we might add, is also the only FDA-approved drug that has as its purpose the death of a living human being.

The drug's approval was forced through by President Clinton's administration, which dubiously approved the drug under a provision of drug law reserved solely for drugs developed to treat "serious or life-threatening illnesses" (of which pregnancy is not).

RU-486 was under intense scrutiny by the House of Representatives' Drug Policy Subcommittee before the Democrats took over the majority in 2006. The Subcommittee reported that as of April of 2006, the FDA acknowledged the deaths of six women associated with the drug, nine life-threatening incidents, 232 hospitalizations, 116 blood transfusions, and 88 cases of infection.

The high infection rate, deaths of otherwise healthy women who took this drug, and the intense scrutiny (at the time) of Congress and the FDA prompted Planned Parenthood, in particular, to change the way it administers the drug.

Tragically, use of RU-486 has slowly been on the rise, and according to the most recent study, accounts for 25 percent of all early abortions (abortions through 9 weeks gestation).

Under the FDA-approved protocol for administering the drug, it must be administered within 49 days gestation; patients are to be given 600mg of Mifeprex to consume at once; they are then to be instructed to return two days later to consume orally 400mcg of misoprostol. Many providers, including Planned Parenthood, deviated from the FDA protocol by extending the use of RU-486 to as long as 56 and even 63 days of gestation, cutting the dose of Mifeprex by two-thirds, and providing patients with misoprostol pills to insert vaginally at home two days later. In 2006, there were two more deaths of women who received RU-486 from Planned Parenthood facilities. For its part, the nation's biggest abortion provider quickly corrected itself to get in line with the FDA protocol. But its image was tarnished.

That brings us to last week's news that Planned Parenthood has sponsored a study which found that the altered regimen (providing antibiotics and administering the drugs orally according to the FDA protocol) causes fewer severe infections in the women taking the drug.

The study was blatantly self-serving for PP, but then again, that doesn't surprise us, does it?

So fewer women are developing infections and other severe health effects, but babies continue to be aborted. That RU-486 accounts for 25% of all early abortions is a sobering and disturbing statistic. And abortion providers are taking advantage of that stat to present this procedure as a "safe," (notwithstanding the lingering dangers) "natural" (because it mimics a natural abortion, or miscarriage) and convenient (do-able "in the privacy of your own home" though in actuality it involves at least 3 visits to the abortion provider).

A convenient, safe, natural way of surmounting the inconvenience of an embryonic human life.

Fortunately, the science of human embryology continues to steer our culture -- and the language we employ to talk about the human embryo -- toward clarity, honesty and truth. Truth on the beginning of human life, and the dangers to women's health in the age of chemical abortions, cash-for-eggs and other schemes, is the only way ahead.


Rev. Thomas V. Berg, is Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Married and Ordained

The ministry of deacons
William T. Ditewig | JULY 20, 2009
the cover of America, the Catholic magazine

I had been a deacon for about a year and was on active duty in the U.S. Navy as executive officer of the Security Group Activity at Hanza, Okinawa, Japan. My family lived on Kadena Air Base, where I served at the Kadena chapel—the only deacon on Okinawa. One day I received a call from the senior Catholic chaplain, a friend. Laughing, he told me of a conversation he had just had with a young Air Force man reporting to Kadena for duty. Father Mike explained the chapel programs, and the young man said he had been to Mass there. Father described the pastoral staff, including the participation of a Navy Commander (me) as deacon. “Oh, was he the tall man who preached last Sunday?” the young man asked. “That’s right,” Father replied. The young maån complimented my homily, but complained that he had seen me do something “just not right” after Mass: he saw me get into a car “with a woman and her children” and drive off! Father Mike explained that I was a married deacon, and that “the woman and her children” were my wife and our children. The young man said he knew deacons could be married, but that I should not have driven off with my family like that. Cognitively, he understood; affectively, he couldn’t imagine a married cleric.

In another story of confusion, a woman visiting our parish once asked my wife, “When you die, will Bill become a real priest?”

For more than a millennium, Latin Catholics saw an overwhelmingly celibate corps of ordained ministers, though for the last 40 years a new pattern has emerged that includes deacons who are both ordained and married. It is not surprising that confusion persists over the “double vocational sacramentality” of a married deacon.

Scholarship also lags behind current practice, with centuries of writing on the relationship of celibacy to ordained ministry, but nothing comparable on the relationship of matrimony and holy orders. One exception is Chapter Five of Sacrament of Service: A Vision of the Permanent Diaconate Today, by Patrick McCaslin and Michael G. Lawler (1986). This did not reverse the trend, but it does, I hope, offer food for conversation and understanding.

Just as the permanent diaconate is not only for celibates, neither is it a “married ministry,” though currently most deacons are married. Rather, the permanent diaconate is a major order of ecclesial ministry open to married and to unmarried men.

While much theological and pastoral work is needed to help the church recognize the blessings of a married ordained ministry, work is also needed on the celibate permanent deacon, who lives a significantly different state of life than do transitional deacons and priests.
A Theology of Marriage and Orders

Centro Altagracia presnts Noche de Cancion con Hna. Glenda. Oprime aqui para mas informacion.

Until the renewal of a permanent diaconate, most discussion of “vocation” presented an either-or approach: a man could either marry or enter religious life/priesthood; a woman could either marry or enter religious life. Those were the vocational choices in the Latin Church.

The Second Vatican Council reminded the church that the source and foundation of Christian vocation is sacramental initiation itself. In his homily to the bishops at the end of the council, Pope Paul VI declared that underlying the council’s work was the identity of the church as servant to the world. Vocations must be seen first through this lens: that all disciples are called to pour themselves out in service to others, following the kenotic example of Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, reflecting conciliar teaching, describes the sacraments of matrimony and orders as having a mutuality of purpose. Both are “directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God” (No. 1534). The catechism goes on to describe both sacraments in terms of consecration: the ordained are consecrated “to feed the Church by the word and grace of God,” and Christian spouses are consecrated “for the duties and dignity of their state” (No. 1535). This mutual approach to both sacraments builds on the consecration to discipleship celebrated through the most basic sacraments of vocation: the rites of Christian initiation. The sacraments of matrimony and orders add a leadership responsibility and specificity to the baptismal vocation—a particular responsibility for another person in a covenant marriage, and particular pastoral responsibilities toward a portion of the people of God.

The two sacraments share a common foundation. Both make unique demands on the time and resources of the married deacon’s family. These demands must be carefully balanced, but the sacraments are relational, not conflictual. There is no point where the sacrament of matrimony is not graced by the sacrament of orders, and no point where the sacrament of orders is not graced by the sacrament of matrimony. At no point does one sacrament end and the other begin. The two sacraments become one in the person of the deacon and in the married state of life shared with spouse and family.

In marriage, spouses are called to give themselves totally to each other in love; this is nothing more or less than a kenotic diakonia: a self-emptying in service to another. The married deacon has a responsibility based on ordination to be a public and permanent ecclesial leader-in-service who not only speaks of such diakonia but who lives it within the sacramental covenant relationship of matrimony. Both sacraments call those who receive them to model Christ and, through their respective consecrations by the Spirit, to extend this model to the church and world at large. One could easily say that matrimony focuses on the domestic church while orders focuses on the broader community. But this would be far too facile a contrast, because both rites of initiation carry a leadership dimension within the family circle itself and to the wider world.
Priorities and Obligations

Deacons must be masters of balance. Married deacons must juggle the obligations of marriage, job and ministry. It became very popular in the early days of the renewal to speak of the “deacon’s priorities”: first in relationship to God, then to family, to job (because deacons are required to provide for themselves and their families by secular occupations) and to ecclesial ministry. Many people have come to see the list as impractical and theologically problematic. If approached incorrectly, the list tends to compartmentalize the Christian vocation of discipleship. Some people have used the list as a checklist, though its simplicity is a weakness: discipleship and the choices we must make are often messy.

A deacon must find balance between the obligations of matrimony and orders; he cannot routinely shirk one to attend to the other. It has been said that because matrimony precedes ordination, marriage has a fundamental priority over ordination. While I agree up to a point, I think it cannot be an absolute priority. Ordination carries its own obligations, which one freely accepts when requesting it. Married couples travel the formation journey together so that both have a sense of what they are undertaking. My family and I have worked hard at balancing the demands of public ministry with family privacy. The fact that I am a public minister does not mean the whole family wants to be that.

Shortly after my ordination and assignment to a new parish, the pastor approached my wife, Diann, and asked what he could expect her role to be there. We struggled with how to respond. Neither of us wanted to disappoint the pastor. But Diann did not want to take on a public role; she did not feel called to do so, and she felt she needed to stay focused on our home and children. Other couples might have reached a different conclusion.

Diann used to love to sing in the church choir. As we were assigned to different parishes, however, something began to change. Choir directors sometimes assumed she would want to sing solos or be a cantor because “she’s the deacon’s wife.”

One night I came home from work to find my youngest daughter very upset. A religion teacher had taken her to task for not knowing the names of the Twelve Apostles. “Why don’t you know that? Your dad’s a deacon!” My daughter didn’t understand. “Dad, you’re the deacon, not me!”

Then I took a job as associate principal and dean of students at a Catholic high school, where our oldest daughter was an incoming freshman. Not only did she have to make an adjustment from elementary school to high school, she had to do it with her dad as the school disciplinarian and a deacon.

Such pressures have made us careful to preserve and protect family privacy. But they have also helped me to understand other family dynamics better. When someone approaches me about a family situation, I appreciate not only the challenge, but the courage it takes to tell someone else about private matters. Being married with children and grandchildren gives me a solid grounding in something all families face: how to do what is good for each other. “Kenotic self-sacrifice” is not just a theological concept; it is, “Dad, please help that person out; we’ll go to the movies later.”

Since this article focuses the discussions our church should be having on the relationship of matrimony and orders, I have set down four other issues that theologians, formation programs (for lay ecclesial ministers, deacons and priests) and anyone else interested in ministry in today’s church would do well to consider.

1) More theological attention should be paid to the relationship of the diaconate to the presbyterate and the episcopate. For half of the church’s history, deacons were understood as “priests-in-training” (or as a theologian once quipped, “priests junior grade”). Recently, however, theologians have begun to articulate areas in which deacons are not “priestly.” While there is a common foundation of ordination, each order is unique; the unique features of the diaconate need more theological and pastoral reflection.

2) Because deacons are not priests, the work of theologians and historians like Gary Macy and Phyllis Zagano must be considered vis-à-vis the ordination of women as deacons. The history of the church is clear: women have been ordained to diaconal ministry in the past and they could be again. The entire church would benefit from a full and open conversation on this issue.

3) The practical impact of diaconal service on a deacon’s family needs greater scrutiny. Yes, “only the husband is ordained.” But that truism ignores an adequate theology of matrimony in which “the two become one flesh.” Since a deacon’s spouse and children are all affected by ordination, any suggestion that attention need be paid only to the deacon is problematic. Experience gained in diaconate formation has made clear that if the spouses are to grow together, they need to share the personal, spiritual and intellectual growth offered through formation. If they do not, divisions can occur and problems result. This insight is often ignored after ordination, however, as pastors and others begin their new relationship with the deacon.

4) Attention must also be paid to the “role” of the deacon’s spouse. There is no singular role. Some wives share in a “couples’ ministry” with their husbands, giving retreats, teaching, sharing hospital or prison ministry and so on. Other wives prefer to minister in areas different from their husbands. Still others have no interest in or availability for participation in public ministry. Each response must be respected by pastors and parishioners, as well as by deacons and spouses themselves. A deacon’s spouse responds to God’s call to discipleship in ways as diverse as those of any other Christian, and ought not be “pressured” into ministry. Conversely, some spouses, highly educated and experienced ministers, are suddenly relegated to the sidelines “because they are the deacon’s wife.”

With more than four decades, since Vatican II, of a diaconate open to both married and single men, it is time for all the baptized to engage in a healthy, lively conversation about the opportunities and challenges that the renewed diaconate offers the church.

Deacon William T. Ditewig, ordained in 1990, was for five years executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for the Diaconate and the Secretariat for Evangelization. He is currently a professor of theology and director of graduate programs in theology at Saint Leo University, near Tampa, Fla.