Quick Hits: News that demands comment on matters of life and death
The task of following news of interest to Catholics is probably safe only for bald people, who have no hair left to tear out. Here are some recent stories which cry for comment:
The Pontifical Council of Death: I stole the name from one of the sources of this story, but it seems that the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life has offered a eulogy for the politician who had led the fight for legal abortion in Italy. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia noted that the deceased, Marco Pannella, “reproached us Catholics for setting aside the Gospel.” This was no doubt part of Pannella’s role as, in the words of the Archbishop, “an inspirer of a nicer life for the world.”
As a long-time parent, I am tempted to let my mind wander and say, “That’s nice, dear.” But Catholics ought not to be preoccupied with being “nice”. It’s a concept that lacks substance, at least compared with “good”. Of course we also know that the Pontifical Academy for Life has been reconstituted under Pope Francis; it currently has no members other than its “nice” chairman. Meanwhile, a number of other pontifical councils and academies have already become far more worldly over the past three years, judging by their sponsored events and invitees.
Sex in the “public interest”: Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, who is in charge of Catholic Education Services in the United Kingdom, has welcomed and even praised the government’s plans to update the country’s Relationship and Sex Education curriculum. Meanwhile, Parliament is considering requiring sex education programs in Catholic schools. But the very first rule of governmental involvement in sex education and relationship training is that the aims of government are completely at odds with those of the Church. The former seeks to foster sexual license by either eliminating, or more often temporarily masking, its consequences. The Church seeks the opposite—to foster affective maturity, which we commonly call chastity.
Violent Judaism, violent Christianity: At an inter-religious conference in Cairo, an Islamic leader asserted that “Judaism and Christianity have a history of violence.” He used the Crusades as an example. Three things here are worthy of note: First, the Crusades (whether ill-advised and ill-managed or not) were wars against enemy soldiers in response to the pleas of Catholics for protection against their Muslim conquerors, not terrorist attacks. War is not intrinsically immoral; just wars can even be morally necessary. Second, it is impossible to find anything in the New Testament or in Christian doctrine that can be construed to advocate any form of injustice or violence, or that teaches us to treat non-Christians with less love and respect than Christians.
Third, when was the last time any Catholic justified violence against non-combatants and won even a tiny sliver of ecclesiastical support? One grows weary of the willful failure to make necessary distinctions in assessing terrorism.
Lenten priorities: Pope Francis has lauded the “Fraternity Campaign” run each year as the focus for Lent by the bishops of Brazil. This year’s theme is the protection of Brazil’s unique biological habitats. While a faithful stewardship of Creation is a moral responsibility for all those who are made in the image of God, is this really the best we can do for a Lenten theme?
When we are so spiritually impoverished that we are not even capable of the moral equivalent of tying our shoes? When our dominant culture already favors environmental care? When our environmental efforts will be universally praised? When we almost never have the opportunity to conform ourselves more closely to the will of God through this or that prudential environmental policy? When other far more common and far more deeply personal sins—I mean the sins most often praised as liberating—continue to destroy both lives and families by enslaving us to our own unholy passions?
Really? That’s all we’ve got?
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