Tuesday, December 2, 2014

martyrs, seeds of the Church...

Fran Szpylczyn reminds us of the four women killed in El Salvador thirty-four years ago today.  Strong stuff, especially the photo Fran places prominently atop the blog's post.  It's Advent--shouldn't we be celebrating barns and farm animals?  Y'know, good feelings????    Fran writes, "Ultimately, if you can’t stare at the Cross, deeply gazing at the Creche is not possible."

Exactly.  We celebrate the Creche because of the victory celebrated first in the Cross.  The women in El Salvador--whom Fran notes realized full well that staying in country would likely result in their deaths--understood this.  Part of Advent involves that same assessment.  Hence the waiting.

Read it all here.

clear thinking



Marking the season of Advent, Mark Shea and Simcha Fisher take apart "Mary, Did You Know?"  It's about time. One thing I wish Shea and Fisher would've mentioned:  effectively bad Marian theology leads to Nestorianism, a heretical splitting of Jesus' human and divine natures.  This amounts to a sloppy gnosticism wherein the divine exists alongside yet apart and thus unsullied by the human.  No.  "We believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ..."  (And a good ecclesiology student would continue here:  that same one Lord founded _one_ church...)  Our salvation doesn't work with Nestorianism.

Another approach:  "Mary, Did you know?" captures one of Thomas Day's criticisms in his (now two decade old) seminal study Why Catholics Can't Sing:  contemporary Catholic music presumes a divine perspective wherein the singer (cantor, choir leader, or congregation) conveys a perspective only God would know.  Of course, though, there's no way--apart from revelation in Scripture--for us to know anything like that.  Thus Day's point:  apart from the aesthetics (which Day hammers), contemporary Catholic worship music is bad theology.  Mark Shea, having once been an Evangelical, knows the broader point: contemporary Christian music makes bad theology.  Thus his point.  They're both right.

Want to hear/appreciate the fuel for this fire:  Go here (sung by a popular singer, too!)  but do not blame me.  Do not let this meme happen to you.



H/T Catholic Memes on Reddit

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

webinars!

Forthcoming from the the Catholic Apostolate Center!  Great folks doing great work there.  Their webinars include:
The Family as Domestic Church: A Prophetic Witness Against Rugged Individualism
Edward J. Trendowski
Professor of Pastoral Theology, St. Joseph's College of Maine
November 25, 7:00pm EST
Picture
The recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family has garnered much attention. As a domestic church, a family can thrive when it is rooted in prayer and communal life, and when the family centers itself on the breaking of the bread (cf. Acts 2:42). The family can be a prophetic witness against the rugged individualism which is present all over the world. This webinar will focus on practical ways that a Catholic family can be a domestic church and also offer ideas for individuals to contemplate which deeply affect family life today.

Missionary Apostles for the 21st Century
Susan M. Timoney, S.T.D.
Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, Archdiocese of Washington
December 2, 8:00pm EST
Picture
Pope Francis wants a church of missionary disciples. Does that include you? Dr. Timoney will discuss the vocation and mission of the Laity in the work of evangelization as shaped by Evangelii Nuntiandi and Evangnelii Gaudium.
 
 
 

Monday, November 24, 2014

traveling show

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota.  A wonderful place with wonderful people led by Monsignor James Shay, a dynamic young university president if there ever was one.

UMary invited me to speak about ecumenical dialogue in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council's decree on ecumenical dialogue. Here's a video of my morning convocation for the students.  After a lunch with the members of  the Christian Leadership Conference--an ecumenical group of Protestant clergy from the Bismarck/Mandan area, I then delivered a lecture that night further exploring ecumenical dialogue and the legacy of Pope Paul VI and Pope Francis.

It was an honor to visit UMary and deliver these talks, but it was especially inspiring and challenging to meet so many people committed to their faith and their education and/or ministry.  Recently First Things made mention of an ecumencial conference held at John Brown University in Arkansas.  UMary is another place where this important work--which admittedly sees its share of disagreements--goes on.  Christian unity is, along with works of mercy and evangelism, a primary concern of the Church.  I am grateful to UMary for the invitation to make a contribution!

Monday, November 17, 2014

25 years

Today's the 25th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuits and two of their staff in El Salvador. Here's a great blog tribute by my fellow Capital District Catholic blogger, Fran Szpylczyn.  Well worth the read.

back to the land

Awhile ago I published a book on the Catholic rural life movement.  During the first half of the twentieth century more than a few Catholics found "life on the land" quite attractive.  Much more so than the usual urban, "parish factory" Catholic style dominating cities and larger towns in the American northeast.  A great idea, lots of neat eco-Catholic spirituality generated (and all this in the time PRIOR to Vatican II), but it sort of flopped--which I addressed in the book.

OK, so what?

Well, that call back to the land ain't dead--and it can reach corners presumably impervious to the ascetic call.  Check out this story about former-NFL player Jason Brown.  Obviously his previous occupation helps with certain financial realities, but then that's precisely why he's able to farm differently (something the Catholic rural lifers wanted to do, too):
See, his plan for this farm, which he calls "First Fruits Farm," is to donate the first fruits of every harvest to food pantries. Today it's all five acres--100,000 pounds--of sweet potatoes.
"It's unusual for a grower to grow a crop just to give away," said Rebecca Page, who organizes food collection for the needy. "And that's what Jason has done. And he's planning to do more next year."
Brown has 1,000 acres here, which could go a long way toward eliminating hunger in this neck of North Carolina.
"Love is the most wonderful currency that you can give anyone," said Brown.

Decisions and people like this keep the Gospel's vibrancy and dynamism before our eyes.  When we get too comfortable, well, things get mechanical and unloving.  Quite frankly I have struggled with this myself over the years.  Many of my colleagues--people whose work, scholarship, and sense of humor I have admired--have come to begrudge Catholicism (and really Christianity generally, as G. K. Chesteron observed) for its intrinsic difficulty.  It hurts, basically.  So we seek and prefer the easy--and then metalwork the Gospel to fit our desires.  The consequences bother us NOT because, well, we don't care.  Blogger Kevin O'Brien recounts a version of this here.  Good stuff--read it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brown plans his next crop--to grow and give away.

Monday, November 10, 2014

resist the temptation

...to abuse the privileges afforded us on the Internet and social media.  Latest installment:  Deacon Greg Kandra notes Father Z's reasons for moderating comments.  Basically, as Kandra puts it, some people really are sick.  And the anonymity of the Internet gives free reign to their sickness.

Father Z:
Conservatives and traditionalists certainly have their wickedly vicious commentators, who, emboldened by anonymity and a lack of immediate consequences, puke their bilious dreck into public view. It is one of the greater concerns I have in my life and work here.
But I have to say that what you see from liberals outstrips the bile of conservatives by orders of magnitude.

Let me remind you of something. When you post something on the internet, there are consequences, both for you and for others.

You may be a matter of scandal to others, weakening their faith. Direct ad hominem attacks are horrid and unfair, especially when lobbed into the arena with cowardly anonymity. You endanger your immortal soul when you do these things. I sincerely fear that many of the commentators in the combox at the Fishwrap are in danger of going to Hell. Anyone who can write some of the things you see over there has to be spiritually sick in dangers ways.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

internecine

No, that's not a reference to the Synod on the Family.  Rather two broader, certainly not necessarily "religious" debates going on that indicate that, well, things are rough all over.

First, LGBTQ activists turn out to be a cannibalistic species.  Readers of this blog and/or blogs quoted here or of like-mindset might be more accustomed to phrases like "Gaystapo" or other complaints about the LGBTQ movement.  <<Note:  I don't employ that language here>>  Folks, it might be worse within than over here on our side.  Part I:  an openly bisexual man gets smeared for discussing more traditional parenting arrangements. Part II:  a feminist, raised by a lesbian, asserts an incovenient truth:  divorce hurts women, period.  That a few divorces stem from gay men discovered their sexual orientation can't cover this up;  women still get hurt.  That message wasn't very popular, either.  The main character within Part II contributes her own piece here.

The interesting point with all this, says this outsider, is the ferocity, speed, and viciousness with which LGBTQ voices turn on each other.  And, apparently lacking some sense of the virtue of charity, the gloves come off quickly.  Have LBGTQ people been bullied?  Yes, of course--but notice how quickly the same tactic gets used within the walls of the community itself.

SECOND, how about Gamergate, y'all???  How real is this?  Mention "Gamergate" to any standard undergraduate classroom and watch the eyes light up, regardless of demographic within the 18-30 age group.  They know about it.  And it indicates a similar level of willingness to engage in brutal and shameless tactics of humiliation and degradation.

In both cases, probably more so with Gamergate, the theological conversationalists seem remote, unconcerned, or more likely, unaware.  The response, if there is one at all, might tend towards "dialogue."  Evangelization demands we "dialogue" with these others in order to reach them better.

*crickets*

The call to evangelization remains intact and inclusive.  We are all called to do it.  However, I do wonder about the current default method.  Are these groups that accept or even recognize "dialogue"? Such romanticized notions of everybody getting along, respecting differences and yet all progressing towards Truth, seem exhausted and ill-equipped.

 Prayer, of course, is the first step--even if they don't join us (and they probably won't).  But then...how might the Church encounter, engage, and eventually convert those who not resort to, but seem to thrill in using, such harsh tactics?  ISIS is not the only group delighting in the use of bloody spectacle and brutal suppression.  We need a new mix of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Josemaria Escriva--a spirituality to moves outward to engage and convert yet peacefully so, that creates a presence in the world yet retreats for prayer and regeneration to emerge anew to call the worldly powers back to the Gospel.  This very well could involve a very real martyrdom--either of the body or of the spirit or at least of one's online presence.

And even then, salvation is a mystery known ultimately to God.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

superstition or clear-eyed reason

Turns out that maybe we're better off living in a world we enchant (falsely) on our own than sit around pretending we have it all figured out.   We know how well that works out.  See David Hammond's post about Halloween, Cardinal Newman, and the movie Vertigo over at the St Joseph's College Theology blog.

What's that noise?

Religion, as it turns out.  Here's Art Remillard, an emerging scholar of American religion and culture, with a post by David Krueger reviewing Isaac Weiner's new book Religion Out Loud.

Krueger:
For the Pentecostal street preachers, turning up the volume was the means by which they proselytized the community. In this instance, it wasn’t the content of the religious speech that was most important. The services were conducted in Spanish, but most of the youth targeted by the church members spoke only English. Nonetheless, the church’s occupation of the sonic landscape (sonicscape?) for a few hours on a summer evening symbolized to many the presence of God.

Read it all here.

Roman Catholic street missionaries in the 1930s and 1940s pursued the same agenda.  They'd roll into a small southern or midwestern town, unpack the trailer chapel (seen, of all places, in Lilies of the Field starring Sidney Poitier), hook up their speakers, and start the Mass.  Sometimes they'd make converts, other times they'd have water balloons thrown at them.  Read about that phenomenon in American Catholic life here.   Weiner, Krueger, and Remillard recognize this trope in so many other places.  A good blog read and what looks like a great book, too.

One of the best Lilies scenes, of course, occurs when Homer Smith (Poitier) trains the exiled German nuns in the "Amen" chorus.  That's not Poitier singing, but rather composer Jester Hairston's voice.  Hairston arranged traditional African-American spirituals for several other Hollywood productions.   Here's your sound of religion at work.  That scene appeared in 1964;  within a decade suburban white parishes across the nation had appropriated it for youth choruses.  Remillard and company are onto something perhaps more elemental, which the motor missions priests understood, too.  Sometimes increased volume helps spread the message.  Let those with ears....

Just who is in charge here?

Mark Bauerlein, an English professor at Emory University in Atlanta, surveys the currently sad state of humanities and concludes:  It's your own damned fault.

If you believe that the Great Books comprise human thought and creation in their highest expression, it’s not enough to preserve them as an option on the menu, where they might fall alongside courses in robots on TV and Harry Potter (yes, juniors and seniors studying English at Emory last semester are enjoying these classes). Your conviction demands more than inclusion. A heterogeneous jumble of classic and contemporary, traditional and multicultural, Eurocentric and “otherly,” sounds like a positive expression of enlightened liberality, but in truth it is a confession of apathy. They just don’t care.

Furthermore, the humanities in this view have become (how it's not very clear) the purview of the wealthy elite.  Therefore, to the extent that they do so, 'we' (i.e., everybody else, apparently) can and should get rid of them.  

Museums and concert halls maintain paintings, manuscripts, ballets, and folk music, but Reich registers only a “lifestyle.” To him, arts institutions have no humanistic meaning, only a social meaning. Nothing inside the buildings would interest the poor, he implies, even if they had the chance to enter. Many artists inside were themselves poor and marginal, while artworks portray domestic scenes or impart religious content which the poor revere, but that makes no difference. People in East Harlem want food, Reich would say, not inspiration. Reich’s policy proposal makes perfect sense given his class-based impression of the art space—a pure and simple redirection of money is in order.
The parallel with literature professors who underscore the identity elements in Whitman and Millay and overlook poetic language and moral depths (unrelated to identity) is clear. Did they realize, however, that as they did so an analogous redistribution would happen in the curriculum, one that would damage their departments? 

So therefore, "don't cry for me, humanities," because the dilemma you face, Bauerlein argues, stems from the decisions you yourselves have made.

Read it all here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

it's Halloween so that must mean we blog about zombies

Zombies!  They're not just for scaring the undergraduates any more!

No, as Steve Kolowich observes, they're becoming big academic business.  Turns out that rather obvious jokes about a coming zombie apocalypse hit real fears that some as-yet-unknown pandemic will engulf us all.  Anxiety--now that's something academics can tap into.  This means that philosophers and the like start writing.  Kolowich's great concluding line:

"In some corners of academe, real zombies are unnecessary: the brains eat themselves."

Indeed. Read it all here.  And don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, October 27, 2014

the hits just keep coming

Rod Dreher, regularly cited on this blog, commented on Philip Jenkins' "Last Episcopalian" post last week.  The results, apparently, were dramatic.  Dreher received one comment so long and insightful he gave it its own post.  A former United Methodist pastor weighs in on what drags down so many church organizations...

(When I left the UMC ministry – my district superintendent told me that he (along with over half of his colleagues) was on anti-depressants and that he suspected that when he retired he wouldn’t need them anymore.)
 
Understand – I’m not against anti-depressant medication – it can literally be a lifesaver for folks suffering from clinical depression – but he was telling me that his job environment was so toxic that he needed to drug himself to cope (and frankly saw no irony in that fact). This is just symbolic of the denial that so many in leadership in these denominations live in. Our annual conferences were multi-day exercises in self congratulation and furrowed brow deliberation over countless resolutions that accomplished nothing other than solidify the entrenched political power of the denominational apparatchiks. Clueless old-school church politicians fighting over the remaining scraps of organizational power deluding themselves into thinking all is well.

and Dreher extends that to organizations in general.


People from outside the bureaucratic structure typically have no idea how much being on the inside affects the way you see things. A good friend of mine worked for a big company that, because of changing market conditions, began losing a significant amount of business. He was in management there, and told me that the leadership class within the company was truly concerned about what they could do to turn around their situation. The thing was, all their proposed solutions favored what the managerial elites wanted to do in the first place. That is, they would consider no possible measures that would mean doing something that challenged their own settled convictions, and certainly nothing that would harm their own perceived internal interests.
Result: .... the management ... was so immersed in its own bubble that it did not understand how blinded it was by its own interests.


Since it's Reformation Day (i.e., Halloween), let's have a little more:

Don’t forget the late historian Barbara Tuchman’s elements that are present in all great and consequential institutional collapses (e.g., her account of how six Renaissance popes allowed conditions within the Catholic Church to degrade so much that the Reformation happened):
1. obliviousness to the growing disaffection of constituents
2. primacy of self-aggrandizement
3. illusion of invulnerable status
Again, this is not a Christian thing, specifically, but a function of bureaucratic mindsets within government, industry, academia, and all complex social entities. Being religious does not liberate you from being human. It can, though, convince you that whatever you’re doing as a leader within a religious bureaucracy must be right, because you are serving God. I’ll never forget the case in which a Catholic bishop told an adult victim of a priest’s sexual abuse — the priest was the woman’s confessor, and used information he gained in the confessional to blackmail her, a married woman, into a sexual relationship — that if she went to the authorities with this story, he, her bishop, would ruin her, “because I have to protect the people of God.” True story.


Pretty sobering stuff.  The Fall is real, folks.  No, I don't mean in a simplistic fashion, but that our humanity--intrinsically good and imbued with dignity and freedom by and from God--now can't help shoot itself in the foot.  Repeatedly.  And at the darnedest times.  We see this in our personal lives and relationships, and yes, Virginia, you can see it in the lives of nations.  We are capable of such good--and occasionally we come close to achieving it.  And at other times we seem capably only of screwing up things further, even as we claim to be helping.  Worth considering on this the 497th anniversary of the beginning of Protestantism.  No, we can't save ourselves.  Only God can do that--and Trent agreed.   God also gave us the Church and, despite the obvious problems as dictated above, that is the avenue through which we experience the justification God alone gives.


Read it all here.

restore us again, O Lord...

Over at the St Joseph's College Theology blog, Father Frank Donio, SAC, provides a great reminder:  pray.    Father Donio writes:

Fervent prayer, ardent prayer, in the way that Pope Francis is calling for is an on-going dialogue with God throughout our day, an awareness of the action and activity of the Holy Spirit permeating our lives. It is a seeking for God and finding God in all things, in every moment and in every place. St. Teresa of Avila encourages us to be seekers of God and St. Ignatius of Loyola calls us to “find God in all things.” St. Vincent Pallotti puts the two aspects together, as was often his way, and challenges us to:
Seek God and you will find God.Seek God in all things and you will find God in all things.Seek God always and you will always find God.”



Friday, October 24, 2014

Pope Paul VI and the martyrs

This past Sunday's installment over at the St Joseph's College of Maine theology blog.  Coming up this weekend:  the St Joseph's Symposium on the Second Vatican Council.  Highlights next week.

And then will start some reflections--along with catching up on what should've been a busy month of blogging, lots to blog about--about Blessed Pope Paul's legacy.  There's far more there, I've discovered, than just a second name for another pope or two.  Blessed Paul, pray for us!

Friday, October 17, 2014

obligatory Synod blog post

Quite frankly, it's not much.  1) Everybody else is writing about it and I'm trying to figure out for myself just what has been said and why.  The Cardinal Kasper fiasco has only muddied things further.  2) Life's busyness factor has kicked it up a notch or two (or five) around here so time has not been in great supply.

That being said, this post from Artur Rosman seemed hit a number of good notes-with a sense of humor too.  He closes with this:


If that that’s not enough for you, the highly respected Church historian Robert Louis Wilken weighs in with this:
And so began… a time when leading bishops of the Church disagreed profoundly on central matters of Christian teaching. Ecclesiastical councils publicly debated deep theological issues, with the aim of reaching consensus on language to express central Christian beliefs in formal statements of faith. The disagreements ran deep, and the disputes were often bitter and sometimes violent.
Gotcha! This quote actually comes from Robert Louis Wilken’s history of Christianity, The First Thousand Years. The Aquinas and mysticism scholar Fritz Bauerschmidt dropped this passage on social media explaining that it applies to Church history stretching from the start of the fourth century to the middle of the sixth. That’s one long stretch of time. Bauerschmidt adds the following comment, which all would be Synod commentators should heed:
It’s déjà vu all over again. Somehow I find that comforting.


Read it all: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/cosmostheinlost/2014/10/16/synod14-its-deja-vu-all-over-again/#ixzz3GPn9yjTE


And continue praying for the Church.

Monday, September 29, 2014

best laid plans

This blog is going on semi-hiatus.   Please keep in touch via facebook.com/SpiritualDiabetes and Twitter @SpiritualDiabet.  Yes, it'll return, but posts will be spotty for a while.  How long that while lasts remains to be seen.  Pray for the Church, Pope Francis, the clergy, all the faithful, and for the sick, poor, dying, and lonely.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

new blog

Mark Shea recommended Leticia's new blog.  Even the shortest glance indicated that, not only was Shea right (about this and much more), but I think I might have some competition for that coveted "St. Augustine award for off-beat Catholic humor blog."  She introduces herself:

I am a hot mess convert who loves Jesus and has a scandalous sense of humor. I love music,reading, writing. If I am ever canonized I will be the patron saint of people who can’t stop cussing.

 Well, we'll see about that.  I usually reserve discussions of canonization for, well, y'know, those becoming saints.  However, I've certainly populated that "can't stop cussing" crowd more than once.  Ha ha.

Best wishes for what looks like a great new addition to the Catholic blogosphere!

another angle on the familiar tensions

conventional wisdom:  PreVatican II= conservative, post-Vatican II=liberal but submarined by lurking conservatives, now rehabilitated by Pope Francis.

OK, so we've all heard that tune before.  But then consider this reading of the same period;  the Benedictines, supporting Pope St. Pius X, set up the Mass as the high point of Catholic prayer while the Jesuits give a prominent role to individual reflection (following the lead of St. Ignatius Loyola).

Read it all here.

This conclusion seemed particularly interesting:
Perhaps the most ironic twist in this still unresolved (and now more complicated) debate is the contrast between the current pope and his predecessor. Although not a Benedictine by profession, Benedict XVI closely identified throughout his career with the monastic vision of the all-pervasive centrality of the sacred liturgy, where God and man can meet most profoundly in praise and in communion, at once expressing and accomplishing the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ. At his first general audience in April 2005, he explained that he had chosen the name Benedict in large part as a homage to the Father of Western Monasticism, co-patron of Europe and architect of Christian civilization. With the first Jesuit and overseas pope, we have a pastor who appears to hold many of those modern Jesuit views that Blessed Columba Marmion and other Benedictines, in the name of fidelity to St. Pius X, so stalwartly resisted in the first half of the twentieth century, and that Ratzinger/Benedict himself patiently opposed in his writings and magisterial acts. We have unexpectedly seen the trajectories of the two schools played out before our very eyes in the magisterium, ars celebrandi, and priorities of each pontificate.

Quite honestly, while intrigued I am not quite ready to accept this too readily. After all, St. Ignatius Loyola made it pretty clear:  we are to think with the Church (see #353).  Still, it's an incredibly helpful perspective when considering the state of contemporary Catholicism. Which, btw, a recent poll indicates there remains much room for improvement.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

emerging

Over at Crux, the new Boston endeavor by John Allen, Jr., the man himself addresses the recent run of papal appointments.  Conservatives have been enlathered by the demotion (real or perceived) of Cardinal Raymond Burke, and the recent appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich to the Archdiocese of Chicago. Allen, though, points to recent appointments to the International Theological Commission. Then he surmises:

To be clear, all of these people are accomplished thinkers who are eminently qualified to advise the Vatican on doctrinal matters. It’s hard not to be struck, however, by the fact that they seem to come largely from one side of the street.

So, what gives? Is Francis suffering from multiple personality syndrome, or is there another explanation?

Yes, there is:  we're seeing now Francis' vision coming into focus, and it's not, Allen argues, what some think or fear.

Yet Francis is a hands-on pope, and he wouldn’t sign off on these decisions if he weren’t aware of what they meant. 

Perhaps the best hypothesis is that what Francis is really after isn’t a turn to the left, but a new balance. He’s said he wants the church to be in dialogue with everyone, and one way to accomplish that is to ensure a mix of points of view in leadership positions. 

Pope John XXIII allegedly once said, “I have to be pope both for those with their foot on the gas, and those with their foot on the brake.” Though the saying may be apocryphal, the wisdom is spot-on, and Francis’ recent personnel moves seem to reflect some of the same thinking.


Read the whole thing here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

bet the readers didn't see THAT coming...

Elizabeth Scalia, editor of the Catholic portal at patheos.com (a great set of Catholic blogs there!), links to Roger Cohen of the New York Times.  As Scalia relates, Cohen says what everybody should recognize but rarely want to express:  things are not going well.  Scalia:

It is, finally, perhaps a time of dawning realization that the centers are not holding; old orders are in extremis; new orders are in capricious adolescence.
The troubles briefly enumerated in this sobering op-ed are only the most obvious issues. They are the pebble tossed into the pond, rippling outward in ever-widening circles — expanding to include a unique “time” of global crisis: governments failing at every level, everywhere; churches are divided, their freedoms challenged; citizens are distracted, dissatisfied and distrustful, their election mechanisms in doubt; schools are losing sight of the primary mission of education; families are deconstructed and the whole concept ripe for dissolution; respect for human dignity is doled out in qualified measures; there is a lack of privacy; a lack of time to think, to process and to incarnate; a lack of silence.
 
The Book of Judges closes at 21:25: "In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes."

Yep, that pretty much nails it.
 
But Scalia doesn't stop there.

as anniversaries approach...

I will take a few stabs at gauging what it all means. Here's a first shot over at the St Joseph's Theology blog...

Friday, September 5, 2014

ya gotta be kidding me file #3225918375

Lifelike funerals

H/T Steve Thorngate at Christian Century

HUH?

Honesty time:  I drafted this back in July, pre-family vacation (fun had by all, btw), pre-Robin Williams suicide, pre-ISIL beheadings and child marriages, pre-Ferguson.  So there are more pressing matters at hand. Nevertheless, because our world seems like it's falling apart at the seams just now these outlandish attempts to script our lives beyond the grave seem so, well, ridiculous. As if we have that much power.  We do, as the headlines indicate, though, possess the power and will to each other egregious harm, violence, and death.  We rightly wrestle with discerning effective plans of action.

Lifelike funerals, though, remind of the Polish phrase:
nie twój cyrk, nie twoje małpy (not your circus, not your monkeys)

if it's good enough for the students, it's good enough for the blog readers

I teach college.  I've been at it for about twenty years.  It was and remains the one job I've sought and desired.  Some kids grow up wanting to jump out of airplanes, quarterback a football team, or become President.  Once I arrived at Wabash, I knew I wanted to follow in the footsteps of those teaching me.

Cutting to the current semester, my Ethics and Values students will be contributing posts to a course blog.  (Sorry--this will be a private, students-only blog not available on Blogger or anywhere else.)  To give them some idea of what I had in mind, I drummed up the following.  It runs on *much* longer than what they're expected to do, but it hopefully establishes some parameters.

For those who find this stuff interesting, please add a comment.  Before you get angry, though, do remember here I'm blogging for a student audience.

If you want something done right....
do it yourself.  Or at least show folks what you have in mind.

So here goes. Curious about this blog assignment?  Read through this once or twice and then construct your own.  My first post (because who knows? maybe I'll post a couple more...) will be longer than your 150-250 word requirement.

First, a couple things:  a) social media--if you're on Facebook and/or Twitter, feel free to connect at www.facebook.com/pages/Spiritual-Diabetes/ and @SpiritualDiabet.  I have another blog at http://spiritualdiabetes.blogspot.com/.  You are not required any of these.  Just FYI...  b) keep the old 1980s song in mind: "Show me, Don't Tell me";  work on weaving together your argument with the sources you use.  Embed your link (so we can access it) and then start commenting.  That's the "show";  if it's just a rant, then you're merely "telling."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

holding pattern

Folks--
There will be fewer posts through the rest of the summer.  Writing, traveling, and family....

Best wishes, peace and all good for all!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

cathedral-ic response

One of Mark Shea's readers inquired about Medjugorje and the apparent lack of authoritative declaration from Rome.  Shea's response hits all the right chords--Rome doesn't rush anything, look how look it took to declare certain Christological affirmations and then there's Trent, the not-so-speedy-response to the Protestant Reformation.  Shea couches all this with language about the Ents, the ancient-of-days, slow-moving tree-people from Tolkien's Middle Earth.  The Ents took their time--slow from the hobbits' perspective, but actually swift from their own--and when they did act, they did so decisively and turned the battle for the good.  Shea's conclusion:

Bottom line: when the Ents finally get past hooming and homming and finally speak, the bishops who referred the matter to them will be totally and completely vindicated.  The trick will be figuring out a way to break this to the honest and good people who have been lied to so that they listen to the Church  and do not, like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, identify with the crooks and liars who have snookered them with this fraud for thirty years.  It’s a pastoral issue, not a truth issue, that is primarily the problem here.

At some point the obligatory "I'm a Catholic blogger so here are my two cents on Tolkien" post will appear.  For now, though, Shea's use of the Ents as an analogy for "thinking with the Church" reminded me of European cathedrals, especially the Roman basilicas (this perhaps because those were the ones I saw first, thanks to a semester abroad in college).  The space, the sheer physical scale, and for Rome the physical and archeological connections to the ancient Roman past, and yet throughout a great attention to detail and personal expression (one example out of a gazillion:  Pope Leo XIII's tomb at St. John Lateran) are supposed to blow your mind.  The Barthians out there will kill me, but this is the one time when I understood Schleiermacher's "feeling of absolute dependence."  But in the bigness there's also all that detail and thus it takes time to digest it all.  Anybody's who's been on a pilgrimage tour to Rome (or Paris or London or Moscow or Prague or Madrid...etc) knows this point:  there's too much to see in one trip.  So you must return.

In like fashion, responses from the Roman authorities take time.  It's as if they, in responding to real pastoral crises as mentioned above as well as all-too-real theological crises, too, need  to construct a "cathedral" in their response.  By comparison, Protestant churches--which by style and theology benefit from a "quick response," or as I've said, a "sugar-high" spirituality (feels good for a short time, then comes the crash)--have the flash response but little depth or sustainability.  True, sometimes the cathedrals need work and restoration and, equally true, we pilgrims don't always understand every nook and cranny within, but the cathedral--space or response--is worth the wait.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mark Shea goes digging

and I'm glad he does because he finds things like this.

subterranean connections

Geez, one blog post about Jesus Christ Superstar and then stuff hits the fan.  Steve Webb, the prolific and flamboyant columnist at First Things, fires a salvo:  Christians, especially Roman Catholic ones, need to ditch their distaste for 'praise music."  Webb:

I suspect Christians dislike praise music for the same reasons as the unchurched. The words are too simple, direct, and demanding, the emotions too transparent. Musical sophistication often means little more than genre compartmentalization, which leads many musically sophisticated Christians to try to keep their listening habits separate from their prayer life.

There is a bias among many rock aficionados against any contemporary music that makes the lyrics audible, indeed, that subordinates the tune to the words. Christians should not buy into that. It is especially sad, I think, when Christians immersed in hard rock turn their noses up (or shut their ears to) any music that is uplifting, as if only dark sounds are authentic.

Webb makes two good points here:  "we" (the sophisticated churched and our cultural counterparts, the equally if not more sophisticated unchurched [hipsters]) detect the sappy and immediately, instinctively, turn away.  Back in the 80s the "college music" crowd adored anything by REM but winced anytime pop music surfaced. "Real" music was, by definition, partially, if not wholly, unintelligible.  The bright and clear was necessarily a lie.  Hence Webb's second point:  it's only good if it's dark and dismal.  Unspoken satire here:  we really do like French existentialist ennui.   Oh, the misery that is life!  This Webb seeks to root out of American Catholicism:

Cynicism is a far greater spiritual danger than naiveté. And if you are Roman Catholic, what’s the worst that can happen to you? You might learn that you actually like singing, and you might take that lesson to the mass.

the essential irrationality of the eschatological type

a phrase from my dad whenever I would come from school wondering about the latest Biblical challenge thrown by the neighborhood evangelicals....

It mystified me at the time, but I've since come to appreciate the insight fueling the remark:  arrogance.  That and self-righteousness.  Eschatology--that part of Christian doctrine dealing with the "end times,"  the Final Judgment, when God calls in all the chips and settles the score.

And along comes some individual or group insisting that they know the infallible, unmistakeable, guilt-free, easy path to negotiating that event.

One time, when I'd really pushed Dad about the confidence with which my classmates insisted on their own rectitude, Dad waved his hand around the sweltering hot southwest Missouri farmland, looked me right in the eye, and said:  "Do you really think that Jesus would pick to come back here first??"  The old man always did have a way of ending arguments....

just wow

Wow, so much going on but here are two utterly riveting stories.

First, Rod Dreher points us towards an Omaha-based blogger reflecting on the recent double-funnel tornado that ripped apart Pilger, Nebraska.  Everybody should look at that photo.  THAT, folks, is a tornado's end.  Not the wild footage on The Weather Channel.  Not thrilling car chases in the 1996 flick Twister (although, for reasons to be mined later, that movie puts forth a lot of neat dichotomies).  No--just a town destroyed and a little five-year old girl dead.  "Some day" won't come.

Pilger lies about thirty miles south of the equally small town where I was born.  When I was three we moved to southwest Missouri where I went through my share of tornado warnings.  (For the uninitiated, a "watch" and a "warning" are two very different alerts.)  I only saw one tornado, and that was one swirling above in the clouds that later killed somebody in nearby Springfield.  Now for the past few years The Weather Channel and meteorologists from the rest of the country descend on the Midwest for the thrilling chase.  And for the upstate NY readers--why leave?  Times are so bad--and the region is so starved for attention--that this foolishness is not only tolerated but encouraged.  They should look at Pilger, or Joplin in 2011, or any number of other places, to remind ourselves what those storms can do.

And in the midst of despair, Dreher notes, 5 times the town's entire population showed up to help Pilger rebuild.  Stories like this abound--the willingness of folks to help out others--and we need to remind ourselves of this goodness AND its calling forth by inexplicable disasters.  Too often we fixate on the next impending disaster.  Through God's grace, though, charity abounds.

And then there are stories like this where a Capitol District native does good--great grades and Columbia Law School and public service--and then inexplicably descends, ultimately, into death. I won't pretend to understand post-partum depression, but it is important that this sort of psychiatric illness needs help--and intervention--just as much as the Adam Lanzas of the world.  Yet again, we focus so insistently on individual freedom and self-expression that we often lose the opportunities--often few and far between--to bring about some change.  And even here, though, grace--however inexplicable--abounds:  her son lived to walk.

We are so accustomed to congratulating ourselves for having it all figured out, and then stories like these reveal the hubris generating that satisfaction.  Obviously prayer helps, but the enormity of either story leaves us shaking our heads.  And that's probably a healthy reaction.

Friday, June 13, 2014

unified theory: everybody is scared

And in that anxiety we make decisions that affect others as well as ourselves and boy howdy, are there consequences.

First, as predicted on this blog several times, Pope Francis makes it clear:  Catholic theology is not a democratic process.  You can't construct belief structures through cost-benefit analysis.  Yes, attentiveness matters--but come on, there's a limit, people.

Second, Catholic theologians, well, sometimes I wonder if the less that's said is better.  However, this is not a Zen/Catholic blog.  The American Catholic academy desperately seeks relevance, thus it routinely claims space (usually from bishops) from which theologians can then speak expertly.  That way, the Church's theological development--because blessed Cardinal Newman was right, doctrine does develop--will include voices other than the bishops.   Charlie Carmosy's careful reflections on the recent CTSA presidential address (delivered by Paul Griffith) reveals these tensions.  When you come from Catholic social justice, who's the bad guy?  Easy:  f@#$%&*g Paul Ryan.  Who's your bae?  Easy, but more numerous:  Pope Francis (of course) and your fellow theologians.

To riff on Carmosy, the reality is messier than the preceding (re)construction.  But why?  Because a theological dialogue that includes both bishops (who possess and express the Church's teaching authority) and theologians thus creates space to where theologians can explore provocative--and messy--questions.

Blogging all this, of course,will guarantee my expulsion from the theologians' guild.  More on that later.  As the man once said, "quiet, numbskulls--I'm broadcasting!"  Besides, if given the choice between bishops and my faculty colleagues I have come to wonder if academic freedom is the utopian freedom I've been told it is and offers.

Third,with Father's Day around the corner, here come articles about fatherhood and masculinity.  Some good--we need to find some way to move beyond clownish stereotypes of "being a man"--and others more fretful, that somebody somewhere is going curtail our freedom.

Fourth, recent reversals in American foreign policy have the usual sane-and-calm voices starting to wonder if this really is a time of change-not-for-the-better.  Here at home some have pointed to the disturbing increase in school-shootings.  Catholics are becoming used to parish violence but also violent, uninvited protests which seek their own "shock and awe" effect. We  readily accept the outrageous before we think about what's being offered.

God made us and in so doing gave us freedom.  In exercising that freedom--part of our very selves--we most often choose actions which feed our fears instead of increasing one of the other gifts God gave us:  love.  This, though, requires us to move outside and beyond ourselves and, as Pope Francis notes, that proves very difficult to do.  We will not be perfect, but we nonetheless are called to be perfect like Christ.  That's why we need help--GOD'S help.  St. Augustine understood the point;  God doesn't help those who help themselves, God helps precisely those WHO CANNOT help themselves. (a h/t to Bill Placher for the wording)

Which is all of us.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

let us all go back to the old landmark

Today is the one hundredth anniversary of Pope St. Pius X's death.

And therein lies a tangle of narratives.  First, perhaps no other pope fosters such strong reaction, not evenly the recently canonized Pope St. John Paul II.  While he was not the first to combat theological modernism, he minted the phrases by which modernism has identified ever since.  His 1907 encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis labeled modernism as "the synthesis of all heresies" and forecast dire circumstances if the cancer was allowed to metastasize.  Hence the Church embarked on an anti-modernist crusade that lasted, depending on the sources you consult, until the Second Vatican Council.  That landmark event in turn has been viewed, again depending on the sources you consult, as an explicit rejection of Pius X's ham-handed authoritarianism.  True to form, the reaction itself sparked a counter-reaction;  in 1969 Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, fed-up with conciliar reforms, established the Society of St. Pius X.  Remaining in schism since 1988 (and Lefebrve's death in 1991), the Society regards itself as not sedevacantist but rather the true (and sole) defender of Catholic orthodoxy.

Twenty years ago, just after Lefebvre's death, I started my doctoral studies in Catholic historical theology.  I found the Lefebrvist story fascinating, largely because their Latin Mass devotion and frank rejection of Vatican II seemed so foreign and exotic.  Also, as a new convert I had already noticed the varying degrees of fervency Catholics exhibited.  The SSPX always occupied the outermost 'fervent' position;  nobody outdid them.  Or so it seemed--more on that in a bit.  Meanwhile, my doctoral faculty regarded them with utter disdain and/or distaste.  How could any sane person find them interesting?  The Church's theological tides had clearly shifted elsewhere.  The prudent theology student would expend her/his energies elsewhere.  Forget all that "both/and" Catholic stuff;  this was truly "either/or"--and both sides endorsed.  EITHER you're with "us" OR you're against "us."  For those who get it, profound irony lurketh there....

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

slaking the CATO thirst

CATO:  Catholics Addicted To Outrage.

H/T  Greg Kandra and the Te Deum laudamus blog cited by Deacon Greg.

Yep, that pretty much nails it.

First, I should acknowledge the admonishment from Ms. Korzeniewski about the (mis)use of "porn" in blogging!  A very good point I will seek to follow.

Second, with some different language these posts discuss the foundational themes here at Spiritual Diabetes:  the binge/purge cycle--in this case spiritual, not merely physical or appetitive--which is self-fueling and by which we feel better about ourselves. "Look at this awful situation--share my anger at it/them!"  Te Deum laudamus:
Outrage addiction, which some refer to as outrage porn (a term I prefer not to use2) is where we seem to get our "fix" by getting fired up over something. By it's nature it is addicting, so the more we get through reading, watching, and discussing, the more we seek.  Anyone can suffer with it for a period of time. Some eventually pass through and are purified of it, while others seem stuck there for many years.
Those who pass through the first phase of outrage addiction might suffer from a second phase where they become outraged with everyone else who is chronically outraged (think: ex-smoker syndrome).  Others skip the first phase and have their only experience with it in the second sphere.  In reality, such behavior changes nothing.

In either case, outrage addiction becomes a sport, giving rise to adrenaline. Perhaps that is what makes it so addicting.  Often, the outrage-addicted yield to imprudence by shooting first and asking questions later. Things are seen in black and white and the subjective becomes objective for them.

 That's a brilliant connection to ex-smoker syndrome;  it could also be called 'convert zeal' "Why doesn't everybody see the importance in this issue as I do?!?!?!"  (this coming from a convert....) In fact the faith's newness (either discovered or rediscovered, as Korzeniewski notes) sparks the initial outrage.  Often another's rigidity becomes the target of such ire, but we are admonished, rightfully so, to realize that more than just the "traddies" suffer under such ailments.  The flush of outrage perpetuates its own return as we not become accustomed to, but actually come to desire, the presence and heat of self-righteous anger.

Monday, June 9, 2014

a little recovery work

...on Pope Pius XI over at the St Joseph's Online Theology blog.

who DOESN'T love show tunes?

Confession time, part I:  my parents are not baby-boomers.  They came from the generation just before;  born just before World War II or just after the United States entered.  They graduated from the college in the early 1960s, far too young to go to war in Korea and a bit older than the traditional draft age for Vietnam.  Their households had television, but only one and it was black and white.  They had seen the Civil Rights movement unfold.  My mother had a riveting story of her college class being cancelled when they learned of JFK's assassination. (That came back to me when John Hinckley tried to assassinate Reagan in 1981 and when the Challenger blew up in 1986.)  Meanwhile, traditional "60s rock" simply did not compute for my parents;  Elvis was still a bit edgy as far as they were concerned.  They really did prefer the acoustic folk music so often ridiculed in blogs and press like here, here, and here.

So Confession time, part II:  the two "rock" albums (yes, 33.5 speed--the real deal, y'all) I listened to growing up were Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Water and the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar.  While my elementary and middle school friends grooved to disco or rocked out to Led Zeppelin or Nazareth, I memorized the words to "Keep the Customer Satisfied," "Cecelia," "What's the Buzz?" and "This Jesus Must Die."  The Southern Baptist kids in our little Missouri Ozarks town never quite got used to me singing, usually unprompted, "CEEEEEELLLLya, you're breaking my heart..." or, much worse, "Ah gentlemen, you know why we are here.  We've not much time, and quite a problem here..."  <<OTOH, I now realize why my dating life was nonexistent.  LOL>>

Confession time, part III:  I recovered in 1983.  Def Leppard's Pyromania will do that. Ditto for Van Halen's 1984.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

a passing thought about passing

Commencement time is here and once again the odd quirks of college life--the passionately held beliefs, the experimentation, the bad haircuts--evaporate.  Colleges has long since transformed summer into additional instructional and operational sessions, but it's still worth remembering the cyclical celebration of passing time.   John Cuddeback, in a larger post on Christian good-byes, adds this:
As a professor in a college community of several hundred people, I have had ample opportunity for reflection upon saying goodbye. Every May the students with whom I have shared a life for four years effectively vanish into thin air. Sure some of them stay in touch, and come back and visit. But fundamentally, that group of roughly ninety people, some of whom I have really come to know and love—sharing trials, tears, and triumphs—leaves never to return.

My eldest daughter has herself ‘gone off’ to college—that was rough, and the rest will probably follow in succession. When I watch fathers give away their daughters in marriage, I have to fight back my own tears. I hope I won’t need to be resuscitated at my daughters’ weddings.

So I am learning to say goodbye. And it is a skill that I would do well to learn better.

Read the rest of it here.

The big good-bye, the one for all the money, is of course death.  Cuddeback recognizes this and takes the opportunity to contribute an insightful disagreement with C. S. Lewis' adage that "Christians never say good-bye."  In fact, Cuddeback suggests, Christians do say good-bye and the ways in which they do then assures that such partings are not, ultimately, final. 

College graduations, much more mundane, are final.  The students can't come back as they once were. The telos of college education--liberal, professional, or technical--will be discussed in future posts.  For now, though, it seems appropriate to recognize that educators hope that their students, once they've encountered this 'minor' finality of graduation, carry something with them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

not the same thing

Getting ready for the Albany diocese's 2014 Spring Enrichment...and yes, Spiritual Diabetes will play a role.  In that mind, googling "spiritual diabetes" also brought up this blog combining spiritual and diabetic discourses.  Goldstein seems to seek spiritual remedies and/or therapies for those suffering from diabetes.  Here is another example of somebody combining "sweet," "sugar," and "spiritual" language.  While using similar terms (at least at first), those blogs pursues an agenda quite different from this one.  As stated earlier, this blog uses diabetes as a discursive and analytic metaphor.  I don't pretend to address the physical realities confronting those combating diabetes--type I or type II.  Those are very real problems, and I am *not* seeking to add to the burdens of those suffering.  (Nor, it should be clear, is Goldstein.)

Our nation's--and, really, our planet's--diabetes epidemic, though, prompt questions about spiritual consumption and 'exercise.'  Just as the type II diabetic can no longer convert the energy already present in the bloodstream, the spiritual diabetic sits awash in spiritual energy...but can't properly convert it.  The resulting 'high blood sugar' in this spiritual version becomes an unslakable thirst for more and more spiritual consumption...which in turn only exacerbates the original problem.  Signs of this, it seems to me, are the various expressions of rock-sure supremacy of one's views or, in the secular framework, assurance of purely secular solutions to situations which clearly involve spiritual perspectives.  These damaging absolutisms are counterbalanced by the broader Christian, and specifically Roman Catholic, tradition.  These, obviously, involve absolute perspectives--Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine, etc.--but these appear within a spiritual "work-out" framework that juxtaposes human frailty/tragedy with divine knowledge and mercy.  Make no mistake, though, Christians--and certainly Roman Catholics--can suffer from spiritual diabetes, just as they suffer from the physical form.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

polyvalent separation and inclusive inclusion

So much to do but just yesterday an example that the Gospel, and with that the Church, navigate the waters while human pretensions and errors fall away on either side.  What has come into being in the Word was life, and the life was the light of the world (John 1:3b-5)

OK, some Facebook friends expressed dismay over the CDF's castigation of the LCWR's recognition of Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ. Friend #1:  "Well, that's some bull***t. Everyone go buy more of Johnson's books immediately." <<edited version!>>  Somebody posted musings about Pope Francis' view of Johnson, to which Friend #2 posted:  "
Does this pontiff's honeymoon ever end? He reiterated full-bodied support for Ex Corde and all the Catholic Identify jive-ass mantras in speech not long ago...coulda been reading verbatim from the Benny-Wotyla playbook. Nary a word on this from 'progressive' Catholic media..."

Translation:  Pope Francis is way more conservative than anybody is willing to say, and [the one posting] doesn't like it.

H/T to those FB friends--they know who they are


OK, insert here a blog post about the distance between Pope Francis and the media perspectives thereof.  

Then consider this:  last September the Catholic News Service posted a video about the dual canonization's announcement.  Check out the YouTube combox reactions recently!  Views range from those unhinged about the clergy sexual abuse scandal:

Whatever!...two old creepy men, head of the biggest pedophile ring in history get canonized? They do nothing for humanity. Do you forget this church supported Adolf Hitler's Nazi's and do you forget the dark ages where they also murdered millions? They bless wars, promote wars they do not promote peace but promote hatred and lies.
Earlier somebody else suspected a deeper problem:
John Paul II, Woytila was not the legitimate Pope, but a jewish infiltrator. The real Pope was Gregory XVII (the former cardinal Joseph Siri) at the time when JPII was `elected`. John Paul II has hijacked the holy see, persecuted the real Catholic church and the real Pope just as Nero did in his cruelty. He is the antiPope of the New world order universal religion. Funded and supported by jewry, the most cruel enemy of Catholicism, he can be compared to Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ by a kiss. never in the world would the real Church declare this deceiver a saint. But he is the hero of the new world order guided by Antichrist´s spirit. His damned soul has descended into hell.



Do not interpret this blog as endorsing these views!  Antisemitic sedevacantism and postmodern, ahistorical sexual nihilism must be seen and combated as the gnostic sins that they are.  Second, nor should good ol' fashioned liberal American Catholicism (although truth be told, both of my FB friends mentioned above really don't consider themselves Catholic anymore) be confused with the outer rim territories that are conspiracy theories.  Liberal Catholicism has its problems, but those are of a different kind and character than the likes of sedevacantism.

That being said, notice the shared target:  the broader Roman Catholic tradition that continues to churn along.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  That's because it won't.  We do need to be honest:  in several instances the Church's members have done quite a good job helping the darkness accomplish precisely that.  It's this humanity and holiness that in part perhaps fosters such a broad spectrum of rejection.  And yet the Church possesses and celebrates a vision that includes all, even the active deniers:
Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness. Our contemporaries make much of this freedom and pursue it eagerly; and rightly to be sure. Often however they foster it perversely as a license for doing whatever pleases them, even if it is evil. For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain "under the control of his own decisions,"(12) so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure.