What makes Rick Santorum so threatening – and what’s at stake in the HHS battle

February 29, 2012

I haven’t been at all surprised by the vitriol of many of the attacks on Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum I’ve seen on the internet recently.  They’ve been personal and vicious and have largely focused on his Catholicism.  Many of these attacks have come from Catholics themselves.

In the Washington Post, a columnist accuses Santorum of wanting to rule by “fatwa,” while in the Huffington Post a self-described Catholic accuses Santorum of belonging to a “barbaric…cult” where “black-robed cleric[s]” cast spells over followers’ “cannibalistic reverie.”  Santorum is also accused of waging “jihad,” which makes me wonder whether it would be permissible to use references to Islam as an insult if the candidate were actually a Muslim.

I’ve been a little bemused, but not surprised, at some of the Catholics I’ve seen posting on Facebook attacking Santorum in unusually nasty terms; bemused because I’ve heard many of these same people talk about how we need to put our faith into action, about how Catholicism is not only about worship but contains an integral social dimension.  Mr. Santorum clearly believes the same thing, and yet the attitude of many of his Catholic critics seems to be “How dare he talk about how faith informs his social vision?”

While no one has to agree with Santorum on every issue, shouldn’t we at least be happy that a public servant clearly takes his faith seriously and is unafraid to talk about it in public?  Yet it seems Santorum threatens something quite fundamental in the worldview of his critics, and the vitriol flows out of this threat. Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: The Paralytic and the Mandate

February 19, 2012


Hotel Dieu in Paris, ca. 1500

Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25; Ps 41:2-3, 4-5, 13-14; 2 Cor 1:18-22; Mk 2:1-12

In light of recent events, I thought I’d use the story of the paralytic, which the liturgy invites us to contemplate today, to explain the Gospel roots of the Church’s opposition to the HHS Mandate—especially in the realm of health care.  Speaking generally, one could say that all of Christ’s healing miracles serve as the “charter” for the Church’s involvement in health care.  Jesus showed concern for both soul and body.  And so the Church has tried to follow His example.

This being said, there are a couple features particular to Christ’s cure of the paralytic that help us to understand the Church’s distinctive vision of Health Care, and thus her opposition to the mandate.

1) The first feature is the indirect way in which faith plays a part in the healing.  Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: World Day for the Sick

February 12, 2012


Lv 13:1-2, 44-46; Ps 32:1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31-11:1; Mk 1:40-45

If you wish, you can make me clean …”

This 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time also marks The World Day of the Sick.  And whether by chance or by design, today’s Gospel passage perfectly suits the occasion.  In the episode of the miraculous cure of the leper, we receive both 1) a model for approaching Jesus when sick or in material need, and 2) a beautiful portrait of Jesus’ compassionate response.  All of which naturally leads us 3) to seek in Jesus the response to our “unanswered” prayers.

1) With respect to approaching God in prayer, the leper models for us a delicate balance between boldness and surrender.  The leper is bold in making known his real needs and in professing Christ’s power—“You can make me clean.”  At the same time, the conditional statement that precedes the request hints at an even deeper surrender to God’s will—“If you wish …”  The leper respects the fact that Jesus is not simply vending machine for miracles: He is a person in his own right, his own mysterious will, designs and plans.  “If you wish …”

Scripture everywhere recommends both boldness and deeper surrender in prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

Karl Josef Kardinal Becker, SJ After After All

February 11, 2012


P. Karl Josef Becker, SJ

I thought I might draw our reader’s attention to the abrupt re-reversal of Fr. Becker’s fortunes.  According to the most recent statements, Fr. Becker will be created cardinal in the consistory of Feb. 18 after all.  If Fr. Becker was truly prevented from attending the consistory per motivi saluti, then it seems he has been cured miraculously.  Deus providebit.

  Here is a translation of the German-language announcement on Vatican Radio:

Fr. Karl Joseph Becker is pleased to able to participate in the Consistory on February 18.  So spoke the longstanding Professor of Theology on Vatican Radio.  A week ago it was announced by the Vatican that reasons of health (Gesundheitsgründe) impeded Becker’s participation, and that the conferral of the cardinalate would therefore take place at another moment and private.  The cited reasons (Gründe) no longer exist, according to Fr. Becker.  He has always rejoiced in the recognition and confidence of the Pope, which has found expression in this nomination.  He has now received the message specifying his participation at the consistory of February 18.

Why War?

February 7, 2012

The men and women working for the Obama White House are not stupid people.  In fact, the billion-dollar Obama political machine is perhaps the most impressive such operation in American political history.  Why then, I’ve heard many people asking, would this Administration choose to go to “war”—to use the word of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius —with the Catholic Church, in an election year no less?  Why, furthermore, has the Administration’s response to Catholic objections to its new contraception rules ranged from the obtuse to the insulting?

Ducking reporters’ questions on the subject, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney read from a prepared statement with all the sincerity of a North Korean news anchor before refusing to answer questions about the penalties Catholic institutions will face when they refuse to supply free contraceptives to employees.  And the Administration trotted out talking points on the White House blog that are blatantly mendacious even by the standards of today’s politics.

People of faith, and even fair-minded secular opinion-makers, have seen through the pretense that this front in the White House’s war is really about contraception.  Indeed, one of the positive outcomes of this controversy has been the unity it has produced, not just within the Catholic Church but also among believers who do not share the Church’s beliefs on contraception—or just about anything else.  The liberal columnist Sean Michael Winters issued an interesting proposal for our cardinals to engage in civil disobedience.  Prominent Protestant and Jewish leaders have also objected to the Administration’s power grab, and the nation’s Orthodox bishops voted unanimously to “join their voices with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” in “adamantly protest[ing]” the Administration’s new rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: World Day for Consecrated Life

February 5, 2012


Jb 7:1-4, 6-7; 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39

In addition to being the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, today is also the World Day for Consecrated Life, a day dedicated to pondering the optional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  The fact that the Church dedicates a Sunday to these three “evangelical counsels” suggests that they have some significance for the whole Church—not just for priests and monks and nuns. 1) Why does the Church celebrate this “alternative lifestyle”?  2) What is its significance for the whole Church?  Happily, today’s scripture readings provide us with rich material for reflection.

1) So why does the Church promote the lifestyle of poverty, chastity, and obedience?  The most basic answer is one of fact. Read the rest of this entry »

Only Karl Josef Becker, SJ after all?

February 4, 2012


Since I posted a theological introduction to cardinal-designate Fr. Karl Josef Becker some weeks back, Fr. Becker has ceased to be cardinal-designate, at least for the time being.  A letter saying as much was read two days ago at the community of the Gregorian University in Rome, at which time no reason was given.  Subsequently, official Vatican media outlets announced that, “for reasons of health, [Fr. Becker] will not be created cardinal during the public ceremony of February 18, but privately at another time”  (per motivi di salute, non verrà creato cardinale nel corso della cerimonia pubblica del 18 febbraio, ma in forma privata in altro momento).  Since some who presently live with Fr. Becker have failed to detect any notable frailty or sudden deterioration in his health, the announcement has given rise to perplexity.  The mention of a conferral “privately at another time” leaves open the possibility that Fr. Becker will receive the red hat eventually, but the phrase may also serve as a euphemism for an indefinite deferral.

This blogger, for his part, will refrain from speculation on this reversal of Fr. Becker’s fortunes.