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 »

American Catholicism: The Commonweal ’64 – ’65

December 6, 2011

Not really from our time period, but it was the best I could do...

On the 8th of January 1965, on page four hundred and ninety five of The Commonweal, on the right hand side of the page, we find an advertisement.  It depicts the profile of a man in a tie placing a cigarette to his lips.  The matching tagline reads: “Can a priest be a modern man?”  The copy below clarifies that Priests can be men of “this age, cognizant of the needs of modern men.”  Free from formalism, the priest is a pioneer, a missionary to his own people, utilizing his individual talents and modern technology to preach the word of God.  A clearer image of the changing demographics and temperament of the American Catholic Church (as painted by Commonweal during this time) is difficult to find.

With these issues we step not only into the middle ‘60s, but into a world and Church beginning to look like those with which I am familiar.  In September of ’64 we see not only the third session of the Council opening, but also the incipient Free Speech Movement in Berkeley.  November brings the victory of Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater, and the initiation of English into the liturgy.  1965 sees the assassination of Malcolm X and the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the Watts riots in Los Angeles, and anti-war protests springing up across the country.  Commonweal keeps pace with such modern events.  In its pages we begin to see Church conflicts framed along a progressive/conservative divide and phrases such as the “post-Christian West” and the “re-conversion of Europe.”  Commonweal even describes its mission as one that meshes perfectly with the signs of the times, writing in an self-advertisement: “Now, in the new climate engendered by Popes John and Paul, this widely quoted, lay-edited journal of opinion has more to contribute that in the years before.”  And contribute it does, the questions are: what does it contribute?  Why?  And to what end? Read the rest of this entry »

Newman on the Sensus Fidelium

November 1, 2011


Procession in Honor the Immaculate Conception

Nathan recently brought up the knotty subject of the role of the so-called supernatural sense of faith (or “the faithful”) in the explication of Church teaching.  Using Newman as a point of departure (since it seems to be to Newman’s intellect, cardinal’s hat, and sanctity that the concept owes much of its present authority), I thought I might throw in my two cents on the matter.  It seems that the heart of the vexed discussion about the “supernatural sense of faith” is twofold: 1) determining the proper uses of the sensus fidelium, 2) and identifying genuine fideles.  Drawing from “On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine” and “Note 5” to Arians of the Fourth Century, I’ll take up the first point in this post.

Beginning with the correct application, then, I would point out that Newman himself was at pains, no less than Donum Veritatis, to distinguish what he meant by “consulting the faithful” from “a kind of sociological argumentation”(DV 35).  Against the many who took Newman, when praising the practice of “consulting the faithful in matters of doctrine” to be suggesting a plebiscite or an ongoing opinion poll, Newman clarifies that

the English word “consult,” in its popular and ordinary use … is doubtless a word expressive of trust and deference, but not of submission. It includes the idea of inquiring into a matter of fact, as well as asking a judgment. Thus we talk of “consulting our barometer” about the weather:—the barometer only attests the fact of the state of the atmosphere. In like manner, we may consult a watch or a sun-dial about the time of day. A physician consults the pulse of his patient; but not in the same sense in which his patient consults him. It is but an index of the state of his health . . . .  This being considered, it was, I conceive, quite allowable for a writer, who was not teaching or treating theology, but, as it were, conversing, to say, as in the passage in question, “In the preparation of a dogmatic definition, the faithful are consulted.”

So Newman, no less than Donum Veritatis, is pretty clear that the consulting the faithful is not done by focus groups or other quantitative methods.  By likening the supernatural sense of the faithful to a barometer, a sun-dial, and a pulse (hardly the stuff of an “Occupy-the-Church”-style empowerment), Newman suggests a real but limited use for such consultation. Read the rest of this entry »