Into the quagmire of modern secular society

Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

Go ahead, read that again. I’ll wait.

That texts is no joke, not even a very tasteless one. It is an abstract of a paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. This is a serious proposal.

Newborns are somehow inferior to other human beings, the fact that they’ll grow into ‘normal’ people is irrelevant, and adoption is not always ideal, so it’s okay to murder a baby if we don like it.

Lord Alton, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group in the UK, has rightly said that this development, and the thought processes behind it, “illustrates not a slippery slope, but the quagmire into which medical ethics and our wider society have been sucked”.

A baby, not actually a human being, apparently.

The slippery slope that we are one, since we live in a society (especially here in the Netherlands) which allows the killing of children before birth, leads to a quagmire in which it is okay to kill a child at any age, since it is okay to do so until a random number of weeks after conception.

What will these lead to? From accepting killing the unborn, will we go to the killing of newborn, to the killing of anyone who is undesired?  What kind of sick situation are we in when it is even accepted to consider something like this? In the past, proponents of abortion hid behind the pretense that is was somehow for the best interest of the mother (and sometimes the child), but the authors of the paper linked above don’t even bother doing that. They essentially say that when a child is somehow undesired, or when raising him or her will somehow be difficult, due to whatever circumstances (not even necessarily related to  the health of the child), it should be allowed to murder it in cold blood.

Just exercising my right to kill, your honour. No big deal.

Make sure you also read ‘After-birth abortion’ is logically sound: that’s why it will boost the pro-life movement.


New cardinal on the block

The block being the blogosphere, that is.

More than once have I noted with satisfaction that an increasing number of cardinals are finding their way to social media and especially blogs, Twitter and Facebook. There are Cardinal Seán‘s weekly roundups of the things he has done and experienced, and Cardinals Napier, Ravasi and Scola on Twitter, to name but a few.

New among them i the archbishop of Washington, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, who started his blog Seek First the Kingdom on Sunday. Of the reason for starting his blog, he says, “What I would like to do in this blog is to talk about our Catholic faith, what it teaches, why it is so important, certainly to me, and why, I hope, it would be important to you”. A simple but lofty goal, and hopefully an example that more cardinals, bishops, priests and lay Catholics will follow. Let’s get our voice out there!

Afternoon reading: Signs for all time

In today’s Gospel reading at Mass, Jesus gets serious, even somewhat angry. Anyone who is a parent, will recognise this, I would imagine; the exasperation at a child who seems to be willfully ignorant of things you’ve told him countless times already.

“The crowds got even bigger and he addressed them, ‘This is an evil generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation.
On Judgement Day the Queen of the South will stand up against the people of this generation and be their condemnation, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, look, there is something greater than Solomon here.
On Judgement Day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented; and, look, there is something greater than Jonah here.”

Luke 11:29-32

Jesus refers back to two episodes from the Old Testament: the story of the Jonah and that of the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10: 1-10). He compares the people asking for a sign of who He was, with these historical people: both believed something less greater than Him upon seeing it – Jonah’s call for repentance and Solomon’s wisdom. People did not continue asking for more signs of wisdom or proof of God’s anger, but at some point they believed in them.

Those signs, and more, are given for all time. They are related to us in Scripture and Tradition, and we are invited to take them seriously, to base our faith on them, just as much as on our personal relationship with God.

The Lord is not a magician who will perform the same trick over and over again. They are not tricks, even, and in a sense the refusal to keep giving signs is an indication of how seriously God takes us. He doesn’t tell us to sit back and let Him take care of everything faithwise. No, He gives us the means to do it for ourselves and grow in the process, just like a parent at one point allows their child to learn things by doing and so grow.

Art credit: “The Jews ask for a sign from Jesus”, woodcut by an unknown artist, published in Jerome Nadal’s Evangelicae Historiae Imagines (1593). In the background Jonah’s whale and the Queen of Sheba’s retinue are visible.

The leap year saints

Pope St. Hilarius

Every day in the Church is some saint’s day. There are so many of them, that not a day goes by or we don’t commemorate a handful, and that’s not even counting all those who we don’t know, but who lived no less holy lives. These feast days of saints are neatly structured according to the Martyrologium Romanum: each saint his own day (unless you’re the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example; she gets a bunch of feast days throughout the year).

Leap years are a bit problematic. According to the general logic of the martyrology, the saints whose feast falls on 29 February are commemorated only once every four years. And that won’t do, of course. A cursory search of the Internet reveals at least four saints whose feast day falls today, but they are all transferred from either yesterday or tomorrow. The Church seems to abhor a vacuum of saints on any given day, it would seem. Moved back from yesterday are, for example, St. Hilarius, pope from 461 to 468, and Saints Romanus and Lupicinus, two fifth-century hermit brothers in eastern France. Moved forward from tomorrow are, for example, Saint Albinus of Angers, sixth-century monk and bishop from Britanny, and St. Oswald of Worcester, tenth-century archbishop of York.

The Church may have been the instigator of our modern calendar with its leap years, but even she has to be creative when it comes to the feast days of saints.

Evening reflection: Faith and good deeds

A short reflection today, as evening progresses. It’s the reading from tonight’s Vespers:

“How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation? In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead. Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith.”

James 2: 14, 17, 18b

Faith by itself is nice and all, but if it doesn’t find expression, it’s actually a bit useless. We can all think of good deeds that can be done out of faith: from almsgiving to prayer. The last line from the above passage offers a very interesting thought: faith must be shown in deeds. Without a visible manifestation, you simply can’t go around saying you have faith. They’ll just be empty words.

So, we must live our faith, allow it to permeate every part of our being and our doing. That’ll keep our faith alive.

Art credit: An image of Abraham at the altar where he was to have sacrificed his son Isaac, from a prayer card by an unknown artist. Abraham’s prevented sacrifice of his son, was, of course, an action he could only submit because of his faith.

The return of the donation button – the whys and wherefores

In the bar on the left side of this blog, watchful readers will have spotted the return of the Paypal donation button. After some initial difficulties getting it to work properly, I decided to get it up and running again and ask my much-appreciated readers to consider a donation to keep this blog, and associated activities, up and running. For me, this blog is the main vehicle for my efforts to offer Catholic opinion and information from the Netherlands, surrounding countries and Rome to the wider world, be that near or far. Since nothing in this world, apart from the mercy of our Lord, comes for free, and considering the fact that some other bloggers, including some which I consider examples, do the same, I want to offer readers the chance to donate to the cause of good Catholic information about the Church in this part of Europe.

I am most certainly not asking for money, or charging people to read my stuff. No, that donation button is nothing more than a means for readers to show their appreciation if they so choose, be it for my scribblings or the purpose I have in keeping this blog running. You don’t have to donate, but you’re welcome to do so, any amount you choose.

What will happen with your donations? In the first place, it’ll be traded for time. Time to write, time to study, time to work in God’s vineyard in my own small way. If you want your donation to be spent on some specific thing, you can specify that in your payment.

I will also keep all who donate, and their intentions, in my prayers.

Lastly, if you want to donate something, but not necessarily to this blog, please consider Father Roderick’s Vastenaktie project for school children in Ethiopia. Click on the purple button to donate. To learn more, listen to his Inside Ethiopia podcasts, chronicling his recent trip to the African country, to find out the details.

PS: As the first donation has arrived, let me thank the kind and generous reader responsible. You are in my prayers.

‘Living with Christ’ – Cardinal Eijk’s pastoral letter on the Eucharist

A week after its publication date of Ash Wednesday, I finished my translation of Cardinal Eijk’s Pastoral Letter on the Eucharist. The letter was sent to all parishes in the Archdiocese of Utrecht, to foster “reflection and consideration, individually and communally, on the meaning of the Eucharist as source and summit of Christian life,” as auxiliary Bishop Hoogenboom writes in the accompanying letter of recommendation.

Whatever cause and reason for the letter, it is a very good letter for all Catholics, as it offers a thorough introduction to what the Eucharist is and how we relate to it, in all its myriad aspects. If you don’t have any reading for Lent, I suggest this pastoral letter. It’s a lengthy read, but offers plenty of good food for thought.

The Eucharist is source and summit of our lives as Christians. We owe it to ourselves and to the Lord to know what we are doing and what we are talking about, if we in any way take ourselves seriously as Catholics.

In Mainz, Bishop Guballa passes on

This afternoon, Bishop Werner Guballa, auxiliary if the Diocese of Mainz, succumbed to severe pneumonia, after a battle with pancreatic cancer which began in June of last year. Bishop Guballa was 67. Half an hour ago, the largest bell of the tower of the Cathedral of Saints Martin of Tour and Stephen rang to announce his passing.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Bishop Guballa spoke of his disease:

“I am ill and I accept the will of God in that. But I also say to God: “Help me to find a way. I am not so much concerned about the disease, but about the road to health. […] I will  fight [the disease], provided I have the power to do so. I said to my tumor: “You will not have the last word”. […] I go my way, not with fear, but with confidence.”

Bishop Guballa was appointed auxiliary bishop of Mainz in February of 2003, and held the titular see of Catrum. He was the first titular bishop of that Algerian see. Within the German Bishops’ Conference, he was responsible for the portfolio of Marriage and Family.

Remaining in the diocesan curia of Mainz are Bishop Karl Cardinal Lehmann and Auxiliary Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr.


Afternoon reflection: Worship

A late reflection today, in part because we’re looking at part of  the Scripture reading from today’s Vespers. Here, in the Letter to the Romans (12:1-2), we are reminded of the kind of worship that we as people should perform.

“I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people. Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and mature.”

We have already learned earlier that we are to be our own sacrifices (our “broken and contrite hearts” – Ps. 51:17), as this passage’s first line repeats. The text now adds that our sacrifice  is in fact our way of worshipping God. It is fitting for us as “sensible people”.We may ask ourselves of our worship – our prayer, our Mass attendance – is anything like that. Or is our worship perhaps more based on what we do? If we lead a prayer group perhaps, are especially pious in our prayer, or if we are lector, acolyte  or sacristan at Mass? All these duties, fine and necessary as they are, are exterior features and have nothing to do with being “dedicated and acceptable to God”. Before anything else, we must remember “the mercies of God”. This opens us up to God, and, as later lines of the text tell us, this “is good and acceptable and mature”.

A hopeful sign

“I realise very well that a priest today is a walking question mark. I consciously wear a Roman collar. Older people are often surprised. Younger people recognise it mostly from movies. Because they can more easily recognise me as a priest, I can meet many people who entrust me with their questions.

Today we should, I think, in addition to the social engagement we have as Christians, dare to focus more on the vertical axis, on the spiritual: to bring people to God”.

Words from Belgian Father Filip Hacour in an interview for Kerk & Leven. Fr. Hacour is a group leader for seminarians at the John XXIII seminary in Louvain, and it seems that he gets that the priesthood is more than just being socially active in a parish.