Monday, September 26, 2016

Voting as a Catholic

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Do all Catholics vote their faith?  We all know the answer to that.  Lay faithful, deacons, priests, and bishops in the confines of the voting booth at times vote contrary to their faith.  Sometimes it is due to an ignorance of one’s faith in regards to voting; sometimes it is a lack of faith in the Church’s teachings, or a rejection of intrinsically evil acts, or simply self-interest. We are all flawed and frail human beings on a journey.
In an ideal world, however, how should a Catholic vote?  Hopefully, the following will be of help. 
             Catholics ideally should vote according to a hierarchy of values or rights.  What does this mean?  All rights and values are based upon life, on one’s existence!  All governmental policies presuppose life.  All acts of social justice such as those which relate to family life, universal healthcare, religious liberty, education, safety, shelter, job security, climate change, a sound immigration policy which combats human trafficking and the flow of illegal drugs etc., depend on the right to life—the first social justice right.  All policies that affect the dignity of the person presuppose the existence of the person.  To put it in another manner:  We need healthcare because we have a life that becomes ill.  We need a working wage because we have life in need of financial survival!  We need social security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, etc., because we have a life in need.  The protection of all forms of discrimination presuppose there is a life that can be discriminated against. Thus, protection of human life and threats to its protection are at the top of a hierarchy of values.  Protection of life from conception to natural death is at the heart of all Catholic rights and values. 
At the heart of the hierarchy of values is the belief in intrinsically evil acts—acts contrary to the natural law or in particular human nature.  Thus, one cannot vote for a candidate who supports intrinsically evil acts such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, cloning, embyronic (vs. adult) stem cell research, hybridization, etc.
            Given the above, what do we do when we are faced with candidates that promote intrinsically evil acts, even misinformed Catholic politicians?  One must vote for the candidate, as the USCCB explains, according to “the art of the possible.”  In the words of the USCCB, one must “vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance…morally flawed positions…” (cf. 14-16).
              What does that mean in practice?  In the United States, one must vote for a pro-life candidate over a pro-choice candidate, since all other rights and values depend upon life.  Could there ever be a time when one could vote for a pro-choice candidate and against a pro-life candidate?  Yes, however, the conditions necessary for such a vote—at least at this time in American history--do not exist in the United States.   Given that between 3000 and 4000 children are aborted in the United States every day, and that one-third of women who have had an abortion suffer some form of PTSD, human life at its most innocent and fragile state is the number one social justice issue.

But what do you do if you have two pro-life individuals or two pro-abortion politicians? You go down to the next moral right or series of rights and values according to the hierarchy.
While I cannot give the complete list within the hierarchy of values—given the limitations of any article—I highly encourage Catholics to review the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.  It is organized according to the following hierarchy of major moral issues facing our times:  Human Life, Promoting Peace, Marriage and the Family, Religious Freedom, the Preferential Option for the Poor and Economic Justice, Healthcare, Migration, Catholic Education, Promoting Justice and Countering Violence, Combatting Unjust Discrimination, Care for Our Common Home, Communications, Media and Culture, and Global Solidarity.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Francis: The Dialogue between Faith and Reason

Lumen Fidei

32. Christian faith, inasmuch as it proclaims the truth of God’s total love and opens us to the power of that love, penetrates to the core of our human experience. Each of us comes to the light because of love, and each of us is called to love in order to remain in the light. Desirous of illumining all reality with the love of God made manifest in Jesus, and seeking to love others with that same love, the first Christians found in the Greek world, with its thirst for truth, an ideal partner in dialogue. The encounter of the Gospel message with the philosophical culture of the ancient world proved a decisive step in the evangelization of all peoples, and stimulated a fruitful interaction between faith and reason which has continued down the centuries to our own times. Blessed John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, showed how faith and reason each strengthen the other.[27] Once we discover the full light of Christ’s love, we realize that each of the loves in our own lives had always contained a ray of that light, and we understand its ultimate destination. That fact that our human loves contain that ray of light also helps us to see how all love is meant to share in the complete self-gift of the Son of God for our sake. In this circular movement, the light of faith illumines all our human relationships, which can then be lived in union with the gentle love of Christ.

33. In the life of Saint Augustine we find a significant example of this process whereby reason, with its desire for truth and clarity, was integrated into the horizon of faith and thus gained new understanding. Augustine accepted the Greek philosophy of light, with its insistence on the importance of sight. His encounter with Neoplatonism introduced him to the paradigm of the light which, descending from on high to illumine all reality, is a symbol of God. Augustine thus came to appreciate God’s transcendence and discovered that all things have a certain transparency, that they can reflect God’s goodness. This realization liberated him from his earlier Manichaeism, which had led him to think that good and evil were in constant conflict, confused and intertwined. The realization that God is light provided Augustine with a new direction in life and enabled him to acknowledge his sinfulness and to turn towards the good.

All the same, the decisive moment in Augustine’s journey of faith, as he tells us in the Confessions, was not in the vision of a God above and beyond this world, but in an experience of hearing. In the garden, he heard a voice telling him: "Take and read". He then took up the book containing the epistles of Saint Paul and started to read the thirteenth chapter of the Letter to the Romans.[28] In this way, the personal God of the Bible appeared to him: a God who is able to speak to us, to come down to dwell in our midst and to accompany our journey through history, making himself known in the time of hearing and response.

Yet this encounter with the God who speaks did not lead Augustine to reject light and seeing. He integrated the two perspectives of hearing and seeing, constantly guided by the revelation of God’s love in Jesus. Thus Augustine developed a philosophy of light capable of embracing both the reciprocity proper to the word and the freedom born of looking to the light. Just as the word calls for a free response, so the light finds a response in the image which reflects it. Augustine can therefore associate hearing and seeing, and speak of "the word which shines forth within".[29] The light becomes, so to speak, the light of a word, because it is the light of a personal countenance, a light which, even as it enlightens us, calls us and seeks to be reflected on our faces and to shine from within us. Yet our longing for the vision of the whole, and not merely of fragments of history, remains and will be fulfilled in the end, when, as Augustine says, we will see and we will love.[30] Not because we will be able to possess all the light, which will always be inexhaustible, but because we will enter wholly into that light.

34. The light of love proper to faith can illumine the questions of our own time about truth. Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual. A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems. But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set free from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good. As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual. Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman. Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.

Nor is the light of faith, joined to the truth of love, extraneous to the material world, for love is always lived out in body and spirit; the light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus. It also illumines the material world, trusts its inherent order and knows that it calls us to an ever widening path of harmony and understanding. The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)--Prince of Apologetics

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Robert Bellarmine is often referred to as the “Prince of Apologetics” for his astute defense of the Catholic faith during the age of the Protestant Reformation.  In an age of religious controversy, Bellarmine reaffirmed Catholics by defending the Church and the Papacy. 

Robert Bellarmine began his career studying medicine.  At the age of sixteen, however, his interests turned to philosophy, theology, and the religious life.  He entered the Jesuit order at the age of eighteen. 

Robert Bellarmine had a long career as an academic.  He taught humanities in Florence and Mondovi and taught theology in Louvain.  Most of his teaching career was exercised at the Roman College between 1576 to 1588.  He became the Rector of the Roman College in 1592. 

In 1597 Bellarmine was appointed a Cardinal and a theologian to the Popes—helping to revise the Latin Vulgate under Pope Gregory XIV.  In 1594 Robert became the Superior of the Jesuits of Naples.  In 1602 he became the Archbishop of Capua.

Bellarmine published thirty-seven works and thousands of letters.  His catechisms have been translated into sixty-two languages. 

His most famous work is The Controversies.  It is an apologetical work defending Catholic teaching against mostly Anglican, Lutheran, and Calvinist Protestant attacks.  Like the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, Bellarmine used the Apostles’ Creed for the setting of his work.  His knowledge of Protestant theology was so precise that many Protestants praised him for his honest and scholarly depiction of Protestant thought.  His work, however, also brought fierce opposition—Queen Elizabeth I of England made the possession of the book a capital offense. 

As with every great theologian and saint, Robert Bellarmine had a developed Mariology.  He was a firm defender of the Immaculate Conception—technically being the first bishop in history to call for a formal declaration of the doctrine through a Papal Bull.  He also was a strong supporter of Mary as the Mediatrix of Graces.

Perhaps his greatest legacy finds itself at Vatican I, the council that affirmed papal infallibility.  As Thomas Aquinas’ writings were instrumental at the Council of Trent, Bellarmine’s were instrumental at Vatican I council.  Vatican I quoted extensively from Robert Bellarmine’s teachings on papal infallibility and primacy. 

Bellarmine was a meek, compassionate, humorous, and intellectually brilliant cleric.  His love and support for the poor, and his simple living, earned him praise by all who knew him.

Robert Bellarmine was part of the counter-reformation.  His life and work brought a renewal to Catholicism in Europe.