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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Eating the Human From the Inside

The fall of the human being into distance from God was the fall from what it truly means to be human. We do not sin because we are human, but because we start to become more and more inhuman.   And just as we cannot love God whom we have not seen unless we love our neighbor whom we have seen, the more inhuman we become, the more we hate God, the less we love him.  When we detach ourselves from the value and dignity of human life and become anti-life, disguised as pro-some "choice" , instead of pro-life, we truly disfigure our humanity.  through this our whole culture is becoming inhuman.  And that inhumanity is eating, destroying the human from inside.

Two news stories that touch on this have come to my attention in the last few days.  I have chosen to comment on both of them as a temper of our times. 

The first story I found on a blog post on Patheos, and it has been confirmed as a real story.  According to the post, under the Netherlands voluntary euthanasia policy, a doctor has  terminated the life of a 41 year old father of two, because he found life intolerable as an alcoholic.  Rand to means of rather than "do no harm" as a doctor and direct the person to treatment, to AA, to means of getting sober, the doctor chose to say yes, your life has no value unless your our sober, and yes, give up all hope of becoming sober.  This amounts to a death penalty for being an alcoholic, even though the victim consents.  

Another voluntary victim of this "mercy killing" was killed because of her PTSD stemming of childhood sexual abuse.  To kill the victim of the crime of abuse  rather than support her, is an attack on all suffering victims of early childhood abuse.  

 Euthanasia as a legal matter began with that sovereign nation, Germany, in the 30's, first applied to disabled children, then later the mass slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and political dissidents. Millions died. This has begun as voluntary euthanasia for those on the verge of death, but now it is growing to other---The notion that an alcoholic is incurable was debunked by AA, yet here it is used as an excuse to expand the scope of this law. And the Dutch are considering expansion of the of the law to include those who feel they have lead full lives. But the ugly truth about Dutch euthanasia is that as the doctors have become comfortable with killing patients, covert involuntary killings of patients have been occurring more frequently than in the past. So Roy, in fact it is willy-nilly down the slippery slope. Free and independent nations threaten destruction with A-Bombs, etc, use the death penalty widely, kill in abortion and I speak out against all those, so I shall on this as well. When I was a child or young adult, this "mercy killing" idea was only advocated by loose wing nuts. Gradually it became acceptable by the work of spin doctors who relabeled the robbery of human life and dignity as "death with dignity." Euthanasia is eating our humanity from the inside. 

But this horror is not limited to the Dutch alone.  Recently, according to the Churchpop website, France's Council of State has banned the showing of a video on television that shows  Downs Syndrome children as leading happy lives.  The rationale:  that this pro-life video would make mothers who had aborted their Down's Syndrome children "feel bad" about their choice.  It is however quite acceptable for medical professionals to make mothers feel bad about bearing such a child to term. Ac.cording to the article 90% of Down's Syndrome children in Eurpoe and the United States are killed by abortion 

The Liberty of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" goes out the window when it interferes with the process of robbing the dignity and value of human life.  Again, we destroy our humanity from the inside. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Catholic Teaching and the Right of Human Beings to Water

One of the greatest looming crisis in the world today is the global water shortage. Both secular and religious social justice advocates are concerned with this and Catholics in particular are applying CST (Catholic Social Teaching for my non-Catholic friends) to this. I have always been concerned with inequality and it's savage effects, as a Catholic child, as a fallen away Catholic, and as a returned Catholic. But returning late in adulthood, and studying CST I have gained a entirely new set of tools to use on this problem. I thank my old Santa Cruz friend Kim MacKay for this article and here is my take: Water is becoming a a point of conflict between global capitalism and the poor of the world. It is being treated as private property of investors. Catholic social teaching starts with certain simple premises: the dignity and right to survive of every human being, The "universal destination of goods" (that the good things of the earth are ultimately everyone's, as in Eden), the good of private property (that it protects people) and balancing the three, the Common Good, by which the universal destination of goods and the right of all to survive places limits on the right of private property, sometimes completely overcoming it. Aquinas, for instance, allowed that with no other remedies available, a person had the right to steal for survival. Nestle, a global beverage company, is asserting it's right of private property against the rights of rural and urban poor and farmers to water for survival. The Catholic church and secular critics are not in agreement, nor am I.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Breast Feeding Jesus

My rosary meditations may sometimes lead  me down strange paths.  My meditations one the nativity has led me deeper into the relationship between Jesus and Mary.  In Rosary meditations my practice, as that of many others is to imaginatively model the behavior and thoughts of a character in the rosary mystery.  For those who don't know, the prayers of the rosary are organized into decades of ten Hail Mary's and an Our Father, each with a "mystery" of biblical origin, such as the "Nativity of Jesus" to meditate on while praying.  For me, meditating on the nativity leads naturally to the closeness of Mary and Jesus.

There is no closer moment between a mother and child than the moment of breast feeding  Since the Virgin became the subject of painting, the depiction of Mary nursing Jesus has been the way to show there intimacy and union.

In the Gospel of Luke the good doctor records that Mary remembered and contemplated all the moment of the nativity and infancy of Jesus. As a mother may become as one with the child while nursing, the Virgin was remembering and contemplating her union with God incarnate.

Through experience and practice at the rosary, and letting the grace of God lead me in my understanding of the words and images the rosary meditation stirs up, I have been able to add a great deal of physical sensation to my identification with the characters of the biblical stories.  I believe it it within the reach of anyone who is deep in prayer to do this, and that it is the gateway to the stage none as "contemplation"  Contemplation is that stage of prayer were one simply listens to the Word of God" or gazes on the Sacred Images or otherwise moves into higher awareness of of the Divine Presence.  I believe some of the painters of Sacred Images were in or moving towards this stage when they painted.  this has occurred from the most ancient times to modernity.

I have been mediating on the experience of Mary nursing Jesus attempting to overcome the limits of my gender experience in identifying with Mary.  And through God's grace I have had some limited success in visualizing and physical knowing the act of feeding Jesus. It may seem impossible to some, but while never having had a crown of thorns on my head, I have had some limited experience of the thorns in meditating on them. I advocate the use of this technique to deepen ones prayer.

Perhaps, as in this painting above, I should imagine Mary's Joy in suckling Jesus. My effort is to enter Mary's union with her child, through her help and God's grace. In the Benediction and Eastern Orthodox  traditions of Christianity union with God is the usual described object of contemplation.  It is to be understood that as creatures approaching the Unknowable, such unity is never complete, but that it does change us and our relationship to God.  This is the experience I seek and urge all you who pray to seek.  

The above is an eastern icon of Mary nursing her child.  Icons deliberately exclude anything that might lead someone away from contemplation of God.  For instance the eyes are flat and non-reflective.  The figures have a graceful simplicity of form so that we are drawn to nothing but there relationship to God. Icons point us to God.  One could pray the rosary and and the same time view an icon such as this.  The tradition with icons is to begin to commit them to memory so that you can remain in contemplation of them.  I believe that it is possible to reconcile the contemplative listening to the Word and the contemplative gazing upon images through such efforts.   Finally I leave you with a hymn to the Theotokos, the Mother of God. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Catholic Hordes and Catholic Action.

The Irish Potato Famine of starting in 1845-1855 started a massive wave of Irish immigration to the United States. The Nativist backlash, sometimes refereed to as the Know Nothing movement because of it's secrecy called the newly arrive "Catholic Hordes. ".  The 1.5 million Irish who came during that period were matched by 1.4 million Catholic, Protestant and Jewish Germans. French Canadians, like some of my own ancestors, also added to the largely Catholic "hordes" Later, in the first two decades of the 20th Century, largely Catholic Italians, Eastern  and Basques from Spain arrived.  By 1910 there were over 16 million Catholics in the U.S. and immigration continued to swell our numbers.   It is largely because of this immigration that Catholics today are the largest religious body in then U.S.

This immigration changed the character of American and build it up, industrially, culturally and spiritually.  That was possible largely because of generally tolerant immigration laws, except for anti-Asian laws.  The Constitution gave to Congress the power to establish a uniform naturalization law.   Later, the 14th Amendment protected the rights of all children born in the U.S. In 1875 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may not pass there own immigration laws, that under the Constitution, including the 14th Amendment, immigration is the province of the federal government.  Some of the few limits to immigration were laws excluding lunatics, the illiterate,infection disease carriers and anarchists. Immigration through points of entry, like Ellis island, was usually easy, but becoming a naturalized citizen was a much longer process. The border with Mexico was fluid, with many families having lived, worked and owned land for generations both in Mexico and in the Southwest to the point that it may have been unclear to many of them which country they were citizens of. It was only in the 1920's, after World War I, that the U.S. initiated strict immigration quotas, the Emergency Quota Act.   Similar, more complex plans followed.  It was largely after this that anything like "illegal" or "undocumented" immigration emerged, largely from the countries with the lowest quotas or in the Southwest from those who continued to go back and forth across the border. during the 1930's depression millions were "repatriated" across the border to Mexico, regardless of their documentation status.

The Know  Nothings, none as the American Party, emerged in the 1850's as the first of many anti-immigration and anti-Catholic organizations.   Another secret Society, the American Protective Association was founded in 1887 by Protestants to oppose Catholics and immigration.   Various sub-groups, fraternal organizations and splinter groups came out of it.   The Klu Klux Klan revived in the 1920's  as a nativist and pro-Jim Crow organization.  Anti-Chinese  racism  during this period also created Chinese exclusion laws.

Angel Island immigrants

What Was the Catholic Response? 

First from the 19th Century on priests and religious orders were brought from  the "home countries" to minister to the new immigrants. Parishes, schools, charitable organizations, mutual aid groups, hospitals and other organizations were created to meet the need.  Saint Mother Cabrini founded an order of religious sisters to aid the immigrants. Parochial schools were largely about giving this  population an opportunity for advancement. In the 1920's a National Catholic Welfare Conference concerned itself with legislation, education, and social action for Catholics, and started a Social Action Department to aid immigrants this organization eventually became the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference. 


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Diatessarons of Gospel Films Vs. Film as Icon

Diatessorn?  Don't bother running to your Oxford Dictionary for the meaning.  I have borrowed it from the title of a mid-second attempt to harmonize the four Gospel--causing deletions, confusion and lack of consistency, and missing the unique purpose of each Gospel--but in the positive creating an easy reference for the essentials of the story.  The Diatessorn (made of four ingredients) was composed by Tiatin, a Christian apologist and an Assyrian.  Inevitably, to harmonize the four, important parts of the Gospels were excluded,  and while consistent within itself, the consistency to the separate accounts is lost. The unique emphasis of each Gospel is muddled.

As someone who has worked with religious films series and viewed many biblical films, I view the fact that most Gospel films draw on more than one Gospel account and sometimes non-biblical sources as a problem for the artistic and religious value of these films.  The harmonization of the Jesus story in film has produced bland Jesus's, mediocre story telling and theological error. Most of the controversy in Gibson's "The Passion" was caused by the inclusion of material from the visions of mystics. Zefferilli's "Jesus of Nazareth" comes closer to a successful harmonization, but it portrays Judas as duped into betraying Jesus. Theological errors creep into such films simply because the directors and script writers are not viewing the Gospels as each being a unique authority, and because there are seemingly contradictory elements in each account that represent parts of the unique message of them.

"Jesus of Nazareth"

"The Passion"

In contrast, some Gospel Films such as John Heyman's "Jesus" (1979) and Pier Passolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew" avoid this problem by choosing one account. I haven't seen Heyman's film, but I'll include  some of it of it from You Tube. Passolini's film, by contrast, I have seen several times. Passolini was a Marxist, an atheist and a homosexual, and yet his film was, up until Heyman's movie, the most faithful Gospel film.  He included absolutely no language not found in Matthew's story.  His photographic staging did, however, inevitably color the story somewhat with his belief in Jesus as figure in class struggle, but it was otherwise completely faithful-- to the point where the hard sayings of Jesus hit home and trouble some viewers.


"The Gospel According to St. Matthew"

There are other films, such as Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" depart even further.  It is based on the novel of the same name by Kazantzakis, a Greek writer of Gnostic tendency who used his imagination, and not the Gospels, as his primary source. The sexuality of the novel becomes even more problematic in full splendor on the screen.  While even in this film there is a distorted reflection of the gospel Christ, it is faithful to nothing the Gospel's teach.

"The Last Temptation of Christ"

When a Gospel film uses multiple texts, perhaps even non-Gospel sources and the imagination of writers, however vivid and creative, they stray from the essential function of a Gospel film religiously and artistically.  A mislocation of the function of the art in this context has occurred.  It goes back to the ancient purpose of religious painting as defined in the early debates about Icons.  In the early church some wanted no depiction of God or the saints for fear that idols where being produced. Besides the matters of who was being depicted, and for what purpose, there was another defense of icons offered.  Not only were these depictions of God and his saints as opposed to pagan gods, and objects to promote the Christian faith, but they were designed to refer away from themselves. Icons were not painted to draw one into them as objects of worship or devotion in themselves, but rather were made to point away, towards God in heaven, towards the mysterious and unknowable God.  In that sense, Passollini's film perhaps becomes the closest thing to an icon in film.


Diatessaron - Wikipedia,

The Problem of the Cinamatic Jesus

Icon - Wikipedia

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Women In Black

Today  Seattle's Women in Black/Homeless Remembrance project held it's monthly vigil for the homeless who have died.  There is a world wide Women in black movement composed of diverse and not necessarily affiliated groups who hold vigils to give witness for peace and justice. In Seattle one Women in Black group holds peace vigil's, and the other gives witness to those who have died in or because of the condition of homelessness.

At the vigil downtown today four who died were remembered:

Jeffery Davis, 44 by suicide 1/4/2015

James Carlson, 56 outside, cause of death pending 1/7/2015

Kevin Guempel, 49 , cause of death pending 1/13/2015

Juri Skolin, 60, found on Third Ave., cause of death pending.

According to the Women in Black 45 homeless people died by violence or outdoors in 2014 and since then 5 more.  The Women in Black leaflet calls on us to be a community and to support a basic social network including shelter. It calls on us to stand with them and to support the Homeless Remembrance Project.  This project is tied to Wheel, a project to organize homeless women.

A Women in Black vigil 5 years ago:

To give witness, to hold a vigil, it to be a constant reminder of what is good as against an evil.  It calls on all of use for better behavior, most especially on those with power and authority.  It prevents us from forgetting a problem.

It is within the Christian tradition to give witness.  Jesus said that he would divide households. This is what witness does.  Before we can be united for what is good, some have to divide from something that it not good.  In the case of the homeless, someone has to give witness to the fact that the homeless are being dehumanized, robbed of their dignity, and denied basic human needs.  The homeless go not only without shelter, but without hygiene and personal security.

Information on the Homeless Remembrance Project can be found here:

Homeless Remembrance Project

Here is information on Wheel:

Women's Housing Equality and Enhancement League

Here is information on the movement worldwide:

Vigils Around the World

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Living the Rooming House Blues

One subject I have not touched on much in my writing is the actual manner of life in a rooming house.It is part of the economic condition of   the low income students and workers, the unemployed and the disabled who live in rooming houses and shared housing that there is very little home life.  Relationships in the home are transitory and most are superficial.Space is limited and communal activities are limited.
 I have had some goo friendship develop from contact with roommates, and many who at least remain Facebook friends.  but this relationships were cultivated by going against the isolation and difficult living circumstances found in a rooming house.
One of the things I do every year, to attempt to build community, is to try to involve roommates in some kind of Christmas  celebration.  I put up a creche set, I go by a tree.  I break out the decorations and try to get a tree decorating party going with a little music. Maybe we watch a Christmas movie.   I can do a little to impart my faith in this while respecting where others come from.
I also make coffee every morning to share with my fellow rooming house denizens.  I  very the coffee blend to keep it interesting.  Sometimes we wind up drinking coffee together and talking.  More on rooming house life at a latter date.