Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Year Without Toilet Paper

The Year Without Toilet Paper
Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Published: March 22, 2007

DINNER was the usual affair on Thursday night in Apartment 9F in an elegant prewar on Lower Fifth Avenue. There was shredded cabbage with fruit-scrap vinegar; mashed parsnips and yellow carrots with local butter and fresh thyme; a terrific frittata; then homemade yogurt with honey and thyme tea, eaten under the greenish flickering light cast by two beeswax candles and a fluorescent bulb.

A sour odor hovered oh-so-slightly in the air, the faint tang, not wholly unpleasant, that is the mark of the home composter. Isabella Beavan, age 2, staggered around the neo-Modern furniture — the Eames chairs, the brown velvet couch, the Lucite lamps and the steel cafe table upon which dinner was set — her silhouette greatly amplified by her organic cotton diapers in their enormous boiled-wool, snap-front cover.

A visitor avoided the bathroom because she knew she would find no toilet paper there.

Meanwhile, Joseph, the liveried elevator man who works nights in the building, drove his wood-paneled, 1920s-era vehicle up and down its chute, unconcerned that the couple in 9F had not used his services in four months. “I’ve noticed,” Joseph said later with a shrug and no further comment. (He declined to give his last name. “I’ve got enough problems,” he said.)

Welcome to Walden Pond, Fifth Avenue style. Isabella’s parents, Colin Beavan, 43, a writer of historical nonfiction, and Michelle Conlin, 39, a senior writer at Business Week, are four months into a yearlong lifestyle experiment they call No Impact. Its rules are evolving, as Mr. Beavan will tell you, but to date include eating only food (organically) grown within a 250-mile radius of Manhattan; (mostly) no shopping for anything except said food; producing no trash (except compost, see above); using no paper; and, most intriguingly, using no carbon-fueled transportation.

Mr. Beavan, who has written one book about the origins of forensic detective work and another about D-Day, said he was ready for a new subject, hoping to tread more lightly on the planet and maybe be an inspiration to others in the process.

Also, he needed a new book project and the No Impact year was the only one of four possibilities his agent thought would sell. This being 2007, Mr. Beavan is showcasing No Impact in a blog ( laced with links and testimonials from New Environmentalist authorities like His agent did indeed secure him a book deal, with Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and he and his family are being tailed by Laura Gabbert, a documentary filmmaker and Ms. Conlin’s best friend.

Why there may be a public appetite for the Conlin-Beavan family doings has a lot to do with the very personal, very urban face of environmentalism these days. Thoreau left home for the woods to make his point (and secure his own book deal); Mr. Beavan and Ms. Conlin and others like them aren’t budging from their bricks-and-mortar, haut-bourgeois nests.

Mr. Beavan looks to groups like the Compacters (, a collection of nonshoppers that began in San Francisco, and the 100 Mile Diet folks ( and, a Vancouver couple who spent a year eating from within 100 miles of their apartment, for tips and inspiration. But there are hundreds of other light-footed, young abstainers with a diarist urge: it is not news that this shopping-averse, carbon-footprint-reducing, city-dwelling generation likes to blog (the paperless, public diary form). They have seen “An Inconvenient Truth”; they would like to tell you how it makes them feel. If Al Gore is their Rachel Carson, blogalogs like Treehugger, and are their Whole Earth catalogs.

Andrew Kirk, an environmental history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, whose new book, “Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism,” will be published by University Press of Kansas in September, is reminded of environmentalism’s last big bubble, in the 1970s, long before Ronald Reagan pulled federal funding for alternative fuel technologies (and his speechwriters made fun of the spotted owl and its liberal protectors, a deft feat of propaganda that set the movement back decades). Those were the days when Stewart Brand and his Whole Earth writers, Mr. Kirk said, “focused on a brand of environmentalism that kept people in the picture.”

“That’s the thing about this current wave of environmentalism,” he continued. “It’s not about, how do we protect some abstract pristine space? It’s what can real people do in their home or office or whatever. It’s also very urban. It’s a critical twist in the old wilderness adage: Leave only footprints, take only photographs. But how do you translate that into Manhattan?”

With equals parts grace and calamity, it appears. Washed down with a big draught of engaging palaver.

Before No Impact — this is a phrase that comes up a lot — Ms. Conlin and Mr. Beavan were living a near parody of urban professional life. Ms. Conlin, who bought this apartment in 1999 when she was still single, used the stove so infrequently (as in, never, she said) that Con Edison called to find out if it was broken. (Mr. Beavan, now the family cook, questioned whether she had yet to turn it on. Ms. Conlin ignored him.)

In this household, food was something you dialed for.

“We would wake up and call ‘the man,’ ” Ms. Conlin said, “and he would bring us two newspapers and coffee in Styrofoam cups. Sometimes we’d call two men, and get bagels from Bagel Bob’s. For lunch I’d find myself at Wendy’s, with a Dunkin’ Donuts chaser. Isabella would point to guys on bikes and cry: ‘The man! The man!’ ”

Since November, Mr. Beavan and Isabella have been hewing closely, most particularly in a dietary way, to a 19th-century life. Mr. Beavan has a single-edge razor he has learned to use (it was a gift from his father). He has also learned to cook quite tastily from a limited regional menu — right now that means lots of apples and root vegetables, stored in the unplugged freezer — hashing out compromises. Spices are out but salt is exempt, Mr. Beavan said, because homemade bread “is awful without salt; salt stops the yeast action.” Mr. Beavan is baking his own, with wheat grown locally and a sour dough “mother” fermenting stinkily in his cupboard. He is also finding good sources at the nearby Union Square Greenmarket (like Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, which sells milk in reusable glass bottles). The 250-mile rule, by the way, reflects the longest distance a farmer can drive in and out of the city in one day, Mr. Beavan said.

Olive oil and vinegar are out; they used the last dregs of their bottle of balsamic vinegar last week, Mr. Beavan said, producing a moment of stunned silence while a visitor thought about life without those staples. Still, Mr. Beavan’s homemade fruit-scrap vinegar has a satisfying bite.

The television, a flat-screen, high-definition 46-incher, is long gone. Saturday night charades are in. Mr. Beavan likes to talk about social glue — community building — as a natural byproduct of No Impact. The (fluorescent) lights are still on, and so is the stove. Mr. Beavan, who has a Ph.D. in applied physics, has not yet figured out a carbon-fuel-free power alternative that will run up here on the ninth floor, though he does subscribe to Con Ed’s Green Power program, for which he pays a premium, and which adds a measure of wind and hydro power to the old coal and nuclear grid.

The dishwasher is off, along with the microwave, the coffee machine and the food processor. Planes, trains, automobiles and that elevator are out, but the family is still doing laundry in the washing machines in the basement of the building. (Consider the ramifications of no-elevator living in a vertical city: one day recently, when Frankie the dog had digestive problems, Mr. Beavan, who takes Isabella to day care — six flights of stairs in a building six blocks away — and writes at the Writers Room on Astor Place — 12 flights of stairs, also six blocks away — estimated that by nightfall he had climbed 115 flights of stairs.) And they have not had the heart to take away the vacuum from their cleaning lady, who comes weekly (this week they took away her paper towels).

Until three weeks ago, however, Ms. Conlin was following her “high-fructose corn syrup ways,” meaning double espressos and pastries administered daily. “Giving up the coffee was like crashing down from a crystal meth addiction,” she said. “I had to leave work and go to bed for 24 hours.”

Toothpaste is baking soda (a box makes trash, to be sure, but of a better quality than a metal tube), but Ms. Conlin is still wearing the lipstick she gets from a friend who works at Lancôme, as well as moisturizers from Fresh and Kiehl’s. When the bottles, tubes and jars are empty, Mr. Beavan has promised her homemade, rules-appropriate substitutes. (Nothing is a substitute for toilet paper, by the way; think of bowls of water and lots of air drying.)

Yet since the beginning of No Impact, and to the amusement of her colleagues at Business Week, Ms. Conlin has been scootering to her office on 49th Street each day, bringing a Mason jar filled with greenhouse greens, cheese and her husband’s bread for lunch, along with her own napkin and cutlery. She has taken a bit of ribbing: “All progress is carbon fueled,” jeered one office mate.

Ms. Conlin, acknowledging that she sees her husband as No Impact Man and herself as simply inside his experiment, said she saw “An Inconvenient Truth” in an air-conditioned movie theater last summer. “It was like, ‘J’accuse!’ ” she said. “I just felt like everything I did in my life was contributing to a system that was really problematic.” Borrowing a phrase from her husband, she continued, “If I was a student, I would march against myself.”

While Ms. Conlin is clearly more than just a good sport — giving up toilet paper seems a fairly profound gesture of commitment — she did describe, in loving detail, a serious shopping binge that predated No Impact and made the whole thing doable, she said. “It was my last hurrah,” she explained.

It included two pairs of calf-high Chloe boots (one of which was paid for, she said, with her mother’s bingo winnings) and added up to two weeks’ salary, after taxes and her 401(k) contribution.

The bingo windfall points to a loophole in No Impact: the Conlin-Beavan household does accept presents. When Mr. Beavan’s father saw Ms. Conlin scootering without gloves he sent her a pair. And allowances can be made for the occasional thrift shop purchase. For Isabella’s birthday on Feb. 25, her family wandered the East Village and ended up at Jane’s Exchange, where she chose a pair of ballet slippers as her gift.

“They cost a dollar,” Ms. Conlin said.

It was freezing cold that day, Mr. Beavan said, picking up the story. “We went into a restaurant to warm her up. We agonized about taking a cab, which we ended up not doing. I still felt like we really screwed up, though, because we ate at the restaurant.”

He said he called the 100 Mile Diet couple to confess his sin. They admitted they had cheated too, with a restaurant date, then told him, Yoda-like, “Only in strictness comes the conversion.”

Restaurants, which are mostly out in No Impact, present all sorts of challenges beyond the 250-mile food rule. “They always want to give Isabella the paper cup with the straw, and we have to send it back,” Mr. Beavan said. “We always say, ‘We’re trying not to make any trash.’ And some people get really into that and others clearly think we’re big losers.”

Living abstemiously on Lower Fifth Avenue, in what used to be Edith Wharton country, with early-21st-century accouterments like creamy, calf-high Chloe boots, may seem at best like a scene from an old-fashioned situation comedy and, at worst, an ethically murky exercise in self-promotion. On the other hand, consider this response to Mr. Beavan’s Internet post the day he and his family gave up toilet paper.

“What’s with the public display of nonimpactness?” a reader named Bruce wrote on March 7. “Getting people to read a blog on their 50-watt L.C.D. monitors and buy a bound volume of postconsumer paper and show the filmed doc in a heated/air-conditioned movie theater, etc., sounds like nonimpact man is leading to a lot of impact. And how are you going to measure your nonimpact, except in rather self-centered ways like weight loss and better sex? (Wait, maybe I should stop there.)”

Indeed. Concrete benefits are already accruing to Ms. Conlin and Mr. Beavan that may tempt others. The sea may be rising, but Ms. Conlin has lost 4 pounds and Mr. Beavan 20. It took Ms. Conlin over an hour to get home from work during the snowstorm on Friday, riding her scooter, then walking in her knee-high Wellingtons with her scooter on her back, but she claimed to be mostly exhilarated by the experience. “Rain is worse,” she said.

Perhaps the real guinea pig in this experiment is the Conlin-Beavan marriage.

“Like all writers, I’m a megalomaniac,” Mr. Beavan said cheerfully the other day. “I’m just trying to put that energy to good use.”

After Virtue, 3rd edition

After Virtue
A Study in Moral Theory, Third Edition

The third edition includes a new prologue:
In the Third Edition prologue, MacIntyre revisits the central theses of the book and concludes that although he has learned a great deal and has supplemented and refined his theses and arguments in other works, he has “as yet found no reason for abandoning the major contentions” of this book.

Cardinal Hummes on Priestly Celibacy

Cardinal Hummes on Priestly Celibacy

"Christ's Precious Gift to His Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2007 ( Here is an article written by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, on "The Importance of Priestly Celibacy." It was published in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano.
* * *

At the beginning of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus" of His Holiness Paul VI, the Congregation for the Clergy deems it opportune to recall the magisterial teaching of this important papal document.

Indeed, priestly celibacy is Christ's precious gift to his Church, a gift one needs to meditate on anew and to strengthen, especially in today's profoundly secularized world.

Scholars note that the origins of priestly celibacy date back to apostolic times. Father Ignace de la Potterie writes: "Scholars generally agree that the obligation of celibacy, or at least of continence, became canon law from the fourth century onwards. ... However, it is important to observe that the legislators of the fourth and fifth centuries affirmed that this canonical enactment was based on an apostolic tradition.

"The Council of Carthage (390), for instance, said: 'It was fitting that those who were at the service of the divine sacraments be perfectly continent (continentes esse in omnibus), so that what the Apostles taught and antiquity itself maintained, we too may observe.'"[1]

In the same way, Alfons-Marie Stickler mentions biblical arguments of apostolic inspiration that advocate celibacy.[2]

Historical development

The Church's solemn Magisterium has never ceased to reaffirm the measures regulating ecclesiastical celibacy. The Synod of Elvira (300-303?) prescribed in canon 27: "A bishop, like any other cleric, should have with him either only one sister or consecrated virgin; it is established that in no way should he have an extraneous woman"; in canon 33: "The following overall prohibition for bishops, presbyters and deacons and for all clerics who exercise a ministry has been decided: they must abstain from relations with their wives and must not beget children; those who do are to be removed from the clerical state."[3]

Pope St. Siricius (384-399), in his "Letter to Bishop Himerius of Tarragona" dated February 10, 385, affirmed: "The Lord Jesus ... wished the figure of the Church, whose Bridegroom he is, to radiate with the splendor of chastity ... all of us as priests are bound by the indissoluble law of these measures ... so that from the day of our ordination we may devote our hearts and our bodies to moderation and modesty, to please the Lord our God in the daily sacrifices we offer to him."[4]

At the First Lateran Ecumenical Council of 1123, we read from canon 3: "We absolutely forbid priests, deacons or subdeacons to cohabit with concubines or wives and to cohabit with women other than those whom the Council of Nicea (325) permitted to live in the household."[5]

So too, at the 24th session of the Council of Trent, the absolute impossibility of contracting marriage for clerics bound by sacred orders or for male religious who had solemnly professed chastity was reasserted; and with it, the nullity of marriage itself was declared, together with the duty to ask God, with an upright intention, for the gift of chastity.[6]

In more recent times, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council reaffirmed in the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, "Presbyterorum Ordinis,"[7] the close connection between celibacy and the Kingdom of God. It saw in the former a sign that radiantly proclaims the latter, the beginning of a new life to whose service the minister of the Church is consecrated.

With the encyclical "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus" of June 24, 1967, Paul VI kept a promise he had made to the Council Fathers two years earlier. In it, he examined the objections raised concerning the discipline of celibacy. Subsequently, by placing emphasis on their Christological foundation and appealing to history and to what we learn from the first-century documents about the origins of celibacy and continence, he fully confirmed their value.

The 1971 Synod of Bishops, both in the presynodal program "Ministerium Presbyterorum" (Feb. 15) and in the final document "Ultimis Temporibus" (Nov. 30), affirmed the need to preserve celibacy in the Latin Church, shedding light on its foundations, the convergence of motives and the conditions that encouraged it.[8]

The new Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church in 1983 reasserted the age-old tradition: "Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and therefore are obliged to observe celibacy, which is a special gift of God, by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and can more freely dedicate themselves to the service of God and humankind."[9]

Along the same lines, the 1990 synod resulted in the Apostolic Exhortation of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, "Pastores Dabo Vobis," in which the Pontiff presented celibacy as a radical Gospel requirement that especially favors the style of spousal life and springs from the priest's configuration to Jesus Christ through the sacrament of orders.[10]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992 and which gathers the first fruits of the great event of the Second Vatican Council, reaffirms the same doctrine: "All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate 'for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.'"[11]

At the most recent Synod on the Eucharist itself, according to the preliminary unofficial draft of its final propositions authorized by Pope Benedict XVI, in proposition. 11, "the importance of the priceless gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the practices of the Latin Church is recognized" despite the scarcity of clergy in certain parts of the world as well as the "Eucharistic hunger" of the People of God.

With the reference to the Magisterium, particularly that of the Second Vatican Council and of the most recent Pontiffs, the Fathers asked that the reasons for the relationship between celibacy and priestly ordination be properly described, with full respect for the tradition of the Eastern Churches. Some of them referred to the matter of the "viri probabi," but the hypothesis was judged to be a way not to be taken.

Only recently, on Nov. 16, 2006, Benedict XVI presided at one of the regular meetings held in the Apostolic Palace of the Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. On that occasion, the value of the choice of priestly celibacy in accordance with the unbroken Catholic tradition was reasserted and the need for the sound human and Christian formation of seminarians and ordained priests was reaffirmed.

Reasons for holy celibacy

In his encyclical "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus," Paul VI begins by presenting the situation of priestly celibacy at that time, from the viewpoint of the appreciation of it and of the objections to it. His first words are crucial and ever timely: "Priestly celibacy has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when the outlook of men and the state of the world have undergone such profound changes."[12]

Paul VI revealed what he himself meditated upon, questioning himself on the subject in order to be able to respond to the objections. He concluded: "Hence, we consider that the present law of holy celibacy should today continue to be linked to the ecclesiastical ministry. This law should support the minister in his exclusive, definitive and total choice of the unique and supreme love of Christ and of the Church; it should uphold him in the entire dedication of himself to the public worship of God and to the service of the Church; it should distinguish his state of life both among the faithful and in the world at large."[13]

"It is true," the Pope added, "that virginity, as the Second Vatican Council declared, is not demanded of the priesthood by its nature. This is clear from the practice of the early Church and the tradition of the Eastern Churches (cf. "Presbyterorum Ordinis," no. 16). But at the same time the Council did not hesitate to confirm solemnly the ancient, sacred and providential present law of priestly celibacy. In addition, it set forth the motives which justify this law for those who, in a spirit of faith and with generous fervor, know how to appreciate the gifts of God."[14]

It is true. Celibacy is a gift that Christ offers to men called to the priesthood. This gift must be accepted with love, joy and gratitude. Thus, it will become a source of happiness and holiness.

Paul VI gave three reasons for sacred celibacy: its Christological, ecclesiological and eschatological significance.

Let us start with its Christological significance.

Christ is newness. He brings about a new creation. His priesthood is new. He renews all things. Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Father sent into the world, "became man in order that humanity which was subject to sin and death might be reborn, and through this new birth might enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

"Being entirely consecrated to the will of the Father, Jesus brought forth this new creation by means of his Paschal Mystery; thus, he introduced into time and into the world a new form of life which is sublime and divine and which radically transforms the human condition."[15]

Natural marriage itself, blessed by God since creation but damaged by sin, was renewed by Christ, who "has raised it to the dignity of a sacrament and of a mysterious symbol of his own union with the Church. ... But Christ, 'Mediator of a more excellent covenant' (cf. Hebrews 8:6), has also opened a new way in which the human creature adheres wholly and directly to the Lord, and is concerned only with him and with his affairs; thus, he manifests in a clearer and more complete way the profoundly transforming reality of the New Testament."[16]

This newness, this new process, is life in virginity, which Jesus himself lived in harmony with his role as Mediator between heaven and earth, between the Father and the human race. "Wholly in accord with this mission, Christ remained throughout his whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified his total dedication to the service of God and men."[17] The service of God and men means that total love without reserve which distinguished Jesus' life among us: virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of God!

Now Christ, by calling his priests to be ministers of salvation, that is, of the new creation, calls them to be and to live in newness of life, united and similar to him in the most perfect way possible. From this derives the gift of sacred celibacy, as the fullest configuration with the Lord Jesus and a prophecy of the new creation. He called his apostles "friends." He called them to follow him very closely in everything, even to the cross. And the cross brought them to the Resurrection, to the new creation's completion.

We know, therefore, that following him with faithfulness in virginity, which includes sacrifice, will lead us to happiness. God does not call anyone to unhappiness; he calls us all to happiness. Happiness, however, always goes hand in hand with faithfulness. The late Pope John Paul II said this to the married couples whom he met at the Second World Meeting of Families in Rio de Janeiro.

Thus, the theme of the eschatological meaning of celibacy is revealed as a sign and a prophecy of the new creation, in other words, of the definitive Kingdom of God in the parousia, when we will all be raised from the dead.

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, "She [the Church] is, on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom."[18] Virginity, lived for love of the Kingdom of God, is a special sign of these "final times," because the Lord announced that "in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven."[19]

In a world like ours, a world of entertainment and superficial pleasures, captivated by earthly things and especially by the progress of science and technology -- let us remember the biological sciences and biotechnology -- the proclamation of an afterlife, of a future world, a parousia, as a definitive event of a new creation is crucial and at the same time free from the ambiguity of aporia, of din, suffering and contradictions with regard to the true good and the new, profound knowledge that human progress brings with it.

Finally, the ecclesiological meaning of celibacy leads us more directly to the priest's pastoral activity.

The encyclical "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus" affirms: "The consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers actually manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church, and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage."[20]

Like Christ and in Christ, the priest mystically weds the Church and loves the Church with an exclusive love. Thus, dedicating himself totally to the affairs of Christ and of his Mystical Body, the priest enjoys ample spiritual freedom to put himself at the loving and total service of all people without distinction.

"In a similar way, by a daily dying to himself and by giving up the legitimate love of a family of his own for the love of Christ and of his Kingdom, the priest will find the glory of an exceedingly rich and fruitful life in Christ, because like him and in him he loves and dedicates himself to all the children of God."[21]

The encyclical likewise adds that celibacy makes it easier for the priest to devote himself to listening to the Word of God and to prayer, and prepares him to offer upon the altar the whole of his life, marked by sacrifice.[22]

Value of chastity, celibacy

Even before it is a canonical disposition, celibacy is God's gift to his Church. It is an issue bound to the complete gift of self to the Lord.

In the distinction between the age-old discipline of celibacy and the religious experience of consecration and the pronouncement of vows, it is beyond doubt that there is no other possible interpretation or justification of ecclesiastical celibacy than unreserved dedication to the Lord in a relationship that must also be exclusive from the emotional viewpoint. This presupposes a strong personal and communal relationship with Christ, who transforms the hearts of his disciples.

The option for celibacy of the Latin Rite Catholic Church has developed since apostolic times precisely in line with the priest's relationship with his Lord, moved by the inspiring question, "Do you love me more than these?"[23] which the Risen Jesus addressed to Peter.

The Christological, ecclesiological and eschatological reasons for celibacy, all rooted in the special communion with Christ to which priests are called, can therefore be expressed in various ways, according to what is authoritatively stated in "Sacerdotalis Caelibatus."

Celibacy is first and foremost a "symbol of and stimulus to charity."[24] Charity is the supreme criterion for judging Christian life in all its aspects; celibacy is a path of love, even if, as the Gospel according to Matthew says, Jesus himself states that not all are able to understand this reality: "Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given."[25]

This charity develops in the classical, twofold aspect of love for God and for others: "By preserving virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, priests are consecrated in a new and excellent way to Christ. They more readily cling to him with undivided heart."[26]

St. Paul, in the passage alluded to here, presents celibacy and virginity as the way "to please God" without divided interests:[27] in other words, a "way of love" which certainly presupposes a special vocation; in this sense it is a charism and in itself excellent for both Christians and priests.

Through pastoral charity, radical love for God becomes love for one's brethren. In "Presbyterorum Ordinis" we read that priests "dedicate themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and of men. They are less encumbered in their service of his Kingdom and of the task of heavenly regeneration. In this way they become better fitted for a broader acceptance of fatherhood in Christ."[28]

Common experience confirms that it is easier for those who, apart from Christ, are not bound by other affections, however legitimate and holy they may be, to give their heart to their brethren fully and without reserve.

Celibacy is the example that Christ himself left us. He wanted to be celibate. The encyclical explains further: "Wholly in accord with this mission, Christ remained throughout his whole life in the state of celibacy, which signified his total dedication to the service of God and men. This deep connection between celibacy and the priesthood of Christ is reflected in those whose fortune it is to share in the dignity and mission of the Mediator and the Eternal Priest; this sharing will be more perfect the freer the sacred minister is from the bonds of flesh and blood."[29]

Jesus Christ's historical existence is the most visible sign that chastity voluntarily embraced for God's sake is a solidly founded vocation, both at the Christian level and at that of common human logic.

If ordinary Christian life cannot legitimately claim to be such if it excludes the dimension of the cross, how much more incomprehensible would priestly life be were the perspective of the crucified One to be put aside.

Suffering, sometimes weariness and boredom and even setbacks have to be dealt with in a priest's life which, however, is not ultimately determined by them. In choosing to follow Christ, one learns from the very outset to go with him to Calvary, mindful that taking up one's cross is the element that qualifies the radical nature of the sequela.

Lastly, as previously stated, celibacy is an eschatological sign. In the Church, from this moment, the future Kingdom is present. She not only proclaims it but brings it about through the sacraments, contributing to the "new creation" until her glory is fully manifested.

While the sacrament of marriage roots the Church in the present, immersing her totally in the earthly realm which can thus become a possible place for sanctification, celibacy refers immediately to the future, to that full perfection of the created world that will be brought to complete fulfillment only at the end of time.

Being faithful to celibacy

The 2,000-year-old wisdom of the Church, an expert in humanity, has in the course of time constantly determined several fundamental and indispensable elements to foster her children's fidelity to the supernatural charism of celibacy.

Among them, also in the recent Magisterium, the importance of spiritual formation for the priest, who is called to be "a witness of the Absolute," stands out. "Pastores Dabo Vobis" states: "In preparing for the priesthood we learn how to respond from the heart to Christ's basic question: 'Do you love me?'. For the future priest the answer can only mean total self-giving."[30]

In this regard, the years of formation are absolutely fundamental, both those distant years lived in the family, and especially the more recent years spent at the seminary. At this true school of love, like the apostolic community, young seminarians cluster round Jesus, awaiting the gift of his Spirit for their mission.

"The relation of the priest to Jesus Christ, and in him to his Church, is found in the very being of the priest, by virtue of his sacramental consecration/anointing and in his activity, that is, in his mission or ministry."[31]

The priesthood is no more than "'living intimately united' to Jesus Christ"[32] in a relationship of intimate communion, described "in terms of friendship."[33] The priest's life is basically that form of existence which would be inconceivable without Christ. Precisely in this lies the power of his witness: Virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of God is a real element, it exists because Christ, who makes it possible, exists.

Love for the Lord is authentic when it endeavors to be total: Falling in love with Christ means having a deep knowledge of him, it means a close association with his person, the identification and assimilation of his thought, and lastly, unreserved acceptance of the radical demands of the Gospel.

It is only possible to be witnesses of God through a deep experience of Christ; the whole of a priest's life depends on his relationship with the Lord, the quality of his experience of martyria, of his witness.

Only someone who truly has Jesus for his friend and Lord, one who enjoys his communion, can be a witness of the Absolute. Christ is not only a subject of reflection, of a theological thesis or of a historical memory; he is the Lord who is present, he is alive because he is the Risen One and we live only to the extent that we participate ever more deeply in his life. The entire priestly existence is founded on this explicit faith.

Consequently, the encyclical says: "The priest should apply himself above all else to developing, with all the love grace inspires in him, his close relationship with Christ, and exploring this inexhaustible and enriching mystery; he should also acquire an ever deeper sense of the mystery of the Church. There would be the risk of his state of life seeming unreasonable and unfounded if it were viewed apart from this mystery."[34]

In addition to formation and love for Christ, an essential element for preserving celibacy is passion for the Kingdom of God, which means the ability to work cheerfully, sparing no effort to make Christ known, loved and followed.

Like the peasant who, having found the precious pearl, sold all he had in order to purchase the field, so those who find Christ and spend their whole lives with him and for him cannot but live by working to enable others to encounter him.

Without this clear perspective, any "missionary urge" is doomed to failure, methodologies are transformed into techniques for maintaining a structure, and even prayers can become techniques for meditation and for contact with the sacred in which both the human "I" and the "you" of God dissolve.

One fundamental and necessary occupation, a requirement and a task, is prayer. Prayer is irreplaceable in Christian life and in the life of priests. Prayer should be given special attention.

The Eucharistic Celebration, the Divine Office, frequent confession, an affectionate relationship with Mary Most Holy, spiritual retreats and the daily recitation of the holy rosary are some of the spiritual signs of a love which, were it lacking, would risk being replaced by unworthy substitutes such as appearances, ambition, money and sex.

The priest is a man of God because God calls him to be one, and he lives this personal identity in an exclusive belonging to his Lord, also borne out by his choice of celibacy. He is a man of God because he lives by God and talks to God. With God he discerns and decides in filial obedience on the steps of his own Christian existence.

The more radically a priest is a man of God through a life that is totally theocentric, as the Holy Father stressed in his Address at the Christmas Meeting with the Roman Curia on Dec. 22, 2006, the more effective and fertile his witness will be, and the richer in fruits of conversion his ministry. There is no opposition between fidelity to God and fidelity to man: On the contrary, the former is a prerequisite for the latter.

Conclusion: a holy vocation

"Pastores Dabo Vobis," speaking on the priest's vocation to holiness, having underlined the importance of the personal relationship with Christ, expresses another need: The priest, called to the mission of preaching the Good News, sees himself entrusted with it in order to give it to everyone. He is nevertheless called in the first place to accept the Gospel as a gift offered for his life, for himself, and as a saving event that commits him to a holy life.

In this perspective, John Paul II has spoken of the evangelical radicalism that must be a feature of the priest's holiness. It is therefore possible in the evangelical counsels, traditionally proposed by the Church and lived in the various states of consecrated life, to map out the vitally radical journey to which, also and in his own way, the priest is called to be faithful.

"Pastores Dabo Vobis" states: "A particularly significant expression of the radicalism of the Gospel is seen in the different 'evangelical counsels' which Jesus proposes in the Sermon on the Mount, and among them the intimately related counsels of obedience, chastity and poverty. The priest is called to live these counsels in accordance with those ways and, more specifically, those goals and that basic meaning which derive from and express his own priestly identity."[35]

And again, taking up the ontological dimension on which evangelical radicalism is founded, the postsynodal apostolic exhortation says: "The Spirit, by consecrating the priest and configuring him to Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd, creates a bond which, located in the priest's very being, demands to be assimilated and lived out in a personal, free and conscious way through an ever richer communion of life and love and an ever broader and more radical sharing in the feelings and attitudes of Jesus Christ. In this bond between the Lord Jesus and the priest, an ontological and psychological bond, a sacramental and moral bond, is the foundation and likewise the power for that 'life according to the Spirit' and that 'radicalism of the Gospel' to which every priest is called today and which is fostered by ongoing formation in its spiritual aspect."[36]

The nuptial dimension of ecclesiastical celibacy, proper to this relationship between Christ and the Church which the priest is called to interpret and to live, must enlarge his mind, illumine his life and warm his heart. Celibacy must be a happy sacrifice, a need to live with Christ so that he will pour out into the priest the effusions of his goodness and love that are ineffably full and perfect.

In this regard the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI are enlightening: "The true foundation of celibacy can be contained in the phrase: Dominus pars (mea) -- You are my land. It can only be theocentric. It cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate way of being with him, to serve men and women, too. Celibacy must be a witness to faith: faith in God materializes in that form of life which only has meaning if it is based on God.

"Basing one's life on him, renouncing marriage and family, means that I accept and experience God as a reality and that I can therefore bring him to men and women."[37]



1. Cf. Father Ignace de la Potterie , Il fondamento biblico del celibato sacerdotale, in Solo per amore. Riflessioni sul celibato sacerdotale, Cinisello Balsamo, 1993, pp. 14-15.
2. Cf. Alfons-Marie Stickler, in Ch. Cochini, Origines apostoliques du Célibat sacerdotal, Preface, p. 6.
3. Cf. Heinrich Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, ed. P. Hünermann., Bologna, 1995, nn. 118-119, p. 61.
4. Ibid., op. cit., n. 185, p. 103; [n. 10].
5. Cf. ibid., op. cit., n. 711, p. 405.
6. Ibid., op. cit., n. 1809, p. 739.
7. Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16.
8. Enchiridion of the Synod of Bishops, 1, 1965-1988 ed. General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, Bologna, 2005, nn. 755-855; 1068-1114; especially nn. 1100-1105.
9. Code of Canon Law, canon 277, §1.
10. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 25 March 1992, n. 44.
11. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1579.
12. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 1.
13. Ibid., n. 14.
14. Ibid., n. 17.
15. Ibid., n. 19.
16. Ibid., n. 20.
17. Ibid., n. 21.
18. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 5.
19. Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 34.
20. Ibid., n. 26.
21. Ibid., n. 30.
22. Cf. ibid., nn. 27-29.
23. John 21:15.
24. Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 24.
25. Matthew 19:11.
26. Second Vatican Council, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16.
27. Cf. I Corinthians 7:32-33.
28. Second Vatican Council, Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 16.
29. Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 21.
30. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 42.
31. Ibid., n. 16.
32. Ibid., n. 46.
33. Ibid.
34. Paul VI, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, n. 75.
35. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 27.
36. Ibid., n. 72.
37. Benedict XVI, Address at the Audience with the Roman Curia for the Exchange of Christmas Greetings, 22 December 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 3 January 2007, p. 5.

[Text adapted]

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dr. Pellegrino

Dr. Edmund Pellegrino came to BC to deliver the LaBrecque lecture in medical ethics last night--there was a good turnout. He also gave a luncheon seminar today.

Today he gave a short overview of the President's Council on Bioethics and the work that it is doing. There is a growing recognition that bioethics is increasingly a matter of public policy. The council advises the president on various ethical implications of public policy.

In 1972 bioethics was "baptized," and a national commission was established in 1977 to study various issues, especially human research. The Belmont Report came out of this national commission, laying out 4 principles of bioethics:

1. autonomy
2. beneficence
3. justice
4. non-malificence (which some distinguished from beneficence)

This commission was succeeded by a Presidential commission studying human research and the ethics of behavioral science.

In 1983 a series of reports were issued. (Not sure by whom.)

A congressional commission was formed during the 80s to study the moral status of the fetus. There was only one meeting--one of the members passed away, and Congress was unable to settle on a replacement.

Hiatus of 13 years?

President Clinton appointed the National Bioethics Advisory Committee which was stacked towards approving anything new. It was a White House appointment. Dr. Pellegrino believes the current Bioethics Council differs from the Clinton one in that it is "surprisingly well-balanced." Dr. Pellegrino sees himself as a political independent.

"Bioethics is everybody's business." The Council does not make policy, it is just advisory; its mission is to lay out issues as thoroughly as possible, both for the public and for policy makers--to lay out issues of fact. The Council does make policy recommendations, for example the moratorium on human cloning.

What place do philosophers have on the Council? There are two extremes of opinion:
1. No place whatsoever, since there is no such thing as an expert in bioethics, philosophers aren't experts at anything, they have no experience with medicine and science, etc.
2. Everyone on the council should be a bioethicist.

When it comes to actual philosophers, there is only one who is currently on the council, Alfonso Gomez-Lobo. Michael Sandel is no longer on the council. There are 18 members, all are presidential appointees.

Current topics for discussion:
1. Organ transplanation -- including, Are brain death criteria defensible? (When should a person be considered dead? Circulatory death vs. brain death.) How are organs to be allocated? Can organ donation be commercialized? Is it really morally permissible to have a living donor? (It has been discovered that those who donate do suffer from complications--kidney donors suffer from hypotension, etc.)
2. Newborn genetic screening -- should it be required? uniform on a natinoal basis? (PKU, etc.)
3. The concept of human dignity?

Dr. Pellegrino hopes these reports will be issued in the next 6 months.

All meetings of the council are public--there are no secret meetings, no executive privilege--everything is on the public record. (Sunshine laws) The members are very careful when it comes to making everything public, and Dr. Pellegrino has made things even more strict.

They are the first of 7 or 8 topics, which include justice in health care and professional ethics. The topics are chosen by the council itself, though they did receive one request from the White House, and that was to present a report on cloning.

What of the conflict of obligations? I have an obligation to my patient, but also to the common good. The individual doctor has a responsibility to his patient, they have a covenantal relationship; but he also has a duty to the common good and to decide wisely the allocation of limited resources.

(Chromosome Six, by Robin Cook -- using bonobos to create human organs)

How to define a bioethicist? What are a bioethicist's qualifications? At present there are no specific criteria for declaring someone to be a bioethicist. (Dr. Pellegrino declares that he is not one.) Generally, anyone today can declare himself to be a bioethicist if he has studied the subject. One can be trained in "bioethics" (Dr. Pellegrino does not necessarily approve); there are 105 bioethics centers around the country, but no formal process of certification. Bioethicists have a presumed expertise; people believe that they can provide a more reliable way of making ethical decisions. (But this of course is not necessarily true--one can be an "ethicist" without being ethical."

Doctors should help analyze the problem, make recommendations about the best course of medical treatment, but refrain from talking about values/ethical judgments. Doctors can consult about human relationships (getting family members to talk to one another), and prudential judgments. Doctors have medical expertise.

Dr. Byrne: autonomy and dignity are leading principles today
However, choice was initially associated with something.
For Kant, with reason. For Locke, with bodily integrity in the state of nature (law of nature). But now there is no more rational underpinning.

A lawyer and member of the council, Carl E. Schneider, has written a book on autonomy: The Practice of Autonomy: Patients, Doctors, and Medical Decisions.

Dr. Pellegrino points out that autonomy also exists for the physician, nurse, etc -- one cannot violate their conscience in demanding a service. (Martin Buhl? talks about I and thou in the decision-making process.)

Dr. Pellegrino supports universal health care and a single-payer system; he believes that such a system does not entail Federal management of health care, or a new bureaucracy. Private insurance companies should be done away with. Dr. Lebrecque argues that the profit that would be generated should instead be channeled into providing health care.

Rationing/mechanisms for allocation would not be decided by the Federal Government, but health care would be Federally funded.

Dr. Byrne: The profitability of insurance companies drives efficiency, cost-effectiveness?

Dr. Pellegrino: Mandatory health care insurance, one pays in terms of net income--everyone should have access to basic medical care. HMOS: control costs to increase top-end profitability.

Bad fortune cannot be avoided, but what about responsibility for one's own health?

Another member of the Lebrecque family argued that costs for private insurance increase because of mandates by individual states.

Dr. Pellegrino: Is health care a commodity? Is it fundamental? What kind of society do we want?
Adam Smith would not treat it as a commodity, not subject it to the "laws" of the marketplace.
You get the kind of health care you want. How does health care fall under justice? He claims that we can afford it. In a survey of officials of different countries, they prioritized health care needs as follows:

1. sure access of everyone to emergency health care
2. chronic/disabling illness
3. maternal/child health

Very few talk about preventive medicine; to do it well is expensive, as it requires constant human input and behavior modification. (Habits are involved.)

But how important is life and the good of health? Enough that others should pay for my health care when I have failed to be responsible for my own health? One should have access to a doctor; but where do the expenses come in? Diagnostics? Treatment and procedures?

Dr. Pellegrino claims that in rural areas there are a lot of people who are untreated. (His first job was in rural medicine.) However, this may be a question of lack of proper public education and lack of transportation, not necessarily lack of quality health care.

Can certain skills be taught as a part of domestic arts? For example, first aid skills and other simple procedures for non life-threatening illnesses. What about chronic illness and disease? Old age? How much health care do I need before I should say enough is enough, and stop being a burden to others?

What are the different levels of health care that would exist in a universal system? Though the Comptroller General advocates universal health care and a single-payer system, how does he reconcile this with his warnings about the impending bankruptcy of the Federal Government?

At the Modernity conference someone gave a talk on health care--was it Peter Riola?--he emphasized that the basics of public health included sanitation, water, and infrastructure. As for the other details... I'd have to try to remember them, but if his paper got published that would be good.

What of obesity and the illnesses that are caused by it?

Georgetown Clinical Bioethics page; Philosophy page

Virtual Mentor profile
CBHD: Meet Edmund Pellegrino :: Reflections on the Appointment of Edmund ...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ben Douglass's new apologetics website

Pugio Fidei

His critique of Robert Sungenis; Robert Sungenis's response (pdf)

Interview with Charles Taylor

recipient of the 2007 Templeton Prize

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Skeletons in the Conciliar Closet

Skeletons in the Conciliar Closet
Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S.

Like Christopher Ferrara, I saw George Sim Johnston’s article, “Why Vatican II Was Necessary” in the March 2004 issue of Crisis magazine, and I must confess I reacted in much the same way as Mr. Ferrara (Remnant, March 15, 2004). Johnston’s attempt to convince us why the Council was so necessary, valuable and important, in spite of its generally chaotic aftermath, struck me as consisting mainly of hollow, shopworn and unsubstantiated generalizations. I give my assent to Vatican II’s doctrinal teachings (interpreted, in the case of obscurities and ambiguities, in the light of Tradition). But I am inclined to agree that a strong case can be made out, with the benefit of nearly forty years of historical hindsight, for its overall lack of opportuneness.

I am afraid that Mr. Ferrara’s less-than-enthusiastic view of the Council tends to be supported by certain other skeletons in the conciliar closet that I have personally discovered in the last few weeks. They are ‘buried’ in the dozens of huge (and largely inaccessible) Latin tomes containing the complete record of everything officially done and said at the Council (the Acta Synodalia), and I doubt whether they have been made known to the general public so far.

One of the many difficulties in interpreting the Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, and reconciling it with traditional doctrine, lies in the fact that while the key article 2 of this document, Dignitatis Humanae (DH), begins by affirming that the right to religious liberty has to do with conscientiously held religious beliefs, it ends by affirming that the same right is enjoyed even by those who are not in good conscience (that is, those who “do not fulfill their obligation of seeking and adhering to the truth”). Curious as to whether this confusing, and at first sight contradictory, treatment of conscience in DH #2 was officially explained to the Council Fathers before they voted on it, I started fishing around in the Acta Synodalia (AS) in our university library. And what I dredged up struck me as a choice example of how that famous ‘Rhine’ flowed into the ‘Tiber’ during Vatican II: manipulation of the more conservative, but rather complacent and unsuspecting, majority by the powerful and ‘progressive’ Northern European bishops and their periti.

The above passage recognizing immunity from coercion for those whose religious propaganda is not in good conscience was absent from the first three drafts of DH. It finally appeared in the fourth (second-last) draft, presented on October 25, 1965, only a few weeks before the end of the Council (cf. AS IV, V, p. 79). Bishop Emil De Smedt, the Dutch relator (official spokesman for the drafting Commission), then gave his relatio (speech) to the assembled Fathers officially explaining this fourth draft and its changes to the previous draft. However, in doing so he did not even mention this important addition to the text! On the contrary, in commenting on the new version of article 2, De Smedt repeatedly stressed the importance of conscience, citing the (unchanged) words in the first paragraph of #2 which assert that the human person must not be forced to act against (or be prevented from acting in accordance with) “his conscience” (“suam conscientiam” – see ibid., pp. 101-102). True, the Fathers all had on their desks printed copies of the old and new drafts in parallel columns, but it looks as if De Smedt was hoping that if he didn’t draw their attention to this change, many would either overlook it or not attach much importance to it.

In another lengthy hand-out, which was not read on the floor of the Council, we find in the fine print that this change had been requested “in the name of more than one hundred” Fathers (ibid.,p. 116, #25). But the reader is not told who these hundred-plus Fathers were; and there is still not the slightest explanation from De Smedt as to how the role of conscience in religious liberty was now to be understood in the light of these contrasting statements within the same article of the document.

Did Bishop De Smedt perhaps honestly think this textual addition wasn’t important enough to warrant an official explanation? That excuse looks lame on the face of it, and looks even lamer in the light of what finally transpired. For during the next few weeks, when the fifth and final draft of DH was being worked on, three Fathers submitted a request to the Commission that this confusing addition favoring persons in bad conscience be simply omitted. A number of others asked that it be significantly amended. But in his final relatio, De Smedt acknowledged these requests only to dismiss them summarily, stating that the addition was too important and substantial to be omitted, and, moreover, it had already been approved by a large majority in the vote on the fourth draft taken back in October! But did the Dutch prelate finally give the Fathers at least some explanation of this “substantial” change which he now declared was immutable? No way. Still not a word. The unexplained amendment had been quickly, quietly, and misleadingly, pushed through without any debate and without public attention being drawn to it. But afterwards, when some more conservative Fathers finally expressed their disagreement with the amendment, they were told abruptly that it was now set in stone.

Another discovery I have made in the Acta Synodalia is relevant to the scandal provoked nearly two years ago when Cardinal William Keeler announced that, as far as he and an important committee of American theologians were concerned, the Catholic Church no longer believes it necessary, or even legitimate, to try and convert Jews to Christianity. Cardinal Keeler was soon backed up (with perhaps a minor nuance or two) by the top Vatican official entrusted with ecumenism and dialogue with Jews, the German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Well, what, if anything, did the Council itself say in this point? In researching the textual history of the Vatican II Declaration on Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate (NA), I have found that the original draft of article 4 in that document was actually quite up-front and positive about Catholic hopes for Jewish conversions to the true faith. It included this passage: “It is important to recall that the integration of the Jewish people into the Church is part of Christian hope. For, according to the Apostle’s teaching (cf. Rom. 11: 25), the Church awaits with unshakable faith and deep longing the entry of this people into the fullness of the People of God, which has been restored by Christ” (AS III, VIII, p. 640, my translation). In the biblical verse cited here, the Holy Spirit, through Saint Paul, speaks of the “blindness” of the unbelieving Jews as being temporary, and prophesies in the next verse the salvation of Israel as a nation, after the “fullness of the Gentiles” has come into the Church.

Now, readers will probably agree that this original draft of NA #4, together with its biblical citation, doesn’t sound exactly in the ‘spirit’ of Their Eminences Keeler and Kasper. Come to think of it, have you ever heard any post-conciliar Pope or Vatican official declare that he is awaiting with “unshakable faith and deep longing” (fide inconcussa ac desiderio magno) the massive entry of Jews into the Catholic Church? And as for their present “blindness”, why, any official mention of that would now be out of the question! For it would of course be immediately drowned in worldwide howls of indignant media protest at such a recrudescence of top-level Catholic “anti-Semitism”.

In fairness, it should be added here that the new Catechism of the Catholic Church does present us with St. Peter at Pentecost preaching to the Jews their need for conversion, and continues to teach the revealed truth that Israel, after her present “hardening”, will eventually recognize Christ as her Messiah (see #674). Also, the Church in her post-conciliar Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, still prays for the conversion of the Jews several times during the year (at least in the original Latin edition that I use – I can’t vouch for the generally more liberal English version). But, of course, we never hear any modern Church leaders publicly draw attention to these little-known official texts supporting the traditional doctrine. Nor do we hear any Vatican praise and encouragement for those few remaining Catholic individuals and small groups who actually make some concrete effort to evangelize Jews.

Let us return to Nostra Aetate. I have discovered that the near-silence and inactivity of the post-conciliar Church establishment regarding the Jews’ need for conversion can probably be traced to a conscious decision of the Council itself during the preparation of this Declaration. When the revised draft of NA was circulated, with the original draft in parallel columns, the Fathers found that the aforesaid section in article 4 about the conversion of the Jews, with its specific citation of Romans 11: 25, had now been totally omitted. And (unlike Bishop De Smedt) the relator for this document, the German Jesuit Cardinal Augustin Bea, was quite open about the reason why the original version was now considered unacceptable: “Very many Fathers,” Bea announced in his relatio, “have requested that in talking about this ‘hope’, since it has to do with a mystery, we should avoid every appearance of proselytism. Others have asked that the same Christian hope, applying to all peoples, should also be expressed somehow. In the present version of this paragraph we have sought to satisfy all these requests” (ibid., p. 648, emphasis added). The tactic of His Eminence and all those “very many” (but unnamed) Fathers was thus to tarnish the previous draft with the pejorative label “proselytism”, and to ‘elevate’ the future conversion of the Jews to the ethereal status of a “mystery”, thereby insinuating that it will somehow ‘just happen’ spontaneously one day without the necessity of any human missionary activity on the part of Catholics.

The tactic, combined with the great personal prestige of Cardinal Bea, worked perfectly. The vast majority of the Fathers duly voted in favor of the new draft, thereby relegating to the finest of fine print this particular point of our “unshakable faith” regarding the Jews. It proved to be literally unmentionable in a modern conciliar document, and so has been ‘buried’ in the middle of a much longer passage of the Epistle to the Romans which is indicated (but not cited) among various other biblical references to NA #4. What now appears in that passage is a much blander statement referring to Christian hopes for mankind in general. And in accord with the non-threatening spirit of this ‘pastoral’ Declaration, all explicit mention of anyone actually joining, entering or returning to the Catholic Church has been carefully excised. We read that “the Church awaits the day, known to God alone, when all peoples will call on God with one voice and ‘serve him shoulder to shoulder’ (Soph. 3:9; cf. Is. 66:23; Ps. 65: 4; Rom. 11: 11-32)”.

Doesn’t that sound a whole lot more . . . friendly than the original draft? At any rate, the history of this textual change perhaps helps explain why the top-level talk disparaging any further evangelization of the Jews has still, after nearly two years, not elicited any rebuttal from either the Supreme Pontiff or Cardinal Ratzinger (both of whom, of course, were active at Vatican II). For if he were challenged on this issue, Kasper the Friendly Dialogue-Partner could point straight back to the Friendly Kouncil. After all, how much difference is there between its officially endorsed admonition to “avoid every appearance of proselytizing” Jews and the Keeler/Kasper doctrine that Catholics should not “target the Jews for conversion”? It is not that Vatican II actually taught this falsehood now being propagated with impunity even by Princes of the Church; but we can see now that the Council paved the way for the diffusion of that error by consciously declining to teach – or even to suggest – the opposing, but ‘politically incorrect’, truth.

Dr. Long has 2 new books coming out

According to his faculty page:

His book The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act is forthcoming from Sapientia Press. Also, a collection of Dr. Long's essays, tentatively titled Thomistic Disputations: Providence, Freedom, and Law has been accepted for publication and is forthcoming from Sapientia Press. He holds an M.A. from the University of Toledo and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"Sacramentum Caritatis" and Liturgical Beauty

"Sacramentum Caritatis" and Liturgical Beauty

Interview With Father Edward McNamara

ROME, MARCH 19, 2007 ( The true beauty of the liturgy comes about when the priest and the congregation participate in it actively and piously, says Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara.

Father McNamara, a professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, writes the weekly liturgy column for ZENIT.

ZENIT interviewed him about Benedict XVI's postsynodal apostolic exhortation, which gathers the conclusions of the October 2005 Synod of Bishops. Father McNamara served as a "peritus," or expert, in that synod.

Here, he expounds on some of the specific observations and invitations that the Pope made in "Sacramentum Caritatis."

Q: In No. 35 the Pope writes: "Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is 'veritatis splendor.'" Is it too much to say that beautiful liturgy is a sine qua non of a vibrant Catholic community?

Father McNamara: As the Holy Father says, beauty is inherent to liturgy, it is intimately bound up with authentic liturgy.

Beauty however does not only mean splendid sacred buildings and sublime music. The primary beauty in liturgy is that of a community united heart and soul in prayerful celebration of Christ's sacrifice. It is the beauty of priest and people engaged in full, active and pious participation in the mystery.

This beauty is achieved, in spite of a possible lack of external splendor, whenever the sacred ministers and each member of the faithful strive to live the liturgy to the full.

Other forms of beauty: music, art, poetry, and a sober solemnity in the ritual derive naturally from this inner beauty because the deeper a community lives and comprehends the beauty of the liturgical mystery the more it strives to express it in wonderful outer forms. It is the natural understanding that only the very best we can offer is truly worthy of the Lord.

Thus there is strong historical evidence that even before the end of the era of persecutions; Christians sought to celebrate the Eucharist with the finest materials available. This explains why the construction boom in imposing basilicas, as soon as the persecutions were over, along with the more solemn ritual forms required by these new buildings, was perceived as a natural development and not a rupture with earlier practice.

It is this same understanding which led generations of poor immigrants to the United States to sacrifice so much in order to endow their parishes with majestic churches replete with fine arts and crafts.

Ugliness, blandness, banality and bad taste on the other hand diminish the liturgy and betray a lack of appreciation of the mystery and sometimes, alas, a certain lack of faith.

Q: In No. 37 the Holy Father writes: "Since the eucharistic liturgy is essentially an 'actio Dei' which draws us into Christ through the Holy Spirit, its basic structure is not something within our power to change, nor can it be held hostage by the latest trends." Is this statement aimed at the clergy?

Father McNamara: It is certainly aimed at the clergy but not only. First of all it addresses the fundamental structure of the liturgy, and not just the rubrics, saying that the liturgy is primarily God's action counters all those who attempt to reduce it to a mere sociological expression that can be freely adapted as societies change.

The danger of holding the liturgy hostage to the latest trends not only concerns the clergy but to all those engaged in liturgical preparation. There are certainly priests who arbitrarily change the liturgy at their own whim but there are also readers who spontaneously adjust readings for ideological purposes and music directors who subject the liturgy to the demands of music and not vice versa, or who introduce inappropriate musical forms in the name of relevance.

I think the point the Holy Father is trying to make is that we relearn to receive the liturgy as a precious heirloom to be treasured and less as a toy to play around with.

Q: Benedict XVI says bluntly in No. 47 that "Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved." What is the best way priests can improve in this area?

Father McNamara: There are many excellent resources available in books and on the Internet but I think there is no substitution for the three P's in improving the qualities of homilies: prayer, preparation and practice. First and foremost the homily must be the fruit of prayer, of a genuine conversation with God regarding the text.

It may sound harsh but a priest or deacon whose homily is not the fruit of meditation really has nothing worth saying because he can only give himself. An 8- to 10-minute homily requires a lot of preparation in order to put what God wants said into the best human form possible.

Preparation also means that a priest or deacon continually nurtures his soul and mind with ongoing formation. A good preacher also tries to practices before delivering his homily, practicing his diction, inflections and also timing himself. This last recommendation is especially necessary for younger priests and deacons whose enthusiasm combined with lack of experience often leads them to try to say too much at once.

Q: In No. 6 of the exhortation the Pope writes: "Every great reform has in some way been linked to the rediscovery of belief in the Lord's eucharistic presence among his people." Would this emphasis on the Eucharist have to precede other priorities such as ecumenism, restoring family life, and reaching out to Islam?

Father McNamara: I believe that it is more a question of the quality of these endeavors that a chronological priority. Unless we Catholics are deeply rooted in the central tenets of our faith and practice then engaging in these other priorities such as ecumenism or reaching out to Islam will be shallow and hollow affairs based on false irenics and empty rhetoric.

For example, a fervent evangelical Christian steeped in biblical culture, would probably be more at home with a Catholic of deep Eucharistic piety than with a one lacking in devotion. Perhaps they would agree on little from a theological standpoint, but would have a much better grasp of each other as people for who the question of God's presence is a lived reality. Something similar could perhaps also be said for pious Muslims.

Q: The exhortation encourages a wider use of Latin when celebrating the Eucharist. What are some of the advantages of that could come from a more frequent use of Latin and how can this be done in a world that has largely lost familiarity with Latin?

Father McNamara: The advantages are manifold. Think what a difference it could make to next years World Youth Day in Sydney if 500,000 young voices were able to sing "Sanctus, Sanctus" or the Lord's Prayer in unison, and not just listen to the choir. The sense of belonging to one Church could be greatly enhanced.

From other perspectives the occasional or even frequent celebration of Mass in Latin as well as the use of Latin Gregorian chant in vernacular Masses would help recover the sense of the sacred in the liturgy as many of these chants do a far better job of transforming text into musical prayer than most vernacular adaptations.

It is true that there is far less familiarity with Latin than before, but counterintuitively, the fact that the vernacular translations are already impressed on the memory could actually facilitate the occasional use of Latin. Most people would know by heart the meaning of the text in their native language and are able to appreciate the beauty of the Latin texts, especially the chants.

Some say that it is a quixotic adventure to attempt such a restoration, and yet, there are many examples of parishes around the world which have achieved a balance of vernacular and Latin in both texts and music from which all have spiritually benefited.

Q: A section of the document deals with the social implications of the Eucharist. How is our Eucharistic life related to a greater concern for justice and charity?

Father McNamara: As No. 37 quoted above says, the Eucharistic liturgy draws us into Christ through the Holy Spirit. The more a soul is drawn into Christ the more it becomes identified with him and seeks to imitate him.

Being drawn into Christ leads us to recognize him in others, especially in the hungry, thirsty, naked, ignorant, sick and imprisoned. Being drawn into Christ, means being drawn into his supreme act of self-offering on Calvary, a self-offering that culminate his teaching of the beatitudes. In this way there can be no genuine Eucharistic piety that does not bear fruit in concern for justice and charity.

For some, this concern will mean engaging in specific activities promoting justice and charity as a fruit of Eucharistic participation, for others, their genuine concern will be expressed through prayer and sacrifice for those in need. For all, it means practicing justice and charity in their daily lives and dealings with others.