Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Victory in Iraq Day - Nov 22!!!!

Those wonderful patriots over at are declaring Nov. 22nd as Victory in Iraq Day. It is a great tribute to the troops and well deserved. Here at The Dumber Ox, we'll be celebrating this day along with other blogs. So get ready and take a look at what Zombietime has to say HERE.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Public vs Private Sinner - The Question of Denial of Communion

I was recently asked by a friend on Facebook for my reaction to some articles:

Hey Aaron: I'd like to hear your reaction to

It seems much like this:

Because Wall-to-Wall discussions on Facebook limit space too much I'll answer it here for my friend.

There are some doctrinal nuances here that are important to keep in mind. We have three things to compare. The first is the denial of a politician of communion for pro-abortion stance. The second is this quote from Bishop Sheridon:

“Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside of full communion with the church and so jeopardize their salvation,” Sheridan wrote. “Any Catholics who vote for candidates that stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences.”

And the last is what Father Newman said in South Carolina in the other article:

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."

First lets discussion the denial of communion to a politician who is publically pro-abortion. The key here is "publically". One must understand first the difference between private and public sin and private and public penance or absolution. The politician is a public figure and in the case of Senator Kerry as in the article, he publically supported a pro-abortion position. His sin, therefore, was public. Because it was a sin to involve oneself in the instrinsic evil of abortion, he is denied communion. Because it was done publically, the priest or bishop may publically announce this denial. Now the private person who privately, in the voting booth, votes for a pro-abortion candidate (when there is a choice between a pro-abortion and a pro-life candidate) has also involved themselves in the intrisinc evil of abortion. Therefore communion is denied that person until they receive absolution. Now because it was a private act, that person could keep taking communion even without absolution because the priest cannot read people's hearts when they come up for communion during Mass. If that person consequently publically declared they voted for the pro-abortion candidate, than the priest could deny communion publically until absolution was granted.

In the LA Times article the columnist says:

His letter is likely to have little practical effect, since most people receiving communion aren’t quizzed about their political beliefs beforehand.

Which is incorrect. People are NEVER quizzed about their political beliefs beforehand, while this statement suggests that it does happen by saying "most people". The most egregious sinner could step up and receive communion, and will receive it if the priest is unaware of the state of their soul. None of the priests in these articles have stated that they will question people's vote or political beliefs. They have only said what the Church has said for 2,000 years. If your soul is in a state of sin, you jeapordize your salvation and place yourself out of full communion with Christ until you receive absolution and commitedly contrite. If we were talking about stealing or adultery or any number of other sins, they would say the same thing. What is really being talked about with the politicians and public/private sin is something called Canon 915, part of canon law. I won't get into the legal definition of it because well ... its a legal definition. But here is a good description of what we're talking about here with an example that someone posted on a canon juris forum:

"Conduct is never a sin. Sin requires conduct AND knowledge AND consent of the will. If knowledge and consent of the will are lacking, then the conduct may be sinful but there's no sin. You have to engage in conduct that is sinful, knowing it is sinful, and deciding to do it anyway.

Canon 915 deals primarily with scandal, so it addresses conduct which would be sinful if done deliberately and with full knowledge. Canon 915 also deals with conduct that appears sinful, but is not.

Example: Peter and Mary Jane live in a small community and are Catholic. They fall away from the faith and move in together. At this point, since everybody knows they're not married and cohabitating, the ministers may not give them Communion. Now imagine that through the pastor's heroic efforts Peter and Mary Jane understand the problem. They receive sacramental absolution, agree to live as brother and sister until their wedding night, and move into separate bedrooms. Well, now they are not in a state of sin. However they still can't receive Communion publicly because the public does not know that they've changed their heart, received absolution, and ceased sinning. You now have a situation where there's no sin, but canon 915 still applies."

So back to the South Carolina case which is the most recent. Here is what the priest said again:

"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."

He is saying that those people who voted for a pro-life candidate "should not receive Holy Communion". He is not saying, "I will question each communicant on how they voted and deny them Holy Communion accordingly." The burden of action here lies on the sinner, not the priest. They must realize what they did and willfully deny themselves communion until they receive absolution, just as they willfully sinned by acting in "material cooperation with intrinsic evil." This statement could have easily read "Driving the getaway car during a bank heist constitutes material cooperation with an intrinsic evil ... etc." Stealing is a sin.

Now reading the articles at face value one could read some sort of gestapo like questioning by the priests and bishops. But that is how the LA Times and AP have chosen to portray these statements. This type of reporting about the Catholic Church, where either through misunderstanding or willful distortion the Church is portrayed incorrectly is just something one needs to learn to parse through.

I apologize if this is all poorly explained. I am neither a canon lawyer nor a theologian. If anyone has further interests in Canon 915 or related matters please just let me know and I can point you in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Prayer for our United States

On this election day I think it would benefit us all greatly to keep in mind where our true source of our inalienable civil rights come from. And so whether a believer or not, Republican or Democrat and no matter how you vote, I just wanted to offer to all of you these prayers. The first composed by our first President, George Washington. The second is a Catholic prayer to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception who is the patron saint of the United States:

Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large.

And finally that Thou will most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Grant our supplications, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And the second to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception:

“Most holy trinity: Our father in heaven, who chose Mary as the fairest of your daughters; Holy Spirit, who chose Mary as your spouse; God the son, who chose Mary as your mother; in union with Mary, we adore your majesty and acknowledge Your supreme, eternal dominion and authority.

“Most holy trinity, we put the United States of America into the hands of Mary immaculate in order that she may present the country to you. Through her we wish to thank you for the great resources of this land and for the freedom, which has been its heritage. Through the intercession of Mary, have mercy on the Catholic Church in America. Grant us peace. Have mercy on our president and on all the officers of our government. Grant us a fruitful economy born of justice and charity. Have mercy on capital and industry and labor. Protect the family life of the nation. Guard the precious gift of many religious vocations. Through the intercession of our mother, have mercy on the sick, the poor, the tempted, sinners – on all who are in need.

“Mary, immaculate virgin, our mother, patroness of our land, we praise you and honor you and give our country and ourselves to your sorrowful and immaculate heart. O’ sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary pierced by the sword of sorrow prophesized by Simeon save us from degeneration, disaster and war. Protect us from all harm. O’ sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary, you who bore the sufferings of your son in the depths of your heart be our advocate. Pray for us, that acting always according to your will and the will of your divine son, we may live and die pleasing to God. Amen.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

When Life Begins - A Civil Rights argument

I am having problems linking here so I am republishing this article from NRO. I have discussed this issue before on Facebook and said basically the same thing. Mr. George says it much better and brings scientific research to bear to back it up.

Update: I was able to fix it. You can link directly to the article here.

When Life Begins
Will politics trump science?

By Robert P. George

When does the life of a human individual begin? Although the question is of obvious importance for our public policy debates over abortion and embryonic-stem-cell research, politicians have avoided it like the plague. Of late, though, things seem to be changing. Recently some of our nation’s most prominent political leaders, from the Speaker of the House to both contenders for the office of president, have weighed in on the question.

Faced with the complicated and not-very-widely-known facts of human embryology, most people are inclined to agree with the sentiment expressed by Speaker Pelosi, who has stated “I don’t think anybody can tell you when… human life begins.”

Yet is Speaker Pelosi correct? Is it actually the case that no one can tell you with any degree of authority when the life of a human being actually begins?

No, it is not. Treating the question as some sort of grand mystery, or expressing or feigning uncertainty about it, may be politically expedient, but it is intellectually indefensible. Modern science long ago resolved the question. We actually know when the life of a new human individual begins.

A recently published white paper, “When does human life begin? A scientific perspective,” offers a thorough discussion of the facts of human embryogenesis and early development, and its conclusion is inescapable: From a purely biological perspective, scientists can identify the point at which a human life begins. The relevant studies are legion. The biological facts are uncontested. The method of analysis applied to the data is universally accepted.

Your life began, as did the life of every other human being, when the fusion of egg and sperm produced a new, complete, living organism — an embryonic human being. You were never an ovum or a sperm cell, those were both functionally and genetically parts of other human beings — your parents. But you were once an embryo, just as you were once an adolescent, a child, an infant, and a fetus. By an internally directed process, you developed from the embryonic stage into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of development and ultimately into adulthood with your determinateness, unity, and identity fully intact. You are the same being — the same human being — who once was an embryo.

It is true that each of us, in the embryonic and fetal stages of development, were dependent on our mothers, but we were not maternal body parts. Though dependent, we were distinct individual human beings. That is why physicians who treat pregnant women know that they are caring not for one patient, but for two. (Of course, in cases of twins and triplets physicians are caring for more than two!)

Why, then, do we seem so far from a consensus on questions of abortion and embryo-destructive research?

Perhaps because the debate over when human life begins has never been about the biological facts. It has been about the value we ascribe to human beings at the dawn of their lives. When we debate questions of abortion, assisted reproductive technologies, human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, we are not really disagreeing about whether human embryos are human beings. The scientific evidence is simply too overwhelming for there to be any real debate on this point. What is at issue in these debates is the question of whether we ought to respect and defend human beings in the earliest stages of their lives. In other words, the question is not about scientific facts; it is about the nature of human dignity and the equality of human beings.

On one side are those who believe that human beings have dignity and rights by virtue of their humanity. They believe that all human beings, irrespective not only of race, ethnicity, and sex, but also irrespective of age, size, and stage of development, are equal in fundamental worth and dignity. The right to life is a human right — therefore all human beings, from the point at which they come into being (conception) to the point at which they cease to be (death), possess it.

On the other side are those who believe that those human beings who have worth and dignity have them in virtue of having achieved a certain level of development. They deny that all human beings have worth and dignity and hold that a distinction should be drawn between those human beings who have achieved the status of “personhood” and those (such as embryos, fetuses, and, according to some, infants and severely retarded or demented individuals) whose status is that of human non-persons.

A common error these days is for people to convert the question of when a human life begins from a matter of biology to a matter of religious faith or personal belief. Senator Biden recently asserted that while he believes life begins at the moment of conception, this was a “personal and private” belief deriving from his religion that may not legitimately be imposed on others “in a pluralistic society.”

Biden is perfectly correct about when a life begins — at conception. But he is wrong to suppose that this is a mere matter of personal opinion or a position deriving only from religion. It is a matter of biological fact. Politics should not be permitted to trump it.

In view of the established facts of human embryogenesis and early intrauterine development, the real question is not whether human beings in the embryonic and fetal stages are human beings. Plainly they are. The question is whether we will honor or abandon our civilizational and national commitment to the equal worth and dignity of all human beings — even the smallest, youngest, weakest, and most vulnerable.

— Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.