A lesson for Father McBrien

Richard O’Brien, a professor at Notre Dame and a priest ordained in the Archdiocese of Hartford, is an example of what ails us. The Citizen routinely trolls the National Catholic Reporter – among other so-called ‘Catholic’ publications – for the latest in schismatic thought. Fr. McBrien recently wrote an article complaining about the resistance of American Bishops and the Obama health care plan. It should be obvious, Father. But seeing how you work for Father Jenkins, this shouldn’t be surprising.

President Obama signed an executive order. Big deal. The authority that lies behind an executive order is practically non-existent. There is no specific clause in the Constitution that confers this power. The closest thing to justification for the practice of the executive order is found in Article II

…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Since 1789, this has been interpreted as meaning that the President had the authority to issue orders necessary to ensure the smooth operation of executive agencies and other instruments of government independent of constant congressional oversight. Until the Twentieth Century, there was essentially no public knowledge of executive orders. In 1952, the Supreme Court weighed in – for the first time – on the practice of executive orders. Executive orders have been used  for activities as mundane as establishing protocol or temporary appointments to the 1999 order that Clinton signed to authorize the use of American military force in Kosovo.

Perhaps the most important element of the Executive Order is that it only carries the weight the sitting president chooses to give it. Obama wrote an order limiting abortion. Tomorrow, he can write an order rescinding it. Congress can do nothing to stop it. The Supreme Court can do nothing. Bart Stupak can’t take his ‘yea’ vote back. It is over. I wonder if Professor Richard McBrien knows this. One hopes so – ignorance is so much easier to accept in a priest than active collusion.

McBrien quotes an article in Commonweal as an authoritative source. Unfortunately, the author of this article is equally ignorant of the true scope of the executive order. Both articles claim that the administration and the current congressional leadership have proven their willingness to act under the provisions once guaranteed by the Hyde Amendment. Nonsense.

How about the aggressive actions in Congress opening access to abortion in military bases at home and abroad? Did you hear about that, Professor McBrien? Or perhaps the comments VP Biden made to Kenya about writing access to abortion into their constitution?

It is unfortunate that a Catholic priest defends a president and congressional leaders who fought to keep the Hyde Amendment out of their patient care act. Why? If Obama, Pelosi, and Reid were serious about preserving the existing protections for the unborn, then tell me why they were unwilling to compromise? Please, Father – explain.

Of course this article was written by a priest who last year wrote “…how far the Catholic church in the United States has fallen from the high standards of leadership that they [Bernadin and Hesburgh] set.”

Father McBrien seeks leaders who agree with the ‘seamless garment’ philosophy – even if it runs contrary to the Magisterium. This infatuation with the ‘social justice’ approach that is popular with the intelligentsia is unfortunate. It’s tragic coming from the Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at Notre Dame. Didn’t they teach any American history in the Seminary? Don’t you know any history professors at Notre Dame?

Oh, of course you do – but they are socialist gospel activists too….how silly of me!

The problem with ‘Collective Salvation’

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about ‘collective salvation’ from the Left and Right alike. The Left embraces this theological construct while the Right condemns it. What’s a Catholic to do? While it is obvious that the Citizen is conservative in his political outlook, the idea of collective salvation is repugnant not simply on the ‘it’s a matter of right or left’ maxim but on the ‘it’s a matter of right or wrong’ principle.

Christ warned us about those who will come after Him and attempt to speak in His name:

For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand. – Matthew 24:24

By contrast, let’s remember the now famous quote “We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for”. For more than a decade, Obama has been building himself up to becoming the High Priest of the Church of Collective Salvation. He has preached Catholic theology to Catholics – in our own institutions of learning.  Many of us can recall Obama’s Notre Dame speech, when he interjected himself as an authority of Catholic teaching in his address. The Citizen recalls pundits proclaiming him as the ‘Voice of the American Catholic’. Oh my.

On the other hand, Johnny Cash understood the relationship we all share with Jesus in his American IV album. The amazing thing about Christ’s ministry and sacrifice is that he mounted that cross on Cavalry for each and every one of us – from then to the End of Days. The Council of Trent, convened in 1545, articulated the Catholic doctrine of salvation among it’s many accomplishments. Chapter VII states:

…because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God…

If faith is the root of salvation, then how can we possibly expect salvation to be a community affair? It isn’t. Individual salvation is an unearned gift, bestowed by God and accepted by man – or rejected. Individually. Salvation comes when a person understands and believes in God’s promise to us all, when we accept God’s gifts and seek to live a sanctified life, a life that is modeled after the example Christ set for us.

It is a fundamental doctrine of St. Paul that salvation can be acquired only by the grace merited by Christ (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma)

Collective salvation – like liberation theology and social justice – sounds good on the surface, but is dangerous for Catholics to consider as a sound theological concept. For those old enough to remember the Sixties, Collective Salvation is merely the liberal ‘Social Gospel’ movement retooled. Possessing roots in the reforming movements of the late 19th century, the social gospel movement became a tool of liberalism, allowing secularists and Marxists to create a religious movement that advances socialism while cloaked in pretenses of adhering to Christian thought. The social gospel movement is a Protestant version of liberation theology. Both seem to believe that it takes a village to save a soul. Both use the Christian concepts of charity to justify a variety of social issues – ranging from poverty to immigration to health care to the rights of minorities. According to social gospel/liberation theology/collective salvation adherents, it is only through embracing all that we have a chance of gaining the keys to Heaven.

To the collective salvationist, ensuring gay marriage is a key to win the gates of Heaven. Redistribution of wealth – a key. Embracing illegal immigrants – a key. Accepting that ‘God’s mansion has many rooms’ – a key. Accepting that it is wrong to apply our personal moral values to decisions we make about our money, our possessions, and the actions of our government – a key. In short, their concept of salvation rests in the acceptance of a Marxist lifestyle. Wealth is evil. Possessions are bad. The poor aren’t poor because of their own bad decisions – they are poor because they are oppressed. Drug addicts aren’t responsible for their addiction – we are. People living illegally in the United States aren’t breaking laws – we are the ones who are wrong for withholding the blessings of this nation from the world. It’s not a baby, it’s a choice.

Do Christians have a responsibility to help the poor, the infirm, the stranger? Of course we do. As individuals, it is our responsibility to be good custodians of the riches that God has placed in our hands. The Parable of the Talents is a perfect example of Christ’s belief that we are called to use our gifts wisely and well. Is our salvation linked to the good works of a nation? Of course not. Who sets the agenda for the progress of collective national salvation? Why, Organizing for America. According to one blogger on the OFA site, Barack Obama holds all the cards:

He knows “the Secret” and will meet all challenges (fix our schools, make college affordable, train our workers, invest more in research and biotechnology), use the law of Attraction to transform our country. We know what needs to be done. What’s lacking is the political will. Barack has the will.

Barack himself uttered these words in 2005:

You need to take on the challenge because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

Organizing for America has a program where they ‘educate, train, and organize’ young people to advance the OFA agenda. In short, Barack Obama is taking our young men and women and turning them into his own army of the Faithful, his church of collective salvation. This collective salvation approach is yet another tool that he uses to attract and secure the loyalties of the next generation. The ‘Face of American Progressivism’ is seeking to cement the secular left’s control over the future of America. This is just another tool to sway the religious segment of young America.

Mr. Obama seems to be confusing civic duty with our personal relationship with Jesus. He seems to believe that a life of prayer and contemplation is insufficient to save our souls – please don’t tell the cloistered Carmelite sisters and Trappists monks. Mr. Obama and the OFA blogger – as well as a frighteningly large number of ‘progressive’ Christians – have taken two thousand years of Christian theology and warped it to fit a socialist mold. Why?

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions…

Karl Marx wrote that religion has its place a mechanism to control society. Religion can be twisted into a philosophy that celebrates the need of the working class, glorifies the struggle of the ‘oppressed’, advocates for the redistribution of wealth as a tool of social justice, and places the welfare of the society as a whole as more relevant then that of the individual.

The problem with this concept of collective salvation – in all its various forms – is that is ignores the doctrine of personal salvation as a gift of the Crucified Christ. It ignores the concept of justification. In short form, justification is the theological concept that man can know salvation because God’s grace is infused in the human soul. It is the personal acceptance of this gift and the individual willingness to allow this grace to fill our lives that we can achieve salvation. Collective salvation denies this belief that an individual’s recognition of this grace is sufficient. Collective salvation demands that only through obedience to the instrument of the collective Uber-soul as embodied by the State can we all be saved. This is the next logical step in taking religion from the hands of the Church and putting it into the unworthy hands of the State.

Despite the Obama devotee’s assertion, there is no ‘secret’ to salvation.

Just read the Bible. Fight not for ‘social justice’ but for ‘equal justice’. Advocate not for ‘human rights’ but ‘individual rights’. Place your faith not in ‘collective salvation’ – work to save your own soul.

Cultivate your relationship with your ‘Own, Personal Jesus’.

(Thanks Johnny)

The Discipline of Catholicism

Being a Catholic is more than just checking a box on the occasional form. It is more than going to Mass and the occasional trek to the Confessional. Contrary to the attitudes of many self-professed Catholics, it is much more than some sort of ancestral birthright…sorry, ‘Cradle Catholics’. Being Catholic requires contemplation, commitment, constant discernment – and, yes, discipline and submission.

Submission? In many ways, this is the most important element of being Catholic. Submission requires an attitude foreign to many of us – especially considering that narcissism is considered by many Americans to be a constitutionally protected liberty. Ours is a two thousand year old religion with a rich history of great thinkers who have articulated our doctrine. Call it ignorance, call it apathy, call it self-delusion…the fact is apparent that many Catholics do not understand the Catechism. For those unaware of it’s existence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compendium of the teachings of our Church.

Continue reading

John 15 – A Message of Hope

It would be so easy to lay down the burdens that Christians face. To be honest, how many of us were truly, personally effected by the Obama commencement appearance at Notre Dame? In my letters to editors, essays, and discussions I was asked this question often – “Did you even go to Notre Dame?” No, I have never even been to South Bend. “So why are you getting worked up about this?” Good question.  “Why does everything have to be about religion?” Another question I get often. Another good question. “Can’t you keep your beliefs out of politics?” Yet another good question.

All of these questions demonstrate to me that I ‘am not of this world’ – and I  am happy about it.

Continue reading

The Cost of Doing Nothing…

The Citizen and his bride were driving to Boston the other day when we heard a commentator share a quote from Edmund Burke.  For those unfamiliar with the gentleman, he was an Irish political theorist, statesman, essayist, orator, and philosopher who lived in the 18th century. As a member of the House of Commons, his activities and work as a member of the Whig party has earned him the accolade of the ‘Father of Modern Conservatism.’ A man possessed of exceptional insight and wisdom, he penned many memorable quotes. Among them was this piece of sage advice:

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Actually, the quote that was used is one that has never been attributed to Burke, but is often quoted. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”, while cogent, was likely never uttered by Burke.  The Citizen may be accused of splitting hairs, but I actually prefer the verifiable quote from Thoughts of the Cause of Present Discontents.

Continue reading