Saturday, August 24, 2002

Some Reflections on Interfaith Outreach:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

I apologize if this reads jagged as my internal editor told me I had to excise some of the stuff I originally had in this sequence. (Plus I will probably "wing it" and add to the basic structure in the process.) Well, with a sip from my shotglass and with Dire Straits playing in the background ("Once Upon A Time in the West" - Mark Knopfler's lead is executed beautifully) here goes...

We can agree as Catholics that it is important to preach the Gospel in season and out and to do so in a charitable manner I hope. (Those who cannot might as well leave at this time.) Part of "preaching the Gospel" is recognizing the religious impulse in someone and fostering its development. For we are made to desire God, it is part and parcel to our very being. So first and foremost is not sticking bibles or catechisms in people's hands. No the first step is to respect their dignity as people made in God's image and start the ball of their faith walk rolling through acts of love for their fellow man. This is the point to which interfaith outreach intends to start the inculcation of the values of the Gospel: from within. And by this prod the soul on if you will.

Sir Issac Newton noted that objects in motion remain in motion and objects at rest remain at rest. What alters their state is force of some kind. And this force can be either positive or negative. We can either act as Ku Klux Katholiks and beat people over the head in the name of Christ or we can show them the kind of respect that Jesus showed even to those who were recognized as public sinners and as not "of the Chosen People".

I worry that many who object to Assisi have an insufficient understanding of the dynamics involved here: the difference between fostering the religious impulse - even if initially it resists Truth - and slamming someone's faithwalk flushly upside the head with the 2X4 of triumphalism. The question is do we help these people across the chasm that stands between themselves and the fullness of Revelation or do we expect them to jump across themselves??? To help sort this out we need to consider what we know of God and what we know of the divine law to worship Him alone and the natural law which man has inscribed on his heart - that natural law that predisposes someone to be religious in some form or another. What it boils down to is this:

St. Thomas teaches that the Divine law of grace does not do away with the natural law of human reason (S. Th., II II, q.10, a. 10 c.). Therefore, the divine and natural laws must be in conformity to one another, they cannot contradict or else error is present. Surely we can agree on this much I hope. And if we do, we are now in a quandry because if we want to avoid the blasphemy of ascribing error or defect in creation to the Almighty, we have a duty here we must adhere to. We must uphold the principle that the law of grace and the law of reason do not controvert. To do this means that the concept of "unbelief" needs to be properly quantified.

We must make the distinction between unbelief by negation and unbelief by opposition. A heretic (and to some degree a schismatic) are guilty of unbelief by opposition - for they refuse to hear the truth. This is the *objective* truth. (This is where the "formal/material" element of Catholic theology comes into play.) I will not dwell on subjectives here except to note that the degree in which someone is guilty of "unbelief by opposition" is something that only God can know. Therefore we should leave that element up to our Heavenly Father and out of charity never put an unfavourable interpretation upon the actions of others.

For "[t]he same action may be looked upon under many different aspects; a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable will just as certainly choose the worst" (St. Francis de Sales). Let us therefore presume that we are not dealing with people in bad faith but instead people who suffer from unbelief by negation.

According to St. Thomas, unbelief by opposition is a sin. By contrast, unbelief by negation is not. "Opposition" implies an action of the will opposing itself to truth as opposed to someone who rejects what they do not know. Someone who is an unbeliever by negation is not someone who is opposing themselves to the truth. Ergo, one who is an unbeliever by negation cannot be guilty of sin in their unbelief. If they *are* than we would be de facto accusing God of a kind of wickedness akin to the Calvinist notion of God actively consigning some people to damnation. The divine and natural laws cannot contradict.

If you will not hear me than hear one of the Supreme Pontiff's St. Pius V, who definitively condemned the proposition "Infidelitas pure negativa in his quibus Christus non est predicatus peccatum est" (D +1068). Roughly translated this reads "purely negative unbelief, in those whom Christ was not preached to, is a sin". How do we take this teaching properly??? Do we presume that simply *telling* someone about Jesus is adequate to qualify as "preaching" to them. I suppose some people might say yes but need I remind them that faith without works is as the body without the soul (James ii, 26)???

So the Gospel must be preached in a tangible manner. And further, it must be done in a manner which the audience can comprehend it. Walking up to someone and simply telling them about Jesus is not the kind of preaching that cuts the mustard here. No we must show them our faith by our works or else they have no reason to believe that what we tell them is the truth (cf. James ii,18). And what is the lynchpin of showing the charity that St. James exhorts us is necessary and that St. Paul notes is what makes faith to any avail (1 Corinthians xiii)??? By putting their journey in motion if you will through fostering the religious impulse.

Praying for peace for our fellow man is an act of charity if it is done from the heart. What reason do we have for presuming any bad faith amongst those who gathered at Assisi??? But those who insist on trashing the pope, trashing the "heathens", and the like, time for you to put up. Here is the apparent paradox you have to solve.

According to the Divine law, God orders man to be religious. Therefore, the natural law would involve a searching for God as the Divine Law commands. The problem of controversion arises when we ask how God -knowing that humankind, many of whom are unbelievers by negation - would charge such people with sin for following the natural law whereby they are drawn to seek Him out, simply because they err in where they are seeking.

The paradigm of those who are critical of interfaith outreach would charge an unbeliever with sin if he failed to pray (for he would violate the religious impulse built into him by God). But then if he *does* pray and obeys the natural law inscribed on his heart, he is charged with sin against the divine law because He does not pray to the proper conception of "God". Notice the trap that is set here.

By this "logic" failing to pray damns them by the natural law (which St. Paul in Romans 2 says is indespensible) and praying damns them by the divine law. If God is not contradictory in his laws then which is it critics??? Do they violate the natural law if they do *not* pray and then (if they *do* pray) proceed to violate the divine law??? If you are one of those who froth at the mouth about Assisi and interfaith gatherings, you need to reconcile this paradox or stop your ranting and start listening. The ball is in your court now...

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Friday, August 23, 2002

In reading some of the material over at the Junk Yard Blog I found an article on the NEA and history revisionism *very* interesting. A few samples should suffice:

"The National Education Association is suggesting to teachers that they be careful on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks not to "suggest any group is responsible" for the terrorist hijackings that killed more than 3,000 people. Suggested lesson plans compiled by the NEA recommend that teachers "address the issue of blame factually," noting: "Blaming is especially difficult in terrorist situations because someone is at fault."

Translation: though certain groups attacked our nation with financial backing from wealthy people of Arab extraction who commit acts of terrorism against us, we should not "blame them" for it. That would not be "nice". These are the same people who think somehow if we simply outlaw firearms crime will go down...let me do we explain Washington D.C. then??? Murder capital probably of the world and if I am not mistaken it is a gun confiscating advocates dream.

Fortunately there are some people quoted in the article that have some common sense. One of them is the Eagle Forums' Mrs. Phyllis Schlafley. Another is Mr. William S. Lind:

"A lot of what's stated in these lesson plans are lies," said William S. Lind, director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative policy think tank. "None of what is mentioned in these plans are facts. It's an ultimate sin to now defend Western culture. It does not matter today whether a student learns any facts or any skills. What matters now is the attitude they come away with when they graduate school."

Speaking of not learning any facts, I gave my nine year old cousin a short quiz the other day after she mentioned that she did not know who Christopher Columbus was. I asked her to name the last five US presidents and she got Dubya and Bubba but did not know who preceded them in office. All I will say about that is those who want to opt for homeschooling come out looking wiser every day...

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I decided to add my angelfire address as a secondary contact address. This gives me a good excuse to adhere to what is apparently known as the "Welborn Protocol" at both email addresses. As I get email from extremist so-called "traditionalists" at angelfire who take a view of salvation as contingent upon the cerebral (i.e based on what we know) I am going to use this same principle with the blog. After all, I say it plainly on my blog the "Welborn Protocol" will be adhered to. Therefore, if "trads" who whine in the future about any enforcement of this protocol on my part, well that is too bad. And if they cannot take the time to search the web and determine that I have *specifically* stated I would adhere to this protocol, then they have no excuse for not knowing now do they???

Seriously though, I worry about those who think people will be judged on how well they know the Gospel based on memorizing their catechism - as opposed to knowing it through *living* it (cf. James ii, 14-26). But that is another topic altogether...


Thursday, August 22, 2002

On Setting Up The Weblog, Remembering My Father, Etc.
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

To quote one of my favourite former US Presidents: BULLY!!!

Rerum Novarum finally is set up in a way I am happy with. The problem with posting links is getting it to read just right. I could have added twenty more but had to stop somewhere - though to some extent the links posted will fluctuate over the months I am sure...

I added as a last minute edition the memoirs of one Hugo P. Cipriani to the blog list. In light of such an addition this gives me an opportunity to speak about something that has become a subject of constant reflection for me the past few years - particularly in the wake of my fathers passing on June 12, 2001.

The difference between my father and Mr. Cipriani is that the latter expresses himself in words in a manner that my father struggled with. My father - whose wedding anniversary to my mother passed two days ago - is someone I hold very close to my heart. Just a shade over sixty he was cut from a different mould than I am - though there are some similarities in the mould from a physical, personality, and philosophical outlook. But the differences are significant.

As I am sure Hugo's son would agree (for in many ways my father and I were not similar Albert and I are similar) our fathers were of a different era. I suspect based on my reading of Hugo's memoirs that he and my father were similar. Men who worked with their hands, who built engines, cars, battleships, and the like in the waning years of the Industrial age that started passing away in the night around 1965 or so. We live in a different era with different outlooks now - many of which are not good ones.

Eras of turmoil do not treat kindly those who were moulded before the various paradigm shifts of history. Even as society became more information based in the 1970's and 1980's (and particularly into the 1990's through the end of the millennium), many people still clung if you will to "old ways" or however they are classified because of their formation in an earlier culture where change was not so prevalent.

I put this link to the memoirs up because of a concern on my part that my father's generation, and the preceding one - which includes Mr. Cipriani - are on the verge of being forgotten. Everything revolves around the "baby boomers" and their kids now. I think of this as I think about some wiring I have to do either today or tomorrow: something my father was a wizard at but which I do with no small amount of struggle.

I write easily and read at a much higher level than my father did because of the benefits of vision therapy in my formative years whereas my father never had that. It was only when my former vision therapist tested my father that it was discovered he had a problem with his vision that made reading a monstrous chore for him. (His teachers chalked it up to him being "slow".) As reading and writing go hand in hand his writing suffered too -so he never wrote much outside of the basics such as sketching a diagram for a work project or writing short notes.

Hugo writes in an earthy kind of manner akin to how my father would tell a story. Because of this it is difficult to read his stuff without welling up a bit in the eyes. Stories of the past and men (my father and Hugo) who were of a different mould than men and boys of today: stronger men overall and more "self-contained" if you will. We are definitely not the men our fathers and grandfathers were - and such a memoir as this can point out to us where our elders had to struggle under the most trying of situations so that we could have a "better life".

Before closing this recollection I look on my desk and see a letter written from my father to me - one of the very few that I possess if not the only one. It is one of my most prized possessions. A page plus in length - not much for volume but I was told he spent some time on it.

We need to remember the silent generation people - and the WWII generation that preceded them. Will they ever make such men again; men of a self-contained sort, men of discipline, sacrifice, and above all: impeccable integrity??? I do not know but one thing is certain: I hope many of us can in some way attain that kind of presence.

"[T]he harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few" (Matt. ix, 37-38).

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Still a bit off (sigh)...


Almost there...


Hopefully this time it will work. I have moved from Kitaro's soulful new age music to Albert Collins' piercing vibrato-drenched blues playing..."Blue Monday Hangover" on a Thursday is not what I had in mind trying to set this blog up...

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Correction: my links did not take. So while listening to Kitaro's soulful playing of the opening strains of "Mandala", I have assembled on my computer notepad a series of the links in case after this post they do not take again...still on "training wheels" apparently with this blog thing...sigh...


I think I have figured out how to add links now...will see if this published entry "kicks in" my new settings...


Okay... publishing a new entry changed the template. However, the new pattern chosen had some "recommended links" that thankfully are not problematical. Though until I figure out how to work that part of the blog, I note here for the reader that of the three listed I use google a lot. And though I had to check to make sure that the other two were not objectionable of course, prior to three minutes ago I have never seen the other two in my life. So please do not take their presence here as an endorsement by I still have "training wheels" on viz figuring this "new thing" out...


As an aside worth noting ... these blogs appear to be pretty idiot-proof as far as destroying... I am not happy with the template I chose initially and for some reason it does not want to change ... so I am left putting up a "nonsense entry" like this to see if the changes will take hold when a new entry is published... anyway, here goes...


With this being the third time I have tried to launch this "new thing", I was half tempted due to agitation to open the blog with the first line of "Catcher in the Rye" - indeed computer technology irks me when I struggle with it. Particularly since the second attempt was a long drawn out dissertation on why it is important to back up files. In light of my own very recent experience on this subject, the subject is worth mentioning though this attempt at it will be much briefer. Here goes:

I thought I could get by without backing up my harddrive and the results speak for themselves. All web writing templates lost - including a virtually completed revision of a work that I have planned on sending to a theological censor to obtain a Nihil Obstat for over a year now. (Thankfully many of the areas I revised are in a template form at my angelfire account: something that in hindsight will have saved me a small part of repairing the templates from the web for sending to the censor.)

In addition, the templates of nearly twenty other writings, five additional writings in various stages of completion, several ideas for additional projects jotted down, and a diverse collection of nearly eight hundred web dialogues spanning over a three year period. (Out of frustration at losing such things with message board quirks I started composing on Word and ended up saving many of them as I went along. Many a writing idea came from such discussions.) That does not even count pictures, legal contracts, letters, miscellaneous documents, and all my software installers amongst other things. Our Lord in Luke xiv, 11 tells us "he who exalteth himself shall be humbled". Well I engaged in no small amount of presumption by my own admission. And like a babbling Ozzy Osbourne telling his kids to "stay away from drugs" I know of what I speak having learned it the hard way ... well about backing up a hard drive anyway... ;-)