So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Remember this moment 31 years (and a few days) ago?


Catholic Phoenix

It was July 19, 1983 when Pope St. John Paul II publicly scolded Fr. Ernesto Cardenal on the Managua airport tarmac for holding political office and for failing to resign as the Holy Father and his bishop and canon law required. Cardenal had dropped to his knee to take John Paul II's hand to kiss his fisherman's ring when John Paul withdrew his hand abruptly:
Usted tiene que arreglar sus asuntos con la Iglesia.
You must fix (regularize) your affairs with the Church.
Ernesto Cardenal was a leading figure in the Liberation Theology movement. Ernesto and his brother, Fernando, a Jesuit (...) were ministers in the socialist Sandinista government. Apparently, Ernesto did not take the fraternal correction to heart. Valuing his political clout more than his priestly vocation, he continued in political office until 1987 when his ministry was closed.

Though not yet a Catholic at the time, I still remember thinking that the fellow kneeling before Pope John Paul II, i.e., Cardenal, had seriously crossed some sort of line. After I was received into the Church, I discovered the works of the Liberation theologians—Boff, Câmara, Gutiérrez, Segundo and others—at a local Catholic bookstore. Those were the days when Liberation Theology was very popular in our diocese, so much so that our bishop at the time, the disgraced Remi J. De Roo, jumped on the bandwagon with Liberation Theology saturated homilies and a socialist manifesto in book form. I began to transition out of my college socialist phase and involvement with socialist political movements in the mid-1980s. I also had the good sense to heed the teachings of John Paul II and other Catholic writers and subsequently distanced myself from the communism of the Liberationists. Virtually all of the Liberationists' writings were tainted. They had abandoned the Gospel and had crossed the line into mere communism wrapped in Catholic vestments. Sad to say, it took me longer than it should have to understand the connection between Boff and Marx, for example.

Oh, I believe in yesterday.

I met a much older acquaintance yesterday at a local bookstore. Typically, he is quick to wrangle passersby into conversations concerning issues that happen to be lodged in his craw. His monologue quickly became a rehash of media stereotypes concerning a regional brouhaha between the public school teachers' union and the provincial government. Sensing a politically charged rant about to ensue, I drew a long slow breath and prepared for his tirade against the government, capitalism and what have you. Confronted with facts contrary to his propaganda filled rant, he fled the topic du jour and shifted the conversation around from issue to issue, finally settling on touting Central American and Cuban socialist societies as paragons of virtue. As much as we both agreed that people can do with fewer material possessions in order to be content, he insisted that the "happiness" of the Cuban people was due to their government's policies. My contention was that the people of Cuba, or anywhere for that matter where people are materially impoverished, were content, generally speaking, in spite of the system of government not because of it. He was also unwilling to acknowledge the utter failure of communism and socialism. He dismissed the genocide in Russia and China, Laos and elsewhere wrought at the hands of socialist dictators as aberrations of socialism. More to the point, he was willing to revise history as any good socialist is wont to do. He also resisted the thought, with almost allergic force, that religion, in particular the Catholic Faith, provided empowering hope for people oppressed by dictators of one stripe or another. For example, he rejected that it was religion, in the case of Poland for example, that led people to organize peacefully (Solidarność), to overcome their fear and to resist the threats of their socialist-communist overlords. The faith of the Polish people led to the fall of communism in Europe.

Did I mention my occasional partner in dialogue belongs to a demographic that might be characterized as one comprised of aging anti-authority hippies and anarchic atheistic secularists? Did I mention that his monologues are little different than those practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses and members of other cults? As he often does, he concluded his sermon on socialism with a tirade, this time against religion. The temptation is great to dismiss him as some nutter who still believes that Marx is the messiah. Despite his apparent naivety concerning unredeemed human nature and man's tendency (without Christ in His life) to choose evil over good, he is right to affirm that man has a responsibility to care for his fellow human beings. His version of the common good is, however, a dangerous one shared by those who advocate policies which have led societies to become underachieving welfare states where the human spirit is suppressed and depressed, where inalienable rights (which he believes the state has authority to grant versus the responsibility to protect!) are routinely violated.

Age, like a university degree these days, is no guarantee of wisdom.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.