Monday, March 25, 2013

Hollingsworth v. Perry

The sole purpose of Hollingsworth v. Perry is to attempt to REMOVE from Christians the opportunity to teach their children that MARRIAGE is between one man and one woman.  The sole purpose is to co-opt the traditional language of sacramental matrimony so as to remove the teeth from any moral AND civil assertion that same-sex unions are disordered and immoral.  To refer to same-sex unions as "civil unions" even with ALL constitutional rights left intact is not enough.  News media tries to portray the issue as a civil rights issue but with respect to Proposition 8 that is simply an outright lie.

Proposition 8 worked a singular and limited change to the California Constitution: it stripped same-sex couples of the right to have their committed relationships recognized by the State with the designation of ‘marriage,’ which the state constitution had previously guaranteed them, while leaving in place all of their other rights and responsibilities as partners—rights and responsibilities that are identical to those of married spouses and form an integral part of the marriage relationship.

Proposition 8 “leaves intact all of the other very significant constitutional protections afforded same-sex couples,” including “the constitutional right to enter into an officially recognized and protected family relationship with the person of one’s choice and to raise children in that family if the couple so chooses.

[T]he amendment’s effect was to “establish [... ] a new substantive state constitutional rule [...] which “carves out anarrow and limited exception to these state constitutional rights,” by “reserving the official designation of the term ‘marriage’ for the union of opposite-sex couples as a matter of state constitutional law[.]

Section Summary: This language, which has been lifted directly from the Ninth Circuit Court's opinion now under Supreme Court review, makes clear that the only legal question is as follows. What will we call the same-sex union?

ALL OTHER rights accorded the legally sanctioned union between a man and a woman, which we call marriage, are preserved by the California Amendment (aka Proposition 8).

The language below was also lifted directly from the opinion now under Supreme Court review. When we say all other rights preserved we mean ALL OTHER RIGHTS.

Now as before, same-sex partners may:

• Raise children together, and have the same rights and obligations as to their children as spouses have, see Cal.Fam.Code § 297.5(d);

• Enjoy the presumption of parentage as to a child born to either partner, see Elisa B. v. Super. Ct. [37 Cal.4th 108, 33 Cal.Rptr.3d 46], 117 P.3d 660, 670 (Cal.2005); Kristine M. v. David P., 135 Cal.App.4th 783 [37 Cal.Rptr.3d 748] (2006); or adopted by one partner and raised jointly by both, S.Y. v. S.B., 201 Cal.App.4th 1023 [134 Cal.Rptr.3d 1] (2011);

• Adopt each other’s children, see Cal. Fam.Code § 9000(g);

• Become foster parents, see Cal. Welf. & Inst.Code § 16013(a);

• Share community property, see Cal. Fam.Code § 297.5(k);

• File state taxes jointly, see Cal. Rev. & Tax.Code § 18521(d);

• Participate in a partner’s group health insurance policy on the same terms as a spouse, see Cal. Ins.Code § 10121.7;

• Enjoy hospital visitation privileges, see Cal. Health & Safety Code § 1261;

• Make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated partner, see Cal. Prob.Code § 4716;

• Be treated in a manner equal to that of a widow or widower with respect to a deceased partner, see Cal. Fam.Code §297.5(c);

• Serve as the conservator of a partner’s estate, see Cal. Prob.Code §§ 1811–1813.1; and

• Sue for the wrongful death of a partner, see Cal.Civ.Proc.Code § 377.60—among many other things.

Proposition 8 did not affect these rights or any of the other “ ‘constitutionally based incidents of marriage’ ” guaranteed to same-sex couples and their families.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville

Help Save Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville

November 2, 2012 by matushka constantina

Reposted to Irenikon on November 3, 2012
I know that many of my readers are “philomonaxoi” (monastic-lovers) and so I know that you will all be willing to offer aid to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York as best you can. If you would be so kind to offer financial aid it would benefit not only the monastery (which is dire need of help: see letter below), but also you yourselves will be benefited by the kind and loving alms-giving you offer to the monastery for the glory of God. For those of you who cannot give money at this time, your prayers for the monastery are greatly appreciated!
May the Mother of God be with you all, and may the Most Holy Trinity grant you grace and great mercy for your kindness!


Dear brothers and sisters,

While all eyes are focused on Hurricane Sandy, another emerging catastrophe calls for our special consideration in helping our fathers and brethren at the Holy Trinity Monastery. This venerable ROCOR institution, founded in 1928, has touched the lives of countless monks, seminarians, pilgrims, and other Orthodox faithful. The time I spent in 1982 as a “summer boy” was spiritually transforming, serving as an anchor in the  midst of turbulent teenage years. My father has also found his resting place among the other 1,500 Orthodox colleagues in Christ at the monastery’s unique cemetery.

I visited the monastery earlier this week in order to review the endowment and scholarship funds provided by the FFA earlier this year. I was shocked to learn that the monastery is now under severe financial difficulty on the back of two major developments:

Environmental: all the heating oil tanks used for heating have had to be urgently replaced. Initial works were completed, but do not yet meet required standard due to a lack of sufficient funds. Failure to complete these works in time could result in a fine levied by the New York Environment Commission of $37,000 per day!


 Infrastructure: the plumbing (including septic tank) and electricity in the main building (“bratskij korpus”) requires urgent replacement. When the founding monks built this complex in the 1950s, they did what they could with the materials they could afford. Unfortunately, the pipes are literally disintegrating (see photos).

 Given the cold winter approaching, this could spell disaster unless they are urgently replaced, at a cost the monastery cannot afford.

The electricity is in a similar state of affairs – the reliable contractor of many years refuses to do any more service work without replacement of all wires, panels, and infrastructure. Lastly, the kitchen requires replacement in order to accommodate increasing requirements and rotting floor.

There is no retained income sufficient to fill the gap these urgent expenses require. I personally reviewed audited financial statements, and found in the fiscal year 2010-2011, expenses (including seminary) exceeded revenue (including donations) by several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The operating costs increased due to urgent repairs (see above) and costs associated with maintaining the large cemetery (crosses requiring replacement, not paid for by families). The preliminary figures for 2011-2012 a lower loss, but a loss, nevertheless. Fortunately, the monks are urgently finding ways to fill the gap with sales from a revised book store and publishing activity, and selling incense, and other liturgical items.

The importance of the monastic life in our Church and was described by Metropolitan Hilarion, where he said:
“Monasteries are the foundation of our Church, because they are places where prayer never ceases.  Even if we are not able to visit, we will still be comforted, because we know that the monastics are praying for all of us. Monasticism means living the Christian life to the fullest.”

Towards the end of last year our donor base generously contributed over $190,000 in aid of the Holy Cross Monastery. We ask that the same enthusiasm and support be given to the Holy Trinity Monastery as well!

The Fund for Assistance is so convinced of the need to ensure the survival of the Holy Trinity Monastery that we will match every dollar you contribute through the end of December, 2012*.

Please donate now by sending a check to the Fund for Assistance at: 75 East 93rd Street New York, NY 10128 USA; or, even more quickly click here.
May you all enjoy a most wonderful approach towards Nativity!
In Christ,
Mark SelawryPresident – Fund for Assistance
*The first $50,000 of contributions will be matched.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


"God's Mercy is Greater!"
by Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC¹

Doctor of the Church for the third millennium

St. Therese of LisieuxSt Therese of Lisieux, who was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II on October 19, 1997, felt the calling in the monastery to teach others and wanted to be a teacher (docteur)1  Early on, God revealed the mysteries of His Love to her. She writes about this: "Ah! Had the learned who spent their life in study come to me, undoubtedly they would have been astonished to see a child of fourteen understand perfection's secrets, secrets all their knowledge cannot reveal because to possess them one has to be poor in spirit!" 2

In his apostolic letter Divini Amoris Scientia, published when St Therese was declared Doctor of the Church, the Holy Father says that one should not look for a scientific revelation of God's mysteries. "Thus we can rightly recognize in the Saint of Lisieux the charism of a Doctor of the Church, because of the gift of the Holy Spirit she received for living and expressing her experience faith, and because of her particular understanding of the mystery of Christ... That assimilation was certainly favored by the most singular natural gifts, but it was also evidently something prodigious, due to a charism of wisdom from the Holy Spirit."3

Her writings offer an abundance of ideas concerning practically every field in theology and spirituality, a multitude which even a hundred years after her death bas been far from exhausted. As the popes repeatedly express: Therese of Lisieux is a gift to the Church. Before the year 2000, she was declared Doctor of the Church, becoming the third woman amongst the thirty-three recognized Doctors of the Church. She died young. Not only is she the youngest of all, but also the best known, loved, and read! Already she has given the Church a lot, and in the dawn of a new millennium, she will continue to bless the faithful with her many gifts. Thus, she is also known as "Doctor of the Church of the third millennium."

"One does not need to go to Purgatory"

Little Therese's theology is a theology that springs from life, a theology of experience. She received a fervent Catholic upbringing at home, in her parish community, as well as at the school of the Benedictine nuns in Lisieux, and thus, she was familiar with the teaching of Purgatory. Being lead by-the Holy Spirit, thoughts, notions, and ideas developed which finally became, "The teaching of the Little Flower on Purgatory."4

The common teaching within the Church is that Purgatory can hardly be avoided. While still only a novice, the saint commented about this with one of the sisters,  Sr. Maria Philomena, who believed in the near impossibility of going to heaven without passing through purgatory:
You do not have enough trust. You have too much fear before the good God. I can assure you that He is grieved over this. You should not fear Purgatory because of the suffering there, but should instead ask that you not deserve to go there in order to please God, Who so reluctantly imposes this punishment. As soon as you try to please Him in everything and have an unshakable trust He purifies you every moment in His love and He lets no sin remain. And then you can be sure that you will not have to go to Purgatory.5

She even said that we would offend God if we didn't trust enough that we would get to heaven right after dying. When she found out that her novices talked occasionally that they would probably have to expect to be in Purgatory, she corrected them saying: "Oh! How you grieve me! You do a great injury to God in believing you're going to Purgatory. When we love, we can't go there."6 Now, this is a new doctrine, but only for those who don't know God, who are not childlike, who don't trust. It is so correct to see things this way. It is true that God will judge us at one point, but He is always and first our Father Who... suffers when He has to punish His child and sees its suffering. The child should do His will just out of love, and not to avoid punishment. And this really means that God does not want Purgatory! He allows that His children suffer, but only as if He had to look away.7

   If St. Therese is correct that one does not need to be in Purgatory because God Himself does not want this and would love to help us, the thought that Purgatory can be avoided is suddenly not so far-fetched anymore. But first there is the problem of the . aforementioned opinion which says that only few will avoid Purgatory. This is confirmed by great saints and mystics like St. John of the Cross who says, "Only a small number of souls achieve perfect love"8 (perfect love is necessary to go straight to heaven). St. Teresa of Avila also had the experience that only few will be able to avoid Purgatory.9 St. John Vianney said, "It is definite that only a few chosen ones do not go to Purgatory and the suffering there that one must. endure, exceeds our imagination."10

One also has to take into consideration that even practicing Christians are convinced that even the good and faithful and those consecrated to God will have to be exposed to purification in Purgatory for a certain amount of time. The reason for this is always the same: "It is not easy to avoid Purgatory. No one is a saint, and I will certainly have to spend some time there myself." They add to this that "God is just" or "we certainly deserve this."

Therefore, it is even more amazing what St. Therese has to say. Once she encouraged her novice, Sr. Marie de la Trinire to have the faith that it was possible even for her to get to heaven right away. She wondered "If I fail even in: the smallest things, " may I still hope to get straight to heaven?" St Therese, who knew well the weaknesses of her novice, replied: "Yes! God is so good. He will know how He can come and get you. But despite this, try to be faithful, so that He does not wait in vain for your love."11

God is Father rather than Judge.

Once St. Therese had a confrontation regarding this topic with Sr. Marie Febronia, who not only was sixty-seven years old but also was sub-prioress. She had heard that St. Therese encouraged the novices to believe that they could go straight to heaven. She did not like this as she considered this kind of confidence presumptuous, and thus she reproached St Therese. St Therese tried lovingly and calmly to explain to Sr. Febronia her point of view but with no success as Sr. Febronia clung to belief. For St. Therese God was more Father than Judge, and she took the liberty of finally responding, "My sister, if you look for the justice of God you will get it. The soul will receive from God exactly what she desires." 

The year had not passed when, in January 1892, Sr. M. Febronia together with other sisters fell prey to the flu and died. Three months later Sr. Therese had a dream which she related to her Mother Prioress and which was then documented: "O my Mother, my Sr. M Febronia came to me last night and asked that we should pray for het:. She is in Purgatory, surely because she had trusted too little in the mercy of the good Lord. Through her imploring behavior and her profound looks, it seemed she wanted to say, You were right. I am now delivered up to the full justice of God but it is my fault. If I had listened to you I would not be here now."12

St. Therese's "doctrine" in 7 key words

1. Purgatory became a rule rather than the exception.

An infinite number of souls who suffer in Purgatory and for whom the Church prays daily after consecration did not need to go there. If we think in human terms, God does not wish for us to need Purgatory. God does not put us here on earth, where we are tested and are suffering after the fall, only to let us suffer again--and much worse--in Purgatory. Everyone receives enough graces in order to go straight to God after passing the trials on earth. However, Purgatory is an emergency entry to Heaven for those who have wasted their time. However, what God considered the exception became the rule, and the rule--to go straight to heaven--became the exception.

2. To cope with the "inevitable" is a grave error.

Since God does not really want Purgatory, He does not want it for me either! But then I also have to not want it! Nobody would expose themselves to the danger of Purgatory by living a mediocre and--as is the case so often today--a sinful life. If they only thought of the intense sufferings in Purgatory. In this regard, the mystics unanimously say that the least suffering in Purgatory is much greater than the greatest suffering here on earth! The reason for this is that once in Purgatory, one does not go through the time of God's Mercy but of God's Justice. Here, the Lord's word applies: "1 tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last copper' (Lk 12:59). The many who carelessly say, "I will probably spend some time there," are gravely wrong. Nobody just spends some time there, one has to suffer there like one has never suffered nor could have suffered while on earth. One often even suffers a long time there also. If the Poor Souls in Purgatory had known on earth what to expect in eternity, Purgatory would have remained empty.

3. Purgatory is a waste of time.
   This is what St. Therese says, "I know that of myself I would not merit even to enter that place of expiation since only holy souls can have entrance there. But I also know that the Fire of Love is more sanctifying than is the tire of Purgatory. I know that Jesus cannot desire useless sufferings for us, and that He would not inspire the longings I feel unless He wanted to grant them."13 It is true that Purgatory is a wonderful grace, for if needed, without the purification in Purgatory we would not go to Heaven, and the work of art which God intended and created us to be would not be completed. But St. Therese is right: at the moment of our death we already have our place in Heaven. Afterwards, there is no growing in grace anymore. Whoever does not go through Purgatory does not miss anything.

4. We need a more positive image of God.
We already know that St. Therese told her novices that they offended God when they thought they would go to Purgatory. That is a very shocking statement: for if this is correct millions of Christians are offending God or at least hurt Him. And yet this is the case. They are focused only on themselves, thinking--not without reason--that they deserve Purgatory. They do not notice God Who is by their side and would love to help them so much. The fact that we fear Purgatory so much also has to do with a rather negative image that we have of God. We, Christians of the 20th Century, were like so many, raised with the image of a strict God, anxious to punish us as often as we deserve it. This thinking goes back to heresies like Jansenism. Quietism, or Calvinism. 14
5. Love banishes fear
The question of whether Heaven will follow right after death is a question of trust. God does not need our merits in order to take us straight to Him but He needs all of our trust. Or the other way around--it is not -our sins that can prevent God from giving us this grace but rather our lack of trust. Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that everything depends solely on trust. There is no trust without perfect love. And vice versa, there is no love without trust.

And this is exactly what the Apostle John writes in his first letter, "In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love" (1 Jn. 4:17-18).

This text enlightens our topic very much. Judgment Day is the day of our death. Whoever achieves perfect love at the moment of their death sees God as so merciful and generous that they cannot believe in punishment in Purgatory. We are dealing with the same kind of grace in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that this Sacrament has as its real fruit the wiping out of punishment due to our sins.15 After those who have received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, others present often notice that the sick enter a period of growing peace and trust, together with a great surrender to the Will of God, and even serenity and desire for Heaven. This also applies to those who up to that point did not believe or even lived in mortal sin. Even these people, as the great theologians of the scholastics say--for example, St. Albert the Great or St. Bonaventure--go straight to Heaven without having to go through Purgatory first. This shows the wonderful grace coming from the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.16

6. The last will be the first.
While many Christians do receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, experience tells us that they do not go straight to Heaven. The mystics often relate that many priests and religious suffer a long time and have to wait for their release. However, all of them or almost all of them have received the Sacrament of the Anointing. What is the reason for this? The answer is certainly that they did not receive the Sacrament with the necessary repentance or surrender to the Will of God, or that they did not want to change their flaws and vices a long time before their death.

St. Therese of Lisieux tells us that she heard that sometimes great saints with many merits come before the Judgment of God, but have to go to Purgatory because our justice before God is often unclean. That is why she recommends to give immediately away all the merits of our good deeds, and that it is better to appear before God empty-handed.17 She recommends to her oldest sister and godmother Marie, to be given Heaven free of charge by God.18

While on the one hand the first ones don't always get to Heaven first, on the other hand there are enough examples that the last ones become the first ones. Therese refers in her writings to the Lord's mercy towards the good thief,19 and wishes that the story from the "desert fathers," about how a great sinner called Paesie died out of love and is being taken straight to heaven, should be added to her autobiography, "Souls will understand immediately, for it is a striking example of what I'm trying to say."20

When our great hour comes, as St. Therese writes to Abbe Roulland, missionary in China, if only we trust, the Blessed Virgin will obtain "the grace of making an act of perfect love" should we have "some trace of human weakness" and so will we reach heaven immediately after death.21

7. St. Therese's teaching, a great message for the third millennium
One can rightfully say that Therese is turning all common opinions on Purgatory upside down.22 She wants to appear before God empty-handed and explains why it can be easier for sinners who have nothing to rely upon, to reach Heaven than the great saints with all their merits.. She emphasizes that trust alone is enough, that merits are no guarantee but often an obstacle for the straight way to Heaven, and that sins do not need to be an obstacle. After a 'messed-up' life, God can still take one straight to Heaven if the dying person only has trust. And how easy it can be to trust if there are no merits but only one's misery! Through trust she shows the shorter way to Heaven to the small and humble. And so many can and will go that way. She writes about this to her sister Marie: "... what pleases Him (God) is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy... That is my only treasure, dear Godmother, why should this treasure not be yours?..."23

As has been said, she has made sanctity available for everyone through her little way, and this is also true for the straight way to Heaven... This will no longer be an exception. Once those who are smart enough to gather from the treasures of our new Doctor of the Church will walk this way easily, especially those who want to be part of the legion of little souls which St. Therese asked God for at the end of her manuscript B, "I beg You to cast Your Divine Glance upon a great number of little souls. I beg You to choose a legion of little Victims worthy of Your LOVE!"24 Yes, by listening to her wonderful message there will be many, many souls... and with that, Purgatory stops being the unavoidable detour to Heaven!


    St. Therese of the Child Jesus gave us a lot to think about. There are yet many new thoughts to be understood in terms of theology. For us, however, the most important, even existentially significant of everything she wrote is the message on Purgatory. The question of what happens to us after death should move us deeply. Let us just remember Sr. Febronia and her suffering in Purgatory; her silent message from the next world should move us. "It seemed," says Therese, "as if she wanted to say: If I had listened to you I would not be here now." This is actually shocking when you think about it. One has to admit that Sr. Febronia entered the next world through the wrong door. And with her, thousands and millions who would have managed to avoid Purgatory. And why did they not achieve this? The simple reason is that nobody showed them the correct way. Considering this, one does understand that Therese is a true gift to the Church. God gave her to us as leader and comforter for the apocalyptic days in which we very obviously live. Her message concerning Purgatory is a true grace of God' s merciful love for the moment of our death. One can apply the urgent exhortation of our LORD: "'He who has ears to hear. let him hear" (Lk. 8:8).

Father Dr. Hubert van Dijk, ORC

1. I would like to enlighten souls-as did the Prophets and the Doctors.' St Therese of Lisieux. Story of a Soul. ICS. Washington
    DC, 1996, Ms B, 2v, pg. 192.
2. St. Therese of Lisieux. Story of a SOUL, ICS, Washington DC, 1996, Ms A, 49r. Jig. 105.
3. Divini Amoris, I.c., Nr. 7.
4. Philippe de la Trinite, La Doctrine de Sainte Therese sur Ie Purgatoire. Editions du Parvis, CH-1648 Hauteville/Suisse 1992,
    pg. 16. .
5. Annales de Sainte Therese, Lisieux. Nr. 610, Febr. 1982. Translated from the German.
6. Last Conversations, ICS. Washington DC. 1971, pg 273..
7. La Doctrine, l.c. pg 16. Translated from the German.
8. St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, IT. ch. XX.
9. Ferdinand Holbőck. Das Fegefeuer, Salzburg 1977, page 94f. Translated from the German.
10. La Doctrine, 22f. Translated from the German.
11. Lucien Regnault, La Pensee de Ste. Therese de 1'Enfant Jesus sur Ie Purgatoire in Annales de Sainte Therese, 1986, Suppl. Nr
    101, pages 21-29, quote on page 26. Translated from the German.
12. Annales de Sainte Therese, Nr. 610. Feb. 1983, page 5. Translated from the German.
13. Story of a Soul, Ms A, 84v, pg.181.
14. La Pensee, l.c., page 23. Translated from the German.
15. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Suppl. Qu. 30, art. 1. Translated from the German.
16. P. Philipon. Vie Spirituelle, Jan./Feb. 1945, pages 21-23; 16-17. Translated from the German.
17. La Doctrine, l.c. page 13. Translated from the German.
18. St. Therese of Lisieux, Letters St. Therese of Lisieux, ICS, Washington DC, 1913, Vol. II, pg 998, LT 197.
19. Pious Recreations, RP 6, 9v, translated from the German.
20. Last Conversations. pg. 89. CJ, 11.7.6
21. Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux. Vol. II, pg. 1093, LT 226.
22. La Pensee, l.c., pg. 28. Translated from the German.
23. Letters of St. Therese of Lisieux, Vol. II, pg. 999, LT 197.
24. Story of a Soul, pg. 200. Ms B, 5v.

(1) Webmaster's Note: This article, in German, appears in the December 2001, and the January 2002 issue of "Der Fels" (A German Catholic Publication) - see  and respectively. It was translated into English by  Père (Father) de la Trinité, ocd. Fr. Van Dijk, confirmed the authenticity of his writing - which I had requested because it appears that our website is the only place where this article appears in English. We have checked the references noted in the Footnotes, they all check out. Fr. Van Dijk hopes that we can make his paper known to the world. We shall try to do that. / Fred Schaeffer, SFO, webmaster.

Saturday, May 14, 2011



VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. With his address the Pope continued the new series of catechesis on the subject of prayer.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to continue reflecting on how prayer and the religious sense have been a part of mankind throughout history.

We live in an age in which the signs of secularism are evident. It seems that God has disappeared from the horizon of many persons or that he has become a reality before which one remains indifferent. However, at the same time we see many signs that indicate to us an awakening of the religious sense, a rediscovery of the importance of God for man's life, a need of spirituality, of surmounting a purely horizontal, material vision of human life. Analyzing recent history, the prediction has failed of those who in the age of the Enlightenment proclaimed the disappearance of religions and exalted absolute reason, separated from faith, a reason that would have dispelled the darkness of religious dogmas and dissolved "the world of the sacred," restoring to man his liberty, his dignity and his autonomy from God. The experience of the last century, with the two tragic World Wars, put in crisis that progress that autonomous reason, man without God, seemed to be able to guarantee.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: "In the act of creation, God calls every being from nothingness into existence. [...] Even after losing through his sin his likeness to God, man remains an image of his Creator, and retains the desire for the one who calls him into existence. All religions bear witness to men's essential search for God" (No. 2566). We could say -- as I showed in the previous catechesis -- that there has been no great civilization, from the most ancient times up to our days, which has not been religious.

Man is religious by nature, he is homo religiosus as he is homo sapiens and homo faber. "The desire for God," the Catechism also affirms, "is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God" (No. 27). The image of the Creator is imprinted in his being and he feels the need to find a light to give an answer to the questions that have to do with the profound meaning of reality; an answer that he cannot find in himself, in progress, in empirical science. Homo religiosus does not emerge only from the ancient world, but he crosses the whole history of humanity.

To this end, the rich terrain of human experience has witnessed the emergence of different forms of religiosity, in the attempt to respond to the desire for plenitude and happiness, to the need of salvation, to the search for meaning. "Digital" man and the caveman alike seek in religious experience the ways to overcome his finitude and to ensure his precarious earthly adventure. Moreover, life without a transcendent horizon would not have complete meaning, and the happiness to which we tend, is projected toward a future, toward a tomorrow that is yet to be attained.

In the declaration "Nostra Aetate," the Second Vatican Council stressed it synthetically. It states: Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?" (No. 1). Man knows that he cannot answer on his own his fundamental need to understand. Even if he is deluded and still believes that he is self-sufficient, he has the experience that he is not sufficient unto himself. He needs to open himself to the other, to something or someone, which can give him what he lacks, he must come out of himself toward the One who can fill the extent and profundity of his desire.

Man bears within himself a thirst for the infinite, a nostalgia for eternity, a search for beauty, a desire for love, a need for light and truth, which drive him toward the Absolute; man bears within himself the desire for God. And man knows, in some way, that he can address himself to God, that he can pray to him. St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest theologians of history, defines prayer as the "expression of man's desire for God." This attraction toward God, which God himself has placed in man, is the soul of prayer, which is cloaked in many forms and modalities according to the history, time, moment, grace and finally the sin of each one of those who pray. In fact, man's history has known varied forms of prayer, because he has developed different modalities of openness toward the on High and toward the Beyond, so much so that we can recognize prayer as an experience present in every religion and culture.

In fact, dear brothers and sisters, as we saw last Wednesday, prayer is not linked to a particular context, but is found inscribed in every person's heart and in every civilization.

Of course, when we speak of prayer as man's experience in as much as man, of the homo orans, it is necessary to keep in mind that this is an interior attitude, rather than a series of practices and formulas, a way of being before God, rather than carrying out acts of worship or pronouncing words. Prayer has its center and founds its roots in the most profound being of the person; that is why it is not easily decipherable and for the same reason, it can be subject to misunderstandings and mystifications. Also in this sense we can understand the expression: it is difficult to pray. In fact, prayer is the place par excellence of gratuitousness, of the tension towards the Invisible, the Unexpected, the Ineffable. Because of this, the experience of prayer is a challenge for everyone, a "grace" to be invoked, a gift of the One whom we address. 

In all the periods of history, in prayer man considers himself and his situation before God, from God and in regard to God, and he experiences himself as being a creature in need of help, incapable of achieving by himself the fulfillment of his existence and his hope. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein reminded that "to pray means to feel that the meaning of the world is outside the world." In the dynamic of this relationship with the One who gives meaning to existence, with God, prayer has one of its typical expressions in the gesture of kneeling. It is a gesture that bears in itself a radical ambivalence: in fact, I can be obliged to kneel -- condition of indigence and slavery -- or I can kneel spontaneously, confessing my limit and, hence, my need for the Other. To Him I confess that I am weak, needy, a "sinner."

In the experience of prayer, the human creature expresses all his awareness of himself, all that he is able to understand of his existence and, at the same time, he addresses himself wholly to the Being before whom he is, he orients his soul to that Mystery from which he awaits the fulfillment of his most profound desires and help to surmount the indigence of his life. In this looking at the Other, in this addressing "the beyond" is the essence of prayer, as experience of a reality that surpasses the sentient and the contingent.

However, the full realization of man's search is found only in the God who reveals himself. Prayer, which is the opening and raising of the heart to God, becomes a personal relationship with Him. And even if man forgets his Creator, the living and true God does not fail to call man to the mysterious encounter of prayer. As the Catechism affirms: "In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself and reveals man to himself, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama. Through words and actions, this drama engages the heart. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation" (No. 2567).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn to spend more time before God, let us learn to recognize in silence the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, to recognize in the depth of ourselves his voice that calls us and leads us back to the profundity of our existence, to the fount of life, to the source of salvation, to make us go beyond the limits of our life and to open ourselves to the measure of God, to the relationship with Him who is Infinite Love. Thank you!


Saturday, May 7, 2011



"Virtually Always and Everywhere, People Have Turned to God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave Wednesday during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. With his address the Pope began a new series of catecheses on the subject of prayer.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to begin a new series of catecheses.
After the catecheses on fathers of the Church, on great theologians of the Middle Ages, on great women, I would now like to choose a subject that we all have very much at heart: It is the subject of prayer, specifically, Christian prayer, which is the prayer that Jesus taught us and that the Church continues to teach us.
It is in Jesus, in fact, that man is made capable of approaching God with the depth and intimacy of the relationship of fatherhood and sonship. Together with the first disciples, we now turn with humble trust to the Master and ask: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

In the forthcoming catecheses, approaching sacred Scripture, the great tradition of the fathers of the Church, the teachers of spirituality, and the liturgy, we will learn to live yet more intensely our relationship with the Lord, as though in a "school of prayer."
We know well, in fact, that prayer cannot be taken for granted: We must learn how to pray, almost as if acquiring this art anew; even those who are very advanced in the spiritual life always feel the need to enter the school of Jesus to learn to pray with authenticity.

We receive the first lesson from the Lord through his example. The Gospels describe to us Jesus in intimate and constant dialogue with the Father: It is a profound communion of the One who came into the world not to do his will but that of the Father who sent him for man's salvation.

In this first catechesis, by way of introduction, I would like to propose some examples of prayer present in ancient cultures, to reveal how, virtually always and everywhere, people have turned to God.

I begin with ancient Egypt, as an example. Here a blind man, asking the divinity to restore his sight, attests to something universally human, as is the pure and simple prayer of petition on the part of one who is suffering. This man prays: "My heart desires to see you ... You who made me see the darkness, create light for me, that I may see you! Bend over me your beloved face" (A. Barucq -- F. Daumas, Hymnes et prieres de l'Egypte ancienne, Paris, 1980, translated into Italian as Preghiere dell'umanita, Brescia, 1993, p. 30).

That I may see you; here is the heart of prayer!
Prevailing in the religions of Mesopotamia was a mysterious and paralyzing sense of guilt, though not deprived of the hope of rescue and liberation by God.
Hence we can appreciate a supplication by a believer of those ancient cults, which sounds like this: "O God who are indulgent even in the most serious fault, absolve my sin ... Look, Lord, to your weary servant, and blow your breeze on him: Forgive him without delay. Alleviate your severe punishment. Free from the shackles, make me breathe again; break my chain, loosen my ties" (M. J. Seux, Hymnes et prieres aux Dieux de Babylone at d'Assyrie, Paris, 1976, translated into Italian in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 37).

These are expressions that show how, in his search for God, man intuited, though confusedly, on one hand his guilt and on the other, aspects of divine mercy and kindness.

At the heart of the pagan religion of ancient Greece we witness a very significant evolution: prayers, though continuing to invoke divine help to obtain heavenly favor in all circumstances of daily life and to obtain material benefits, are oriented progressively toward more selfless requests, which enable believing man to deepen his relationship with God and to become better. For example, the great philosopher Plato reported a prayer of his teacher, Socrates, who is justly regarded as one of the founders of Western thought. Socrates prayed thus: "Make me beautiful within. That I may hold as rich one who is wise and possess no more money than the wise man can take and carry. I do not ask for anything more" (Opere I. Fedro 279c, translated into Italian by P. Pucci, Bari, 1966).

Above all he wanted to be beautiful and wise within, and not rich in money.

In the Greek tragedies -- those outstanding literary masterpieces of all time that still today, after 25 centuries, are read, meditated and performed -- there are prayers that express the desire to know God and to adore his majesty. One of these reads thus: "Support of the earth, who dwell above the earth, whoever you are, difficult to understand, Zeus, be the law of nature or of the thought of mortals, I turn to you: given that, proceeding by silent ways, you guide human affairs according to justice" (Euripide, Troiane, 884-886, translated into Italian by G. Mancini, in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 54).

God remains somewhat nebulous and yet man knows this unknown God and prays to him who guides the affairs of the earth.

Also with the Romans, who constituted that great Empire in which a large part of the origins of Christianity was born and spread, prayer -- though associated to a utilitarian conception fundamentally bound to the request for divine protection on the life of the civil community -- opens at times to admirable invocations because of the fervor of personal piety, which is transformed into praise and thanksgiving.
Apuleius, an author of Roman Africa of the 2nd century after Christ, is a witness to this. In his writings he manifests contemporaries' dissatisfaction at comparing the traditional religion and the desire for a more authentic relationship with God. In his masterpiece, titled Metamorphosis, a believer addresses a feminine divinity with these words: "You, yes, are a saint, you are at all times savior of the human species, you, in your generosity, always give your help to mortals, you offer the poor in travail the gentle affection that a mother can have. Not a day or a night or an instant passes, no matter how brief it is, that you do not fill him with your benefits" (Apuleius of Madaura, Metamorphosis IX, 25, Translated into Italian by C. Annaratone, in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 79).

In the same period the emperor Marcus Aurelius -- who was as well a thoughtful philosopher of the human condition -- affirmed the need to pray to establish a fruitful cooperation between divine and human action. He wrote in his Memoirs: "Who has told you that the gods do not help us even in what depends on us? Begin then to pray to them and you will see" (Dictionnaire de Spiritualite XII/2, col. 2213).
This advice of the philosopher-emperor was put into practice effectively by innumerable generations of men before Christ, thus demonstrating that human life without prayer, which opens our existence to the mystery of God, is deprived of meaning and reference.
Expressed in every prayer, in fact, is the truth of the human creature, which on one hand experiences weakness and indigence, and because of this asks for help from heaven, and on the other is gifted with extraordinary dignity, as, preparing himself to receive divine Revelation, he discovers himself capable of entering into communion with God.

Dear friends, emerging from these examples of prayer from various periods and civilizations is the human awareness of his condition as a creature and his dependence on Another superior to him and the source of every good.
The man of all times prays because he cannot fail to ask himself what is the meaning of his existence, which remains dark and discomforting, if he is not placed in relationship with the mystery of God and of his plan for the world.
Human life is an interlacing of good and evil, of unmerited suffering and of joy and beauty, which spontaneously and irresistibly drives us to pray to God for that interior light and strength which aid us on earth and reveal a hope that goes beyond the boundaries of death. The pagan religions remain an invocation that from the earth awaits a word from Heaven.
Proclus of Constantinople, one of the last great pagan philosophers, who lived already at the height of the Christian age, gave voice to this expectation, saying: "Unknowable, no one contains you. Everything that we think belongs to you. Our ills and goods are from you, every breath depends on you, O Ineffable One, may our souls feel you present, raising a hymn of silence to you" (Hymn,ed. E. Vogt, Wiesbaden, 1957, in Preghiere dell'umanita, op. cit., p. 61).

In the examples of prayer from the various cultures that we considered, we can see a testimony of the religious dimension and of the desire for God inscribed in the heart of every man, which receive fulfillment and full expression in the Old and New Testaments. Revelation, in fact, purifies and leads to fullness man's original longing for God, offering him, with prayer, the possibility of a more profound relationship with the heavenly Father.

At the beginning of this journey of ours in the "school of prayer" we now wish to ask the Lord to illumine our minds and hearts so that our relationship with him in prayer is ever more intense, affectionate and constant. Once again, let us say to him: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The new series of catecheses which we begin today are devoted to prayer and, in particular, the prayer proper to Christians. Christian prayer is grounded in the gift of new life brought by Christ; it is an "art" in which Christ, the Son of God, is our supreme teacher. At the same time, prayer is a part of the human experience, as we see from the ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. There we find eloquent expressions of a desire to see God, to experience his mercy and forgiveness, to grow in virtue and to experience divine help in all that we do. In these cultures there is also a recognition that prayer opens man to a deeper understanding of our dependence on God and life's ultimate meaning. The pagan religions, however, remain a plea for divine help, an expression of that profound human yearning for God which finds its highest expression and fulfilment in the Old and New Testaments. Divine revelation, in fact, purifies and fulfils man's innate desire for God and offers us, through prayer, the possibility of a deeper relationship with our heavenly Father. With the disciples, then, let us ask the Lord: "[t]each us to pray" (cf. Luke 11:1).

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Japan, Singapore and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Kampala, led by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. Upon all of you I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Risen Christ!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No Greater Love


Benedict XVI Homily at Beatification Mass of John Paul II

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). In today’s Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: “Blessed are you, Simon” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!” It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ’s Church.

Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ’s resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today’s Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus’ death, Mary appears at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).

Today’s second reading also speaks to us of faith. Saint Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: “you rejoice”, and he adds: “you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:6, 8-9). All these verbs are in the indicative, because a new reality has come about in Christ’s resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. “This is the Lord’s doing”, says the Psalm (118:23), and “it is marvelous in our eyes”, the eyes of faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Karol Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Kraków. He was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyła: a golden cross with the letter “M” on the lower right and the motto “Totus tuus”, drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyła found a guiding light for his life: “Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria – I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart” (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).

In his Testament, the new Blessed wrote: “When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, said to me: ‘The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium’”. And the Pope added: “I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church – and especially with the whole episcopate – I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate”. And what is this “cause”? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.

When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its “helmsman”, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call “the threshold of hope”. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an “Advent” spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a “rock”, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Church.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us in this Square from the Apostolic Palace: Bless us, Holy Father! Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rockin' and a'Rollin' Shoehorn Blues

This is an interesting article if you are not going to insist on substantial merit.  It's merit as Catholic commentary is limited as far as I am concerned because any time that you have to work THIS hard to make a shoe fit: chances are you have not found the princess!!

Ayn Rand's Attack on Christian Morality | James Kidd | April 14, 2011 | Ignatius Insight

The April 15 release of the film Atlas Shrugged: Part I brings the Russian-born novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand (1905–1982) back into the spotlight. Her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged (1957), continues to sell more than half a century after its publication. The novel even topped's fiction sales at one point in 2009 and is required reading among Tea Party activists.[1] Staffers at the libertarian Cato Institute who have not read the novel are called "virgins."

But orthodox Catholics have a love/hate relationship with Rand. Political conservatives, with whom they traditionally align, find much to like in Rand's writings on government and economics. Few have made the case for limited government as persuasively and intelligently as Rand.

But Rand's views on organized religion, making it the major villain of history, gives pause to many religious conservatives. Her diatribes against religion often border on the delirious. Catholics might be surprised to learn, then, that Objectivist ethics is actually reconcilable with Catholic teaching.

Rand's "Selfishness" Defined

Objectivist ethics is defined more by what it opposes than what it proposes. In Rand's view, the entirety of the world's problems can be traced back to altruism, which she defines as "the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self." What's wrong with that? "The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption."[2]

Rand believes that there are two classes of people: the "creators" (inventors, intellectuals, businessmen, and all others who use their minds to create something useful) and those she calls looters or second-handers, inferior beings who spend their pitiful lives mooching off the creators and their creations like parasites.

According to Rand, "looters" have always been around and have always been dependent on the kindness and compassion of the creators for their own sustenance. But centuries ago, the looters made the creators' benevolence toward them obligatory. In other words, one man's need placed a moral burden on the one who had the resources to relieve it. Ever since then, anything and everything the creators produced was claimed as the rightful property of everyone else. Thus was born the evil of altruism.

This conception of altruism, taken to its logical conclusion, leads to some heinous results, as Rand explains:

Your code [altruism] hands out, as its version of the absolute, the following rule of moral conduct: If you wish it, it's evil; if others wish it, it's good; if the motive of your action is your welfare, don't do it; if the motive is the welfare of others, then anything goes. ...

For those of you who might ask questions, your code provides a consolation prize and a booby-trap: it is for your own happiness, it says, that you must serve the happiness of others, the only way to achieve your joy is to give it up to others, the only way to achieve your prosperity is to surrender your wealth to others, the only way to protect your life is to protect all men except yourself—and if you find no joy in this procedure, it is your own fault and the proof of your evil; if you were good, you would find your happiness in providing a banquet for others, and your dignity in existing on such crumbs as they might care to toss you.[3]
Rand places religion—especially Christianity—at the heart of the great deception that made every man a servant but none a master. It was religious belief, by supposedly rejecting reason and replacing it with an irrational "faith," that gave birth to altruism. From then on, self-interest was discouraged and self-giving was required. Of course, part of the reason for religion's ascent, according to Rand, was that it appealed to those at the bottom of the social ladder. It gave them an opportunity to revel in their worthlessness and justified their demands on those at the top.

From this was born socialism, which sought to take power away from natural leaders and place it in the hands of the unwashed masses. In fact, Rand sees religious believers and socialists as two sides of the same coin: Religionists (or "mystics of spirit," as she calls them) preach that all man's activities should be in service to God, while socialists (or "mystics of muscle") preach that all man's activities should be in service to "society."

In reaction to its conception of altruism, Objectivism takes the other extreme. Rand proposes what she calls "rational self-interest":
The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man's highest moral purpose.[4]
One may object at this point that rational self-interest logically leads to hedonism, which leads to social chaos. But Rand explains:
The Objectivist ethics ... holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.[5]
Of course, Rand never demonstrates how aggressively taking advantage of others is not in one's own self-interest; she simply declares that it is.

"Acts of Good Will"

One might think at this point that selfless acts are strictly verboten in Objectivism. But Rand does allow for what Christians call "acts of charity"—reluctantly, it seems, and only with certain preconditions.

Taking the example of a drowning person, Rand declares: "If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it: only a lack of self-esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger."[6]

But what about actions that benefit others while providing no benefit to (or even harming) oneself? Rand provides for this possibility as well:
Suppose one hears that the man next door is ill and penniless. Illness and poverty are not metaphysical emergencies, they are part of the normal risks of existence; but since the man is temporarily helpless, one may bring him food and medicine, if one can afford it (as an act of good will, not of duty) or one may raise a fund among the neighbors to help him out. But this does not mean that one must support him from then on, nor that one must spend one's life looking for starving men to help.[7]
The discerning reader will point out, though, that the phrase "act of good will" in the quote above does not fit with the concept of "rational self-interest"; in fact, it could be seen as an outright contradiction. These justifications by Rand of selfless acts thus seem to be an attempt to shoehorn what is universally recognized as virtuous into her otherwise selfish philosophy. But shoehorn or not, Objectivism cannot be accused of forbidding acts of charity.

Charity as an Obligation

Getting back to Rand's indictment of altruism, while it is a caricature, it is accurate in at least two respects.

First, her critique of socialism is largely correct. The basic idea of socialism is taking charitable motives and sentiments and codifying them into law. The goals of socialists and "progressives" can be characterized as taking from the "haves" and giving to the "have-nots," all in the name of justice.

Second, Rand's attack on religion is true insofar as the attitude that charity is an obligation permeates religious belief. Many Christians (and even many Catholics) subscribe to this idea—and not just those on the religious left who preach "social justice." It is not uncommon to hear in Sunday homilies that we have an "obligation of charity" to help the poor, that charity toward one's neighbor is "a moral duty," that we are "required" to help our neighbors.

Indeed, it is easy to read Christ's words regarding charity as commands. Take, for example, John 15:9: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" (emphasis added).

So is Catholic morality guilty of Rand's charges? Does it mandate self-donation, corrupting both the giver and the recipient and destroying the very concept of charity? If not, how are we to understand the words of Christ and of the Church regarding the virtue of charity?

The Catholic View of Charity

A proper understanding of charity recognizes the difference between the cardinal virtue of justice and the theological virtue of charity. Justice consists of what is required of us, or giving each man his due. Charity, on the other hand, goes above and beyond what is required of us.

Thus the phrase "obligation of charity" is an oxymoron. The concepts of obligation and charity are mutually exclusive: If something is obligatory (say, adhering to the terms of a contract), then fulfilling it is not an act of charity; if an act is recognized as charitable (say, holding an elevator for a stranger), then it is not mandatory in any way.

So what does Christ mean in the quote from John 15? Here let's take a step back to properly understand the relationship between the Old Law and the New Law. The Old Law consisted of many obligations that God required of his people. Christ initiated the New Law, which did not replace the Old but only added an exhortation to go above and beyond it. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord's Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity.[8]
So in the same way that charity exceeds justice while not replacing it, the New Law of Christ goes above and beyond the Old Law without wiping it out. Christ institutes the New Law not as a set of new mandates but as an exhortation to go above and beyond the existing ones. In other words, Christ does not add to the virtue of justice; he adds the virtue of charity on top of it. But charity remains distinct from justice. Or, in terms of the old theological dictum, grace does not destroy nature; it presupposes and perfects it.

Unfortunately, though, a lack of clarification has led to a misunderstanding of charity. Today, the impression is left that Christianity mandates benevolence toward one's neighbor.

A Difference of Emphasis

This more refined notion of charity, combined with Rand's shoehorning of charity into her philosophy, allows us to reconcile Objectivist ethics with true Christian charity. The difference is only a matter of emphasis.

Rand stresses the non-obligatory nature of charity and, by her reluctance to highlight them, de-emphasizes the goodness of charitable acts. Catholicism, on the other hand, emphasizes the commendability of charitable acts, even as many Catholics may be under the impression that these acts spring from an obligation.

Of course, this does not mean that Objectivists and Catholics can hold hands and sing Kumbaya. There are many Objectivist positions that are diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching, such as its atheistic rationalism and its belief that religious belief is the root of all major problems in the world today.

Nevertheless, Rand's devastating critique of altruism serves to help clarify the nature of true charity: It is not required, but it is still good. Rand is not that far off base after all.


[1] Alex Spillius, "US Midterms: Essential Reading for the Budding Tea Party Activist", The Telegraph, October 25, 2010, accessed April 8, 2011.
[2] Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Penguin, 1943), p. 680.
[3] Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Penguin, 1957), pp. 943–44. All emphases in quotes from Rand are in the original.
[4] Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (New York, Penguin, 1964), p. 30.
[5] Ibid., p. 34.
[6] Ibid., p. 52.
[7] Ibid., p. 55.
[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1968.

James Kidd is editor of He worked as an assistant editor of This Rock magazine and is former managing editor of The Philadelphia Bulletin. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Dallas. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia, with his wife and five-year-old son.

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