Thursday, August 10, 2017

Just War and North Korea

President Trump has laid down the gauntlet with North Korea saying that if the North Koreans continue to make threats we, the United States, would unleash a "fire and fury such has never been seen in the world." This may just be Trump being Trump and exaggerating, but what if he means it? What if we will send a volley of nuclear weapons upon North Korea if they continue to threaten us? That is the only "fire and fury" that the world has not yet seen. We have seen firebombing of entire German cities in World War II in addition to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan.

The question for Catholics is, how does war with Korea measure up against the just war theory of St. Thomas Aquinas. Let's look at it.

The just war theory has two parts: "jus ad bellum" - justification for the war, and "jus in bello" - how the is conducted.

JUS AD BELLUM - Justification for going to war.

The war must a last resort. All other options must have failed or been proven to be ineffective. At this point it certainly is not the last resort. This was one of the issues that resulted in then Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (later Pope Benedict XVI), to declare the Iraq war unjust in 2003. It was not a last resort war.

The war must be declared by a legitimate authority. One would assume this would be the case.

There must be a just cause. This would be debated on the reason for war. Is it just to be seen as being bold and powerful? That would not do. Would it be to strengthen a failing administration? Certainly not. Just cause amounts to an attack from an unjust aggressor. This is really the bench mark. A pre-emptive strike would not be a just cause. This is the other reason Cardinal Ratzinger declared the Iraq war to be unjust even before it began. There was no attack by an unjust aggressor. Vengeance is not a just cause.

Probability of success.  There must be real probability that the war will be successful in creating a peace that would exceed the peace that existed before the war.

JUS IN BELLO - Conducting the war in just manner.

Proportionality. The war must not create evils and disorders greater than the evil to be eliminated. Under this criterion, the Church is clearly stated: "Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation." (Gaudium et Spes: Second Vatican Council) This was meant to be a clear condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons. The Catechism further explains: "A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons - especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons - to commit such crimes." (CCC #2314) Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are always a crime against humanity and rightfully condemned.  The use of nuclear weapons by one nation does not justify the use of nuclear weapons by another nation. The use of nuclear weapons because another nations has threatened to use them is beyond criminal. The annihilation of an entire country destroys the very concept of proportionality.

Distinction must be made between civilians and combatants. In modern warfare, this is this criterion that I believe renders almost all modern warfare as unjust.

One should remember that all these criteria must be met without question.  You cannot satisfy some or one or two and still have a just war. Violation of one of the criteria in the least renders the war unjust.

Looking at these criteria, for the United States to attack North Korea because of a threat to attack us would be unjust, Jus ad bellum.
For the US to use nuclear weapons at any point would render the war unjust, Jus in bello. This would be true if "fire and fury" means destroying the entire nation of North Korea with its population.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Dignithy of Work

The Unitestates Catholic Conference of Bishops states: "The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to  make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If  the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must  be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the  organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic  initiative."

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.  This feast was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 as a means to remind us of the dignity of human labor and to place it under the patronage of St. Joseph.  One of the negative aspects of our modern culture is that we seem to despise human labor.  We don't hold "hard work" in high esteem anymore.  

The Church has always taught the dignity and value of human labor, but it seems it has become more important today to do so.  We are forever finding and inventing ways of doing things easier and faster; from cooking a meal to traveling, from cleaning our yards to exchanging information, the faster, the easier, the better.  The problem with this is that the product, the end result is all that matters.  Lost in the process is the very value of producing, of the person doing the producing, of the labor involved.  Why spend so much time making bread when you can just buy it?  Why rake your leaves when you can get one of those blowers that seem to be powered by jet engines to do it for you?  Why raise vegetables in your yard when you can order them by phone and have them delivered?  Why build something with your own hands when it can be massed produced?
You see, the value we place on our own labor, that which we do with our own hands, is reflected in the way we treat those who labor for their livelihood.  That which we find beneath our dignity to do we pay someone else to do.  But by doing this we have placed persons beneath our dignity.  If it is beneath my dignity than it should be beneath everyone's dignity.  In God's eyes there is no necessary labor that is lacking in dignity.  Those labors that we might find humiliating are the very actions that will not only bind us to our neighbor in a powerful way, but will open our eyes to the value of labor and persons.  It will show us exactly what Jesus meant when after washing his disciple's feet, he command us to do as he had done.

As Pope Francis reminds us, work is part of who we are as humans bieng and essential for to fully realize the dignity of each person. "Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today's global society, it is essential that "we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone," no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si. . . '], nos. 127-28)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Keeping the Triduum

Keeping The Paschal Triduum
(All quotes and directives are taken from the Sacramentary)

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the days we call Holy Week which culminate in the "Triduum", the Latin word for "three days." These Three Days embody the whole meaning of Christian life. We process in with palms to welcome our King. The Passion narrative stirs up a multitude of feelings: shame for sin, guilt for our betrayals, joy in the gift of Eucharist, gratitude for the mystery of redemption. Life demands death; love requires self-donation; mercy necessitates divine compassion.

Holy Thursday is the day that God’s love is ritualized in a unique way. Jesus not only shares the intimacy of a meal, a last meal with his disciples, but he gives them a simple, clear example of what discipleship is all about: service. Washing one another’s feet, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked—here is the core of the Eucharist, our great miracle of love. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is traditionally the only Mass celebrated in the parishes on this day. (The Chrism Mass, when celebrated on Holy Thursday is celebrated at the Cathedral) The Mass takes place in the evening with the "full participation of the whole local community and with all priests and clergy exercising their ministry." During the singing of the Gloria the church bells ring and then remain silent until the Easter Vigil. It is appropriate also for all but the most necessary musical accompaniment be refrained from during this time. After Communion the Eucharist for Good Friday is left in the ciborium on the altar. At the conclusion of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the church, accompanied by a cross bearer, candles and incense, to the place of repository. After the repository is closed the altar is stripped and crosses removed or covered. The faithful are encouraged to spend some time in adoration which should conclude by eleven o’clock.

"According to the Church’s ancient tradition, the sacraments are not celebrated today or tomorrow." Good Friday’s readings portray what the day is all about the death of the king whose destiny is being fulfilled and whose hour of glory is the cross. In reading the account of the mystery of redemption, our faith is put to the test. Salvation coming through the cross? Life recovered through death? Our God crucified? The veneration of the cross is a powerful part of today’s ritual. It is a sign of love; of triumph; of our daily struggles to live this life of Christ. The altar is bare and without cross or candles. The celebration of the Lord’s Passion normally takes place in the afternoon. After the solemn reading of the Lord’s Passion, the deacon carries the cross from the door of the church, stopping three times to sing "this is the wood of the cross...." The cross and candles are placed in the entrance of the sanctuary for veneration. Holy Communion follows the veneration of the cross. All depart in silence.

On Holy Saturday, the Church waits in silent vigil at the Lord’s Tomb. Communion may be given only as Viaticum. "The Easter Vigil is arranged in four parts: a) a brief service of light; b) the Liturgy of the Word when the Church meditates on all the wonderful things God has done for his people from the beginning; c) the Liturgy of Baptism, when new members of the Church are reborn as the day of resurrection approaches; d) the Liturgy of the Eucharist..." The celebration of Easter Vigil ("the mother of all vigils") takes place at night - after nightfall and before daybreak. ‘Candles should be prepared for all who take part in the Vigil.’ Holy Saturday is the day we have been leading up to for all of Lent. The Church is darkened; a fire is kindled, the Easter candle is carried in procession into the darkness and our candles are lit. Our attention is focused on the readings that tell of our roots. At this liturgy, we celebrate new life in Christ in age-old symbols: new fire, new light, new water and biblical words about creation and recreation. Easter is a celebration of the Lord’s resurrection and ours. It is a feast of you and me, the baptized, in union with Him who gives us life. We welcome the new members into this wonderful Church of ours. Christ is the Light of the world. We must arise and go with the risen Lord toward the fullness of light and peace.

Easter Sunday is the feast, which recognizes that Jesus’ gift of self to the Father was received, and that He and the Father are one. It is an acknowledgment that God is gathering those who share in the bread and the cup. It is a kingdom feast. We renew our baptismal promises and say: Yes, I believe, help my unbelief. For Catholics, these are the "High Holy Days" of our faith. Little unnecessary work should be done during the Triduum. We wait in silence as the Divine Mysteries unfold for us through these Liturgies. It is recommended that all the faith attend the services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, so that come Easter morning we may truly rejoice in the fulfillment of Salvation History.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Faithful Citizenship

Faithful Citizenship

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has once again put out  Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  This is a publication that is meant to be a guide for Catholics facing choices in this year's election. In the introduction the Bishops state: "In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation." (#13) Further they state: "The Church's teaching is clear that a good end does not justify an immoral means. As we all seek to advance the common good - by defending the inviolable sanctity of human life from the moment of conception until natural death, by promoting religious freedom, by defending marriage, by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, by welcoming the immigrant and protecting the environment." (#19).

The bishops break their presentation of Church teaching that are meant to guide us into the four Principles of Catholic Social Teaching: The Dignity of the Human Person, The Common Good, Subsidiarity, and Solidarity.

Under the Dignity of the Human Person, once finds the foundational teaching against abortion. The intentional killing of innocent life is never morally acceptable. Also included this principle are denunciations against euthanasia, assisted suicide, human cloning, in vitro fertilization, and the destruction of human embryos for research.  We are also called to oppose among other things, torture, unjust war, attacks against non-combatants, racism, as well as overcoming poverty and suffering. The bishops also repeat the pleas of Pope Francis for the United States to ban the death penalty.

Subsidiarity reminds us that we are social people and that larger institutions should not interfere with smaller, more local groups, including the family. When a local group is not sufficient enough to protect human dignity and the common good it is only then that we turn to larger institutions.

The Common Good reminds us that every human person has a right to such things as food and shelter, education, employment, health care, and freedom of religion. The Common Good calls us to protect the rights of workers and their right to form associations. Finally the bishops, under the Common Good reiterate the Pope's call to care for our creation, especially as it regards pollution and climate change.

Solidarity reminds us that we are all in this together. Regardless of our race, nationality, religion or ideological differences. It is under the principle of Solidarity that the bishops call us to "welcome the stranger", including immigrants. Solidarity is also where the Church's Preferential Option for the Poor finds it basis.

It can be seen in reading through the publication that no one ideology, no one political party and no one candidate fits into all the teachings of the Church. Neither the "left" nor the "right", neither Republicans nor Democrats can claim to hold true to all that these principles of Catholic Social Teaching call us to. Indeed, the bishops state that: "When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths.." (#13) If we fit too well into one ideology or one political party, if we find we reject Church Teaching because it does not conform to what my party of candidate endorses, that we have made our ideology more important than our call to discipleship. We have made our membership in our political party more important than our membership in the Catholic Church. 

I urge all Catholics to vote this year and I urge all Catholics to read the entire publication. Please go to the USCCB web site and get a copy of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United State.  

The link is:

Monday, August 15, 2016



One of the things that really distresses me about our political process is how nasty it has become. Democracy depends upon the ability to discuss, debate, and argue over issues as family and friends. It used to be twe recognized that those we disagreed with politically were good Americans who wanted the best for our country. It was how to get there that we disagreed with. This is no longer true in our current political culture. While this election cycle is particularly nasty, the trend has been moving this way for the past couple of decades. Those who disagree with us politically and ideologically are no longer fellow Americans who want the best for our country but they are idiots because they disagree with me.  They are traitors because they think I'm wrong. They are evil and criminal because their ideas are not mine. This dysfunction of our democracy is exasperated by social media. Friends of mine who are very pleasant in person can be very vicious on Facebook, calling people names they would never utter in person.

I enjoy a good argument. When my wife and I were first married, her family still gathered together on Sunday afternoons for a family meal, often with family members from out of town. We would often get into political discussion that sometimes got heated. My wife did not enjoy these discussions but I did. The main reason I enjoyed them was because no one belittled anyone else. No one got nasty and insulting. We disagreed and at the end of the discussion my father-in-law would hold up his glass of wine and say "salute", the Italian version, and we would toast each others' health.

If we cannot discuss politics without becoming nasty and insulting than our democracy is in serious trouble. Calling each other names is childish. Don't do it. Insulting each other's intelligence is counterproductive and also childish. Someone who disagrees with you is not evil or anti-American. Good people can and do disagree. I have many friends that I disagree with on political and ideological issues. Yet I am glad to see them and enjoy their company. Adults should be able to disagree and argue with getting nasty.

 Let's debate as adults!

Deacon Ed

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


As we continue our Easter celebration, I thought it might be a good
time to revisit the Resurrection as an event.  How do we know it
happened?  What is the evidence we look for, and what are theologians
saying about it?
Over the past few years I have read many articles and books on the
Resurrection of Jesus.  Some simply state the Resurrection as fact and
talk about its significance.  Others question the historical reality
of the Resurrection.  Was it just an expression of the faith of the
apostles?  Would anyone else have been able to see Jesus?  Did it
really happen?
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians: "And if Christ has
not been raised, our preaching is void and your faith is empty, too.
Indeed, we should then be exposed as false witnesses of God, for we
have borne witness before him that he raised up Christ; but he
certainly did not raise him up if the dead are not raised.  Why?
Because if the dead are not raised , then Christ was not raised; and
if Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless.  You are still in
your sins, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are the deadest
of the dead.  If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we
are the most pitiable of all men."  (I Cor. 15:14-19)
So the Resurrection is a fact.  But what was Jesus like after the
Resurrection?  Was he just a ghost or did he have bodily form?
To answer some of these questions let's look at the evidence.  First
is the empty tomb.  The fact that the tomb of Jesus was empty does not
in itself prove anything.  There can be other explanations for the
empty tomb.  One is that the disciples of Jesus came in the night a
stole his body.  This is what the Sanhedrin feared would happen and
why they insisted that Pilot place guards at the tomb.  What the empty
tomb can tell us is that the Resurrection, if it happened, was a
bodily Resurrection.  In other words, Jesus was risen in his body.
His body no longer lays in the tomb but is resurrected.  He was not a
ghost when he appeared to his disciples.
The fact that Jesus first appeared to women is another piece of the
evidentiary puzzle.  Women, at the time of Christ, had no real
rights.  Their testimony could not be used as evidence in court.  If
the Resurrection was a faith experience, or a fabrication by the
apostles, they would not have had him appear first to the women at the
tomb.  In fact, the apostles themselves did not believe the testimony
of the women.  Why should they expect anyone else to?  The women were
the first to see Jesus and, therefore, the first to proclaim the
Resurrection.  A thing that was simply not part of the cultural
experience of the times.
It is the post Resurrection appearances that give us the most data
about the historical reality of the event and what the nature of the
resurrected Jesus was.  Recall that when Jesus first appeared to the
disciples that first Easter night, they thought they were seeing a
ghost.  Jesus assured them, using the evidence of his hands and feet,
that it was he and that he was not a ghost.  He upbraided them for not
believing the women.  He would appear to them at least two more times,
as well as appearing to others.
The nature of these appearances and the activity Jesus is involved in
during them shed some light on his own resurrected nature.  Jesus eats
with the disciples.  He allows them to touch his wounds.  He cooks for
them.  All this indicate that Jesus rose in bodily form.  It was the
same body he had before the resurrection.  But is was also very
different.  Jesus was no longer confined by space and time.  He could
appear suddenly through locked doors.  He could disappear just as
suddenly as he did with the disciples in Emmaus.  Clearly he was not
bound by the human condition they way we still are and the way he was
before his resurrection.  Jesus still had the same body he had before
but his body was now glorified.  His is a resurrected body, not simply
a resuscitated one.  His body was now free from all human defect and
was no longer bound by natural law.  But it still was a physical body
that could be seen by the doubting disciples and could still perform
such human activities as eating and touching.
As the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH states: "Given all these
testimonies, Christ's Resurrection can not be interpreted as something
outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it
as an historical fact."  CCC#643
Jesus rose from the dead, body and soul, a  physical event that can be
verified empirically. The apostles saw him and retold the stories of
his presence among them after his Resurrection.  His body, the same
one he had before his Resurrection was no longer bound the laws of
nature but still retained his wounds of crucifixion.  As Christians,
the historical accuracy of the Resurrection is central to our
As St. Paul says, "If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is

Tuesday, October 6, 2015



When Pope Francis addressed the Joint Session of Congress on September 28, he addressed many issues in a way that clearly showed that the way of the Gospel is not aligned with either political category of "right" or "left", conservative or liberal. At times the democrats applauded his words, at other times the republicans did. Some Catholics were upset that he did not emphasis issues important to them. The pope chose not to berate the men and women of Congress with repeating Church Teaching that they are all aware of. Everyone is aware of what the Church teaches concerning abortion and same-sex marriage. The pope made reference to these issues but did not harangue the  men and women present and those listening who were not present.

An issue that Francis did emphasis was the death penalty. He did this because not everyone is clear on where the Church stands on capital punishment. This is because Church Teaching on capital punishment has evolved. When the new CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLID CHURCH was first published in 1994 the paragraph on the use of the death penalty illustrated the traditional teaching: "Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime,  not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty." (CCC 2266)

However, the following year St. John Paul II issued his encyclical letter Evangelium Veta (The Gospel of Life). In this encyclical John Paul states:

" In the same perspective there is evidence of a growing public opposition to the death penalty, even when such a penalty is seen as a kind of "legitimate defence" on the part of society. Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform.

It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent." (#56)

Because of this evolution of the teaching on capital punishment, in the revised CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLID CHURCH  (1997) the paragraphs on the death penalty are altered to include St. John Paul II's emphasis:

"If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. 
"Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender 'today ... are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]"
(CCC 2266 & 2267)

Pope Francis has moved this evolution further by making it clear the he promotes the global elimination of the death penalty.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation. Pope Francis in his address to the Joint Session of Congress September 28, 2015)

Pope Francis has clearly stated that the use of capital punishment by the United States, or any other country, is no longer consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.