Richard Chonak: December 2008 Archives

Not looking forward to January 18


Some of my friends are getting geared up already for the sad anniversary of the Roe decision, hoping that their pastors will give the new administration's pro-abortion policies the sound thrashing they deserve on January 18.

Oddly enough, I can't be very upbeat about the prospect.

I'm glad that the bishops are encouraging the Catholic people to send a strong message against FOCA, the proposed pro-abortion law that would fund abortions with tax dollars and abolish the few existing legal limitations on procuring abortion, all of them democratically enacted by state legislatures, and all of them having already passed court challenges to their constitutionality.

And I hope that the Catholic people will send a strong message against FOCA. What I don't look forward to is homilies against it.

In part, it's because of my personal temperament: I find redundant talk rather annoying. And at least for me, preaching about the wrongness of FOCA is redundant. I'm not confused about the immorality of abortion, and most Catholics who attend Mass regularly are not confused about it either. At least according to surveys, churchgoing Catholics hold pro-life views, much more than do Catholics who don't attend church, or non-churchgoers in general. So is this going to benefit the congregation?

Also, I'm not looking forward to the sort of sermon that my friends seem to like: I think it's unfitting for the holiness of the Mass. They want to hear priests denouncing the sins so widely justified in elite secular society: immorality in marriage, unchastity, and the killing of the unborn; they want to hear their outrage expressed, and hear about the fire and brimstone; and some of the priests I know are happy to provide that. But in order to denounce these evils, they think they have to be rather blunt and rather angry; and the result is that the ugliness of these sins ends up invading the sacred liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There's something bad about that.

Some of my friends complain that their priests don't preach enough against sin, and they feel cheered when they hear a real barn-burner -- at least when Father is denouncing sins that other people commit. But I think that our priests don't preach enough about God.

In a sense, preaching about the moral law and thinking about the moral law come relatively easy to us; after all, people speak and reason and argue about right conduct all the time in private life and public life and even in secular society. But thinking about God and communicating to people about God are not so easy, and we don't get a lot of that in our interactions with people in the secular world. So when we go to Mass and find in it the same sort of discourse that we get from secular voices, we're missing something. The priest is missing an opportunity to feed souls with a word about God and the things of God.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is more important than the evils of the world, and the holiness of the Mass, offered to God and made visible before man, does more good for the world than the finest words of moral instruction or correction.

Of course, the homily is a fitting place for moral instruction, but when the Mass is largely centered on the evils of society or of the state, a sort of profanation has happened. The Mass must never be instrumentalized, becoming primarily a means to accomplish a secular good, even a high good such as respect for life or some other grave matter of justice.

So I welcome announcements in church about the campaign against FOCA, and bulletin messages, and invitations to sign postcards; yet do not let the liturgy itself be profaned by excess.

Good news, maybe?

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The economic downturn, for all the troubles it's causing, has one effect that may turn out to be good for some: it's compelling couples in troubled marriages to delay seeking divorce.

Adamant refusal

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No, dear advertisers of office equipment, despite your commercials on the radio, I am not going to "give the gift of productivity this Christmas".

Is there anything more contrary to the spirit of Christmas gift-giving than concerns about productivity?

Have an efficient Christmas, everybody! HO HO-- now, that's enough, get back to work.

In North Hampton, New Hampshire, the second grade acted out the Nativity story from the Gospels, for a Christmas pageant in 1965. Karen, poor thing, ("The Angel") looked great in her wings, and made her first entrance, but gave her second-entrance speech, causing us to leapfrog over a big chunk of the script.

There was no turning back: we were suddenly post-partum, and hands swiftly brought out the Christ Child and popped him into the manger. So the teacher shooed me (Wise Man #2) and my colleagues to go out for our number. I saw the malicious faces of a few rotten kids in the audience, but I was impervious; the song came off all right. And they should have been grateful: we got it over with at least five minutes faster than planned!

Baby names watch

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I'm pleased to hear that parents are giving their children respectable and less exotic names, though there are still exceptions: "Bronx, meet Paris. Paris, meet Bronx."

(The writer of the article doesn't seem to know that Paris was a man's name before it became the name of a place, but what can one expect from Reuters.)

And you can be there next year.

Worst Christmas lyrics?

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My buddy Gordon Zaft must have been listening to some Holiday Hits on the radio, 'cause over on his Facebook page he quoted Karen Carpenter's line from Merry Christmas Darling: the "logs on the fire fill me with desire".

Now, that has to be one of the worst lyric lines from any so-called "Christmas song" -- in a song full of saccharine lyrics. (And since I have all the original Carpenters albums somewhere here on the original cassettes, I should know.)

But perhaps you know Christmas songs with triter and ickier lyrics than those! Post away!

An expert on palliative care recommends that Oregon's physician-assisted suicide laws not be taken as a model for any practice in the UK. In sum: (1) Patients with suicidal thoughts need evaluation and treatment for depression. (2) Palliative services are more freely available in the UK than in Oregon. (3) The reasons death advocates present in favor of PAS laws are not the reasons why real patients actually kill themselves using PAS:

It is also commonly assumed that patients who carry out PAS must be suffering terrible pain.

However, the patients who use PAS in Oregon are generally not in pain, but wish to use PAS simply so that they can control the timing of their death.

The report found the major concerns of those undertaking PAS were loss of autonomy, being less able to take part in activities they enjoyed and loss of dignity (86%).[...]

Oregon physicians describe patients requesting PAS as having strong personalities, characterised by determination and inflexibility.[...]

The question here is not one of the patient's right to commit suicide, but whether this small group of people who have an exaggerated need for control have any right to demand the involvement of doctors, nurses and pharmacists in their suicide.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Richard Chonak in December 2008.

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