Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Contra-vote

I do not vote. Or, anyway, I never have. My reasons are many and far from political apathy. If, however, what I propose came to fruition, I, and I suspect others, would never fail to vote.

In Catholic circles, there is much talk of "non-negotiables." Support for abortion, euthanasia, or other evils automatically excludes a candidate from receiving an authentic Catholic vote. The list of non-negotiables provided me by my (overactive?) conscience is quite a bit longer than the official and, consequently, I am excluded from voting at all in most cases.

Yet, there are grades of evil and I do wish to oppose the greater evil with greater force, but I cannot, in conscience, do this by supporting the lesser evil. We must not do evil so that good may come of it (cf. Rom. 3: 8). I seek a way to vote against, without voting for: a contra-vote - the power to negate one vote. In this way, a person of conscience can always participate in the election process without moral conflict.

Under the two-party system, many people, in effect, have been voting according to this philosophy already. The candidate they oppose the more they vote "against" by simply voting for the candidate they oppose the less. As the two-party system (blessedly) begins to erode, the power to vote "against" erodes as well. What to do if, among three candidates, there is none worthy? Simply voting for the least offensive of the three has less power than contra-voting the most offensive.

If this results in a candidate winning an election with a negative number of votes, so be it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Conception of John: Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist

Icon of St. John the Baptist from St. Anne's Skete on Mount Athos.
Today is the Feast of the Conception of St. John the Baptist, my son's and my patron saint. So great and worthy a saint is he that my son and I are blessed with three name days. In nine months plus a day on June 24th, the Church will honor his Nativity, and on August 29th his Beheading is commemorated. Today's feast dates back to the fifth century, making it older than the Feast of the Conception of Mary. To add still further to the day's festivity, this is my son's first baptismal birthday (baptized on a feast of the Baptist!). We lit his baptismal candle and laid out his baptismal robe. We blessed him with holy water and holy oil and said a prayer of blessing. He was bemused, but no doubt blessed.

I am reminded, on this feast of a conception, of the three conceptions annually commemorated by the Church. Today's, though ancient, is least among them.

There is also that conception variously called The Maternity of the Holy Anna, The Conception of St. Anne, or The Immaculate Conception, on which we remember the conception of the All-Holy Mary in the womb of St. Anne on December 9th (or December 8th). Nine months later less a day, on September 8th, is the Nativity of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
Annunciation; Russian Icon of Ustyug, depicting Christ conceived within Mary

First among the three is the Annunciation, on which we remember the fiat of the All-Holy Theotokos (to mix my Greek and Latin), by which the Son of God became the Son of Man. Exactly nine months later (exact to indicate Christ's perfection in all things) is Christmas, The Nativity of O.L.G.S. Jesus Christ, the Nativity of nativities, on which the Daughter of Eve bore her Creator.

On a different note, several years ago, a woman and professor, arguing against the position of the Church on abortion, claimed to me that prior to the mid-twentieth century the Church had no teaching about life in the womb....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Soap Bubbles

Being out of soap, today I was forced to bathe with my beloved wife's "Sensuality Bath and Shower Gel." That's right folks, not only is this cleansing gelatin sensual, it is Sensuality itself.

CCC 2727:
We must also face the fact that certain attitudes deriving from the mentality of "this present world" can penetrate our lives if we are not vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives. Others overly prize production and profit; thus prayer, being unproductive, is useless. Still others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the "love of beauty" (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Roman Catholic Church is not the One True Church

The Catholic Church is the one true Church. The recent Vatican document on ecumenical relations does not claim this of Roman Catholicism, as certain commentators suggest. In response to one such commentator, David Yonke, I wrote the following letter:

In your article of Sunday, July 22, you repeat an error that has been widespread in media reporting on the recent document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

You write: "All Christian traditions except Roman Catholicism have “defects,” “wounds,” or are not true churches, according to the controversial document from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

The document does not indicate "Roman" Catholicism, but simply "Catholicism." There are more than twenty Catholic Churches in communion with one another. With the Roman Catholic Church being the largest of these Churches and it's Pope being the head of the universal Church, many people are confused into thinking that the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic Church are the same thing. They are not. If you read more carefully, you'll note that the word "Roman" does not even appear in the document (except in the fourth footnote).

To his credit, Mr. Yonke acknowledged his error, but he then dismissed it, writing, “It is of minor significance, however, when considering the numbers of adherents affected. As you know, the vast majority of Catholics are Roman Catholics.” If small numbers render a Church insignificant, then the Apostolic Church would be least significant of all Churches.

The Roman Catholic Church is not superior to or above the other Catholic Churches. It is equal to them. The Roman Catholic Church’s numbers are by far the greatest, yet greater numbers do not indicate greater importance. As established by the Council of Chalcedon, the Roman pontiff retains the primacy among the patriarchates of the Church. Yet, it is important that the Eastern understanding of the Petrine primacy is as “primus inter pares” (first among equals).

In reference to this, Grégoire III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch of the Melkites, once said, “With all respect for the Petrine office, the patriarchal office is equal to it.” When questioned about this controversial stance Patriarch Grégoire III elaborated:
"Really I always say: I am cum Petro but not sub Petro. If I were sub Petro, I would be in submission, and I couldn’t have a true frank, sincere, strong and free communion with the Pope. When you embrace a friend, you are not “below”. You embrace him from the same height, if not it wouldn’t be a true embrace. Unita manent, (united things last)….

"The papacy, since John XXIII, is the most open authority in the world. In no other Church is there such openness and such democratic praxis as in the Church of Rome. But then there are those who want to appear as the super-Catholics, and they then insist and always only on the sub Petro and sub Roma. And so, according to me, they contradict the true sense of the papacy itself, its office to confirm the brethren in the faith. We have suffered for our communion with Rome. For a hundred and fifty years we have said Mass in the catacombs, in Damascus, because we were forbidden do it in public because of our communion with the bishop of Rome. We’re more Roman than the Romans! That’s why we want to benefit from this communion as from a treasure, a gift, a help for our faith. As Saint John says, our faith is our sole victory."
Patriarch Grégoire III does not here say so, but as Patriarch of Antioch he, too, succeeds St. Peter. Perhaps I will post more on St. Peter's other Church in the future.

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