29th Sunday Ordinary Time Mass and Reflections

Scripture readings for Sunday's Mass are here and various reflections from here

A Few Reflections

So what belongs to Caesar, and what belongs to God?

If the Denarius belongs to Caesar because it bears Caesar's image,

then you and I belong to God because we bear God's image.

Was Christ also saying that no one is above the civil law or was He warning that there are circumstances where God's laws could legitimately allow a person to withdraw assent for the civil laws?

There might also be a necessary caveat here in that the recognition of civil law would also depend on what kind of regime it represented: a "civilised" democratic state. would pose different binds on the conscience of a Christian compared to a totalitarian one.

Even in a democracy there are difficult questions to deal with :
and there are many issues where I have to discern my response to governmental policies or laws that are at odds with what I believe are commensurate with God's law.

Dominican Barbara Reid 
in America magazine gives a few examples where a person's beliefs in God have trumped their obedience to state  ...."Raymond Hunthausen, former archbishop of Seattle expressed his opposition to the stockpiling of nuclear weapons by refusing to pay income tax as did Dorothy Day as a way to protest war.
There are alternatives : to pay taxes but diligently lobby, vote and participate in nonviolent protests as ways to communicate an oppositional stance?" 

Wall Street and other non violent protests around the world yesterday showcase the grievances people feel towards excessive economic imbalance and bankers greediness.

There are two sides to every coin and it is also true that the church may bear the head of God on one side but when it comes to interpreting God's law in the real world it is clear that there are many issues that people disagree with.

Other issue come to mind such as of clerical child sexual abuse and the disputes and mess arising between canonical interpretations and defences and secular law which has resulted in recent tussles.

The church cannot operate a peculiar Christian version of Sharia law.

As Dostoyevsky said, humans so often starting out from limitless freedom, end up with despotism and neither church nor secular state are immune to those charges when they are in error.

From Ron Rolheiser...

"At the end of the trial of Jesus  Pilate brings Jesus out to the crowd and asks them whether or not they want to accept him as their king. 

They respond by saying: "We have no king, but Caesar!" 

Historically for a Jewish believer to say this at the time of Jesus would have been in effect a renunciation of his or her messianic hopes. 

That is true for us too:

Every time we do not recognize the power of God in the one who is being crucified we are renouncing our own messianic hope and admitting that the powers of this world are, for us, the deepest reality."

Jesus gives no indication as to how one should tell the difference between the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s.

Not everything comes with a handy inscription, after all, so while an interesting principle is established, it’s not always clear how that principle can be applied.

A traditional Christian interpretation has it that Jesus’ message is for people to be as diligent in fulfilling their obligations to God as they are in fulfilling their secular obligations to the state. 

Another negative interpretation of this might be to consider the reason most people do pay their taxes in full and on time because they know what will happen to them if they don’t. !!

Fewer think as hard about the even worse consequences they derive from not doing what God wants, so they need to be reminded that God is every bit as demanding as Caesar and should not be ignored. 

But this is not a very flattering depiction of God.

The law of God is about being in the true liberty God gives us ..

"So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. 

Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? 

Can that faith save him"? (James 2:12-14)
So what do I take from this ? : that those who don't believe in the law of liberty of God are under the secular law.

I know whose law I would rather follow...............................

Catholic social doctrine is based on taking care of people who need help the most but Jesus says only two things are necessary :

Love God and treat your neighbour as you would yourself and that these ethics should inform political decisions.

Painting "Return" by James Janknegt

Christ always asks who will speak for the least of people ??

The ironic thing is that If I love God and give to God all my heart, all my soul, all my strength then there would be nothing left to give Caesar....

Here, I have a problem : if my church belongs to God then it should not bear the hallmarks of corruption.

I have a problem because it's apparent that the fat cat corrupt bankers depicted in striped suits and smoking cigars can just as easily be found in the guise of some of God's very own ministers of the cloth, some bedecked in scarlet robes.

In this otherwise pretty negative review of Jason Berry's recent book on the Catholic Church and Money
 Brian Van Hove, S.J.  August 8, 2011, has this to say :

"Now for the good parts of the Curate's Egg. Here are three of them.


Since 1990 at least 1,800 parishes have closed in the United States.
Since Jason Berry published Render Unto Rome, Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland asked for an Apostolic Visitation to review his plan to close fifty Catholic parishes in the Cleveland diocese.

Most observers of the "abuse crisis" followed the wave of exposures from East to West, that is, from Boston to Los Angeles. But many of us did not notice Cleveland on the way. Jason Berry dedicates several pages of research to the case of Cleveland, Ohio.

What interests many is that a prominent layman went to prison for financial corruption. Joseph N. Smith was the chief financial officer of the diocese. He was illegally overpaid and through an elaborate maze of discussions, we learn that he "earned" $ 750,000 in off-the-books kickbacks.

His legal bills when he got caught were one million dollars. 
Smith went to jail, and it is a long story. The book may be worth reading for this episode alone because Cleveland might have been forgotten if Mr. Berry had not traced it. It is painful to think that ethnic Cleveland, replete with "the widow's mite," can be described thus:

"Bishop Pilla, Father Wright, Joe Smith, they were all stealing," Charlie Feliciano told the New York Times.

"It was a corporate culture that was corrupt at almost all the top levels." Disappointed that Pilla and Wright escaped indictment, Feliciano took comfort that his thwarted civil case of defrauding a religious charity would be distilled into a federal criminal proceeding.

Of course selling off parish churches and other ecclesiastical property including schools is suspect as a gimmick for getting large sums needed when so much money was lost or just disappeared.

Cleveland may be closer to home for some of us, but what is closest to home for all of us is local parish embezzlement. 

Berry studies this problem and says that "As the reports on bankruptcy filings and the impact of civil litigation roll across the media screens, people wonder how a church so powerful could lose nearly $4 billion (embezzlements included) since 1965." 

A man named Michael W. Ryan is said to have the answers to a better accounting method for parishes, but he is not regarded. 

Instead of the New Pentecost promised by Vatican II, we got instead a Grand Violation of the Seventh Commandment.

The most important service rendered to humanity by Jason Berry is his research on Marcial Maciel (below) and the Legion of Christ. 

 Fr. Marcial Maciel LC at the ordination to the...Image via Wikipedia
The lay branch is named Regnum Christi. Berry says "The greatest fund-raiser of the modern church, Fr. Maciel used religion to make money, buying protection at the Vatican lest his secret life be exposed. 

For most of his life, it worked."

Berry produced an earlier work "Vows of Silence" (2004, 2008) when such Catholic stalwarts as Richard John Neuhaus, George Weigel  and Benedict Groeschel were still defending Marcial Maciel and the Legion. 

Fortunately, Monsignor Charles Scicluna of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Benedict XVI had the truth and as soon as Pope John Paul II died that truth began to emerge.

Curial cardinals took bribes from Maciel and his Legion which is a counterfeit version of the Jesuits.

Legionary priests and seminarians became experts at fleecing the biggest donors and their external show of "cassocks-collars-crewcuts-and cufflinks" fooled too many young men into joining them in earnest. 

In the 1980s many Legionaries, before their Nuestro Padre got caught, openly said, "We will take over the Church." Even when young men leave the Legion, their brains are never the same due to the cultish ways which passed as "formation." 

The criminal-pathological atmosphere of secrecy has nothing to do with the Catholic moral tradition of confidentiality or the internal forum. 

In fact, during Legionary formation, there was no distinction made between the external and internal forum.

The investigation of the Legion is still in process. 

Brian Hove says :
"What a pity Jason Berry did not restrict himself to what may be the most significant crisis in the Catholic Church since the French Revolution, if only because of the amount of money involved in this monstrous scam, which is midway between a cult and a business.

The ramifications of this scandal are too intricate to dissect here. But were it not for Jason Berry, we would still be in the dark.

If for no other reason, buy this book and read the chapters which discuss the Legionaries of Christ. This is the best part of the Curate's Egg."

My trust  these days has to lie in Christ Alone.... that's about as good as it gets...

No comments: