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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | Irony
Tag Archives: Irony

Ash Wednesday and Unfaithfulness

At today’s Mass, after hearing the Gospel, we all line up to do not what Jesus commands, but the opposite. Unlike Holy Thursday, when we act out the command of Christ as literally as we can, today we do just what Jesus says not to do. He tells us to wash our faces, and then we all scramble to have someone put dirt on our heads. It is a kind of ritualization of our failure to live the Gospel, a common confession that we have not done what the Lord commands, a plain and public admission of our unfaithfulness.

Please read the rest of Brother Charles’ thoughts on Ash Wednesday here.

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Does Anything Strike You About This List?

The idea of conventions really appeals to me. You not only get to hear great speakers on the topic that interests you, you also get to meet others with the same interest. Even though I do not attend many conferences, I love to read about them. And what could be better than conferences that focus on natural family planning?

So I was easily engaged with the Couple to Couple League’s 2010 speakers list. Check it out. Then you can read what I thought as I read about who is speaking:

Cardinal Ennio Antonelli of the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family
I would love to hear him!

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer
I should probably know something about him…

Mike Manhart, Ph.D. CCL Executive Director
Makes sense since he runs the organization.

Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. (Fr. Tad) Director of Education, The National Catholic Bioethics Center
I love Father Tad. I still can’t believe that the Vatican seems to be taking his side on the embryo adoption issue. Hm…

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Ph.D.

And then there was Joseph Corbo, M.D., James McKenna, Ph.D., Dale Alquist, Ray Guarendi, Ph.D., and Michael Schwartz.
I don’t know any of these guys, though McKenna sounds really interesting.

Then I scrolled through the list again.

I had to be missing people.

I had to be missing women.

No, I had already seen the one woman… a sister. I have no objection to celibate women promoting life, they are crucial! But why is she the only woman listed? Does the Couple to Couple League believe that if NFP-using women want to hear from women who actually live with NFP they should just talk to themselves? Are women and men really so similar that men can speak to these issues just as well as women? Did the conference organizers try to get women to speak but find that they were all so drowning with their own children that they had nothing left to give to others?

I left Couple to Couple League’s website with the sinking feeling that they are crippled in their ability to promote the fullness of what the Church has to offer for women in real life. Am I missing a good reason for avoiding married women as speakers, or does the Couple to Couple League have a tremendous opportunity to grow in this area?

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Original Sin Makes Me Feel Warm and Fuzzy

Okay, so that title isn’t entirely accurate. But Jenna’s post on sin got me thinking about how the doctrine of original sin is actually a positive thing.

The doctrine of original sin is a happy doctrine for a few reasons. The first is that original sin offers a suggestion of how God can be good even though bad things happen to good people. We can argue all we want about the role of origional sin in deciding the eternal fate of babies who die, but the fact remains that babies die. And there is nothing good about babies dying.

If one believes in original sin, then one can also believe that God did not create a world in which babies die. God created a good world, but Adam and Eve chose evil and thus babies die. Romans 5 explains that “through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned.”

It is not that a baby chooses sin. But all babies feel the impact of original sin, and for some this means death. There is no way around it. There is redemption, but there is also the stinging impact of sin which causes all creation to groan “as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23). If one denies the place of sin in causing babies to die, then what is left but to say that it is directly God’s will? It seems to me that it is horribly arrogant to attribute the result of sin to God’s design.

The second benefit of the doctrine of original sin is that it asserts the connectedness of humans in an overly-individualistic society. The influence of liberalism (Enlightenment, Protestant Reformation, what have you) on Christianity has brought many good things, such as a focus on God’s love for every person. But, in some ways, it has lead to an insane idolatry of the individual and no place is left for the crucial role of the community. The doctrine of original sin reminds us that Christianity is not just about “me and God.” We are connected to each other and have to live with the fact that our lives are shaped by the actions others took long before we were born. Ideally, this should serve as a reminder that our actions impact others, and we should live well. It does not really matter whether one prefers to focus on sin as “origional” or “structural” or any other term. What matters is that one remembers that one is not alone and never acts in isolation. The Bible is full of stories of God seeking out individual people and dramatically altering their lives. But these stories involve changing people’s lives so that they can change even more lives, not because God simply likes shaking people up. God didn’t grab Abram and Sarai and say “I want to make your dreams come true, just for the two of you.” Saul wasn’t stopped on the road to Damascus simply for his own salvation. One’s theology of sin is an important aspect of one’s theology of community. And the doctrine of origional sin offers a good starting point for humbly accepting the facts that we did not choose to be who we are, and our choices will impact others.

Lastly there is the great irony that believing in origional sin allows one to have a much more positive view of humanity. If one does not believe in original sin, then it seems that one must attribute all evil acts to sheer malice, greed, etc. But origional sin explains that people do not necessarily choose to be evil. We were stained by sin before we were even born. Remembering this is a tremendous help for me in loving others as weak, rather than despising them as cruel. Sure, we can choose evil, but not all evil is chosen by the person who acts it out. Choice is never truly “free” and no one gets to start with a clean slate.

What is your preferred way of thinking of sin? Do you think that the term itself is problematic? If so, what constructs do you prefer?

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