Month: December 2011

The Octave of Christmas and Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God

The Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God (The Circumcision of Our Lord) The 45th World Day of Peace   Numbers 6:22-27 Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8. 2 Galatians 4:4-7 Luke 2:16-21   This Sunday marks a solemn feast in the liturgical year, which the Church has called by several names, none of which happen to be “New Year’s Day.” The primary designation of January 1st has always been “The Octave of the Nativity,” but for the better part of two thousand years it was also known as “The Circumcision of the Lord.” Many Christian communities still call it by that name today, particularly in the East, but in the Roman Catholic Church this changed in 1960 with Pope John XXIII’s calendrical revisions, which dropped the title. His successor Pope Paul VI would then rename the feast “The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” in 1969, and would also tag on another designation as well when he proclaimed January 1st to be “The World Day of Peace.” On the surface, all of these titles seem disconnected and almost haphazard, but there is a profound underlying unity to them all, which is brought to light quite clearly in the second chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The message is as simple as it is brief: He is our peace....

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Catechism Commentary: The Tenth Commandment (Where Your Heart Is)

You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor’s. . . . You shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Ex 20:17; Deut 5:21). I always find it a bit perplexing when I hear people argue that the Ten Commandments are foundational for American civil law, and thus appropriate to display on public property, especially court houses. Besides the fact that the first three commandments deal directly with God, the tenth deals not with action, but rather with desire, which seems far beyond the purview of the law’s reach. You simply cannot legislate how people feel, and yet, this is the subject of the final commandment. The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law (2534) The Tenth Commandment is the climax of the Law, revealing its comprehensive scope. God is not just concerned with human action; his primary concern is human agents, that is, who His people are. In contemporary ethical parlance, we often contrast action-based theories of morality with agent-based theories of morality. Utilitarian and deontological theories of ethics are examples of the former while virtue ethics is an example of the latter. Catholic ethics is an example of an agent-based approach to ethics. The moral theology section...

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Catechism Commentary: The Ninth Commandment

Catechism Commentary: The Ninth Commandment Julie Hanlon Rubio, St. Louis University The ninth commandment seems redundant, sexist, trivial, and maybe even impossible. Why, “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife,” when we already have the sixth commandment, “Do not commit adultery”? Why do women appear in the same list with animals and houses? What is so bad about desire? Can a person really control his or her thoughts? The Catechism interprets the ninth commandment as forbidding “concupiscence” and requiring the disciplining of sexual desires that can lead to sin (#2515).  It urges Christians to cultivate “purity of heart” (#2517).  To be pure of heart is to treat all others as neighbors with love and respect (#2519).  The quest for purity is described as a “battle” that can only be won with great effort. An emphasis on the heart is present both in the commandment and the Catechism.  The ninth commandment differs from the sixth because it treats desire as a part of the moral life, indicating that both emotion and action are important.  Interestingly, the Hebrew word translated as “covet” can mean greed (especially when used in relation to possessions) or craving (in relation to sex), but there is overlap between the two. The desire for more and better things is not unrelated to the desire for more and “better” partners.  A consumer society encourages both kinds of coveting and...

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Rejoicing in the Light – Christmas

 The Nativity of the Lord – Christmas December 25, 2011 Vigil Mass:  Is 62:1-5; Ps 89:4-5,16-17,27,29; Acts 13:16-17,22-25; Mt 1:1-25 or Mt 1:18-25 Mass at Midnight:  Is 9:1-6; Ps 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14 Mass at Dawn:  Is 62:11-12; Ps 97:1,6,11-12; Ti 3:4-7; Lk 2:15-20 Mass During the Day:  Is 52:7-10; Ps 98:1,2-3,3-4,5-6; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18 or Jn 1:1-5,9-14   The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. These words from Isaiah 9 will begin the First Reading at our Midnight Mass.  And in these opening verses, we find two great themes that run through all the various Christmas readings: light and rejoicing.  These are not simply words for our liturgy and ritual; they are not mere adornments for this great Nativity feast.  The light of Christmas and the rejoicing that it begets speak to us of the significance of this holy day for our moral lives. Rejoice! Isaiah makes clear that we find ourselves in a time for great rejoicing. In addition to Isaiah 9, we hear in Isaiah 52 “Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before...

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Grisez and Human Environmental Responsibility

The following is a guest post by Jacaranda Turvey of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Chester University, United Kingdom.  She is writing a thesis on the following topic (supervised by David Clough) and can be reached at For Germain Grisez, Christian moral behaviour – enabled by grace which perfects the virtues – is directed by practical reason towards the pursuit of integral human development. However in the light of his Creation theology his natural law ethics is less anthropocentric than one might expect: He not only recognises the interconnectedness of human and ecosystemic flourishing – describing the natural world as the ‘womb’ within which we dwell[1] – he also argues on the basis of their prior creation and Scriptural references to God’s love for everything he creates, that what he calls ‘sub-personal reality’ has ‘inherent meaning and value’[2], noting that St Thomas – in his brief treatment of the reasons why people should not be cruel to animals – overlooks ‘the irreverence towards God implicit in mistreating animals, inasmuch as they have inherent goodness as creatures’.[3] On animal rights, the existence of which he attempts to refute, Grisez assumes that proponents of such rights necessarily reject the Christian view of persons[4] and attribute rights to beings based on their interests including the capacity for experiencing pleasure and pain[5], which cannot be morally determinative within his natural law...

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