Friday, September 30, 2011

Coming Soon: Miracle of Saint Thérèse

Movie Review
Steven D. Greydanus
National Catholic Register

Overall Recommendability: A+
Miracle of Saint Thérèse [is] an excellent, reverent biopic on the life of St. Thérèse Martin of Lisieux. . . . Neither the vaguely sentimental-sounding English title Miracle of Saint Therese nor the strangely officious original French title Procès au Vatican (Cause in the Vatican) really reflects the achievement of this well-made biopic.

The film does begin and end with documentary-style footage of Thérèse’s cause for canonization. And it does include a number of small miracles, including Thérèse’s dramatic recovery at the age of eight from a life-threatening illness upon seeing a statue of Mary smile at her, and the adorning of her entry into Carmel by an unusual April snowfall.

Yet the film is neither the story of a miracle nor a treatise on Thérèse’s case for canonization, unless the miracle and the case are both Thérèse’s own life. Blending historical drama with elements of documentary, Miracle of Saint Thérèse effectively brings the saint’s story and spirituality to life.

The film offers a number of glimpses into Therese’s “little way” of spiritual childhood, including the conflict occasioned by the contrast between Therese’s insights and the accepted pieties of the day.

Movie Review
Ignatius Press
This is the acclaimed dramatic feature film made in France in 1960 that tells the story of the life of Thérèse of Lisieux from childhood through her death as a Carmelite nun at age 24. Film critics have called it “an excellent, reverent biopic” on St. Thérèse that accurately portrays the saint’s story and her unique spirituality in a very appealing performance by French actress France Descaut. The movie offers numerous glimpses into Thérèse’s “little way” of spiritual childhood, (her particular charism that helped make her a Doctor of the Church) including situations of conflict between Therese and her mother prioress regarding her conviction of striving for perfection with confidence and trust in the mercy and love of God. Beautifully filmed in black and white, with fine performances by the whole cast, this film is an unsung cinematic gem that captures the spirit and life of the beloved St. Thérèse.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Conscience, Truth, and Law

“Conscience” in a Culture without Truths?
by Professor Hadley Arkes
September 13, 2011
Professor Robert George [has] raised the critical issue of protection for claims of “conscience.” That question has cut most deeply, of course, on the matter of abortion. The Hyde-Weldon Amendment was brought forward under federal law to protect doctors and nurses who did not wish to become accomplices in abortion. But with Obamacare, the administration has issued regulations that notably weaken those protections, both for the provision of abortion and contraception.

And now, with the movement toward same-sex marriage, another front has opened: Once same-sex marriage was established in Massachusetts as part of the fundamental law, agencies of adoption were compelled to place children with couples of the same-sex or leave the field. Catholic agencies, faced with the challenge, chose to leave the field rather than comply.

But as Walter Olson has pointed out, these developments have moved apace even when the states have not established same-sex marriage. It has been quite sufficient to have laws barring discrimination based on “sexual orientation.” Those laws are enough to impose sanctions on photographers who express their unwillingness to take photos at a same-sex wedding. . . .

The law had a firmer clarity when it could simply take its bearings from James Madison’s understanding of religion: “the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it.” That Creator was of course the God of Israel, and the duties were bound up with the Laws that sprang from that Lawgiver.

With that understanding the law was anchored, not merely in beliefs, but in truths held with conviction about the Author of the Laws of nature and the moral force of those laws. The problem before us now is just what claims of “conscience” mean when they are detached from that body of truths.

We are flying an important banner when we unfurl the cause of “conscience,” but we are flying that banner in a culture that no longer understands us as we understand ourselves. Most people around us think we are simply invoking intense, personal beliefs when we invoke claims of conscience on abortion. . . .

No religious group has claimed an exemption from the laws of homicide on the strength of “beliefs” that the victims are not really human. That radical claim to “belief” has been made mainly by the religion of secularism in this country.

And what the other side cannot understand then is this: When we invoke rights of conscience in relation to abortion, we are not asking our “beliefs” to be honored. We are planting in the law the premise that the right to abortion has been founded in the most grievous errors of reason.

Read the entire column at The Catholic Thing.

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College. His most recent book is Constitutional Illusions & Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law. © 2011 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Conscience and Modern-Day Assaults on Marriage by the State

The following articles are about the assault on marriage in Canada and Great Britain, but the same things are happening here in the United States, for example, the recent law passed by the New York legislature creating same-sex "marriage," demands for repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act to compel the recognition of same-sex unions as "marriage," demands that Catholic adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, and more.

Freedom of Conscience, Tudor Style
Sean Murphy, Catholic Educator's Resource Center
March 31, 2005
"Thomas, I’ll have no opposition," warned Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons. The scene in Robert Bolt’s play takes place in Sir Thomas More’s garden. Henry has just learned that More does not support his plans to unmake his marriage.

"No opposition, I say!" he roared. "No opposition! Your conscience is your own affair, but you are my Chancellor!"

"I’ll leave you out of it," growls the king. "But I don’t take it kindly, Thomas, and I’ll have no opposition!. . . Lie low if you will, but I’ll brook no opposition — no words, no signs, no letters, no pamphlets — mind that, Thomas — no writings against me!"

Freedom of conscience, Tudor style.

Sound familiar? In Canada, we call it "party discipline" and "cabinet solidarity."

A Man for All Seasons follows More as he resigns his office and retires to private life, avoiding comment upon the King’s marriage. But, ultimately, ‘lying low’ isn’t enough. More’s silence, complains Thomas Cromwell, "is bellowing up and down Europe," and, what’s worse, Henry can hear it. . . .

More refused [to swear an oath affirming the statements about marriage in Act of Succession and the Act of Supremacy, which declared Henry to be Supreme Head on earth of the Church in England. In consequence, Sir Thomas was first imprisoned in the Tower of London and later beheaded.]

All of this to serve the personal dreams and aspirations of Henry VIII. He wanted recognition of his children by Anne as his legal successors, but he also demanded public and universal affirmation that his relationship with Anne Boleyn was worthy of the same respect and recognition as his marriage to Catherine. He got his way by having parliament pass statutes that not only defined marriage in his terms, but punished any expression of opposition. . . .

Canada is following in Henry’s footsteps. Judges tell us that to deny persons of the same sex the right to ‘marry’ would be "a rejection of their personal aspirations and the denial of their dreams." They assert that same-sex couples may not be "excluded" from marrying because that would mean their relationships are "not worthy of the same respect and recognition as opposite-sex relationships." Citing the ‘rule of law,’ these judges are demanding public and universal affirmation that there is no moral difference between homosexual and heterosexual conduct, that both are "worthy of the same respect and recognition," and they are demanding that all citizens unconditionally accept their definition of marriage.

Canadians who oppose the marriage bill need not fear imprisonment or execution if [Paul] Martin’s bill passes, and there are no plans to compel us to swear allegiance to the new order. But there is good reason to expect the kind of pervasive legal persecution and oppression visited upon Tudor England. It will look different in 21st century Canada, for when history repeats itself it adopts the costumes and customs the age.

Sir Thomas More was jailed because he was suspected of ‘misprision of treason’ — of having treasonous intentions. Some human rights laws now make it unlawful to ‘indicate an intention to discriminate.’ BC teacher Chris Kempling ran afoul of this when he spoke publicly against homosexual conduct in response to others — including other teachers — who were speaking in favour of it. He was charged for professional misconduct and is threatened with suspension for ‘indicating an intention to discriminate.’ Call it ‘misprision of discrimination.’ . . . It is reasonable to expect that the same accusations will be hurled by judges against Christian teaching on marriage.


If we will not be allowed to speak publicly, what about conscientious objection?

Ask the Catholic high school principal ordered by a judge to let a homosexually active student bring his ‘date’ to a school dance. Ask Scott Brockie, a Christian printer fined and ordered to serve Gay and Lesbian Archives of Canada, an organization that not only promotes homosexual conduct but promotes pro-paedophilia literature. Ask the marriage commissioners who have already been ordered to resign if they will not perform services for persons of the same sex. Ask the Knights of Columbus, sued by lesbians because they refused to rent their hall to them for a ‘wedding’ reception.

Judges are demanding that every citizen submit to their ideas about sexuality and marriage. Like Robert Bolt’s Henry, they will brook no opposition to the new order. They will not send objectors to jail or to the scaffold, but they will fine them, award monetary judgements against them, see them suspended or fired, force their schools to close, and order that all children be taught their new doctrines. And this government applaud, because Paul Martin has chosen to serve these judges rather than the people who elected him: to play the part of Thomas Cromwell rather than Thomas More.
Sean Murphy is the administrator of the Protection of Conscience Project and a director for Western Canada of the Catholic Civil Rights League. Sean Murphy is on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Copyright © 2005 Sean Murphy


And speaking of Henry Rex and merry old England, this news just in --

Tory MP urges Cameron to crack down on churches that refuse to hold same-sex ceremonies
Christian churches must be banned from performing any marriages if they refuse to hold civil partnerships ceremonies for gay couples, a Conservative MP has demanded.

Mike Weatherley has urged the Prime Minister to show no toleration to churches which turn away gays and lesbians who seek to marry in their premises. . . .

He told Mr Cameron to follow a precedent he suggested had been set by laws compelling 11 Catholic adoption agencies to assess gay couples as potential adopters and foster parents, although most of them have either since closed or left the control of the church. . . .

“As long as religious groups can refuse to preside over ceremonies for same-sex couples, there will be inequality,” he said.

“Such behaviour is not be tolerated in other areas, such as adoption, after all.” . . .

The Rev Nick Donnelly, a Catholic deacon from Lancaster, said on his Protect the Pope blog that the MP’s demands revealed that the churches “have every reason to fear that the next phase of the campaign to establish pseudo-gay marriages will be to coerce them to accept homosexuals or be banned from holding marriages”.

He said: “They’ve banned the Catholic Church from placing children for adoption, now the stage is being set to ban us from holding marriages.”


Thomas More on the Consequences of Conscience --
"Though I might have pain I could have no harm"

Letter of Sir Thomas More to his Daughter Margaret
Tower of London
June 3, 1535
[Master Secretary stated to me] that the King's Highness was nothing content nor satisfied with mine answer, but thought that by my demeanor I had been occasion of much grudge and harm in the realm, and that I had an obstinate mind and an evil toward him and that my duty was being his subject; and so he had sent them now in his name upon my allegiance to command me to make a plain and terminate answer whether I thought the statute lawful or not and that I should either acknowledge and confess it lawful that his Highness should be Supreme Head of the Church of England or else to utter plainly my malignity.

Whereto I answered that I had no malignity and therefore I could none utter. And as to the matter, I could none other answer make than I had before made . . . though it be great heaviness to me that his Highness have such opinion of me for the while, yet have I no remedy to help it, but only to comfort myself with this consideration that I know very well that the time shall come, when God shall declare my truth toward his Grace before him and all the world. And whereas it might haply seem to be but a small cause of comfort because I might take harm here first in the meanwhile, I thanked God that my case was such in this matter through the clearness of mine own conscience that though I might have pain I could have no harm for a man may in such case lose his head and have no harm. For I was very sure that I had no corrupt affection, but that I had always from the beginning truly used myself to looking first upon God and next upon the King. . .

To this it was said by my Lord Chancellor and Master Secretary both that the King might by his laws compel me to make a plain answer thereto, either the one way or the other.

Whereupon I answered I would not dispute the King's authority, what his Highness might do in such case, but I said that verily under correction it seemed to me somewhat hard. For if it so were that my conscience gave me against the statutes (wherein how my mind giveth me I make no declaration), then I nothing doing nor nothing saying against the statute, it were a very hard thing to compel me to say either precisely with it against my conscience to the loss of my soul, or precisely against it to the destruction of my body. . .

[During this questioning, it] was said that it was marveled that I stuck so much in my conscience while at the uttermost I was not sure therein. Whereto I said that I was very sure that my own conscience, so informed as it is by such diligence as I have so long taken therein, may stand with mine own salvation. I meddle not with the conscience of them that think otherwise, every man suo domino stat et cadit [Romans 14:4, 1 Cor 10:12] . I am no man's judge. It was also said unto me that if I had rather be out of the world as in it, as I had there said, why did I not speak even out plain against the statute. It appeared well I was not content to die though I had said so. Whereto I answered as the truth is, that I have not been a man of such holy living as I might be bold to offer myself to death, lest God for my presumption might suffer me to fall, and therefore I put not myself forward, but draw back. Howbeit if God draw me to it himself, then trust I in his great mercy, that he shall not fail to give me grace and strength.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Conscience and the State on the Matter of Marriage

Church Principles in the Public Square
Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Diocese of Arlington
June 29, 2011
Summer is a time when many things slow down, including politics and governmental activities. Yet, at the same time, it is also a patriotic season when we remember with gratitude the great legacy of a democratic republic given to us by our Founding Fathers. In this time of relative calm, I would like to address some issues regarding Catholicism, electoral politics and the public life, and invite you to reflect upon them.

The Catholic Church is not a political party nor does She endorse political parties or candidates. She does not take sides in elections and political debates as would an interest group or civil association. However, the Church does have a place in the public square, but Her place is unique. Her role is to inform public debate about the universal truths and principles of a just society rather than to make specific policies or to promote candidates for office. The Church serves as a conscience for civil society. The principles that the Church defends in public life are not strictly religious principles knowable only through supernatural revelation, but are derived from the natural law, which can be known by right reason. These natural law principles can be discussed by all people of good will who are open to rational discourse and truth. Thus, the Church reminds voters and those in public life of the law written in their hearts and of that law’s necessary role in maintaining an equitable and harmonious society.

Often, the way that the Church contributes to political debates is by drawing upon basic principles about human dignity and the common good. For example, in the debate over undocumented immigration in the United States, the Church reminds all involved to balance the rights of national sovereignty and legal borders with respect for the dignity of each person and family. She does not propose specific political solutions to the problem, but calls for those deliberating these policies to be guided by humane principles as they strive to do what is best.

While most issues debated in the public square are matters of prudential judgment, there are others that touch on intrinsic evil and thus require the Church in Her prophetic mission to take an absolute stand against them. In our age, these issues especially concern the respect for human life and the definition of marriage and family. It is always, and at all times, evil to willfully take an innocent human life, or to willfully assist someone in those acts. Therefore, witnessing to the truth, the Church must call for an end to all forms of abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem cell research.

Another clear-cut truth is that marriage between a man and a woman is not a societal construct, but a reality that exists because of the nature inherent in each human person. Human beings did not invent or define marriage; therefore we should accept and live out the reality that truly exists. Life and marriage do not attain their meaning and dignity from government or even from a democratic vote, because they are more elemental than these institutions. Life, marriage and family exist first and then governments of various kinds gain their being from them. Governments are instituted to aid and protect life and the family — not to decide what they are. The Church resists all attempts to redefine these fundamental human realities and invites all to enter into a rational dialogue about the full meaning of these God-given realities.

As a communion of brothers and sisters in Christ, the Church enjoins all her members to embrace the fullness of the truth and to live in accord with it. Catholics are called to a unity of life in which they uphold the natural law through their personal relationships and their participation in the civil arena. They are to oppose intrinsic evil and to defend the good in the public square. A faithful Catholic should protect the unborn and the aged, and stand for the truth of marriage in his or her political life, whether he or she is a politician or a voter.

In a world that rejects such basic truths of life and existence, it is not surprising that Catholics, as adherents to the truth, have become targets of a new bigotry. This prejudice, born of a relativistic ethos which denies the existence of absolute truth, questions the capacity of Catholics to participate as societal leaders and rejects their views out-of-hand as religious and unreasonable. Bigotry is an unfounded prejudice that seeks to marginalize, discredit and exclude individuals because they belong to a particular group. There have certainly been attempts in politics to smear Catholics as unfit to lead because they profess their Faith in its fullness and to dismiss their positions without reasoned debate as irrational religious convictions. However, the governmental principles proposed by the Catholic Church in the public square are based on natural law which, as we have discussed, is known through reason. These attacks are often subtle and may not always be intentionally bigoted. Regardless of intent, however, they are an assault against the truth that seeks to prevent a real dialogue based on reason. This new bigotry is part of what our Holy Father has called the “dictatorship of relativism.” As Bishop of the Church of Arlington, I recognize the need to identify publicly this form of injustice and call for its cessation.

Sadly, there are some Catholics who have used these discriminatory attacks against their brothers and sisters in public life. This is neither charitable nor just and falls short of how a Catholic is called to treat others. As members of the Church, we need to challenge this bigotry when we see it in public life or hear it in private conversation. We need to challenge others who use these methods or agree with them. We must always challenge with kindness, and invite them to discuss these false assertions on the basis of reason. In this dialogue, we can help them discover the true basis of our convictions. In order to do this, we have to be prepared to defend our position with reasoned knowledge and a dispassionate discourse, free from rancor. Because of this obligation, all Catholics are to deepen continually their understanding of the Church’s social and moral teaching.

Each of us is called toward a unity of life. We must seek to understand the truth that the Church teaches and then to uphold that truth by the example of our lives. This witness, however, must be visible not only in our private lives, but also in our participation in the public square. As citizens, we have the privilege and the responsibility to protect the common good. This common good is a reality, which we seek to know in a deepened way through prayer and through reasoned discourse.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coming Soon - A Man for All Seasons

Issues regarding attempts at the redefinition of marriage by government being prevalent today, Cinema Catechism is pleased to begin its Fall 2011 Season with a showing of A Man for All Seasons, with discussion on the theme of Marriage and Family, Conscience and the State, on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

See additional clips and information below -
The Conscience of Sir Thomas More: The King's Good Servant, but God's First