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Saturday, March 27, 2004
 
The Dallas Norms and Canon Law

Interesting discussion by John Allen in this week's Word from Rome column in The National Catholic Reporter. To make it more accessible I post it below:

"It’s no secret that many canon lawyers in the Catholic church are not wild about the American Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, which spell out the process for removing priests from ministry after one act of abuse. Canonists charge that the norms fail to respect the due process rights of accused priests, though most say they’re an improvement over the non-judicial process the American bishops envisioned in Dallas in June 2002.

Canonists are typically publicity adverse, so their concern has long taken the form of a whispering campaign. It broke into full public view, however, in Rome on March 25, at a conference on “Justice and Penal Processes in the Church,” sponsored by Santa Croce University.

Though no one will say so out loud, the conference is, in part, a response to the American sex abuse crisis.

Fr. Joaquín Llobell, a Spanish Opus Dei priest and professor of canonical procedure, delivered a paper on Thursday, March 25. Llobell sits on the apostolic signatura, a tribunal of the holy see, and is a judge on the appeals court of the Vatican City State. His paper was titled “Reconciling the interests of the injured parties with the rights of the defendant: the right to due process.” It offered a ringing defense of due process – and a criticism of both the American norms and the Vatican.

Llobell opened by asserting that respect for the rights of the accused is an “absolute necessity … so that any judicial act may be worthy of that name.” In fact, respect for due process, he suggested, is an “index for measuring the degree of civilization of a people.” He noted that the 1967 Synod of Bishops listed “defense of the rights of the faithful” among the core principles for the revision of the Code of Canon Law, completed in 1983.

Llobell said that several popes have insisted that the church’s legal system should be a speculum iustitiae, that is, a “mirror of justice” for the world. Llobell acknowledged that canon law sees protecting the community as a legitimate aim, but said this must be balanced against protecting the rights of the individual. He warned against a “subtle, but penetrating, temptation to mortify the rights of the single individual in order to protect those of the community.”

In arguments that cut against the “zero tolerance” policy of the American bishops, Llobell said that canon law has a bias in favor of rehabilitation of the offender, and that it seeks proportionality between offense and punishment – meaning that “one size fits all” penalties are foreign to canonical tradition.

The Spanish professor criticized the American Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for asking bishops to inform civil authorities of any accusation against a priest, “perhaps without distinguishing sufficiently the origin of the report and its credibility.”

Llobell also took the American bishops to task for not pursuing canonical trials against abuser priests much earlier in the game. He charged that some bishops like to perform only the pleasant aspects of their job, leaving the pope or the Roman Curia to play the heavy. In fact, he said, the Roman Curia tried in the 1990s to convince the American bishops to set up inter-diocesan tribunals at the national level to process sex abuse cases, but nothing happened.

“Yet [American tribunals] manage to adjudicate around 50,000 cases of annulment of marriage every year,” Llobell said.

Llobell’s criticism, however, was not reserved to the far side of the Atlantic. He also expressed reservations about Vatican policy.

For example, he criticized revisions to sex abuse norms for the universal church approved by John Paul II in February 2003, which removed the statute of limitations, allowed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to defrock a priest using non-judicial means, and prevented appeal of a CDF decision.

On the question of appeal, Llobell pointed to a recent rejection by the CDF of an appeal from women excommunicated because they declared themselves ordained to the priesthood on a boat in the Danube River. Although Llobell said the excommunication was justified, he charged that the CDF’s refusal of appeal laid waste to papal guarantees that the dicasteries of the Roman Curia are not above the law.

On administrative means, Llobell quoted Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, a Pole who heads the Congregation for Catholic Education and who is a noted canon lawyer, that applying a permanent penalty this way is “a strong regress” on Vatican II teaching about the dignity of the human person and human rights.

Llobell noted that John Paul’s 2002 document Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, promulgating norms for the CDF on sex abuse cases, allows accusers to remain anonymous in some instances. Yet a cornerstone of procedural justice, he said, is the right to confront one’s accusers.

Let’s be clear: Llobell is no liberal reformer. He wonders aloud why bishops don’t prosecute priests who tolerate birth control in the confessional, and he applauds American Archbishop Raymond Burke’s denial of communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians.

For that reason, Llobell’s critique of the American bishops, and even the Vatican, takes on all the more significance. One can assume that what Llobell said out loud, other canonists around Rome are thinking – and that includes some who will be advising the Holy See on renewing its approval of the American norms, which expire in March 2005.

* * *

Llobell was not the only one with questions.

One of the strongest expressions of perplexity about the American norms, in fact, came from an American: Monsignor Kenneth Boccafola of Rockville Center, a judge on the Roman Rota. Boccafola is third in seniority among 28 judges on the Rota.

Boccafola said March 26 that because the norms are new, and procedures arising from them are confidential, it is difficult to draw lessons from experience. Still, he said, there are questions about “the difficulty of integrating certain provisions of the norms with general principles of ecclesiastical penal law.”

Those difficulties, according to Boccafola, include:

• Canon 9 stipulates that laws concern the future, not the past – meaning that a person cannot be judged under a law that did not exist at the time of his or her offense. Yet in some cases American priests have been permanently removed from ministry for decades-old acts of abuse, under a policy created in 2002.

• The norms do not take account of aggravating or extenuating circumstances.

• The ability of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to waive “prescription,” the canonical term for a statue of limitations, seems “an unfavorable change in the law to the disadvantage of the accused.” Boccafola said this practice is difficult to reconcile both with natural justice and with existing law on prescription.

• The “zero tolerance” policy, according to which permanent removal from ministry is automatic for any act of sexual abuse, does not allow proportionality between the crime committed and the penalty imposed. It seems to contradict canon 1344, which says a judge can always adjust a penalty according to his conscience and discretion.

• The definition of “sexual abuse” is so vague that it imperils the idea of uniform administration of justice.

• The norms claim to cover religious order priests, but Boccafola questioned whether the bishops have that authority.

Finally, Boccafola questioned article nine of the norms, which allows bishops to remove a priest from ministry using administrative means rather than a judicial process. He says this seems an attempt to resurrect the old canonical idea of a bishop suspending a priest on the basis of “informed conscience,” but Boccafola notes this was never a permanent penalty. It might have been better to bring back the idea of “informed conscience,” he said, rather than treating the power to suspend a priest indefinitely as part of the bishop’s ordinary administrative authority.

Bishop Velasio De Paolis, secretary of the Apostolic Signatura, also argued March 26 against handling criminal matters through administrative means.

“Today the tendency is widely diffused to put things on an administrative level,” De Paolis said. “But it doesn’t seem that this tendency can be approved. The absence of the sense of justice and the exigency of repairing the order that has been violated is damaging both to the individual and to the community.”

Fr. Davide Cito, a canon law professor at Santa Croce, said the CDF’s ability to waive prescription on a case-by-case basis is hard to reconcile with universal law.

“Personally I don’t know how to reconcile the guiding principles of the canonical system currently in force with a faculty that at its extreme permits the application on a case-by-case basis of a norm unfavorable to the accused,” Cito said.

On prescription, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and thus the official principally responsible for sex abuse cases, took a different view.

“Practice indicates that the term of 10 years is not adequate for this type of case, and perhaps one could hope for a return to the previous system of imprescriptibility of grave delicts,” he wrote in his paper, referring to serious canonical offenses. By “imprescriptability,” Scicluna meant that such offenses would have no statute of limitations."

- John Allen, Word from Rome, March 26, 2004


 
The Stations of the Cross

Perhaps one of the finest, most meaningful Stations of the Cross are those composed by the great spiritual master, Msgr Romano Guardini. These Stations are filled with a sense of reverence and warmth and of real discipleship. They manifest a true nobility of soul. I cannot recommend them highly enough. I am trying to make these part of my own Lenten discipline and invite you to pray them as well.



 
Spring

NOTHING is so beautiful as spring;
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. - Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

- Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ


 
Today in Christian history

March 27, 1378: Gregory XI, the last French (Avignonese) pope, dies. Arguments over who would replace him led to what is called "The Great Schism," when the creation of antipopes divided Western Christianity.

March 27, 1536: Swiss Protestants sign the First Helvetic Confession, the first uniform confession of faith for all German-speaking Switzerland and an important Reformation document.

March 27, 1667: English poet John Milton publishes "Paradise Lost", an epic of humanity's creation and fall.

March 27, 1962: Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel ordered all Catholic schools in the New Orleans archdiocese to end segregation.


Thursday, March 25, 2004
 
Proposed new Ave Maria University Chapel

From such a church, O LORD, deliver us!

I think it very ugly. I prefer, by far, the new cathedral in Los Angeles. Neither are my preferred style. But this one surprises me coming as it does from such an explicitly Catholic and "traditional" source like Tom Monaghan's Ave Maria University. The other proposed buildings also strike me as quite bland and even on the ugly side. (Thanks to Amy Welborn for this link; be sure to read the many comments on her blog).


 
Decay and Glory: Back to Byzantium

Those living in the New York area are fortunate to have an opportunity to see this grand exhibit at the Met. If any see it. let us know and I'd post it here on the blog.


 
Lenten Feast


A happy ONION as he approaches his 17th birthday


 
Update

Set up new computer and peripherals without a hitch (I had some good help). Also set up old computer and it is already "networked" and I have easily accessed some of the data stored there in abundance. Delighted! And surprisingly, both take up little space as they are now arranged. I am one for small and less, so I am a bit uneasy about two complete systems. But it's OK for now anyway as I try to salvage and use as much data in the old computer as possible.

I am glad I have people close by who are really adept at these things. I am not. We really do need each other. At least I know I need the help of others. Thanks be to God they are "there" and generous and good.


 
The Wisdom of Flannery

"I write the way I do because (not though) I am a Catholic....I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it."

- Flannery O'Connor


 
Birthday of the "hillbilly thomist"


Flannery O'Connor and her beloved peacocks

Today in 1925 in Savannah Georgia Mary Flannery O'Connor was born. Flannery O'Connor died young of lupus in 1968, and left behind a relatively small but exquisite corpus of writings. Her vision was utterly shaped by her Catholic faith and her Christian sensibilities. On her bedstand were three volumes: the Bible, the Missal, and the Breviary. Her stories whose characters can be so unforgettable can often be "revelations" and almost hit with a brutal force. Some refer to her stories as "grotesque". But in her sublime artistry of words and writing, her own faith and humor shine through.

Flannery O'Connor's own self-effacing humor is best seen, perhaps, in the collection of her letters. They have me crying and laughing! I really love this beautiful soul who referred to herself as a "hillbilly thomist." And that about sums her up for me - even if she is not quite a "Saint Thomas for dummies!" Happy Birthday, Flannery! You have enriched us with your life and your life's work. Memory eternal.

Thomas Merton spoke good words about this fellow Catholic writer:

"When I read Flannery O'Connor, I do not think of Hemingway, or Katharine Anne Porter, or Sartre, but rather of someone like Sophocles. What more can you say for a writer? I write her name with honor, for all the truth and all the craft with which she shows man's fall and his dishonor."

I can't recommend highly enough the beautifully bound and printed edition of her collected works from the American Library of America, and if you order it (just click on Title or Image) you will know why:

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF FLANNERY O'CONNOR





 
The Annunciation of the LORD


The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

Salvation to all that will is nigh,
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he will wear
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.

Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother,
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark; and shutst in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.


- John Donne


Tuesday, March 23, 2004
 
Wow!

Today my new "stuff" arrived - new computer, new speakers, new three-in-one printer, scanner, copier. It's a Dell, dude, of course. And beautiful. The keyboard has the nicest feel of any I have ever used. The CPU unit is small, sleek, and lovely to look at. And fast. The new speakers, for $50, are beyond expectations - a truly strong, beautiful sound. The Dell is a Dimension 4600c. And with my additions, like Microsoft Office and the speakers and a DVD, CD, CD-RW drive, it comes to an investment of $625 (there is a $200 rebate and Dell gave another $100 off). This includes an 80G hard drive and 521K of RAM memory. I am set for a while, I hope.

I still have lots to do to get everything up to speed. I think I will have to add my old Address Book manually (again!) - but I can use that as a time to remember and pray for so many good and faithful family and friends. I am going to use, for the first time, Outlook - Outlook 2003 looks like an excellent email "client."

The three-in-one Epson CX5400 is costing less than $120 after a $20 rebate. The only other major expense has been the MAGNIFICENT 17" LCD flat screen monitor - which cost a whopping $350 (after a $50 rebate). But that is a good investment. It has finally given me some much needed desk space! That is a real plus. Worth it just for that benefit alone. But it truly is a beautiful addition.

I don't expect to add much now for years to come. I am holding on to the old computer for its immense store of data, going back many years. I hope I can still access it and use it as need be.

All in all, while I am right now very tired, I am very happy with this new development, which so far has been trouble free. More to do tomorrow. Let's hope for the best!


 
Niicholai Berdaiev on "east" and "west"

The Russian thinker whose death is remembered on this day presents a fascinating understanding:

"In an article dedicated to Solovyov's memory, Berdiaev presents traditional Western and Eastern church mysticism as two complementary halves constituting a single whole. Authentic unification of the Eastern and Western churches, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, could not be achieved through an agreement between church authorities, but only in the depths of church spirituality, viz. only through each church's recognition of the other's mystical experience of Christ as genuine.

Berdiaev characterizes the two differing spiritualities as follows: In the Catholic West, God is an object outside of and above us. We strive outward toward God in spiritual hunger and languor. Using Solovyov's and Hippius' expression, Christ is the object of amorousness (vlublennosti) and imitation. This mysticism is sensual, filled with longing for Christ's passions. Therefore, mystical experience in Catholicism is anthropological. The dynamic and creative amorousness (vlublennost) of Catholic mysticism is the foundation for all the dynamic forces and great achievements of Western culture. One can feel this human reaching up toward God in Gothic architecture, which perfectly expresses Catholic spirituality. The mystical experience of Catholicism is being in love with God in Christ. The great mission of the West was to reveal mystical love as a creative power. According to Berdiaev, what nourishes the chivalric strength and the creative culture of the West is this mystical experience of loving God as the ultimate object of one's desire.

The Orthodox East, on the other hand, developed another type of mystical experience. In Berdiaev's view, there is no being in love with Christ and no imitation of Christ in Orthodox mystical experience, since Christ is not an outer object of desire causing one to strive outward, but rather a subject, i.e. a fact of one's inner life. Orthodox mysticism, therefore, is volitional, rather than sensual; it emphasizes spiritual sobriety. Orthodox mysticism proclaims tbeosis, the idea of the deification of human nature from within through embracing Christ inwardly. Unlike in Catholic spirituality, there is no mystical hunger or romantic languor toward God in Orthodoxy. Instead, there is mystical saturation. The Christian East's spiritual activity moves toward enlightening and deifying human nature from within, rather than from without. The West creates a great culture, but the wast develops a dynamism of inner communion with God."

- From the book "The Trinity of Love" by Father Michael Meerson


 
Priest gains a victory in court

Four assault charges against Blackwell dropped; Sex abuse, sodomy counts remain; Judge will decide soon whether to void case

"The Rev. Maurice Blackwell won a significant victory in his sexual assault case yesterday when half of the counts against him were thrown out by a Baltimore judge, who will soon decide whether to dismiss the entire case against the priest or proceed with part of it.

Circuit Judge John M. Glynn said he would issue a decision within two weeks, either voiding Blackwell's remaining charges or going forward with one or more remaining counts of sexual child abuse.

Blackwell is accused of fondling and sodomizing Dontee Stokes more than 15 years ago.

Stokes, Blackwell's former parishioner, shot and wounded the clergyman in May 2002 after confronting him about the alleged abuse.

Stokes, 28, was acquitted of attempted murder at his trial later that year, which was highly publicized because of the sex scandal in the Roman Catholic church..."



Regarding this attempted murder, Cardinal Keeler has this to say:

"With the decision of the jury tonight, one sad chapter is concluded, but there remains much healing ahead. Many of us have been praying for this healing. My prayers are with Dontee Stokes and his family. He is a young man who has shown much promise; may God bless him now and in the days and years to come."


 
Today in Christian history

March 23, 332 (traditional date): Gregory the Illuminator, who converted a nation before Constantine even embraced Christianity, dies. A missionary to his homeland of Armenia, he converted King Tiridates, and much of the kingdom followed suit. Soon Christianity was established as the national religion, with Gregory as its bishop.

March 23, 1513: Juan Ponce de Leon, a former governor of Puerto Rico, reached Florida, naming it for Easter Sunday (Pascua Florida, flowering Paschal feast).

March 23, 1540: Waltham Abbey in Essex becomes the last monastery in England to transfer its allegiance from the Catholic Church to the newly established Church of England.

March 23, 1743: George Friedrich Handel's oratorio "Messiah" plays in London and is attended by the king, who stood instantly at the opening notes of the Hallelujah Chorus—a tradition ever since (though some historians have suggested it was because he was partially deaf and mistook it for the national anthem). The oratorio was actually quite controversial, since it used the words of God in the theater, and the title only made things worse. Handel compromised a bit by dropping the "blasphemous" title from handbills. It was instead called "A New Sacred Oratorio."

March 23, 1948: Nicholai Berdayev, Russian emigre philosopher-religious thinker, dies.

March 23, 1966: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, meets at the Vatican with Pope Paul VI—the first such meeting between Anglican and Catholic leaders since Henry VIII broke with Rome more than 400 years before.


Monday, March 22, 2004
 
35 Catholic Missionaries Killed in 2003

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Last year saw the lives of 35 Catholic missionaries - bishops, priests, religious and lay people - ended violently.

So says the news agency Fides of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples which published the names of the dead, on the occasion of the Day of Prayer and Fasting in Memory of Martyred Missionaries, to be observed on Wednesday.

In 2003 the greatest number of victims was recorded in Africa, particularly in Sudan and Uganda, where rebels continue to combat the established government, and in war-torn Congo. Notable in Burundi was the killing of Archbishop Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio.

The list of missionaries killed, updated only in Italian, is published by Fides at www.evangelizatio.org/portale/martirologio/martiri/2003.html.


 
The Entrance of the Way

LORD, Thou hast said: "Whosoever will be my disciple, let him take up his cross daily and follow Me." I desire to tread in Thy footsteps, and in spirit follow Thee along Thy way of sorrows. Grant that all Thou hast suffered for my sake may become living and present before my soul. Open mine eyes, touch my heart that I may see and deeply perceive how great is Thy love for me; that with my whole soul I may turn to Thee, my Redeemer, and forsake the sin which brought Thee such bitter pain.

Of all my sins I repent from my heart, 0 Lord. I will begin again; with all earnestness will set out to follow Thee. Help me to do this.

Help me also to carry my cross with Thee. Thy way of pain is the school of all suffering, of all patience and overcoming. Let me recognize in it my own misery. Teach me to understand its message, what I ought to do - I myself - and to do in this very hour. And then let this insight become strong and fruitful that I may also carry it out into action.


The opening prayer of Romano Guardini's stunning "Way of the Cross."


 
Examining the Sacred Heart of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"

By JOSEPH PEARCE, Special to the Daily News
March 21, 2004

What does a local literary theologian think of the most popular and debated movie in the world today? Plenty, and he pulls no punches. Ave Maria University in Naples has a writer in residence eager to speak up. - Jeff Lytle Perspective editor

It says something about the meretricious spirit of our age that the only "passion" considered "controversial" is the Passion of Christ.

Movies, magazines, newspapers and television programs are full of other, less controversial, passions. They are, in fact, so full of depictions of graphic violence and pornographic sex that these particular passions are not even considered in the least controversial any longer.

On the contrary, voyeurism is not merely acceptable, it is positively de rigueur. It is almost compulsory if one wishes to avoid the heinous charge of prudishness.

Prurience is fine; prudishness is not. Vice is fine; so-called Victorian attitudes are not. Vice is victorious and Victorianism is vanquished. Or so it would seem.

Even the word sin has become an expletive, not to be uttered in polite company. Sin has had its day, or so they say. It has been eclipsed by cynicism. And cynics have no time for sin. Or so they say. In fact, of course, they have no time for anything else. Unable or unwilling to banish sin from their lives, they seek instead to ban it from the language.

It is in the very midst of this stale and putrid scene that the figure of Mel Gibson's Christ staggers onto the stage. He stumbles, bruised and bleeding, into the midst of the party, intent, so it seems, on spoiling the fun.

The partygoers, comfortably drunk and heedless of the hangover that awaits them, do not welcome this unwanted and uninvited gate-crasher. Who is he anyway? And what right does he have to tell them what to do? They are angry. They mutter amongst themselves that his presence in the midst of the debauch is a scandal. It is intolerable. It will not be tolerated. Who invited him anyway? Increasingly angry at his silent reproach they become violent. They start to bustle him around. Soon they rain blows upon his battered and defenseless body. He falls to the ground. Unwittingly they have become stars of Gibson's film. It is they who are demanding that Christ be put to death. Crucify him! Crucify him!

If this analogy appears a trifle too dramatic ? melodramatic even ? we should remember that it is the precise analogy at the very heart of Gibson's movie. It is Gibson's precise point that those calling for Christ to be crucified are not merely historic personages in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire a couple of thousand years ago. They are us. It is we who scourged him, we who placed the crown of thorns on his head, we who nailed him to the cross. It is our sinful hearts that pierced his sacred heart. And it is from his sacred heart that his mercy pours forth to us ? in spite of our sins.

This film, and the deep theology it portrays, is nothing less than Gibson's Christian faith poured out as an oblation, and as a penance for his sins. In this context it is supremely significant that Gibson's only part in the film itself is to hold the nail as it is hammered into Christ's sinless flesh.

As he stressed during a recent interview, the choice of his left hand for the part signifies his sin, figuratively speaking, and the sinister, literally speaking; sinister in Latin meaning left. Far from his being, as some suggest, an "anti-semite" who blames the Jews for crucifying Christ, Gibson is quite clearly blaming himself. He is responsible for the worst crime in human history. And, sobering thought though it be, so are we. This is Gibson's point. It matters not whether the cynics who find the film so controversial fail to share Gibson's faith.

Its truth or otherwise have nothing to do with their belief in it. What matters is that Gibson has made a profoundly moving movie depicting the last bloody hours of the life of Christ. He has courageously brought the truth of the Gospel to movie theatres across the world.

The fact that many people find the good news bad news is neither here nor there. It is to be expected. Indeed, the fact that many people find the good news bad news is not news at all. It has always been thus. The Gospel has always been controversial. It was so controversial that the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites put its founder to death.

Nothing has changed. We continue to crucify him. Yet he continues to live. This is the sacred heart of Gibson's film. It is a bleeding heart, but a beating heart also. It bled for us. It beats for us.

And this, for Gibson and millions of other Christians around the world, is not merely controversial, it is incontrovertible. There is no hope that Mel Gibson will ever win an Oscar for "The Passion of the Christ." No matter. He has his heart set on an infinitely greater reward.


 
Today in Christian history

March 22, 337: Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, dies at age 47. As emperor, he issued an edict officially tolerating Christianity, though he did little to stave off paganism. He also summoned the Council of Nicea to settle the Arian dispute over the nature of Christ.

March 22, 1457: Johann Gutenberg printed his first Bible. The Gutenberg Bibles are in Latin, not German.

March 22, 1638: Religious dissident Anne Hutchinson is expelled from Massachusetts Bay Colony. Questioned about her teachings on grace, she insisted she had received divine revelations. When her examiners asked how she knew these came from God, she replied, "How did Abraham know that it was God that bid him offer his son, being a breach of the Sixth Commandment?" Although Hutchinson repented of her "errors," her questioners decided she was lying and banished her from the colony.

March 22, 1758: Jonathan Edwards, one of America's greatest Protestant theologians, dies from the effects of a smallpox vaccination after arriving in New Jersey to accept the presidency of what is now Princeton University.


Sunday, March 21, 2004
 
Sad News

I was deeply saddened to hear the news of the death by accident of Simon Benkovic, the son of Johnnette and Anthony. Johnnette is the director of "Living His Life Abundantly" and is well known in some circles for her television show on EWTN. I had the joy of meeting Johnnette and Tony on my last cruise. A son was with them and I think it may have been Simon. I pray for the repose of his soul and pray for the parents and family and friends in this time of loss and pain. Weeping cometh in the night but with the dawn, rejoicing. May the LORD wipe away all tears and may Simon's soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


 
Bach and Mozart

"Whether the angels play only Bach in praising God I am not quite sure;
I am sure, however, that 'en famille', they play Mozart."

- Karl Barth

Happy Birthday, Johann Sebastian Bach! You introduced me to the beautiful world of music. I still listen to your Brandenburg Concertos, my first love, with a sense of wonder and of being somehow in the presence of the world of God's creation. And so many of your works seem to me to speak, beyond all words, of suffering, death, resurrection and triumphant joy. You have been an "evangelist" to me!

No wonder Barth could wonder if the angels only play you in praising God.

But I also agree with Karl that 'en famille' the angels play Mozart.

I need both of you!

Happy Birthday!


 
Today in Christian history

March 21, 547: Italian monk Benedict, author of the Benedictine rule (which established the pattern for European monastic life through the Middle Ages), dies at Monte Cassino. In 1965 Pope Paul VI proclaimed him the patron saint of Europe.

March 21, 1146: At the urging of Bernard of Clairvaux (one of the most famous theologians and monks of his day), France's King Louis VII announces he will lead the Second Crusade to regain the crusader capital of Edessa. When he failed two years later, Christians were devastated that a crusade preached by a moral exemplar and led by royalty could fail.

March 21, 1556: After denying earlier forced recantations, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, a crucial figure in the English Reformation and author of the Book of Common Prayer, is burned at the stake by Queen Mary. He reportedly thrust his arm into the flames, saying the hand that had signed the recantations should be the first to burn.

March 21, 1685: German organist and composer Johann Sebastian Bach is born in Eisenach, Germany (at the same school Martin Luther attended). Though largely unrecognized in his day and forgotten for years after his death, he has since became one of history's unequalled musical masters. But music was never just music to Bach. Nearly three-fourths of his 1,000 compositions were written for use in worship. Between his musical genius, his devotion to Christ, and the affect of his music, he has gained recognition in many circles as the "Fifth Evangelist."

March 21, 1778: Charles Wesley, brother of John and author of 8,989 hymns (including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "And Can It Be," "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today," "Soldiers of Christ, Arise," and "Rejoice! the Lord Is King!"), dies at age 81.

March 21, 1844: William Miller's first proposed date of Christ's return—between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844—ends with little fanfare. Miller soon changed the date to October 22, 1844, but when that passed his followers became disillusioned and premillennialism experienced a massive setback. The Adventist churches grew from the Millerite movement.

March 21, 1871: Journalist Henry M. Stanley, on assignment for the New York Herald, begins his search for David Livingstone in Africa. After he found him (and uttered the famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), the Scottish missionary converted him. Stanley was persuaded to return to Africa years later to continue missionary work and exploration.

March 21, 1965: Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr., leads more than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators on a march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery. By the time they reached their destination four days later, the group had expanded to 25,000.


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