The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Womens Ordination--in a Nutshell

In honor of Fr. Roy Bourgeois' upcoming talk here in Columbus on the topic of the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Catholic Church, I am reminded of a statement I heard in a skit in a faraway place, a long, long time ago:

Tis more important to pee like Jesus,
than it is to be like Jesus

And after all the theological mumbo jumbo has been written, discussed, scoffed at, denounced and propped up, after all the cards have been played and the men with pointy hats have stomped their feet, it really and truly just boils down to the above statement.

I have written about this topic before and I can bat down the arguments as fast as they can throw them up, and while I tend to avoid bumper-stick slogans I will have to concede that on this point the slogan really sums it up for me.

Let me go as far as to say that I think the Catholic Church will go a long ways to ending abortion when women have the equality in society they were intended for by their Creator. The desire for abortion rights, from my perspective, often comes out of a deep pain that women have for not feeling like they are in control over their own lives. In my view, abortion rights are an improper response to this pain. But I think that when women have the standing in society they were meant for, the discussion about abortion will enter a much better phase than it is right now--it won't be driven as much by the pain of inequality.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Inconsistent Pro-Life People

People betray themselves by their inconsistencies. Not that any of us is perfectly consistent, but inconsistency certainly raises some eyebrows and starts people asking questions.

Take the recent controversy over Obama speaking at Notre Dame. Some were infuriated that a pro-choice president like Obama was given the attention and honors he got, given that the Catholic Church is decidedly pro-life.

On the one hand, this could deserve some congratulations. When many churches are accused of trying to be "all things to all people," here you have one that is willing to take a stand. Perhaps this is something to be proud of.

The anti-abortion stance of the Catholic Church is rooted in a respect for life--all life, all the time, everywhere. There are many Catholics who take a hard line stance on abortion, allowing no if's, and's or but's about it. To them, abortion is wrong and that's all there is to it. Okay, that's a respectable stance. Then ask them about war... euthanasia... the death penalty... these are often considered "negotiable."

Many of these folks who would not support abortion under any circumstances seem to have little regard for the dropping of thousands of megatons of explosives on foreign nations--bombs which kill, most certainly, a number of unborn babies. You may remember that George W Bush--the unrepentant architect of those very actions--also spoke at Notre Dame without a peep from the pro-life contingency.

The inconsistency of the response of folks at Notre Dame reflects a trend that you can see elsewhere among some American Catholics--not all, but some.

It seems that the people I am describing are not pro-life. They seem to be anti-abortion, they have a particular call and desire to stop abortions for whatever reason. Maybe they just like unborn babies and really want to crusade for them. Fine with me. But when it comes to truly understanding what the Church is calling us to understand when it comes to respect for all life, they don't get it.

To narrow the pro-life movement to just abortion is to miss the whole point--all life, all the time, everywhere. The crippled and able. The living and dying. The young and old, born and unborn, healthy and sick, smart and dumb, friend and enemy, neighbor and foreigner, guilty and not guilty, you name it. Life is a gift from God and must be respected through all its phases and manifestations--none is greater or more deserving of their life than another.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Early Christian Martyrs

Being a Christian was a crime in the Roman Empire in the first 300 years of Christianity. However, as Justin Martyr, Tertullian and others have pointed out, there was a vast inconsistency in the way the Romans treated the Christian "criminals" compared to how they treated the murderers and thieves.

When a thief was suspected of a crime, they would arrest him and sometimes torture him to get the truth out of him. It was actually the opposite with Christians: A Christian would already self-identify as Christian and then the Roman authorities would use torture, prison or gladiator spectacles to get the Christian to deny it.

This would be a good time to pause and ask--What benefit did it serve the Romans to do this?

It is not like the Romans were trying to do them a favor by going through all this torture to make the Christians honor the pagan gods to spare them from death. That would have been just too generous. Why did the Romans go through all the trouble to torture admitted believers into denying what they had already publicly and proudly affirmed?

It was about domination. It was a fight for the soul of the Empire. It had nothing to do with justice. If simply being Christian was a crime, then certainly the verdict should be easy if the suspect was fully admitting it. If an admitted believer denied their Christianity in the face of torture, it was not like anyone was going to believe that "confession." In fact, there is evidence that the Romans (as well as the Christians) shunned the people who caved in.

The goal was to see if Roman might was able to break the spirit of a believer. They could return that person tattered and broken back to society, somehow "proving" that the Roman Empire had the ability to conquer dissidents. In this macho, honor & shame society, this was a big deal. Was strength and force enough? The Christians answered: No!

The Romans even stopped torturing women on some occasions, because when the women endured the torture and held their heads up high and continued to affirm their Christianity even to the point of death under the most terrible conditions, it was a absolute shame on the Romans. Consider the language: They felt "conquered" by these women! Now, can can someone who tortures someone to death be the one who is conquered? There are certainly deeper theological reasons as we have seen in the passion and death of Jesus himself. Jesus promised us that might does not make right, and that military and political force do not have the last word.

Roman power was not able to win. They could not intimidate, force or manipulate people to follow their will or make happen what they wanted to make happen.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Fr. Scott gave some reflections on the "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in his homily today. This was in recognition of the influence of St. Robert Bellarmine in the formation of the US Declaration of Independence.

It is a very interesting list of rights. The order. The level of importance of each. Something to thing about.

It is curious to ponder what kind of list most folks would come up with if you ask what are the fundamental responsibilities of each person.

Or what list folks would come up with if it were a collective list rather than individual--we all advocate strongly for our own right to life, of course, but what about the right to life for the guy next door?

I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that most folks--even many well intentioned folks--would put the pursuit of their own happiness over and above someone else's right to life.

Now, folks won't necessarily come out and say that. This is something that comes from simply observing actions. Folks seem to put their time, talent and energy on their own happiness first. People literally exhaust their energy, their creativity and their bank accounts rehabbing their house, planning a vacation or doting over their friends and relatives. With some left over time and energy, some well-intentioned folks devote some resources to protecting the rights of others.

How different life would be if we all believed strongly in the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--in that order--and included all humanity and not just ourselves! Just imagine how differently we would have to live in order to put that into practice and act as if we really believed it!