How regrettably far we have strayed in our culture when full blown vulgarity in movies today hardly phases us.
WASHINGTON — A Roman Catholic bishop from Oklahoma will celebrate a special Latin Mass in Washington on Saturday after a Vatican cardinal pulled out following criticism by advocates for abuse victims.
The Paulus Institute, which is organizing the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception says Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa, Okla., has agreed to participate.
The institute announced Wednesday that it was looking for another celebrant to replace Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests objected to Castrillon Hoyos because of a 2001 letter he wrote congratulating a French bishop for shielding a priest convicted of raping minors.
The Paulus Institute says Cardinal William Baum, former archbishop of Washington, will attend.
Sam Miller, prominent Cleveland businessman – Jewish, not Catholic – is fighting mad about & concentrated effort by the media to denigrate the Catholic Church in this country.
I’m going to say things here today that many Catholics should have said 18 months ago. Maybe it’s easier for me to say because I am not Catholic, but I have had enough, more than enough, disgustingly enough.
During my entire life I’ve never seen a greater vindictive, more scurrilous, biased campaign against the Catholic Church as I have seen in the last 18 months, and the strangest thing is that it is in a country like the United States where there is supposed to be mutual respect and freedom for all religions.
This has bothered me because I too am a minority in this country. You see, unfortunately and I say this very advisedly the Catholics have forgotten that in the early 1850’s when the Italians, the Poles, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, all of Catholic persuasion, came to this country looking for opportunity because of famine, (particularly the Irish) they were already looked upon with derision, suspicion and hatred. Consequently the jobs they were forced to take were the jobs that nobody else wanted bricklayers, ditch diggers, Jewish junkmen, street cleaners, etc.
This prejudice against your religion and mine has never left this country and don’t ever forget it, and (sic) never will. Your people were called Papists, Waps, Guineas, frogs, fish eaters, ad infinitum.
And then after the Civil War, around 1864, the fundamentalists, conservatives, Protestants and a few WASP’s began planting burning crosses throughout the country, particularly in the South. And today; as far as I’m concerned, very little has changed. These gentlemen now have a new style of clothing they’ve gone from bed sheets to gentlemen’s suits.
There is a concentrated effort by the media today to totally denigrate in every way the Catholic Church in this country. You don’t find it this bad overseas at all. They have now blamed the disease of pedophilia on the Catholic Church, which is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on the institution of marriage. You and me have been living in a false paradise. Wake up and recognize that many people don’t like Catholics. What are these people trying to accomplish?
From the Sojourner’s Magazine dated August, 2002, listen carefully to a quote, “While much of the recent media hype has focused on the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal, relatively little attention has been given to the high rate of sexual misconduct in the rest of American Christendom. This is truly a crisis that crosses the borders of all religions.”
Now let me give you some figures that you as Catholics should know and remember. For example, research by Richard Blackman at Fuller Theological Seminary shows that 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact. In a 1990 study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8% of clergywomen reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague; 17% of laywomen said that their own pastors had sexually harassed them. Phillip Jenkins concludes in his book “Pedophiles and Priests” that while 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia, 10% of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia.
This is not a Catholic problem. This is a problem of pure prejudice. Why the papers, day after day, week after week, month after month, see fit to do nothing but come out with these scurrilous stories? When I spoke recently to one of the higher ups in the newspaper I said, “This is wrong”. He said, “Why, do you want us to shoot the messenger?” I said, “No, just change the message”. He said, “How?” I said, “I’ll tell you how”.
Obviously, this is not just a Catholic problem. And solutions must be broader and deeper than those carried out by Catholic cardinals. The whole church has a responsibility to offer decisive leadership in the area of sexual misconduct whether it is child abuse, sexual exploitation, or sexual harassment.
Recently, churches have shown unprecedented unity on issues of poverty and welfare reform. Now it is necessary to call for a broad based ecumenical council addressing the issue of sexual misconduct in the church not only the Catholic Church, all churches, including synagogues. Its goal would be transparency and openness in developing stringent, forward?looking guidelines, consistent with denominational distinctions, for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct within Christian churches and church?related institutions.
Such a council could include not only denominational representatives but also a majority presence from external organizations such as child protection agencies, law enforcement, psychiatric services, victims’ agencies, and legal and legislative representatives.
Crisis. “Crisis” in Chinese is one word. “Crisis” in Chinese means, on the one side, a real crisis problems etc., but the other side means great opportunity.
We have a great opportunity facing us. Crisis is often accompanied by an opportunity for extraordinary growth and leadership. We have that today. Even though you are the lowest ?? by far the lowest of any organized religion today when it comes to sexual harassment ?? American churches have a unique opening to develop and adopt a single set of policies, principles, practices, and common language on sexual misconduct in Christian institutions that is binding across denominations.
A system of cross denomination review boards could be established to help compliance and accountability. A centralized resource bank could be formed that provides church wide updates on new legal, financial, psychological and spiritual developments in the field. Guidelines, both moral and legal, could be established on how clergy, churches, and victims should best use civil and criminal actions in pursuit of justice and financial restitution for injury. A national database could be established with information on all applicants for ordination in any member Christian religion. Every diocese, conference, presbytery, and district could have a designated child protection representative whose job is to ensure that the policies and procedures are understood and implemented and that training is provided.
Any religious institution, or system, that leaves power unexamined or smothers sexuality with silence rather than promoting open conversation that can lead to moral and spiritual maturity becomes implicated in creating an unhealthy and potentially abusive environment. An ecumenical Christian council authentically dedicated to strong moral leadership in the area of clergy sexual misconduct might move the church beyond the extremes of policing our own or abandoning our own.
For Christians, the true scandal is not about priests. It’s about a manipulation of power to abuse the weak. When Jesus said, “Whoever receives the child, receives me”, he was rebuking his followers for putting stumbling blocks in front of the defenseless. Church is supposed to be a place where one can lay one’s defenses down; where one is welcomed, embraced, and blessed. This can only be authentically expressed in a culture that requires absolute respect for each individual’s freedom and self hood. Until all churches bow humbly under the requirement, the indictments by wounded women and children will stand.
Just what are these Kangaroo journalists trying to accomplish? Think about it. If you get the New York Times day’ ,after day; the Los Angeles Times day after day, our own paper day after day ………………….. looking at the record, some of these writers are apostates, Catholics or ex-Catholics who have been denied something they wanted from the Church and are on a mission of vengeance.
Why would newspapers carry on this vendetta on one of the most important institutions that we have today in the United States, namely the Catholic Church?
Do you know and maybe some of you don’t the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students everyday, at cost to your Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. Needless to say, that Catholic education at this time stands head and shoulders above every other form of education that we have in this country. And the cost is approximately 30% less.
If you look at our own Cleveland school system, they can boast of an average graduation rate of 36%. Do you know what it costs you and me as far as the other 64% who didn’t make it?
Look at your own records. You (Catholic schools) graduate 89% of your students Your graduates in turn go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%, and all at a cost to you. To the rest of the Americans it’s free, but it costs you Catholics at least 30% less to educate students compared to the costs that the public education system pays out for education that cannot compare.
Why? Why would these enemies of the Church try to destroy an institution that has 230 colleges and universities in the United States with an enrollment of 700,000 students?
Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like the Catholic Church which has a non profit hospital system of 637 hospitals which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people not just Catholics in the . United States today?
Why would anyone want to destroy an institution like that? Why would anyone want to destroy an institution that clothes and feeds and houses the indigent 1 of 5 indigents in the United States, I’ve been to many of your shelters and no one asks them if you are a Catholic, a Protestant or a Jew; just “come, be fed, here’s a sweater for you and a place to sleep at night” at a cost to the Church of 2.3 billion dollars a year?
The Catholic Church today has 64 million members in the United States and is the largest non-governmental agency in the country. It has 20,000 churches in this country alone. Every year they raise approximately $10 billion to help support these agencies.
Why, after the “respected” publication, the New York Times, running their daily expose’ on the Church, finally came to the conclusion of their particular investigation, which was ongoing for a long time. And guess what: buried in the last paragraph, they came up with a mouse. In their article “Decades of Damage” the Times reported that 1.8% of American priests were found guilty of this crime whereas your own Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome reported 1.7% the figure I gave you earlier.
Then again they launched an attack on the Church and its celibate priests. However, the New York Times did not mention in their study of American priests that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected, and that most, if given the choice, would choose to be priests again in the face of all this obnoxious PR the church has been receiving.
Why wouldn’t the New York Times, the paper of record they call themselves, mention this? You had to read it in the Los Angeles Times. The New York Times refused to print it.
If you read only the New York Times, you would begin to believe that priests are cowards; craven; sexually frustrated; unhealthy criminals; that prey on the innocent. What a shame.
Sometimes freedom of the press should have some type of responsibility, too. So I say this to you: instead of walking around with a hangdog look ?? I talk to a lot of Catholics all the time, “how’s everything going?” ………… “Well, in the face of things I guess okay”. That’s the wrong answer! The wrong answer!
Also, I ran into a fellow who said they started a discussion at some social function on pedophilia and he said, “I excused myself and left the room.” I said, “why did you do that?” “Well, you know how it is”.
I believe that if Catholics had the figures that I enumerated here, you don’t have to be ashamed of anything. Not only are you as good as the rest, but you’re better, in every respect.
The Catholic Church helps millions of people every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year. People who are not Catholics, and I sit on your Catholic Foundation and I can tell you, and what I am telling you is so. Priests have their problems, they have their failings just as you and I in this room do, but they do not deserve to be calumniated as they have been.
In small measure let’s give the media its due. If it had not come out with this story of abusive priests, (but they just as well could have mentioned reverends, pastors and rabbis and whatever), probably little or nothing would have been. done. But what bothers me the most is this has given an excuse to every Catholic hater and Catholic basher to come out loudly for the denigration of your Church.
If some CEO’s are crooks it does not follow that every CEO is crooked; and if some priests are sexually ill it does not follow that all are sick. And your Church teaches that you’ve got to take in the sick and a priest who is this way has to be taken in and cannot be thrown out the 21st story of a building. He’s got to be looked upon and given the same type of health that you would give anybody who has a broken leg or cancer or whatever.
The Church today, and when I say the Church keep in mind I am talking about the Catholic Church, is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by an infinitesimally small number of wayward priests that, I feel, have probably been totally weeded out by now.
You see, the Catholic Church is much too viable to be put down by the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Cleveland Plain Dealer take your choice, they can’t do it, they’re not going to do it and sooner or later they are going to give up. But you’ve got to make sure that you don’t give up first.
In 1799 a notice was placed in a French newspaper that a citizen Brachi had died in prison. Little did the people realize that this was Pope Pius VI who had occupied the Chair of Saint Peter for 25 years. He had been taken prisoner by Napoleon’s forces and died in prison as an indigent. At that time the thought was that this was the end of the Catholic Church, this was 200 and some odd years ago. And the reason was that there was no Pope to succeed him at that time.
But you fooled them then, and we’re going to fool them again.
I’ve been talking more or less about the United States of America as far as the importance of the Church. Let’s bring it home to Cuyahoga County and the seven surrounding counties.
In education, you save the county 420 million dollars per year. Wherever there’s a Church and most other churches have fled the inner city there’s a Catholic Church; and wherever there’s a Catholic Church there’s an absence of drug dealers. You talk to any bank that has real estate mortgages in the inner city, and they will tell you that the one thing that keeps up the value in that particular area is your Church. I’ve seen, for example, on Lorain near the Metro Catholic Schools there at the Church the nuns used to go out in the morning with brooms and sweep away the drug dealers from around the particular area.
On Health and Human Services, the homeless, adoption, drugs, adult care and so on, you saved the county 170 million dollars a year.
At the end of the day the difference that your local Catholic institutions make in the eight counties that comprise this diocese are several billion dollars per year.
Why don’t we hear about this? Why, because it’s good news. If some priest was caught with his hand in the collection plate it would be front page news. But the fact that you have thousands of students being education (sic) free, as far as the rest of the country is concerned, doesn’t make news. Why? Because it is not newsworthy, it’s not dirty.
I’m not here to deny freedom of the press, but I believe that with freedom comes responsibility, and with rights you have an obligation. You cannot have rights that are irresponsible.
Unfortunately, our society today is protected by all rights and ruled by some of their wickedness. Anybody who expects to reap the benefits of freedom must understand the total fatigue of supporting it. The most important element of political speech, as Aristotle taught, is the character of the speaker. In this respect, no matter what message a man brings in, it shouldn’t collide with his character.
The other day was shocked when I opened up America, a Catholic magazine, and my good friend Cardinal Keeler, who is a very dear friend of mine, was being fingerprinted by the Baltimore police not for a crime, but as part of the new law put in place that all members of the Church hierarchy must be fingerprinted.
Amos, of the Old Testament, accused the people of Samaria in words that seared and phrases that smote. They “cram their palaces,” he said, “with violence and extortion.” They had “sold the upright for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals” from Gucci, no doubt. But he also said that all this could be reversed, if only the people of Samaria would turn away from their own self absorption and toward those who, however silently, cry out for help. “Then,” promised Amos, “shall your justice flow like water and your compassion like a never failing stream” (Amos 5:24)
The worst feature of contemporary society is its tendency to leave each of us Locked up in himself or herself, connection less. To lessen this isolation we have developed all kinds of therapies spiritual, psychological, and physical front groups that meet and talk endlessly all day long in spas week spas, month spas, life spas. But none of these things, from primal screams to herbal wrap, seem to be doing the trick, any more than the huge houses and wine parties the.: the Samaritan did.
What we need to do is open our heart to the plight of others, even some of your priests who have been condemned. They’re human beings and they should be shown the same type of compassion we have shown anybody who is critically ill. We need to open our hearts to the plights of others, like our hearts were a dam, so that indeed our justice and compassion may flow to all.
What is essential is that each of us steps forward to hold out our hand to someone. There is no other way to walk with God.
One of the biggest Catholic bashers in the United States wrote “Only a minority, a tiny minority of priests, have abused the bodies of children.” He continues, “I am not advocating this course of action, but as much as I would like to see the Roman Catholic Church ruined. I hate opportunistically retrospective litigation even more.”
Now he’s talking about our tort monsters. “Lawyers who grow fat by digging up dirt on long?forgotten wrongs and hounding their aged perpetrators are no friends of mine.”
I’m still quoting this man, “All I’m doing” he said, “is calling attention to an anomaly. By all means, let’s kick a nasty institution when it is down, but there are better ways than litigation.” These words are from a Catholic hater.
I never thought in my life I would ever see these things.
Walk with your shoulders high and your head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non governmental agency today in the United States. Then remember what Jeremiah said: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” And be proud, speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions. Be proud that you’re a Catholic.
NOTE: Even though of the Jewish faith, Miller has been a staunch supporter of the Cleveland Diocese and Bishop Anthony Pilla. It was published in the May-June issue of the Buckeye Bulletin.
Pope Benedict XVI, who recently issued a motu proprio allowing all Catholic priests to celebrate the old Latin Mass, uses the older ritual himself for his private Mass, CWN has learned.
Informed sources at the Vatican have confirmed reports that the Holy Father regularly celebrates Mass using the 1962 Roman Missal.
In his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum the Pope says that the older form-- the form in universal use before the liturgical changes that followed Vatican II-- was never abrogated.
Since becoming Roman Pontiff, Benedict XVI has always used the new ritual-- which he identifies in Summorum Pontificum as the "ordinary form" of the Roman rite-- for public celebrations of the Eucharistic liturgy. However few people have witnessed the Pope celebrating his private daily Mass.
Unlike his predecessor John Paul II, who regularly invited visitors to attend the Mass that he celebrated each morning in his private chapel, Benedict XVI has made it his regular practice to celebrate Mass with only a few aides. The Pope's closest associates have established a reputation for preserving confidences.
Pope Benedict has long been known as an ardent defender of the Catholic liturgical tradition. In the early 1990s he raised eyebrows in Rome by writing a laudatory preface to the book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, in which Msgr. Klaus Gamber decried many of the liturgical changes of the past few decades.
Then-Cardinal Ratzinger also traveled to Wigratzbad, in Bavaria, to ordain priests for the Fraternity of St. Peter, a group devoted to the use of the traditional liturgy. He performed those ordinations, as well as Mass on Easter Sunday in 1990, using the 1962 Roman Missal.
by Father Peter Joseph – Summer 2002
Many upright people are repelled by modern fads and fashions, such as tattooing, multiple earrings and other body piercing, but feel unequipped to give a clear judgment on the morality of such practices, or to rebut the charge that they are elevating their personal preferences into a moral code. In this article, I will set out some criteria that are relevant to making a moral judgment on these things.
In the Old Testament, the Chosen People were specifically commanded: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh…or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). Inspired by God, St. Paul admonishes us: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19). Being a temple of the Holy Spirit, we owe our body due care and protection and decorum. In some cultures, a special bodily mark or design – on the forehead, for example – signifies a certain attainment or marital status, or whatever, and is socially acceptable. Ethiopian Christians, to name one group, wear tattoo crosses on their foreheads. In Samoa, it was once a widespread custom to tattoo the eldest son or daughter of the local ruling family. In Western societies, earrings and makeup are acceptable as a part of feminine fashions and public presentability. But certain types of body piercing and decorations in our society are extreme and unjustified, and some of them are motivated by anti-Christian sentiments.
It would be impossible to give black-and-white judgments on all bodily decorations. But we can point to a few negative aspects that should be of concern to a Christian. Unless otherwise stated, this article will refer to Western societies only. I will treat the more serious concerns first and then the less serious.
1. Diabolical images. Tattoos of demons are quite common, yet no Christian should ever sport an image of a devil or a Satanic symbol.
2. Exultation in the ugly. This is a mark of the Satanic, which hates the beauty of God’s creation and tries to destroy it and to ruin others’ appreciation of it. More than just being ugly, some body piercing is the expression of delight in being ugly.
We recognize bad taste in tattoos, rings and studs, by looking at their nature, size, extent and place on the body. Ironically, even florid and colorful tattoos fade over time and end up looking dark and dreary. When one considers how, in concentration camps, prisoners were treated like animals and branded on their arm with a number, it is amazing to think that people today adopt similar markings as if they were fashionable or smart. This is truly the sign of a return to barbarity, the behavior of people who do not have any sense of the dignity of the human person.
3. Self-mutilation and self-disfigurement. This is a sin against the body and against the Fifth Commandment. Some body piercing verges on self-mutilation. At best, multiple body piercing is self-inflicted abuse. A form of self-hatred or self-rejection motivates some to pierce themselves or decorate themselves in a hideous and harmful fashion. The human body was not made by God to be a pin cushion or a mural.
4. Harm to health. Doctors have spoken publicly on this health issue. In 2001, researchers at both the University of Texas and the Australian National University reported on harm to health caused by tattoos and body piercing. Some earrings (on the navel, tongue or upper ear) are unhealthy and cause infections or lasting harm such as deformities of the skin. They can also poison the blood for some time (septicaemia). Certain piercings (e.g., on the nose, eyebrows, lip, tongue) do not close over even when the object is removed. Such body piercing, therefore, is immoral, since we should not endanger health without a reasonable motive. When done unhygienically, tattoos and piercing cause infection. A used instrument, if not properly sterilized, can transmit hepatitis or HIV.
Some have hoped to avoid health dangers by getting “henna” tattoos, which are painted on rather than done with needles. Henna staining is an ancient Hindu wedding custom of painting floral designs on the feet and hands. A German Medical Association report this year found that tourists returning home with hennas done in Bali and Bangkok, among other places, were going to the doctor because of severe skin infections and sometimes lifelong allergies. In some cases also, the coloring agent used meant that the tattoo faded away, but after several weeks of skin irritation, the design reappeared in the form of a reddish tattoo, often very painful for the patient. Allergies developed from 12 hours to a week after the application of the henna, causing intense itching, redness, blistering and scaling.
5. A desire to shock and repel. It can be appropriate to shock people, as for example, when one recounts the plight of poor and hungry people, or protests against crimes or terrible exploitation. This can be a healthy thing, when done properly and with due care, to arouse people out of complacency, so that they realize something must be done. But to shock people for the thrill of shocking people, with no intention to promote truth and goodness, is not a virtue, but a sign of a perverted sense of values.
In evaluating tattoos under this heading of repulsiveness, we look at the nature of the images, the size and number of the tattoos, and their place on the body. In evaluating piercings, we consider similarly their extent and location on the body.
6. Indecency and irreverence. It is always immoral to get or exhibit tattoos of indecent images or phrases, or derisive figures of Our Lord or His Mother or holy things.
7. Signs of a sexual disorientation. Pirates used to be the only males who wore earrings (for whatever reason!) while sailors and side-show freaks were just about the only people with tattoos. What was once so restricted has now spread to wider sections of the community. In the 1970s, an earring worn by a man in the left ear, or the right, or both, was a code-sign of his personal orientation and thus a form of picking up partners. As such, it was blatantly immoral, and generally an advertisement of one’s immorality. Earrings in boys and men are so common now that they have lost that significance, but they are never positively demanded by social requirements, as a suit and tie are socially required on certain formal occasions. Even admitting the lack of clear symbolism now, I would expect any seminary to tell any inquirer that he would have to remove any earring or stud before entering, and question him as to when he started wearing it and why. A seminarian or priest sporting an earring is not socially acceptable in the Catholic Church. A good number of parishioners would wonder about the deeper reasons or motivation. No one in such a public position starts to wear an earring without making a deliberate decision. As a wise old Jesuit priest said to me once, “No one changes externals without having changed internals.” It is regarded as what people call “making a statement.” The same code of expected conduct applies to men in other professions, such as policemen or teachers.
Employers and principals should make rules outlawing any such jewelry for male staff and students. Especially for the young, such rules protect them both from themselves and from peer pressure. The fact is that, still today, earrings are prevalent among females, and in minority use among males.
8. Unsuitability. Sometimes people tattoo themselves with a big image of a crucifix or other holy pictures. The human body is a most unsuitable place for such an image, even if it be a beautiful one. Whenever these people go swimming, for example, they are exhibiting this image in an inappropriate fashion. No priest would ever go down to a shopping center in Mass vestments, not because there is something wrong with vestments, but because there is a time and a place for donning special religious symbols.
9. Vanity. Some men in particular tattoo their upper and lower arms in order to be ostentatious and impressive. It is a means of drawing attention to themselves. No one who meets them can fail to notice the tattoos – to the point at which it is in fact a constant distraction. It detracts from the person, and focuses attention too much on the body’s external appearance. The same can be said for a stud on the tongue, a ring in the nose, or earrings all over one’s ears and eyebrows. These are not part of our culture; at most, they are part of a certain subculture, a minority affectation, devoid of religious or positive social significance. No one is saying it is wrong to dress up, but here it is a question of moderation and discretion. Sacred Scripture implicitly recognizes that it is good for a bride to be adorned for her husband when the heavenly Jerusalem is compared to such a woman (Apoc. 21:2). It is good for a lady to be well dressed and to use makeup when the occasion calls for it, but everyone recognizes when the embellishment has gone over the top and makes her look seductive or cheap.
10. Immaturity and imprudence. An action acceptable or indifferent in itself can become wrong if the intention or motive is wrong. Some young people adopt outrageous fashions out of an immature desire to rebel against society or against their parents. Such disobedience against parents is sinful. Some do it out of an immature desire to conform to their friends, and others out of an equally immature desire to stick out from everyone around them. Some do it out of boredom, because it is something different, because it gives them a thrill, because it is something for their friends to admire and comment on. Mindless following of fads is always the mark of immaturity. For young people who live at home under their parents’ authority, it is enough if their parents express their disapproval of such fashions to know that they should not go ahead. Some young people go to further extremes and vie with each other as to who can pierce whatever part of the body the most. Parents must forbid such behavior absolutely.
Young people can hardly justify the big expenditure (not to mention the pain) involved in getting a tattoo. It is also unjustified and just plain silly to mark your body for life with images of no great worth or with the name of one’s current lover. A recent example I heard of gives an idea of the time and expense: a young girl had one arm tattooed up and down. It required two four-hour sessions and cost $1,000 (American).
Tattoos are more serious than other adornments since they are more or less permanent marks on the body. Many a man or woman have been tattooed gladly in youth, but regretted it not so many years later when they came to regard it as an embarrassing disfigurement. Once they mature, they pay dearly for the luxury of getting rid of it. The removal of tattoos is expensive and difficult – and can leave scars. The removal of big tattoos requires surgery under a general anaesthetic, with all the potential risks, plus the significant medical and hospital costs. The removal of large tattoos can leave big segments of the skin permanently disfigured or blotched, like skin that has been burnt. Many adults find themselves ineligible for some jobs, because businesses will not employ them with their hands covered in tattoos, impossible to conceal years after their youthful folly.
In any culture, things can arise, become acceptable, and become part of the culture – but this does not necessarily make them right. Here are some examples from foreign cultures that I regard as equally wrong. In one tribe of Africa, women wear gigantic and heavy earrings that change the shape of the earlobes. In another place, women put coils around their necks and elongate them unnaturally, or put plates in their mouths to make the lips protrude some inches. In China, there was once the practice of binding girls’ feet tightly to stop them from growing, because small, dainty feet were admired. These and other drastic alterations to the natural growth of the human body must be judged immoral, as forms of abuse springing from vanity.
It is not always possible to draw an exact line and say where the bounds of moderation have been exceeded. But this does not mean that there is no line. No one can define at what exact temperature a day passes from being cool to cold, but everyone knows that when the temperature is near zero, it is cold beyond dispute. Let us never fall for the ploy that tries to argue from borderline or difficult cases that there are no guidelines or principles, and that there is no such thing as a just mean or moderation, just because they are hard to define.
The human body is meant to be treated with care, not maltreated or disfigured. Its dignity and beauty must be kept and cultivated, in order that it be an expression of the deeper beauty of the soul.
Father Peter Joseph is vice-rector and lecturer in dogma at Vianney College, the diocesan seminary of Wagga Wagga, Australia.
Catholics like Küng fail to understand the long intellectual tradition which the pope seeks to preserve and extend
Five years after succeeding Pope John Paul II on 19 April 2005, Benedict is confronting the worst crisis of his papacy. The ongoing abuse scandal undermines the church's credibility and reinforces all the usual stereotypes about the Vatican under his reign – a medieval theocracy ruled by an absolute autocrat who is reactionary and intolerant.
This view is not just bandied by atheists like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. Besides these usual suspects, prominent Catholics are also using the abuse scandal as a pretext to attack the pontiff. In an open letter to all Catholic bishops published on Saturday, the Swiss theologian Hans Küng blames Benedict for the "church's worst credibility crisis since the Reformation". Essentially, Küng accuses the pope of restoring a reactionary vision of Catholicism that betrays the progressive reforms of the second Vatican council (1962-65) where both acted as periti – young theological advisors to the cardinals.
Not unlike much contemporary atheism, Küng's tirade owes more to ideology than to reason. His division of Catholicism (and other faith traditions) into a liberal, progressive and a conservative, reactionary wing is a modern, secular distinction that distorts the specificity of each and every religion. That's why Küng's pet project of building a "global ethos" is an abstraction from the unique character of diverse faith traditions – instrumentalising religion in the service of a dubious morality that amounts to little more than "being nice to each other".
This is a far cry from the universal ethical and other truths which all religions defend but on which they disagree with each other – for example, the status of love and the law in Judaism and Christianity. By denying real universalism, Küng's "global ethos" is entirely compatible with modern secularism and the "dictatorship of relativism" which Pope Benedict has consistently denounced. No wonder that Küng prefers a liberal Catholicism that emulates secular culture and in the process loses its unique, integral vision.
Worse, he also fails to understand the long, intellectual tradition which the pope seeks to preserve and extend – a kind of Romantic orthodoxy that eschews much of the modern Reformation and Counter-Reformation in favour of the patristic and medieval legacy shared by Christians in east and west. This legacy concerns the teachings on the church fathers and doctors like St Augustine, Dionysius or St Thomas Aquinas on the unity of nature and the supernatural against the modern separation of the natural universe from divine creativity and grace. In short, Benedict rejects the modern dualism of nature and grace or faith and reason – as spelled out in his controversial 2006 Regensburg address.
The pope's argument is that these modern dualisms have paved the way for the disastrous separation of reason from faith, an opposition that underpins the increasingly bitter conflict between the absolute reason of extreme secularism (and atheism) and the blind faith of religious fundamentalism. As such, Benedict's call to restore the "grandeur of reason" – whereby reason and faith require each other and are mutually augmenting – is far more radical and progressive than Küng's demand for more liberal dialogue.
In fact, the pope's intervention has already led to a much more intellectually vigorous and robust debate between Christians and Muslim – as evinced by the permanent Catholic-Muslim forum. This was initiated in response to critiques of the pope's Regensburg address in which he linked violence in Islam to the priority of God's power and will over divine reason and intellect. Küng blames Benedict for causing mistrust between Christians and Muslims, but the pope is right to insist that such trust is only authentic when based on a better mutual understanding of the real differences that exist between Christianity and Islam – the incarnation of God, the divine nature of Jesus and the Holy Trinity.
Nor does Benedict merely look back with nostalgia to the foundational creed and the councils of the early church. On the contrary, he links the patristic and medieval legacy to modern Romanticism with their shared emphasis on natural intimations of the divine and on human, artistic activity. It is this Romantic tradition that has helped sustain and create the high culture which the pope champions. That's what underpins his defence of traditional liturgy (including the Tridentine mass) against the onslaught of "sacro-pop" – "parish tea party liturgies and banal 'cuddle me Jesus' pop songs", as Tracey Rowland so aptly writes in her book Ratzinger's Faith.
Beyond the liturgy, Romanticism is also key to saving secular culture from itself. By rejecting both absolute instrumental reason and blind emotional faith, the Romantic tradition outwits the contemporary convergence of soulless technological progress and an impoverished culture dominated by sexualisation and violence. More fundamentally, it opposes the complicit collusion of boundless economic and social liberalisation that has produced laissez-faire sex and an obsession with personal choice rather than objective (yet contested) standards of truth, beauty and goodness – a concern shared by the archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his seminal book Lost Icons.
Questions remain about how to translate Benedict's vision into a radical overhaul of the curia and relations between Rome and Catholic bishops. But far from being nostalgic or reactionary, this pope is an unreconstructed romantic who is bringing about an intellectual and cultural renaissance of Catholicism.