30 January 2017

Close the Borders? Law - History - Ethics.

Sub Tuum.

I have seen few things in recent times cause such divisive shock waves around the world as the recent decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose a temporary ban on visas for persons from seven Islamic countries. The internet and the airwaves have exploded with heated, vitriolic debate. No doubt similar in-person debates are taking place at this time. Some laud this action as long overdue. Others condemn it as inhumane. Today I used the most powerful weapon that I have, the most powerful weapon on earth, the Holy Mass, to seek the help of God that those who are in turmoil and fighting each other over this recent order by the U.S. President will stop the fighting, stop the acrimony, stop the ad hominem attacks, listen to each other, and come together. Open your hearts and listen to God. Do not create more division while claiming that we are all one. Do not demonstrate hatred to try to prove a point about love. 

First, before continuing, it is important to understand the perspective from which I write this. (How much better communication would be and how fewer misunderstandings would happen if people understood the perspective of others.) Although I am a citizen of the United States by virtue of having been born there and have continued to maintain that citizenship all my life to this day, in my ecclesiastical office I cannot help but consider my primary citizenship to be with Christ's Holy Church and with the Patriarchate that I shepherd. To do otherwise would be to place a worldly state above the ecclesiastical government. Indeed, the spiritual home of the Patriarchate is not in the United States, but in Italy. Its Patrimony is located primarily in Europe. Its scope is international, bringing the love of Christ to all people. 

Also, though I have never been a refugee, I have nevertheless personally suffered travel delays and other problems, even that threatened being separated from my family due to politically-motivated visa issues. I was also subjected to multiple rounds of additional scrutiny by the Chinese communist government over my being a cleric and wearing clerical dress in my passport photo (as I am required to do by protocol) before they would issue me a tourist visa. They insisted that I promise not to engage in religious activities while in China and demanded that I tell them everywhere I was going to be at every moment, as well as where I would be staying - for every day during a three week trip. Although this surely does not rise to the level of impoverished refugees fleeing war-torn areas, I still wondered where the outrage was over that sort of treatment. It was entirely absent. To add insult to injury, I was effectively told it was all my fault for being a clergyman and wearing the attire I am bound to wear as a cleric. 

This is the perspective from which I write here. 

Now, to address the issue as to whether this action of the American President is legal, it would appear that U.S. federal law permits the President to do precisely what he did. It will be up to the government of the U.S. if they wish to change that legal authority. At this point it appears quite legal. 

What must also be said is that the borders of the United States and Europe are, from what I can tell, a complete mess. Something must be done. A nation must secure its borders appropriately for the benefit of both its citizenry and of its visitors - including refugees. 

While there is an humanitarian imperative to help refugees as much as one is realistically able to do, a nation must ensure to the best of that nation's abilities that they are in fact authentic refugees and not abusing the system. While Mr. Trump is receiving criticism over his decision, William Clinton said in a State of the Union address that the nation must be vigilant against those who abuse the visa system. Also, during the Hostage Crisis, U.S. President James Carter ordered visas for Iranians invalidated and placed a ban on issue of new visas for a time except for medical or significant humanitarian purpsoes; and he further ordered Iranian students report to an immigration office for an interview or face deportation. While some may wish to debate whether the actions of Mr. Carter are the same as those of Mr. Trump, it is effectively irrelevant. Of course they are different historical events. The point is that this is not the first time a visa ban has been ordered by a U.S. President over Islamic terrorism.

Just as it is difficult to repair a pipe while it has water flowing through it, it is admittedly difficult to evaluate existing systems and put in new systems that can properly vet refugees and visitors without shutting off the influx of immigrants and visitors temporarily. Was Mr. Trump's approach the best way to handle the situation? Time will tell. In any case, the border situation needs to be resolved appropriately. 

Another troubling issue is that, while mostly-Muslim refugees were allowed into the United States, it appears that countless Christian refugees were left to be slaughtered and persecuted as America turned its back on them. Indeed, they would not have been in that situation if the United States had not mishandled the Iraq War and left a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to reach the level of activity and control that it has. While some have raised concerns that this recent order by the U.S. President targets a specific religious group, the same accusation can be leveled at the American government for having apparently ignored Christians in desperate need due to a problem that it created and forced upon them. 

Yet another point to consider is that there is an ongoing war. Whether one agrees that there should be a war or not is another matter. There is nevertheless a war underway, and it is against militant Islam. For historical perspective, consider World War II. Few Nazi attacks actually took place on U.S. soil. Yet I doubt that the U.S. government was all that free with issuing entry visas to Germans or to those affiliated with the Nazis. (German-Americans were in fact highly watched and often confined to their neighborhoods, and Japense-Americans were widely interned in camps.) There is certainly historical precedent for denial of visas, though the present war is quite different in many respects than the Second World War. 

From the time of the Islamic conquest of Christian lands to the Crusader period to the Barbary Pirates to the present day, Islam and the West have always had an uneasy relationship. Peace has been attained from time to time, but it has been neither stable nor lasting. This is another historical fact to keep in mind.

One final point to bear in mind is that it is a commonly-held misconception that the United States is a nation of immigrants. That is patently false. There were the people of the First Nations (American Indians). Then  there were Europeans who came to the American colonies of Spain, France, Great Britain, and Holland. They were not immigrants, but simply people who moved from one territory of their own nation's territory to another. Immigrant status applies only to those who moved from one country to another, and although there were indeed a few who went from their home country to the colony of another country at that time, "immigrant" applies on the large scale only to those who came to the United States after the time that the United States actually existed. And, the people who came to the Colonies and even the immigrants who came later did so for many reasons. They were not all "fleeing persecution" as the commonly-held myth says. So, yes, the United States has had and continues to have many immigrants - just like any other country. Many of those immigrants have contributed greatly in many ways and make up the fabric of American society. Yet countries with more immigration per capita are not called "nations of immigrants." To call the United States a "nation of immigrants" as its founding impetus is patently non-factual. Historical immigration is simply not a valid argument in this matter. 

A full analysis of this situation would be much more complex. Most people do not have all the facts. I have sought to touch on some main points that I hope will be helpful. Whether this recent executive order by Mr. Trump will prove itself to be a painful medicine leading to a positive outcome for all or be a short-sighted humanitarian disaster will be seen in time. Until then, let us not tear each other apart while simultaneously proclaiming respect for our fellow man. Let us breathe and relax and offer all this suffering up to the poor souls in purgatory. Above all, let us pray. 

26 January 2017

All We Need is One Million Dollars...

Sub Tuum. 

Consider the following statement: "What a great idea we have! All we need to make it a reality is one million dollars! Well, we don't have that money, and I don't know how to get it, so we can't put our goals into action." Maybe on the surface it sounds like a statement of reality, but it is, in reality, a statement of lethargy! Of course most things take money; even the work of the Church. However, things also start somewhere. If a goal put into action will take one million dollars (or some specific amount) to do fully, that money is not going to fall off a tree or out of the sky. Even with limited resources, ideas can be put into action. Donors are far more likely to donate to a project about which its members are passionate than one that is merely an untried idea on paper by people who are sitting around passively for someone to give them cash. If you won't get to work doing something you care about simply because there are limited resources, why should anyone believe that you will do something when there are more resources and be a faithful steward of those resources?  Remember the parable of the five talents: "His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Matthew 25.23)  If you want to put worthy goals into action with vast resources, demonstrate your dedication when there are limited resources. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish with limited funds, limited numbers of people, and limited facilities. There really and truly is no excuse whatsoever for not getting moving. Don't wait for things to be perfect - or at least what you think is perfect. We are called by God to action here and now! Step forward in faith, good and faithful servant.

21 January 2017

The Epidemic of Claims of Illegitimacy

Sub Tuum. 

America is faced with an epidemic. It is an epidemic that pertains to the hearts of the people. It is an epidemic that causes division, acrimony, and disharmony where such things need not exist. Let us begin with an example. 

Today the United States inaugurated its new President. The festivities of that occasion are juxtaposed with the violent riots taking place in Washington, D.C., in opposition to Donald Trump's Presidency. While many sing the praises of the new President, many others call him illegitimate. In fact, the past four Presidents, including Mr. Trump, have been called illegitimate by large portions of the American citizenry. Messrs. Obama, Bush (the younger), and Clinton were all called illegitimate. Mr. Clinton was even impeached, though not successfully convicted in the subsequent trial in the U.S. Senate. The Clinton Presidency was during the 1990s. This trend of calling Presidents with whom one disagrees illegitimate (that is, "not the real President") is now almost three decades. The Millennial generations knows nothing different. Now, there is nothing wrong with having standards or standing on principle. However, the mere fact of disagreement - even serious disagreement - does not by itself make someone else illegitimate. In fact, even believing a President is illegitimate does not by itself render that President illegitimate. And so the United States becomes polarized - more and more polarized. 

A further and even more serious problem with this is that it is not limited to the Presidency or even political figures. It should be no surprise that this trend has pervaded society in general as the practice of calling others with whom we disagree "illegitimate" becomes engrained in our psyches. It also compartmentalizes the population, for it is a logical sequitur that not only those with differing points of view will be deemed illegitimate, but those who support the so-called "illegitimate" person. Now instead of respecting those who support the President (choose any of the last four), one begins to view them as supporters of an official one has deemed "illegitimate." But again, this is not limited to Presidents or politicians. No one is immune. Everyone is a potential target of the limitless fury of the small-minded and angry who build themselves up by tearing down others. 

This is a sickness. It has reached epidemic proportions, and it is dangerous if a society is to be free. There are always absolutes or semi-absolutes in any society. The Church has dogma and doctrine. Nations have laws. Even clubs have rules. Beyond such infrastructural matters, if a society is to be free, then people may have divergent viewpoints and even mutually-exclusive viewpoints. One need not associate with those with whom one disagrees if that is one's choice. Yet, to call them "illegitimate," particularly with the acrimony seen in past decades, is to challenge the very nature of free thought. It is to admit a great weakness in which one can only hold a certain point of view by destroying all other points of view. That belies either a significant tenuousness of opinion or a haughty arrogance that forces all others to think in accord. 

The fact is that one can indeed remain strong in one's opinions while permitting even those with divergent opinions to think as they choose. It may not be easy, but it is possible. Again, their are certainly absolutes that exist, which are either universal (e.g., matters of faith) or that apply in specific settings and circumstances (e.g., military doctrine). So, where there is room for opinion, which includes the very serious and relevant issue of the type of society in which we wish to live, and which also includes many more mundane matters, disagreement is not only possible, it is likely. Those who hold divergent opinions in such matters are not by that very fact "illegitimate." 

The fundamental cause is likely a lack of respect in society for others. It started small and has grown over the years as those on different sides of issues have traded blows back and forth. The key is to maintain an open mind. One does not have to abandon one's most sacred beliefs to have an open mind. One does not even have to give up one's opinions to have an open mind. What is necessary, though, is to try to see the point of view of others through their lens rather than the lens that we use to see the world. To do that, one must first determine just what one's own lens is. This is not easy. It is in fact far easier to call others illegitimate because one disagrees with them. The easy path leads to ever-increasing tension and distress. The path to healing and brotherhood and unity requires hard work and dedication. It is ultimately the best path - but I won't call you illegitimate if you disagree with me on that. 

15 January 2017

The Temporal Duties of the Church

Sub Tuum.

Absalon, Archbishop of Lund
A warrior bishop and statesman.
That there are segments of the Church hierarchy devoted to the temporal authority of the Church Militant here on earth is nothing new* and indeed is an essential element of the very fact that the Church, while not of this world, is nevertheless in this world. To shun that aspect of the Church in favor of spiritual piety only is to deny the fundamental nature of Christ's Church on earth. As Christ on earth had a dual nature - wholly God and wholly man - so, too does His Holy Church have the same dual nature. There is spiritual authority, and there is temporal authority. The latter flows from the the former. Both carry out the essential function of our Lord on earth. Even in today's world, where secular governments have experienced significant change in their form from earlier times in history, this dual nature of the Church is as relevant as ever, if not more so. If we claim it is irrelevant because at present we no longer rule territory (or much territory), we are guilty of ceding the legacy of the Church of establishing Christ among all men to the governments that are merely of this world. That which one has as a right given by God can not be taken away, but can only be given away. We must not and will not give away that which is our sacred right and our sacred duty to maintain. There is much to be done outside of the parish walls. It is by those to whom the legacy of the temporal authority of the Church has fallen that must provide the leadership for such work out in the world, even if that leadership is only provided by example. We can always hope for better times, but then no time in history is ever perfect. We live in this time period. We do not live in the past or in the future. We draw strength and guidance from the past. If we want a brighter future, then we must make it ourselves with the help of God. That is the duty of the temporal defenders of the faith. It always has been and always will be. Deus vult.

+Rutherford, Cardinal Count of Sainte Animie

* "One need not assume that on joining the church hierarchy young noblemen lost any of their military ambition or their taste for the knightly life. These were merely now channelled into the service of a church only too happy to make use of such qualities. Not surprisingly, these churchmen tended to show less concern for piety. Rising perhaps to become bishops and archbishops of the Empire, these noblemen more often administered the power than the sacraments of the church. In contrast to the communal living practiced by their brothers in the monasteries, many enjoyed themselves in their favourite estates or town houses. It is said that by the thirteenth century only lavish feasts and special delicacies could interest noble-born members of the Cologne church chapters in attending religious observances. Indications are, however, that for many men of the church active participation in military conflicts required considerably less incentive. A church hierarchy dominated by the offspring of the rural aristocracy, frequently practicing the quarrelsome lifestyle of their feudal relatives, undoubtedly succeeded in earning the mistrust of the urban bourgeoisie. Even an archbishop of Cologne was bound to be viewed not simply as a man of the church, but also a representative of a class whose values and interests frequently clashed with those of the new urban elite."
From "The Battle of Worringen, 1288: The History and Mythology of a notable Event" Thesis at the University of Alberta by Jan Mähler

10 January 2017

Married Clergy, Priests, and Bishops

Sub Tuum.

As if there are not enough real problems in the world today - as in any era - that should unite Christians together in commonality of purpose, Christians sadly find reasons to nitpick and poke at each other. Such scenarios are frequently used as justification for lack of charity and refusal to collaborate for the common good. One thing about the Patriarchate of St. Stephen of which I have always been proud is that, under the guiding principle of cooperation without compromise, we have always worked with other jurisdictions for the preservation of the Christian faith and for the good of humanity. We seek to find common ground to work together rather than focusing on differences to justify lack of Christian brotherhood. 

Cardinal René de Birague, Chancellor of France
whose wife, Valentine Balbiani, was the inspiration
for the sculpture "The Cardinal's Wife."
One issue that causes infighting and separation is, ironically something that is inherently about union, and that is marriage of clergy, priests, and bishops within Catholic jurisdictions. Although this might be something thought to be limited to traditionalist circles, it is not. There are plenty in the Novus Ordo that simply cannot comprehend the notion of a married Catholic clergyman. That is even more baffling considering that there are quite a number of married Catholic priests within the Roman Communion, not to mention the even larger number of married Catholic deacons. And remember that Catholic deacons are ordained clerics in major Holy Orders, not "laymen at the altar," as so many Catholics today erroneously believe. So why all the commotion?

Now it is time for a bit of history. The discipline of celibacy (which refers to being unmarried) in the Christian Church only dates back to the eleventh century as mandatory (with some exceptions). It was primarily a means to prevent legitimate heirs to clerics so that lands and titles belonging to (or desired by) the Church could not be inherited - at least not without permission of the Church. Of course, both celibacy and marriage were legitimate and accepted options for clergy before that. (For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. - Matthew 9.12)  Eastern clergy continued to be able to be drawn from among married men. There is indeed quite a long list of married clerics, married priests, and yes, even Bishops - including the first Pope, Blessed Peter the Apostle. Saint Paul in his first Epistle to Timothy refers to the Bishop as being the husband of one wife. (A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach. - I Timothy 3.2)  Plenty of other Scriptural evidence exists for both married and celibate clergy. And, one should guard against the quite Protestant approach of prooftexting. The overarching point is that whether a specific clergyman can marry or be married is a matter of canonical discipline and, within the bounds of that discipline, a matter of personal choice of conscience. Good married men of faith have served as clerics over the past two thousand years of the Christian Church. 

Mgr. Salamão Barbarosa Ferraz
Roman Catholic Bishop who was
married with children.
Perhaps I am biased in this matter since I myself am married. For me, the Countess makes my ministry, not to mention my life in general, more effective, more enjoyable, and more meaningful. And, my marriage is in accordance with the particular canons of the Patriarchate, with special dispensations from any irregularity granted by proper authority. The same applies to all married clergy of the Patriarchate - and at the time of this writing, all priests and seminarians happen to be married. Under present law, we cannot remarry after ordination to the Sub-Diaconate.

Then again, I am not the only married Cardinal in history. Cardinal René de Birague, Chancellor of France (though born in Italy), was married to Valentina Balbiani, who was "immortalized in art" in a sculpture known as "The Cardinal's Wife" by Germain Pilon. Cardinal Birague, to be fair, did not take Holy Orders until after his wife died, but such were the specific rules that applied to him at the time. Even when not permitted to contract sacramental marriage, plenty of churchmen from at least the latter portion of the Middle Ages through the Renaissance and even into the modern period have had mistresses who were effectively common-law wives. Indeed, for quite a long period of the Church's history, it seems high-ranking Church officials were practically expected to have a mistress, or even several mistresses, just like their secular counterparts. Pope Julius II had a mistress (common-law wife) by whom he had a daughter that bore the surname of his own noble family, Felicia della Rovere. She was a prominent Italian noblewoman of the day and wielded great influence. The children of Pope Alexander VI are well known and include Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia Borgia. Alexander's mistress was given a funeral equivalent of that of a queen by Pope Leo X, effectively recognizing her status. Pope Paul III's son was given the title of Duke of Parma and started the great line of dukes of the House of Farnese. Cardinal David Beaton (de Bethune), Archbishop of Saint Andrews in Scotland, had a mistress and is even an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II. The list goes on and on. At least those who were able to marry their lady consorts sacramentally have been able to "make an honest women of them." The issue of inheritance of land and titles simply does not apply under the circumstances of the world in which we live today.

And then there was Mgr. Salamão Barbarosa Ferraz, Auxiliary Bishop of Rio de Janiero. He was consecrated in the Duarte-Costa line of Apostolic Succession. (Mgr. Duarte-Costa had a persisting conflict with Rome over the alleged support of Pius XII for Hitler during World War II, an accusation that we now know was false, but which one could be forgiven for thinking that at the time). Mgr. Ferraz was married with several children. He was received (without further ordination, even sub-conditione) into the Roman Communion by Pope John XXIII, while still married with children. At the invitation of Pope Paul VI, he participated in a committee of the Second Vatican Council, again while his wife was still very much alive and while still very much married with children. It is clearly canonically possible, even if rare. But rare does not mean wrong, and rare does not mean bad or inferior.

More modernly, there are two Ordinaries of the Anglican Ordinariate, founded by Pope Benedict XVI, who were former Episcopalian bishops. They were ordained de novo as Roman priests and then given ordinary authority. They were/are (one has retired) effectively bishops, even though not ordained as such - and there was even talk that one or both could be made a Cardinal. One frequently heard "Monsignor and Mrs." in reference to them and their wives. There would have been nothing stopping Benedict XVI from ordaining the two Ordinaries in question as Bishops. It is my opinion that the political and social construct within the present Roman Communion simply did not allow it, though I will not presume to state what was in the heart and mind of the Holy Father. 

Indeed, plenty of Ordinariate clergy are married and are just as effective than their unmarried counterparts. However, it seems the days of married clergy as the norm within the Ordinariate are numbered, as there has already been much criticism of their presence. Quite sad, really. The accomplishments of one that comes to mind include building a most impressive parish and Catholic school that serves as a shining example of Catholic education and tradition amidst the modern darkness. 

Certainly the norm in the Church is for celibate (unmarried) clergy. Yet, there have been plenty of married clergy, priests, and bishops who have served faithfully. There have been even more clerics who have had common-law wives, often producing children that were recognized and which became highly placed in society, benefiting the Holy Church and leaving their mark on history. Being in the minority does not mean one is inferior or an abberration. It is time that we bury this ridiculous and divisive argument and not let it be yet another rationale for brother fighting brother.