50 per cent higher

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon began talks yesterday in Berne (Switzerland) with key development agencies on how to tackle the crisis provoked by soaring food and fuel prices and put an estimated 100 million of the world’s poorest people on the brink of starvation. The prices of staple foods like rice, grain, oil and sugar are all at least 50 per cent higher than they were this time last year.

Asia News UN’s emergency plan against world food crisis

What is extraordinary about the current situation is that it echoes in so many respects an earlier world food crisis: that of 1973-74

Paul Rogers at Open Democracy The world’s food insecurity

Become what you see II – Loverde

By its nature, pornography encourages an expression of human sexuality which is not only deformed but also severely limited and patently false. The use of pornography by young people prevents an understanding of human sexuality integrated with the self-expression and intimacy that is the full expression of the human person. Instead of growing to an appreciation of the sacredness of the person, young people caught in the web of pornography begin to relate to others and themselves as objects.

Self-mastery is an essential element to emotional security. Without the self-mastery that comes from controlling and, when necessary, struggling with one’s destructive behaviors, including pornography, maturing young persons find themselves in the fearful condition of being unable to control either the world or themselves. A young person who has abandoned the hope of self-control is also unable to control what he does to others.

* * *

This ability “to see” spiritually has implications for the moral life: it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as ‘neighbors’; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2519) .

Our sight, more than just a physical ability, also serves as an important means for understanding faith, heaven and salvation. Indeed, its proper end and fulfillment is the vision of God Himself. Man’s final purpose is caught up with his ability to see. With this profound truth in mind, we can better appreciate the grave threat pornography presents to the human soul, to the family and to society.

Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington Bought with a price

Media-savvy Scots Catholics

I like Pastoral Letters. Here is Bishop Philip Tartaglia’s Communications Sunday Pastoral Letter

The Pope warns that the mass media can be used for ideological purposes, and “can tend to legitimise or impose distorted models of personal, family or social lifeâ€?. As Scottish Catholics, we know only too well how true this is, and we are keenly aware of how rarely our own media represents us as people of faith in a fair or balanced manner.

Today, mass communications can fairly be charged with losing the ethical underpinning that once existed. It is a sad reality that those involved in the production and dissemination of much of our media content do not themselves share the religious or moral perspectives of their audience. There has occurred a fundamental disconnection between the provider and the consumer. While the last national census showed that over two thirds of Scots described themselves as Christians, few of those who work in radio, television and the press share this identity.

So the Scots have one faith, while their Media has another quite different faith. Ah well, as long as we know, I suppose. I wasn’t aware that ‘Communications Sunday’ was a feast of the Church, but why not? Let’s have a day for everything, only let the Scots Catholics lead so we English Anglicans can trail along behind. I’ll go back to the Scottish Catholic Media Office

Ayres for Bede

Lewis Ayres has been appointed to the newly established Bede Chair of Catholic Theology at Durham.

Ayres, an English lay Catholic theologian, currently teaching at Emory is a world-regarded, leading expert in patristic theology (particularly Christology and Trinity) with a strong constructive/contemporary dimension to his work, with a very well developed understanding of what it means to live between academy and church, and with a strong vision and passion for the further development of Catholic theology and the Centre for Catholic Studies within the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.

Hope springs eternal.

Still, it is always nice to see an Englishman come home, which makes me wonder why we don’t invite Paul Griffiths to do to same. His title for the ‘Catholic Theology and the Public Academy’ conference? ‘Why Theology Should Find the Public Academy Inhospitable’. Ah, there’s one that knows.

Become what you see

A propos Spaemann’s line about becoming what you see, did you read Jason Byassee ?

As theologian Sarah Coakley has so brilliantly said, ancient Christian reflection on desire shows that Freud is exactly wrong: Talk about God is not repressed talk about sexuality; talk about sex is, in fact, repressed talk about God. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, porn users are not to be rebuked for desiring too much but for desiring too little.

and

Christians have resources with which to aid this recovery of genuine eros, though they’re a bit dusty at present. I think here that Orthodox iconography, when done right, is beautiful beyond words. It had better be: Worship bears the Church up to heaven into the presence of God. Liturgy is a drawing out of our true selves, our best selves, in union with God in reflection of God’s union with us in Christ through the Theotokos.

If you don’t have a First Things subscription, listen to Jason Eskew

The Whole Christ and the Eucharist

This is the paper I read to the Cheyneygates ‘Work-in-Progress’ seminar at Westminster on 24th April 2008.

When the congregation of my Church is gathered in worship we say that Christ is with us, although, without faith, no evidence of him imposes itself on us. The degree to which we find one another unattractive and not very Christ-like comes from this dark and incomprehensible way in which Christ presents himself, crucifying our expectations as he comes. In each of these unlovely people at the altar rail Christ says, ‘Do you see me, do you love me’?

All human beings give themselves away – we cannot help ourselves. If we do not give ourselves to Christ and to all his body, we give ourselves away in some other way, and to some other power. Either we love and adore God and give ourselves to him, which is to say give ourselves back to him, or we direct all that love and adoration to other objects, thereby making idols of them. I just cannot hold my adoration in. I too readily give myself to the darlings and delights of the media, but so grudgingly give myself to the people of the church. All our whole consumer culture is a vast displacement activity for this true love.

To denigrate the Church is to fail to recognise Christ. When I declare that the Church is too full of old people, demand that it demonstrate its relevance, and search for a fresh emergent and more real Church consisting of separate congregations for young people, I reveal my disdain for the body of Christ. I need you to help me overcome this desire to distance myself from this body. When I decide that the Christians around me are too exclusivist, traditionalist and fundamentalist, or otherwise just too muddleheaded, you have to tell me that they have had fewer educational opportunities than I have, and that if they are the weak, we who are the strong have to wait for them. For if we go ahead ‘without waiting for anyone else’, we fail to ‘recognise the body of the Lord’, and so eat and drink division on the Church and judgment on ourselves. You have to name my disparagement of the rules and habits of the Church for the antinominianism and Gnosticism it is. We have to fast and abstain together at the appropriate point in the calendar and learn all the practices of self-control that make each of us more than just our own bodies. Until we keep the fast, and wait for each other, the joy of the feast will elude us.

The Whole Christ and the Eucharist

The Tradition Alive

Brazos Press has a wonderful manifesto

The onset of the twenty-first century finds the Western world in the midst of transition at a seismic level: from Christendom to post-Christendom, from industrialism to post-industrialism, from modernity to postmodernity, from colonial hegemony to multicultural pluralism, and so forth. It is at the same time a period of the rediscovery and reaffirmation of classical, creedal and confessional Christianity. Some find the current ferment chaotic and threatening. While recognizing the gravity of the ongoing “culture wars,” Brazos Press responds constructively in a setting of monumental flux and transition.

Brazos Press seeks as authors scholars and thinkers capitalizing on and promoting the rediscovery and reaffirmation of classical Christianity. Our books encourage Christians to speak as Christians in and to the public square and to extend the vital roots of the ancient Christian tradition into the twenty-first century.

* * *

By unapologetic theology, we mean a theology that is distinctly, particularly, and unashamedly Christian and considers no other narrative or tradition more basic to its identity than the Christian narrative and tradition.

So wonderful, that I am tempted to plagiarise it. I will certainly send them a manuscript.

The gift of sight

You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We stand at a threshold – either we can continue to allow this plague (pornography) to spread with fewer and fewer checks, or we can take concrete steps to uproot it in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our culture.

We are a people called to share in the pure and noble vision of God and His creation. We are also a people whose future glory has been bought with the precious sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must never forget the high cost of this purchase.

A free people can combat the tremendous moral, social and spiritual danger of pornography with great courage. My fervent prayer is that Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will understand this threat, confront it, facilitate true healing, and ever more fully live out our God-given use of human sight.

Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington Bought at a Price and other homilies and pastoral letters

By the way, can I have a bishop who writes homilies and pastoral letters, and can I have a priest who reads them out to us? Can I have a church that does does not leave its members in pastoral free-fall? Just thought I’d ask.

Mary Ann Glendon

I have been reading Mary Ann Glendon at First Things, to which I will be renewing my subscription.

Although awareness of this impending demographic storm is beginning to sink in, policymakers in Europe and the United States tend to frame it only as a “welfare crisis.â€? The falling birth rates that are fueling the welfare crisis, however, are symptomatic of a deeper crisis in beliefs and attitudes—a crisis involving changes in the meanings and values that people attribute to aging and mortality, sex and procreation, marriage, gender, parenthood, relations among the generations, and life itself.

Principled Immigration

With widespread acceptance of the notion that behavior in the highly personal areas of sex and marriage is of no concern to anyone other than the “consenting adults” involved, it has been easy to overlook what should have been obvious from the beginning: individual actions in the aggregate exert a profound influence on what kind of society we are bringing into being. Eventually, when large numbers of individuals act primarily with regard to self-fulfillment, the entire culture is transformed. The evidence is now overwhelming that affluent Western nations have been engaged in a massive social experiment—an experiment that brought new opportunities and liberties to adults but has put children and other dependents at considerable risk.

Discovering Our Dependence (2004)

So, where to begin? “What, in heaven’s name,â€? muses the Stranger, “should be the first law our legislator will establish?â€? Without waiting to hear what Kleinias and Megillos have to say, he answers his own question: “Surely the first subject he will turn to in his regulations will be the very first step that leads to the birth of children in the state: the union of two people in the partnership of marriage.â€? Kleinias readily agrees that marriage must be regulated first because it is crucial to the nurture and education of future citizens.

But not everything that pertains to the seedbeds of character and competence needs to be regulated. Unwritten customs, according to the Stranger, “are the bonds of the entire social framework.â€? When soundly established and habitually observed, they “shield and protectâ€? the written law. “But if they go wrong,â€? says the Athenian from bitter experience, “well, you know what happens when carpenter’s props buckle in a house: They bring the whole building crashing down.

Plato as Statesman

and there’s more

Marriage – more than it is cracked up to be

How central to the Christian understanding of the meaning of marriage is the sexual difference between men and women? It is this question that Christopher Roberts addresses in his Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage, and no one paying attention to the arguments about the blessing of same-sex unions in the Christian churches will want to ignore it. Roberts says he aims to raise the level of the theological conversation now dominated by questions of the justice of treating heterosexuals and homosexuals equally. Have most Christian thinkers thought sexual difference to be morally and theologically important? If so, does the contemporary discussion take account of their insights and arguments?

* *

Roberts writes with a shrewd eye for our contemporary predicament. “We cannot imagine existing in our culture without the haven of an erotic partnership,â€? he writes, “because our capacity to belong together in more chaste ways is so limited.â€? Here, he faults our failure to make possible “a social life of lay celibacy.â€? He notes that it is not only advocates for same-sex unions who want to redefine marriage. “Reclaiming the theological tradition about sexual difference would entail not only a chastening word to the revisionist theologians but also a thoroughgoing revolution for almost all Christians.â€? Would we not, for instance, have to put some daylight between the public social life of Christians and contemporary youth culture as celebrated by the media? With this book, Roberts has tried to raise the standard of theological argument about same-sex unions, and in this he succeeds admirably.

Guy Mansini reviewing Christopher Roberts’ Creation and Covenant: The Significance of Sexual Difference in the Moral Theology of Marriage