Sunday, March 29, 2009

Judica me, Deus...

"Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso eripe me: quia tu es Deus meus et fortitudo mea."

"Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man: for Thou art my God and my strength."

Today the Roman church celebrated the beginning of a season within the Lenten fast known as "Passiontide." The Introit (Entrance Antiphon) for the Mass of the day -- in both the traditional and reformed usage -- begins with the prayer which is traditionally prayed by the priests and his ministers at the foot of the altar. It is taken from Psalm 42(43), which was composed to inspire during a time of tribulation for the Chosen People. Not only does the Psalmist plead with God for justice upon himself, but against his enemies.

Amidst the cry for help, there is more. There is a longing.

"Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum et in tabernacula tua."

"Send out Thy light and Thy truth: they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, even unto Thy tabernacles."

Just as Elijah would climb the heights to await the still small voice, just as Christ led the Three to the height of Mount Tabor for a glimpse of His majesty, just as the priest would begin at the first step of his pilgrimage to sacrifice -- so too the Psalmist prayed to be led up to the mountain of God, that he might dwell with Him in His holy place.

Such was the prayer of the Church today, as Her faithful children are beleaguered by persecution in the public square.

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has been appointed by the President to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. While considering herself a Catholic in good standing -- which I presume would mean being completely free of serious sin at all times, which is quite a stretch for any of us on a GOOD day, but never mind that for a moment -- she has been publicly supportive of legalized abortion. Her persistence on this position, and such persistence being public, has led her local shepherd, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, to declare that she should not present herself to receive Communion, until she recants. This position has been upheld by the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme legislator of the Holy See. And now, the latest word is that the Archbishop of Washington, in whose jurisdiction she may be partially domiciled, may have finally summoned the testicular fortitude necessary to uphold this position. The same has been indicated by a spokesman for the Diocese of Arlington.

Now, the mainstream press, and a few empty suits disguised as Catholics, will say that Church leaders are attempting to "politicize" the reception of Communion. If this were true, then the rest of us could engage in all manner of debauchery and still be in a state of grace, so long as we weren't famous enough to be called on it. As we all know, this isn't true. So you see, it's not the Church leaders who are politicizing anything; they are imposing the same rule of thumb as they would for any of us. The empty suits, on the other hand...

Then we read of how the President of the United States has been invited to give the commencement address at the University of Notre Dame, despite his unprecedented level of support of legalized abortion, including such methods that would amount to infanticide, to such an extent that otherwise "pro-choice" legislators have held back on them. The land of the Fighting Irish falls under the jurisdiction of Bishop John M D’Arcy of Fort Wayne - South Bend (Indiana), who has publicly condemned the appearance, and has called upon the university President, Father John Jenkins, CSC, to withdraw the invitation.

It's not going to happen, of course. Notre Dame sold its Catholicity down the river years ago. And while the 1983 Code of Canon Law does not give the the local bishop as many options for imposing penalties as did the old 1917 Code (assuming it would make a bit of difference). But if you go here to add your name to this petition... can beg to disagree, along with more than two hundred thousand others (and climbing).

Now, Father Jenkins wants to be seen as a reasonable man. He says he would use this occasion to "engage" the President on such issues, which would not be possible were the invitation to be rescinded. While we're trying to imagine just how that sort of negotiation would actually work, we should make note of how the President and his administration is currently pressuring the Holy See to silence Archbishop Raymond Burke, who presides over the Apostolic Signatura, on the matter of denying the sacraments to those who, in the words of Canon 915, "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin." Our President is unlikely to be in the mood to "engage" or negotiate on anything. Why should he? He has not been invited to Notre Dame to bargain, he has been invited to be honored.

We should have seen this coming. It will get worse before it gets better. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has rendered a sad appraisal of our state of affairs:

November showed us that 40 years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing exactly the fruit we should have expected. Or to put it more discreetly, the November elections confirmed a trend, rather than created a new moment, in American culture...

Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies...

We need to stop over-counting our numbers, our influence, our institutions and our resources, because they’re not real. We can’t talk about following St Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and get honest about what we’ve allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves and to God by claiming to “personally oppose” some homicidal evil — but then allowing it to be legal at the same time.

We went in the space of one week from "Laetare Sunday," a respite of rejoicing during the Great Fast, to "Judica Sunday," a call for the verdict of a Just Judge. Have the sins of a nation come to visit her inhabitants? How would her children respond?

"Judge me, O God..."

[VIDEO: Inspired by the Antiphon for the Magnificat of Second Vespers: "Abraham your father rejoiced that he mght see My day; he saw it, and was glad." (John 8:56)]

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