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Give to God what is His

October 19, 2014

Vox Nova is pleased to present another post by Kelly Wilson.

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; I Thessalonians 1:1-5 & Matthew 22:15-21.


Tax revolts likely were not far from the imagination of those surrounding Jesus. One such uprising had taken place in very recent memory and had been suppressed with brutality. That history makes the question posed to Jesus – is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor? – a particularly difficult one and Matthew interprets persons as looking to trap Jesus.

The Pharisees and Herodians feel they have cornered him; that, no matter how Jesus responds, he is finished: Come out against paying taxes to the emperor and trouble is coming when the Romans get wind of this but come out in favour and look like one collaborating with that occupying force and alienate those seeking liberation. Jesus, it seems, is not going to walk away from this question intact. Amazingly, with his clever response, he does.

Read more…

The ‘Culture War’ Trope in Catholic Discourse: Useful Construct or Dangerous Weapon?

October 18, 2014

Vox Nova is pleased to welcome the following guest post by reader Mike McG.

The terms ‘culture war’ and ‘culture warrior’ name very real tensions in both secular and religious domains. And yet I wonder if these phrases deepen the very polarization they seek to describe.

The terms came into common usage in the early 1990s with the publication of American sociologist James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. The Pew Forum published an in-depth analysis of the book and the controversy it sparked. This analysis cites Hunter’s argument that “there was a battle raging between ‘traditionalists,’ who were committed to moral ideals inherited from the past, and ‘progressivists’ who idealized change and flexibility. These different worldviews, Hunter argued, were responsible for increasingly heated disputes over such issues as abortion, sexuality, education and the role of religious institutions in society. ‘Cumulatively, these debates concerning the wide range of social institutions amounted to a struggle over the meaning of America.’”

Note Hunter’s even-handed application of terms. He argued that warriors were well represented on both sides of contested issues. My read on current usage is that ‘culture warrior’ is no longer neutrally applied. Instead it is reserved, often with a derisive edge, for conservative activists. Much like ‘right wing,’ the epithet ‘culture warrior’ has morphed into a weapon in the culture war it was coined to describe.

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St. Augustine and the Synod on the Family

October 14, 2014

The Synod on the Family has been very much in the news lately, particularly with the release yesterday of the Relatio post disceptationem to the media.  This document deserves careful discussion, as does its reception by various parts of the Church and by the secular media. (Indeed, it made the front page of my local paper today!)  But very much related to the discussions about mercy, justice, gradualism and upholding Church teaching is the following passage from St. Augustine, which I found courtesy of the folks at the Daily Gospel Online:

Our Lord was an example of incomparable patience. He bore with a “devil” among his disciples even to his Passion (Jn 6,70). He said: “Let them grow together until the harvest lest you uproot the wheat when you pull out the weeds” (cf. Mt 13,29f.). As a symbol of the Church he preached that the net would bring back to shore, namely the end of the world, every kind of fish, both good and bad. And he made it known in various other ways, whether openly or in parables, that there would always be a mixture of good and bad. But nevertheless he stresses that we have to protect the Church’s discipline when he says: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother” (Mt 18,15)…

Yet today we see people who think of nothing but stern commandments, who order that troublemakers be reproved, « not giving what is holy to the dogs », « treating like the publicans » anyone who despises the Church, cutting off the scandalous member from the body (Mt 7,6 ; 18,17 ; 5,30). Their stormy zeal so troubles the Church that they pull out the weeds before their time and their blindness makes of them enemies of the unity of Jesus Christ…

Take care not to let these presumptuous thoughts enter our hearts, trying to separate ourselves from sinners so as not to be soiled by contact with them, wanting to form a band of pure and holy disciples. We will achieve nothing but breaking up our unity under the pretext of not associating with the wicked. To the contrary, let us remember the parables of Scripture, their inspired words, their striking examples, where we are shown that, until the end of the world and the day of judgement, the bad will always be mingled amongst the good in the church without their participation in the sacraments being harmful to the good so long as these latter have not played a part in their sins. (On Faith and works, ch. 3-5)

One Lone Individual

October 12, 2014

Vox Nova would like to welcome back Kelly Wilson who will be providing reflections on the weekly readings. 

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Isaiah 25-6-10; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 & Matthew 22:1-14.

A parable, here, is told by Jesus which strikingly overlaps with one heard last week. Remember:

A landowner sends workers and, finally, his son, to tenants who abuse the workers and kill the son. Jesus asks: ‘What will the landowner do?’ Hearers respond: ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death’.

Jesus transitions from the setting of a vineyard to that of a wedding banquet. He begins – the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king – and the expectation is that God, in some way, will be reflected in the character of the king.

Read more…

A Riddle that Tickled my Funny Bone

October 9, 2014

Fr. William Grimm, a Maryknoll priest in Japan, framed an essay about Pope Francis with a riddle that set me laughing and that I have to share:

Q:  What are the three things God does not know?

A:  1) How wealthy are the Franciscans?

2) How many communities of religious sisters are there in the world?

3) What will the Jesuits do next?

In the spirit of the joke, please feel free to suggest alternative things that “God does not know”.


Life Recapitulates Art

October 5, 2014

I am really not sure what to say, but I had to share this.  Almost 30 years ago, the comic strip Doonesbury featured a two week series about a single woman, Marcia, who decided that she was tired of looking for Mr. Right, and was going to celebrate her new freedom by holding a singularity ceremony, complete with flowers, a minister, invitations and “bridal” registry:


Doonesbury-singularity(The whole series can be viewed at  The strip was an acerbic commentary on dating and social expectations in the 1980’s; it was funny and sad and so over the top I assumed it was satire.  Until today.

Read more…

There is a new Sheriff in Town

October 3, 2014

Last year I asked the rhetorical question:  “Is there a new sheriff in town?” in response to the news that Pope Francis had suspended Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Bishop of Limburg, Germany, because of questions about his finances and ostentatious lifestyle.  The bishop later resigned his see.   My answer was yes.  At the time I speculated that Francis would act slowly and with charity, but would move decisively if he felt the circumstances merited action.   Recent events seem to confirm this.

On Monday, September 29, the Vatican announced that the Pope had removed Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, Bishop of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.  The reasons for the removal are unclear.    Bishop Livieres had made a number of controversial decisions, including withdrawing from the national seminary in Asuncion and establishing his own.  His relations with his fellow bishops are strained, and he has gone so far as to publicly call the metropolitan archbishop, Bishop Pastor Cuquejo of Asuncion, a homosexual.  (See here or here and search the word “homosexual.”)  In a very questionable act of judgement, he incardinated a priest,  Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, in his diocese over the objections of his bishop in the US, where Fr. Urrutigoity had been accused of financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct.  (The case of Fr. Urrutigoity is complicated and spans two continents and involves the SSPX as well as the Diocese of Scranton.  A long albeit somewhat rambling description can be found here.)  Bishop Livieres first made Fr. Urrutigoity the director of his new seminary and then appointed him vicar general of the diocese.  However, a statement from the Vatican has confused matters, with Fr. Lombardi saying that Fr. Urrutigoity was “discussed” but this was not “the principal problem”.  For an analysis of this statement by Grant Gallicho, a blogger at Commonweal who wrote the above articles about Fr. Urrutigoity, see here. Read more…


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