Thursday, March 24, 2011

A joke for Lent

An Irishman moves into a tiny village in rural Ireland. He walks into the local pub, orders three drinks, drinks them, and then leaves the pub. And every evening he repeats this procedure.

Soon the entire village is talking about this. Finally, the bar tender asks, “I don’t mean to pry, but we were wondering why you order three pints each time you come in.”

The man says, “You see, I have two brothers - one in America and one in Australia. We promised that each time we have a drink, we’d order an extra two pints as a way of keeping up with each other.”

But one day, the man came into the pub and orders only two pints. The news spreads and the next evening the bar tender tells the man, “I want to offer our condolences on the death of your brother.”

The man says, “No, my brothers are alive and well, thanks be”. So the bar tender asks, “Then what is it with the two pints?”

“Well” says the man, “One pint is for Mick and one is for Dan. But as for meself, I’m giving up drink for Lent.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Catholicism and complexity

Traditional Catholic social teaching recognised the complexity of human affairs. An approach not taught these days.

First case. A young man chortling about the intervention in Libya. ”Gaddafi’s a tyrant and we’ve got to get rid of him”. So simple!

Let's look at the just war criteria. They require a just objective, legitimate authority, a force proportionate to the objective, and a reasonable chance of success.

But the second Gulf War showed the insuperable problems in setting up shining new democracies in the Middle East. Whatever our dreams, there’s no reasonable chance of success in Libya and the adventure is immoral.

Second case. The youth spokeswoman in the Canberra-Goulburn archdiocese wants men to be jailed if they patronize prostitutes. This is on the basis of “gender equality”.

Does she also want to criminalize adultery? Or telling dirty jokes? Or taking the Lord’s name in vain?

They tried all this in Calvin’s Geneva. But for a Catholic perspective, turn to St Augustine, who concluded that - though prostitution is immoral - the State should not try and outlaw it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

St Thomas Aquinas

March 7 is the feast of St Thomas Aquinas in the traditional calendar (it's January 28 in the new calendar). 

Let's be blunt.  St Thomas can appear a bit off-putting at first sight.  The man who produced the monumental Summa Theologica.  A man raised above earthly passions, always calm and logical.  Admirable, of course, but not attractive. 

Perhaps we can seek to humanize him.  Born of an aristocratic family of knights in the middle of the middle ages, he was a classic absent minded professor.  Invited to a feast by the king, he sat unmoved through the glittering occasion, the exquisite food, beautiful music, breathtaking jugglers, magnificent robes … Ignoring these delights, he meditated on a knotty philosophical problem until he had worked it out. 

(The pattern persists, of course.  A scientist sat silent all through a dinner with distinguished foreign guests.  Afterwards, washing the dishes with his wife, he announced the secret.  “I have solved the heat transfer problem!” And went on to win a Nobel Prize.) 

All this is true but it’s not the whole truth.  The central truth about today's saint is that he was also a passionate man of prayer.  Yes, during the day he used his left brain to meditate on the Faith.  And in the evening, he would pray passionately about these truths into the early morning.  A great saint, his sole desire was to know and follow Christ.  

St Thomas, pray for us.