Question to Ponder

Question to Ponder April 28, 2009

“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Lk 7:28a). Anyone know if he ever spoke against abortion? Infanticide? Euthanasia? Any “pro-life” issue at all? 

Now why did Jesus think he was great?

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  • Kurt

    Now why did Jesus think he was great?

    He never once voted Democratic.

  • Kurt

    Now why did Jesus think he was great?

    He never once voted Democratic.

  • Zak

    Is your point that, because he was faithful to the Lord, he was willing to challenge the authorities of his time when they committed great evils?

    • Zak

      The point is the same one which Nate made recently: the focus is wrong when we make abortion the most important thing to worry about. It’s not. It’s sin and the structures of sin, and these structures are what allow for abortion, but also for so many other things. One of the problems I have is that the way abortion is dealt with, the structures which create abortion are reinforced while the symptom, abortion, is given an unhelpful band-aid. When one reduces the world to one sin, instead of the structures of sin, this is what tends to happen. St John the Baptist focused on the structures of sin.

  • Zak

    Is your point that, because he was faithful to the Lord, he was willing to challenge the authorities of his time when they committed great evils?

    • Zak

      The point is the same one which Nate made recently: the focus is wrong when we make abortion the most important thing to worry about. It’s not. It’s sin and the structures of sin, and these structures are what allow for abortion, but also for so many other things. One of the problems I have is that the way abortion is dealt with, the structures which create abortion are reinforced while the symptom, abortion, is given an unhelpful band-aid. When one reduces the world to one sin, instead of the structures of sin, this is what tends to happen. St John the Baptist focused on the structures of sin.

  • Nepotism?

    😉

  • Nepotism?

    😉

  • awakaman

    First, perhaps like Mary and Christ he is the only other person born without the stain of original sin.

    Secondly, maybe because John showed great faithfulness and humility and denyied any claim to be the Messiah and clearly acknowledging his inferiority to Jesus – unlike some people who seem to encourage it –

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=96138

    Perhaps he doesn’t want anyone to see his birth certificate because it list his father as God.

  • awakaman

    First, perhaps like Mary and Christ he is the only other person born without the stain of original sin.

    Secondly, maybe because John showed great faithfulness and humility and denyied any claim to be the Messiah and clearly acknowledging his inferiority to Jesus – unlike some people who seem to encourage it –

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=96138

    Perhaps he doesn’t want anyone to see his birth certificate because it list his father as God.

  • David Nickol

    First, perhaps like Mary and Christ he is the only other person born without the stain of original sin.

    awakaman,

    This is a new one on me.

    • David

      St John the Baptist was seen as cleansed of original sin while in the womb of St Elizabeth, when he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So he was born without original sin, but not conceived without it. However, this avoids my question: how can someone be so good, and how can we look up to them as being so good, if they don’t even deal with “the most important issue of all” aka, abortion? Asking this question is to reinforce the notion that virtue and holiness is not determined by your vocal response on abortion (or other political issues).

  • David Nickol

    First, perhaps like Mary and Christ he is the only other person born without the stain of original sin.

    awakaman,

    This is a new one on me.

    • David

      St John the Baptist was seen as cleansed of original sin while in the womb of St Elizabeth, when he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So he was born without original sin, but not conceived without it. However, this avoids my question: how can someone be so good, and how can we look up to them as being so good, if they don’t even deal with “the most important issue of all” aka, abortion? Asking this question is to reinforce the notion that virtue and holiness is not determined by your vocal response on abortion (or other political issues).

  • David Nickol

    It is a bit hypocritical of me to quote this, since I don’t much care for it. But here’s a quote from Cardinal Newman:

    She [the Catholic Church] holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse.

    At least one person responded with sarcasm recently when I said that many “anti-aborts” seem to make physiological life the highest value. Cardinal Newman didn’t seem to think it was.

  • David Nickol

    It is a bit hypocritical of me to quote this, since I don’t much care for it. But here’s a quote from Cardinal Newman:

    She [the Catholic Church] holds that it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse.

    At least one person responded with sarcasm recently when I said that many “anti-aborts” seem to make physiological life the highest value. Cardinal Newman didn’t seem to think it was.

  • Henry:

    Yes, but John did have to face up to the issues pressing in his day including the scandalous marriage of Herod. That most important issue John did speak out on.

    Various sins gain prominence in different times; abortion was not one of the most prevalent issues in John’s time, so we don’t have anything about him speaking on it (though this is different from him never saying anything). It is however prevalent today and one cannot engage the culture as John Paul II and Vatican II urged us to do without confronting abortion.

    I really fail to see your point here, unless you’re valiantly spearing the straw-man of the Catholic who reduces his faith to abortion politics.

    • Michael

      The point is that the focus is as Nate says –sin and the structures of sin. Infanticide was a big thing in the ancient world. John didn’t say a single word about it. Herod even had all the Holy Innocents killed, and yet John said nothing about it.

      No one is saying we shouldn’t confront abortion. The point is people take it out of context, out of the greater whole, ignoring what causes abortion, why it is there, and they will be “confronting abortion” on the one hand, but reinforcing the system which brings it about on the next. Holiness isn’t from how we “speak out” about abortion (or poverty, etc). Those will be actions that one who is holy might do, but there are other possible actions as well. Reductionism is the problem, and again, we must remember what it is which creates a heresy — taking a truth, exaggerating it, and using that exaggeration to refuse other truths.

  • Henry:

    Yes, but John did have to face up to the issues pressing in his day including the scandalous marriage of Herod. That most important issue John did speak out on.

    Various sins gain prominence in different times; abortion was not one of the most prevalent issues in John’s time, so we don’t have anything about him speaking on it (though this is different from him never saying anything). It is however prevalent today and one cannot engage the culture as John Paul II and Vatican II urged us to do without confronting abortion.

    I really fail to see your point here, unless you’re valiantly spearing the straw-man of the Catholic who reduces his faith to abortion politics.

    • Michael

      The point is that the focus is as Nate says –sin and the structures of sin. Infanticide was a big thing in the ancient world. John didn’t say a single word about it. Herod even had all the Holy Innocents killed, and yet John said nothing about it.

      No one is saying we shouldn’t confront abortion. The point is people take it out of context, out of the greater whole, ignoring what causes abortion, why it is there, and they will be “confronting abortion” on the one hand, but reinforcing the system which brings it about on the next. Holiness isn’t from how we “speak out” about abortion (or poverty, etc). Those will be actions that one who is holy might do, but there are other possible actions as well. Reductionism is the problem, and again, we must remember what it is which creates a heresy — taking a truth, exaggerating it, and using that exaggeration to refuse other truths.

  • Jeremy

    Pointing out the obvious here – but John the Baptist preached against the evils that his culture thought were good.

    Can you think of any parallels in our modern day?

    • Jeremy

      There were many evils in the culture of the time we don’t see John talking about — like exposing infants. The number dead from such a practice? Well… staggering. And nothing from John. Of course he spoke about the evils in his culture.. and so are many people who point out something more fundamental than abortion is the issue today.

  • Jeremy

    Pointing out the obvious here – but John the Baptist preached against the evils that his culture thought were good.

    Can you think of any parallels in our modern day?

    • Jeremy

      There were many evils in the culture of the time we don’t see John talking about — like exposing infants. The number dead from such a practice? Well… staggering. And nothing from John. Of course he spoke about the evils in his culture.. and so are many people who point out something more fundamental than abortion is the issue today.

  • Magdalena

    Very bad analogy. Abortion was not “the most important issue of all” in Jesus’ time, it was not even a matter of controversy I believe. On the issues that WERE salient at that time John did not remain silent, he spoke up and so annoyed the authorities that he paid with his life.

    All times and places have different challenges… forty years ago it was racism, two hundred years ago slavery, and so on and so forth. Abortion is probably not the “most important issue” in modern day Poland which has extensive protection for the unborn (last I heard, anyway). In the US this is not the case, so much so that innocent unborn life has to get our “preferential option” of concern so to speak… the American bishops have said as much.

    • Magdalena

      Abortion was an issue in the time of John, and even before John. There is a reason why Christians in the first century put it in their lists of sins. The point, nonetheless, is that I think people look too much as politics as a way to discern holiness… that is the point. We assume too much today about “silence” as if it makes one guilty if one is silent on an issue. If that is the case… John was silent on so much, so how can he be so great? Even if it wasn’t the “most important” issue of his time, how can he avoid such an important issue and be so great? Jesus himself… how can he be so great, when he is silent on so much? Again, the reason is that there are more fundamental issues, and Jesus and John both show us what they are, and if we raise things beyond them as “the most important” we do so contra Jesus and John.

  • Magdalena

    Very bad analogy. Abortion was not “the most important issue of all” in Jesus’ time, it was not even a matter of controversy I believe. On the issues that WERE salient at that time John did not remain silent, he spoke up and so annoyed the authorities that he paid with his life.

    All times and places have different challenges… forty years ago it was racism, two hundred years ago slavery, and so on and so forth. Abortion is probably not the “most important issue” in modern day Poland which has extensive protection for the unborn (last I heard, anyway). In the US this is not the case, so much so that innocent unborn life has to get our “preferential option” of concern so to speak… the American bishops have said as much.

    • Magdalena

      Abortion was an issue in the time of John, and even before John. There is a reason why Christians in the first century put it in their lists of sins. The point, nonetheless, is that I think people look too much as politics as a way to discern holiness… that is the point. We assume too much today about “silence” as if it makes one guilty if one is silent on an issue. If that is the case… John was silent on so much, so how can he be so great? Even if it wasn’t the “most important” issue of his time, how can he avoid such an important issue and be so great? Jesus himself… how can he be so great, when he is silent on so much? Again, the reason is that there are more fundamental issues, and Jesus and John both show us what they are, and if we raise things beyond them as “the most important” we do so contra Jesus and John.

  • Herod even had all the Holy Innocents killed, and yet John said nothing about it.

    Seriously? I don’t think John could talk during the murder of the Holy Innocents.

    I’m fine with saying opposition to abortion does not alone holiness make, but at the same, someone who is silent about abortion (I mean silent in a “purposefully ignoring it” way) should be charitably reprimanded.

    • Michael

      He could have mentioned that event later, obviously. Just as we talk about Roe v Wade now, right?

      And why is it that someone is silent is necessarily “ignoring it”? What exactly is it that makes one holy. Does one have to engage the political battles of the time to be holy? Really? Please look to all the monks who were in their cells, or on pillars, and became saints, without saying one thing about the horrible political climate of their time.

      We have become way to political, and I think that is one of the real problems.

  • Herod even had all the Holy Innocents killed, and yet John said nothing about it.

    Seriously? I don’t think John could talk during the murder of the Holy Innocents.

    I’m fine with saying opposition to abortion does not alone holiness make, but at the same, someone who is silent about abortion (I mean silent in a “purposefully ignoring it” way) should be charitably reprimanded.

    • Michael

      He could have mentioned that event later, obviously. Just as we talk about Roe v Wade now, right?

      And why is it that someone is silent is necessarily “ignoring it”? What exactly is it that makes one holy. Does one have to engage the political battles of the time to be holy? Really? Please look to all the monks who were in their cells, or on pillars, and became saints, without saying one thing about the horrible political climate of their time.

      We have become way to political, and I think that is one of the real problems.

  • Ummm, it hardly seems relevant to me whether John spoke about abortion publicly or not, however, I think it’s quite silly to assume that the Gospel contains everything he did say.

    As to trying to break down the structures of sin. It seems to me that this is precisely what the pro-life movement is trying to do. It is the pro-life movement that keeps the issue front and center, gives witness to abomination of abortion, tries to convince individuals that abortion is not the answer, tries to change the laws from supporting such structures to helping tear them down, etc. Complaining about the structures of sin and not using your resources to combat them or using them to work against those who are addressing these structures is what I find problematic.

    • Rick

      Obviously not all John said is in the Gospels, but nothing in tradition points to anything that John said or did on “pro-life” issues.

      Second, the “pro-life” movement seems to support the system in which abortion is accepted. So when I see by so many who are “pro-life” reinforcing the system (capitalism without restriction) which create it in the first place, yes, I will point out the effect of this and how the focus is wrong.

  • Ummm, it hardly seems relevant to me whether John spoke about abortion publicly or not, however, I think it’s quite silly to assume that the Gospel contains everything he did say.

    As to trying to break down the structures of sin. It seems to me that this is precisely what the pro-life movement is trying to do. It is the pro-life movement that keeps the issue front and center, gives witness to abomination of abortion, tries to convince individuals that abortion is not the answer, tries to change the laws from supporting such structures to helping tear them down, etc. Complaining about the structures of sin and not using your resources to combat them or using them to work against those who are addressing these structures is what I find problematic.

    • Rick

      Obviously not all John said is in the Gospels, but nothing in tradition points to anything that John said or did on “pro-life” issues.

      Second, the “pro-life” movement seems to support the system in which abortion is accepted. So when I see by so many who are “pro-life” reinforcing the system (capitalism without restriction) which create it in the first place, yes, I will point out the effect of this and how the focus is wrong.

  • JohnH

    I should think that anyone who desires that abortion be abolished or reduced (as well as poverty, torture, euthanasia, slavery, etc.) would be ok with the fact that some politicians will hitch their wagon to that particular cause.

    Or are we going to protest when any given politician contributes to, say, ending the practice of torture on the basis that it benefits the politician politically?

    Should Catholics cease to protest social injustice at all, and instead steer clear of any involvement in movements that could be construed as political?

    I think the answer is clearly “no”. You’d think writer for a site that identifies with such Catholic leaders as Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero would embrace the idea of faith working through social movements to achieve justice.

  • JohnH

    I should think that anyone who desires that abortion be abolished or reduced (as well as poverty, torture, euthanasia, slavery, etc.) would be ok with the fact that some politicians will hitch their wagon to that particular cause.

    Or are we going to protest when any given politician contributes to, say, ending the practice of torture on the basis that it benefits the politician politically?

    Should Catholics cease to protest social injustice at all, and instead steer clear of any involvement in movements that could be construed as political?

    I think the answer is clearly “no”. You’d think writer for a site that identifies with such Catholic leaders as Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero would embrace the idea of faith working through social movements to achieve justice.

  • Henry:

    He could have mentioned that event later, obviously. Just as we talk about Roe v Wade now, right?

    Legal abortion is ongoing. The Massacre of the Holy Innocents had finished long before John began to preach.

    And why is it that someone is silent is necessarily “ignoring it”? What exactly is it that makes one holy.

    That’s not what I said. I said I meant silent in that particular way, i.e. ignoring it. That is a far cry from “silent=ignoring.”

  • Henry:

    He could have mentioned that event later, obviously. Just as we talk about Roe v Wade now, right?

    Legal abortion is ongoing. The Massacre of the Holy Innocents had finished long before John began to preach.

    And why is it that someone is silent is necessarily “ignoring it”? What exactly is it that makes one holy.

    That’s not what I said. I said I meant silent in that particular way, i.e. ignoring it. That is a far cry from “silent=ignoring.”

    • Michael

      While the massacre of the innocents was done, other kinds of death were not. And again, your response about “ignoring it” reminds me of the criticism given to monks in general.

  • JohnH

    And Henry–we don’t know all of what Saint John said in his lifetime. We only know what is written in the Bible. You are assuming a lot about a little.

  • JohnH

    And Henry–we don’t know all of what Saint John said in his lifetime. We only know what is written in the Bible. You are assuming a lot about a little.

    • John H

      We also have tradition. But the question is– why then didn’t God think it important enough to raise the life issues, to make sure they are clearly front and center in Scripture (in the way moderns think of them)?

  • Dale Price

    From your examples, it appears your complaint that we have become way too political *about abortion,* as opposed to *political* full-stop. Or are you saying that we have also gotten too political about, say, access to health care?

    And given that John was imprisoned because he challenged the conduct of a politician, I don’t know that he is the best example of retreat from politics.

  • Dale Price

    From your examples, it appears your complaint that we have become way too political *about abortion,* as opposed to *political* full-stop. Or are you saying that we have also gotten too political about, say, access to health care?

    And given that John was imprisoned because he challenged the conduct of a politician, I don’t know that he is the best example of retreat from politics.

    • Dale, we are too political, period. The whole of democracy is to turn everything political and secular, and that is a problem with it.

  • Zak

    Henry,
    I find the argument from absence to be somewhat specious. Of course we don’t know all those things Jesus said, John the Baptist said. John the Baptist may have condemned the slaughter of the innocents; Jesus may have criticized the torture of Roman prisoners. John the evangelist notes many other signs were given that he does not cite, and it’s certainly likely likely that those include not just what is found in the other gospels, but also events of his life not included in the scriptural accounts. Certainly we would not want to us speculation about such events as a basis for our reflections, but to argue that the absence of something from scripture means it isn’t important for Christians to address now.

    I take your point that there needs to be a focus on far more than just abortion, but I think that often means speaking out more on other issues, not making abortion less of a priority.

    Is not a culture that devalues human life a structure of sin? Is not a political culture that seeks to exclude Christian witness, whether by “stripping the public square” or dismissing human dignity as a matter “above [one’s] pay grade” a structure of sin?

    • Zak

      Here is another question — if they did say something about such horrors, why does tradition and the authors of the Gospels say nothing? It still points to the fact that this was not as primary an importance, even though one can look back and see how the life issues themselves were not “less” back then, but perhaps, even greater.

  • Zak

    Henry,
    I find the argument from absence to be somewhat specious. Of course we don’t know all those things Jesus said, John the Baptist said. John the Baptist may have condemned the slaughter of the innocents; Jesus may have criticized the torture of Roman prisoners. John the evangelist notes many other signs were given that he does not cite, and it’s certainly likely likely that those include not just what is found in the other gospels, but also events of his life not included in the scriptural accounts. Certainly we would not want to us speculation about such events as a basis for our reflections, but to argue that the absence of something from scripture means it isn’t important for Christians to address now.

    I take your point that there needs to be a focus on far more than just abortion, but I think that often means speaking out more on other issues, not making abortion less of a priority.

    Is not a culture that devalues human life a structure of sin? Is not a political culture that seeks to exclude Christian witness, whether by “stripping the public square” or dismissing human dignity as a matter “above [one’s] pay grade” a structure of sin?

    • Zak

      Here is another question — if they did say something about such horrors, why does tradition and the authors of the Gospels say nothing? It still points to the fact that this was not as primary an importance, even though one can look back and see how the life issues themselves were not “less” back then, but perhaps, even greater.

  • Henry is making a really good point, friends. Think about what it what that got John thrown in jail – it was his loud opposition to Herod’s adultery. Now think on this for a moment, and we’ll get to the sinful social structure that underlies not only abortion, but poverty and war. The most basic social structure of sin is the perverted family, which itself creates perverted communities and perverted nations.

    Peace begins in the home. When the family is undermined, communities are undermined, and when communities are undermined, abortion, destitution, and violence manifest.

    The most important issue is communion – the solution to sin. Communion begins by repentance (John’s message), but flowers with “fruits” of repentance – entering into community through the power of the Holy Spirit, a community defined by loving self-gift.

    This solution of Holy-community-building (social justice), then, gives direction to our political activity. But first, we need to learn the language of community (CST): human dignity, rights and responsibilities, common good, universal destination of goods, subsidiarity, participation, solidarity, and peace.

  • Henry is making a really good point, friends. Think about what it what that got John thrown in jail – it was his loud opposition to Herod’s adultery. Now think on this for a moment, and we’ll get to the sinful social structure that underlies not only abortion, but poverty and war. The most basic social structure of sin is the perverted family, which itself creates perverted communities and perverted nations.

    Peace begins in the home. When the family is undermined, communities are undermined, and when communities are undermined, abortion, destitution, and violence manifest.

    The most important issue is communion – the solution to sin. Communion begins by repentance (John’s message), but flowers with “fruits” of repentance – entering into community through the power of the Holy Spirit, a community defined by loving self-gift.

    This solution of Holy-community-building (social justice), then, gives direction to our political activity. But first, we need to learn the language of community (CST): human dignity, rights and responsibilities, common good, universal destination of goods, subsidiarity, participation, solidarity, and peace.

  • jeremy

    Considering the fact that our record of things that John did say is less than staggering, I think building an argument based on what was not said by John the Baptist is a poor choice of foundation.

    Also, to say that evil is caused by sin, and then to assume you have made a profound argument is a little troubling to me. If you don’t want to battle on the abortion front, then don’t. But I can’t figure out why you continue to battle for not battling.

  • Zak

    Henry,
    I see you’ve elaborated since I started to write my comment, and your explanation is clearer.

    One should also not that the practices you point out from the time of Christ like infant exposure were much more common in Greek society than among the Jews. Infant exposure would have been condemned by all the major groups with Judaism, would it not?

    I’ve been thinking about the problem of seeing politics as a primary (or even chief) venue for holiness, and I agree it’s problematic, because it diminishes all the other spheres in which we are called to be holy. But don’t you think that part of the reason for that is that politics has intruded far more into every aspect of life than in times past, and that the authentic Christian voice is often dismissed as unwelcome in politics, at least in regard to certain issues (for the left: protection of life, sexual morality, family law; for the right: immigration, torture)?

    • Zak

      I think some people should focus on politics, and even issues which are important to them (and abortion is one which should be dealt with). The problem is when people take it further and try to force others to follow not only their focus, but their methodologies, or else condemn them. And the political focus we see today turns rival methodologies or concerns into heresies, ignoring of course, that there are deeper issues at stake. Nonetheless, the reason why I think politicis has invaded every aspect is because that is what democracy does; it says we are all authorities in politics, so it demands us to focus on politics. Historically this was not the norm, and yet holiness was attainable, and indeed, I would say more common, while with politics as the focus, the spiritual realities (and the structures of sin) are way too ignored.

      As for infant exposure, we must remember, 1st century “elite” culture was becoming quite Hellenized. Because of this, one would expect more detailed criticism of such practices. Y

  • JohnH

    I’m curious–what do you think the response of the Catholic should be to injustice, Henry?

  • Henry:

    I don’t think monks are ignoring the problems. They choose to deal with them in a different way, though a life of prayer and sacrifice. There are significant differences between how a lay person, a monk, a priest, a bishop, etc. are each called to confront and engage the culture. Especially if a monk spends part of his time praying for an end to abortion, he is not “silent.”

    When I mean those who are silent, I mean those who downplay the importance of abortion because it puts them in uncomfortable positions, either because they have not witnessed to life or because it represents an obstacle to other goals or because they are not willing to deal with some of its causes (including poverty, as well as other sins)

  • JohnH, JPtG said: “No justice without forgiveness,” that justice without mercy betrays itself, and that the very goal of mercy is justice.

  • And just wondering – do we all have a lot of time during the middle of the day, or what??? 🙂 Back to Aquinas!

  • jeremy

    Nate – excellent point, however we are so far from communion that we are not going to just make a few changes and get from here to there. There are many forces in our culture and media tearing apart communion faster than it is being formed.

    When our laws and culture push family destructive practices, such as contraception, abortion and gay marriage, – practices that undermine what it means to be a family – how do you think we get to communion? These pushes come from the political arena, and therefore, require a political response. A prayerful response is needed in addition, but there needs to be both. The only way to counter these pushes is to be in the political arena.

  • Zak

    I’ve been thinking about this issue in relation to a parish where I used to worship. It seemed like every week,the priest would talk about abortion, regardless of the passages from scripture. It drove me crazy even though I’m pro-life (although I’m not active enough in the defense of life through charitable acts, prayer, and political action). Although it is right that I be called upon to do more to help the unborn (and to help the homeless, or the refugee) that is just one part of the greater conversion that is needed to truly conform my will to God’s, which is what I see as the core of Christian life.

    Recently I’ve been reading a lot about the church in Nazi Germany, though, and I’ve read the accounts of heroic people who spoke up against euthanasia and anti-semitism, as well as accounts of others who did not speak up. This led me to reflect on what theright amount of opposition to specific political evils is. People today often criticize the Church for not being more active in opposition to Hitler’s policies, by excommunicating all Nazi party members, for example, or criticizing attrocities against Jews and Poles in occupied Poland more loudly. I’m not certain what should have been done then, but it seems to me that now many Catholics fail to see the evils at hand, and we don’t speak up (including people like Mary Ann Glendon or Bishop D’Arcy who may be listened to), then aren’t we risking a grave mistake?

    • Zak

      I have no problem with people who think their own focus should be abortion — and anyone who knows me knows how strong I am against abortion. The problem is that when people make it more important than, say, the issue which must be prior to it — the dignity of human life, from which the error of abortion flows. When people are unwilling to work for the dignity of life, but speak out against abortion, something is wrong. So I am not saying people should not speak out against abortion, but they shouldn’t treat others as “traitors” if their reaction and way is different.

      I also don’t think Glendon’s response is legitimate: even the bishops said she should go.

  • Magdalena

    How on earth can it be said that God does not “raise the life issues” in the Gospel? The whole ministry, life and death of Jesus screams about the dignity of human life! Is this argument perhaps a little superficial? Reminds me of when torture apologists say “Jesus doesn’t address the issue in the Bible.” Like heck He doesn’t.

    • Magdalena

      Where in the Gospels does Jesus talk about abortion?

      I agree — the dignity of life is addressed. But when I bring out the dignity of life, I am told to shut up because abortion is the most important thing in the world.

  • Jeremy, I agree. But the context for working against abortion and homosexual “marriage” needs to be the family. In that respect, our fight against abortion will be intimately linked to other issues, because our political action will be founded upon a larger issue – the destruction of the family.

    If the pro-life movement was part of a larger pro-family movement, we would find our battle against abortion to be far more effective by our holistic approach. The difficulty is that the American political structure has no room for a pro-family movement.

  • – I’m not clear how we can make arguments about what John the Baptist did or did not preach on when we have almost none of his actual words recorded.

    – Might one not just as well condemn John the Baptist as a rigorist culture warrior for getting himself killed over a silly issue like one politician’s adultery rather than protesting against war, torture, and structures of economic inequality?

    – Can we really claim that it is unrestrained capitalism that causes abortion when abortion and infanticide has been found in basically all cultures throughout history and in recent history abortion was utilized a great deal more in communist block countries than in the West? At most, one might assert that unrestricted capitalism does not cure abortion, but one can hardly claim that it is the clear cause when we find abortion in so many societies which are not capitalistic.

    • Dawin

      1) We nonetheless have the words which the Church found were the most important words of his. The focus, again, seems to be different from what the modern American right would have us follow.

      2) While the death of John the Baptist might be, as you said, over ” a silly issue like adultery,” his life, from what we have recorded, focused on the structures of sin, and didn’t focus on one kind of sin itself — that he could talk about specific sins is not the issue (and I would be the first to say we should talk about specifics, too), the issue is that it wasn’t his focus, while today some people want to focus on specific sins without dealing with the greater concerns, such as why.

      3) And this, of course, is true, in his day, John didn’t have to deal with capitalism, but today, the capitalist system is what we are dealing with, and, as many have pointed out, a system which ends up destroying so many lives, as capitalism has done, cannot be said to be acceptable. But the people who are upset with the results of capitalism do not want to acknowledge how its laissez-faire attitude is central to modern morality.

  • jeremy

    Nate –
    I’m not sure where you are from, but here in Kansas, the pro-life movement is the pro-family movement, and political action is founded on promotion of the family. It doesn’t matter much, because people don’t see ‘family’ they see ‘restrictions’ and ‘hate’. Politically, we need to be out there getting our message across, because, politically, we are being labeled as backward bigots who hate gays and want to oppress women. Promoting family means that there is a God, and that God made things a certain way, and that God should be respected.

    That view is vehemently opposed.

  • awakaman

    David N:

    The belief that John the Baptist was born without the stain of original sin (though not conceived without the stain of original sin) is why he is the only saint we celebrate the birthday of instead of the day of their death.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia states as follows:

    “Now during the sixth month, the Annunciation had taken place, and, as Mary had heard from the angel the fact of her cousin’s conceiving, she went “with haste” to congratulate her. “And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant” — filled, like the mother, with the Holy Ghost — “leaped for joy in her womb”, as if to acknowledge the presence of his Lord. Then was accomplished the prophetic utterance of the angel that the child should “be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb”. Now as the presence of any sin whatever is incompatible with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul, it follows that at this moment John was cleansed from the stain of original sin.”

  • Once again, I think we should ask, what made John great?

    How can we use his example for our lives today?

  • Liam

    For the minutiae hunters looking for a comparative lineup, here it is according to my best recollection, subject to charitable correction:

    1. Christ is God and Man, and in his human nature was conceived without original sin, did not need redeeming in his human nature, and committed no actual sin.

    2. In Catholic teaching, the BVM was by an action of God outside of time and space (because of the two natures of Christ, the Godhead has this lovely toggle quality in this regard…) anticipatorily graced by redemption to be conceived without original sin, and committed no actual sin.

    3. John the Baptist was conceived with original sin, received grace from Our Lord at their first meeting at the Visitation, and committed no actual sin.

    4. Joseph was conceived with original sin but committed no actual sin.

    Point #3 is fairly deeply entwined in a lot of tradition. Point #4 is less deeply entwined, but is based on Scripture denoting Joseph as a righteous or just man.

  • Jeremy, beyond sexual issues, how does the pro-life movement in Kansas promote the family through political action?

    I haven’t seen the pro-life movement lobby for pro-family legislation apart from abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and ESCR. Have they focused on economics, because I tend to see them appropriating conservative ideas about the free-market. Have they focused on a clean environment? Have they focused on education, health, and all the material things that families need? Gun control? Violence in the media? I don’t see the pro-life movement focusing on these things, or even really mentioning them. But all of them belong to the pro-family agenda.

    So I guess that’s where I see the difference. I’m not saying Dems do a very good job on these issues – they tend to dismiss subsidiarity, but I don’t see the pro-life movement framing its political actions within a larger and more important political context – the holistic needs of the family.

  • ben

    In Luke we have the testimony of the Archangel Gabriel that John would “turn the hearts of fathers toward children.” That suggests to me that St. John’s preaching would have specifically included admonitions concerning fatherhood. Clearly he would have condemned abortion and infantacide.

  • jeremy

    Nate – All well and good, most of my friends here are pro-environment, and have firm beliefs about the dignitary of work and the necessity of earning a living. Since we all have children, education is at the foremost of our minds, many homeschool, and many send their children to the catholic school (which is part of the parish, available to all catholics). Gun control has never come up much, but all abhor the violence and dehumanization of the human person in our media.

    However, where we are attacked, and where we have the hardest time getting traction is abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and ESCR because that is where the core difference is. If we are creatures created by God with inherent dignity, then you cannot do those things. But, if we are not creatures created by God, then everything above is just a choice that some people make, and by making them, they make their lives easier, so why not?

  • jh

    JH

    I think since Infanticide and abortion are in a explicit way condeemed in the oldest Christian writing (dating from around Apostolic days) as well as elsewhere it is pretty good bet that the apostles talked about it

  • jh

    Nate

    One reason these pro family or pro-life groups don’t talk about thing specific economic proposals or get behinds things like gun control is because after the core issue there is genuine debate among the members on these proposals. You can’t get a consensus and of course one can not be all things.

    I use to hear pro-lifers complain all the time about Sister Helen Prejean. Why is just she concerened about the State execution What about abortion!!! As I always explained this was her calling and her work for life was in no way made illigetimate because she was not talking about abortion too.

    Same principle here. I think for the most part we all agree on the fundamental life issues. Abortion, Euthanasia, Stem Cell, and gay marraige. But on other areas where Catholics do and must have healthy debates we are quite different on our views on the health care crisis, gun control, and economics.

    LEt us imagine there was a VOX NOVA PAC and lobbying group who members were the contributors and commenters here. Can you imagine us coming to some consensus on gun control or if the stimulus bill is good or not so to a “pro family” label on it.

    Doubtful

  • jh

    Awakeman I will have to think about that but I have a hard time thinking John was born with original sin. I mean that there never mentioned to my knowledge in the early Church.

  • HK,

    Perhaps you would have had the conversation about what made John great that you wanted to have if you had not phrased it as a sneer against pro-lifers.

  • John McG

    I’m pro-life. If you read this as a “sneer against pro-lifers” then I must have a problem.

  • JC

    We don’t have that many teachings of John recorded. We do have teachings of Jesus recorded where he says that anyone who accepts a child accepts Him, and anyone who does not accept a child (i.e., those who use contraception or abuse NFP) is unworthy of the Kingdom.

    Also, Jesus is saying that John is the greatest of those outside the Church. John lived a life of total renunciation of the World. He did not compromise on anything.

    So, in short, it’s a straw man.

    • JC

      1) You are mixing up several scriptures, there are no texts which specifically say what you just said. Jesus said “Suffer the children to come to me” and he said that whatever we do for the “least of these” is done for him, but neither of those verses says “accepts a child accepts him.”
      2) This should show enough that your exegetical approach is invalid.
      3) John didn’t compromise anything and didn’t use one evilalone as his focus. That’s the point.

  • L.T.

    Mr. Karlson, are you saying that John the Baptist didn’t preach against abortion, therefore we shouldn’t make such a big deal of it?

    Jesus didn’t call the Forerunner great for preaching against abortion or euthanasia, but the Baptizer sure gave Herod Antipas a lot of hell for his sexual choices. Herod didn’t like how John was putting his rosaries on Herodias’ ovaries, as I recall.

    John is the Prodromos of Christ and therefore our forerunner. He embodies Israel’s call to repentance. He is the only human on record to have rejoiced in the coming of the Lord from the womb. Maybe that has something to do with BOTH why he is the greatest among men and a cause for the Church’s opposition to Herod Obama’s pro-choice ideology. He has his head on a platter to show for it. What’s your point?

    • L.T.

      No, that is not what I said. Indeed, I am against abortion and work against abortion. What I am saying is that we should remember the proper place abortion should play, and note that there are more primary concerns, from which abortion comes out. When people raise it as THE only concern, and then, in every discussion bring it up “but what about abortion?!?!!” so as to criticize any concern which isn’t abortion, then I say, let’s be clear where this leads. That’s all. My point is that for the Christian — we are concerned about sin, the structures of sin, the causes for abortion, abortion, the homeless, the famished, the abused, the tortured, the sick, the needy, et. al. And we must be clear that the struggle is against sin in all its manifestations — if you focus and think that ONLY abortion matters, then one has a problem. See Nate’s writing.

      So, let’s remind ourselves that the Christian life is about. What the life of holiness about. Stop doing the “criticism of abortion” on everyone if they discuss something other than abortion (or else criticize John, Jesus, Mary, the Apostles, et. al likewise). Be consistent and see where it leads. If people don’t know the why and how of abortion, and only look at abortion, they would welcome great evil, I fear, if that evil said “but I will stop abortion.”

  • David Nickol

    HERESY ALERT

    If God could fix it so that at least one person (actually, two) could be conceived without original sin, and that another person could be cleansed of original sin in the womb, why didn’t God just eliminate original sin from the world? Why do we need baptism?

    Or suppose God had just provided for Noah, in anticipation of his being the only good man in the world, to be conceived without original sin. Then all of his descendants would be free of original sin.

    Since we haven’t the vaguest idea of what original sin is or was, or who committed it, these kinds of discussions seem rather strange to me. As best I understand it, the Church’s concession to modern science is that it is not necessary to believe the human race is in a fallen state because the parents of the human race, Adam and Eve, committed a sin. Rather, it is acceptable to believe that the parents of the human race were two other people with different names who did something that is metaphorically described in the story of Adam and Eve.

    It seems to be widely speculated in studies about the historical Jesus that John the Baptist inspired Jesus to begin his public life.

  • David Nickol

    We don’t have that many teachings of John recorded. We do have teachings of Jesus recorded where he says that anyone who accepts a child accepts Him, and anyone who does not accept a child (i.e., those who use contraception or abuse NFP) is unworthy of the Kingdom.

    JC,

    Could you give us chapter and verse, please?

    I really doubt that any of the sayings of Jesus are about contraception and NFP.

  • David Nickol

    While the massacre of the innocents was done, other kinds of death were not.

    Henry,

    Are we to take the story of the massacre of the innocents literally, or are we to accept it as a metaphorical way of saying that Jesus was a new Moses? Or does it make a difference?

    • David,

      On the one hand, for the message of the post, it doesn’t make a difference here… because the point is that John’s methodology as shown in Scripture (and Tradition) as well as Jesus’ methodology as shown in Scripture (and Tradition) runs contrary to the way we see many who engage the life issues (they engage abortion, but ignore other life issues; and they ignore the greater issue, sin, for the sake of one evil, allowing greater evil to come about because of it).

      On the other hand, Jesus as the new Moses is a possible symbol only if he meets the metaphor in reality. And I would say something did indeed happen.

  • David Nickol

    Henry,

    Another question. After all the alleged connections between John the Baptist and Jesus, starting with John leaping in his mother’s womb to the various Gospel accounts of John baptizing Jesus, how can we explain the later Gospel story of John sending emissaries to Jesus to ask him if he is “the one who is to come”? Every previous indication is that John would already know the answer.

    • David,

      John was not omniscient and did have his “kenosis” and “trial of faith.” A good book on John is Bulgakov’s “Friend of the Bridegroom.” and this question if I remembered correctly is significantly addressed (my John-studies have been minor, and it’s been awhile since I read this work; but, I think I’ve seen some say the issue of doubt connects him in some way to Christ in the cross).

  • Zak

    Henry,
    Can you take a swing at David’s question, “If God could remove the stain of original sin from John, and prevent it from touching Mary, why wouldn’t he do it for the rest of us?” I’ve been asked this before and I had no answer.

  • Zak

    It’s a difficult question because there are many things needed to be established on different levels before a final response could be made: I figure min of 100 pages to really get to the issue.

    Of course, one could do the standard “it was fitting” answer — which works, to a limited degree. Anything else though would take a lot to answer it. Issues of what sacraments are and are not, what original sin and is not, the role of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments, the role of the Holy Spirit in the cleansing of Mary and John from sin, the role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of anyone, how we might explain how those who of no fault of their own might be saved, the role of eternity and its relationship with time, etc.

    Maybe one day I will tackle this — but it would take a lot of time and work to get it right. And would require patience with things which might not seem to deal with the issue. So, I agree it is a good question — but the thing is, it is too good, if you know what I mean.

  • Zak

    Yes, I do. If you ever do address, it good luck (or may God be with you)!

    • Zak

      Thanks. I am sure one of these days, if God blesses me with long enough life, and the energy to do so, I will get to it. I am waiting for my copy of Bulgakov’s “Burning Bush” which I hope will give me some new ideas on this topic. Maybe I will even find a quote for a quote of the week in it.

  • David Nickol

    John was not omniscient and did have his “kenosis” and “trial of faith.”

    Henry,

    Thanks for your response. I guess I am a bit more skeptical of the historicity of these incidents. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary for example, says of Matthew 11:2-6

    These verses contain a school debate, probably of postresurrection origin, over the nature of Jesus’ mission, held between the disciples of JBap and Christians.

    J.C. Fenton’s Saint Matthew, a volume from The Pelican New Testament Commentaries, says the following:

    Some commentators have built up out of this paragraph a fascinating picture of the state of John’s mind as he lay in prison: how he began to doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah, and even perhaps to wonder whether he himself was the messenger sent to prepare his way. Psychological reconstructions are uncertain at any time when we have only Gospel material out of which to build them, because Gospel material was not concerned with such matters . . . .

    We can be fairly certain that Matthew was not wanting to tell us about John, but about Jesus, his works, and the possibility of faith or offense. If Matthew had wanted to tell us about John, we should have expected to hear from him what happened when the messengers returned to the Baptist: did he believe, or did he go on doubting? But there is no word on this.

    I am very historical-critical, but a lot more critical than historical!

    • David

      I have several problems with the “historical-critical” approach, in that, it often seems to be a presumption “x wasn’t history therefore, let me find a way to justify saying it wasn’t history.” I am not saying it is always that way, but often it comes from that position. And some of the justifications doesn’t work as people might think. For example, even if it is true that we see a post-resurrection debate over the nature of Jesus’ mission via those who followed John and those who followed Jesus, some would think that using facts would help with such debate (look at the debate over the nature of Obama on here; facts are used, no?).

  • JC

    Henry,

    I’m tempted to repay your insult with an insult, but here’s
    Mark 9:37: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.”
    I fully admit the part about rejecting a child is my extrapolation, but that is what I hear every time I hear the passage read at Mass, and then I look it up, and it doesn’t say that. Do with that what you will.

    My point was we don’t know enough about John to know what moral evils he condemned, other than Herod’s adulterous relationship. And most Americanist Catholics of the Republican and Democratic Parties would consider that a “private matter” and call St. John “judgemental” and accuse him of “detraction” if he were alive today.

    David Nikols,
    Read _Theology of the Body_.

    • JC that still doesn’t say you claimed… and we do know enough about John to know who he was, what his mission was, and to point out what he considered was most important. That’s the point, if you can think this through. The issue is that sin as sin is the most important thing.

  • grega

    Henry you hopefully know that you will not be able to answer Zak’s question in any number of pages.
    Perhaps the God of Einstein – as I recently read in a different context – can be of help here.
    If you prefer to faithfully muse about the various ‘mysteries’ of our religion however – ignorance is bliss – it’s a bit silly to even pretend there is any reasoning or rationale behind a concept like “Original Sin” that you as a human being could decode.

    • Grega

      Not true; do not confuse “comprehensive, full explanation with nothing missing” with “can’t give any reasoning or rational.” I know many things about you, but I can’t tell people what goes on in your head. Yet, just because I don’t know what is in your head doesn’t mean I can’t have rational things to discuss about you.

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  • JC

    Henry,

    1. Jesus says if you welcome a child, you welcome Him. How does it not say that?? A person who uses contraception is not welcoming a child. It’s obvious to anyone whose soul has not been corrupted by modern American “Catholic” universities like Notre Dame and Christendom College.

    2. You are making a very Protestant case here, that “sin is sin,” such that lying about eating a piece of chocolate is as bad as genocide, as the Lutherans teach.

    Again, the standard Jesus presents for John is not valid to your argument, because the Church interprets “children of men” to mean “those outside the Church.”

    Yet John very openly condemned the most seroius sin of his political leader. So, obviously, the most obvious sin of the political leader was the most obvious sin to him.

    In either case, Our Holy Mother Church has *told* us, in numerous documents _Mater et Magistra_, _Humanae Vitae_, _Evangelium Vitae_, etc., that contraception and abortion are the greatest threats to society today, fundamentally undermining everything.

    These should be our top priorities, as they are the preeminent sins of our era–all other offenses against human life stem from the mentality behind these sins, the mentality that does not “welcome a child.”

  • grega

    Well certainly you are free to draw all kinds of conclusions about your fellow brothers and sisters. But the type of question that starts out with “If God could….” can obviously only be addressed within a strictly human context. Yes I do not doubt that you can write a beautiful composed and written 100 page Essay – it likely will even make for an interesting read from all I can tell from your past writings -but it will not answer the sort of question that was pondered by Zak and David in any meaningful and lasting way.
    It will always be a write up of your very temporary personal state of mind around. Not that there is anything wrong with that sort of limitation.

    For me the God of Einstein has enormous appeal and personally I find this world a much more enjoyable and coherent place intellectually if one leaves strained constructs like “Adam and Eve” “Original Sin”, “Immaculate conception” behind. But hey that is just me on April 30th 2009 .