Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

I am slowly deciphering some of the written materials left by the late Msgr. William J. Awalt. For review and comments, they are being posted at my BLOGGER PRIEST site.


Msgr. Awalt was the pastor of St. Ann’s Church in NW Washington , DC for just over 30 years, retiring in the year 2000. I was honored to preach at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a priest in 2007. His pastorate was marked by a deep devotion to the Eucharist and a never-ending preoccupation with preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith.

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There is a longing in every one of us for God. Yes, some deny this longing, as if creation itself is a cosmic joke and sentience merely an evolutionary fluke that compounds our potential for pain and despair. I cannot believe in such a universe and would not want to live in such a cosmos. Others redirect this longing toward a desire for seemingly more attainable practical goods. But this route never suffices for long and we find ourselves wanting a joy that seems forever out of our reach. The Archdiocese of Washington has based its entire Lenten appeal upon this longing for meaning and happiness that cannot be adequately satisfied by the world. This yearning moves our hearts and minds to the divine transcendent— something beyond mortality, beyond our categories of space and time. I have focused on this infinite desire since I was a small sickly child. There had to be something more than suffering, loss and the specter of death. I wanted to know the answers: not only about questions like why the sky was blue but also where was heaven and did God hear my prayers? I suppose that is why today I have such a love for theology and philosophy and the deepest respect for the sciences. People are often surprised that my shelf includes not only the books and media one would expect of a priest, but also works on evolution, physics, biology, anthropology, and astronomy. There is no consensus in the titles to which I refer but I have come to regard each as having a contribution to answering the ultimate questions. Instead of seeing the sciences as a threat to belief, I regard them as companions to the honest believer (on the journey) who is not afraid of truth; no matter from what source it arises. Faith may be regarded by some as a tremendous presumption, but if so I would also contend alongside it the claims that we live in a rational universe, that truth is objective, and that there is an intelligent source for all that exists. I share with certain scientists the wild presumption that human minds might grasp something of creation’s greatest mysteries, no matter whether they be related to string theory or that the Great Absolute and Infinite Designer himself became incarnate in a lowly carpenter from Nazareth.

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It may be if you live long enough, you can see things happen that would have been unimaginable years earlier. As a boy and young man, the matter of atheism was a subject that evoked immediate sentiments of revulsion. Atheism was debated in a civil fashion by philosophers, but at the grass roots, atheists were lumped together with godless pornographers and Communists. Many scientists espoused evolution but this was not yet a topic hijacked by non-believers. Catholics and others who espoused intelligent design made the appropriate accommodations. As for the Big Bang, far from disproving creation, it seemed to reaffirm the faith and the appreciation that at the beginning, God said, LET THERE BE LIGHT. Fundamentalists may have insisted upon a biblical chronology, but the Catholic Church maintained a Vatican astronomer and regarded the Bible as our guide as to how to go to heaven, not as to how the heavens go.

Over the last year I have been surprised at the vigor of the attacks against believers from atheists. The Communist party in the United States is seeking to exploit this phenomenon.  Most atheists I had known were tolerant of believers and recognized we lived within a culture where faith of some sort was important for people and where tolerance should be exhibited. The so-called Blasphemy Challenge seemed fueled, not by a scientific and/or philosophical atheism, but largely by anger and as a knee-jerk reaction to scandals, hypocrisy and fundamentalism from the various denominations of Christianity. Since the Scriptures spoke about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unpardonable sin; young people especially were dared to post a video of such blasphemy. In truth, many of these efforts involved a confused appreciation of religion, since the only true unforgivable sin is a genuine hatred of God that results in suicide. Can people hate what they say they do not believe in? Jesus probably referenced those who discounted the workings of the Holy Spirit in his miracles, healings and the forgiveness of sins. They blasphemed the works of God as having a demonic source. The next stage in the assaults was the so-called Eucharist Challenge where religious terrorists stole the consecrated hosts for desecration. They faulted Catholics for getting upset and for attempts to protect the Eucharist. Indeed, emails and comments sent to me would even deny Catholics the right to believe in the Eucharist. We were mocked as stupid and delusional. While we would claim that everyone has a right to their opinion, these new more militant atheists would shut us down and repress religion. But wait a minute, is that really new? China, Korea, Cuba, and a number of other nations are still operated by the Communist party. Russia looks like it might be racing back toward such a totalitarian regime.

Here is a poster from an anti-Catholic campaign of the Communist Party in the United States:

Here at home the American Communists are supportive of the new atheists and deliberately seeking converts.

  • They encouraged families to see the film, THE GOLDEN COMPASS which mocks the faith and treats God as the great enemy.
  • They attacked Pope Benedict as a NAZI and the Church’s stand against homosexuality as a witch-hunt.
  • They ridicule the Church’s stand for the sanctity of human life as simply making women into egg incubators.
  • They promote Evolution and Creationism, not as part of a serious discussion, but because they vehemently hate religion.

They would persecute and subjugate the faith if they get the chance. Young atheists should not fall prey to their mindset; rather, they should relate to people of faith with a shared sense of human decency and respect of persons. We can disagree but we should not seek to ignite the emotions behind emotions and rhetoric that fuel violence and give rise to the mob. Communism is not only about atheism but about violence to fulfill an ends. It leads to dictatorships and repression. Basic human rights given by nature are stripped away. Communist atheism makes itself the arbiter of right and wrong, based upon the needs of the many and the state but would sacrifice the individual and the weak.

Communist atheism and similar forms of militant atheism as we have experienced recently here in the West represents a real threat to the salvation of souls and the freedoms we hold dear.

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There are critics who insist that we should never compare the Jewish Holocaust of six million Jews with the 930 million reported abortions worldwide in the modern era. There have been some 50 million abortions in the United States alone.


Above is a scene from the film, JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG, where the verdict is given against the judges who went along with the Nazi regime. Note how the words might apply to a contemporary challenge against human dignity and the sanctity of human life.


  • “I still am opposed to public funding for abortion,” he said on Meet the Press in 2007. “It goes to the question of whether or not you’re going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote.”
  • Biden was asked, do you believe that life begins at conception?  He answered:  “I am prepared to accept my Church’s view. I think it’s a tough one. I have to accept that on faith. That’s why the late-term abortion ban, where there’s clearly viability.”
  • Biden voted for the ban on late term abortions.
  • During an April 2007 presidential debate, Senator Biden said, “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.” His actions in the Senate demonstrate his convictions. He worked intensely to try to defeat the nominations of both U.S Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.–PLANNED PARENTHOOD


  • Obama was asked, do you personally believe that life begins at conception?  He responded:  “This is something that I have not come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don’t presume to know the answer to that question. What I know is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”
  • Obama opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion (infanticide).
  • In the Illinois state Senate, he opposed a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of infants mistakenly left alive by abortion.
  • “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” Obama said in his July speech to abortion advocates worried about the increase of pro-life legislation at the state level.  The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) is legislation Obama has co-sponsored along with 18 other senators that would annihilate every single state law limiting or regulating abortion, including the federal ban on partial birth abortion.
  • “Thanks to all of you at Planned Parenthood for all the work that you are doing for women all across the country… I put Roe at the center of my lesson plan on reproductive freedom when I taught Constitutional Law. Not simply as a case about privacy but as part of the broader struggle for women’s equality.”


  • “I am pro-life and an advocate for the Rights of Man everywhere in the world, because to be denied liberty is an offense to nature and nature’s Creator. I will never waver in that conviction.”
  • The misperception is interesting, considering that McCain has not attempted to keep his pro-life views a secret. Here’s how he put it on an appearance last year on NBC’s Meet the Press:   “I have stated time after time after time that Roe v Wade was a bad decision, that I support a woman — the rights of the unborn — that I have fought for human rights and human dignity throughout my entire political career,” McCain said. “To me, it’s an issue of human rights and human dignity.”
  • McCain said he thought Roe v. Wade should be overturned and said he would support exceptions to a ban on abortion in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger.


  • Politicians of all stripes may say they’re pro-life, but it’s quite another thing to put those beliefs into practice with concrete actions. Two pro-life groups say Sarah Palin did that when she rejected an abortion on her physically disabled unborn child and they say it reminds them of the decision John McCain’s family made to adopt a girl from Mother Teresa’s orphanage.
  • In November 2006, then gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin declared that she would not support an abortion for her own daughter even if she had been raped.
  • Granting exceptions only if the mother’s life was in danger, Palin said that when it came to her daughter, “I would choose life.”
  • Palin makes no secret of her abortion views. A member of the group Feminists for Life, she told the Alaska Right to Life Board in 2002 that she “adamantly supported our cause since I first understood, as a child, the atrocity of abortion.”
  • “I believe that no matter what mistakes we make as a society,” she wrote, “we cannot condone ending an innocent’s life.”

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HH = HOST HOSTAGE (a young man whole stole a host and sent it to Dr. Myers for desecration)

FJ = FATHER JOE (a priest upset about the desecrations and disappointed in the people who would do such things)

HH: “I know that you have been hurt, but you seem uninterested in how you have hurt others, including me”

FJ: I have spent my life trying to bring healing to others and you stamp me as guilty of deliberately and callously hurting people?

HH: I too am a little disappointed; in that you chose to remove the link to PZ Myers’ website.

FJ: As for the website link, I try to avoid links to sites that employ vulgar language or long polemics against the Church. As terrible as your YouTube video was, you did not use nasty language as certain others did.

HH: It’s all the more strange, given that you are an active contributor to Dr. Myers’ blog.

FJ: I have never left a comment at his blog. I clicked your link and that was the first time I saw it.

HH: Also, you seem willing to link to my video on YouTube, showing the ‘cracker’ next to a condom! I don’t quite see the logic, but it’s your blog here, and of course you can do as you see fit. There is, of course, a small cost.

FJ: The video is very offensive and sad, but pretty tame without the dialogue. It does remind Catholics that the threat to the Eucharist is real. It furthered the discussion on my own blog, but as I said, I had never seen Dr. Myers’ website.

HH: I’m not interested in hurting people.

FJ: No, I think you are interested in hurting people. I think you want to return pain with pain.

HH: I’m interested in raising consciousness; both among Catholics and the wider community, that it’s time for a change in the ‘Zeitgeist’; that it’s time to hold religious people and religious organisations accountable (and responsible) for their actions; that just because you hold a cross in one hand doesn’t mean that you can do anything you like with the other; that the Roman collar isn’t a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’.

FJ: What you have done polarizes the various sides. We are not talking about sober debate but about acts of religious terrorism. Much is said about threats from Christians, probably mostly idle, but people like yourself have gone out of your way to light the match to the emotions. As for your agenda, I fail to see how atheism represents the raising of human consciousness. Rather, I see it as the ultimate digression into absurdity, an embracing of nihilism and despair.

HH: You say I’ve hurt you. I certainly regret that (if you’re being honest about that then I really do). But I do wonder if you’re equating ‘hurt’ with being forced to grapple with some inconvenient questions.

FJ: Any desecration against our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament pains me. But added to this is my concern for your standing before God. I have practical questions about how we might have better ministered to people like you; but, I would not revisit Catholic doctrine or morality. Such matters are fixed. Truth is not molded into our likeness; rather, we are to discern and then apply ourselves to truth according to its terms. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it is very hard.

HH: In any case, you by your support for the Catholic Church’s policies, that I’ve mentioned before, are hurting me and others. I think I have the right to hit back; if only to wake you up! You feel you have a ‘God given right’ (literally) to use your influence to impose your particular take on morality on the rest of society. I know from my experience living in Ireland (through national debates on divorce and contraception) that, given the opportunity, the Church will stomp all over the moral rights of minority religions and secularists. And, no, I’m NOT doing the same thing……please think a little before you accuse me of that.

FJ: The Church teaches what she feels is in the best interest of others. Like any good parent, she wants her children to be happy and to be in a right relationship with others and with God. Excusing what she knows to be sin and/or immoral would be a failure to love on her part. When people get married they promise each other and God that they will remain together as husband and wife, no matter what. Christ and his Church only insist that we keep our promises. Contraception was condemned by most all churches until 1930. I am firmly convinced that it damages the conjugal union and that it is the handmaid to abortion. It cripples fertility and treats a natural power as a disease. The Church is only one voice in society, but she has the right to profess what she feels is the truth passed down through the centuries.

This, in itself, does no damage to your rights. You and fellow atheists can also express yourselves through dialogue, politics and the media. However, this is not the same as disrupting religious services or absconding with the Eucharist for purposes contrary to what Christ and the Church give to it.

HH: I’ve read a number of your contributions to PZ Myers’s blog and I’ve taken a lot of it on board.

FJ: As I said before, I have never contributed to his blog. Decency would never allow me to write anything on that site.

HH: This may sound a little patronising, but my best guess is that you have a significant problem in understanding that a lot of atheists like myself have a DEEP DEEP sense of morality.

FJ: Given that you are evidently reading someone else, you really are not in a position to say much or anything about me. I tend to think atheism is somewhat crippled in assigning moral weight, given the total disavowal of divine positive law or an objective source for morality. Non-Christians can have strong moral positions, though. The late Pope John XXIII appealed to men and women of good will to respect the natural law in creating a more just and peaceful civil order.

HH: Unlike the greater part of yours, it’s not handed down from on-high. When one leaves the Church one has to forge one’s own sense of what is wrong and what is right. It’s no longer on a plate. EVERYTHING I believe in is as a result of being forced to think deeply about each issue. It’s about setting up some basic foundational principles on which one builds one’s position on everything else. It’s about appreciating the importance of ensuring that those principles are not built on sand. It’s about the joy of trying to do the right thing (and it is a joy!).

FJ: There is no such thing as a morality isolated from the community, no matter whether it be secular or religious. We try to find our own way, but no one walks absolutely alone. What happens is that we decide with whom we will walk. Placing myself in your shoes for a moment, I would contend that stealing hosts from a church or desecrating them is wrong— even if I thought the whole business was silly and that the hosts were still merely pieces of unleavened bread. Here is an instance where I question your moral reflection and activity. We should not become anarchists, doing what we want no matter how offensive to others. What you do in your bedroom might upset me but I have no right to enter your bedroom and invade your privacy. The Mass is the love story for Catholics, and you defiled the object of our love. You can ridicule or debate against the real presence, but defiling the sacrament goes too far.

HH: It’s about the joy of realising that human beings are, by nature, ‘good’. It’s a joy denied to the religious.

FJ: No, this is not true. The Church would say that God’s creation is good although we are hampered by original sin. Maybe because of your Irish background you associate Catholicism with the heresy of Jansenism; but this would be a mistake.

HH: You asked me in a previous reply if I was sure that there wasn’t ’something more’. I’m absolutely honest when I say that I’m 99% sure that there isn’t. I sympathise with Christopher Hitchens when he says that he would hate if there WAS an ‘after-life’; a ‘celestial North Korea’, as he puts it! It took me some years of deep thinking, in my twenties, to come to terms with the fact that when I die I will be no more. It may sound awful to you, but it’s something that time, and some reflection, reconciles. It makes one appreciate the real significance of the Golden Rule; a principle on which Christianity holds no monopoly.

FJ: I must still insist that while I can respect the honest reflection of an atheist, regarding both the scientific and philosophical questions regarding existence and absolute meaning; you show little sign of acknowledgment that people with comparable intelligence might come to very different conclusions. It seems to me that atheism has regressed since the days of Bertrand Russell and the civility with which he debated the Jesuit Copleston.

HH: I did the right thing on July 13th and, no, I don’t think I really hurt you……………if you were to be really honest.

FJ: Your final assessment then is that I am a liar. As a priest who is dedicated to the service of God at the altar and his Eucharist, I am offended and pained beyond words by what you did. As a priest, I am also very concerned about how this affects others, including you. This act will have an impact. It will change you. I am not talking simply about repercussions from the God you reject, but about the callousness in your character— the person you are becoming. You did hurt others. You hurt me. And when we stop caring about such things, we give it a name, “evil”.

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Macie McCartney was technically born twice. I wonder when she will celebrate her birthday? Will she get two cakes? Did she magically become a “person” or not?

Seriously, little Macie McCartney, when only 25 weeks in the womb, had a life-threatening tumor removed by doctors at the Texas Children’s Fetal Center. The surgeons left half the baby in the uterus to conduct the delicate procedure. After removing the grapefruit sized tumor they closed her mother’s abdomen and her development proceeded normally. The baby grew for another ten weeks inside her mother. While only a few places offer such prenatal surgery, it is becoming more commonplace.

It does, however, raise certain ethical concerns:

1. Some secular ethicists argue that the procedure is too expensive and risky; they contend that the child be terminated and that another ovum be fertilized. This position betrays a commodity view of unborn human beings.

2. If such children can legally be aborted, not just partial-birth abortion (really infanticide), then what was Macie’s status after being fully reinserted into the womb? Did she become a citizen protected under law the first time she emerged?

3. If she did not become a citizen with the first birth, was she still liable for termination, in other words, a target for abortion? The same technology that discovered the tumor is often used in the determination as to whether one should or should not murder children.


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I firmly accept the idea as a Christian that there is intelligent design. While I believe that God directly infuses an immortal soul into each human being, Catholicism does not deny that the human body could develop or evolve over time. Similarly, God’s time is not our time and so it is likely that the earth is a lot older than six to ten thousand years. The supernova that exploded, creating the heavily elements and the cosmic stuff of our solar system probably goes back at least five billion years. The earth is estimated at 4.54 billion years old. There is fossil and chemical evidence for microbes and photosynthetic organisms as far back as three-and-a-half billion years ago. While we can speak of dinosaurs hundreds of millions of years ago and primates going back tens of million of years, man has apparently only been around in certain forms for a million or two million years. Modern man or homo sapiens sapiens can be traced back a couple hundred thousand years.

I find nothing here insurmountable for Christian faith. Had the first man and woman not fallen, God could certainly have suspended natural laws. If death in some form existed, it might have been as in the Malacandra of C.S. Lewis, an easy transition that does not breech them from those in the body. It might have been as easy as our own going through a door from one room into another. However, at that very moment when the first man received his high calling, he rebelled and preferred the path of the beast (note that Eve is tempted by a devil in serpent form). The friendship with God is forfeited and death is experienced as alienation and fearfulness.

All truth is complimentary. We should not place faith in opposition to true science. Neither should we elevate science to a religion and make presumptions against Christian faith for which we have no evidence.

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