Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hmm...saints come in many different forms

My last post mentions ST. Paul was a zealous religious/political fanatic, who approved of the political killing of St. Stephen, but turned to Christ.

And today is St. Luke...an educated Greek, a doctor, which means he had scientific training (Hippocrates attributes disease to natural causes, even epilepsy and hysteria/mental illesses). As a doc, he is more aware of and sympathetic to women (who of course make up a lot of doctor's patients)...and wrote down Mary's stories, either directly from Mary of from those who heard her tell the stories over and over again.

Luke is the patron of doctors, but also a humanist, in that human welfare is important to him...no flights of fancy like John, no theology like Paul. Just the facts, and he checked out the stories to make sure.

But the day before was the feast of Margaret Mary. She was either schizoid or simple schizophrenic...heaven help her superior for having to put up with her. Yet her visions of the Sacred Heart (a devotion that goes back to the scripture and then revived by the visions of St. Gertrude) came at a time when the pure Jansenists were threatening the church with purification...

How could one oppose such pure lives? well, for one thing, they were proud and self righteous and made God a boogey man who demanded you follow strict rules...sounds good to a church that was full of sin, but they overdid it...and so the Jesuits used the devotion that was revived by Margaret Mary's visions to remind people of Christ's love and mercy.

Of course, by the 1950's, this had often degenerated to sentimental pictures of Jesus with his heart...so the sophisticated folks that decided to remake the church using Vatican II as an excuse threw out Jesus with his heart hanging out along with statues of Mary and the crucifix and the rosary.

But then, a funny thing happened.

Back in the 1930's, a semi literate Polish cook named Sister Faustina had visions of Christ, showing rays of mercy coming from his heart, (but no heart) and was told to make a picture of it and spread the message that his love and mercy for sinners was great.

Now, Faustina got punctuation wrong and when the Italians read the translation of her diary, it sounded like she was doing a lot of things that actually in the original was Jesus' telling her these thing. The Vatican, not realizing the problem, stopped the devotion in the 1950's....end of story...except it wasn't.

Years later, the bishop, who came from her town and knew the story, arranged a new translation that was sensitive to the fact that Faustina's grammar and punctuation was not perfect. And this time, the Vatican approved the devotion...and it spread all over, especially when that same bishop became Pope.

There is a large painting of Jesus the Divine Mercy in the back of our church...well, this is the Philippines, so we still have statues...of the Sacred Heart, of the Divina Pastora, of Lorenzo Ruiz in his Barong shirt, etc...and the large painting of the Divine Mercy.

Those writing the story of the 20th and 21st century may very well not know all the politicians who talk and talk, or of the latest Hollywood star or singer, but they will probably know the story of John Paul II and the fall of Communism, and the story of how a little nun reminded a merciless world that God's love was great for everyone, even sinners.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Would you justify torture if it would save the Pope?

JohnAllen's essay discusses one of the priests martyred in the Spanish revolution and up for sainthood had watched and encouraged guards beating up a prisoner during the Philippine revolution.

Should such a man be sainted?
Umm...that was at least 30 years earliers, so presumably he repented his sin...I mean, St. Paul encouraged those who stoned Stephen to death, and look how he turned out...

But later in the article, it brings up another case, when a terrorist cell that had already bombed one airline had a fire in their apartment, and torture allowed police to find out about a plot to kill the pope...

It was part of Operation Bojinka...which had bombed Philippine buildings, a Philippine airline, and plans to simultaneously bomb other airplanes all at once, while flying other planes into buildling.

As Allen relates:

This was five days before John Paul II was due to arrive in the Philippines for World Youth Day, so the police suspected a plot against the pope. Murad refused to cooperate, and, according to news reports, was subjected to various forms of torture: most of his ribs were broken, cigarettes were extinguished on his genitals, he was forced to sit naked on ice cubes, and water was forced down his throat to simulate drowning. Eventually, Murad revealed details of plans to kill John Paul drawn up by Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti terrorist linked to Al-Qaeda who was among the architects of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Murad also provided information about a scheme to blow up 11 commercial airliners, and to fly another plane into the headquarters of the CIA.


Allen then goes on to question: Would the pope approve of torture if he was aware of a similar situation?

The answer is: Of course not...

But Allen has the courage to point out another point: The bomb planned to kill the Pope would have killed scores, if not hundreds, of visitors and Filipinos...

Would a pope feel obliged to try to persuade the police not to use torture, given Catholic teaching on the subject? Would the pope even have the right to express such a position - especially if, as in the Murad case, he was not the only intended victim?

The Filipino police had the responsibility to protect their fellow citizens, and were less sophisticated in theology. They are pragmatic, and were aware of other bombings, and knew the Pope was due in five days. So they applied torture, but the final straw was actually not the torture but a threat: that they were going to take him to Israel for interrogation.

As a result of the information, the Pope's motorcade was changed to having him travel via helicopter to the platform to say Mass...the cover story being that the roads had too many people to make a motorcade safe (A million people attended the mass).

So in this case, was torture justified?

Allen carefully notes that many experts think that the suspect would have broken under routine interrogation without physical pain being applied. And perhaps they are right.

But there are just too many nice people living in nice houses in affluent neighborhoods or countries that look down on those primitive enough to think that a restrained force is needed to keep evil in place. They think placing a sign saying: No Guns, or "this is a nuclear free zone" or "rule of law" will keep them safe. Nope, we don't need cops and soldiers and other heroes...we'll just talk like reasonable people and settle things that way.

Oh, I used to agree...until a bunch of World Council of Churches supported freedom fighters walk into my friends' hospital and robbed her and shot her and all the patients who didn't run fast enough.

If I am the one who is to die, then no torture, no guns. But if torture would allow the police to save the lives of the innocent, then I am on the side of the interrogaters, although I am very worried about the "slippery slope" implications of this.

But what would the Pope say? Priests, like doctors, are not naive. They are aware of the terrible evils that men are capable of doing. But I'm sure the Pope would say No.

He would say: No, torture is wrong, even if it saved my life. And even if other will die because we will not do this evil deed, then this is in God's hands.

There is a subtle difference in his logic.

The naive say: no torture, because we can get confessions without it.

The pragmatic will say: No, we need to save innocent lives.

But the Christian says: we are only responsible for our own deeds, not the deeds of others. We may not do a bad deed even if we are fairly sure that good will come of it. So we cannot abort a child whose mother is in distress, nor can we steal because we are hungry, nor can we harm a prisoners who is helpless.

We will act ethically, knowing that even if short term harm comes from someone else's deeds, because the first rule is to obey God. God is the one in charge, not us.

Because God is in charge. God cannot stop men from doing evil, but He can make things happen that are less evil...like making the planes hit the Twin Towers on election day, when many came to work late, and before the tourists arrived. Or having a hot plate short circuit, and then having the Manila firemen notice something suspicious in the apartment...

So if the Filipino police had acted as Christians, and not used torture, perhaps the suspect would have confessed. But what if he hadn't, and the Pope was wounded and killed, along with dozens of pilgrims?
Well perhaps the world would have destroyed a budding Al qaeda years before the larger number deaths of September 11, and all the terror attacks in London, Madrid, Mumbai would not have occured.

But there is another problem with using torture: The US security system, knowing the Filipino police used torture, did not take the evidence seriously.

The information was shared with the American government who promptly ignored it, and so a later version of the plot to fly airliners into buildings, did succeed...

The ultimate irony

Friday, October 05, 2007

Mother Angelica

I am just finishing reading the biography of Mother Angelica.
Hmm...sounds like the devil got hold of the "middle management" (i.e. some bishops and a lot of the church bureaucracy) and thought he was in charge.
And God only got hold of a nun in Alabama.

It reminds me of Sister Nadine's story: she asked God: What does America need? One saint was the answer.

Funny....but to those of us more "educated" and "sophisticated" she is both shrewd and funny and delusional, figuring God "told" her these things...on the other hand, sometimes you just know certain things you are supposed to do, and from a cynical sense they don't make sense either.

The really good news is that she didn't get excommunicated, like Mary McKillop, or threatened with the Inquisition, like Teresa of Avila.