Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Scripture Passages for Judges

July 11, 2016

Today, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker appointed my father, Charles V. Feltes, as the new Circuit Court Judge of Trempealeau County. Judge Feltes will be sworn in this August. If he wins election in April 2017, he will serve a six year term. Our family is very proud and I offer him these timeless passages from Sacred Scripture containing wisdom for judges:

Deuteronomy 1:17

In rendering judgment, do not consider who a person is; give ear to the lowly and to the great alike, fearing no one, for the judgment is God’s.

Leviticus 19:15

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbor justly.

Bas-Relief of Moses in the U.S. House of Representatives ChamberExodus 23:3

You shall not favor the poor in a lawsuit.

Exodus 23:6

You shall not pervert justice for the needy among you in a lawsuit.

Exodus 23:7

You shall keep away from anything dishonest.

Exodus 23:8

Never take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and distorts the words of the just.

Exodus 23:2

You shall not follow the crowd in doing wrong… you shall not follow the crowd in perverting justice.

1st Kings 3:4-15

The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, because that was the great high place. Upon its altar Solomon sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings. In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said: Whatever you ask I shall give you. Solomon answered: “You have shown great kindness to your servant, David my father, because he walked before you with fidelity, justice, and an upright heart; and you have continued this great kindness toward him today, giving him a son to sit upon his throne. Now, LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed David my father; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act—I, your servant, among the people you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, a listening heart to judge your people and to distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to give judgment for this vast people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased by Solomon’s request. So God said to him: “Because you asked for this—you did not ask for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies—but you asked for discernment to know what is right—I now do as you request. I give you a heart so wise and discerning that there has never been anyone like you until now, nor after you will there be anyone to equal you. In addition, I give you what you have not asked for: I give you such riches and glory that among kings there will be no one like you all your days. And if you walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and commandments, as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Solomon awoke; it was a dream! He went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, sacrificed burnt offerings and communion offerings, and gave a feast for all his servants.

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The Catechism on Current Events

June 19, 2016

On June 12, 2016, a gunman murdered 49 persons at a gay nightclub in Orlando. Discussions of terrorism and new gun control laws have followed. Below are teachings from The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

On Murder & Terrorism (CCC 2268, 2297)

The fifth commandment forbids direct and intentional killing as gravely sinful. The murderer and those who cooperate voluntarily in murder commit a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.

Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity.

On Persons with Same-Sex Attractions (CCC 2357-2359)

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

On Government Authority (See CCC 1897-1927)

Every human community needs an authority to govern it. … Its role is to ensure as far as possible the Common Good of the society. The authority required by the moral order derives from God… (see Romans 13:1-2.) [Authority] must not behave in a despotic manner, but must act for the Common Good as a moral force based on freedom and a sense of responsibility. A human law has the character of law to the extent that it accords with right reason, and thus derives from the eternal law. … If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, “authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse.” (Pope St. John XXIII) The Common Good consists of three essential elements: respect and promotion of the fundamental rights of the person; development of the spiritual & temporal goods of society; and the peace & security of society and its members.

On Legitimate Self-Defense (CCC 2263-2264)

The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. … The one is intended, the other is not.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: “If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. … Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Moral Principles & Just War

July 23, 2015

St. Paul providentially wrote,

“[W]hy not say — as we are accused and as some claim we say — that we should do evil that good may come of it? Their penalty is what they deserve.” (Romans 3:8)

In this passage, the Holy Spirit led St. Paul to denounce the idea that having a good goal in mind can ever justify using immoral means to achieve it. God’s most basic commandment is heard in every human conscience: “Do good, avoid evil.” We must never do evil in hopes that good may result. If we do, there is no guarantee that our hoped for goal will come to pass, but we will have surely allied ourselves (in some measure) with evil by opposing God’s will.

A second moral principle (which frees us as it binds) is this: we must never intentionally kill the innocent, for this is murder. All human life is sacred and precious, which makes any decision to wage war a most serious one. Catholic Just War doctrine teaches that all of the following conditions must hold for a war to be morally just:

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.
  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective.
  3. There must be serious prospects of success.
  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.
    (See The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2309)

B-24 BomberEven if all of these conditions are met and a country goes justly off to battle, enemy civilians must not be targeted. It is inevitable that some innocents will die in the chaos of war; sometimes bombs dropped over a military target will accidentally hit homes nearby. But it is something very different to intentionally aim for the civilians in hopes of killing as many as possible. This is a war crime. It is murder. “But what if murdering civilians will end the war faster and save more lives in the end?” (*) This is the tempter’s promise, but God’s commandment remains without exception: ‘You shall not become a murderer.’

I do not share these moral principles to condemn any previous wartime generation. God knows it is hard do what is right in times of stress and fear; and only He can judge hearts. I share these teachings because history shows that even in peacetime we stand between wars. When the next conflict threatens we must judge aright whether it must be fought, and if so, guard that the war does not make casualties our souls.

Three Crosses Line Break

( * – Some may claim that if enemy civilians are working, paying taxes, and not in rebellion against their government, then they are legitimate military targets, since they are aiding the enemy. Such thinking abandons the distinctions between combatants and non-combatants, condoning all sorts of evils. A similar case could be made for summarily-executing enemy prisoners of war, since their captivity aids the enemy by diverting our wartime resources. )

Generosity & Envy — 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

September 21, 2014

Readings: Isaiah 22:6-9; Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a

DenariusHe woke up while it was still dark and kissed his wife while she slept.

He dressed and left home quietly, so as not to wake up the children across the room.

He walked into town and came to the large market square, where the venders were already setting up shop, and day laborers like himself were congregating.

At dawn, landowners came to hire men to harvest their vineyards and fields.

He was left behind, yet he did not leave.

Hopefully, someone would hire him at noon for at least a half-day’s work.

Three o’clock came, and he was still standing there unemployed, refusing to go home. How could he go home… empty-handed?

Around five o’clock, a landowner found him and asked, “Why do you stand here idle all day?”

Speaking for those standing with him he answered, “Because no one has hired us.”

The landowner said to them, “You too go into my vineyard.”

When it was evening, the vineyard owner had his foreman summon the harvesters and pay them—in this he was abiding by the command in the book of Leviticus, “You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your laborer.”

When he received his pay, the man thought there had been some mistake.

Though he worked only an hour, he had been given a silver denarius coin, the standard pay for a full day’s work.

He badly wanted to leave with it, but he was a righteous man, and quietly approached the foreman.

But the foreman reassured him—there had been no mistake!

Oh, the joy he felt! For tonight and tomorrow, his family would not be hungry.

*  *  *  *  *

Was the landowner unfair in the treatment of his workers? At the beginning of the day, the Greek text says the landowner achieved ‘harmonious agreement’ with the labors regarding the usual daily wage. This was not fraud nor exploitation, but a just wage for an honest day’s work. Were the later workers been idle due to laziness? No, they honestly say, but “because no one has hired us.”

Let us revisit the landowner’s arguments in his own defense: he said to one of the grumblers in reply, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?” The landowner was not being unfair, he was being generous. He kept the precept of Leviticus, which ensured that poor laborers would not be deprived of their daily bread overnight, but he also kept the command which comes in Leviticus five verses later: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Would the grumblers have been happier if the coins were taken back from the hands of all of the one hour workers? Yes, and no. For the envious person is not happy until everyone is unhappy like himself. And even then, he is still unhappy. What if the grumblers had had perfect hearts? Then they would have been concerned about those unchosen workers, as impoverished as themselves, that were left behind in the marketplace, and upon seeing those latecomers receive a full daily wage they would be happy and relieved for them. But these grumblers’ thoughts were not God’s thoughts, and their ways were not his ways.

Saint Augustine in his Study by Botticelli, 1480Beware of envy. Envy is sadness at the sight of another’s blessings and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, when envy wishes grave harm to a neighbor, it is a mortal sin. St. Augustine rightly called envy “the diabolical sin,” for the book of Wisdom tells us that “by the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” St. Augustine observed, “From envy are born hatred, detraction, slander, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.”

What is envy’s antidote or preventative vaccine? A good will towards all people, and rejoicing in their blessings and happiness as much as your own. Do you feel envious out of fear or resentment that there may not enough good things for you? Remember that the landowner in today’s parable, who ensures that his laborers receive their daily bread, represents God, who provides for the needs of those who serve him. As the psalmist says, “The Lord is near to all who call upon him.”

In Jesus’ parable, the landowner represents God, the laborers are those who faithfully serve him, and the equal pay they receive is salvation, eternal life, the reward of Heaven. Does this mean that all who serve God receive an equal reward? Once again, the answer is yes, and no. Each is given Heaven, but not all souls enjoy the same glory there. In our second reading, St. Paul says, “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” He is not sure if he would rather live or die (“I do not know which I shall choose”) because death means peaceful rest with Christ, while more labor in life means a greater reward.

St. ThereseWhen St. Therese of Lisieux was a little girl, she was rather put out to learn that not all souls enjoy the same glory in heaven. For the young, fairness means simple sameness. Her older sister, Pauline, told her to fetch a thimble and her father’s water tumbler and to fill both of them to the top with water. Pauline then asked her which one was fuller. St. Therese saw that every soul in heaven is filled to its brim and can hold no more; each being full of God and completely happy. In Heaven, there is enough love, glory, and happiness for everyone, even if we grow and develop different capacities for these while on earth.

So who will have the largest capacity in Heaven? Who will hold the most glory? I believe, as Jesus says, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” The greatest glory will not go to those who are focused on who is first and greatest, but to those interested in promoting in the greater glory of all.

God’s angels have different degrees of glory and power, yet they find delight in one another. They have labored for the Lord since the beginning of time, yet they rejoice that God has been generous with us latecomers and included us in his work. Let us be like our angels, who happily pray for us and aid us, so that we might attain a glory greater than their own. Let us pray that others might become holier than us, provided we become as holy as we ought.

Q&A on Indulgences

March 22, 2014

What is an indulgence?

An indulgence cancels before God the temporal punishment due for forgiven sins.

Forgiven sins can have punishments?

The forgiveness of sin absolves its eternal punishment; that is, restores our friendship with God and saves us from Hell. However, “temporal punishment” remains for sin for the purpose of the soul’s rehabilitation and to satisfy justice. This is why the priest in the confessional gives you a penance to do after you leave with all your sins absolved. Recall what Nathan told King David after the Lord forgave him (2 Samuel 12:9-14.) Even after forgiveness, there may be punishments to be paid.

What is the difference between a “plenary” & “partial” indulgence?

A plenary indulgence remits all temporal punishment due to sin, while a partial indulgence remits some of it. Note that sin’s temporal punishments are not synonymous with all of sin’s consequences. For instance, even after a plenary indulgence, we all still experience in our flesh the primeval consequence of sin: physical death.

How can the Church offer to do this?

The Church has authority from Christ to loosen and to bind, on earth and in Heaven. (Matthew 18:18) Thus, after sins are forgiven, she can satisfy remaining debts by drawing on and applying before God the superabundant merits won by Christ and his saints.

So the Church still grants indulgences?

In the 1500’s, some indulgences were granted for performing the charitable act of donating to the Church. The way some used the “sale” of indulgences as a fund-raising strategy scandalized many (including Martin Luther.) The Church abolished this means of gaining indulgences, but other means remain available.

How do I gain a plenary indulgence?

All plenary indulgences require the following:

  1. Go to confession.
  2. Receive the Holy Eucharist.
  3. Pray for the pope’s intentions (e.g., an Our Father & a Hail Mary)
  4. Do the indulgenced act in a state of grace and intending to gain the indulgence.
  5. And have no intention to sin again, even venially.

      (Note: One confession can be utilized for indulgences twenty days before or after, but each indulgence requires a distinct holy communion.)

What acts carry a plenary indulgence?

They include, among others:

  1. Visit the Most Blessed Sacrament for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Read the Bible for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pray the Stations of the Cross.
  4. Pray one Rosary (five decades) in a church or as a family group.
  5. Pray the “Prayer Before a Crucifix” on a Friday in Lent after communion.
  6. Adore the crucifix liturgically on Good Friday.
  7. Visit a cemetery and pray for the dead on any day between November 1st and 8th.
  8. Worship at a First Communion Mass.
  9. Worship at a priest’s Mass of Thanksgiving (aka, “First Mass”)
  10. Hear sermons at a parish mission and be present for its solemn close.

Many other acts can also gain partial indulgences.

How often & for whom can I gain an indulgence?

One plenary indulgence can be gained daily and applied to oneself or to a deceased person. There is no limit for how many partial indulgences you can gain for yourself or a deceased person, and this type does not require the conditions of confession, communion, or prayers for the pope’s intentions. (Thanks to Pussywillowpress for the clarifying note below.)

Measures of Mercy — Monday, 2nd Week of Lent

March 17, 2014

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

Last year, a teenage posted a photo on the internet of an unrolled tape measure along side the 11-inch “footlong” sandwich he had bought. The corporate response was not one of the great moments in public relations history; they said that “footlong” was a trademark term, rather than a measurement of length. The negative consumer backlash to this went viral and the corporation pledged that every foot-long would henceforth be 12-inches.

In 12th century England, there were strict laws to punish bakers who sold undersized loaves. In response, the bakers would throw in an additional loaf with every dozen to safeguard their liberty.  The baker’s dozen (of 13) was born and their customers were happy. It is wiser to error on the side of generosity with others, in both the world of business and the realm mercy.

Commerce has been linked to mercy by the Lord in both Testaments. In Old Testament Israel, merchants would use cups and weights to measure out their products to customers. Sometimes, to increase their profits, unscrupulous sellers would manipulate these measures to their advantage, as the Lord describes through the prophet Amos:

“When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, And the sabbath, that we may open the grain-bins? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the destitute for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the worthless grain we will sell!”

Such cheating was especially abhorrent to the Lord because it most exploited the poor and vulnerable. Today, Jesus tells his disciples that they should be generous with their measurements of mercy if they do not wish to be condemned:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Without rejecting the truth, or declaring evil to be good, we need to be patient and forgiving with others if we wish to be shown mercy. As St. James says, “judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; [but] mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Uniquely Different — October 28 — Sts. Simon and Jude

November 3, 2010

[Jesus] called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve,
whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter…
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

In the early days of their ministry, whenever Jesus called out for ‘Simon’ or ‘Judas,’ more than one head may have turned. Among Jesus’ apostles there were two Simon’s and two Judas’. There was Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot, and Judas (or Jude) the son of James and Judas Iscariot the betrayer. Though these pairs shared the same names and the same calling to be apostles, they were different in important ways.

Simon Peter was called to be the Rock, the leader of the apostles and of the nascent Church. Simon the Zealot may have shared his zeal, but he was not meant to have the same role as Peter. Each saint’s apostleship was unique to him.

Sometimes Christians who eagerly desire to be saints themselves strive to impersonate their favorite holy heroes. We do well to learn from the lived examples of the saints, for St. Paul did say, “Be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ,” but there can truly be only one St. Paul, one St. Francis, or one St. Therese of Lisieux. Every saint in history has been unique, and every future saint will be, too.

The two Judas’ teach us a lesson, too. Even after years of preaching the Gospel, I can imagine some people felt an initial uncertainty towards Judas the son of James. Intellectually, Christians would know that this apostle could not possibly be Judas the betrayer (because he one took his own life,) yet they might feel wary about this “Judas” in their midst.

Sometimes our feelings toward other people are influenced by who they remind us of. For instance, if you meet someone whose face resembles a person who has hurt you in the past, you may be involuntarily uncomfortable around them. In psychology, this shift of emotions from one person or thing to another is called transference. This is the stuff that prejudice is made of, and the good apostle, Judas, caught some of its unjust, negative effect.

Though the apostles shared names and a common calling, they were unique individuals. The two Simons teach us that each is called to live out their own, unique, holy life. The two Judas’ teach us that we must always receive others in their own personal uniqueness.