Sunday, August 21, 2011

World Youth Day Madrid, 9/11, and an Imperfect World

Today is the last day of World Youth Day Madrid. It's a huge event: well over a million folks came from around the world.

Maybe it's because I'm an American: big numbers tend to impress me. Particularly when it's a headcount of people who went to the trouble of traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get together. When the event involves a set of ideals, I think attendance says something about how important the ideals are to the attendees.

However, as the parish priest said this morning, World Youth Day Madrid isn't a 21st century Woodstock. It's about my Lord, Jesus, and the church He founded about two thousand years back. I'll get back to that in another post.

Life, Death, and Getting a Grip

Human life is precious. Sacred. I might not use the word "sacred" on my own authority: but that's what the Church teaches. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258)

When someone goes out of his way to kill thousands of people, I think that's an unhappy thing. When the victims' offense was working and living in a country the killer didn't approve of, I think that's wrong. And a terrible waste.

Almost ten years ago thousands of people died when religious zealots flew airliners into New York City's World Trade Center. Many of them were American citizens, all died because hijackers thought they were striking a blow for their religion.1

I think Al Qaeda may have done more than any preacher to convince some Americans that Islam is a religion of kill-crazed assassins: almost as bad as the Catholic Church. And that's another topic. Topics.2

A reminder of the 9/11 attack showed up at World Youth Day:
"September 11 flag arrives at World Youth Day"
David Kerr, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (August 16, 2011)

"A U.S. flag that has appeared at every World Youth Day over the past decade in remembrance of 9/11 victims has arrived in Madrid.

"The flag originally belonged to the family of a young Catholic woman from Brooklyn who was killed in the 2001 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

" 'This flag was given to the family of Suzanne Geraty,' said Fr. Gerard Sauer, chaplain to the World Youth Day pilgrims from the Brooklyn diocese.

" 'She was a parishioner of mine and I buried her,' he told CNA...."
That article, and an account of a thwarted bombing attempt, reminded me of what Job and Ecclesiastes say in part: good as it is in some ways, this isn't a perfect world.

Pacifists, Warmongers, and Catholics

So, I think human life is sacred, and I'm not happy about the 9/11 attacks. Does that make me a pacifist? Or a war-monger?


I'm a practicing Catholic. I can't be a chauvinistic nationalist who believes world conquest would be a good idea. I can't be a strict pacifist, either: although I think it's possible for a practicing Catholic to let others defend him.

The reason I can't be a pacifist is that I live in a country where, like it or not, I have to decide how to vote at least every two years. (June 29, 2011) That means that I need to consider how the candidates' probable actions in office would - or would not - be consistent with Catholic teaching.

Which does not mean I only vote for Catholics. Dante's virtuous pagans might do. More topics.

Elections, Ethics, and Decisions

I couldn't vote for a candidate who promised to make all Americans join the Catholic Church. Or any other. I also couldn't vote for a candidate who promised to make religion illegal. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)

And, getting back to this post's topic, I have to make an educated guess about how closely a candidate would follow the just war doctrine:
"The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
  • "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • "all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • "there must be serious prospects of success;
  • "the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
"These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the 'just war' doctrine.

"The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2309)
Interestingly, the same criteria apply when fed-up citizens are considering whether or not to overthrow the government. (2243) No, that's not a recipe for liberation theology: and I don't think the United States is even close to a 'storm the castle' scenario. Yet more topics.

"Necessary Competence and Power" - Not Yet

I don't expect to see a perfect world until after the Last Judgment. Yet again more topics.

I do, though, think humanity could do a better job: even while we're dealing with original sin. I've been over that before:
"...We're a very long way from having an 'international authority with the necessary competence and power' to simply arrest someone like Saddam Hussein. (Catechism, 2308)

"Until we have something like Tennyson's 'Parliament of man, the Federation of the world,' we'll have to make do with the United Nations. Or go back to the 'good old days' that led to the 'war to end all wars' - and the war after that one. (March 22, 2011)..."
(June 16, 2011)
Related posts:In the news:
1 I suppose folks will cling to some odd beliefs about the 9/11 attacks for decades. Like this selection:
  • Airliners used in the 9/11 attack were really guided missiles
    • Because President Bush ordered the attack
  • The World Trade Center towers couldn't possibly have collapsed
    • Because they couldn't have
      • That's why
    • So someone blew blew them up
  • The American military blew a hole in the Pentagon
    • I am not making this up
    • Because some windows near the hole weren't shattered
      • They're blast-resistant
    • And the airliner wasn't there
      • Pay no attention to airliner parts you saw in the news
  • An American jet shot down Flight 93
    • Because someone saw an airplane flying near the crater after the crash
  • The CIA did it
    • A perennial favorite
    (sources: Popular Mechanics, Wikipedia>)
I like conspiracy theories - in stories. But I don't believe that shape-shifting, space-alien lizard men secretly run the world. Even if a newspaper tried to warn Americans, back in 2008.

2 I am a practicing Catholic, and a convert, which may make me a bit more gung-ho about my faith that some. I also take religious freedom - for everybody - very seriously. I have to, because as a Catholic, it's one of the rules. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109) See:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.