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Xavier University theologian Ken Overberg, S.J., has made denying the core doctrine of the Atonement and Christ’s salvific action on the cross his life’s work.  So it comes as no surprise, appalling though it is, that he devotes a lengthy Lenten sermon at Bellarmine Chapel to this topic.  That he is able to do so without any fear of correction, by Xavier’s president or Cincinnati’s archbishop, is scandalous. Here’s an excerpt:

It is right and just that at least once each Lent we are reminded that we don’t have to believe that God sent Jesus to suffer and die for us. The is no “happy fault or necessary sin.” Jesus did indeed die a violent death of crucifixion. That was an historical event. But the interpretation of the event is an act of theology and faith. And there are different interpretations in our Christian tradition.

Lent is an especially difficult time for those who try to believe in a nonviolent God. Scriptures and prayers, songs and sermons praise suffering and the cross. They speak of a wondrous love that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse. God sends Jesus to suffer and die for our sins.

The Law of Retribution and the ancient-but-ever-new religion of “violence saves” seem to have trumped Jesus’ teaching about a God of compassion and healing, of life and love. So throughout Lent we hear of ransom and sacrifice, expiation and atonement.

We find a clear refutation to Overberg’s heresy in paragraph 118 of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

118. Why was the death of Jesus part of God’s plan?

599-605
619

To reconcile to himself all who were destined to die because of sin God took the loving initiative of sending his Son that he might give himself up for sinners. Proclaimed in the Old Testament, especially as the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, the death of Jesus came about “in accordance with the Scriptures”.

To borrow a phrase, local Catholic history often repeats itself, first as calumny, then as farce.

Gerard Ahrens, the disturbed teacher at Pleasant Ridge’s Nativity School whose bizarre tirades against priests and bishops in the Cincinnati Enquirer got him censured by the schools office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati a few years ago, has returned under a variety of new aliases to grind his priestophobic ax.

Here is “Leo” Ahrens stamping his foot about the Archdiocese’s new foundation last January.

Now it’s “Andrew” Ahrens’s turn to make a connection between the Fifty Shades of Gray movie and — wait for it — the priest abuse scandal in February.

In fact, a simple search of the Enquirer website reveals over a dozen such phony letters.

In any event, pray for this sick man and be glad your children are spared the fate of Nativity’s students.

The Cincinnati Enquirer posts a leaked copy of this year’s teacher contract for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which made news in recent years for requiring teachers to assent to settled doctrines routinely challenged in the public square.  Why this should be controversial is telling in and of itself.  If you took a job with, say, Chipotle, would you be surprised if you weren’t allowed to promote Taco Bell’s menu?  In any event, the contract is to be accompanied by an FAQ.  Here’s a snippet:

Q: Will a Catholic teacher get fired for supporting a gay son or daughter?

A: It depends on the situation. If the support is “purely personal, non-public” support, then, No.

If the support rises to the level of “advocacy,” then, perhaps.

Q: What if a Catholic teacher was married outside the Catholic church? Will he or she have to get re-married in the church in order to keep teaching?

A: Typically, no.

Q: What if I live with someone for financial reasons but the relationship is not romantic? Is that OK?

A: Yes.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is again updating its contract for teachers – tweaking the so-called “morality clause” that details what teachers can and can’t do.

They can, for example, attend a gay child’s wedding.

They cannot, however, blog in support of gay marriage.

The Archdiocese is not yet releasing the contracting – saying it’s an “internal document” since teachers won’t be asked to sign until April or May – but the Enquirer obtained a copy through outside sources.

Xavier University’s Bellarmine Chapel is concluding its Lenten speaker series this year by celebrating the sacraments of Confession and Anointing, the latter of which requires the recipient be in “danger of death.”

I suppose if I had to suffer through Jesuits Ken Overberg on the proper formation of conscience and Dan Hartnett on how the faithful “discern” Catholic teaching, I’d sense my mortality too.

From the Office of the Archbishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati:

The movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, is scheduled to debut in theaters across America on February 13, 2015. The story line is presented as a romance; however, the underlying theme is that bondage, dominance, and sadomasochism are normal and pleasurable. In the story line, a young Miss Steele is urged to sign a contract becoming a sex slave and agreeing to an abusive and degrading relationship. This movie is in direct contrast to the Christian message of God’s design for self-giving and self-sacrificing love, marriage and sexual intimacy. The movie is a direct assault on Christian marriage and on the moral and spiritual strength of God’s people. We need to inform our people about the destructive message of this movie and to highlight the beauty of God’s design for loving relationships between a husband and wife in the bond of marriage.

Kudos to His Excellency.  He’s likely to take heat and ridicule for this bold stand.

What the Church teaches:

71. The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.

Musica Sacra: Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy, Sacred Congregation for Rites, 3 September 1958

What the Archdiocese of Cincinnati does:

Show the video. Show the 2015 CMA video at Masses, meetings and other appropriate opportunities. It’s a powerful method of conveying the importance of the CMA ministries.

— 2015 Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA) Parish Guide of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

FWIW, this post should not be construed in any way as a criticism of the priests of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati who “show the video” at the request of their bishop or his staff.

An especially troubling column appeared over the weekend in the Cincinnati Enquirer from a board member at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.  In the Moslem equivalent of a sermon, Dr. Ashraf Travoulsi offers his congregation a reflection on the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month that is by turns self-pitying and delusional.  His main concern isn’t for the victims of these attacks but for their “extremely negative impact on Islam and Muslims all over the world.”  He also fears that “Islamic terrorism” is “becoming an acceptable term to use in mainstream media outlets,” not because of an unrelenting stream of terrorist attacks by Moslem jihadis, but because of bigotry and fear-mongering.  Likewise, he claims, “Islamophobia is becoming rampant and Islamophobes are having a field day.”

(I’m not making this up — go and read it for yourself.)

It’s worth noting the murky origins of the center, which include a $6 million check from the House of Saud in 1995 during its infancy.  As has been widely reported, Saudi petrodollars have been used to fund institutions around the globe devoted to Wahhabism, an anti-Western form of Islam that developed in the Arabian peninsula and that was the focus of considerable scrutiny in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

It’s also worth noting that until recently the Islamic Center was a “go to” partner for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Social Action office.  Their collaboration seems to have stopped in the aftermath of several embarrassing episodes in inter-religious dialogue that readers of my old site may recall grimacingly.  This column demonstrates that circumspection about the center is warranted.

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