Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why are they "rolling back the reforms"?

Dear Rev. Know it all, 
Can you tell me what’s happening? It seems that the liturgical directives of the Vatican Council are being rolled back. More and more Gregorian chant is sneaking into the Mass as well as more Latin. What a shame that after forty years the Second Vatican Council is being overturned.  
Mary Kay Pasa

Dear Mary Kay,
Let’s look at what the Vatican Council actually said in its document on the Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Consilium). I apologize that you will have to read actual quotes from council documents in which there are no explosions, car chases or torrid love scenes. They may be a bit boring.

Par.36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

Par. 54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue....Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

Par.114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.

Par.116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services. But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.

Par.20. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things....
But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship, with the knowledge and consent of the competent territorial authority, as laid down in Articles 22, 52, 37, and 40. This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful. 

Let me summarize. We are supposed to have most of the Mass in Latin. Nothing is said about Mass facing the people. We are supposed to use mostly Gregorian chant. If we use a musical instrument, we are mostly to use the organ. The local language can have some appropriate place, as can local music and other instruments than the organ if they are dignified. I suppose this rules out the banjo, the bagpipes, and the kazoo, all three of which I am personally quite fond. These innovations are to have some place when pastorally appropriate. In fact, they have crowded everything else out, like a fat man on a city bus. In other words, my dear, you have been lied to. What happened to the Roman Catholic Mass that created and sustained Western art and culture for almost two thousand years has been a travesty. When Mass was a thing of mystery and beauty the churches were full. Now they are often empty. We have truly made sows’ ears out of silk purses. Who did this horrible thing? Well, among others, Rembert Weakland.

A Music Advisory Board was formed in 1965 to assist the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy. At its first meeting in Detroit in May 1965, Benedictine Archabbot Rembert Weakland  was elected chairman. At its February 1966 meeting, in Chicago, home of honest and upright government, the Music Advisory Board was presented with a proposal for the use of guitars and folk music in the liturgy.  I quote a disenchanted former member of the board, Msgr. Richard Schuler, author of the enlightening essay “a Chronicle of the Reform.”

“It was clear at the meeting that Archabbot Weakland was most anxious to obtain the board's approval.... Vigorous debate considerably altered the original proposal, and a much modified statement about "music for special groups" was finally approved by a majority of one, late in the day when many members had already left.

The "Music for Special Groups" statement observed that "different groupings of the faithful respond to different styles of music", and said that in services specifically for high school or college age young people "the choice of music which is meaningful to persons of this age level should be considered valid and purposeful.”  It specified that such music should not be used at ordinary parish Masses and that the liturgical texts should be respected. The incorporation of incongruous melodies and texts, adapted from popular ballads, should be avoided.

While the "special groups" statement did not mention either guitars or folk music explicitly,..... it was publicized as official approval, even encouragement, of what was at first called the "hootenanny Mass". Later these were more generally called "folk" or "guitar" Masses.”

At a meeting in Kansas City held in November of 1966, Rembert Weakland particularly voiced his opposition to the decision of the Vatican Council when he said that “...false liturgical orientation gave birth to what we call the treasury of sacred music and false judgments perpetuated it.” So there you have it. Rembert Weakland has decided that the Vatican Council was guilty of false judgments.

You and a whole generation of Catholics have been robbed and lied to. The parish guitar Mass was never envisioned and the wholesale dumping of Latin and Gregorian chant was expressly forbidden by the Second Vatican Council and dishonestly foisted on us by Rembert and his friends. Long live the Second Vatican Council!

Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shouldn't the church sell everything and give it to the poor?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
I was watching television and saw the pope in a bejeweled miter. “How unlike Christ!” I thought. Christ was poor and had nothing. Why is it that we need gold chalices and stained glass windows and palatial cathedrals to worship God? Wouldn’t it be better to sell it all, give the proceeds to the poor and return to the simplicity of Christ?
Ivanna B. Veltie
Dear Ivanna,
Who told you that Christ had nothing?  He was meek and humble of heart. He had no place to lay His head when was an itinerant preacher, but when he was in Galilee making a living, I imagine he owned His tools. I’ve seen the first floor of the house He lived in. It was pretty much what everyone else in town had.
Elsewhere we read, “There were many other women who took care of them (Jesus and the disciples) from their own possessions.” (Luke 8:3) It sounds like a church collection to me.  On the other hand, didn’t Jesus tell the rich young man to sell what he had and give to the poor?  Well certainly that’s true, but when he cast a demon out of another man who then wanted to leave everything and follow Him, Jesus told him to go back home and, in effect, take care of his family. One was to leave everything, the other was to return to everything (Luke 8:36,39) Then there was the charge that Judas used to steal from Jesus’ funds because he was entrusted with the finances (John 12:6). That means there were funds. They were given to Jesus and taken care of by Judas. That means Jesus was not poor. He payed his taxes.(Matt.17 24-27) He owned tools. He lived in a house. He had a fund raising committee. He fed the poor, but He ate with the rich. If a person was a slave to money, he told them to sell what they had. If they were alienated from their family, he seems to have told them to go home. He died a poor man’s death, but was buried in a rich man’s tomb.
One size does not fit all in the kingdom of God and Jesus is never quite what you and I think He should be. It is interesting to read the story in John 12 that, once, a woman poured expensive perfume, valued at about sixteen thousand dollars!!! ($16,000.00= 300 denarii, or 300 days’ wages for an unskilled worker at minimum wage.) on Jesus’ feet. Judas said that it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. So, you are not alone in your sentiments.
What has this to do with the Pope’s expensive hat?  Everything. Why does the Pope have the hat? Do you really think he wears the hat on Friday night to go bowling? Does he stand in front of a mirror and say, “Boy, have I got a swell hat or what?” There isn’t enough money in the world to convince me to be a pope, or even a bishop, for that matter. Bishops and popes, at least in our times, are usually very poor men. I mean it. They have nothing that is really their own. Nothing, not even time.
I remember Bishop Conway, my former vicar, may he rest in peace. He was my immediate supervisor.  I remember how hard he worked and how good he was to me who am, at times, a bit difficult. He was scheduled to confirm our eighth grade class. It is a customary to have a banquet with the confirming bishop and all those who are responsible for the instruction of the students. It is a grand event. When I saw him at a meeting, I asked the bishop what he preferred  for the banquet, Vietnamese or Mexican. He replied, “Whatever is easiest. I looked at him and his tired expression and asked, “ Would you like to not have the banquet?” His eyes opened wide and he said, “Oh! That means I could eat at home that night!”
I felt so bad for him. Night after night, banquets and ceremonies and events, eating pickled squid one night, pig’s ear salad the next night and Heaven know what the night after that. (I am not making pig’s ear salad up. It is a Vietnamese specialty and everyone seems to have a unique recipe for it that they force you to try because it’s just like their grandmother used to make back home. Pigs’ ears are very crunchy. I needn’t go into detail)
Bishop Conway never got to say, “Heck. Let’s go to the movies. I’ll call in sick. He never got to do much. He was always at a meeting, or a banquet, or a ceremony, or answering angry phone calls about me. I remember him standing in the sun at some procession or dedication at which fireworks were blown off. It was really something. I remember the Cardinal jumped a foot. He was new to the liturgical use of fireworks. There Bishop Conway stood, glorious in his gold braided miter and damask robes partially shielded by a magnificent twenty foot tall, two foot wide parasol held by an enthusiastic participant. It was glorious. He tried to smile and look like he was enjoying it as he dripped sweat and choked on gun powder fumes from the ceremonial fireworks. Perhaps he really was having a good time, but I suspect he would have had a better time were he wearing a straw hat and a Hawaiian shirt.
We processed through the neighborhood, endured a two hour service with no bathroom breaks and then adjourned to the hall for, you guessed it, pig’s ear salad. I had to endure this a few times a year. He endured that sort of thing just about every day in one way or another. Magnify this by ten and you’ve got the Cardinal. Magnify this by twenty and you’ve got the pope. Ah, the glorious perks of office, pointy hats and strange food, all punctuated by jet lag. As I said, popes and bishops are some of the poorest people on earth. They lack what the even the guests at our parish soup kitchen had plenty of: time.
I remember a story about Pope John XXIII. An old friend of his came to see him after his election to the papacy. He gave his old friend a tour of his private apartments and showed him the closet. There, neatly arranged were a few pairs of white papal slippers, He sighed and said, “See, they even took my shoes away.” John Paul II insisted on wearing brown shoes made by a cobbler back home in Poland. When he was buried and his body carried out of the Vatican we saw the worn, scuffed bottoms of the shoes. To me, it said so much about the man. A man who the world thinks could have had anything he wanted was buried in scuffed brown shoes that were on their way to having holes in them.
I remember seeing some show touring the Vatican. Pope John Paul II had a study and a small bedroom with what appeared to be a single bed and his computer desk about ten feet away. The rooms that were just his weren’t much bigger than mine. He did have a nice dining room and a reception room, but he had to share these with an endless stream of “important”guests. He had a little walkway on the roof, oh, and a really nice garden. Boy, talk about luxury! Give me a break, these men are truly the slaves of the Lord. If someone in the business world get to the top of a large organization, they are in fat city! Not so with the Catholic Hierarchy. Priests can’t retire till they’re seventy, bishops can’t retire till they’re seventy-five and Popes drop dead on the job. No retirement to a penthouse condo in Boca. No, they just travel the world eating pig's ear salad or something like it, listening to problems and trying to remembering what it was like to get a full night’s sleep.
Yes, let’s sell all the cathedrals and the art and the funny hats with gold braid and shiny stones. Let’s sell the gold chalices and the damask robes and the incense burners and paint everything beige. Then the bankers will own it and the poor will never see it. Hasn’t it occurred to you that the few places that the poor are welcome are in the great churches? Any man or woman from the beggar to the king can come into a traditional Catholic Church and hear live music that, if it’s traditional, is breathtakingly beautiful. They can see gold and light and smell incense and see a hint of heaven on earth. They can usually sit right in front, because oddly, it’s the back seats that are full. The church building, you see, is really the palace of the poor. All the pageantry is for the glory of God, which St. Irenaeus explained in around the year 200, is man fully alive.” What man or woman is fully alive without art? Your pious puritanism has infected the modern European and American mind and you have deprived the poor of beauty by making the church boring, boring, boring.
Today’s “modern” art and music is, for the most part, tomorrow’s joke. Modern liturgy is often as ugly as most modern art. There is no mystery, no romance, no shine. Just endless sermons on puritanical themes by tedious preachers in polyester vestments. And, as Jesus said, the poor are always with us. The beauty traditionally associated with Catholic worship at least makes them rich for an hour or so.
As for feeding the poor. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on earth. The world is filled with Catholic hospitals, schools, orphanages, soup kitchens, food pantries, clothing rooms and more. You complain about the shiny hats on popes and bishops. Has it occurred to you that the charlatans you elect to office don’t think twice about hiring their cousins for a well paid, do-nothing job, or flying to the Bahamas on a fact finding tour or jetting to Copenhagen for a one day photo-op about the global energy crisis. They do this with your tax dollars, extracted from you with the force of law. You have no real freedom as regards the ever increasing taxes and the ever growing luxury of the ruling classes. The Church, on the other hand, maintains its charities by free will offerings. Your contribution to the church is up to you. Though I would point out that if you fail to pay your taxes you will have to face the IRS. If you fail to remember the poor, you will have to face quite another judge.
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shouldn't Mass be more excititng, like a mega-church service?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
My husband is a selfless, dedicated family man who loves, honors, and respects me, our two young children, his parents, and extended family.  I often wish I could be more like him!  Our biggest difference is that, while I was raised in a strict Roman Catholic home, he comes from a background of what I call "Church-hopping Parents".  He was baptized in an Orthodox Christian Church as an infant, but his parents both abandoned their orthodox beliefs long ago, joining an evangelical church when he was about 10 years old.  They now visit different churches, mainly  non-denominational and "born-again" type organizations.  This has caused some  conflict between us since I am firmly planted in my Catholic roots and he is more comfortable with a touchy-feely Christianity.  His core beliefs are very traditional but he firmly maintains that since attending the Catholic Mass with me these past several years, he does not find that he can spiritually or emotionally connect to God through the Mass. Initially I thought he had simply closed his heart to that possibility, but now I fear that he may have a point. 
On a few occasions I have given in, and against my better judgment, agreed to attend Willow Creek church with his family on some Sundays or special occasions.  After going to one or two of their services, you certainly can be tempted to feel that our experience in the Catholic Mass is lacking that spiritual fire!  The excitement, emotion, amazement, and entertainment you experience at one of the theatrical services at Willow Creek can leave you wanting more.  I myself get emotional there and feel like the speakers are reaching out to me directly, and I hate to admit that I have less often felt that at Mass.  My faith tells me to stand firm and not to give in to attending those services but when I see the spiritual food that my husband is indulging in I feel selfish preventing him from going.  I am caught between two difficult positions.  My biggest fear is to confuse our children and become the dreaded "Church-hoppers".  I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions or advice regarding how to help us experience the Mass more fully, how to explain why the sacrifice of the Mass is so important, and how to enable both of us to have a deeper spiritual connection to the Mass, our Lord, and one another.  
Anna Baptiste

Dear Anna,
You mention the “spiritual food” your husband is “indulging” in, I would venture that it is not food at all. It is more like spiritual Hot Flaming Cheetos, very exciting, but not very healthy for a long term diet. I know of what I speak. I am a founding member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which we used to call the Pentecostal Movement, and love nothing more than good old religious emotion. But, I’ve found that when people value religious experience more than they value God, they are in trouble. They think they are worshiping God, but they are worshiping their own experiences.
I believe that the mega-church phenomenon is a symptom of the corrosive forces at work in the current spiritual life of the country. I say this not just as a Catholic, but as someone whose spirituality was, in certain measure, formed by Pentecostalism. People always assume that Pentecostalism is about emotion. That assumption has in large measure killed real Pentecostalism. What passes for Pentecost in these time is a sort of once a week catharsis in a mega church. The Pentecost I remember from my youth was an intense awareness of the power and reality of the Holy Spirit and was very easy to integrate into a Catholic spirituality. It didn’t matter how one felt. What mattered was radical dependence on the power and goodness of God. “Faith, not feelings” we’d remind ourselves.
What has all this to do with Mass being a dry experience?  It is the same thing. “Faith, not feelings.” The scripture tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. The mega-churches would have it, “Saved by positive feelings about God.”  People say that they don’t get much out of Mass. Who told you that you were supposed to get something out of Mass?  It is the sacrifice of the Mass. We go not to get, but to give. I place my life on the altar with Christ, who has placed His life, His flesh and blood on the altar for me and for the whole world. 
Evangelicals always talk about giving their lives to Christ. The modern mega-church crop of evangelicals don’t give their lives to Christ. The come to church based on the entertainment value of the service and how it makes them feel. Think about it. Mass is boring to those who want to be  entertained. Calvary was boring too. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter James and John fell asleep at the opening prayers of the first public Mass. Peter and James didn’t even bother to attend the canon of that first Mass. Perhaps the choir wasn’t very good at Calvary, or maybe the seats weren’t very comfortable. It was at least a three hour service. I doubt there was parking and the sermon wasn’t much to write home about, just “Father, forgive them” and “Why have you abandoned me?” That wasn’t very uplifting.
All in all, Calvary wasn’t much of a show. Calvary was dusty and dirty and bloody, a dying man writhing in pain, gasping for breath, choking on His own blood as He whispered forgiveness for those who mocked Him. Certainly the modern dramatic presentations in the Easter pageants are a great improvement, some charming actor staring meaningful into the distance, a daub or two of fake blood, all seen from comfortable theater chairs with an intermission for refreshments in the food court. We have certainly come a long way as Christians in this country.
I have never been able to see the stage play “Les Miserables.” I have read the book, but to see the play would break my heart. That is because one night I accompanied a Catholic deacon who, with his wife, ran an outreach ministry to male prostitutes in downtown Chicago and its Gold Coast. The ministry tries to get them off the streets and into drug rehab and prays with them to give their lives to Christ. These homeless prostitutes are despised, the poorest of the poor in a rich neighborhood. The deacon would make rounds to check up on these lost, hungry people, most of whom were drug addicts. I followed him into a dark alley next to a prestigious downtown theater where Les Miserables was playing at that very moment. He shook at some piles of cardboard and from out of these heaps came a small crowd of tattered young men, bundled against the Chicago winter. They had built cardboard shacks over the exhaust vents of the theater in which the well heeled crowds who could afford $70 for a ticket sat moist eyed and emotional over the sufferings of the street people of post revolutionary Paris. The only thing they gave the street people of Chicago was their hot air.
Since that night I have had no desire to see the play. In the mega church service, one may see a dramatic presentation and hear an uplifting sermon. One is certainly inspired and enriched. It’s very nice. But I think that to be emotionally moved by a dramatic sort of Christianity is nothing compared to kneeling at the foot of the Cross, as we do at Mass, to take and eat of His flesh and Blood, really present, as He commanded us to do, and in so doing commit our lives to Him whether we feel it or not. Let your husband have the show. You keep the reality. Your children will thank you for it in the long run.
As for practical solutions, read Dr. Scott Hahn’s books, “The Lamb’s Supper” and “Rome Sweet Home.”  Get him to read them if possible. They will amaze you.
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I believe in God, but why should I believe in Jesus?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
I am a believer in God. Not the Christian God, but my own personal God with which I've had my spiritual experiences. My question is this; why do SO many people automatically assume that to believe in God, one believes in Christ. I do not believe in Christ. I personally think that Jesus' story is shrouded in myth, fiction, and human intervention. Why are these two ideas (God & Jesus) so inherently connected? My belief in God is so strong that for me to take the leap of Christian faith is to take a giant leap in a very strange direction.
Thank you,
N. Fidel

Dear Mr. Fidel,
Let us be a little more precise. Perhaps I am misinterpreting your remarks, but I would venture that you don’t believe in God. “Believe” or “to have faith” originally means “to trust in.” I don’t’ know whether or not you trust in your personal god. I suspect that when you say you believe God exists you are really saying that you think God exists. I would agree. God most certainly exists. God exists by definition. “God is that being greater than which nothing exists.” God is the Supreme Being. More simply put God is the greatest reality that is, and there is most certainly a greatest reality. The question is, “What is the nature of God?” A lot of people think that somehow the universe is self-creating. In that case, the universe is god, an unfeeling, unperceiving, uncaring hunk of impersonal rocks swirling meaninglessly through an unbroken, silent, eternal monotony. There is nothing there to trust. Others have decided that god is personal, a kind of nice guy who minds his own business. He/she made all things and then went on an eternal lunch break leaving us to do pretty much what we please because he/she isn’t terribly interested in the current state of his/her creation. These people are called Deists. Not much to trust there either. You’ve got nature lovers and wiccans who believe that the universe or nature is somehow personal and benign except when he/she throws up the occasional tsunami or volcano and needs to be placated by some ritual or sacrifice because balance has been upset and he/she is perfectly right to be in a cosmic snit.
Hinduism is a lovely religion that has lots of gods that ancient invaders brought to the subcontinent and all those gods are somehow manifestations of the “One.” Buddhism is a development of Hinduism in which God is optional. It’s purpose seems to be to escape the cycle of suffering by right living that leads to personal oblivion. Then you’ve got Islam which teaches an arbitrary, unknowable god who has chosen some for eternal happiness and others for eternal hell-fire. There are a lot of other religions that are variations on these themes. And then there’s you, who have created a god for yourself based on some spiritual experiences you’ve had.
My question is this: “Why do you think your god is God?” There are only two kinds of religion as far as I can tell. A sort of pantheism claiming that nature is God, personal or impersonal. The great bulk of human religions from the cavemen to Carl Sagan fit into this first group. They rely on human reason or ancient myths. Then there are the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which derive from Abraham’s encounter with God about four thousand years ago. Judaism relies on a long and consistent process of revelation over the course of a thousand years.
Islam claims its authority from Mohammed to whom God spoke while he was in a cave in the desert. The revelations he claims to have received in his private spiritual experiences are thought by Muslims to be the definitive and only truly authoritative word of God, one book, the Koran, dictated to one man, Muhammad over the course of 23 years of one life, 610 to 632 AD. He never actually wrote anything down, His friends wrote it down for him and compiled it after his death. So you are in good company. You’ve had private spiritual revelations, so did Muhammad. Myself, I’m not so sure about private revelations. If there are lots of spiritual beings out there and some of them are not so nice, like the devil and his angels, who knows who you’ve been spiritually schmoozing with? Even Muhammad had his doubts until his wife convinced him that his revelations were the real thing. Christianity however is uniquely unique in all of this.
Christianity makes a really outlandish claim. It claims that the Creator of the universe once visited his creation. When He did so, He appeared not as a theologian or priest, not as a general, king, or hero. He appeared as a Jewish carpenter, born in a barn, executed for treason. The reason we believe this is that something very amazing happened. He rose from the dead. You say that you “personally think that Jesus' story is shrouded in myth, fiction, and human intervention.” Quite the opposite is true. Christianity flows from a precise and public event that happened in a precise time in an exact place.
The earliest documents that we have attesting to this amazing fact were written about 50 AD. St. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were written about 20 years after the event by a man who gladly allowed himself to be executed by the government for his belief that the Carpenter had risen from the dead. If St. Paul was the only one who believed this, I would just chalk it up to personal lunacy, but almost all of those who were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus had so little fear of death that they likewise gave themselves up for execution when it would have been easy to avoid it, just by saying, “Well, maybe I was mistaken...”
This is quite different from the Islamic revelation. The followers of Muhammad who compiled his revelations in the Koran were happy to execute others for the sake of their “truth.” From its beginning, Islam has been a warrior faith. Christianity is quite the opposite. Christians believed so strongly in the resurrection that they were willing, not to kill for the truth, but to be killed. I can hear you now, “What about the Crusades and other religious wars?” Can I help it if some idiots decided to kill in the name of Christ? Perhaps they too had their private revelations. The Prince of Peace, the murdered Carpenter of Nazareth, never asked anyone to kill in His name. Muhammad, on the other hand, demanded it.
If you really think that the basic Christian revelation is shrouded in “myth and fiction and human intervention,” I would like to challenge you to read a book, “The DaVinci Hoax” by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel published by Ignatius Press, 2004, ISBN 1-58617-034-1. I would also invite you to read C.S. Lewis “Surprised by Joy.” He deals with the same issue. I could go on endlessly about the miracles and wonders of the Christian tradition that have re-enforced the power of God made visible in the resurrection of Jesus, but you would probably write them off.
Better than all this however, there is one more thing that I would suggest. Find a very quiet Catholic Church where there is a tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament, (the remaining consecrated communion wafers). Sit there, take a deep breath and say, “Jesus, if you really are God-in-the-flesh, I would like to know you, and if you are who you say you are, I will give you my life.” Not only do we believe that God once visited His creation, but we believe that He has chosen to remain here because He loves you. That you can trust!
Rev. Know-it-all

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Do you believe in Karma?

Dear Rev. Know it all,
Does the Catholic Church  recognize the idea of Karma? By Karma, I mean only  "what goes around comes around" - not the idea of reincarnation. I think it does. Jesus said in the garden of Gethsemane "...those who live by the sword die by the sword." Also, the idea of "cosmic" justice is central to the idea of the final judgment.  What do you think?
Best as always,
Vishnu Vorheer

Dear Vishnu,
I think you have a point. Sort of.  Jesus says very clearly that we get what we give. At the beginning of the 7th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says that “We should give and we will receive full measure, flowing down into the folds of our clothing, because the measure with which we measure will be measured back to us.” That does sound a lot like Karma.
We convict ourselves of sin every time we say the Our Father, “Forgive us as we forgive....”  AS not if, not when, but AS!!!   If I forgive but don’t forget, I am, in effect, asking God to forgive what I do, but not to forget it completely.  If I pretend to forgive, but hold bitterness in my heart, I am asking God to hold on to His righteous anger. The Our Father is a very dangerous prayer. Perhaps an examination of conscience would be appropriate before saying it. Instead, most people just rush through it, never thinking that they are asking God to treat them in exactly the same way that they treat the people they are angry with. 
Anger and bitterness are funny things. We cling to resentments as if they were treasure. We simmer and stew enjoying our well deserved anger at some imagined slight or offense. The idiot in traffic, the person who failed to invite us to some event or other, the boor who cut in line in front of us. When I cut in line or zip in and out of traffic I have perfectly good reasons for doing so and the poor unwashed mobs will just have to understand that I am a very important person with important things to do. They, however, get no such privileges from me.
Most of the time we are angry, the people at whom we are furious haven’t a clue that we are angry with them. When someone is rude to me, it would do me well to realize that I am probably unimportant to him in the same way that the people to whom I am rude are unimportant to me. Why waste the energy it takes to be angry with someone who doesn’t even know I exist. The clown that took my parking space couldn’t care less about me, but I am going to waste the next day or two ranting about the insensitivity of the offender? Guess what! You’re right! He’s insensitive. And further, he doesn’t even know how angry you are. In fact the only person hurt by your anger is you, and perhaps the people who live with you and have to put up with your ranting. The person at whom your avalanche of unhappiness is aimed doesn’t know or care that you are angry. They probably are unaware of your existence and they probably were unaware that it was your parking space, your turn in line or your whatever. There was no elaborate plot to defraud you of what was rightly yours.
My point is this: Your anger probably doesn’t hurt anyone but you. So, in a case like this, one doesn’t have to wait to come back as a marmoset. Your sin hits you in the face moments after you commit it. People often come to me in confession and tell me how badly people treat them. To which I say, “ So you don’t have any sins?” That usually stops them cold. Then I say, “So I guess your confessing the sin of anger.” Silence on the other side of the confessional screen. They were there looking for moral support. It never occurred to them that the offence committed against them might have been innocent stupidity, whereas what they are doing rises to the level of moral evil.
Get used to it. This law of returns, as I’ve heard it called, is found in Matthew 7. It is as unbreakable as the law of gravity. If you wonder why the world is so unkind to you while others have all the luck, just look in the mirror. There is no such thing as luck. There’s just grace and truth. The world will never change its attitude toward you . The only thing you can change is your attitude to the world and the people in it.
What some people call Karma, we Catholics call temporal punishment due to sin.  It isn’t enough to be saved, We need to be redeemed, that is to be restored to the position offered us by God when he first created us. We need to be made worthy to be His adopted sons and daughters. We undo the damage cause by our self centeredness by prayer and acts of generosity. Life in this world is a kind of school in which we learn to become the children of God. Some of us play hooky and never come to class at all. If that’s what we do, well we will most certainly flunk. The only job left for us will be shoveling coal in a very hot place. But if some of us are goof-offs and don’t pay attention, though still show up for class, we may have to stay after school and finish our lessons. We Catholics call this Purgatory. The Bible calls it Judgment. 
Some religions say we just keep coming back until we get it right. The Letter to the Hebrews says that it is appointed for man to die once, then the judgment. (Heb.9:27) I sure hope the Hindus are wrong. Once is enough for me. All of us will face judgment. Some will be condemned for having refused God’s love. Those who accepted it, though imperfectly will continue to grow in it until, as St. Paul says, we are “like Him.” Judgment/Purgatory is the process by which those who are not perfected in this world arrive at the fullness of God’s plan for them.
Let me finish with this. I am always telling you about people I’ve known who have died and lived to tell about, you know, the tunnel, the light, the whole shtick.  I’ve heard quite a few of them say that they experience all the pain they’ve caused. Imagine all the people you’ve hurt. You weren’t just hurting them. You were hurting yourself. Think about that as you stand in line a “Toys 'R' Expensive” and as you try to beat out someone for the last parking spot at “Whopper Shopper World of Gizmos.” And remember to make your words soft and tender, because someday you will most assuredly have to eat them. 
Yours Truly,
Rev. Know-it-all