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Bishop Speaks
March 15, 2007 Edition

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Bishops' Schedules:
Bishop Robert C. Morlino

Wednesday, March 14, 2007
5:15 p.m. -- Preside at Prayer Service, The Second Anniversary of St. Raphael Cathedral fire, Meriter MainGate Apartments Auditorium, Madison

Sunday, March 18, 2007
11:00 a.m. -- Preside and Preach, Stational Mass, also designated as "White Mass," Speak to Catholic health care workers after Mass, St. Patrick Church, Madison

6:00 p.m. -- Preside and Preach, Sacrament of Confirmation, St. Paul's University Catholic Center, Madison

Monday, March 19,
to Thursday, March 22, 2007

St. John Vianney Theological Seminary visit, Denver, Col.

Bishop George O. Wirz

Sunday, March 18, 2007
10:00 a.m. -- Preside and Preach at Sacrament of Confirmation, St. Bernard Parish, Madison

Tuesday, March 20, 2007
12:00 noon -- Preside and Preach at Celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, Madison

Natural law: God does exist

illustration of Gospel Book being held open over bishop's head

Under the
Gospel Book

+ Bishop Robert
C. Morlino

(en Español)

Dear Friends,

Last week on this page [print edition only] was reprinted a recent column by Bill Wineke regarding the Lost Tomb of Jesus. I am always happy when the local press and I are of one mind, even though that is not always the rule.

This week I want to thank in a special way Pat Schneider, for her fine article in the Capital Times this past weekend, with regard to Professor Duncan Stroik's presentation about cathedrals. Her account was accurate and helpful, and I hope that many who were not able to attend Professor Stroik's lecture will profit from her coverage.

More articles on
St. Raphael Cathedral

I just want to comment that as I make my decision for the location of the cathedral, which clearly is leaning in the direction of downtown Madison, but which is not final as yet, I do remain open until Easter-time to being persuaded otherwise. Perhaps Pat Schneider's article will stir people to send me their constructive thoughts and reasoning about this particular matter.

I want to be clear that wherever the cathedral is, what I have in mind is a beautiful and worthy cathedral and not a "grandiose temple". In my world, words mean things and I think a cathedral can be worthy and beautiful but short of "grandiose". I also reaffirm what Pat Schneider accurately quoted, that we will do a financial feasibility study and keep our costs for a cathedral within the range of what we can truly afford. Lastly, with regard to the cathedral, I would want to comment that as Pat Schneider reported, Duncan Stroik is a good friend and trusted advisor and I could say the same for Kenton Peters of Madison, who graciously was present at Professor Duncan Stroik's lecture.

Natural law: good is done, evil avoided

With those pre-notes out of the way, on to the theme of this week's column. I promised at the beginning of Lent to say something further on an ongoing basis, with regard to natural law.

As Pope Benedict said recently in an address in Rome, the natural law begins with the affirmation that the good is to be done and evil is to be avoided. This truth of reason is self evident because it is "definitional": good means that which is to be done, and evil means that which is to be avoided.

The question arises as to how it is that human beings think or reason, define or speak in this particular way? How is it that the human mind works in this particular way? Where does this type of intelligence come from and to what kind of conclusions does this kind of intelligence lead? While the foundation of the natural law is the affirmation that the good is to be done and evil is to be avoided, the presupposition of the natural law is the existence of God, who is the reason why our minds act according to reason.

Existence of God known by reason alone

The First Vatican Council (which is pre-Vatican II obviously, and to whose truths we are bound) solemnly defined that the existence of God can be known by reason alone. The existence of God is not self evident the way the proposition "the good is to be done and evil is to be avoided" is self evident, but it is the presupposition for the whole natural law, that the law is written on the human mind and heart by a creator, whose existence can be known by reason alone.

The so-called argument from intelligent design concludes that given the order of all created things so wonderfully pictured by natural science, reason demands an intelligent source and origin. The argument for the existence of God from intelligent design is itself not an argument of science, nor is the existence of God a truth of science - that would mean there would be no need for faith. But the existence of God is in fact a truth of reason, which is not a truth of science precisely because no scientific evidence could ever disprove the existence of God.

Perhaps the most helpful argument for the existence of God would be the following. We presume as we go about our daily lives, just trying to cope with our existence, that things make sense. If our shoes, as we try to get dressed in the morning, are not in the place where we left them the night before, we presume there is an explanation for that. When people see strange lights in the sky that look like UFOs, we presume that there is an explanation for that. And when we see the tragedy of disease, such as cancer or AIDS, we presume there is an explanation for how that disease comes to be, and that when we know the explanation, we will be that much closer to the cure.

We live our lives as though what occurs has an explanation. If that explanatory chain turned out to be an infinite regress, that is, if there were no final explanation for reality, then indeed reality would make no sense. The explanations that we presume and which are very apparent to us take their force from the truth that the explanatory chain stops. It does not drift off into infinity, leaving us with the conviction that the world ultimately is absurd. If we can plug into an explanatory chain, then ultimately there must be an unexplained explainer or a self-explaining explainer, which is what we mean by the word God. The truth that things and events in our world have an explanation requires an unexplained or self-explaining explainer for its own validation. Otherwise one can choose to believe that the world is absurd and deny reason itself. Sadly today not a few choose to do so.

There are other approaches to argumentation for the existence of God, and no specific argument is "canonized" by the First Vatican Council. But the Council does insist, as a matter of defined dogma, that the existence of God can be known by reason alone, and in fact whatever else we know of the natural law will point us back to the existence of God as has already been noted.

Before concluding with a final reflection I should apologize for the level of abstraction which this particular column exhibits. But I like to keep my promises and I promised some further reflection on the natural law, even though such reflection is not necessarily an easy read.

Prayer and worship are necessary

If indeed God exists, and we understand what the word God means, then prayer and worship are absolutely necessary. For someone to say that there is a God and not spend time in prayer and worship would prove that he or she doesn't know what the word God means or doesn't really believe in the existence of God. For if God exists, and if He is the source and origin of all things, in whose image and likeness our freedom and intelligence are fashioned, how could one possibly not acknowledge God through prayer and worship.

Sometimes in our busy lives we can get so used to believing that we believe in God, that we act less and less as though we do, and the time given to prayer and worship diminishes, pushed aside by other priorities. God is real and so we must pray and worship, and Lent is a time for us to become more fervent in that loving worship and prayer.

Thank you very much for reading this. God bless you during this Lenten season! Praised be Jesus Christ!

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Bishop's Letter

Catholic Relief Services

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am requesting your support this year for The Catholic Relief Services Collection, one of the most important ways the Catholic community in the United States responds to the needs of those who are suffering, poor, and vulnerable around the world. The Collection's theme, "Jesus in disguise," reminds us of the presence of Christ in every one of our brothers and sisters in need.

Related article:

The generosity of Catholics in giving to The Catholic Relief Services Collection is critical to the work of the Church in caring for the vulnerable among us - victims of war, persecution, and poverty. The Collection is scheduled for this weekend, March 17 and 18 in our diocese.

I encourage you, your friends, and your family to visit the Website at www.usccb.org/crscollection to find out how Catholics here are touching lives all over the world. This site provides resources for integrating the theme of the Collection into homilies, parish bulletins, and other parish programs. You will also find information about the international social ministries that benefit from this Collection.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to "Jesus in disguise" and for promoting The Catholic Relief Services Collection of 2007.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino
Bishop of Madison

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