Thursday, April 10, 2008

Graven Images: Looks Can Be Deceiving!

There seems to be a lot of confusion about graven images and their place in Christian (specifically, but not limited to Catholic) worship. So here's an FAQ entitled, 'Everything You Wanted To Know About Graven Images, But Were Afraid To Ask'.

1. What is a graven image?

The broadest definition would be any image (person, idea, animal, fictitious character, etc.) that is made as a material representation. Examples would be santos, statues, or those little plastic dashboard St. Christophers. Even a painting can be considered a graven image of sorts.

2. I'm reading Exodus 20 and you Catholics are in trouble! 'Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them (Exodus 20:3-5).'

The first and the last sentence are the most telling ones. Strange gods are a no-no. Why? Because humans are prone to make an image of these strange gods. For what purpose? To adore them and serve them. So taken in context, Exodus 20 is warning us against exactly what happened in the Golden Calf episode. You recall, the Hebrews had a strange god before the one, true God because they believed Moses had ditched them. They then made an image of that god--'a molten calf'. But the fun didn't stop there. They then proclaimed the calf as their god, built altars for it, and sacrificed to it--they worshipped the graven image itself. Do Catholics do this with their statues and images? We'll see.

3. You're splitting hairs. Clearly within that directive from God, He said not to make ANY graven images. I agree that you shouldn't worship them, but you also shouldn't make them in the first place.

So we can then conclude, if you are right, one of two things. Either we are not supposed to make ANY graven images at all and God, being hypocritical, commanded us to make them anyway or we need more data to conclude anything about graven images.

4. What do you mean that God commanded us to make graven images anyway?

Just 5 chapters later, in Exodus 25, God is giving His people directions for building/assembling the Ark of The Covenant. In Verse 18, God directly tells them to make not one, but two graven images--two cherubim of gold. This would seem to directly contradict the 'likeness of anything that is in heaven' rule and makes God look inconsistent at best and deceptive at worst.

In Chapter 26, He does it again! More cherubim!

In Numbers 21, God expressly commands Moses to 'make a fiery serpent'. I'm no artisan, but I'm guessing that required some carving, firing, and engraving considering it was bronze. When the afflicted looked upon it, they were healed. God is actually USING a graven image as an instrument of his power after supposedly telling His people that those images are forbidden. In 2 Kings 18:4, King Hezekiah has it destroyed precisely because the Israelites began worhipping it as a god called Nehushtan.

In 1 Kings 6, Solomon is building the dwelling place of the Lord. He fashioned cherubim out of olivewood and placed them in the temple. The measurements of these angels are very specific. You'd think that graven images would be forbidden in God's house, yet there they were 10 cubits high with wings 5 cubits long in the temple and in the entrance.

In Chapter 7, Solomon is building his crib. In verse 25, he carved images of 12 oxen and in 36, he carved images of cherubim, lions, and palm trees.

1 Chronicles chronicles the plans for the Temple. The altar itself had a graven image of a chariot of the cherubim. Whose plan was this? Verse 19 says that it was 'the writing from the Hand of the Lord'.

Needless to say, graven images, when used with proper reverence and appreciation for God, are not only permitted, but even commanded by God.

5. Point taken. But nowhere do we see any image of GOD being made. Deuteronomy 4 says, 'Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth."

Early on, Israel did not make images of God because he had not presented himself to them in any visual way. But later, He did reveal himself. In Daniel 7, He is portrayed as wearing bright white, having soft, white hair, sitting on a throne of fire.

God also revealed himself as a cloud, a dove (Holy Spirit), and tongues of fire. Wearing a 'Holy Spirit Pin' would indeed be a representation of God as he revealed himself, no?

But the most obvious image of God was in Jesus Christ. Paul calls Jesus the 'ikon' (image) of the invisible God. He is the tangible image of God, plain and simple. In the New Covenant, God revealed himself and, for that reason, we can make images and representations of him. Do we worship that little piece of porcelain that depicts Him? Of course not.

6. But what about statues of the saints? Those people are nothing more than created beings. Surely this is idolatry when you have one, let alone bow before, say, Mary.

One issue at a time! We're coming perilously close to making this a discussion about the intercession of saints. Remember, in the verses above, representations of cherubim are all over the holy places of the Hebrews. Angels, like human saints, are created beings--made by the Lord our God. They are holy messengers who serve God. So are saints. They exist to worship God. So do saints. They know God on a level often far above our own. So do saints. They are holy role models for us all. So are saints. See, we don't worship a clay statue of Mary any more than the Hebrews worshipped an olivewood statue of cherubim. We use them as visual reminders of the majesty of God--nothing more, nothing less. Before the time of Bibles or access to Bibles, visual portrayals of things like the Incarnation, the Wedding at Cana, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Crucifixion were common in order to tell a story and to remind believers of what they represented. No Christian would look at a catacomb drawing of Mary and worship that image, and neither do we. We use the visible to get in touch with the invisible, and that is all.

7. Has the Catholic Church ever spoke out against those who use these images inappropriately?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about idolatry: "Idolatry is a perversion of man’s innate religious sense. An idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God’" (CCC 2114).

The Council of Trent in 1566 says that: "worshipping idols and images as God, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them" (374). is gravely sinful and forbidden.

But the Church has also said about images: "Christ our God assured his holy disciples saying, ‘I am with you every day until the consummation of this age.’ . . . To this gracious offer some people paid no attention; being hoodwinked by the treacherous foe they abandoned the true line of reasoning . . . and they failed to distinguish the holy from the profane, asserting that the icons of our Lord and of his saints were no different from the wooden images of satanic idols."

Put simply, know what you are attacking before you attack it. Images have always been part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. They are part of the 'fullness of Truth' given to us by God, not some ready-made idol in which we foresake the Creator for our own creation.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Estrogen Induced Apologetics...

Over the last week, I have been in dialogue with Executive Pastor Chuck Jamison of 'The Rock' Church in San Diego, California. The dialogue began as a mistake, really. In Googling some information regarding the historical elements of the Church, an article came up which was essentially notes from a talk given by former pastor at 'The Rock' named Kyle Osland. The Title was: True Religion: Catholicism?

The article was embarrassingly inaccurate on several counts regarding the Catholic faith, even going so far as to claim that Catholics believe Paul to be our first Pope! He muffs the concept of infallibility, claiming that this charism means the Pope a) cannot sin and b) cannot make a mistake in matters outside of faith and morals. In short, there were too many errors in that small article than can/should be mentioned here. I wrote a polite but firm letter to Pastor Jamison who politely (and quickly!) informed me that Pastor Osland had moved on to another ecclesial community, apologized for the Paul/Papacy issue and was very gracious. He then honestly put forth some questions about Catholicism, including 'Do non-Catholics go to Heaven in light of the Pope's document clarifying the Nature of the Catholic Church in recent weeks?' and 'Where do I find the doctrine of Purgatory in Scripture?'.

Honest questions, to be sure, and at some point I hope to post the entire exchange. But that's for another day. One thing I noticed is that, in my responses, I proceeded to set up an almost adversarial relationship between us and recall feeling that adversarial demeanor in me as I wrote. Not in a disrespectful or tasteless way, but confrontational to be sure. In showing my responses to my wife, her first reaction was 'wow, 6 pages of berating him followed by one charitable remark in your last paragraph.' OUCH.

As is true in athletics, business, and other disciplines, men just don't get it sometimes. We grunt, we grind, and we win--that is all. We care little for long walks by the beach, bouquets of flowers, or pillow fights. We prefer to get dirty, stay impersonal, and win. A fundamental difference in men and women has become SO apparent to me--men wanna rule, women wanna understand. For men, knowledge is power. For women, knowledge is understanding. My wife's response to Pastor Chuck would've been softer, more encouraging, and desirous of cultivating a bond between them via sincere questions and answers. My response was thorough, to the point, and hopeful that Pastor Chuck would take a few swings so I could prove something to him. In short, my response came from the James White School of Charm. The result? Pastor Jamison didn’t seem all that interested in me and my responses after 2 or 3 exchanges. I’m sure I hadn’t changed his mind and/or heart because I didn’t know what was IN his mind and heart.

This is why we need more women in the field of Apologetics in the Catholic Church. Look at the preeminent apologists in our Church today--Cardinal Dulles, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, Tim Staples, Pat Madrid, Karl Keating, Jimmy Akin, Dave Armstrong....See any pattern forming? They're all GUYS! Where are all the women at? I've seen many a strong Catholic woman shred uneducated (and super-educated, for that matter!) non-Catholics in person, on blogs, and on message boards, so why are they not among the ranks of big time Catholic apologists? Regardless of the reason, we need them. We need you, ladies! You hold the key to apologetics because you hold the ability to cultivate relationships with your interlocutors. You possess compassion to go along with your knowledge and ability to make an argument. You don't scare people off, you invite them into your faith, and quell their fears while making Truth abundantly clear. In short, women are the Church’s secret weapon of evangelism. Sure, our priests are key, our husbands/fathers are important as spiritual priests in the domestic church, but our women can be the link between Mother Church and those who would burn the Catholic Church at the stake in the outside world.
Edit: OK, I think I may have an idea to the 'why no women apologists' question. In perusing a Catholic message board in my attempt to find some information on an atheist-related question, I found this thread, entitled, 'Women Should Not Engage In Apologetics With Men?'
The topic was broached by a woman who apparently had been debating a gentleman (non-Catholic) on the existence and nature of Hell. The woman rightly presented the historical context of the Catholic teaching on Hell from the Early Church Fathers and received this:

your posts here attempting to instruct me and other men goes against the
way the church has traditionally viewed the role of women. Of course there
are many exceptions, as there are with how hell is viewed. But typically, women have not been permitted to instruct men on matters of
A survey of traditional interpretations of 1 Corinthians
14:34-35 -- Catholic and Protestant -- may surprise you. So, seeking to
unswervingly follow the traditional majority through time may help you maintain your view on hell, but in the process, it would make you unable to share your views with us.
I don't want that to happen!)

Huh? Now I don't want to get off on a rant here but rule number ONE of engaging in apologetics is PLAY FAIR. The pomposity, ignorance of history (biblical and church history), and outright audacity of someone to claim that an argument is incorrect because a woman is making it blows me away. But it does give me insight into the burden that women can encounter in the field of
apologetics or other disciplines. I guess it's not all that different from other
professional fields. The prooftext that this bozo is referring to is 1Corinthians 14:34:

"women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church."

The bolded part actually means something, it's not there as some esoteric verbiage. Catholic teaching on this verse is reflected in the General
Instruction of the Roman Missal as well as in Canon Law--only a priest may instruct in doctrine in Church. Hint: it's called a 'homily'. Further, Canon 212 states about ALL Catholics:

"According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and
to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals,
with reverence to their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. "

In other words, we all, via our dignity as followers of Christ through our Baptism, have a duty to speak up when not in Church! Sounds to me like this guy just didn't want to answer or just couldn't answer. Finally, you don't have to be a Historical Theologian to look at the Church and see that women have taught men from the beginning. The Catholic Church has 3 Doctors of The Church who just happen to be women! All 3 are canonized saints! Probably the most popular theological or spiritual work during the 20th century was the Diary of Saint Therese. Mary appeared at Fatima, Guadalupe, and other places, and instructed us all (men and women). RCIA and Catechism classes are filled with women teachers!

Men, check your egos at the door. If you get schooled by a woman, t's no different than being schooled by a man. If it stings more, God's probably scraping away that chauvinistic inner-idiot.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thoughts On Abortion In America, Part 2

5. It is better to endure evil/pain than to inflict it. This is the basis of my thoughts regarding the 'hard cases'. Chesterton once wrote that 'moral complexities are only difficult for those who have no principles.' I tend to agree. Rationalization, convenience, and selfishness cloud what really ought to be a fairly simple moral dilemma of abortion. Hard cases will be brought up to try to prove that the entire abortion on demand position is valid. This is emotional but it is not really true.

The first hard case to look at is the one that says, 'No woman should be forced to take care of a handicapped (physically or mentally) child.' Another related argument says, 'It's actually better if that child never lives rather than live a life of pain, suffering and non-achievement.'

Here's the problem with these kinds of arguments. Neither of these arguments prove that abortion should be 'on demand' as it currently has been in America. If anything, it proves that ONLY those cases should be eligible for access to abortion, nothing more, and CERTAINLY not for 'any reason deemed fit'.

What if the fetus is fully human? We keep coming back to this question! See, if the fetus is fully human, then these cases in which a handicapped unborn child could be deliberately killed is really no different from taking an already born handicapped child (or adult, really) and deliberately killing it. We already know that this would be utterly criminal. Adults with handicaps are still persons protected from murder. If a fetus were to be fully human, then it would be just a smaller (and differentlylocated) version of that adult. So is all human life afforded equal protection and worth or not? If it is, and the fetus is detrmined to be fully human, then abortion is a criminal violation of that right to life.

6. Isn't it a bit presumptuous to say that other human beings are better off not existing? I've heard this from more than a few people and can only shake my head at the audacity of that sentiment. Couched in that argument is that a handicapped person cannot or will not live a meaningful or happy life. Many doctors, including C. Everett Koop, who worked with severely handicapped infants and was a pediatric surgeon, have suggested that, 'it has been my constant experience that disability and unhappiness do not necessarily go together.'

Look, bad things happen to innocent people. It's the way of the world. Having a handicapped or afflicted child is usually a pretty heavy burden for parent and child alike. But if the fetus is fully human, then aleviating its pain by destroying it would be akin to the mercy killings of Jack Kevorkian. Again, it is better to endure pain than to inflict it. It's not okay to inflict pain or harm on another person to get rid of your own.

Anyone who's ever visited a pediatric AIDS unit, cancer center, or hospice knows that these children are not without worth or contribution to the world. Society is better for having known them beacuse it gets a chance to live out the virtues it claims to hold dear--compassion, love, charity, and morality. People like Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Padre Pio and others will be the first to tell you that they obtained virtue during their lives of suffering. Straight up--suffering is a spiritual exercise. It's like pumping iron with God himself. And lest we forget, there are more than a few documented cases of afflictions being healed, even in the womb. Had those cases been aborted, the injustice would not have been small.

What do you think handicapped people would say about this argument? Many would be offended at the idea that they are miserable or unable to contribute to society. I wonder if ANY handicapped organizations have gone on record as supporting abortion for the reason of the mother having a handicapped child. I doubt it. I do know that not a one has supported physician assisted suicide. The reason is that they don't believe that a human loses their right to life because they have a deformity or mental handicap.

But what about the REALLY extreme cases? The argument here is that some fetuses are SO genetically abnormal that they're not really human. For example, a fetus that is missing a brain, spinal cord, etc. I guess my limited brain would say that this would still be 'human'. It surely isn't an elephant, dog, or anteater. It originated as a human and ceased to develop but really cannot 'change' from human to non-human. Just because it's damaged doesn't mean it's not still essentially human.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thoughts On Abortion In America

1. First and foremost, up until this year when the partial birth abortion ban was upheld, abortion on demand was available to every woman in America. This came as a surprise to me but here’s the story. The common assertion from abortion advocates that Roe vs. Wade only allowed abortions up to 24 weeks, and after that time period, only when the life of the mother was in jeopardy. In fact, this is false but if you read the mainstream media, you’d never know this. The current law, in truth, doesn’t restrict anything. A woman can obtain an abortion for any reason that she or her doctor determines to be adequate during the entire term of pregnancy.

Roe v Wade ruled that a state has no right to restrict abortion for the first 6 months of pregnancy. So basically a woman could abort for ANY reason she deems valid during this time—unplanned pregnancy, wrong gender, inconvenience, rape, or incest. In months 7-9, the state has a right, but not an obligation to restrict abortion to cases in which the mother’s health is jeopardized. But here’s the rub. The definition of health was determined to be ‘in light of all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.’

I think we’d all agree that pregnancy definitely has an effect on every woman’s emotional situation, family situation, and psychological situation as well as her physical condition. So if a woman can convince her doctor (or the doctor convince his/her patient) that she needs an abortion to protect her ‘emotional health’ or ‘psychological health’, the law allows this up until the time of birth. The restrictions that are supposedly in place are not really restrictions at all. Francis Beckwith put it this way: In the first six months of pregnancy a woman can have an abortion for no reason, but in the last three months she can have it for ANY reason. That, my friends, is abortion on demand and that is the situation in which we find ourselves in America.

2. NOW, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL consistently argue that only 1% of all abortions occur in the 3rd trimester (months 7-9). So what? The fact that the unborn child is left unprotected is still a flaw in the law, regardless of how many are killed at that stage. Considering that 1.5 million abortions are performed per year in America, 1% would be 15,000 children who were done away with, or about 41 per day. Sorry, but that is no insignificant number.

3. Coathangers anyone? Anyone that can remember the 80’s abortion debate in America will remember the signs that pro-abortion backers walked around with—a picture of a coat hanger. The point of the sign was to represent the large numbers of women that were killed or maimed by illegal abortions or by self-administered abortions in which they presumably used a coat hanger for the job when abortion was illegal. So the arguments was that if abortion was made illegal, that women will resort to this practice again. A very strong rhetorical and emotional argument, but is it really a valid point?

The first problem with this argument is that it flatly assumes that the fetus inside the woman’s body is not a human person. If it IS fully human, then this argument basically says that because people die or are harmed (the mom) in the process of killing other people (the fetus), that the state should make it safe for them to do this. Reasonable people would say something like ‘restricting abortion probably does sometimes have horrible side effects but that doesn’t make the restrictions OK since murder is wrong regardless in every case.’ If the fetus is fully human, then the bottom line is that the effects of not having access is less grave than deliberately killing an innocent human. Period.

So is the argument true or false? Will women flock to back alleys and lounge bathrooms in order to obtain an abortion in the case that it is restricted or banned altogether? Before Roe v Wade, pro choice advocates were on record as claiming that over a million women every year obtained illegal abortions with coat hangers in back alleys, resulting in thousands of deaths. Here’s the problem. One of those advocates, the architect of the pro-choice movement and an abortion provider himself, now admits that his movement DELIBERATELY made up those numbers! Nathanson says, ‘I confess that the figures (up to 10,000 deaths from illegal abortions)were totally false. The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, anything which had to be done was permissible.’ (Aborting America by Bernard Nathanson, 1979)

Furthermore, the claims of about 1 million illegal abortions being performed during years of restriction/ban are false as well! The average/mean over an 11 year period between 1950 and 1961 was about 98,000. (New Perspectives on Human Abortion, 1981, Thomas Hilgers)

And what about those ‘back alley butchers’? Were they, in fact, the medieval blood merchants that we hear they were? Funny, but the President of Planned Parenthood, in 1960, cited Dr. Kinsey’s findings that in 1958 87% of all illegal abortions were performed by licensed physicians in good standing. She herself suggested that ‘90% of all illegal abortions are presently done by physicians.’ (American Journal of Health, July 1960, Mary Calderone) So if you think about it, the ones that were providing the illegal abortions before Roe (the so-called back alley butchers) probably became the present day abortion providers. I’m guessing they were just as safe and careful before Roe as they are now.

4. The pro-abortion argument which claims that the woman or family will be unduly harmed if they cannot access an abortion is confused. Of course, if the fetus is fully human, then this will guide the assessment of whether abortion, in these or any other cases, is a real solution to the problem or not. There’s a difference between ‘solving a problem’ and ‘eliminating a problem’. An example that I’ve seen is that one can eliminate the problem of poverty by executing all poor people but this is not really a solution to the problem of poverty for obvious reasons—exterminating people isn’t moral. It’d be like solving the problem of a cut on someone’s arm by amputating the arm. That’s just not a real solution. If the fetus is fully human, then an abortion would be akin to eliminating my pulled calf muscle by cutting off my leg. Hardship doesn’t justify homicide.

But what about the hard cases? Say a woman has had a test that reveals a Downs Syndrome baby or handicapped baby? Well, do the hard cases really support the pro abortion position? Let’s grant for a moment that the hard cases were legitimately moral reasons. The law of the land would STILL be flawed because it currently asserts abortion as a fundamental right that can be exercised for ANY reason and at just about ANY time. So abortion would be justified ONLY in those hard cases and not as it applies today. Still, those hard cases do not justify abortion…

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Relics: Creepy Coolness

Tomorrow, the arm bone of St. Jude, one of the original 12 apostles, will be at St. Francis Cathedral Basillica for all to view. I'm geeked. 20 years ago, I'd probably have gone along just to see something as creepy as a 2000 year old arm bone. Tomorrow, I'm going because of this reason but also much more. Being a history buff, I find very few things that are more 'historical' than the remains of a man who walked, talked, ate, and preached with Jesus Christ. St. Jude is the patron of lost causes--a powerful intercessor--and asking him to pray for a few of those causes is what i've got in mind. This brings me to the reason I'm writing--to put the Catholic tradition of venerating relics in its proper perspective and to explain the teaching in the simplest manner I can.

1. Relics are not magic. As such, the Catholic Church puts no stock in the superstition that relics are magical or possess the ability to cure/heal of themselves. All the Church says is that, according to Scripture, they have been, and can be an occasion or instrument through which God performs miracles. In fact, the Council of Trent said that the bodies of the holy martyrs and saints are to be venerated because 'many benefits are bestowed upon men by God through these bodies.'

2. Relics are instruments of miracles in Scripture. In Exodus 13, we see that the Israelites venerated the bones of Joseph. In 4 Kings, we see the bones of Elisha the prophet actually revive a man simply by touching him. In the New Testament, we see many being healed by touching not the Lord Himself, but the hem of his garment. My favorite is in Acts 15 where Peter's shadow cures the sick as did the handkerchiefs of the apostle Paul in Acts 19. But the Church teaches that ALL these things occurred because of and only by God's power. Finally, consider how Christ's dead body was treated after being removed from the cross. Customary practice was to leave the body to be taken down by the Romans. Instead, many people donated a tomb, spices, and other things including anointing His body and even visiting the tomb regularly.

3. The veneration of relics is a historic tradition of the Church. As far back as the 2nd century, we see accounts of this practice. Polycarp, one who sat at the feet of one of the original 12, was burned at the stake. His followers, in the extra biblical book called the Martyrdom of Polycarp (considered by many to be inspired but didn't make the final cut), relay that they 'took up his bones, which were more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold'. They placed Polycarp's bones in a suitable place and assembled regularly there to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom. One anti-Catholic historian, Adolph Harnack, admits that NO doctor of the Church ever restricted veneration of relics but rather openly practiced it.

4. The veneration of relics is not worship, adoration, or prayer. Catholics do not pray to a piece of bone. We do not ask the head of a deceased martyr to pray for us. Veneration entails honor and nothing more, much like looking on a picture of a dearly beloved family member who has died to remember his/her place in our family. As St. Jerome explains, "We do not worship, we do not adore, we do not bow down before the creature rather than to the Creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are." In short, veneration of relics is nothing more than honoring God's creation. A good analogy is that of an artist. Were you to walk into a room filled with Picasso's art and Pablo Picasso is sitting at a table in that room, would you approach him and admire his person or would you praise his work? Honoring God's creation honors He who created it.

5. The Church takes great effort in attempting to verify their authenticity. Still, the Church does not declare any relic as authentic. And really, why should it? The veneration, after all, is aimed at the person, not the relic itself. Some relics are beyond doubt, others are probable, and others less so.

6. Veneration is a matter of the heart. Catholics are accused by many of worshipping relics or believing they possess magic that they can unleash to aid themselves. This would require looking into the heart of the Catholic which, last time I checked, could only be done by God. To accuse is to assume the role of God in determining that the little old lady praying in front of the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette is assigning worship to it. In short, this is an unfair accusation. Only the 'venerator' and God know for sure. And as such, those who would judge a person for idolatry ought reconsider.

St. Jude, patron of lost causes, pray for us.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


The two formal principles of the Protestant Reformation are that (1) Scripture ALONE is the sole rule of faith for followers of Christ (Sola Scriptura) and (2) that man is saved by faith ALONE (Sola Fide). What I don’t understand is that the ‘Scriptura’ should prove the ‘Fide’—but it just doesn’t. This is a fundamental reason that I determined that if I was to be Christian, there was no option available to me but Catholicism.

What Does the Book Say?

Man receives salvation, justification, new birth (being born again), and eternal life by:

*Grace (Acts 15:11; Ephesians 2:8)
*Believing in Christ (J. 3;16; Acts 16:31)
*Baptism (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5)
*Repentance (Acts 2:38; 2 Peter 3:9)
*By eating his flesh and his blood (John 6:50-66)
*The work of the Spirit (John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6)
*Works (Romans 2:6,7; James 2:21, 24-25)
*By declaring with our mouth (Luke 12:8; Romans 10:9)
*By his blood (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:22)
*By his righteousness ( Romans 5:17; 2 Peter 1:1)
*By coming to know Truth (1 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 10:26)
*By his cross (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 2:14)
*By childbearing (1 Tim. 2:15)--women only...

How Protestant reformers squeezed all these things into ‘faith alone’ is beyond me. The Catholic Church believes we are saved by grace alone as a free gift of God. As you can see, each of the above listed elements can be, and are, channels of grace for Christians and so easily fit into Catholic teaching on how we are saved. Can we cut any one of these elements out of the list and declare that it ALONE is the means of salvation? Can we be saved without faith? Without God’s grace? Without repentance? Without baptism? Without the Spirit? Of course not. They are ALL involved in salvation (and entry into the Church). To exclude any is to turn away from the fullness of Christ’s teaching and the fullness of His salvation. The Protestant belief reminds me of a surgeon who saves a patient’s limb but ignores the internal injuries and cardiac arrest of the patient and declares the surgery successful.

Furthermore, a decisive factor in my remaining Catholic and turning to Mother Church with all that I had, was that it’s a ‘both/and’ Church and not an ‘either/or’ proposition. I understood Jesus’ mission to bring people to Him AND His Church whereas the lack of Protestant unity and inability to maintain a coherent ‘church’ for any prolonged period of time, promulgates a circumstance of only bringing people to Christ as we perceive him in Scripture. Currently, there are over 30,000 different perceptions of him, as evidenced by the 30,000+ Protestant denominations in existence. But Protestantism is inherently incapable of bringing anyone to Christ’s Church because its very definition of ‘church’ is some invisibly aligned entity in which it is OK to disagree with itself on fundamental Christian issues of salvation.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, brings us to Christ AND His Church. St. Paul called the Church ‘the body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:12) and calls Jesus the Head (Ephesians 4:15). While the Protestant churches ‘decapitate’ Christ from his body, the Catholic Church cannot and does not. If it is to bring people to Christ, it must be to the WHOLE Christ, which means bringing them to his Church, his body. The Catholic faith brings people to the King AND His Kingdom.

In like manner, the Catholic faith teaches that all the above listed elements are necessary for salvation precisely because they are channels of grace for the Christian. Bear in mind that the above is not an exhaustive list of elements provided by Christ as channels of grace. The Catholic sacraments are all found in Scripture and were instituted by Christ, not by man made tradition. This is why sacraments are so integral to God’s economy of salvation. They are oaths/covenants with Christ in which we give Him our selves and He makes what was humanly impossible (saving ourselves) possible through His divine grace.

Yeah But, Have You Seen The Problems Of The Catholic Church?

Coming into the Catholic faith anew from 20+ years of wandering through secularism and being my own pope, I did indeed see the shortcomings of the Church. How could these lukewarm Catholics, who were every bit as sinful as the un-churched, be who they said they were? Catechesis was (and still is in many places) inadequate and heterodox. Every news show had stories of sinful and criminal priests. Bishops were weak and unwilling to defend Christ’s Church or their own authority. Church goers were lazy, ignorant, and only willing to obey Church laws they wanted to follow. Bible knowledge was embarrassingly inadequate and it showed in the numbers of Catholics that were leaving to become Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, or Mormon.

Consider this. Had we lived in Old Testament times, they would’ve had the same problems. God defined his people as those who were under his appointed kings, prophets, and priests. They all had to be circumcised, had to follow the Law, and celebrate all the ceremonies. God had given them a Temple, Scriptures, and rules for life and worship. But many of the priests were cheats, many of the kings were diabolical and disobedient, and the even some prophets were self-serving! The people worshiped false gods, lived sinfully, and violated their covenant with God over and over.

The problems of the Old Testament Jewish church didn’t negate the Jews’ position as God’s first born or their covenant with God. They sure didn’t look like our preconception of God’s people—disobedient, stubborn, greedy, and immoral. But interestingly, the prophets, seeing the utter inadequacy and immorality of the Israelites, never said, ‘Leave this immoral people and create a Reformed Israel.’ Instead, they suffered trying to keep the people unified while crying out for repentance.

The Catholic Church is the fulfillment of the Jewish Church. It is the New Jerusalem and partakes of the new and everlasting covenant with God. She is the Bride of Christ, according to Scripture. And as Jesus taught, there is only ONE Bridegroom and ONE Bride. Leaving the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church to become a mistress of Christ is utterly unscriptural, not historical, and contrary to reason. When our families are troubled, the last thing God wants us to do is walk away from it and begin a new family. God is faithful to his Bride and to his family, so why aren’t we?

If we prayed for our priests, bishops, and laity to God as much as we complain, ignore, and defy them, we'd have virtuous and strong leaders. Instead, we take the easy way out by picking and choosing what we will follow and what we will not follow; or we outright abandon them, and God's one, holy, and apostolic church just when she needs us most.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Here are the verses from the RSV:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Here is the argument that Protestants make, as I understand it:

The verses above say that Scriptures provide us the wisdom for salvation, and that Scripture is inspired by God. This is a place where Paul would’ve/could’ve, had he wanted to clarify, told us that something OTHER than Scripture existed on an equal plane to provide us with the wisdom of salvation. He doesn’t go on to mention Tradition, nor does he even say Tradition is inspired of God, let alone say it’s useful to us for salvation. We therefore assume that Scripture is the only thing that is inspired by God that he gives us and the only infallible rule of faith for followers of Christ. Anything else that would be added to the mix must be shown to be inspired of God and that without it, Christians cannot be equipped to undertake all these tasks.

Here is my response:

First, let me frame the argument like this. The above argument affirms that the Scriptures teach that they are the sole infallible rule of faith for Christians. Here’s what’s lacking—evidence to back up the claim AND proof that every other claim is false. For if Scripture is the SOLE rule, and these verses teach this, they should also EXCLUDE any other possible rule of faith.

Second, let’s make clear that this argument Protestants make is an argument from silence. In other words, since no other possible rule of faith is listed in these verses, they don’t exist. Protestants draw the conclusion that since no other possible rule of faith is mentioned here, that no such alternative exists that would qualify as a rule of faith. Here’s the problem with that: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (here are the verses)

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved -- so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God's wrath has come upon them at last!

Here, St. Paul identifies something other than written Scripture as the Word of God—his own oral testimony. St. Paul’s gospel and teachings did not become inspired only once he wrote them down. On the contrary, they were binding when he said them, when he communicated them orally to his followers and no later. If Paul says ‘Baptism is required for salvation.’, those words become binding when he says them, not when he writes them down 2 years, 2 months, or even 2 minutes later. The teaching of the Apostles, in fact, was the rule of faith before Scripture even existed. Think of it this way—Thomas the Apostle created a Christian community in India that exists to this day even though he didn’t write a word of Scripture. How can this be? Because his WORDS, spoken from his own mouth, were the rule of faith on which the Indian Church was built.

But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

In the context of these verses, we see the gospel being mentioned. Surely the gospel was necessary for salvation, right? Standing firm in the gospel is how one is saved. What is that gospel made up of? Paul tells us it’s made up of the traditions he passed onto them, by word of mouth (spoken) or by letter (epistle). If we do not stand firm in these traditions, which make up the gospel Paul preached, we cannot be saved. Paul does not segregate, in any order of importance, written versus oral teaching but puts them on par with each other. No ‘expiration date’ for oral Tradition or its binding effect is given in Scripture so the potential argument that oral Tradition was only useful until the Bible was compiled and defined is wishful thinking at best.

But now, let’s look at the proof text from 2 Timothy since this is the single best possible verse to hang sola scriptura on…

First, let’s address the overriding idea that this verse somehow proves ‘Scripture is all you need.’ I appeal to an honest and truthful reading of the text—does it really say ‘Scripture ALONE’? Paul includes ALL Scripture in his statement but does not explicitly limit his statement to Scripture ALONE. In fact, had Paul wanted to convey that Scripture, and ONLY Scripture is sufficient or all that is needed, he could’ve said this, using words that plainly existed in Greek to leave no doubt—words like ‘arketos’ (translated as ‘sufficient’ in 3 separate places in Scripture). Instead, he uses ‘ophelimos’ which translates to ‘profitable’ or ‘useful’. Honesty demands that we acknowledge the difference between ‘sufficient’ and ‘profitable’ or ‘useful’. As one scholar puts it: A hammer is profitable or useful for driving nails, but that does not mean that nails can be driven ONLY by hammers. Nail guns and other objects do the job as well, no?

Second, let’s address the second part of the verse, ‘the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ The Greek word used for ‘complete’ is ‘artios’. The Greek word used here for ‘equipped’ is ‘exartizo’. From these words, Protestants have interpreted the word ‘sufficient’, in effect, changing the meaning of the words to fit their preconceived idea that they wish to convey. Here are the problems with this:

1. Even the King James Version, along with all the published Protestant Bible versions, states that ‘sufficient’ is NOT the correct translation of even ONE of the two terms.

2. The result of using this principle of exegesis consistently—that is, throughout Scripture—creates some absurdities. The principle Protestants use to exegete this passage is: ‘If X makes you complete then you don’t need anything other than X.’ If we apply this principle to James 1:4, for example, which states, ‘And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’, we would have to say that we do not need anything other than steadfastness to be complete. Granted, the Greek word used here ‘teleios’ and ‘holokleros’ are different but, alas, they’re STRONGER words than the ones used in Paul’s epistle!

3. The two terms in the verse modify the man of God, not Scripture. It says that Scripture helps make the man of God complete and equipped, not that Scripture itself is complete and equipped. In the New Testament, the ‘man of God’ is a clergyman (not a lay man)—one appointed, prepared, and approved by apostolic authority. The text presupposes a knowledge that the man of God already has before he even approaches Scripture.

4. Let’s assume I am going to build a home. I purchase every single material and tool I’ll require to build that home, thereby making myself fully equipped and complete in everything I’ll need to build that home. I then lay every tool and material on the piece of land I’m going to build on. I may be fully equipped but don’t know how the materials fit together to make a house. Those materials I’ve bought, then, are not ‘sufficient’ to complete the work of building my home. Applied to Scripture, we see that it is MATERIALLY SUFFICIENT but not FORMALLY SUFFICIENT for Christians. Every material is present in Scripture for our salvation but nowhere did God reveal that we alone, apart from a teaching authority, can put those materials into a complete salvation. Just take a look at the 30,000 Protestant divisions and their diametrically opposed appeals to Scripture for their traditions.

Third, in the Protestant vain, let’s compare the verse with others like it in Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, we see:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

‘Every good work’ is the same one used in 2 Timothy but here it’s combined with the phrase ‘all that you need’—i.e., ‘sufficient’. The Greek word here is ‘autarkeia’. It’s defined as a ‘perfect state, where no help or support is needed’. To make a case for Scripture ALONE, we should see this kind of language describing Scripture. Yet we see that the only thing that is ‘all sufficient’ is God’s grace.

In 2 Timothy 2:21, we see:

If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use and prepared unto every good work.

Here Paul is talking about the things we have to purge ourselves of which are unworthy. He says if we do this, we are prepared to every good work. Does that mean that ALL we have to do is purge ourselves of these things? Of course that’s not what Paul is saying. We’re told by Paul not just to avoid sin but to have a faith working in love.

In Titus 3:1, we see:

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready for every good work.

Using the exegetical principle set forth by Protestants in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, mere subjection to principalities and powers is all we need in order to perform every good work. Clearly this is not reasonable or supported by the whole of Scripture. The only place we see something mentioned as ‘all sufficient’ to equip us unto every good work is when Paul names God’s grace—nothing more and nothing less.

The word ‘ophelimos’ is used by St. Paul 3 times—1 Tim 4:8, Titus 3:8, and 2 Tim 3:14-17. Each time it is used, we see St. Paul saying that what he mentions is profitable in various respects. What we do NOT see is St. Paul laying down a hard and fast rule that invokes ‘all sufficiency’ or ‘to the exclusion of everything else’.

In reading and re-reading 2 Timothy 3:4-17, I find the real meaning of the passage a few verses back:

Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Ico'nium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (v 10-14)

Paul is preparing a ‘man of God’ in Timothy. He’s doing this by helping him understand how to not be deceived or deceive. Paul says that Timothy can trust in the gospel because of who he learned it from. Timothy learned the gospel from the mouth of Paul (oral Tradition) and from the written Scripture—namely the Old Testament which he knew from his infancy. Paul, then, is telling Timothy that the Old Testament—ALL of it—is inspired by God, considering that the New Testament did not exist yet.

In summary, sola scriptura or ‘the Bible ALONE’ teaches that Scripture is clear enough to understand 2 Timothy 3:14-17 as a proof of sola scriptura. The preceding arguments, along with the 30,000 differing Protestant interpretations of Scripture, should be sufficient (pun intended) to call this idea into doubt. Approaching this verse without preconceptions should render implausible the tradition that the Bible alone is/should be our sole rule of faith. The only way to fit the square peg of this verse into the round hole of ‘Bible Alone’ is to go beyond the written word and the reasonable intention of the text and its writer.

Good Read About Contraception And Christianity

This is a reprint of one of my favorite articles regarding contraception, Christianity, and culture. Father Hardon is one of the sharpest tools in the box but he manages to break this down into relatively simple terms. Many thanks to Catholic Culture Website.

Contraception:Fatal to the Faith and to Eternal Life
by John A. Hardon, S.J.

On the thirtieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, it seems only proper to identify what contraception really is. It is at once fatal to the true faith and to the eternal life which our faith promises.
You might say this piece will be two articles in one. First we shall see how the practice of contraception inevitably leads to the loss of the true faith. Then we shall look at how contraception leads to eternal death.

Contraception Fatal to the Faith

This must seem like a strange title, “Contraception—Fatal to the Faith.” What does the title mean? Does it mean that to believe in contraception is contrary to the faith? Or does it mean that Christian believers may not practice contraception? Or does it mean that those who practice contraception are in danger of losing their faith?

What do we mean by the title and what is the thesis of this presentation? We mean that professed Catholics who practice contraception either give up the practice of contraception or they give up their Catholic faith.

Needless to say, this is a startling statement that many would violently disagree with. They will point out the widespread practice of contraception among many—some would say the majority of professed Catholics in a country like the United States. They will quote from numerous professedly Catholic moral theologians openly defending contraception. They will give you the pronouncements of whole conferences of bishops who claim that contraception is really a matter of conscience.

Those who sincerely believe that contraception is morally permissible may not be told they are doing wrong; they may not be barred from receiving Holy Communion; in fact, they need not even have to confess the practice of contraception when they go to confession.

We return to where we began, to make clear what we are saying. We affirm in this article that the deliberate practice of contraception between husband and wife is objectively a mortal sin. Those who persist in its practice are acting contrary to the explicit teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. They may protest that they are Catholic. They may profess to be Catholics. But their conduct belies their profession.

Someone may object that we are living in a contraceptive society. Moreover, the silence of so many bishops and the overt teaching of so many nominally Catholic moralists defending contraception forbids our saying that contraception and the Catholic faith are incompatible. In the light of all the foregoing, let me address myself to the following topics which collectively prove the underlying thesis of this article.

• The Catholic Church teaches infallible doctrine, both in faith and morals.
• This infallible teaching is done by the Church’s extraordinary and by her ordinary universal authority or magisterium.
• The grave sinfulness of contraception is taught infallibly by the Church’s ordinary universal teaching authority.
• Therefore, those who defend contraception forfeit their claim to being professed Catholics.
• Consequently, those who persist in their defense of contraception, deprive themselves of the divine graces which are reserved to bona fide members of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Church Teaches Infallibly On Faith And Morals

There is some value in explaining that the Church’s infallibility covers not only doctrines that are to be believed, like Christ’s divinity or His Real Presence in the Eucharist. No, the Church also, and with emphasis, also teaches infallibly what the followers of Christ are to do.

In His final commission to the Apostles, Jesus told them to teach all nations, “to observe all that I have commanded you.”To mention just one infallible teaching in the moral order: the permanence of the marriage bond. Emphatically, the Church’s irreversible doctrines include truths that we are obliged to believe. But they also include precepts that we are universally bound to obey.

This deserves to be emphasized. Why? Because there are nominally Catholic writers who are claiming that the Church’s gift of infallibility extends only to her teaching of the faith. It does not, so the claim goes, include grave moral obligations like the prohibition of adultery, sodomy or contraception. That is not true.

Two Forms of Infallible Teaching

What are the two ways in which the Church teaches infallibly? She does so whenever the Pope solemnly defines a dogma of the faith, as when in 1950 Pope Pius XII declared that Our Lady was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

But the Church also teaches infallibly whenever her bishops, united with the Pope, proclaim that something is to be accepted by all the faithful. Thus abortion was condemned as murder by the Catholic hierarchy, under the Pope, already in the first century of the Christian era—and ever since.

It is therefore infallibly true that abortion is a crime of willful homicide. So, too, the grave sinfulness of homosexuality is infallible Catholic teaching.

Infallibly True That Contraception Is a Mortal Sin

We return to where we began. Is it infallible Catholic doctrine that contraception is a mortal sin? Yes!

How do we know? We know this from the twenty centuries of the Catholic Church’s teaching. Already in the first century, those who professed the Catholic Faith did not practice either contraception or abortion, which were commonly linked together.

The people of the pagan Roman Empire into which they were born universally practiced:
• Abortion
• Contraception
• Infanticide
• Cohabitation of one man with either several legal wives, or with a plurality of concubines.

In contrast with this moral promiscuity, Christians practiced monogamy, one man with one woman; they did not use drugs to prevent conception; they did not kill the newborn children whom they did not want to live; they did not practice sodomy or prostitution; and for the Christian, adultery and fornication were grave sins that might require several years of penitential expiation.

What do we call the Church’s unbroken tradition in forbidding contraception? We call it her ordinary universal magisterium or teaching authority. This has always been considered a proof of infallibility, or from another perspective, irreversibility.What do these two terms mean? Infallibility means that God protects the Church from error in her 2000 years of teaching that contraception is a grave sin against God. Irreversibility means that this teaching will never be reversed. Contraception will remain a grave sin until the end of time.

To Defend Contraception Forfeits the Catholic Faith

As Christianity expanded, the inevitable happened. Once professed Christians lapsed into their former paganism.We read in the first three centuries about the thousands of Christians who chose to be thrown to the lions, or beheaded, or crucified—rather than conform to the pagan immorality that was so prevalent in the culture in which they lived.

It is possible to misunderstand the Age of Martyrs of the first three centuries of the Christian era. We are liable to associate professing the Christian faith by refusing to drop a grain of incense before a statue of one of the pagan gods. No, the issue was much deeper and more serious. To be a Christian meant to refuse to conform to the pagan morality of those who did not believe in Christ. To be a Christian meant to reject the pagan immorality of the contemporary world—at the heart of which was the practice of contraception.

The Situation in the Modern World

Contraception as a general practice is a recent innovation in the western nominally Christian society.Its rise is partly explained by the medical discovery of drugs which either prevent conception, or which destroy the unborn child in its mother’s womb. But the rise of contraception is mainly the result of a widespread propaganda by women like Margaret Sanger and the powerful forces of population control.

What have been the consequences of this return to prechristian paganism which is now “the law of the land” in once Christian nations like the United States? The consequences are inevitable. The once solitary defender of the sanctity of marital relations is now on trial for the profession of its Catholic faith.In 1968, when Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae, the episcopal conferences of one country after another met in solemn session to pass judgment on the teachings of the Vicar of Christ.

Bishops in what we call the “Third World Countries” stood firmly behind the Pope’s teaching. But the bishops of so-called developed countries, like the United States, or Canada, or France, or Germany, or Austria, or Scandinavia issued long documents that, to put it mildly, compromised the teachings of the Vicar of Christ.

What followed was as inevitable as night follows day. Once firmly believing Catholics became confused, or bewildered, or simply uncertain about the grave moral evil of contraception. The spectacle of broken families, broken homes, divorce and annulments, abortion and the mania of homosexuality—all of this has its roots in the acceptance of contraception on a wide scale in what only two generations ago was a professed Catholic population.

Contraception Fatal to the Faith

We come back to where we started—by claiming that contraception is fatal to the Catholic Faith.

By divine ordinance, those who call themselves Catholic must subscribe to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church of which the Bishop of Rome is the visible head.

This Catholic Church now stands alone in the world as the one universal authority which condemns contraception as contrary to the will of God.

Within the Catholic ranks has arisen an army of dissidents who speak and write in defense of contraception. The sex-preoccupied Andrew Greeley of Chicago recently devoted a whole chapter of a book entitled, “That damned encyclical,” referring to Humanae Vitae. This priest remains in good standing in ecclesiastical circles.

When the present Holy Father made his first pilgrimage as Pope to the United States, he pleaded in Chicago with the American bishops to do something over the scandal of so many Catholics on Sundays going to Holy Communion and so few going to confession.

All the evidence indicates that the core issue at stake is contraception. If contraception is not a grave sin, well then what is? And why go to confession if I am still in God’s friendship although practicing contraception.

What is the new conclusion? That the single, principal cause for the breakdown of the Catholic faith in materially overdeveloped countries like ours has been contraception.

St. James tells us that faith without good works is dead. What good is it to give verbal profession of the Catholic faith, and then behave like a pagan in marital morality?


The single most crucial need to stem this hemorrhage from the Catholic Faith is for the Church’s leaders to stand behind the Vicar of Christ in proclaiming the Church’s two millennia of teaching that no marital act can be separated from its God-given purpose to conceive and procreate a child.

I make bold to say that the Catholic Church, the real Roman Catholic Church, will survive only where her bishops are courageous enough to proclaim what the followers of Christ have believed since apostolic times. But the bishops are frail human beings. They need, Lord how they need, the backing and support of the faithful under their care.Contraception Fatal to Eternal Life What can this possibly mean? It means exactly what it says. The practice of contraception is a grave sin. Those who indulge in the practice are in danger of losing their immortal souls.

Difficult or intolerable as the language may seem, it is the truth. My purpose here is to prove that historic Christianity has always held, holds now, and always will hold, that contraception is a serious offense against God. Unless repented, it is punishable by eternal deprivation of the vision of God, which we call eternal death.

Teaching of the Church in Apostolic Times

Historians agree that contraception is a social practice that goes back to centuries before Christ. Medical papyri describing contraceptive methods are as old as 2700 BC in China, and 1850 BC in Egypt.

In the Roman Empire of the first century of the Christian era, contraception was universally approved and practiced by the people.

As might be expected, the followers of Christ were faced from the beginning with a hard choice. If they wanted to remain faithful to Christ’s teaching, they had to avoid contraception.

In the language of the day, contraceptive practice was referred to as “using magic” and “using drugs.” It was in this sense that the first century Teaching of the Twelve Apostles warns Christians in four successive precepts:

• “You shall not use magic.”
• “You shall not use drugs.”
• “You shall not procure abortion.”
• “You shall not destroy an unborn child.”

The sequence of those prohibitions is significant. We know from the record of those times that women would first try some magical rites or use sorcery to avoid conception. If this failed, they would take one or another of then known seventeen medically approved contraceptives. If a woman still became pregnant, she would try to abort. And if even this failed, she and her male partner could always resort to infanticide, which was approved by Roman law.

Christians were warned not to follow the example of their pagan contemporaries, who walked in darkness and the shadow of death. Christians were absolutely forbidden to practice contraception, which leads to abortion, which leads to infanticide.

From Apostolic Times to Humanae Vitae

For the next 1900 years, the litany of the Church’s teaching on artificial birth control was never interrupted. Popes and saints and scholars in different words and from different perspectives taught the same thing: Contraception is a grave sin that no one who claims to be a Christian may perform.

Out of a library of witnesses to this doctrine, St. Augustine wrote a whole treatise on Conjugal Adultery, in which he declared, “Intercourse with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked whenever the conception of offspring is prevented.”When recently, the present Holy Father repeated St. Augustine’s statement about contraception as marital adultery, he was crucified by the world media.

That is why no one should have been surprised at the reception, or rather, rejection, that Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae received in 1968.

Thirty years ago, Paul VI appealed to the conscience of the world when he warned about “the consequences of practicing artificial birth control.” His warning was prophetic. What have been the consequences of contraception in one once-civilized nation after another?

They have been myriad. But I would give especially seven, which may be listed in sequence.
• Fornication;
• Adultery;
• Sterilization;
• Homosexuality;
• Breakdown of the family; and
• Murder of the unborn.

At the risk of repeating the obvious, let me briefly show how contraception inevitably leads to these seven tragedies that haunt the modern world.


How can we expect unmarried people to practice chastity if married people are allowed to practice mutual masturbation, which is another name for contraception?

This touches at the heart of sane morality. Intercourse is the divinely instituted means for married person to cooperate with God in procreating children. It is also the divinely provided means of fostering mutual love between husband and wife.But contraception does just the opposite. It deliberately prevents the conception of a child and it fosters, not mutual love, but mutual selfishness.

Is it any wonder that our country is plagued with fornicators who indulge their sex passions, while avoiding the responsibilities of parenthood?


How can a husband respect a wife who insists on using contraceptives? And how can a wife respect a husband who refuses to accept the duties of fatherhood?

The soul of Christian marriage is selfless love between the spouses. Contraceptive relations between married people are a lie. They pretend to love one another. But in reality, they are using one another in what might just well be called prostitution.The history of mankind is clear. Contraception in marriage leads to infidelity in either or in both partners. Naturally! Why limit sex activity to one’s spouse if no commitment to having or raising children is the consequence of intercourse?


We do not ordinarily associate contraception with sterilization. But we should.It is one thing to use contraception as an occasional malpractice. It is something else when people have themselves sterilized to avoid even fathering or mothering a child.

Yet massive sterilization, in a country like the United States, has become commonplace. Now the discovery of a five-year, synthetic hormone contraceptive gives carte blanche to any female teenager or adult, willing to have it surgically implanted under the skin. One of the largest school systems in America is doing just that—at taxpayer’s expense. The sterilizing hormone is implanted under the skin in young girl’s arms. No parental permission is needed.

This opened the door to an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, whose ratio is already sky-high in the United States.


The relationship between contraception and homosexuality is seldom adverted to and, in homosexual circles, openly denied. Yet they are connected by the most basic laws of human society.

Contraception contradicts the most fundamental desire of the human heart: to give oneself in total generosity to another human being. Marital relations are meant by God to satisfy this desire between the married spouses.But if women selfishly withhold this generosity from men, men will—tragically look for such generosity in other men. And women will look for it in other women.

As you read some of the homosexual and lesbian literature, you are moved to tears at seeing how a contraceptive society has begotten a homosexual society. In their desperate search for love, men will turn to other men and women to other women. To say they are being deceived is only to emphasize the pity of a sodomistic culture that is starving for love. Contraception deprives married people of the love that they expect to find in a marriage between two people of opposite and complementary gender.

AIDS Epidemic

With all the published writings and statistics on Acquired Immune Deficiency, seldom a word is given to associate this dreadful scourge with widespread practice of contraception.

In spite of all the protests to the contrary, the AIDS epidemic has its roots in homosexuality. By now, of course, there are victims of AIDS whose condition is the result of other factors than sodomy. But the radical cause remains. And therefore, we should in sheer justice, associate the physical disease with its moral foundations, which is homosexuality abetted by contraception.

Family breakdown

The breakdown of stable family life in formerly Christian countries of the Western world is a matter of record. No one who is even dimly aware of what is going on in countries like our own, has any doubt that the family, as known since the dawn of Christianity, is being legislated out of existence.

I use the word “legislated” to bring out what Pope Paul stated so clearly in Humanae Vitae. In context, he is urging reasons for avoiding contraception. He says:

Consider also the dangerous weapon that would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who pay no attention to moral obligations.Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of a community those means acknowledged licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem?

So it has been. Once contraception became widespread, it was only logical for civil governments to impose a contraceptive way of life on all their citizens.

Thus, everything controlled by the government reflects a contraceptive mentality:

• The majority of employed people, working outside the home, are women.

• The salaries earned by husbands and fathers make it next to impossible for them to provide for the size and kind of family they would honestly desire.

• The feminist ideology deprives men of the dignity and respect they deserve and need in the modern world.

• The number of children of single parent, shall we call them families, has reached gigantic proportions.

• Countless children are no longer reared by their parents, but by paid personnel in so-called day care centers.

• Working mothers and under-paid fathers have become commonplace.

• The very idea of a stable and loving family has become—for millions—a starry ideal.

All of this, and more, can be traced, as surely as smoke proves a fire, to the contraceptive mania that is destroying the foundations of the human family.


I have saved abortion as the last of the seven deadly consequences of contraception. This, too, is a law of human behavior. Abortion follows contraception like the law of gravity.

This is obvious. As people come to equate sexual pleasure with the self-gratification, there is no limit to their lustful pride. Contraception has taught them to have their own way. They will stop at nothing to have their way, not even murder of their unborn offspring.

Respect for human life requires selfless love of human beings. As a nation is nurtured on contraceptive self-indulgence, it becomes a nation that kills innocent children—if they are an obstacle to the self-gratification of those who brought them into existence.

It has been correctly said that Humanae Vitae divides the Catholic Church into two periods of history. The Church will survive only among those who believe that contraception is deadly to both Christianity and the promise of a heavenly reward.Normally thirty years is a short time. But in this case it has been long enough to prove who are still truly Catholics. They are those who believe that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “keep my commandments.” The single most tested commandment of the Savior today is that contraception is fatal to the true faith and to eternal life.

Father Hardon is the Executive Editor of The Catholic Faith magazine. © Copyright 1998 Inter Mirifica