Friday, July 28, 2006

Contraception And The Catholic Church--FAQ'S

1. What has been the teaching of the Catholic Church about artificial birth control? How long has she taught this?

Most people do not realize that EVERY Christian Church in the world taught that artificial birth control was morally illicit up until 1930! Could the Church have had it wrong for 1930 years before suddenly getting it right? Hardly. And now, the Catholic Church stands alone in upholding the same moral principle that began in 33 AD--that artificial birth control is intrinsically evil. The most comprehensive Church document about this issue is Humanae Vitae, written in the 1960's as culture's attitude toward sex, love, and babies was radically changing. I would recommend it to EVERY married person--Catholic or not. In short, the views about sex, in the culture at large, were such that: 1) sex was a right; 2) sex was primarily for fun; 3) sex was casual, a pastime, if you will; 4) sex is merely clinical--we are no different than the animals in our appetite for it.
The Catholic Church stepped up and reiterated what the Christian Church had taught from its inception: 1) sex is a gift from God; 2) sex is nothing if it's not holy; 3) when you treat sex like it's anything less than holy, you profane it; 4) sex is unitive and procreative all at once--to separate these two missions of this holy act/gift, is to profane it and He who gave it to us; 5) the unitive act of sex is to say what Jesus said at the Last Supper--'This is my body which will be given up for you.' When you use artificial birth control, you lie with your body because you do not give all of it but merely one part.
See, the central theme of Scripture is the idea of 'covenant'. A covenant, in Scripture, is more than a legal declaration or agreement, it is a full and entire giving of self. A contract says 'I give you this product/service in return for that product/service. A covenant says 'I give myself to you and you give yourself to me.' The Book of Revelation hammered this home for me when we see Heaven portrayed as the 'Marriage Feast of The Lamb'. This imagery should do two things. First, it should tell us something about the nature of marriage as a covenant and not as a contract (as the Jews held it in Old Testament times). Second, it should tell us about the nature of the covenant between Christ and what Paul the Apostle calls 'the spotless bride'--namely the Church.
Christ, through His new covenant, elevates Marriage to something holy, not just contractual. As such, it is supposed to prefigure or imitate the nature of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, a marital covenant is called to imitate the love of the Trinity--eternal, exclusive, and life giving. Remember, there is no marriage in Heaven, for we are all married to Christ. And so even those not called to earthly marriage are called to understand the nature of marriage because he/she is married to Christ through the new covenant. As such, do you really think that refusing certain fundamental aspects of your spouse, such as his/her fertility and life-giving ability mirrors what the Trinity does? Uh, no. If we're called to imitate Christ, do you think Christ holds back anything or refuses his spouse simply because this love may produce life? Uh, no. So why do we do it in our earthly marriages?

Christ's relationship with His bride, the Church, is to be eternal, exclusive, and life giving. For when one converts to His Church, a new spiritual life begins. The nature of the love He has for his bride is perfect--He gave his life so that she may live. This is what is demanded of husbands and wives, according to Ephesians 5. Did Christ hold back anything in his redemptive work? No, it was perfect so that His Church may have spiritual life and give birth to others in its salvific workings in the world. This stuff can get a bit muddy but the point remains--marriage on earth is patterned after the marriage in Heaven of the Trinity--totally giving, totally unending, and totally life-giving. Attempts to prevent life from happening as a result of this love is futile in the Heavenly Marriage, and, for us, contrary to what we're called to as Christians on Earth.

Humanae Vitae, and specifically Pope Paul VI, made the following predictions for a culture that embraced contraception and had easy access to it. You tell me if they've come true or not:

  • First, he warned that the widespread use of contraception would lead to "conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." With adultery at an all time high in marriages, with 1.5 million abortions occurring yearly in the US alone, with venereal diseases still increasing, with a 50% divorce rate, with growing amounts of children born out of wedlock, with child and spousal abuse climbing yearly, and with families breaking apart by the boat load, it isn't hard to see that this culture has compromised its morals. The main reason, in my opinion, is because we can. We now have the technological ability to backslide morally and get away with it. Now let's be fair--the proliferation of birth control isn't he sole contributing factor in these cultural norms but it'd be pure denial to say that our culture' s attitude toward sex has not been transformed for the worse with the onset of birth control technologies and its accessibility. The cultural revolution caused, in part, by our society's mindset toward birth control and, subsequently, sex in general, has produced exactly what Pope Paul VI said it would.

  • Second, Pope Paul VI warned that man would lose respect for woman and "no longer [care] for her physical and psychological equilibrium," to the point that he would consider her "as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion." I'll be the first to admit that I've been guilty of this. Anyone that's seen pornography is an example of what Paul VI is talking about. The culture at large has lost sight of what sex is--a gift in which we literally give our selves away. Knowing that we can have sex without having to consider the procreative aspect of it leads to an inevitable disregard for the act. Contraception might be marketed as liberating for women, but the real "beneficiaries" of birth control pills and devices would be men. Forty years later, contraception has released males -- to a degree never before seen-- from responsibility for their sexual aggression. Speaking from experience, I've been guilty of caring only about sex in my marriage--objectifying my wife as a vehicle purely for my physical satisfaction. It happens. We used birth control in various forms for the first 11 of our 12 married years and, personally, I can say that the gift provided us by God turned into vain repetition, empty physicality, and an imbalanced relationship in which our sex life became an anchor around our collective neck. In today's culture, it's not about giving exclusively (only you), eternally (always you), or entirely (all of you, including your fertility). It's about satiating an appetite, doing it in a way that won't result in the burden of a kid, until we tire of each other, and maybe even with someone other than our spouse. The fact that infidelity is rising, spousal abuse is rising, and divorce is rising, points to Pope Paul VI's words coming true in our day.

  • Third, Paul VI warned that widespread use of contraception would place a "dangerous weapon . . . in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies." In other words, cultures like the one in China would arise in which parents are allowed a limited number of children to supposedly protect the interests of the state. Consequently, babies are killed through outright murder and abortion is wanton and commonplace there. Parents who try to hide their children from the government suffer greatly at the hands of a government that has taken eugenics to a new level and uses contraception to hold its people bound. Population control policies are part of every third world assistance package the United States appropriates--even mandating abortion in exchange for food and aid. It's a thinly veiled attempt at cultural re-engineering and population warfare, in a sense. In short, the onset of contraception has enabled the irresponsible use of it--a distinctly human problem.

  • Fourth, Pope Paul predicted that contraception would mislead human beings into 'thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power.' Ironically, the 'freedom' that contraception has given women has given rise to a twisted feminism in our culture. The feminist culture of today treats fertility, pregnancy and motherhood as a disease, an affliction. This mentality is directly responsible for the 1.5 million abortions yearly in this country because a pregnant woman is told by her peers that she is less a woman for doing that which ONLY a woman can do--give life. She is told that this parasite inside of her is a burden, a barrier to happiness, and, worst of all, that she has the fundamental right to kill it whenever she chooses. In short, the pro-choice movement was borne out of the mentality created and fostered by easy, accessible, and rampant use of contraception. Not to mention the fact that men no longer have to take a share in the responsibility for promiscuity, sexual aggression, and unplanned pregnancy. This supposed 'freedom' for women is really freedom for men, instead.

  • Finally, Paul VI predicted that the human dynamic--the way we relate to each other in matters of eros and agape--the two types of love--would be irreparably damaged with rampant use of contraception. In-vitro fertilization, cloning, stem cell research on embryos, etc are all products of contraceptive technology. I think it's safe to say we've created monsters which we never even dreamed of for our society. Not because they raise ethical questions (though these cannot be understated), but because the effect they've had on our ability to love as God loves has been dramatic and negative. Our view of the sacrament of marriage has all but disappeared, even in Catholic circles. As Paul VI put it, 'It has scrambled our vocabulary of love, just as pride scrambled the vocabulary of Babel. ' And today, we deal with the consequences daily. Same sex marriage, pornography, dead babies in plastic bags/garbage dumpsters, lack of sexual identity, abortion, and embryo harvesting are symptoms which started with a cultural revolution in the 1960's in which women 'freed' themselves, men were to be judged by how many women they'd slept with, and the lines of morality were intentionally blurred unrecognizably.

2. So we're expected to have 20 children?

If that is God's will, then so be it. But the implication is that the Church expects one to indiscriminately keep pumping out kids with reckless abandon--this is not true. All the Church (and by allusion, Christ) requires of us is that we respect the natural order of things. Sex was given to us with clear reason, integrity, and place. To contracept is to willfully 'tie God's hands', so to speak. Spacing of children and limiting of children for good reason are not contraception, according to Humanae Vitae. Issues that are considered in good conscience (e.g., economic, health, etc.) must be taken into account but it's NEVER moral to artificially and deliberately prevent life from occurring. Things like abstinence and Natural Family Planning are morally licit (when done with proper intent) precisely because they do work with the natural order of fertility and are not 'anti child' in their motive and method.

3. So I'm supposed to rely on the rhythm method and pray hard that I don't have 12 kids?

The 'rhythm method' is a dinosaur. If you want lots of kids, use it. Natural Family Planning is a precise and immensely effective (99% effective when used properly) way to space children, respect the unitive and procreative aspects of sex, and do it in a way that is morally licit. We use a method called the Creighton Method and would never return to artificial contraception. We both have a role in our fertility monitoring and both take a stake in it. For us, we determined that Christ holds us to higher standards than the pagan world and so we are willing to try living by that standard. It isn't always easy but you can see that we don't have 12 kids. The bottom line is that when we made the decision that artificial contraception was wrong and that our selfish and anti-children mentality was negatively effecting our marriage and our moral decisions, our choice became quite easy.

4. What authority does the Church have to get into my sexual business?

Think back. When has God ever left His people without moral guidance? In the Old Testament, He gave us prophets, priests, judges, and kings all delegated moral authorities that were to interpret the Law for His people. Later, it became the Pharisees and, ultimately, Jesus grants His Church authority to preach, teach, and bind/loose all that He commanded them. In short, He left us with a moral authority to teach--if this authority was not infallible, then Christ's teachings would have been useless since His Church would not be able to maintain their integrity over time. But we know that Christ promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail over His Church EVER, and so we abide in His Church as moral guide and teacher. It's not about sexual business but rather salvation. The Church's job is to see each one of us to Heaven or it has failed. And so it takes its responsibility seriously to pronounce certain things contrary to God in concert with Christ's teachings and the teachings passed down by word of mouth and/or epistle by the Apostles. It's no more 'getting into your sexual business' than the Church pronouncing that bestiality is immoral is. Either it's consistent with Christ's teaching or it is not.

5. It sounds like NFP is just Catholic contraception.

Incorrect. There are fundamental moral differences between the two. The obvious one is that contraception involves the deliberate frustration of the marital act while NFP does not. This may seem like a small difference but, really, it's a large and important difference. The Catholic Church has always taught that married couples have the right to plan their families with the assumption that this is done in a just and responsible manner and with the correct motivation. The Catholic Catechism explains it like this:

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of births. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. (emphasis in original text)

So it's not 'regulation of birth' that the Church is concerned about but selfishness and the immoral means of fostering that. When a couple deliberately frustrates the procreative potential of the marriage act through contraception, they are acting against God's plan and design for marital love. On the other hand, when a couple who have a "just reason" for avoiding pregnancy choose instead to abstain from the marriage act during the fertile time of the cycle, they are not acting in violation of God's design. Abstaining from the marriage act (which is an integral part of NFP) does nothing to deliberately change the procreative potential of the marriage act because there is no act. Again, it is not a sin to postpone or avoid conception for a just reason, but how a couple postpones or avoids conception can be sinful or it can be virtuous.

A decent example is one provided by Christopher West, a Catholic theologian. Suppose there were a religious person, a nonreligious person, and an antireligious person walking past a church. What might each do? Let's say the religious person goes inside and prays, the nonreligious person walks by and does nothing, and the antireligious person goes inside the church and desecrates it. (I'm framing an analogy, of course, but these are reasonable behaviors to expect.) Which of these three persons did something that is always, under every circumstance, wrong? The last, of course.

In short, here the difference is spelled out:

Contraception=the deliberate willing of the non-existence of this possible child that may be conceived as a result of sexual intercourse AND the regarding of said child as 'an accident' or 'mistake' rather than God's divine providence. NFP=not refusing the possibilities of conception but abstaining as a decision to not conceive a child at any given time.

6. But contraception does not affect a real person, it only prevents a possible person from coming to be.

All human acts affect one thing--the future. Homicide, for example, does not erase the victim's past but only prevents them from having a future. Same for contraception--it only affects what life may come. Deliberate homicide (a redundant phrase) is wrong because of its injustice in the act but also in its desire that the victim cease to be. Contraceptive mentality contains the same related will--a deliberate wish that a given prospective life not be. It's often called a 'contralife will'.

7. Humans should be able to have sex whenever they want!

I'd challenge you to quote me chapter and verse on that one! Jesus, in fact, speaks often of the power of fasting, abstinence, and self mastery. Still, the only thing that 'prevents' you from having sex any time you want is your own contralife will. Physically, nothing prevents any married couple from intercourse (short of health issues, of course), it's usually the fact that they are deathly afraid of conceiving a child that would cramp their style. Humans are not animals--we possess an ability to reason and a will in which we can control our urges when it's morally required to do so. That's why we innately know things like rape, incest, homosexual sex, etc. are fundamentally immoral. Paul subdued his body and abstained from fleshly things in his imitation of Christ. We too are called to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ--marital chastity has a place in the spiritual good of the marriage. Use that time to become faith filled as an entity that has become one through the sacrament/oath/covenant you have entered into.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Holy Communion Not For Sale!

Apparently, reports are coming out of the Philippines that priests (not all, but one is too many) are demanding fees before dispensing Holy Communion to public school kids. While the story doesn't confirm that this occurred, the Archbishop of Manila's words on the subject seem to convict them. “We priests, whom God have called to the custody of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, must see children, above all, not only the ones in the Catholic schools but all those in public schools, as the first recipients of the immense gift of the Eucharist, which God has placed in our consecrated hands...More importantly, [the fees] may put an additional burden on the poor families of these children, which could lead to the nonreception of this great gift of the self-giving God, and this is quite heartbreaking.”

Stories like this just make me shake my head. There's nothing like giving your enemies bullets to shoot at you with, and anti-Catholics love this kind of story. For them, it disproves the Church's validity. For me, however, it only confirms that there's something unique about the Catholic Church--its divine protection. In spite of 2000 years of humanity mucking up the Church's divine mission, it still survives and thrives because, as Christ said in Scripture, He would be with it until the end of the age and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Put quite simply, if Catholics haven't managed to destroy the Church with their arrogance, stupidity, infidelity, and corruption, nothing will. But I will not leave Peter because of Judas because to leave Peter is to leave the rock upon which Jesus built His Church. And to leave this rock is to enter the unstable sand of the world. The divine element of the Church preserves it and maintains its teachings the same as the day it began in 33 A.D. and for this, I am truly grateful to God. But geez, guys, CUT IT OUT!

You Just Don't Get It, Keep It Copacetic...

Our world culture is sick. That is a statement that reeks of intolerance, unwillingness to accept others, and downright closed're darn right it is.

Not a week goes by that I don't talk to someone who exhibits the symptoms of moral relativism. Our world has taken universal truths and made them mere hypotheses. We've demoted God and His Law and replaced it with negotiable morality. This piece will examine the culture at large and its definition of tolerance as well as the philosophical and common sense inconsistencies with statements like, 'Well, I'm against abortion but have no right to impose my view on anyone else.' and 'Jesus says not to judge others and so even though I wouldn't have an abortion, I can't judge the action of one who would.'

What Is Truth? Mr. Pilate, White Courtesy Phone...

Ask anyone today if Truth, with a capital 'T' exists and it's likely you'll hear something like this:
'Well, my truth is mine. It's different from your truth but it's what I believe to be true.' In effect, their answer is a non-answer because it just doesn't address whether an all-encompassing Truth can or does exist. Well, let's use some common sense. If I say '2+2=4', that is a Truth, with a capital 'T' no matter how badly you want 2+2 to equal 3 or whether your co-worker believes 2+2=3. What makes the statement '2+2=4' a Truth? It's absoluteness. In other words, 2+2=4 in America, Spain, Zimbabwe, or Uranus. 2+2=4 in the rain, in the sun, on a plane or on the run (pardon the Dr. Seuss-ism but this really is 4 year old stuff). In Norman Geisler's work 'I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist', he outlines certain Truths about Truth. It's about time that people make their peace with these things about Truth:

1. It exists. There are certain things that are True whether we want it to be or not. When I do not have access to oxygen, I cannot breathe--that is true always and everywhere.

2. Truth is discovered, not invented. For example, gravity existed before Newton observed it. Truth exists whether someone knows about it or not.

3. Truth is transcultural. It transcends us being American, Russian, or Martian.

4. Truth is unchanging. Our BELIEFS about Truth may change (Lord knows enough politicians have flip flopped on issues in their lives), however. But the world was round even when man thought it was flat and it's still round now that man has changed its views about it.

5. Changing beliefs cannot change a Truth. It doesn't matter if you genuinely think the red pen in your hand is blue, that sincere belief won't make the pen's redness turn to blue.

6. Truth is not determined by how it is presented. If an arrogant Catholic shows up at your doorstep and says that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the fact that he's ignorant does not make the Truth he has just proclaimed any less true.

7. Truth is absolute. Even truths that appear to be relative are actually absolute. For example, if I declare that on July 20, 2006, I feel warm, this is Truth. That statement may appear relative but it's really true for everyone, everywhere that I had the sensation of warmness on that day.

The obvious conclusion about Truth, therefore, is that a contrary truth is an impossible thing because Truth is one, whole, and unable to be contradicted. Contrary beliefs about Truth are possible-- we can believe that things are true but we cannot make them true if they aren't already true.

One Religion, Two Religion, Three Religion, Four...

Religion has become a taboo topic in the halls of Congress, on the campaign trails, the State Houses, production meetings of network television, and around the world. It's as if our fear of offending others has triggered a hyper-sensitive gene that has been dormant for generations in which we believe that religion is personal ONLY and should only be broached in the privacy of our own homes. We've convinced ourselves that all religions are the same, encompassing the same level of trueness and so they're interchangeable--spiritual Transformers. As a result, our society now sees Pope Benedict XVI, Benny Hinn, and David Koresh in the same light because their religions are perceived to be on equal footing with regard to truth. Is this assumption correct? Are all religions equal in Truth and, therefore, no more or less important than any other? Well, a society that would put Satanism on par with Christianity just isn't thinking, and here's why.

First, common sense should tell us that many religions have diametrically opposing beliefs. Both cannot be correct. If the Catholic faith teaches that no salvation exists outside the Church, while the Unitarian Faith teaches that there are many equal roads to salvation, both can't be true. The choices are:

A. The Unitarians teach the Truth
B. The Catholics teach the Truth
C. A 3rd option is true.

Saying they're all correct is to be out of touch with reality since they're mutually exclusive statements, like 2+2=4 and 2+2=3.

Second, while all religions may hold to certain moral codes that are similar, they are not the same. Especially if you take 'religions' like Satanism which would argue that murder is good in certain circumstances or South American Indian tribes who perform human sacrifice. The fact is that most religions disagree on fundamental things like the nature of God, sin, salvation, etc. Furthermore, these beliefs are mutually exclusive which means one is True and others are false. All religions are not created equal because they cannot be reconciled with each other. And if Truth exists, then not all can claim it equally.

Tolerance: You're ALL Right!

So we've established that some religions have false claims. It's inevitable since their claims are directly in opposition to others' and only one can be right. And if you dare say something like this in America, particularly on the public stage, you'll be ridiculed. You'll hear people say 'Hey, you're not tolerant, you're a bully!'

Tolerance has gone from 'putting up with something you believe to be false' to 'accepting every belief as true'. The resulting culture has concluded that NO religion is the best policy since they're all equal and to nod or wink at one would be to insult another. This is called 'tolerance' today but the net effect has been to tolerate NONE rather than accept all. There are a few problems that arise--problems we see manifest in our modern day American culture.

First, when the State actively goes out of its way to NOT recognize God, the state becomes God. Look at Communist nations like China and the previous Soviet Union. They eliminated God from their societies and replaced Him with the God-State. Here in America, our 'tolerance model' has effectively attempted to eliminate God out of respect for all who believe in God--a truly schizophrenic idea. The result has been a culture in which 1.5 million abortions are performed legally every year in America. The result has been a culture in which marriage has been ridiculed and divorce has been equated to a cure for cancer. The result has been that human embryos--actual human persons--are actively killed so their tissue can be used to save lives we think are more important. In other words, our 'tolerance' has manifested itself in a culture of death. Pope Pius XI declared that this type of society is 'utterly foreign to Christian truth.'

Second, even the most 'tolerant' people have limits to their toleration, even Jesus! When ideologies and policies stomp all over things like God's commandments, fundamental human rights (life being the most important one), and the dignity of the human person, then tolerance has failed. If we are to use Jesus as our model, then a simple reading of the Gospels shows a God-Man that was steadfast in His teachings, unyielding in his integrity, and was far from tolerant when Truth was betrayed. That's because there are certain Truths about humans coexisting. When a person is moved by his conscience to become a terrorist, society has deemed that to be beyond the line of toleration. If a society decided that the minority should be enslaved, we do not tolerate it. Obviously, tolerance has its limits, just ask anyone who refuses to tolerate the Catholic view on abortion or bioethics.

Third, the obvious result of tolerance has been indifference. In other words, we have decided to live and let live, no matter what. We have not only tolerated untruth but have embraced it by taking tolerance to its extreme end. If someone believes that murder is right, it's our duty to let them believe this rather than try to change their delusion. But as Catholics, can we really look in the mirror and say this is what Jesus meant when he said to 'teach all nations that which I have so commanded'? Paul the apostle would say no. In fact, he wished that 'all those that hear me would become as I am.' (Acts 26) In other words, wanting salvation for others is what Catholics do. If we are to love like Jesus, we must want Heaven for every human and this belief manifests itself in speaking up. If we do not speak up, we toss our religious freedom into the trash.

In short, tolerance as it is entrenched in our culture, is dangerous. It blurs the lines of Truth and prefers appeasement to accountability. As Catholic Christians, tolerance is not a virtue. It is an excuse that we have used to allow unjust laws against the unborn, infirmed, and society.

You Keep Using That Word--I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Does Jesus prohibit us from saying 'Hey, what you are doing is wrong.'? This question seems silly but many Christians (including myself) have claimed that Jesus Himself told us not to judge others. So let's look at what we ARE supposed to do.

The proper place to start would be with Jesus Himself. Not one single instance exists in which Jesus says 'I see you are in adultery. I personally wouldn't do that but hey, it's a free empire.' In fact, He tells her to 'go and sin no more', clearly telling her that her lifestyle was unacceptable. He doesn't say 'Repent if you feel like it!' He demands that sins be admitted and that people change their lives. St. John tells us to test everything to see if it's really of God, not just the big stuff. Paul says that we must determine if what others tell us is consistent with the Gospel he preached. Even the Old Testament (Deuteronomy) commands us to take what a person says and discern if he's a false prophet or not. So questioning beliefs is a fundamental Christian principle.

Next, let's just look at the statement 'We're not supposed to judge anyone.' That statement is, itself, a judgment! See, when Jesus says we ought not judge in Matthew 7, He's talking about judging hypocritically (that's the context, folks, look it up) or proclaiming anyone objectively in Hell, for that is God's job. A judgment that we ought to make all religions equal is still a judgment. A judgment that life begins at birth, and not conception, is a judgment. So common sense demands that we rethink the use of that phrase. So the issue becomes not whether we can make judgments, but rather do we make the right judgments in accord with Truth. And just as soon as those who would not judge are willing to accept a Muslim terrorist's religious belief that all infidels should die, or those who believe in pedophilia or child sacrifice, we can take them seriously. In fact, check out John 7:

'Judge not on appearances but judge with right judgment.'

What do we make of this? If we are not to judge, then John has some 'splaining to do. And so does the Apostle Paul, who in speaking of a fornicator among the Corinthians, 'had already judged' him. See, the key to understanding Matthew 7 is that we'll be judged IN THE VERY SAME MANNER we judge others. If we judge irresponsibly, the same standard will be applied to us. If we judge prudently and fairly/fully informed, then we get the same treatment from God. So judge when you must, do it with compassion but also with power and integrity. When someone says we should be able to terminate the life of a child an ANY unborn age, judge that statement and act accordingly or you too will be judged by God according to your inaction.

The scariest thing is the person who smugly declares 'I am tolerant and so is God' and then proceeds to give you a laundry list of the things they do not tolerate. I've had non-Christians tell me that they do not tolerate bigotry and then proceed to tell an anti-Catholic joke. I've had people tell me they believe ALL roads to religion are right and then tell me that the Catholic way of thinking is deplorable. Judging is what humans do. When Christ died and rose for our sins, he made us partaker of his divine nature. One aspect of that divine nature is Judge. We, sharing in his judgeship, are OBLIGATED to make judgments if we are to imitate Him. Don't let anyone tell you that judging is wrong because that's just a cop out. As for God being tolerant, I would ask this. Are you sure that's God being tolerant or just your preconceived (and hopeful) belief about God? One of humanity's worst traits is that we make God into ourselves, rather than vice versa. God is Love and so must love what is good and true. Do you really think God would tolerate insults against his Son? His Son laid out clear, precise, and ABSOLUTE truths--can God tolerate that which is against what His Son laid out? Does God tolerate sin? Look at a crucifix and answer honestly--no.

Legislating Morality

Perhaps the most impotent argument I've seen from the John Kerrys and other weak minded and heartless purveyors of this 'Tolerance Doctrine' is that enacting any law that is in line with conservative Christian moral doctrine is imposing morality on non-Christians. What a load of manure! Kerry and his ilk would have us believe that Christian morals are akin to some backward and oppressive set of rules that originated in the mind of some sadistic, inhuman, mind on a planet filled with unhappy, brain washed, drones. Funny, the killing of innocents seems like it'd be morally repugnant on ANY planet.

Still, the reality--one that should be perfectly honest to such an informed conscience as Mr. Kerry--is that EVERY law enacted by a government is a legislation of morality. Call me crazy but a law outlawing murder seems to be making the moral statement: murder is immoral and dangerous to one's health. Laws against rape seem to make the moral statement: violation of a human person sexually is immoral. Laws against burglary seem to make the moral statement: stealing is immoral. People were saying 'you can't legislate morality' when Martin Luther King was fighting for racial equality. King himself said, 'True, the law cannot make the white man love me, but it sure can discourage him from lynching me!'

Another statement I've seen and find hard to believe is, 'When opinions are divided. The laws of a society should respect and reflect this." There's just one problem--that little thing called Truth should, by all accounts, govern a society's laws. The Founding Fathers made it clear that the laws of a nation must be in accord with God's laws and this is one reason why they established a Republic and not a Democracy. A Democracy says that if 50.1% of a society says that murder is fundamentally good, then its laws reflect this until the other side obtains 50.1%of the vote. A Republic, however, says that the laws of a society reflect the majority rule but must also protect the minority. Truth must dictate a society's laws. If they do not, then the Catholic faith says they are not merely unjust laws, it says they are NOT LAWS AT ALL. Any law that is not just simply is not valid and need not be followed. Abortion laws and euthanasia laws may be backed by a majority of our society (though that remains to be proven in any respects) but these laws cannot meet the fundamental standard of law--that the minority be protected, and so are not laws at all from the Catholic perspective.

The bottom line is that if you call yourself Christian--an imitator of Christ--then 'I can't impose my beliefs on others' or 'I don't want to legislate morality' are empty, insufficient, and far short of Jesus' plan for us. Pick what is right, but do more than that--ACT. We Christians are here to divide, not unite under a flag of false tolerance and lip service. If you want laws that are just, then search for Truth, not for consensus or appeasement because in Truth, we find Justice. God Bless.

And In Other News, Zidane's Car Insulted His Sister...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Former Abortion Clinic Comes Back As Catholic Chapel!

From the 'yes, there IS a God' files, comes a story about a former abortion clinic in Williamsville, NY that has been turned into the chapel of a Catholic radio station.

Aptly titled 'The Chapel of the Holy Innocents', the chapel was dedicated by Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo in memory of all babies who have been aborted. Station of The Cross, a four station Catholic radio network, constructed the chapel for private reflections by radio station employees and will also be the site of live broadcasts of the Holy Mass.

'In the tradition of the early church, pagan temples were turned into holy spaces,' Bishop Kmiec said. 'We have done the same thing here today.' Indeed, besides being a place of worship and quiet reflection, the symbolic replacement of an abortion clinic with a house of God can only be described as inspirational to those who work in the trenches and are committed to a culture of life. Amidst the constant news of abortion rates remaining high, certain Catholic/Christian politicians defending abortion as a fundamental right, and a culture that turns a blind eye to it, I thank God for stories like this one.

Here's the article:

What Do We Really Believe About Mary's Relationship To The Trinity?

I've heard many different versions of exactly what Catholics teach about Mary as Mother of God and her subsequent relationship to the Triune God from non-Catholics. Not a single one quotes from a Catechism or Church Council and so misinformation abounds. I've had Jehovah's Witnesses at my door telling me that the Catholic Church elevates Mary to the mother of the Trinity, making her divine and omnipotent and so let's set the record straight...

There are many explanations of Mary's status as Mother of God, but the one that is clearest comes from the 11th Council of Toledo in 675:

In this Son of God we believe there are two natures, one of divinity, the other of humanity, which the one person of Christ so united in himself that the divinity can never be separated from the humanity, nor the humanity from the divinity. Christ, therefore, is perfect God and perfect man in the unity of one person; but it does not follow, because we have asserted there are two natures in the Son, that there are two persons in Him, lest--which God forbid--a quaternity be predicated of the Trinity.

For God the Word has not received the person of man, but the nature, and to the eternal power of the divinity He has united the temporal substance of flesh.

Likewise we believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of one substance, but we do not say that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the unity of the Trinity, but only to the Son, who alone assumed our nature in the unity of His person.

Also, we must believe that the entire Trinity accomplished the Incarnation of the Son of God, because the works of the Trinity are inseparable. However, only the Son took the form of a servant in the singleness of His person, not in the unity of His divine nature; in what is proper to the Son, not in what is common to the Trinity; and this form was adapted to Him for unity of person so that the Son of God and the Son of man is one Christ, that is, Christ in these two natures exists in three substances; of the Word, which must refer to the essence of God alone, of the body, and of the soul, which pertain to true man.

He has, therefore, in Himself the twofold substance of His divinity and our humanity. We understand, however, that by the fact that he proceeded from God the Father without beginning, He was born only, for He was neither made nor predestined; by the fact, however, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, we must believe that he was born, made, and predestined.

Yet both births in Him are marvelous, because He was both begotten by the Father without a mother before all ages, and in the end of ages He was born of a mother without a father; He who, however, according as He is God created Mary, according as He is man was created from Mary; He is both father and son of His mother Mary.

Likewise by that fact that He is God, He is equal to the Father; by the fact that He is man, He is less than the Father. Likewise we must believe that He is both greater and less than Himself; for in the form of God even the Son Himself is greater than Himself on account of the humanity He assumed, than which the divinity is greater; in the form, however, of a servant He is less than Himself, that is, in His humanity which is recognized as less than His divinity.

This simple misunderstanding among both Catholics and non-Catholics about exactly what the Church teaches has added
fuel to the fires of separation needlessly. Catholic oftentimes don't know their faith and so they explain Mary's role in alvation history improperly, saying things that make Protestants ill. Meanwhile, non-Catholics make assumptions (pun intended) about Catholic Marian teachings in bad faith
based upon hearsay of a culture that has perpetuated an anti-Catholic ideology. Bad information breeds bad information and so mainstream Catholics have a responsibility to our
separated brethren to, at the very least, get the teachings right, explain them fully, know where
to refer them if we cannot, and let them make informed
decisions of faith.

Monday, July 17, 2006

FAQ Sheet-Mary, Mother of Jesus

The following is a collection of questions asked about Mary, the Catholic teachings about Mary, and misconceptions about both. This is not meant to be an exhaustive theological treatise on any particular issue, but merely a simple and 'on the surface' look at issues that have arisen in dialogues with non-Catholics.

1. Where does the title 'Mother of God' come from?
The title 'Mother of God' comes from her son, Jesus of Nazareth, being God incarnate. If Jesus is God, and Mary is his mother, then Mary is the Mother of God. This title was officially defined (though the dogma was in place from the beginning) at the Council of Ephesus in 431 when the only Christian Church on Earth confirmed its long held dogma that Jesus was one person with two natures and, in truth,God. His natures were both full and complete in the one person, Jesus. This reaffirmation addressed the Nestorian heresy that Jesus was two persons (human and divine) and that only his divine nature was God. The natural result of declaring Jesus, a distinct person, God is that the mother of that divine person becomes 'Theotokos', or the God-bearer. In short, if Jesus is God, then His mom is 'Mother of God'.

2. But Mary was only mother of Jesus' human nature, not his divine nature, right?
The Church has always taught that Jesus is not schizo. He is a person, not a milkshake made up of natures. Jesus' divine and human natures are inseparably united, distinct, and fully present in the person of Jesus. He was true god and true man, so to separate these natures would create two Jesuses. The Church teaches that Mary is not the 'origin' of Christ's divinity but is the Mother of the person, Jesus.

3. Making Mary the mother of Jesus' divine nature makes her divine and that's idolatry.
When my son Luke was born, I had no participation in the origin of his soul. My wife and I, however, participated with God to provide him his physical traits and human nature. But I don't summon him by saying, 'Luke, my human son, bring your human nature to the dinner table, it's time to eat.' I'm his dad--father of the person, Luke. So by defining Jesus as one person who is God, Mary becomes, by default, the Mother of God. No divinity is assigned to her. She died before the Council of Ephesus so all who attended knew she was not divine. Understand that the title 'Mother of God' defines certain things about Jesus, not Mary. It's not assigning her any characteristics that she didn't already have by mothering the incarnate God.

4. Where is she called 'Mother of God' in the Bible?
Check out Luke 1:43:
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

This is St. Elizabeth speaking under the power of the Holy Spirit so her credibility is impeccable, I'd say. Who was 'Lord' in the Jewish faith? The First Commandment says 'I am the Lord, Your God'. God=Lord, Jesus=God, Mary=Mother of Jesus, Mary=Mother of God.

You can also check out John 2:1:
And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there.

Notice that John doesn't call Mary 'the earthly mother of Jesus' human nature'. She is Jesus' mother, plain and simple. So who is Jesus? Oh, he's God incarnate--one person containing two natures. The only way Mary is not Mother of God is if Jesus is not God, simply put.

5. Wow, a whole TWO verses. Face it, Mary's an afterthought in Scripture.
All one has to do is run a search of Scripture to find out exactly how many times she's mentioned. I'll grant that it's relatively few when compared to other people and events but let's use this logic and apply it to the whole of Scripture. Being 'born again' is mentioned only 3 times in Scripture yet Christians place in the forefront of their evangelism. Trinity is not mentioned even once in Scripture and yet it is the fundamental way we know God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having a 'personal relationship with Jesus' is not mentioned once, for your information.

6. OK, I get the point. But Mary's just a peripheral character in Scripture so why do you place such emphasis on her?
The Catholic Church doesn't rely on Scripture alone for its fundamental doctrines because all that Jesus and the Apostles taught isn't just in Scripture but in the oral teachings of both( 2 Thes. 2:15) and mentioned directly in Scripture. Still, when Mary appears in Scripture, she's depicted in the most important events of Jesus' ministry. She's a present and active participant at the Annunciation (let it be done according to your word), and at the Incarnation/Virgin Birth. She is present and an actual impetus/catalyst to Jesus' first miracle and the beginning of his public ministry (do what he tells you) and is at the foot of the cross where Jesus gives her to the Apostle John (behold, your mother...behold, your son). She's at prayer with the Apostles after the Ascension(tongues of fire rested upon them) and at Pentecost. One of my favorite points about Mary is that, in some ways, she prefers to be discovered rather than announced--kinda like her Son.

7. But Mary clearly makes a mistake and is rebuked by Jesus at the Wedding at Cana. This has serious effects on her sinlessness and her status to Jesus, right?
I see no mistake by Mary. Mary says 'They have no wine' and the Gospel of John tells us she was right, not mistaken! Further, Mary did not say 'I want you to make some wine, NOW!'. She didn't proclaim Jesus' hour and command him to go perform a miracle. She simply states a fact: they have no wine. So either BOTH Mary and the Gospel are wrong, or Mary does not err in this statement.

8. But Jesus corrects her in public when he says 'What to me and to you, woman? My hour has not yet come.'
The only way to see a 'correction' here is to look for it. When Mary said 'they have no wine', did Jesus say, 'Wrong! There IS wine!'? Instead, he replied, 'What to me and to you, woman?' Why would a son that had the gall to rebuke him mom in public (thereby violating the 4th commandment) do it by asking 'what to me AND TO YOU'? Here, Christ is indicating that Mary's thoughts matter, otherwise, he'd have just said, 'What is this to me?'
Check out Luke 8:28:

"When he [the man possessed by demons] saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me.’"

First, is this a rebuke? No. Would Christ really allow himself to be rebuked by a demon? No. This phrase can be used to express a sort of surprise, not as a rebuke.

Second, in Jewish culture, it would be unheard of for a son to rebuke his mother in public. Hebrews says that Christ followed the commandments perfectly, including the 4th commandment of honoring your mother and father.

9. Her mistake was in assuming that she could tell Jesus when to begin his public ministry and he corrects her.How does Mary respond to Christ's rebuke? Does she take it as a correction? Hardly. Does she apologize and go sit down? No. Do the apostles discuss how mistaken Mary was about the amount of wine on hand and how Jesus told his own mother off? Nope. If Mary committed a mistake and Jesus called her out, their subsequent actions just don't make any sense. Mary tells the servants to 'Do whatever he tells you'. She does not say 'Jesus will make wine for you NOW' but, instead says 'Do whatever he tells you'. The only way this could be a mistake would be if she somewhow said 'Do NOT do whatever he tells you.' For his part, Christ doesn't tell the servants 'Let's cut the cake first.' or 'When's the bride tossing the garter?'. He gives them firm instructions and turns water into wine--not exactly a correction of Mary here.

In short, Mary's statement is factual, not a mistake. Christ's reply is not a correction. Mary's instructions to the servants are proper. Christ takes the statement Mary has made into account and performs the miracle.

More To Come...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Something About Mary

I was digging through some old articles I had filed away and came across one in Christianity Today written by Timothy George, a Southern Baptist theologian entitled 'The Blessed Evangelical Mary'. The article was an explanation of why evangelical Christians and other non-Catholics should pay more attention to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. You can access the article here:

I know, the title ain't exactly an American original but it strikes at the heart of something very dear to me, and to many Catholics. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has played a unique role in salvation history in spite of many who have attempted to paint her as a mere box that incubated Jesus for 9 months. Some minimize her duty as a mother--she breastfed God, she changed God's pampers, she taught Jesus how to pray, and she played kick ball with God! In short, she was not some impersonal Jetsons-like robot that popped food capsules into Jesus and sat in a corner while He self-actualized. Mary was Jesus' mother--his ONLY mother chosen from all women born and to be born through all of time--and, as a good Jewish male, you can bet the farm that Jesus honored her perfectly. So why do many openly wish to erase her role from Jesus' life and ours? Many extol the greatness of 'reformers' like Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Zwingli, the whole time ignoring their undying devotion to Mary as the first Christian and as Mother of God. These men wrote sermons about Mary's necessarily elevated role in salvation history and did not hold back reverence and even prayers to her! Martin Luther put it best when he wrote:

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation.

Now I'll be the first to admit the excesses of some Catholics in their devotion to Mary. Heck, many Catholics have elevated Mary to a deity and attribute 'powers' to her that even she would scoff at. Great numbers of Central and South American Catholics have wrongly mixed their previous pagan beliefs, in which female goddesses were on par with male gods of the pantheon, and the result has been extreme Marian devotion, dare I say, worship. This is blasphemous and downright dangerous and the Catholic Church's official teaching authority has said as much. Let's be clear. Fundamental Catholic teachings about Mary are these:

1. Mary is not God. There is but ONE God, the Triune God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Labeling her 'Mother of God', if one understands the teaching, does not make her divine.

2. Mary did not save herself. She required a savior just as we all do.

3. Mary is nothing more than what God made her. The grace that God provided her to birth and mother the Son of God is a free gift given her by God, not earned by her own merits. The intercessory priveleges given Mary do not take away from Her Son's glory because Her Son is the one who bestowed them.

4. Mary does not compete with God, she points to and serves him as the handmaiden of the Lord. She is God's 'masterpiece', a perfect example of fulfilled humanity and, as the angel said, 'Full of grace'. When we look at Mary, we see God glorified because of the grace and goodness found in Her perfected. Still, let us not forget that if Mary says 'no' to God's proposition, the Son of God does not enter this world to redeem us.

And so, out of devotion to our Mother of God, I will explore the true historical teachings of the Catholic Church about Mary. Devotion to her did not start out of superstition, out of apostasy, or out of desperation--it started with Christ. One major criteria I had when I was deciding to follow Christ was that the teachings I follow were His and that they were true from the beginning. If a teaching existed as part of Christ's deposit of faith, it would be seen (in acorn form allowing for honest development or fully actualized) in the first Christians and their writings. Marian devotion, improperly understood, is a major stumbling block for new Catholic converts and is also a lightning rod for those who would assail the Catholic faith.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The First Christian Worship Looks Familiar To Me

One of the things that brought me home to the Catholic Church was the fact that it was steeped in history. The more I read writings from great 1st generation Christians like Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and others, it became readily apparent that the first Christians were not beatniks, they weren't Gnostics, they weren't New Agers--they were Catholics. Doctrine, discipline, structure, and worship were distinct and not open to discussion or dissent. The first Christian worship services were very secret. As a result, the stories that were floating around pagan circles with regard to what went on there provided the first tabloid TV.

After a bout of uneasiness in remembering the Catholic Liturgy I had attended a thousand times as a child, I made my peace with the fact that the liturgy of the first Christians was the same essential liturgy that the Catholic Church prays today. If I was to be Christian, I had one option--to follow the footsteps of the first Christians or deny Christ altogether.

Christianity Today had the boldness to make this point clearly in one of its May 2006 issues. In it, they reprinted the writings of Justin Martyr, one of the Chruch's first apologists, who described in detail the Christian worship service. Below is the text of Justin's writing First Apology, and in bold are the distinctly Catholic elements that were present in Justin's liturgy circa 155 AD and commentary in blue:

How we dedicated ourselves to God when we were made new through Christ I will explain, since it might seem to be unfair if I left this out from my exposition. Those who are persuaded and believe that the things we teach and say are true, and promise that they can live accordingly, are instructed to pray and beseech God with fasting for the remission of their past sins, while we pray and fast along with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn; for they are then washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Savoir Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. For Christ said, "Unless you are born again you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
The Catholic Church, as Justin describes here as well, holds Trinitarian Baptism to be a sacrament. In other words, it baptizes new Christians (we will deal with infant baptism at a later time) in the name of the Father, Son, and H0ly Spirit and teaches that this baptism regenerates that person by the grace of God. Baptism was an ACTUAL rebirth, an ontological change in that person and this teaching remains in Catholicism today.

Now it is clear to all that those who have once come into being cannot enter the wombs of those who bore them. But as I quoted before, it was said through the prophet Isaiah how those who have sinned and repent shall escape from their sins. He said this: "Wash yourselves, be clean, take away wickedness from your souls, learn to do good, give judgment for the orphan and defend the cause of the widow, and come and let us reason together, says the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them as white as wool, and though they be as crimson, I will make them as white as snow." . . .
After thus washing the one who has been convinced and signified his assent, [we] lead him to those who are called brethren, where they are assembled. They then earnestly offer common prayers for themselves and the one who has been illuminated and all others every where, that we may be made worthy, having learned the truth, to be found in deed good citizens and keepers of what is commanded, so that we may be saved with eternal salvation.
On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread and a cup of water and mixed wine are brought to the president of the brethren and he, taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the universe through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things from him. When he has finished the prayers and the thanksgiving, the whole congregation present assents, saying, "Amen." "Amen" in the Hebrew language means, "So be it." When the president has given thanks and the whole congregation has assented, those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the absent.
What you see here is what occurs in every Catholic Church in the world on every single day. There's no difference between a liturgy in Spain or in South Africa--the liturgy was universal in Justin's time and it remains so today. What Justin describes here is the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
This food we call Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.
Justin makes it clear that the Eucharist isn't a symbol. The Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. It also teaches that receiving this spiritual food and drink worthily is the ONLY way to receive it. And so it forbids presenting one's self for communion while in serious sin, just as Justin describes in his early liturgy. This is because St. Paul wrote that 'those who eat this bread and drink this cup unworthily eat and drink damnation on themselves.' You don't go to Hell for drinking a symbol unworthily, which tells me the first Christians saw the Eucharis as the real body and blood of Jesus.

For the apostles in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, thus handed down what was commanded them: that Jesus, taking bread and having given thanks, said, "Do this for my memorial, this is my body"; and likewise taking the cup and giving thanks he said, "This is my blood"; and gave it to them alone. …
In the Catholic liturgy, these words are repeated verbatim and are considered the central/focal point of the entire ceremony.

After these [services] we constantly remind each other of these things. Those who have more come to the aid of those who lack, and we are constantly together. Over all that we receive we bless the Maker of all things through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.
And on the day called Sunday there is a meeting in one place of those who live in cities or the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. When the reader has finished, the president in a discourse urges and invites [us] to the imitation of these noble things.
This is called the Liturgy of the Word in the Catholic Mass. After one Old Testament reading, one New Testament epistle, and one Gospel reading, the president, or priest, speaks to the congregation preaches about their meaning and application to our lives.

Then we all stand up together and offer prayers. And, as said before, when we have finished the prayer, bread is brought, and wine and water, and the president similarly sends up prayers and thanksgivings to the best of his ability, and the congregation assents, saying the Amen; the distribution, and reception of the consecrated [elements] by each one, takes place and they are sent to the absent by the deacons.
In the Catholic liturgy, the congregation offers prayers with the priest for the faithfully departed, our clergy, world leaders, etc. ,

Those who prosper, and who so wish, contribute, each one as much as he chooses to. What is collected is deposited with the president, and he takes care of orphans and widows, and those who are in want on account of sickness or any other cause, and those who are in bonds, and the strangers who are sojourners among [us], and, briefly, he is the protector of all those in need.
The Catholic Church then takes the consecrated gifts to the needy and sick of our city who cannot make it to Mass due to sickness, prison, etc.. Also, we can go to ANY place corner of the world and receive the eucharist. 'Catholic' means 'universal', and from the beginning, the universal church resided in the Catholic Church.

We all hold this common gathering on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Saviour rose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturday, and on the day after Saturday, he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them these things which I have passed on to you also for your serious consideration.
Seventh Day Adventists claim that the Catholic Church changed the day of worship after Constantine 'started' the Church. They are right that the Catholic Church, after being given all authority to bind and loose by Christ, moved the day of worship to Sunday but this writing from 155 AD seems to suggest that it was done from the beginning of the Church, not some 300 years after Christ.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

God And The Arrogance Of Scientists

God is sitting in Heaven when a scientist says to
Him, "Lord, we don't need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to
create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the

"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies God.

"Well, "
says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of You and
breathe life into it, thus creating man."

"Well, that's interesting.
Show Me."

So the scientist bends down to the ground and starts to mold
the soil. "Oh no, no, no..." interrupts God, "Get your own dirt."

And you thought science was merely the objective quest for objective truth. Read the following statement from a respected member of the scientific community and re-think, por favor:

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our own a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, not matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door."

Harvard population biologist, Richard Lewontin

Did Dr. Lewontin just state that scientists of today accept obvious and patent absurdity for the sole purpose of not having to entertain the idea of a divine presence and role in creation? Now we're getting somewhere. See, I always thought that science was a field filled with a 'truth at all costs, no matter what we may find' mentality. Surely, embryonic stem cells are the answer to finding cures for cancer, ALS, and Alzheimer's Disease, right? Why, the findings of all 'credible' study say so! Er, what? Study findings were fabricated for the sole purpose of prestige, money, and pride? Oh.

Science perceives itself to be in conflict with religion, and this false assumption is what forces men like Dr. Lewontin to reach conclusions that are disingenuous at best and downright deceptive to self and others at worst. Look, let's make this really simple--God is the God of EVERYTHING, including science. Why not admit what is plain to even the simplest thinkers? The laws of physics, chemistry, and every other natural science exist as the result of a law-giver. Oh, and I'm no Stephen Hawking but, given the fact that these laws stretch the very limits of human intelligence to observe, define, and postulate about, I'm guessing that the law-giver is a hell of a lot smarter than we are. Now we see that the reason science does not naturally and intuitively lead to a conclusion of a 'law giver' because things like pride, ego, and a pre-determined agenda get in the way.

The Catholic Catechism has the most plausible and systematic position with regard to science:

"Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."

See, no matter how hard scientists want to eliminate God from the equation, the inevitable truth that emerges is that God is one leading them to their discoveries. Recently, Stephen Hawking claims that Pope John Paul II told him that science should not inquire into the moment the universe was created, because it was the work of God. For such a smart guy, Hawking seems kinda dull. Context of JP II's remarks, translation of said remarks (English is not his first language, ya know) aside, I'd characterize Hawking's flippant remarks (he followed up his remarks with a clever remark about being hammered by the Inquisition like Galileo) as a misinterpretation of the Catholic position. John Paul the Great has always made the point that science has limits. And as such, these limits cannot be artificially edited to put something as grandiose as the beginnings of the world into it. God cannot fit into a box. Neither can it be so arrogant as to ignore fields like Theology, Philosophy, etc and go it alone in search of definitive answers. These fields 'purify science from idolatry and false absolutes' while science has a role of 'purifying religion from error and superstition'.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reaping And Sowing: A Real-World Perspective

This op-ed piece was in the Los Angeles Times. First, I can't believe it was actually run, given the secular press' agenda as bastions of liberal social activism (only when it suits itself, of course). Second, in a town like Los Angeles, this piece probably attracted more venom and disdain than you could shake a stick at! Our brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church are in the midst of social and spiritual upheaval and this piece offers an excellent perspective from one outside the fray.

Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins
Out-of-the-mainstream beliefs about gay marriage and supposedly sexist doctrines are gutting old-line faiths.

By Charlotte Allen, CHARLOTTE ALLEN is Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."July 9, 2006

The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."

Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.)

The Presbyterian Church USA is famous for its 1993 conference, cosponsored with the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline churches, in which participants "reimagined" God as "Our Maker Sophia" and held a feminist-inspired "milk and honey" ritual designed to replace traditional bread-and-wine Communion.

As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.

You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.

When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million)......

When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.

It doesn't help matters that the mainline churches were pioneers in ordaining women to the clergy, to the point that 25% of all Episcopal priests these days are female, as are 29% of all Presbyterian pastors, according to the two churches. A causal connection between a critical mass of female clergy and a mass exodus from the churches, especially among men, would be difficult to establish, but is it entirely a coincidence? Sociologist Rodney Stark ("The Rise of Christianity") and historian Philip Jenkins ("The Next Christendom") contend that the more demands, ethical and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents' commitment to that faith. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which preach biblical morality, have no trouble saying that Jesus is Lord, and they generally eschew women's ordination. The churches are growing robustly, both in the United States and around the world.

Relativism is, by its nature, divisive. This was so when Henry VIII took his ball and went on his own way and why Protestantism divides exponentially today. Truth is unitive because it satisfies the hungry heart. It breeds clarity, vision, and boundaries which keep it within the one fold of Christ. Pray for unity--that Christians will be one in mind, body, doctrine, and spirit.

And The Darwin Award In Advertising Goes To...

Courtesy of an outstanding Catholic Blog, here you see and feel the evil of those marketing artificial birth control. This is an advertisement for Legends Condoms in Australia. It won the bronze medal at the Cannes Advertising Awards and truly puts a face on artificial birth control, don't it? Please say a prayer for all involved in this grotesque and tasteless magazine ad.

Call me crazy but the sheer graphic nature, audacity, and honesty of this advertisement seems like a pretty good advertisement AGAINST artificial birth control. The image is as truthful as they come and provokes thoughts that otherwise may not arise. This reminds me of the Darwin awards in which some poor sap undertakes seemingly harmless and even fun activity like, say, taking a drive in his rocket propelled IROC Z-28 and ends up becoming a crater. This ad seems to punch itself in the proverbial condom holder.

Now when Priests For Life wants to place an ad in a magazine showing the graphic nature of an abortion, they are solidly and roundly denied at every front. Yet a condom manufacturer can submit this eerie and haunting piece and get an award for it. Many thanks to Curt Jester and The Cafeteria Is Closed who are always timely, relevant, and invaluable.


Let me begin this by making a couple of statements. First, I have not read the Da Vinci Code. Many I know have read it with reviews ranging from 'mindless drivel' to ' a decent page turner'. On the whole, recommendations have been against reading The Da Vinci Code based upon the merits of the story alone. Second, and more importantly, I am familiar with the Gnostic ideas conveyed in The Da Vinci Code. The theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, that Jesus was never considered divine by those who 'really knew him', the idea that the Catholic Church suppressed and waged a war against the 'sacred feminine' by applying a spiritual chokehold to the Gnostic gospels, and the idea that Holy Scripture is riddled with errors and unreliability are not new. And so I will speak to these assertions but, moreso, will drop some common sense on the peeps, as it were. What will follow is the brain droppings of one who takes time to think critically. Here goes:

1. Why does the world read this book and react as if these 'revelations' are something concealed for centuries until some truth-seeker only now unearthed them? The truth is that the Catholic Church has dealt with these attacks from the very beginning. They are not new even though they are new to a generation that is clamouring for anti-establishment, anti-rules, and any reason NOT to live their lives according to traditional Catholic/Christian teaching. It doesn't take a lot of effort to go to your local Border's, pick up a book of Early Christian Writings, and see writings from those who sat at the feet of the Apostles of Jesus, let alone read the New Testament. In these writings, the ideas of Jesus' Divinity, the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Lord's Day, the hierarchy of bishops and Apostolic succession, and the importance of the Bishop of Rome to the spiritual nourishment of the Christian Church are everywhere! In one particular writings by St. Ignatius of Antioch, we see a mention of those who do not celebrate the Eucharist and do not discern what it is--a rebuke of the Gnostics and other sects as early as 110 AD! The Church has dealt with Gnostics, Judaizers, Dualists, and Pagans from the beginning, yet the Da Vinci Code is hailed as some new, deliberately suppressed, revelation.I suspect it's because 21st century Americans (and Europeans) have exchanged Truth for comfort. It is no longer important to know what really happened in history, it's only important to find a history that corresponds to our moral position that we can use to justify our amoral lives. And so, we hear a statement like 'The Council of Nicea was pre-determined by Constantine and that, in a close vote, Jesus was given an upgrade from a merely wise human to an omnipotent Deity.' and we believe precisely because we need this to be true if we are to live a guilt-free life. We don't bother to check things like the ACTUAL vote on this fundamental Christian belief at Nicea ( 218-2 in favor of the already entrenched Divinity of Jesus), nor do we bother to see that the EARLIEST New Testament writers allude to Jesus as God over 100 times at least two generations before we see the first 'Gnostic Gospel'. The implications of the truth are easy to see but harder to accept when we blur the lines of morality well established by Jesus and taught unwaveringly by His Church.

2. Why does nobody ever have a problem with Jesus but, instead, choose to assail the Catholic Church? Jesus utters, from his own mouth, that divorce simply cannot occur once a covenant of marriage has been established between man and woman. Oddly, nobody ever takes Jesus to task for this position, even though HE was the one who took the Jewish concept of being able to 'put away' your wife and, on his own authority, completely changed the law! Instead, we see people hurl stones at the Church for implementing Jesus' commandment with regard to divorce as if the Church took it upon Herself to legislate this prohibition of divorce. They stomp the Church for its stance against abortion and artificial birth control as if Jesus somehow allowed it but the Church has vetoed Him. The earliest Christian writings make it crystal clear that the teaching handed down from Jesus, to His Apostles, to their successors, was that abortion and artificial birth control were (and still are, contrary to what countless Protestant churches have done in now creating exceptions for both to accommodate cultural pressure) contrary to God's plan for humanity. The reason Dan Brown and others pick on the church, and not Jesus, is because they know that they could never be taken seriously if they assail Jesus. I suspect that they know that something was going on in Jesus that wasn't going on in any other person throughout all of history. And so, to sell books, they attack the human aspect of Jesus Church, ignoring its divine component, namely the Holy Spirit. A cheesy, but particularly effective strategy, no?

3. The Da Vinci Code capitalizes on the world's last acceptable prejudice--anti-Christianism, particularly Anti-Catholicism. Can you imagine if someone wrote a book ('well researched', of course) about the secret and suppressed beginnings of Islam or Judaism? Yes, Moses was some poor schlub or, better yet, he was fictional and didn't even exist. He didn't really get the 10 Commandments from the finger of God but, rather, they were engraved later by priests who wanted to dupe the Israelites. Moses did nothing of consequence but was a really nice guy and so these priests wrote stories about him being a great military leader and was given an upgrade to 'prophet' status replete with the ability to part water, summon locusts, the whole nine yards. The priests then wrote that the only way to know God would be to obey Moses and his brother (also fictional) and conduct animal sacrifices in which they, the successors of Moses and his Billy Carter-like sidekick, could take all the best meat and live like kings! You see, Judaism was fabricated largely so that a certain segment, the priests, could hold the people in bondage and maintain their power.Can you imagine such a story? Charges of anti-semitism would begin as the first copy came off the press! Yet in Dan Brown's case, we see people calling him 'brave' and 'insightful'. He's given a place as a scholar without anyone even bothering to dig even the slightest bit to test Brown's own claims that his facts are without flaw. Why? Because the Catholic Church has been unyielding in its teachings for 2000 years. It hasn't caved to parishoners wanting to use Artificial Birth Control. It hasn't changed its teaching on divorce despite the culture accepting it as commonplace. It refuses to affirm abortion despite the world seeing it as a viable way to control population and allow humans to experience 'sexual freedom' without the consequences that come with it. While the world moves toward moral relativism, the Church holds fast to the traditions handed down to it from the Apostles. In other words, the Catholic Church is treated now by a secular world just as it was by the first century pagan world. It is blamed for things like the proliferation of AIDS, starvation, population explosion, unwanted pregnancies, suppression of women, and an unwillingness to update its teachings to accomodate a modern world. Of course, that's how I know the Catholic Church is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church that every Christian church professes to believe in on Sundays. Only one stays true to her bridegroom, that i've seen. Only one is willing to take the brunt of the world's scorn for not only making Jesus' teachings known, but also for holding humans to this higher standard for salvation's sake. And so it goes--the world puts the Church on the wheel, breaks out the whip, and scourges it with all its might. It glorifies anything that denounces Her, spits at Her when she speaks, and brings its full weight with every accusation it can muster, every conspiracy theory that people will listen to. The first conspiracy theorist slithered along the ground, was hell bent on deception, and brought about sin, death, and Hell in what was a paradise of eternal life, union with God, and abundance. He convinced Adam and Eve that God was insecure and afraid that they would become like Him and they (we) believed him. There's nothing worse than a snake with an agenda and a pen.

4. It's only fiction, lighten up, dude! Here's my problem with books that couch these ideas in a provocative plot and represent 'facts' untruthfully. A book like this would not shake my faith because I have tackled most of these issues in my journey back home to the Catholic faith. Scripture and History are things that make me distinctly and unwaveringly Catholic. But given the shabby catechesis in many parts of the Church coupled with the great numbers of Catholic and Christians at large who do not know their Scriptures or Church History, this type of book can do great damage. American Christians have been raised on a steady diet of skepticism, reason, and disdain for authority. We had a king 200+ years ago and we threw him out. We had religious leaders that we decided did not represent how we chose to live so we started our own churches. We have a media that deems itself reponsible for bringing down any and every authority it can so we can all feel equal in value (it's called self esteem in psychological circles). And so we Americans devour anything that assails authority. What greater authority figure exists than the Catholic Church? It's existed for 2000 years and can be traced back as such. It holds itself up as Christ's Church with authority from Him and Him alone. It claims that salvation of humanity goes directly thru its doors and that any other way than Christ is futile. It calls everyone but teaches that lip service is for chumps, that you either live your faith or die at enmity with God. The audaciousness of this Church in a world of 'I'm OK, You're OK' and 'Worship The God/Goddess In The Mirror' makes it a target, just like its founder. And so this firmly entrenched ideal plants seeds in Christians that maybe the Gospels aren't reliable. Maybe God doesn't hold me to a moral standard. Maybe Jesus was just a really nice, smart man who was just a slob like me with a wife, 2.5 kids, and a pet llama, not God. Faith is shaken because of the presentation--people see the bells and whistles in the Da Vinci Code and indiscriminately accept the message in the process.

Finally, this book provides those who hate the Church with more ammunition. It walks up to them, places an axe in their hand, and tells them to start swinging. The fact that the book is replete with historical inaccuarcies and assumptions based on agenda and not on truth seems to be secondary to the fact that people have a shiny new axe.


In talking with a friend who attends a non-denominational ecclesial community, the topic of Holy Scripture and discernment of Holy Writ came up. This gent claimed that the Holy Spirit aids him in discerning both the meaning/interpretation of the Scripture as well as providing him with the ability to discern whether or not Scripture is "god-breathed". The aid of the Holy Spirit enables him to discern, for example, that 1 Timothy is Scripture and The Shepherd of Hermas is not. I put him to the test and now put YOU to the test. My take, being Catholic, is that God inspired the Church to determine which writings were Scriptural and which were not and that the Church did this without error, otherwise we have a flawed collection of books that we call Scripture. How do YOU know that the Gospel of Matthew is inspired?I've selected four passages. It will be up to you to tell me which ones are Scriptural and which ones (if any) are not.

This is not a test of your ability to use internet search engines. If you cheat, you've convicted yourself of sin and are bearing false witness. We are on the honor system here, boys and girls.

1) Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses' body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" But these people blaspheme anything they don't understand, and what they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals--they destroy themselves with these things. Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah's rebellion.

2) And it came to pass, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. And he charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, that this may be a testimony to you.

3) And they went and found the sepulchre open : and they drew near and looked in there, and saw there a young man sitting in the midst of the sepulchre, of a fair countenance and clad in very bright raiment, which said unto them: Wherefore are ye come? whom seek ye? not him that was crucified? He is risen and is departed; but if ye believe it not, look in and see the place where he lay, that he is not here: for he is risen and is departed thither whence he was sent. Then the women were affrighted and fled.

4) Seeing that the army was strong, he prayed thus: "Blessed are you, O Savior of Israel, who broke the rush of the mighty one by the hand of your servant David and delivered the camp of the Philistines into the hand of Jonathan, the son of Saul, and his armor-bearer. Give this army into the hands of your people Israel; make them ashamed of their troops and their cavalry. Strike them with fear, weaken the boldness of their strength, and let them tremble at their own destruction. Strike them down by the sword of those who love you, that all who know your name may hymn your praise." Then they engaged in battle, and about five thousand of Lysias' men fell in hand-to-hand fighting.