Thursday, December 17, 2009
I suppose it’s easy for anyone, the fallen human creatures that we are, to adopt triumphalism. Whether it’s about a political ideology, the attitude of “my country, right or wrong,” or even an over-attachment to a sports team, a “smug or boastful” attitude of “superiority” can lead one to over-competence, arrogance, and closed-mindedness. As it pertains to the religious world, the first thing that comes to my mind is the Islamic jihadist who kills innocents in the name of Allah and Islam. This is the kind of religious triumphalism that must be avoided.
But just this kind? Am I implying that there is a “good” religious triumphalism?
Well by definition, no because our working definition of triumphalism seems to deny any positive aspect. But then I think about political and religious activism in general and wonder if those who support one party, one nation, one denomination, or one religion are acting immorally. Certainly those who believe in Christianity as the true religion and seek the conversion of others is by definition acting according to triumphalism, right? This is certainly what the atheists argue. And what about those who love America and are willing to fight and die to protect her – are we to attack them for their attitude of triumphalism? Or better yet, were the anti-slavery activists in the 1850’s acting from triumphalism in their attitude of moral superiority over the slavery activists? Well I certainly don’t think we want to accuse Christians or Americans or Emancipationists of triumphalism per se, so perhaps we need a better definition or understanding of triumphalism.
Let’s go back to our most-trusted website once more which offers the follow negative aspects of triumphalism:
· Impaired ability to judge the value or morality of the group's actions;
· Cessation of creativity and innovation within the group;
· Blindness to other groups’ strengths and innovations;
· A tendency to over-reach against the group’s competitors, based on an inflated sense of the likelihood of triumph in conflict.
I think these four dangers of triumphalism help us better understand those who believe strongly about a certain position insofar as having a position is not intrinsically a form of triumphalism, but holding a certain attitude or basing actions off that attitude in regards to that position can be triumphalism. For example, a pro-lifer who supports bombing abortion clinics because he blindly supports anything that ends abortions has fallen into the first danger listed above. Perhaps a better example would be a Republican or Democrat who refuses to listen to anyone across the aisle because the others hold “inferior” positions in “every case.” Triumphalism can then cause a failure to find or make compromises with those we tend to disagree with. Furthermore, because it refuses to listen to those of differing views, triumphalism creates a kind of pride that makes division permanent.
Now, as a Christian who knows that the Faith has broken into literally thousands of denominations, division is the very last thing I want to see last.
Granted I’ve been told by some friends that I’ve smelled of triumphalism regarding my Catholicism and all I can offer is my apologies. If I’ve come across that way, I would want to blame it on all my studies (maybe I’ve read too many ‘Catholic’ books?) or on my personality (maybe I like to tease people a bit too much and be a little too sarcastic?). Again, what can I do but apologize? I think that my time in Alabama might also have something to do with it. Down there, many people favor some form of religious or political triumphalism and perhaps it takes a little triumphalism of your own in order to put up a decent defense of your beliefs. I’ve noticed here in Minnesota that things are different – well about religion anyway (I’ve met a lot of people here who have fallen for political triumphalism).
But isn’t one’s faith supposed to be something very important?
I think we all agree that it is, but one should never be triumphalistic about beliefs. As it comes to Christianity, triumphalism is directly opposed to authentic ecumenism (dialogue between the divided members of the Christian Faith). As it concerns me, I can’t express how blessed I’ve been to know and experience faith with both Protestant and Orthodox Christians. In general I would have to say that my Protestant brothers and sisters have helped me desire to recommit myself to the Word of God (see John 1:1) through personal prayer and study while my Orthodox brothers and sister have helped me desire to recommit myself to the Word of God (again, see John: 1:1) through liturgical celebration and communal acts of faith, hope, and love. I really do, with deep humility, thank each and every one of you for being a continued witness to Christ in my life!
That being said, I am still a Catholic.
Let this be very clear: I don’t hold any contempt for non-Catholics or think of them as inferior. I hope we can all agree that there are legitimate differences between Catholics and non-Catholics and a frank discussion of the issues is more important than refusing to listen to others because of their beliefs. Furthermore, I believe that faith and reason are not opposed – thus ecumenical dialogue based on objective truth is possible and indeed necessary. All Christians desire to be evangelists in some way and we must remember the words of Jesus: “I pray not only for them [the Apostles], but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me (John 17:20-21, emphasis mine). Jesus here connects Christian unity with the successful preaching of the Gospel. If we are not one, we cannot complete the mission Christ has sent us to perform!
Yet there are those Catholics who do hold a personal triumphalism as it pertains to their Catholic beliefs. According to Catholic Answers (a Catholic apologetics group), “Triumphalism confuses the Church as the beginning (or seed) of the kingdom of God on earth, with the fullness of the kingdom in the age to come. Consequently, triumphalist Catholics downplay or ignore real mistakes of Catholic leaders in history, lest the Church on earth be seen as anything less than the spotless, heavenly Bride of Christ. ‘Pope Alexander VI had four children,’ the anti-Catholic accuser asserts (to take an example from Frank Sheed). The triumphalist replies, ‘No, only three were ever proved,’ or, ‘So what? Henry VIII had six wives’ - as if non-Catholic foibles absolve Catholic sins… Triumphalism is an unwillingness to acknowledge adequately that the Church, though holy, is also always in need of purification in her members (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 827). It is a subtle form of bravado masquerading as faith and zeal, a vice made out to be a virtue.’
In closing, perhaps I should address what is considered “Catholic Triumphalism” – this being applied to Catholicism directly, not Catholics specifically. Fr. John Harden defined it in this way: “A term of reproach leveled at the Catholic Church for the claim that she has the fullness of divine revelation and the right to pass judgment on the personal and social obligations of humankind." But I have to ask the Catholic and non-Catholic what they think of the following passage:
“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”
The above passage is really the core of Christianity, a personal relationship with the Father, in the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit which also unites the entire human race in faith, hope, and love. This is the core of Christianity – and it is also the core of the Catholic Church.
In fact, it’s the opening paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
BALTIMORE, Md. (Catholic Review) - After seven years of prayer and discernment, a community of Episcopal nuns and their chaplain will be received into the Roman Catholic Church during a Sept. 3 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien.
The archbishop will welcome 10 sisters from the Society of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor when he administers the sacrament of confirmation and the sisters renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the chapel of their Catonsville convent.
Episcopal Father Warren Tanghe will also be received into the church and is discerning the possibility of becoming a Catholic priest.
Mother Christina Christie, superior of the religious community, said the sisters are “very excited” about joining the Catholic Church and have been closely studying the church’s teachings for years. Two Episcopal nuns who have decided not to become Catholic will continue to live and minister alongside their soon-to-be Catholic sisters. Members of the community range in age from 59 to 94.
“For us, this is a journey of confirmation,” Mother Christina said. “We felt God was leading us in this direction for a long time.”
Wearing full habits with black veils and white wimples that cover their heads, the sisters have been a visible beacon of hope in Catonsville for decades.
The American branch of a society founded in England, the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor came to Baltimore in 1872 and have been at their current location since 1917.
In addition to devoting their lives to a rigorous daily prayer regimen, the sisters offer religious retreats, visit people in hospice care and maintain a Scriptorium where they design religious cards to inspire others in the faith.
Throughout their history, the sisters worked with the poor of Baltimore as part of their charism of hospitality. Some of that work has included reaching out to children with special needs and ministering to AIDS patients. Together with Mount Calvary Church, an Episcopal parish in Baltimore, the sisters co-founded a hospice called the Joseph Richey House in 1987.
Orthodoxy and unity were key reasons the sisters were attracted to the Catholic faith. Many of them were troubled by the Episcopal Church’s approval of women’s ordination, the ordination of a gay bishop and what they regarded as lax stances on moral issues.
“We kept thinking we could help by being a witness for orthodoxy,” said Sister Mary Joan Walker, the community’s archivist.
Mother Christina said that effort “was not as helpful as we had hoped it would be.”
“People who did not know us looked at us as if we were in agreement with what had been going on (in the Episcopal Church),” she said. “By staying put and not doing anything, we were sending a message which was not correct.”
Before deciding to enter the Catholic Church, the sisters had explored Episcopal splinter groups and other Christian denominations. Mother Christina noted that the sisters had independently contemplated joining the Catholic Church without the others knowing. When they found out that most of them were considering the same move, they took it as a sign from God and reached out to Archbishop O’Brien.
“This is very much the work of the Holy Spirit,” Mother Christina said.
The sisters acknowledged it hasn’t been easy leaving the Episcopal Church, for which they expressed great affection. Some of their friends have been hurt by their pending departure, they said.
“Some feel we are abandoning the fight to maintain orthodoxy,” said Sister Emily Ann Lindsey. “We’re not. We’re doing it in another realm right now.”
The sisters have spent much of the past year studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They said there were few theological stumbling blocks to entering the church, although some had initial difficulty with the concept of papal infallibility.
In addition to worshipping in the Latin rite, the sisters have received permission from the archbishop to attend Mass celebrated in the Anglican-use rite – a liturgy that adapts many of the prayers from the Episcopal tradition. Mother Christina said 10 archdiocesan priests, including Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden, have stepped forward to learn how to celebrate the Anglican-use Mass.
The sisters expressed deep affection for Pope Benedict XVI. The pope exercises an authority that Episcopal leaders do not, they said. The unity that Christ called for can be found in the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope, they said.
“Unity is right in the midst of all this,” said Sister Catherine Grace Bowen. “That is the main thrust.”
The sisters noted with a laugh that their love for the pope is evident in the name they chose for their recently adopted cat, “Benedict XVII” – a feline friend they lovingly call “His Furyness.”
Monday, August 17, 2009
True, the Letter to the Hebrews speaks often of Jesus’ single, perfect, unrepeatable sacrifice in atonement for our sins, but this in no way means that the Sacrifice of the Mass is somehow an additional sacrifice which attempts to do something Christ failed to do in His singe, perfect, unrepeatable sacrifice on the cross. To draw a parallel between the Mass and the empty sacrifices of the Jewish people is to misunderstand the Mass altogether. Hebrews also tells us that Jesus entered into heaven where He even now stands before His Father on our behalf (“For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf,” Hebrews 9:24). The Book of Revelation adds to this by further describing Jesus in heaven as “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Thus John was pointing out the eternal aspect of His sacrifice. Even now Jesus is before God “standing as if slain” (Revelation 5:6) and the eternity of His sacrifice is thus applicable for future believers as well as those dating back to the foundations of the world. Because Jesus is both God and Man, His sacrifice occurred “once and for all” in time and space but it is timeless and ongoing in regards to eternity. Indeed, if the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice were only applicable “once for all” then no one outside of His lifetime could benefit from it.
But what does that have to do with the Sacrifice of the Mass? Sure, the grace Jesus merited by His death on the cross is accessible to us because of His eternal presentation of His sacrifice to the Father, but doesn’t His being in the timeless, purely spiritual realm of Heaven clearly differentiate itself from a very physical, repeated sacrifice by Catholics on Earth? No on many counts.
Obviously we can all agree that new blood sacrifices on our part are simply meaningless in regards to making atonement for the eternal consequences of sin and, as the Bible clearly teaches, it is by Jesus’ sacrifice that we may have hope of salvation. Catholics believe this as much as Protestants. So what then is the connection between the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross – for there must be some connection if Catholics have such strong beliefs about both! The Catechism of the Catholic Church said it clearly in paragraph 1367: “The sacrifice of Christ [on the cross] and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.” In His wisdom, God decided to allow us to participate in Jesus’ “once for all” sacrifice by making it accessible in the Mass. The Mass in no way competes with or replaces the one sacrifice of Jesus but rather makes it present for us today on the Catholic altars throughout the world. Jesus promised to be with us always – and He keeps His promise in a particular way through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is given to us to help us become holy. Remember, you are what you eat and to become the holy, body of Christ we Catholics partake of the body of Christ!
Of course, both the Eucharist and the Mass are mysteries of the Faith and can in no way be fully explained in human words – but the sacrificial character of the Eucharist is a Biblical and historical FACT. Paul, for example, in his First Letter to the Corinthians implicitly acknowledges this in the following passage:
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? No, I mean that what they sacrifice, (they sacrifice) to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:16-21).
Paul is thus comparing the sacrifices of the pagans and the Jews to the Christian sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharistic sacrifice, for to speak both of the “table of the Lord” and the “table of demons” and also of the “cup of the Lord” and the “cup of demons” is to speak of both using sacrificial language. What’s more, Paul is pointing out that Christian unity is fostered by the Eucharist! No wonder Jesus said as much at the Last Supper (where he instituted the Eucharist) when he spoke of the need for Christians to remain one – and to make that happen, He gave us the Eucharist!
The Letter to the Hebrews also refers to an Old Testament allusion to the Eucharistic sacrifice in that the letter describes Jesus as the “high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” But who was Melchizedek and what was his priestly sacrifice? Melchizedek blessed Abraham, the father of the great monotheistic religions, and offered God a sacrifice of bread and wine! Thus Melchizedek prefigured both the blessing Jesus would bring all humanity through His sacrifice of Himself in one sacrifice of the cross and the Mass.
But the concept of the Eucharist and the Mass as a Christian sacrifice is also a historical fact. Check out the following quotes from Christians in the 1st-2nd centuries:
"Assemble on the Lord’s day [Sunday], and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]" (Didache, 70 AD).
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices.” (St. Clement’s Letter to the Corinthians, 96 AD).
"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God" (St. Ignatius of Antioch’s Letter to the Philadelphians, 107 AD).
"He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, ‘This is my body.’ The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, he confessed to be his blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi, one of the twelve [minor] prophets, had signified beforehand: ‘You do not do my will, says the Lord Almighty, and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is my name among the Gentiles, says the Lord Almighty’ [Mal. 1:10–11]. By these words he makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one, for his name is glorified among the Gentiles" (St. Irenaeus of Lyon’s Against Heresies, 189 AD).
We must also remember that the incarnation is a permanent act on God’s part. To assume heaven is a purely spiritual realm denies the reality of the incarnation, for Jesus still has His human body now and will have it forever. In a real way, Heaven and Earth are in contact at “God’s end” through the bodily presence of Jesus (and Mary, as Catholics believe) in Heaven. Furthermore, Catholics would argue that the reverse is true of Earth by Jesus’ bodily presence in the Eucharist throughout the tabernacles of the world. In a special way, at Mass Heaven and Earth touch as Jesus becomes present with us on the altar and then enters into our bodies through Holy Communion. If that’s not having “a personal relationship with Jesus” then I don’t know what is. Indeed, when looked at from this perspective it is quite easy to understand why Catholics believe the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian faith” just as Vatican II taught!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The above statement was posed regarding the legitimacy of the Catholic religion. Of course, one must wonder what these questions and conclusions are based on; how does one define the thing being critiqued? The writer offers the following description:
Now suppose you meet someone who says that indeed, there is an invisible man who lives in the sky, created you, the Earth, and everything. In order then for you to live morally, you must have a Church to guide you and tell you things. You are incapable of doing it on your own, as you are from a fallen race of beings. There is this book too, which has been passed down from the Stone Ages from this invisible man himself, and you must read it, follow it, and worship this invisible man. Oh, and this invisible man left no trace of his existence, because he is not observable in any way.
Also, this invisible man created another invisible being, called Satan, who he is at war with for eternity. When you die, you go to an eternal heaven to live with this invisible man in the sky. This is because you have an eternal, unchanging soul - a soul you had from before you were born - that leaves your unworthy body to go to this Heaven.
However, if you disobey this invisible man with the freedom that he gave you, he will send you to a Hell where you will burn forever in pain for all eternity, away from your creator. This will be the most painful, worst suffering imaginable. This is what your heavenly father does to his children who don't follow him. You burn. But he loves you...
It is a very interesting and thought provoking description; however it is not a description of the Catholic religion. While most textbooks lump together Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as “Peoples of the Book” I would argue in a simple form that we might describe the Catholic religion in two ways: 1) as a people of the Word, and 2) as an incarnational people.
1) People of the Word: Though Protestants might describe themselves as a People of the Book, Catholics understand that the Word of God is not simply a book but a Person. It is to this Person, this Word, that the entire religion hinges and the entire human race depends. Unfortunately this Person was not mentioned once in the above description of the Catholic religion. To understand the Word, we must understand a dogma. “Dogma,” however, is a term that somehow inspires thoughts of boredom and closed-mindedness. Thus before I proceed, I’ll let Chesterton speak of dogmas as the first principle of Catholicism and really its most intellectually interesting part:
“If [one] would condescend to ask what the dogmas are, he would find out that it is precisely the dogmas that are living, that are inspiring, that are intellectually interesting. Zeal and charity… are admirable as flowers and fruit; but if you are really interested in the living principle you must be interested in the root or the seed. In other words, you must be intelligently interested in the statement with which the whole thing started; even if it is only to deny it. Even if the critic cannot come to agree with the Catholic, he can come to see that it is certain ideas about the Cosmos that make him a Catholic… He will never get anywhere near it by sentimentalizing against Catholic sentiment or pontificating against Catholic pontiffs. [One] must get hold of the ideas as ideas; and he will find that the most interesting of all the ideas are those which the newspapers dismiss as dogmas.”
Now the dogma alluded to earlier which must be understood is the dogma of the Trinity. I admit I can nowhere come close to explaining, much less defending, this dogma here but I will make a one-paragraph attempt. Now if one allows for the existence of a personal transcendent deity we could put forth the argument that this deity, as a subject, has an understanding or conception of himself – but this self-thought or self-idea would not be limited by time or space and would thus contain all that God is. This Thought (“logos” in Greek translates as “thought,” “idea,” and “word”) is distinct from the Thinker yet “one-in-being” with the Thinker. What’s more, we understand the Logos, or “Word/Thought,” as more importantly a Son. Now instead of the Son having a self-Thought of his own, he turns back to the Father (the Thinker) and from their union proceeds the outpouring love which we call God the Holy Spirit. The three united by one Nature yet distinct in Person.
2) Incarnational People: None of the above could be discovered using the scientific method, but that is not to say that God left us with zero evidence. Catholics believe that God the Father sent us His Son, the self-Thought and mind of God, to capture our hearts and elevate us to a shared participation in the Trinitarian family which is God. This sending happened in a real place at a real time. It can be verified by history and witnessed to in the lives of Catholic saints and martyrs. Look at the lives of the Apostles who were all, save one, brutally tortured to death for proclaiming that Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead, is God the Son. Why would they each allow themselves to be tortured to death for a lie? I mean, maybe a couple might if they were crazy, but not all of them. What’s more, there are many who say Jesus was a wise teacher but not God. These people miss out on the fact that Jesus claimed to be God! Now if my neighbor approached me and said he was God, I’d think twice before considering him a “wise” man. He’s either one of three things: a liar, a lunatic, or Lord God.
But one may still be wondering what the concept of an “incarnational people” really means. First of all it means that we consent to another dogma: the dogma of the Incarnation. The Incarnation means that God the Son joined to his divine nature to a human nature and that from his conception and on into the vastness of eternity, God the Son is perfectly God and perfectly human. Forever. In effect, the Incarnation meant that God humanized his divinity and divinized our humanity (with neither the humanity nor divinity overwhelming the other). And not simply that, he allowed himself to be tortured and murdered by humanity in the process, and then used this most evil of acts (deicide) to produce man’s greatest good: our redemption. That is love. True, we “are from a fallen race of beings” as the writer indicates, but this primordial Fall became the seed of God’s rescue plan. St. Athanasius pointed out the entire crux of Christianity when he said: “The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men could become the sons of God.” In other words, God shared in our human nature so that we could share in his divine nature (the theological term “grace,” by the way, refers to a created sharing in God’s nature).
Thus it’s not about going to hell for not following the rules or needing some Church in order to be moral, as the above writer thought, but rather about sharing in divine life and being supernaturally adopted into the divine family. Or as C.S. Lewis wrote in the essay God or Rabbit?: “The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without [Jesus], don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that ‘a decent life’ is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods [in a loose, not formal sense], intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.”
Secondly, the term “incarnational people” refers to the way in which Catholics (a) believe, (b) act, and (c) worship. According to (a), there is no such thing as an “unworthy body” for God the Son had and still has a human body in heaven. This in turn leads to (b) in that we recognize the worth of our bodies in parallel with the fact that God has joined a human body to himself for all eternity. Finally (3), matter is of great importance to the Catholic because God has forever united himself to matter through a human body. It is the Protestant who misses this point and distrusts matter. They deny any real power behind water baptism (by which we enter into the divine family) because “God can’t work through matter” – yet they agree that Jesus is God come in the flesh (and if human flesh isn’t material then what is it?) and thus redeems us through matter!
Furthermore, the Incarnation recognized that we are both matter and spirit and that we must interact with God in both matter and spirit. To this end, Jesus instituted a Church that has a physical and spiritual dimension. He gave this Church “sacraments” which are physical signs that point to, and actualize, spiritual realities. In short, the Catholic Church, instituted by God, treats man as he is: material and spiritual. This dual nature of man becomes a problem for the materialist (who believes everything is only matter) and the Buddhist (who believes everything is only spirit). Both the materialist and the Buddhist, however, make their metaphysical claims but then fail to act accordingly. The materialist gives answers in purely material terms and then throws out his material principles as soon he enters the real world – for if all that exists is matter and matter is competitive then there is no reason to be moral; yet the materialist acts as if there was a real right and wrong. The same is true of the Buddhist who claims not to believe in a material world at all yet looks both ways before crossing the road. Here we have two philosophies at both ends of a spectrum but neither position “works” in the real world. Everyone has a philosophy that cannot be proven by the scientific method (but neither can the scientific method be proven by the scientific method), thus we should judge a philosophy not solely by whether we can prove it’s ‘truthiness’ (as Stephen Colbert would say) but rather by how its views stand up in the lives of real people. The Catholic religion, like other religions and philosophies, gives answers to questions. Though these answers cannot be verified by the scientific method, the glove-like answers of the Catholic religion fit our human, hand-shaped nature perfectly. This is why for two-thousand years the Catholic religion has been providing the world with joy-filled saints who have done more for the world and the human race than all the materialists and Buddhists in human history.
It would seem to me that the Protestant fundamentalist and the materialist atheist suffer from one similar problem. While the Protestant fundamentalist looks to the Bible alone for truth and treats it as if it can interpret itself, the materialist atheist looks to matter alone for truth and treats it as if it can interpret itself. The Protestant somehow thinks the Bible just fell out of the sky as if it were always there and the materialist is by his position forced to believe that matter either popped into existence (“fell out of the sky” so to speak) or was simply always there. The Catholic religion alone provides a place for which the origins of both can be legitimately explained in relation to human nature and sanity. As C.S. Lewis said: "I felt in my bones that this universe does not explain itself." I would argue that the same is true of the Bible.
Furthermore, neither the Protestant fundamentalist nor the materialist atheist has any reason to believe in founding their authoritative truths on the Bible or on matter. For the materialist, I ask him to prove to me that matter is even “there” to begin with. There have been philosophers and philosophies (from the Berkeley to Buddhism) that claim that matter does not exist, and the materialist must then somehow prove, without using something the materialist might call matter, that matter is real. As to the Protestant fundamentalist, G.K. Chesterton muses about the historically proven connection of the Bible to the Catholic religion when he speaks of the Reformation: “To an impartial pagan or skeptical observer, it must always seem the strangest story in the world; that men [i.e. Protestants] rushing in to wreck a temple, overturning the altar and driving out the priest, found there certain sacred volumes inscribed "Psalms" or "Gospels"; and (instead of throwing them on the fire with the rest) began to use them as infallible oracles rebuking all the other arrangements. If the sacred high altar was all wrong, why were the secondary sacred documents necessarily all right? If the priest had faked his Sacraments, why could he not have faked his Scriptures?”
What is my reason for believing in the Bible? Well in short (and perhaps much too short), once I accept the existence of God, the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ, I can simply look at first-second century Christian history and see that a mission was given to men who appointed bishops as their successors. Once given the Holy Spirit, these men (though sinful and fallible by their own measure) were somehow promised by Jesus (God incarnate) infallibility when united and in speaking in matters of faith and morals. These men and their successors compiled the Bible and (most importantly) determined which books belonged in the Bible and which did not. Thus the grounding chain of infallibility goes: Jesus Christ-Church-Bible. In other words, I believe in the Bible because I believe in the Catholic Church and I believe in the Catholic Church because I believe in Jesus Christ. This logical chain of authority, while having to be accepted by faith, is what has kept and is what continues to keep me ever untied to the Catholic religion.
When he was asked what keeps him Catholic, St. Augustine in 397 AD gave the following reasons: "The unanimity of peoples and nations keeps me here. Her authority, inaugurated in miracles, nourished by hope, augmented by love, and confirmed by her age, keeps me here. The succession of priests, from the very see of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his resurrection, gave the charge of feeding his sheep [John 21:15-17], up to the present episcopate, keeps me here. And last, the very name Catholic, which, not without reason, belongs to this Church alone, in the face of so many heretics, so much so that, although all heretics want to be called 'Catholic,' when a stranger inquires where the Catholic Church meets, none of the heretics would dare to point out his own basilica or house."
Of course, there are many, many more reasons why I am a Catholic, but I leave it to G.K. Chesterton who summed it up nicely when he said: “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”
Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
But while Protestant anthropology may be a better topic for a different post, it must be said that Aristotle was as much a controversial figure in the Catholic Church as the Church herself became for Protestants – at least according to Aristotle’s Children by Richard E. Rubenstein. Rubenstein, a George Mason University public affairs professor, paints an epic picture of the loss and subsequent rediscovery of Aristotle and his philosophy. The story of Aristotle’s incorporation into Catholic thought and medieval scholasticism is one of intrigue, infighting, but most of all, synthesis with the Gospel.
Synthesizing classical philosophy with Christianity might seem like a tricky task, but the job is made tremendously easier by the fact that Aristotle and Plato wrote hundreds of years before Christ. As medieval Christians (and Christians of the modern era) argued, these writers simply did not have Christianity before them to work from and they did what they could given what they had. Reason alone can figure out an awful lot, but where reason falls short, faith stands strong.
As Rubenstein points out, synthesizing classical philosophy with Christianity had been going on since the early days of the Church. St. Augustine, perhaps the greatest of the late patristic writers, is known for his Christianization of Plato during the 5th century. Sadly, Aristotle’s works were not taken up as closely as Plato. This was, for one reason, because of how his philosophy conflicted with the calamitous events of the fall of the Roman Empire. Plato’s philosophy spoke in a way that treated this world as temporary and imperfect – and only another almost heavenly reality is where perfection is found forever. In other words, it fit well with the persecutions that had befallen Christians in the past and fit just as well in the face of Rome’s destruction; in other words: don’t worry about this world, think about the next.
Aristotle, on the other hand, pointed out the harmony in this world and how everything can find an order and a purpose in the way things are. There is beauty, goodness, and truth to be found in this life as well. His view painted a much prettier picture of reality’s self-congruence and our ability to enjoy discovering its secrets - or put another way, he exemplified the fact that God created a "good" world. Aristotle, like Plato, believed in a God who gave the universe its start and fundamental meaning – but many of his other views seemed quite controversial. It was in part because of this, coupled with St. Augustine’s triumphant use of Plato, that Aristotle’s works fell to the wayside for over half a millennia.
What I particularly enjoyed about Rubenstein’s book was that it captured the events which led Christians, Jews, and Muslims to translate and distribute the works of Aristotle – and then captured the shockwave of Europe’s dealing with the philosopher’s thoughts. More importantly, Rubenstein looks at the rise of the university system established by the Catholic Church and how Aristotle was so influential in helping some of the greatest theologians of history better articulate the Faith using reason. When Cathar heretics used Aristotle to back up their claims (e.g. that there was two gods), the pope made the controversial decision to allow Catholic monks and university teachers to pick up Aristotle and show how his ideas were not contradictory to the Faith - and help quench the layman's thirst for a deeper understanding of Christian doctrine. In this way, and in many others, Aristotle helped shape the future of Church history as well as western civilization in the Middle Ages.
Without giving too much more away, Aristotle was heavily studied during the 12th-13th centuries as Europe was blossoming religiously, politically, and economically – but he began to be abandoned once more with the darker 14th century and beyond as Europe fell into the horrors of the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Death, the Avignon Papacy, and the Great Western Schism. This was only further deepened by the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation and another century of religious wars.
It was also during this time that faith was divorced from reason. Reason (reduced to scientific materialist atheism) took over the public sphere while faith became a private matter to be kept out of society and public policy. Though so many people think of the Middle Ages as nothing more than a theocracy, the beauty of medieval Catholic scholasticism was that it kept faith and reason in dialogue with each other. This dialogue was never a fusion of the two as one or identical, but rather as a means of finding deeper truths about God, humanity, and the world around us.
Today we are left with a schizophrenic worldview that must be reconciled once again.
Rubenstein argues that the present age of globalization may be a good time to rediscover Aristotle and do just this. Aristotle’s “ideas have always seemed most relevant to those inhabiting an age of expanding trade, increasing intercultural connections, and rising expectations for human development. The Aristotelian project, which seemed irrelevant in an age of political and religious fragmentation, may serve in the next phase of human history as an inspirer of creative, integrative thought.”
Now if only I could find my copies of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Politics, and Nicomachean Ethics…
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Liberty – i.e. freedom – has been terribly misunderstood in the modern world. St. Paul here reminds us that liberty is a positive force in our lives, not a negative. In case you’re wondering, the negative sense of liberty means a “freedom from” one thing or another. This is the typically modern-secular meaning of the world. Freedom for the liberal means freedom from intervention. While this can be a perfectly legitimate use for liberty in certain contexts, using it as the sole definition is rather lacking, for ultimately one must find himself floating alone in space in order to be “free from intervention” – in fact, one must be in perfect isolation to be truly free in this negative sense. And that sounds like a good definition of hell. As C.S. Lewis pondered, the physical pains of hell could be self-inflicted in order to distract oneself from the isolation of having lost God and all others for all eternity.
But what about the positive side: “freedom for” one thing or another?
This implies boundaries and limits. As Oscar Wilde once said: “Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.” What’s more, liberty must also mean following the rules, doing your duty, and behaving as you ought to behave. The rules, however, are not there to make us oppressed but are there to set us free to do the things that will help us to be all we can really be. The Founding Fathers understood this and they knew that granting the American people the freedom to practice their faith, associate and trade with others, and participate in governance would lead to a prosperous nation; and yes, even a holy nation. What’s more, they recognized that this kind of liberty cannot simply be “granted” by a government. Liberty lies at the heart of man. It is part of our nature and is in part what makes us made in the image and likeness of God. This why Thomas Jefferson pointed out that our equality and rights come not from kingly power or even from a democratic vote, but rather they are “endowed by [our] Creator.”
Thus it is not so much a Supreme Court ruling or a new passed law (or even an executive order masking itself as law) that can set us free. A government can only exercise its power to limit liberty and hamper our ability to be what God has made us to be. One philosopher defined a good society as one in which it is easy to be good. Now looking back at Galatians above, has our government today helped us to live a life of liberty or has it instead served to resubmit us into a yoke of slavery? Are we more or less free to be creative and productive in the market place? Are we really free to live a life of faith in the public sphere? [G.K. Chesterton quipped: “Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it."]
But perhaps these questions hit too closely to home. Let’s look at Iran and Honduras instead.
As I write this, news stories are coming in reporting about the crackdowns and “investigations” going on regarding the protests of a seemingly rigged election in Iran while others regarding America cutting certain ties with Honduras because the “coup” staged by, oh I don’t know, the entire government from legislature to the courts to the military! And what makes it worse, our president has stood on the wrong side in both cases. His actions simply aid other governments to impinge upon the cultural, political, and economic liberties of their people. And to think that the one place where we fought so hard to plant the flag of liberty is the one place we’re retreating from?!
Thus as America withdraws her troops from Iraq, Iran moves closer to a civil war for freedom from the Islamofascism of their nuke-seeking, homicidal maniac-in-chief. Our brave soldiers, which were placed in Iraq as part of a grand strategy of eliminating the powers that be in countries like Iran and Syria, are now being withdrawn in an imbecile strategy by a man who is showing us his total lack of foreign policy experience. And what’s happening? Bombs are going off across Iraq and the good citizens of Iran, who we could be helping right now, are being slaughtered in the streets. And don’t forget about North Korea. Some may think Kim Jong Il is insane, but his current actions are the perfect actions to take in the face of an American leader who will not take a stand against terrorism or nuclear weapons creation in Iran. Expect more countries to pop up and take advantage of our weakened foreign policy.
And Honduras only makes things worse. We’ve shown our allies, the allies for liberty, that we side with socialist dictators over democracy and liberty. We favor a micromanaged economy of stagnation over the kind of economy that has done more to rid the world of poverty than socialism could ever hope to achieve. We’ve told the world that people need to be controlled and that economic problems should really be fixed by spending more money and asking some committee of lawyers to figure out how to regulate every little aspect of the economy. We’ve told the world that the best leaders are the leaders that write for Playboy, protect their own interests, gain votes from the dead, and sleep with Argentinean women!
What happened to authentic liberty?
Distraction. I think it starts there. By now everyone knows Michael Jackson is dead and everyone has some sort of opinion on the matter. How many people do you know who have heard anything about the “energy tax” the House just passed or how it will raise their energy bills by hundreds of dollars per person? How many people went to see Transformers 2 but have no clue who their mayor is? How many people take America for granted? How many are cynical about religion, economics, and politics because their liberties have been hit so hard that they feel they can’t make a difference anymore?
Selfishness and laziness. Too many people just expect to get everything they want (or even need). There are some incredible immigrants that have come to the US and love it because all they need to do is work hard, practice a little ingenuity, and take a few risks to come out a hundred times better than where they were in their own country. I recently met a couple people from Belarus and Lebanon who came here speaking no English but are doing quite well because they did exactly what I mentioned above. Like the Romans, Americans want to have it all without sacrificing anything to keep what we possess. What’s worse, they make the dumb mistake of electing people who promise them “free” healthcare and other dreams (at best) or lies (at worst).
Liberty brings with it a great responsibility. We need to move beyond the distractions, the selfishness, and the laziness to do what is best for our nation and our own livelihood. We must stop living either for a future fantasy or in living in the past. Instead, we must look realistically to the future, seeing each obstacle as a challenge to be faced, not feared. When Pope John Paul II was elected his first words to the world were: “Be not afraid!” In regards to modern forms of liberty, Chesterton said: "Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities."
Both the citizens in Iran and the government officials of Honduras should show America what liberty is all about. Unfortunately we have a government and media to contend with that consistently stands against authentic liberty as being “divisive” in some way or another. When Obama finally spoke against the actions of the Iranian government, he was asked if pressure from the GOP had anything to do with it. He answered with the question: “What do you think?” Is this really the kind of leadership we need?
On one other final note, I just finished a fantastic book by Michael Novak called The Universal Hunger for Liberty. I might just write a review of it sometime soon. In any case, in part of the book he asks the question of liberty in a Muslim society. Can it work or is Islam fundamentally opposed to liberty? When Pope Benedict questioned this in his Regensburg address, the media backlash was out of this world. It did, however, spark a dialogue between Muslims and the West that hasn’t been seen in hundreds of years. I would tend to say that, judging by what we’ve seen by the people of Iran, along with the work of Iraqis for five years, that liberty is possible though not a foregone conclusion.
What do you think?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
So below is a list of plot holes that will give away the movie if you haven’t seen it but still want to. So that’s your warning.
1. In "Transformers," there was this giant battle in the middle of downtown Los Angeles -- excuse me, Mission City -- that was witnessed by thousands of people at the very least. But somehow the government was able to cover up the whole thing, and now the existence of alien robots is just an internet rumor? How did they do it? Pay off everyone who was there and quickly fix millions of dollars in damage? Also, didn't Keller (Jon Voight) go on TV and tell everyone we were being attacked by "a technological civilization far superior to our own"? How did they spin that?
2. There are two pieces of the Allspark cube left: the military has one under lock and key, and Sam discovers another. The Decepticons steal one and bring Megatron back to life. But when Sam (Shia LaBeouf) wants to bring back Optimus, he has to find the Matrix of Leadership on the other side of the globe. Why not use the other piece? Mikaela (Megan Fox) has it in her backpack the whole time. It brought his kitchen appliances to life, why can't it do the same for Optimus?
3. Speaking of Megatron's rebirth, when the Decepticons venture deep into the ocean to revive him, the Navy crew tracking them reads five contacts. When they get down there, they tear apart one of the robots for parts to rebuild Megatron. Then as they rise to the surface, the same Navy guys say they spot six contacts. The little "Doctor" robot popped out down there, but he's about a third of the size of a person. Would he have shown up on sonar?
4. That reminds me: even if I were to forgive the Doctor's German accent -- and director Michael Bay is asking me to forgive a lot of ridiculous accents -- why would a robot need glasses? He has little lenses that flip in front of his mechanical eyes. Couldn't he just get his eyes adjusted? You'd think with all the laser guns, someone could perform a Lasik procedure.
5. Apparently, Transformers can look like people now. How? And how is it that even though the robo-girl (Isabel Lucas) is made of metal, she can still straddle Sam without crushing him. And if Bumblebee knows something's wrong with her, why does he spit antifreeze at her instead of telling Sam? Yes, his voicebox is broken, but wasn't it fixed at the end of the last movie?
6. The Fallen is the last of the Primes, since they all sacrificed themselves to stop him from destroying the sun. But then he says that Optimus is a descendant of the Primes. First, Transformers have kids? And second, how could he descend from them if they were all dead? And if the Fallen could only be destroyed by a Prime, why didn't the originals just gang up on him back in the day? And what makes Optimus so special, anyway? Megatron beat him earlier, but all it takes is a few spare parts from creaky old Jetfire for him to take out the Fallen?
7. Sam, Mikaela, and Simmons (John Turturro) go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. to find Jetfire. Then they walk out the back onto a wide open field with old planes and mountains in the distance. When did the National Mall start to look so much like to Tucson, AZ (where they really filmed that scene)?
8. The geography is just as bad when they go to Egypt. The stone city of Petra in Jordan is over 250 miles away, over mountainous terrain, with few paved roads and the Israeli border between them, so how can they drive from one to the other in a couple of hours. And the Pyramids are said to be shooting distance from the Mediterranean, but they are actually well over 80 miles inland. Even if the Navy ship had a secret rail gun, and even if the captain would take an order to fire from a former agent of a government branch that no longer exists (over a walkie-talkie that inexplicably starts working again), how could it hit a moving target from that distance?
9. Sam briefly dies and goes to Robot Heaven. Robot Heaven?!?!
10. Where does Sam's bandage come from? What about his extra sock? Why does Sam's roommate not contribute anything at all? What was the Fallen doing for those thousands of years Megatron was frozen in ice? How does one satellite receive transmissions from everywhere on the planet? Why does Wheelie hump Mikaela's leg? Why do we have to see John Turturro's thong? Why are robots who join together to become Devastator also seen fighting the Army at the same time? Why does the government want only our military fighting Decepticons when our weapons seem unable to make so much as a dent on any of them? Why did the ancient Egyptians build a pyramid around the sun-destroying machines instead of just breaking it? Why is the Matrix of Leadership bigger in the Fallen's hand than in Sam's? And how do Mikaela's pants stay so clean?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Some, however, have called Anglicans “Catholic-light” and “Catholicism without the guilt” – and there are many who consider themselves both Catholic and Anglican. Truth be told, major issues like priestesses, openly homosexual clergy, and a lack of unity with the Pope do in fact create major obstacles and differences that make Anglicans and Catholics divided brethren.
These issues, however, have become major incentives to some Anglicans who see the truth, goodness, and beauty of Rome and would like to return to the once-united Christendom of pre-Reformation Christianity. The Catholic Church, for her part, has also recognized many positive aspects of Anglicanism – so much so, that the Church has set up a process whereby Anglican priests, bishops, and whole congregations can enter the Catholic Church and continue to worship using the liturgical forms they have possessed for centuries!
But in case you don’t know, Anglicanism goes back to King Henry VIII of England. Unlike Protestants like Martin Luther and John Calvin, who both broke from Catholicism over doctrinal issues, Henry VIII divorced his people from the Church of Rome over a moral issue: he needed a divorce in order to re-marry in hopes of having a male heir. As you probably know, this led him down an insane path of divorce after divorce with execution after execution of his many so-called wives.
You’d think people would reconsider Anglicanism from this horrific origin story!
But Anglicanism went on and became a source of nationalism for the British people. Many faithful Catholics in England were put to death for their Catholic faith and many more were forced to practice Catholicism in the shadows. Others, like William Shakespeare whose father was killed for the Catholic Faith, hid their faith in their works and in their cultural practices. Today Catholics are still barred from many political offices in England – and even Tony Blair was forced to become Catholic only after he left office as Prime Minister of England.
Like other mainstream Protestant denominations, Anglicanism has by and large fallen victim to the modern liberal agenda that has watered down the Faith. Not only has there been an acceptance of openly homosexual persons, but they have gone on to allow practicing homosexuals to become priests and bishops. In other circles, priestesses have been “ordained” to minister in their churches as well. Both of these issues are ripping their Anglican communion apart and talk is growing of reunion with Catholicism by many, many Anglicans.
Below is a story from Catholic.org regarding a conference that took place in Texas – at this conference was an explanation of how Anglican priests, bishops, and congregations could open up negotiations and begin a movement back into Catholicism. Though there is no guarantee, many Anglican priests and bishops (even those married) could be ordained in the Catholic Church and begin ministry in their parishes or in other Catholic parishes.
It’s quite a story! Read on for more:
For three days, framed by a solemn Evensong and Choral Matins and anchored by two Eucharistic celebrations, continuing Anglicans, practicing Roman Catholics and soul-searching Episcopalians came together to rejoice in the unique heritage of the liturgical richness of Anglican liturgy as embraced by the entwining roots of Roman Catholicism, which reaches back beyond the English Reformation to Christ and forward into present day post-modern America.
Anglican Use, as it is lived out today in the United States, is perhaps one of the best guarded secrets in American Anglicanism and one of the most misunderstood aspects of Roman Catholic liturgical practice. The Anglican Use Society is dedicated to helping bridge the gap between fact and fiction, understanding and misunderstanding, and actuality and misinformation.
It also helps to construct that overpass across the Tiber River which some embattled American Anglicans are crossing as they flee from the spiritually beleaguered and morally bankrupt Episcopal Church. American Anglicanism is on the verge of fracturing, yet again, in the United States with the birthing next week of the new North American Anglican province. In all, there are more than 50 continuing Anglican or Anglican-like groups, trying to deal with the deepening spiritual crisis in The Episcopal Church, that have been established since the 1970s.
As a result, various Episcopal priests and laity have been turning their spiritual eyes to Rome seeking answers for a unified Catholic Christendom that can only come through reconciliation and reunification with the Great Latin Church of the West in fulfillment of Christ's own priestly Gospel prayer in the Book of John that His Church may be one even as He and the Father are One.
Ever so slowly, with the first ordination of Episcopal priestesses in the 1970's, Episcopal priests have been quietly and examining their own Episcopal priesthood and Anglo-Catholic leanings amid the quagmire of the shifting sands of The Episcopal Church's ever-changing doctrines, dogmas, disciplines, and moral practices. They are realizing that perhaps their very salvation and the authenticity of their own priesthood is embedded in the apostolic roots of Catholic Rome and that, indeed, the Pontiff is the successor of Peter and the symbol of worldwide Christian unity. So far, about 100 former married Episcopal priests have gone through the Pastoral Provision process and have been re-ordained into the Catholic priesthood. There are several still in the remolding process who hope and pray that they too will become a rare married Catholic priest.
What drew 200 people to Houston during the unexpected summer-like heat of late spring? Many things: Curiosity ... Interest ... Questions ... Concerns ... A slate of world-renowned speakers anchored by a magnetic Roman Catholic cardinal ... A common heritage ... Like-mindedness ... Soul-wrenching agony ... A passion for Elizabethan English within the Roman Catholic liturgical setting ... The gentle prodding of the Holy Spirit or in Anglican parlance -- the Holy Ghost.
Coming from New England to the West Coast, the peninsula of Florida to the shores of the Pacific and from many map points in between, they converged at Our Lady of Walsingham Anglican Use Catholic Church to find answers.
An Anglican interest in Catholicism with a subtle shift back to a long-ignored Roman faith foundation started with a humble Church of England parish priest who eventually converted to Roman Catholicism ultimately putting on the scarlet sash of a Prince of the Church. The name of John Henry Cardinal Newman is familiar to Anglicans and Catholics alike. It was as a quaint Anglican priest that the quest for a deeper spiritual meaning and faith expression led him into being a pivotal key player in the Oxford Movement, which helped to establish the High Church Anglo-Catholic aspect of Anglicanism.
It is the High Church Anglo-Catholics within Anglicanism who most appreciate and celebrate the Catholic aspects of Anglicanism as it comes to piety, devotion, faith practice, liturgy and the sacraments. It is the Anglo-Catholics, particularly, who have railed against women's priestly ordination and episcopal consecration and the feminization of the church, and the failure of The Episcopal Church to follow Biblical morality. They decry the incalculable damage to ecumenism brought on by the recent actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada while seeking to live out the Lord's desire for the Church to be One as He and His Father are One, In the United States, the Anglican Use provision is a multi-pronged tool which includes the Vatican's Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II, a mechanism which allows married Episcopal priests to rethink their Anglican priesthood, renounce their Anglican orders and be sacramentally retrained for the Catholic priesthood and then re-ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. There is also a mechanism that allows Episcopalians to be individually reconciled to the Roman pontiff and then as an intact congregation to become an Anglican Use parish church within a Roman Catholic diocese that is cared for by a Pastoral Provision priest with faculties to celebrate the Anglican Use liturgy.
Usually, it is the Episcopal priest who first starts to examine his Anglican faith walk and priesthood and then makes the first tentative contact with the Roman Catholic Church about conversion. Once the priest starts making progress towards reconciliation and unification with the Church of Rome, he then acts as a leader for members of his Episcopal congregation to join him in the conversion process.
"Lay people don't quite see it," explained The Rev. Msgr. William Stetson, secretary to the Ecclesiastical Delegate of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the Pastoral Provision. "The Pastoral Provision is a real gift to the community of the church," explained The Most Rev. Kevin Vann bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth.
Several priests from the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth were on hand to check things out, interact with their Roman Catholic counterparts, and see how the whole process might work. They admitted there was interest in the Pastoral Provision process, but were reluctant to be more specific.
When VOL asked Bishop Vann to comment on the presence of Episcopal clergy, he demurred to The Rt. Rev. Jack Iker stating that he has reached out to Bishop Iker and the Anglican bishop's priests in friendship. However, it would be Bishop Iker who would have to give any specific details.
"I see the Pastoral Provision and Anglican Use as a great gift," explained retired Bishop John Lipscomb of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida who is one of at least four Episcopal bishops who have renounced their Episcopal orders to become Roman Catholics and perhaps pursue the Catholic priesthood.
"It is a very personal faith walk," the former Florida bishop noted.
"It's a gift of grace," added The Rev. Ernie Davis, a Pastoral Provision priest in Kansas City, Missouri. He is the pastor of St. Therese Little Flower, a unique multicultural Catholic parish that not only embraces the more formal Anglican Use congregants, but also a vivacious African American group.
Currently, the former Southwest Florida Episcopal bishop is studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood and hopes to become a transitional deacon this summer and a priest, next winter. Right now, he is the lay executive director of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg's Bethany Retreat Center in Lutz, FL.
Earlier this year, former Rio Grande Episcopal Bishop Jeffery Steenson was re-ordained into the Catholic priesthood. He is now serving in a parish in New Mexico, but expects to join the teaching staff of St. Thomas University in Houston this autumn. Last year, he was one of the Anglican Use Conference's guest speakers.
Two other highly visible Episcopal bishops who have converted to Roman Catholicism are retired Fort Worth Bishop Clarence Pope and retired Bishop Daniel Herzog of the Episcopal Diocese Albany. When a priest, or a bishop, is drawn into Pastoral Provision, they end up risking everything for what they have come to believe -- that the fullness of Catholic faith and practice is encapsulated in the Church of Rome with the See of Peter being anchored in the personage of the Bishop of Rome.
When an Episcopal priest, or a continuing Anglican priest, decides to follow his heart into the Catholic Church, he has to be willing to risk everything to say "yes" to God's Will as he experiences it. He will lose his holy orders, he will lose his congregation, he will lose his livelihood, he will lose his rectory, and he will lose his friends. His family may not understand why he is giving up so much up with no real guarantee that he will get his priesthood back as a Catholic.
"Our salvation is at issue," former bishop Lipscomb explained.
The Rev. James Moore, one of the founding pastors of Our Lady of Walsingham, called the papacy the "magnetic center" which draws those Episcopal priests seeking the gifts and graces of Catholic unity.He explained that through the Episcopal priesthood, the Anglican cleric has a taste of the fullness of priesthood available in the Catholic Church. Even though the Pastoral Provision was designed to help married American Episcopal priests convert to Roman Catholicism and perhaps reclaim their priesthood as Catholics, the Pastoral Provision process should not be seen as opening the flood gates for married priests in the Catholic Church.
"Celibacy is the key to spiritual fruitfulness in the Catholic Church," Msgr. Stetson emphasized.
"We are raising up the next generation of celibate priests," explained The Rev. Christopher Phillips who is a married Pastoral Provision priest at Our Lady of the Atonement Anglican Use Catholic Church in San Antonio.
The Texas priest noted that with the Pastoral Provision process having just turned a quarter of a century old, a new second generation of Anglican Use Catholics is starting to come of age and vocations are now being generated.
"Anglican Use vocations are coming," Fr. Phillips noted.
"This is the maturing of the Pastoral Provision," the Monsignor added.
The new generation of Anglican Use vocations to the priesthood is important. As the married founding pastors of the Anglican Use Catholic parishes retire and eventually die off, the patrimony of Anglican Use needs to continue on with a new harvest of bi-ritual Catholic priests who understand Anglican Use through having grown up in it and thus taking Anglican Use to the next level of growth.
So far, St. Mary the Virgin has developed three priestly vocations and one religious vocation. At Our Lady of Walsingham, there have been at least five vocations raised up -- one priest, one seminarian, a Dominican sister and one deacon-in-training. OLW parishioners are also very proud to boast that they have the first ordained Anglican Use deacon, The Rev. Mr. James Barnett.
Our Lady of the Atonement, too, has a new foundation of contemplative Poor Clare nuns who branched off from Mother Angelica's Our Lady of Angles Monastery in Alabama. The Poor Clares landed in San Antonio because one of their founding sisters is from OLA and returned to her Anglican Use roots along with members of her Franciscan community.
It is not only the priests who are seeing that their spiritual future lies in the Catholic Church. Scores of laity have "Swum the Tiber" and become happy sacramentally practicing Roman Catholics. However, it is the primacy of the papacy which is usually the hardest thing for most Anglicans, particularly Anglo-Catholics, to grasp in their journey from Anglicanism to Catholicism.
Episcopal religious sisters, too, sometimes look towards Rome for a new spiritual dimension in the living out of their religious life. About one hundred years ago, the Eastern Province superior of the Community of St. Mary's in New York left chapel during Terce and joined up with the Catholic Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Pennsylvania. This switch originally shook the community, but now the story has become a treasured part of their history.
Now it is the Episcopal All Saints Sisters of the Poor who have their monastic eyes turned towards Rome and have been in prayerful discernment, quiet communication and spiritual study in exploring that option. They are expected to embrace the fullness of Catholicism later this fall.
Anglican Use President Joseph Blake is very concerned that the powers that be in the hallowed halls of The Episcopal Church will use the same scare tactics, legal threats and spiritual intimidation against the good Sisters as they seek to follow their collective heart into the Great Latin Church of the West in obedience to what they perceive is the Will of God for their spiritual lives and their Order.
In all, there are three thriving Anglican Use parishes; all are in Texas -- Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, and St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington. There are other Anglican Use worship communities scattered throughout the United States including: St. Anselm of Canterbury, Corpus Christie, Tex.; Our Lady of Hope, Kansas City, Mo.; St. Athanasius, Brookline, Mass.; St. Paul's, Phoenix, Ariz.; and St. Thomas More, Scranton, Penn.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
High school seniors Terrence Stephens and Jason Ankrah, star football players at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., were sitting on a plane returning from a recruitment session at the University of Nebraska when they struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to them.
Their seat-mate just happened to be a major Cornhuskers fan.
When they started chatting, Stephens and Ankrah didn't have a clue they were holding court with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
"I was amazed this guy knew so much about us as football players and as people," said Stephens. "That was shocking. I felt honored to be known by someone of his caliber. He was just a regular old guy, sitting in coach, which really shocked me."
By the time the plane landed, the students had figured out who Thomas was, and they promptly told their principal they wanted to invite Thomas to give the keynote speech at their high school graduation. Of course, Principal Carole Working didn't exactly think Thomas would take them up on it. But he showed up at the high school on Monday.
"These young men had no idea who I was as I formed my first impression. I was just another stranger to them. They were wonderful ambassadors for your school and for their fellow students," said Thomas at the Quince Orchard graduation ceremony.
When Stephens and Ankrah arrived on-stage to receive their diplomas, they were both embraced by Justice Thomas.
Ankrah will be playing football for Nebraska next year, but Stephens will be attending Stanford. The justice said he doesn't have any hard feelings over that.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
G.K. Chesterton once said: “Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.” Conversion, however, is in itself the act by which one enters into a marriage to God and afterwards a life of constant spiritual warfare against sin in its many forms. In the world, man is tempted towards the sins of greed and anger while easily tempted by pride and envy, the sins of the devil. Lastly, the weakness of flesh can lead one to a life of gluttony and lust.
Newt Gingrich has faced the temptations of these kinds during his many years of public office but has found new strength in the Catholic Church.
Oddly enough, his entry into the Church only began to happen after he left public office ten years ago when he served as House Speaker. His wife, Callista, said it was “ten years in the making.” While Gingrich said that the “whole effort to create a ruthless, amoral, situational ethics culture has probably driven me toward a more overt Christianity,” it was “over the course of the last decade, attending the basilica ... reading the literature, that there was a peace in my soul and a sense of wellbeing in the Catholic Church…”
Some may not know this, but Newt Gingrich is a professor of history and I had a suspicion that the history of the Catholic Church played some role in his entry into the Church. He went on to say that his initial move towards Catholicism occurred “the first time we [he and his wife] went to St. Peter’s [Basilica] together. It’s St. Peter’s. I mean, you stand there and you think this is where St. Peter was crucified. This is where Paul preached. You think to yourself, two thousand years ago the apostles set out to create a worldwide movement by witnessing to the historic truth they had experienced. And there it is. The last time we were there we were allowed to walk in the papal gardens and you get this sense that is almost mystical.”
And that’s the thing about Catholicism. Its roots are tied in history to the first century and beyond – to Jesus and the apostles, to the first martyrs, and the great saints and theologians like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and St. Athanasius. So many Christians today have missed the continuity of their faith and can look back only so far as the 16th Century to protesters from Luther to Zwingly, from Calvin to Wesley.
Very few can give a solid reason for their faith.
Not surprisingly Gingrich said: “…part of me is inherently medieval. I resonate to Gothic churches and the sense of the cross in a way that is really pre-modern.” Okay, so one doesn’t have to be “medieval” to be a Catholic, but that period is the period in which the Catholic Church invented the university system, laid one of the oldest legal codes known to man, and literally rebuilt civilization on God and faith after the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476 AD. Not bad.
That being said, while the media and Gingrich himself have described his joining the Catholic Church a “conversion” he has, however, lost nothing of his Christianity in becoming Catholic. It seems to me that each Protestant denomination took an element of the Catholic Faith and ran with it. In Newt’s case, his Baptist background is quite Jesus-centered and Bible-based. In joining the Catholic Church, however, he has found the Christo-centric nature of the sacraments (especially the Eucharist) and even in Marian dogmas (Mary is, after all, only so important because she is the mother of Jesus, the God-Man). As to the Bible, the Catholic Church is the one that wrote it, compiled it, and declared which books belonged in it.
There is, however, a constant conversion that one experiences throughout life. To this I would say Newt did make a large conversion in his joining the Catholic Church. He lost nothing but gained so much and become much more Christ-like in the process. And if becoming more Christ-like is the definition of furthering conversion, he experienced quite a conversion.
In conclusion, Newt Gingrich only discovered faith in a loose sense during the late 1960’s. Prior to this he found himself leaning towards a more liberal agenda. In one anecdote, he said: “As a college student at Emory when the Supreme Court ruled that school prayer was unconstitutional [in 1963] after 170 years of American history, I didn’t notice it. As a graduate student at Tulane I probably would have said it’s a good decision. I’ve now had an additional 40 years to think about it. And I think about the world of my grandchildren. I don’t think American children are healthier, safer, and better off today than they were in 1963. So I have actually become more conservative in response to the failure of the liberal ethos to solve problems.”
During forty years as a Christian with many ups and downs, I can only wonder what his life and political decisions will be like as a new Catholic. Good luck Newt.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Below is an interesting interview that actually points out something I ran into over the weekend: Angels & Demons can be used as a means to bring people into contact with the rich history, culture, and customs of the Catholic Faith. In a certain way, it seems that people can find themselves drawn to and given some interesting eduction on Catholic customs, art, and the like.
In other words, Dan Brown's theology and (most) history are disasters, but the beauty of the Catholic Faith seems to break through anyway!
So please read on for an interview with an Opus Dei priest and expert on all things Dan Brown regarding the new scandal and its interesting side-effects.
Dan Brown and the Catholic Church
Interview With Father John Wauck
By Jesús Colina
ROME, MAY 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Despite the large number of errors regarding Catholicism that can be found in the movie "Angels and Demons," the interest in the movie demonstrates an even greater interest in the Church, says Opus Dei priest Father John Wauck.
Father Wauck, who is a professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, and the author of the blog "The Da Vinci Code and Opus Dei." His course "A Mirror on the Soul" was aired on EWTN as a 13-part television series.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Wauck discusses the movie "Angels and Demons," the film adaptation of Dan Brown's novel of the same name. The film opened this weekend and is the sequel to the "The Da Vinci Code."
Q: Do you think Dan Brown has a certain fixation with the Catholic Church?
Father Wauck: Sometimes I wonder: Where would Dan Brown be without the Catholic Church? Almost all the interesting things in his novels come from their Catholic setting. Obviously, people aren't being attracted by the cardboard characters and bad dialogue. That's why the main effect of "The Da Vinci Code" wasn't a decrease in religious belief or practice, but rather a sharp increase in tourism to Rome ... and the Louvre.
Dan Brown's trying to sell books by offering a "cocktail" of history, art, religion and mystery, and, in today's world, there seems to be only one place where he's able to find all those things together: in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he's cashing in on the culture of the Church.
If you're fascinated by history, beauty, and sacred mysteries, it's hard not to be fascinated by the Church. Standing in St. Peter's Square, you've got, within a few hundred yards, a Roman necroplis, an ancient Egyptian obelisk brought to Rome by Caligula, the tomb of St. Peter, the site of the assassination attempt on his successor Pope John Paul II, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta by Michelangelo, the Raphael Rooms, Bernini's colonnade, the world's greatest basilica, and pilgrims from around the globe. And this isn't a museum. It's a living reality that puts us in direct contact with 20 centuries of history -- from ancient times to today. What more could a novelist like Dan Brown ask for? It's certainly hard to find anything like it in suburban America, where most of his readers live.
If Dan Brown seems fascinated by the Catholic Church, he's definitely not alone. The number of pilgrims in Rome these days is at record levels. They come to see Rome and listen to Benedict XVI. And the interest isn't mere curiosity. At Easter this year, in the United States, over 150,000 adults entered the [Catholic] Church.
Q: Do you think the Vatican's decision to not allow filming in the churches of Rome an unfavorable gesture directed toward the producers?
Father Wauck: I've lived in Rome for 14 years now, and I've never seen a Hollywood film crew in a church. As a general rule, no commercial films -- no matter how pious -- are filmed in the churches of Rome. You couldn't film "The Ten Commandments" in a Roman church! Naturally enough, no exception was made for "Angels and Demons." They were treated just like everyone else. End of story. Anything beyond that is hype from the movie's publicity department.
Q: "Angels and Demons" presupposes a natural hostility between the Christian faith and modern science. What do you think about this?
Father Wauck: It's relatively easy for people to see that a lot of the great art of the Western World -- music, painting, sculpture, literature, architecture -- is the product of a Christian culture, often inspired by the faith or even funded by the Church. That seems obvious. But what people don't realize is that something similar is true of the sciences.
Think about it. Universities are an invention of the [Catholic] Church. Copernicus was a Roman Catholic cleric, and he dedicated his book on the heliocentric universe to the Pope. The calendar we use today is the Gregorian Calendar, because it was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII, who was working with the best astronomers and mathematicians of his time. Galileo himself always remained a Catholic, and his two daughters were nuns. One of the greatest Italian astronomers of the 19th century was a Jesuit priest, Angelo Secchi. The father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a Catholic monk. The creator of the "Big Bang" theory was a Belgian priest, Georges Lemaitre.
In short, the idea that there is some natural tension between science and the Church, between reason and faith, is utter nonsense. Nowadays, when people hear the words "science" and "the Church," they immediately think of Galileo's trial in the 1600s. But, in the larger scheme of things, that complex case -- which is frequently distorted by anti-Catholic propagandists -- was a glaring exception. There's a reason why critics of the Church are always bringing it up: It's the only example they've got. So, when we hear the words "science" and "the Church," we should think Copernicus, Secchi, Mendel and Lemaitre. They're representative. Galileo's trial is not.
Q: Is there an aspect of the book that you have found interesting?
Father Wauck: Yes. There's a scene in the novel when the hero, Professor Langdon of Harvard University, suddenly finds himself in front of St. Peter's Basilica, and the thoughts that go through his head at that moment -- in the novel, he's the voice of scientific authority -- sound like an advertisement for Roman Catholicism. It's hard to tell whether we're reading Dan Brown or the Catholic catechism! This is the passage:
"Peter is the rock. Peter's faith in God was so steadfast that Jesus called Peter 'the rock' -- the unwavering disciple on whose shoulders Jesus would build his Church. On this very location, Langdon realized -- Vatican Hill -- Peter had been crucified and buried. The early Christians built a small shrine over his tomb. As Christianity spread, the shrine got bigger, layer upon layer, culminating in this colossal basilica. The entire Catholic faith had been built, quite literally, upon St. Peter. The rock." (Angels and Demons, Chapter 118)
As advertising goes, it's not a gigantic billboard in Times Square. But still, it's not too bad.
Q: Don't you think that by talking about the movie we are giving it free publicity?
Father Wauck: You mean: Who's publicizing whom here? Good question. It probably works both ways, but, considering the time, energy, and millions of dollars spent to make and publicize this movie, I'd say that we're getting the better part of the deal! Maybe God's getting a kick out of using Hollywood to draw some people's attention to the riches of Catholic faith and culture.
Having said that, I should add that I have no intention of wasting my time and money by going to see the movie. The reviews of "The Da Vinci Code" movie -- made by the same crew -- were scathing enough to make anyone want to skip this one.
Friday, May 15, 2009
This is again another disgusting element of the already sickening scandal rocking the Christian world. Fighting poverty is a good thing - but doing so by killing the poor is vile. Where's the social justice in that? How is that helping the poor? What's worse are programs rising in India, China, and Scandinavia in which racial and gender-based abortions are acting as the new genocide in an attempt to breed the "best" humans. Isn't that just what Hitler was doing? Most people don't know this, but Hitler was loved by one certain American: the founder of Planned Parenthood. But beyond abortion, other countries are seeing a steep decline in their population from both abortion and contraceptives. Italy, a "Catholic" country, has the lowest birth rate in the world. Experts say by 2050 there may be no Italians left as the country will be replaced by immigrants - mostly Muslims from Africa.
The Islamic world, by the way, has an average birth rate of 8.1!
But I believe the root problem of all this is that "Christians" are losing their root in the Gospel. Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical called Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) - because that's exactly what the Gospel is. When Christians turn away from life in all its forms, they lose their own Christianity. St. Paul tells us in Ephesians that husbands are supposed to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church. But how did Jesus love the Church? He laid down his life for her to make her holy. In other words, love is shown in life-giving, self sacrifice.
Our modern world, however, believes only in life-taking selfishness.
It's sad Christians are falling for that worldview. But it does make sense why Christians abort, contracept, divorce, and commit substance abuse at about the same rate as non-Christians - because at this point, there's really no difference between an average "Christian" and a non-Christian. This is how nominalism is killing the faith in America. "Nominal" Christians are simply people who call themselves Christians but do not live Christianity. Nominal comes from the Latin word "nomina" which means name. Thus nominal Christians are Christian in name only.
(By the way, denominationalism amongst Christianity, means "from the name" and is thus the reason why Catholicism is not a denomination. Catholicism is the name from which Protestant denominations derive.)
In conclusion, I just want to point out something that theologian Christopher West said recently. West is a scholar on Pope John Paul II's theology of the body in which the pope sought to synthesize the positive aspects of modern sexuality with the Gospel while not succumbing to the evils that have arisen in the past 50 years. In this particular quote, West notes the division that has taken place between faith and reason (which has particularly happened in politics!). Most people think that that theology has little practical importance - but just see how the fact that "God is love" affects the entirety of our lives:
"The problem is we have kicked God out of the bedroom. Do the math on that. If God is love, and we kick him out of the bedroom, then what's going on in your bedroom? It ain't love."
So true. Apparently Fr. Jenkins doesn't believe this - and that's exactly why he shouldn't be running Notre Dame.