Category Archives: Apologetics

Making real love possible

“Prayer and asceticism, then, are part of the Catholic intellectual life. Disciplines of soul and disciplines of the mind go together. One of the most attractive things about the Catholic intellectual vocation is that it calls us to be people of a holistic integrity. Every facet of our life needs to come progressively into the light of Christ, not so that it may perish but so that we may live in a more truly human and divine way. When human beings are integrated morally, intellectually, and spiritually, their intellectual concerns and their moral pattern of life cohere…Their relationships of human love are deeply related to their aspiration to divine love.

…De-Christianization leads to re-paganization…Without the grace of Christ, the “integration” of the human person is made more difficult, and even on many levels impossible. (Ed. the word “holiness” is related to the word “wholeness”.  Sin & evil are associated with “disintegration”.  Rm 6:23)

The intellectual life of the human being needs to be coupled with an inner life: worship, prayer, the search for God’s mercy, and the pursuit of Christian virtue…The Church provides us with a storehouse of living wisdom, and it is in being connected to her life, and to fellow Christian thinkers, that we are likely to grow best intellectually.

…Our own conversion to an integrity of life, especially an intellectual life of faith, is one that speaks to our contemporaries, who so often are bereft of orientation and who are on some level seeking a deeper meaning that only Christ can give them. To be a living member of the Church in our own times, then, is a witness to the world around us. For this, the pursuit of theological wisdom is essential. Without genuine knowledge, no real love is possible. We cannot love what we do not know. And so, likewise loving God in the truth depends upon understanding God truly. The study of theology can detract from Christian love if it leads to the loss of faith, or becomes a formal academic exercise devoid of existential conviction. But as Aquinas notes, the study of theology can also be genuinely “meritorious”: it can stem from charity, and can also intensify love, as we draw closer to what we know. 45 In fact, when we begin to love others, we seek to get to know them better, and even “study them in love” in a certain way. This is true not only in our natural experience, but also in the domain of supernatural life. Intellectual engagement with the Christian faith is essential to our personal relationship with Christ.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 966-972, 974-977, 981-992). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

45. Aquinas, ST II-II, q. 2, a. 10.

Why are Catholic Bibles bigger?

“If the Council of Trent didn’t add the deuterocanon to the Bible, as its deliberations show, why do Protestant bibles exclude these books?

Before 1599, nearly all Protestant bibles included the deuterocanonical books; between the years 1526 to 1631, Protestant bibles with the deuterocanon were the rule and not the exception. It was not until the middle of the seventeenth century that the tide began to turn toward smaller bibles for Protestants.

By 1831, the books of the deuterocanon, along with their cross-references, were almost entirely expunged from Protestant translations. This eradication has been so complete that few Protestants today are aware that such editions of Scripture ever existed. This process of eradicating the deuterocanon began with Martin Luther.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483–1546)

Luther is the father of the Protestant Reformation. He grew up in a Catholic family and became a priest and monk of the Augustinian order. It is during this time that he became embroiled in a controversy over the issue of indulgences, which led to the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. The publication of the theses is generally seen as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther was very much a child of his age. He too was caught up in the enthusiasm for studying the ancient languages, exposing him to the exaggerated importance of Jerome. This background led to his German translation of Sacred Scripture, which we will speak about later.

Catholic apologists sometimes claim that Martin Luther removed the deuterocanonical books from Scripture. This is not entirely true. Luther’s German Translation of the scriptures included the deuterocanon. In fact, the completion of Luther’s German Bible was delayed because an illness prevented him from finishing the section containing those books! And since Luther’s Bible (with its “Apocrypha” section that contained the deuterocanon) became a paradigm for subsequent Protestant translations, most of these bibles also included them as well. It is, therefore, incorrect to say that Luther removed the deuterocanon. He did, however, introduce certain innovations into his translation that led eventually to smaller Protestant bibles; innovations that were the culmination of a process of development within Luther’s theology.

LUTHER’S GERMAN TRANSLATION

Luther’s German translation of the Bible introduced more than one radical innovation. With rare exceptions, Christian bibles before Luther had not only included the deuterocanon, but intermixed these books with the rest of the books of the Old Testament.

Even John Wycliffe, considered by Protestants to be a role model of Bible translators, followed this practice. Luther’s Bible broke with this traditional practice. Instead, he reordered the books of the Old Testament chronologically, removing the deuterocanonical books from their former place in the story of salvation and giving them the appearance of being extraneous to the word of God.

Luther’s second novelty was the gathering of the deuterocanonical books into an appendix at the end of the Old Testament and marking them Apocrypha.

The title page of this new appendix is prefaced by this explanatory remark: Apocrypha—that is, books which are not held equal to the holy scriptures and yet are profitable and good to read.

We must not read too much into this title Apocrypha; as we have seen, the meaning of the term had become quite fluid and confused by Luther’s time. Some writers used it to mean “spurious writings of merely human origin”; others had no difficulty using it for books they themselves considered canonical Scripture!

What did Luther mean by it?

Luther certainly did not believe, nor could he believe, that the deuterocanon was equal to the protocanon; but the fact that he saw these books still, in some sense, as part of the Old Testament is evidenced by the colophon he places after his “Apocrypha” in the appendix: “The end of the books of the Old Testament.”

Although segregated and devalued, the deuterocanon still remained part of Luther’s Old Testament corpus.

Luther’s prefaces to the various books of his Bible reflects his “canon in a canon” vision assessing each book differently. Indeed, Luther’s criticisms were not restricted to the Old Testament deuterocanon, but included the New Testament deuterocanon as well.

Luther’s actions speak to the fact that his innovation really was an innovation. Consider these points: if the deuterocanon never was really considered Scripture, why bother to qualify it as not being equal to Scripture? Why not just remove these books altogether? The answer is that such a move would have proved too radical, since Christian bibles had always included the deuterocanon. Instead, Luther reformatted the Bible. The resulting edition was still unlike any Bible ever seen before, and it paved the way for more radical steps to be taken in the future.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Who cares?

“Intellectually serious Catholics need to come to terms with (basic theological questions)…(As Catholics, we need to speak about the faith in a) coherent and serene way, but also as people who are intellectually happy. Theology is never reducible to the utilitarian function of apologetics. Theology is about happiness. Happiness is as much in the intellect as in the heart, and it stems from understanding the truth about ultimate things, and being headed in the right direction, being oriented existentially. We derive our moral stability in large part from having a perspective on the world that is realistic and profound. Happiness for Aristotle is unimpeded activity. The highest, most vivifying thing we can do is contemplate the truth. So understanding God deeply and rightly in light of revelation gives the intellect unimpeded activity and liveliness about what is most ultimate. It also gives us the stability of seeing things in perspective, and a peace that cannot be diminished even in the midst of the trials and travails of life. What grim stoicism and utilitarian efficacy cannot deliver, the work of theology can: the serenity of rest in God Himself.

The idea of leaving our intellect behind to become spiritual is very strange and inhuman. However, it is a view that is very widespread, sometimes in conservative Christian circles, but more often in liberal Protestant and Catholic spheres. The vulgar commonplace form is the saying “I’m spiritual but not religious(SBNR).” The idea is that dogma constricts, and that religious practices blind us to the fact that God is larger than our conceptions and rituals. Spiritual people transcend the limits of dogma, creed, and regulation to live on a higher plane of spiritual awareness or a unity with God and others that is beyond all concepts. In fact, that is a very anti-intellectual viewpoint, marked by a latent despair of finding the truth about God.

But what about the counter-charge? Don’t religious intellectuals simply seek to trap God within the constraint of their manmade systems? It is true that our conceptual knowledge is partial and that the mystery of God is not reducible to our partial knowledge of God’s mystery. But we only aim rightly at God in and through our real knowledge of God, and this does entail language, concepts, thinking, and acting in ways that integrate us into the life of the Church. In other words, to live spiritually for God we need to make right use of dogma and theology. The early twentieth-century Catholic Modernist movement claimed that profound religious experience always transcends dogmas and relativizes them. This idea is based, however, on a superficial notion of mystery. Religious experience does not take place merely in our conceptions of the truth (as if holding to Church dogmas were somehow a sufficiently spiritual act), but it also does not take place by transcending conceptions either (as if giving up dogmas of faith were a super-spiritual act of mental asceticism). The goal, in fact, is to pass through the dogmas to the mystery that they signify, and to find God in and through the true teachings of scripture and tradition. Dogma is the guardian of mystery. It alerts us to its presence, and orients us toward God in constructive ways.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph. The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Locations 936-958). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

Skepticism

Credo ut intelligam is an axiom of St Anselm, Doctor of the Church, (1033-1109 AD). Understanding the Gospel with assent does NOT precede faith, and never will. Whatever progress we make in understanding the Gospel, incrementally, in our lives, incredibly slowly, is preceded by faith. Faith is required.  Pray for it.  Pray for me.

The reason many people find Christianity bizarre is they try and understand it the same way they understand everything else new, ever, in their lives.  They research it, analytically.   Anselm posits, it will NEVER make sense to anyone that way.  Christian faith is a product of supernatural grace and supernatural faith.  Not natural faith, “I believe in the law of gravity.”  Not mortal grace, whatever that is.  But, a gift, a mystery.  Recall the Catholic use of the word “mystery” is inverse to the English use of it.  Catholic mystery is infinitely knowable. “I believe, so that I may understand.” Help my unbelief, Lord.

“…skepticism…stems from the fear of making a mistake, and is based on its own form of spiritual paralysis and even despair…Reasonable openness to God, then, is a source of spiritual youth in any person or culture…Refusal of the mystery of God makes us the unique masters of ourselves, but also imprisons us within the ascetical constraints of our own banal finitude…Posing questions about God opens the human being up to new vulnerabilities, and therefore also to new forms of happiness that the artificial limitations of skepticism cannot foresee.

Augustine noted that deep-seated skepticism is a luxury item that the true intellectual cannot afford. He points out that belief—faith in what others tell us for our instruction—is fundamental for the intellectual life.17…Concretely, human faith in authentic teachers is nearly always the basis for true growth in understanding…Augustine then draws up a key set of distinctions. On one side, there is extreme skepticism, by which a person remains in a conventional posture, and risks nothing but also can gain nothing. On the other side, there is credulousness, a foolish form of faith by which we mistakenly entrust ourselves to a poor teacher, or even to a true teacher, but fail to understand the material for ourselves, remaining infantilized or rudimentary in our insight. Faith that “merely believes what it ought to believe” is “dead.”18

Between the two extremes is the middle way of “faith seeking understanding,” one that is both human and Christian. We should accept instruction but also examine it critically and studiously, seeking to find the truth in what is said, to test it…Likewise there is a discipline of the mind in becoming a Christian, learning the truth as revealed by God, and developing an intellectual understanding of God’s mystery.

…human beings tend to live “above” the merely empirical dimension of life…So too with the transcendent God, we can learn from Him personally only through faith.19

To receive this instruction requires supernatural faith, which is itself a grace. This grace, as Aquinas notes, is received into the intellect, allowing us to judge that a given teaching comes from God and is about God.20…supernatural faith is like natural trust in a teacher, but it provides something more: direct access to the mystery of God Who reveals Himself to us and teaches us. To seek to know God entails risk, undoubtedly, but it also entails an irreplaceable possibility: that we could truly come to know God personally, find friendship with God, and live with Him by grace. If this possibility is real, and not a mere myth or human conjecture, then it is the greatest of possibilities, and one that we should not dismiss through fear, resignation or complicity with the conventions of our age. As Anselm writes:

“Indeed, for a rational nature to be rational is nothing other than for it to be able to discriminate what is just from what is not just, what is true from what is not true, what is good from what is not good. . . . The rational creature was made for this end: viz., to love above all other goods the Supreme Being, inasmuch as it is the Supreme Good. . . . Clearly, then, the rational creature ought to devote his entire ability and his entire will to . . . understanding and loving the Supreme Good—to which he knows that he owes his existence.”21

The real opposition, then, is not between faith and reason, but between a skeptical reason that is reductive, and a magnanimous, studious reason that engages in faith. Expansive desire for the truth breaks away from conventions, and awakens human beings to our true nobility, against temptations to self-diminishment. The Christian vocation of “faith seeking understanding” is both dynamic and restful. It gives us something greater than ourselves to ponder, and takes us out of ourselves toward God as our teacher. But it also allows us to know ourselves as rational beings, able truly to ask and even answer the deeper religious questions. Faith therefore creates a learning community. The Church is a place where human beings have the conviction to patiently seek the truth together, in a shared life of charity, one that is both cosmopolitan and personal, both reasonable and religious, both philosophical and theological. This communion in the truth is made possible, however, only because people have first accepted to be apprenticed to revelation through a common effort of learning the truth from Another (i.e., God), Who is the author of Truth, and from one another.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph (2017-09-13T23:58:59). The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Location 656, 665-667, 679-673, 676-681, 685, 688, 693-694, 696-697, 702-719). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

17. Augustine, On the Profit of Believing, pars. 10–13, 22–27.
18. Thus Anselm, Monologion, par. 78, echoing Augustine; trans. J. Hopkins in A New, Interpretive Translation of St. Anselm’s Monologion and Proslogion (Minneapolis, Minn.: Arthur J. Banning Press, 1986).
19. Augustine, Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen, par. 2.
20. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 1, a. 1; q. 2, a. 1 [hereafter “ST”]. All translations of ST are taken from Summa Theologica, trans. English Dominican Province (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947).
21. Anselm, Monologion, par. 68.

The Saints on Purgatory

“[Judas Maccabeus] took up a collection . . . to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.”
– 2 Maccabees 12:43-44

“When loved ones die, many people experience, in addition to grief and loneliness, a concern over the state of those loved ones, particularly if those departed souls weren’t the saintliest people in their lifetime or if they died sudden, unprovided deaths. What has become of these souls? Those who are left behind wonder.

The Church has always taught the existence of Purgatory, a place or state of existence after death, where, if necessary, we’re cleansed of any remaining effects of our sins and made ready to enter into Heaven. Moreover, as Scripture attests, our prayers and sacrifices can be of immense spiritual help to the persons undergoing this purification process; we can pray for specific persons, such as deceased loved ones, or for the souls in Purgatory in general.

Because God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven, there must be some opportunity for us to finish being healed, or purged of our sins, after death, should this be necessary.

This cleansing process is what we call Purgatory. The saints believed without reservation in this reality. They themselves, because of their immense love of God, were ready to enter Heaven immediately after death, but they were mindful of those who were not as fortunate; after all, this is one of the signs of true love: caring for those in need, whether that need be physical or spiritual.

St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who reigned as queen of that country at the beginning of the fourteenth century, had a much-loved daughter named Constance. The young princess died very suddenly after being married, causing Elizabeth and her husband, King Denis, much grief. Soon after this, a hermit came to the queen with a shocking story: while he was praying, Constance had appeared to him, beseeching him to take a message to her mother. She was suffering terribly in Purgatory and would remain there a very long time unless Mass was offered for her each day for a year.

The king responded, “I believe that it is wise to do that which has been pointed out to you in so extraordinary a manner. After all, to have Masses celebrated for our dear deceased relatives is nothing more than a paternal and Christian duty.” Elizabeth accepted this advice, and arranged for the Masses to be said by a holy priest. One year later her daughter appeared to her, clothed in a brilliant white robe, and said, “Today, dear mother, I am delivered from the pains of Purgatory and am about to enter Heaven.” St. Elizabeth gave thanks to God and expressed her gratitude by distributing alms to the poor.

A number of saints (plus other mystics and visionaries) have allegedly seen Purgatory (and also Heaven and Hell). St. Frances of Rome was granted such a vision; she said that it consists of three levels. The lowest level is like a vast burning sea, where the persons undergo various sufferings related to the sins they committed on earth. The middle level is less rigorous, but still unpleasant. The highest level of Purgatory is populated by those who are closest to being released. These persons suffer mainly the pain of loss: that of yearning for God and of not yet truly possessing Him.

There’s consolation in all three levels, but especially in the highest. The souls in Purgatory know that, sooner or later, they’ll be with God in Heaven and that all their present sufferings are valuable and redemptive. Other saints and visionaries confirm this description, adding that our prayers and sacrifices — because they’re freely given — are immensely helpful to those in Purgatory, for God greatly values each one of our freely offered sacrifices, no matter how small. Some mystics have supposedly learned that when we pray for specific persons who are in Purgatory, they see us at that instant and are strengthened by the knowledge that we’re remembering them.

Many of the saints are said to have had experiences that confirmed the Church’s teaching on Purgatory. For instance, St. Louis Bertrand, a seventeenth-century priest, offered Masses, prayers, and sacrifices for his deceased father until finally he was granted a vision of his entry into Heaven. This happened only after eight years of prayer on his part. In the twelfth century, the famous Irish bishop St. Malachy learned that his sister was destined to suffer a long time in Purgatory, for she had lived a very sinful life before repenting; his prayers eased her sufferings, but did not significantly lessen her time there. In the fifteenth century, the sister of St. Vincent Ferrer appeared to him as she was about to enter Heaven and revealed that had it not been for the many Masses he offered on her behalf, her time in Purgatory would have been much longer.

A story is told about St. Teresa of Avila in this regard. A priest she knew had just died, and God revealed to her that he would remain in Purgatory until a Mass was said for him in the chapel of a new Carmelite house that was to be built. Teresa hurried to the site and had the workmen begin raising the walls of the chapel immediately, but as this would still take too long, she obtained permission from the bishop for a temporary chapel to be erected. Once this was done, Mass was celebrated there, and while receiving communion, Teresa saw a vision of the priest thanking her most graciously before entering God’s kingdom.

Showing concern for the dead and the dying is a great sign of love. Bl. Raymond of Capua, the biographer of St. Catherine of Siena, wrote that she attended her father, Jacomo, during his final hours. Learning in a revelation that this holy man nonetheless would require some purification in Purgatory, Catherine begged God to let her suffer pains of expiation on his behalf so that he might enter Heaven immediately. God agreed; Jacomo, who had been suffering greatly, thereupon experienced a happy and peaceful death, while Catherine was seized with violent pains that remained with her for the rest of her life. Raymond witnessed her suffering, but he also took note of her incredible forbearance and patience, along with her great joy on her father’s behalf.

An incident from the life of the Italian priest Padre Pio indicates that souls in Purgatory may request our prayers. One day in the 1920s, he was praying in the choir loft when he heard a strange sound coming from the side altars of the chapel. Then there was a crash as a candelabra fell from the main altar. Padre Pio saw a figure he assumed to be a young friar. But the figure told him, “I am doing my Purgatory here. I was a student in this friary, so now I have to make amends for the errors I committed while I was here, for my lack of diligence in doing my duty in this church.” The figure said that he had been in Purgatory for sixty years, and after requesting Padre Pio’s prayers, he vanished. Many other souls in purgatory are said to have asked for his assistance, including four deceased friars sitting around the fireplace in a state of great suffering; Padre Pio spent the night in prayer, securing their release.

Other saints are said to have had similar experiences, including St. Odilo, the eleventh-century abbot who began the practice of offering Mass for all the souls in Purgatory on what is now known as All Souls Day, the day after the feast of All Saints.

Our prayers for those who suffer there can be spiritually valuable to them. Because the saints believed in both sin and redemption, mercy and justice, they also acknowledged the existence of Purgatory and did everything possible to relieve those undergoing purification there. As the saints were far more conversant with the ways of Divine Providence than any of us could honestly claim to be, we would do very well to follow their example.”

Love,
Matthew

The Catholic Advantage

I am not a fan of Bill Donohue or his one-sided polemics, even in supposed defense of the Church. I think he is a paid mouthpiece, devoid of intellectual integrity and honesty. However, he has written an interesting book.


-by Fr. Leonard Klein, 6/4/15, formerly a Lutheran pastor for 30 yrs, Fr. Klein entered the Church & began studying for the Catholic priesthood in 2003. He is a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, DE.

“A few few years ago Michael Novak spoke to the Thomas More Society of my diocese about his 2008 book, No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers. I was there as chaplain to those Catholic attorneys. A few atheists were there as well, assuming a role different than mine. They gave Novak a rather hard time; he handled them well.

I could not help noticing the difference between the athiests and the lawyers. The atheists were odd ducks. the attorneys were quite the opposite: well groomed, successful, joyful, sociable, deeply connected to faith, family, and community, generous with their time and money. The attorneys seemed healthy and happy. I don’t think the atheists noticed the contrast, since no evidence could convince them that they were not already the smartest people in the room.

Reading Bill Donohue’s The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful, I ended up thinking again of the Catholic lawyers and the contrast I perceived between them and the avowed atheists in the room. The difference to me was palatable. Donohue explains those differences.

Unhealthy people don’t just lack community; they are poorly equipped for community. Our culture is increasingly unhealthy. Rootless people avoid the Church and our culture is increasingly rootless. Hedonists avoid the Church and our culture is increasingly hedonistic. The absence of bonds and boundaries, of health, happiness and hope of heaven, conspires against belief.

The argument of Donohue’s book is simple and familiar: Christian faith and practice correlate positively with human happiness. The outline is similarly straightforward. The book is divided into three main parts: health, happiness, and heaven—the core positive outcomes of being Catholic. Committed believers are much more apt to flourish, and the hope of heaven broadens the human prospect to infinity.

President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Donohue is well known for his assertive—some might say pugnacious—defense of the Catholic faith and of the Church. He does what he does because he is a committed and believing Catholic, and in his book he presses the case for faith.

A sociologist, Donohue’s training drives his argument. It relies heavily on data from many sources. The evidence will not be new to those of us who pay attention to the role of religion in society, but the book assembles a great deal of useful information. It’s an apologetic goldmine.

Donohue knows that the data will not bring about conversion, but it is encouraging and enormously helpful for those of us called to preach and teach, to say nothing of ordinary Christians who want insight into the life-giving nature of our faith. We need information to buttress and defend the truth, and Donohue provides it. He makes particularly good use of studies revealing the superlative happiness of priests and nuns in their vocations.

He is also theologically and spiritually sophisticated. While there is a lot of useful data, Jesus is not lost in the insights and the numbers. This is a book of faith, not just a book about faith.

But what accounts for the rage of the secularists? As Donohue documents, they are imprisoned by their own culture, custom, and ideology. But why are institutions which would seem to offer the best cure enduring hostility and shrinkage?

We need to look at another facet of our culture. People who are deprived of belief, boundaries, and bonds will be angry at the happiness of others—and uncomprehending. If faith is struggling in contemporary American culture, part of the reason is almost surely that the culture is collapsing on so many fronts.

How it is that faith has become the enemy for so many, when it has the benefits Donohue defines? It is, I would argue, not just that faith is harder in this day. It is that those trapped in the sin-sickness of the era cannot imagine a way out. The culture creates lost sheep. The evidence Donohue cites shows it, but it also shows that it is good to be on the side of the One who seeks them out and to have beliefs, boundaries and bonds to offer. That would be the Catholic advantage.

We have long known the truth of Donohue’s thesis that belief, boundaries, and bonds make for health, happiness, and heaven. We also know that belief cannot be created by will or, in the line he cites from St. John Paul II, imposed rather than proposed. We would not expect that many atheists or secularists will be converted by reading this book. Evangelization happens in other ways.

Of course, Donohue is still Donohue, delightfully combative. But the book is useful and entirely accessible, and I commend it all the more in these days when Christians in general and Catholics in particular are feeling beleaguered by the storm of secularism.”

Love,
Matthew

2 different OTs?

“One evening I had the sad duty of attending my neighbor’s funeral.

My neighbors were not religious, but apparently a local “mega-church” offered to conduct the eulogy for them. The assistant pastor from the church stood up and after a few short remarks about the deceased began to give a lengthy sermon. The first ten minutes was dedicated to how he knew that my neighbor believed in Jesus and was in heaven, so there was no need to pray for her or offer Masses or anything like that.

The next thirty minutes or so (it’s difficult to tell since it seemed like eternity) was dedicated to explaining why it doesn’t matter which church one attends—Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran—they are all the same! None of them are more correct than any other. “We all believe in the same fundamental biblical truths about Jesus,” he said, “such as the need to put our faith in Jesus…” and so on.

Speaking at a funeral must not be an easy thing to do, so I walked up to the assistant pastor to thank him. After dispensing with niceties and explaining that I am a Catholic, I said to him: “Pastor, I just want to share with you a biblical verse that has always given me comfort in times like these, the book of Wisdom, chapter 3 says, ‘But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace.’”

The pastor gave me an odd look. “Book of Wisdom?” he said. “That’s not in the Bible!” To which I responded, “Well, I guess there are important differences between us.”

The assistant pastor seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Catholic and Orthodox bibles contain seven books in their Old Testament that Protestant bibles omit.

Catholics call these books the deuterocanon. Protestants, however, had rejected these books as inspired texts and call the Apocrypha.

Despite the assistant pastor’s best efforts to be non-denominational and dispel the importance of religious dogmas, he and his church actually held a very dogmatic view on which books belonged to the Bible. Going by the generic name of “Christian” didn’t release him from dogmatically committing himself to a particular doctrine on which books the Bible comprises. This position is undeniably important. Which collection or canon one adopts, whether Catholic or Protestant, will determine whether the first ten minutes of his sermon was “biblical” or a flight of fancy.

The question of which books belong to the Bible (especially the Old Testament, since Catholics and Protestant share the same New Testament books) is more fundamental of a question than anything in anyone’s theology, because theology is to be based upon divine revelation. What makes up God’s revelation, therefore, has a direct impact on one’s theology.

This is especially true for Protestants who believe in sola scriptura, which says that the Bible is the only source of Christian doctrine. It is, for nearly all Protestants, the norm that sets all norms and the standard that sets all standards: the highest court of appeal for judging all doctrine. But as we have painfully learned over the last few decades, those who are allowed to sit on the Supreme Court will affect how the court rules. This assistant pastor’s “Supreme Court” (i.e., the Bible) informed him that we should not pray for the dead, but Catholic and Orthodox bibles affirm that we should.

Each position is “biblical” given its respective Bible, but which Bible has the correct books? Which books are inspired by the Holy Spirit and which ones are mere human apocrypha? This question needs to be settled first.

How did Protestants and Catholics end up with two different Old Testaments?

Protestants claim that the Catholic Church added the seven books of the “Apocrypha” to the canon of Scripture in order to refute Protestantism. This is generally said to have occurred at the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent (April 8, 1546).

Catholics make the opposite claim; they claim that these same books were always considered inspired Scripture, but they were rejected by Protestantism because their teaching contradicts certain areas of Protestant theology.

Which is correct? Did the Catholic Church add books to the Old Testament or did Protestantism remove these books from the canon of Scripture?”

Love,
Matthew

Myth: the Catholic Church forbid the reading of Scripture

[Ed. “This is a time when literacy rates were around 1 percent for the population at large,” says Becker…”, Becker, Sascha, professor of economics at the University of Warwick and deputy director of the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, 2013, Oct 31, -https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-31/did-martin-luthers-reformation-500-years-ago-leave-its-mark-todays-eurozone]

Myth: Luther and other Reformers were the first to translate Scripture into vernacular languages, which the Church had previously forbidden.

“A main tenet of the false narrative about the origins of Protestantism is that the Catholic Church prevented people from reading the Bible. Enter John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and others to translate Scripture into vernacular languages so that the people could be free of Roman tyranny.

From its beginnings, the Church recognized the crucial role of the written portion of divine revelation in fulfilling its mission of evangelization. Once the Church finalized the canon of Scripture in the fourth century, efforts began to make it more accessible to the laity.

Perhaps the most famous translation of Scripture is known as the Vulgate. The name comes from the fact that the translation, by St. Jerome (342-420), was from Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the “vulgar” (meaning everyday) language of the time.

The Church was not against vernacular translations of the Bible (indeed it actively fostered such translations), but was only against bad vernacular translations, which could easily lead to heresy and even violence.

The Church also dealt with the issue of “private interpretation” of Scripture during the fourth century, when a pernicious new heresy that denied the divinity of Christ arose in North Africa and quickly attracted millions of adherents. Arianism would plague the Church for centuries, proving extremely difficult to eradicate. One reason it spread so rapidly and endured so long was that, with the Roman Empire at peace, people had the time to debate theological matters.

Many used Scripture to justify heretical positions. Jerome lamented this when he wrote, “Builders, carpenters, workers in metal and wood, websters and fullers, makers of anything, cannot become an expert without a teacher; physicians are trained by physicians. The art of the Scripture is the only art which is claimed by all.”

Martin Luther is most often credited with freeing Scripture from its suppression by Rome by making it accessible to the people. An Augustinian monk, Luther earned a doctorate in theology with an emphasis on Scripture in 1512. He was sent to teach at the University of Wittenberg, and on October 31, 1517, he posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. [Ed. Luther did this as it was a common means of inviting & engaging in scholarly debate. Luther, at the time had no intention of sparking the Reformation, but rather, a scholarly debate. The situation got out of hand and was handled poorly by Rome, taking the easier route of demanding of Luther fulfillment of his vow of obedience as an Augustinian monk.]. His document’s attack on papal authority led to a summons to Rome (which he ignored) [Ed. No one has ever accused Luther of being stupid, too many examples ending badly for that] and his eventual condemnation by Pope Leo X in the 1520 bull Exsurge Domine. Heresy was an ecclesiastical and civil crime at the time, so in 1521 Emperor Charles V (r. 1519-1558) invited Luther to the Diet of Worms to give him an opportunity to repudiate his condemned works. Luther refused to go, prompting Charles to issue the Edict of Worms in which Luther was “regarded as a convicted heretic.”

Heresy was a capital crime in the temporal order, so Luther went into hiding in the Wartburg castle for almost a year. It was in his self-imposed exile that Luther began work on a new German translation of Scripture, which was published in its entirety in 1534. Luther was scornful of the Vulgate; For instance, he sneeringly dismissed St. Jerome’s translation of the angel Gabriel’s name for Mary as gratia plena (“full of grace”). “What German would understand that if translated literally?” Luther wrote. “He knows the meaning of a purse full of gold or a keg full of beer, but what is he to make of a girl full of grace? I would prefer to say simply, Liebe Maria (Mary, full of love).” Concerning translation of the Old Testament, Luther hoped to “make Moses so German that no one would suspect he was a Jew.” Contrary to popular belief, Luther’s German translation was not the first in that language, as there were thirty-six previous translations.

The Real Story: The Church has always supported the translation of Scripture into the vernacular, because it is charged by Christ to spread the Gospel throughout the world. It has opposed only faulty vernacular translations by heretics who used them to spread their errors.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Myth: John Calvin & Martin Luther were holy & pious men

[Ed. Certainly the selling of indulgences, and more importantly, the crass, scandalous, profit driven way it was done was a grievous offense, and needed to be reformed. In addition, the Catholic Church needed to unify and systematize the catechism, and better educate both clergy and laity.

The Catholic Church of the Catholic Counter-Reformation era grew more spiritual, more literate and more educated. Orders, including Capuchins, Discalced Carmelites, Discalced Augustinians, Augustinian Recollects, Cistercian Feuillants, Ursulines, Theatines, Barnabites, Congregation of the Oratory, and the Jesuits, especially founded to combat the heresy of Protestantism, blossomed.

The Church self-imposed an ecclesiastical/structural discipline, reconfiguration dealing with corrupt and politically appointed clerics, and other financial abuses. Efforts to end “triumphalism, clericalism, and legalism” (Sounds like Vatican II? It might take a few millennia. Watch out for Catholic fascists, they bite! In SO MANY WAYS!!!) that had typified the Church in the previous centuries.

It is a truism times of crisis (Greek: decision) spawn the greatest concentrations of saints in those periods of history, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation is no exception. Teresa of Avila (1582), Ignatius of Loyola (1556), Charles Borromeo (1584), Peter Canisius (1597), Francis Borgia (1572), Edmund Campion (1581), John Duckett (1644), Ralph Corby (1644), Francis Xavier (1552), Peter Wright (1651), Robert Southwell (1595), Henry Walpole (1595), Nicholas Owen (1606), Claude de la Colombiere (1682). David Lewis, John Almond, Edmund Arrowsmith (1628), Ambrose Barlow, John Boste, Alexander Briant, Margaret Clitherow (1586), Philip Evans, Thomas Garnet, Edmund Gennings (1591), Richard Gwyn (1584), John Houghton, Philip Howard, John Jones, John Kemble, Luke Kirby, Robert Lawrence, Anne Line (1601), Thomas Greene (1642), Peter Faber (1546), John Lloyd, John Mason (1591), Cuthbert Mayne, Henry Morse, John Payne, Polydore Plasden (1591), John Plessington, Charles Mahoney, Richard Reynolds, John Rigby (1600), John Roberts, Alban Roe, Oliver Plunkett (1681), Ralph Sherwin, John Southworth, John Stone, John Wall, Margaret Pole, Margaret Ward, Augustine Webster, George Haydock, Thomas More (1535), John Fisher, William Richardson, Swithun Wells (1591), Eustace White, John Ogilvie, Philip Neri, Francis de Sales, John of the Cross, William Carter (1584), Hugh Grant (1585), Marmaduke Bowes (1585), Alexander Crow (1586 or 1587), Nicholas Woodfen (1586), William Pichard (1587), Edmund Duke and Companions (1590), Roger Thorpe (1591), Thomas Watkinson (1591), George Errington (1596), William Gibson (1596), Peter Snow (1598), Ralph Grimstow (1598), Christopher Wharton (1600), Francis Ingleby (1586), John Fingley (1586), Robert Bickerdike (1586), William Thomson (1586), John Sandys (1586), Richard Sargeant (1586), John Lowe (1586), Robert Dibdale (1586), John Adams (1586), Edmund Sykes (1587), Stephen Rowsham (1587), John Hambley (1587), George Douglas (1587), Richard Simpson (1588), Edward Burden (1588), Henry Webley (1588), Sidney Hodges (1591), William Lampley (1588), Nicholas Garlick (1588), Robert Ludlam (1588), Robert Sutton (1588), Richard (Lloyd) Flower (1588), William Spenser (1589), Robert Hardesty (1589), Thomas Belson (1589), Richard Yaxley (1589), George Nichols (1589), Humphrey Pritchard (1589), Nicholas Horner (1590), Alexander Blake (1590), George Beesley (1591), William Pike (1591), Brian Lacey (1591), Mountford Scott (1591), Joseph Lambton (1592), Thomas Pormort (1592), William Davies (1593),Anthony Page (1593), Christopher Robinson (1597), John Bretton (1598), Edward Thwing (1600), Thomas Palaser (1600), John Talbot (1600), Robert Nutter (1600), John Norton (1600), Roger Filcock (1600), Thomas Hunt (1600), Thomas Sprott (1600), Robert Middleton (1601), Thurston Hunt (1601), Robert Grissold (1604), John Sugar (1604), Robert Drury (1607), Matthew Flathers (1608), Roger Cadwallador (1610), Thomas Atkinson (1616),Roger Wrenno (1616), John Thules (1616), William Southerne (1618), Edward Oldcorne (1606), Thomas Bullaker (1642), Henry Heath (1643), Arthur Bell (1643), Edward Bamber (1646), John Woodcock (1646), Ralph Milner (1591), Lawrence Humphrey (1591), Thomas Whittaker (1646), Roger Dickenson (1591), Nicholas Postage (1679), Charles Meeham (1679) …compare Franciscan Reform.]

Myth: The Reformers were holy men who struggled heroically to free the true Christian faith from the superstitions of Rome.

Martin Luther (1480-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) are generally regarded as holy and upright men appalled at the impiety, superstition, and corruption in the Catholic Church, and dedicated to returning the Christian faith to its pristine original form. But a closer look at their lives reveals that, in truth, they were arrogant men bent on refashioning the Christian faith to their own liking.

Luther suffered throughout his life from various physical and spiritual problems. He was desperate for certain knowledge of his own salvation, and came to believe that it is through faith alone that one is saved. He adopted the heresy that Scripture alone is the authoritative source of divine revelation. Luther’s image of God, which may have reflected that of his abusive father, was extremely negative and influenced his theology and his conflicts with authority. To Luther, God was not a loving father, as revealed by Christ, but rather was a tyrannical and wrathful judge who delights in tormenting sinners. As he later wrote, this belief drove him to “the very abyss of despair so that I wished I had never been created. Love God? I hated him!”

Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. Although many of the theses dealt with ecclesiastical abuses, Luther’s contention that the pope had no authority to grant indulgences was outright heresy, and in 1520 Pope Leo X condemned it and forty other erroneous teachings. Luther’s response in the form of three treatises published late that year laid the foundations for his revolution against the Catholic Church. In these treatises he appealed to the German nobility to nationalize the Church in Germany and free it from Roman control. He also attacked the sacraments, denying that they are channels of efficacious grace when faith is absent. In the treatise he addressed specifically to Pope Leo, he denied free will; and he later called for the suppression and eradication of the Mass.

Luther’s revolutionary writings led to outbreaks of violence throughout Germany. By 1525, mobs had destroyed churches, burned sacred art, and profaned the Eucharist. Nobles sympathetic to Luther’s teachings appealed to him for help ending the violence.

In response, Luther wrote a pamphlet titled Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants, in which he called on the nobility to suppress the rebellion with all necessary violence, which they did with ferocious efficiency, killing 130,000 peasants. That same year Luther married a former nun whom he helped “escape” from the convent. Several years later Luther’s break with Christian teaching on marriage was made complete when he advised Philip, landgrave of Hesse, that he could enter into a bigamous marriage so long as he kept it secret. When word of it leaked out, Luther advised Philip to deny it, writing, “What harm is there in telling a good bold lie for the sake of making things better and for the good of the Christian Church?”

Toward the end of his life Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies, a treatise in which he put forth an eight-point plan to rid Germany of its Jews. “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt,” Luther wrote, “we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country. We must drive them out like mad dogs.” In Luther’s last treatise before his death in February 1546, Against the Pontificate at Rome, Founded by the Devil, he called for the torture and murder of the pope and cardinals.

John Calvin was of a different temperament than Luther. Whereas Luther was bombastic, rude, and vulgar, Calvin was studious, quiet, and refined. Despite their differences, though, Calvin was just as much a revolutionary, and it was he who began the “war against joy” in Geneva. Hilaire Belloc pointed out that “it was the French spirit, but the northern French, the less generous, the people that have no vineyards, which produced Jean Calvin.”

By 1545 Calvin had created a theocracy in Geneva which enforced its own version of Christian morality upon the citizenry. Citizens were sometimes required to confess their sins in front of a civil magistrate, and were subject to biannual visitation by a commission of elders and ministers who investigated whether they attended church services regularly and lived moral lives in accord with Calvin’s creed, and classified them as “pious,” “lukewarm,” or “corrupt” in their faith. The death penalty was prescribed for adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, pregnancy out of wedlock, and striking a parent. It was also against the law in Calvinist Geneva to dance, sing (outside of church services), stage or attend theatrical plays, wear jewelry, or play cards or dice.

Calvin also railed against fellow Protestants when their theology did not agree with his. The most famous case involved Michael Servetus (1511-1553), whose 1531 work Seven Books on Errors About the Trinity landed him in trouble with the Spanish Inquisition. He fled Spain for France, where he began writing letters to Calvin asking his opinion on various points of theology. Servetus disputed Calvin’s answers, as well as many of Calvin’s teachings in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. When a marked-up copy of the Institutes arrived from Servetus, Calvin became incensed and vowed, “If he [Servetus] comes [to Geneva], I will never let him depart alive.” When in 1553 Servetus did come to Geneva he was spotted by Calvin, arrested, tried for heresy, convicted, and burned.

The Real Story: Martin Luther and John Calvin were complex men who were anything but the pious reformers of modern myth. They viciously attacked their critics. Luther’s writings spurred an armed rebellion in Germany that had to be forcibly put down by the nobility. Calvin created a theocracy in Geneva that interfered in the private lives of all citizens. Both men rebelled against the Catholic Church and contributed to the fracturing of Christendom, which persists to this day.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Pagan Myths’ Influence is “Horus Manure”

Myth: The Christian Faith is just repackaging of pagan myths.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) was an author and expert on the subject of mythology. His interest in myths began when, as a boy, he saw his first Native American totem pole. A practicing Catholic until his thirties, Campbell was fascinated by the seeming similarities among the myths of different cultures.

In books such as the perennial bestseller The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell argued that these similarities can best be explained as projections of a universally human “collective unconscious” (he was heavily influenced by Carl Jung). In a famous interview with Bill Moyers, Campbell explained the importance of learning the myths of other peoples: “Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts—but if you read other ones, you begin to get the message.”

The belief that religious faith is based on myths is not new, but using apparent similarities among the beliefs of different cultures and peoples, even across different historical time periods, is a relatively new tactic used by atheists, neopagans, and others hostile to the Catholic Church.

One of the most influential purveyors of the claim that the Catholic Church is the reincarnation of a pagan mystery cult was Alexander Hislop (1807-1865), a Presbyterian minister in the Free Church of Scotland and a virulent anti-Catholic. His 1858 book The Two Babylons: The Papal Worship Proved to Be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife continues to sell and to persuade Protestants that the Catholic Church perverted the Christian faith by adopting paganism.

This “pagan influence” attack against the Church grew in popularity through much of the nineteenth century; many new sects such as Seventh-day Adventists, the Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses were born during that time.

Some critics claim that the early Christians adopted elements of ancient Egyptian religion, basing Jesus on the Egyptian god Horus. This false narrative was the construct of Gerald Massey (1828-1907), an English poet and amateur Egyptologist. He wrote three books on the subject, including The Natural Genesis (1883). He linked Jesus to Horus by claiming both were born to virgins on December 25, both were crucified, and both were raised from the dead three days later.

Massey had no formal education in Egyptology, but his claims are still advanced as authoritative by the likes of D.M. Murdock (in his 2009 book Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection), and Tom Harpur (in his 2005 book The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light). Even the comedian and satirist Bill Maher advanced the Jesus-Horus theory in his 2008 “documentary” film Religulous (a combination of the words religious and ridiculous).

Maher asserted that both Jesus and Horus were born to a virgin, baptized in a river, crucified and then raised from the dead three days later. Maher cites the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead as his source material. The problem is that it is not in fact a single “book,” but a collection of spells to help the soul of the deceased navigate the afterlife.

Another problem with the Horus connection is that there are many variations of the Horus story, which forces proponents of this myth to cherry-pick elements from different time periods.

Interestingly, Roman pagan propagandists who wrote tracts to prevent conversions to the Faith did not see it as having ancient pagan origins; rather, they criticized it for being too new.

Celsus, writing in the second century A.D., argued that the only acceptable religion is one that can trace its origins to the past. He believed that the older a faith is, the better and truer it is. This was “because the men and women of earlier times, especially those who lived very long ago, were thought to have been closer to the gods.”

The pagan myth theory also falls flat when the writings of the early Christians are examined. Nowhere in these writings is paganism looked upon favorably; rather, Christians prided themselves on being different from pagans. Indeed, it was this difference that led Rome to persecute the Christians, as St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165) confirms in his First Apology: “And this is the sole accusation you bring against us, that we do not reverence the same gods as you do, nor offer to the dead libations and the savor of fat, and crowns for their statues, and sacrifices. [And we] have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these [pagan gods], though we are threatened with death for it.”

The Real Story: Claims that the Christian faith is simply a repackaged paganism are specious. The early Christians did not see any similarities between the Faith and paganism, but rather significant differences, which is one reason why the membership of the Church grew so rapidly; the Church offered what paganism did not.

The best defense against this myth is to turn the argument around and show that the few similarities between the Christian faith and the myths of other cultures are not the result of a collective unconscious or of the co-opting of Egyptian fables by Christians, but rather an illustration of how God’s divine drama was prefigured in the beliefs of other cultures before its fulfillment in the true story of Jesus Christ.”

Love & truth,
Matthew