Category Archives: Ecclesiology

Rigid Catholics

-Young women pray at a Solemn High Pontifical Mass for Blessed Karl of Austria in Washington, D.C. The annual Blessed Karl Mass is widely attended by young Catholics in the eastern United States.

Pope Francis on the young who like Latin Mass: ‘Why so much rigidity?’

November 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In a new interview, Pope Francis criticized the “rigidity” of young people who are attached to the Traditional Latin Mass.

“I always try to understand what’s behind people who are too young to have experienced the pre-conciliar liturgy and yet still they want it,” the pontiff said. “Sometimes I found myself confronted with a very strict person, with an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”

Pope Francis frequently criticizes faithful Catholics using this type of rhetoric. He has blasted the “excessive rigidity” of Catholics who believe in moral absolutes.

“Traditionalists” with their “hostile inflexibility,” fail to allow themselves to be “surprised by God,” he said in 2014.

In the same interview, Pope Francis said Vatican II’s major liturgical changes “should carry on as they are.”

“To speak of the ‘reform of the reform’ is a mistake,” he said.

The “reform of the reform” is an expression inspired by Pope Benedict XVI to refer to a reform of the post-Vatican II liturgy that would make it more closely aligned with Catholic liturgical tradition.

Following the Second Vatican Council, it was widely and errantly believed that the Old Rite of the Mass had been abolished or forbidden. In his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI clarified that both the Ordinary Form (post-Vatican II Mass) and Extraordinary Form (Mass according to the 1962 missal) of the liturgy are permitted and “there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.”

“In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture,” Pope Benedict wrote. “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

In the new interview, however, Francis describes Benedict’s actions as an “exception” that was “magnanimous.”

Pope Benedict extended a “fair and magnanimous gesture to meet a certain mentality of some groups and people who had nostalgia. … But it is an exception,” Pope Francis said.

In an essay on why she likes the Traditional Latin Mass, teenaged Anya Proctor wrote that she was driven to it by “weird” homilies about “other religions, the gospel of Judas, funny stories in the newspaper, irrelevant anecdotes, and even blatant heresies” and “a priest using props on the altar to demonstrate his homily—as if we were all five-year-olds.”

At the Traditional Latin Mass, “I came to know God,” Proctor continued. “I got to fully experience Christ Incarnate in flesh and blood, on my knees, deep in silence and prayer — to meditate on his union with me as he was placed reverently on my tongue by his holy servant. I closed my eyes when I received Jesus. I felt physically, spiritually, and emotionally transformed. Many times in the Cathedral, tears have come to me as I have prayed and focused on Jesus’s love and sacrifice for me.”

“Mass is not intended to celebrate people,” Proctor wrote. “That’s for luncheons, birthday parties, and maybe youth groups—but not Mass. The Mass is for the Lord. The Mass is where the priest is so reverent he faces the Lord, not the people, so that they don’t focus on him, but only on Christ.”

Juventutem (“youth” in Latin), an international federation of young people who attend and promote the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, has chapters around the world.

“We are a group of Catholic young adults who seek to implement Summorum Pontificum in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Juventutem’s Washington, DC chapter explains. “We love the traditional Roman liturgy and seek to share it with the Church and the world. Come pray with us!”

Juventutem’s Boston chapter “promotes the sanctification of youth by means of the traditions of the Catholic Church, faithful to the Church’s teaching and her authorities, and in spiritual union with those young people throughout the world who share our aspirations…Juventutem Boston also dedicates itself to an intercessory apostolate, praying with and for our Bishops and Priests in union with His Holiness Pope Francis.”

Six hundred young adults attended traditional liturgies at World Youth Day this year.


-by Rev Dwight LongneckerFr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“The Holy Father’s favorite scold is against Catholics who are “rigid”.

In this he is echoing Jesus and the gospels. Jesus’ big problems were the Scribes and Pharisees. Legalists without mercy, they famously sweated the small stuff–always taking the splinter out of someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in their own. They burdened people with little laws, great guilt and notorious negativity.

In the end they are the ones who plotted to kill Jesus. Definitely bad news.

The Pope’s criticism of similarly rigid religious folks in the Catholic Church is necessary. Certainly we have our share of unsmiling, legalistic, backward looking, negative, hyper critical Catholics. We have our share of Pharisaical, judgmental, hide bound, angry conservatives. Francis is right. They’re a brood of vipers.

Just try it. Poke at them and they’ll strike, and they’re not harmless. Their fangs have venom.

While I support the Pope’s criticism of Pharisaical Catholics, I don’t actually think they are that big a problem. Here’s why:

They are a minority. Perhaps it would be easy to tar all traditionalist Catholics with this brush, but we know its not so. While there are definitely a few vindictive, paranoid, legalistic nut cases among them, most traditionalist Catholics are good, solid, sensible folks who simply love the old Mass and all that goes with it.

Are there harsh, legalistic and judgmental priests? I’ve been a Catholic for over twenty years and I’ve only heard complaints about a priest being harsh in the confessional twice–and both times it was about the same priest.

Two complaints in over twenty years and only about one priest?

Maybe Pope Francis’ experience in Argentina is different than mine in England and the USA, but my experience is that our primary problem is not rigid, legalistic Catholics, but exactly the opposite.

The complaints I hear about priests in the confessional are along these lines, “I went to Fr Whoever for confession and all he did was tell me that the things I confessed weren’t really sins.” or “The priest just said, ‘Remember Jesus Loves You. Go in Peace.’ I had to ask him to say the words of absolution three times, and even then I had to remind him what to say!” or “Our priest doesn’t have set times for confession. He says we should just confess our sins to God and if we need counseling to make an appointment.” or “I confessed that I had slept with a woman before marriage and the priest told me that ‘I probably had an emotional need’ and it as long as she consented it wasn’t really a sin.” or “The priest spent fifteen minutes explaining my psychological problems to me, and then never said the words of absolution.”

In America and the UK the problems of the Catholic Church are not down to overly rigid Catholics. The problems are due to overly flaccid Catholics. We’re not too stiff. We’re too limp.

In my experience a great number of Catholics never go to confession at all. This must mean that they do not think they have committed any sins that need forgiveness. This is not rigidity. This is complacency.

In my experience, most priests are not rigid at all. They are a gentle, loving, kind and forgiving bunch. We priests are quick to explain away guilt, soften the sin and overlook the faults. We want to be nice. We want to be loved. We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

In my experience the vast majority of American Catholics are anything BUT rigid. A huge percentage are okay with contraception. A good number think abortion is okay under certain circumstances. Many think same sex marriage is just fine. A lot of Catholic parents approve of their kids living together before marriage but still want them to have a great big Catholic wedding. A lot of American Catholics seem to be perfectly okay with remarriage after divorce.

In my experience, while some Catholics are extremely generous, a good number are not. They don’t tithe. They give to their own pet causes when they want and they don’t seem to have the faintest idea that their faith is about taking up the cross, following Jesus Christ and walking in the way of sanctity. They don’t seem to be any different from their non-Catholic neighbors.

American Catholicism is not in danger of being too harsh, bitter and judgmental. We’re in danger of being too sweet, pliable and self indulgent.

As usual, every argument is theological. We are this way because of the heresy of universalism and semi universalism. These are the sentimental heresies that everyone will be saved in the end, or if there is a hell that probably there are not very many people there and maybe they will make it to heaven too in the end or maybe God will just let them be snuffed out and cease to exist.

As nice as it is, this is completely unfaithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the historic Catholic faith.

I know this rather stands things on their head, but I reckon we could do with a bit more backbone–not less.”

Ah, Universal. Gotta, gotta love it. If anyone recently through RCIA says, “But, I need X!” I say, “Wait! I will be your concierge. I KNOW we’ve got it! I just know.” I think both the Holy Father & Fr. Longnecker are right, and, no, I’m not just being political. I actually think they’re both right. The scourge of being a moderate. 🙂

Love,
Matthew

The Church hurts, justice, & the Holy Spirit


-by Mark Shea, former Baptist and now Catholic apologist

“The good news about the Catholic Church,” said a friend of mine “is that it’s like a big family.”

“The bad news about the Catholic Church,” he continued, “is that it’s like a big family.”

A basic fact of life is that the same Body of Christ that is the sacrament of salvation, the fountain of so many graces, the home of so many amazing and wonderful people, so much healing, so much beauty, and the glorious treasury of saints to whom we owe so much…that same Church is the scene of incredibly devastating hurts dealt out by traitors, perverts, scoundrels, monsters, selfish jerks, liars, grasping careerists, Pharisees, libertines, and fools.

Just about everyone has a story to tell: the scheming chancery functionary bent on inflicting economic harm on some struggling Catholic self-employed businessman; the priest who was an insulting, despair-inducing buffoon in the confessional; the sexually abusive cleric and the bishop who protected him; the Church Lady with her petty hurtful gossip; the jackass who poses as the uber-pious Catholic while he cheats on his wife; the nun who shamed and scarred the little girl in third grade; the crazy mom who destroyed her kids lives while yakking about God, dragging them from one quack visionary to the next and then running off with the priest; the liturgist who decided the mandate was not “Feed my sheep” but “Try experiments on my rats”; the Catholic schoolteacher who destroyed your shot at college because she was a vindictive psycho who hated males.

It is, in fact, a story as old as the New Testament. Jesus’ story is, after all, a story of betrayal. It’s easy to forget that Judas was, at one time, a friend of Jesus’. And so one of the great psalms of the Passion records the messianic sufferer lamenting, “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Nor did the other apostles always present a sterling example of loyal friendship. They fought amongst themselves about who was the greatest, even as Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper and warning of his betrayal (Luke 22:24). James and John elbowed each other for a coveted spot at Jesus’ left and right hands, and even sent their mom to run interference for them as they jockeyed for position (Matthew 20:20-24). Peter, who had massive failings of his own when it came to denying Jesus and chickening out in a pinch, was also frustrated by Simon Magus, a baptized Christian who saw Jesus as a potential source of super powers and who tried to buy Peter off (Acts 8:9-14).

Similarly, Paul has to write on a number of occasions to express his exasperation, not with persecuting pagans outside the Church, but with his own fellow Christians within it. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” he tells the Galatians, adding later (of those Judaizing Christians who were tempting the Galatians to abandon the gospel and return to salvation by circumcision): “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12). (It’s been a while since a bishop blurted out in frustration that he wished members of his flock would castrate themselves.)

In various letters, Paul complains about Christians getting drunk at their agape meals, embarrassing the poor, having relations with their stepmother, rejecting the resurrection, getting puffed up with pride, refusing to work since Jesus was coming soon, and rejecting himself as an apostle since was not one of the original Twelve. Indeed, for all the abuse and beatings Paul got at the hands of both Jews and pagans, the greatest pain and frustration he felt was at the sheer ingratitude and hostility he received from fellow Christians, a fact easily verified from 2 Corinthians 10-13, in which the apostle “vents” (as they say these days) about the exasperation he feels at having to establish his bona fides as a “real” apostle to the spouting popinjays at the Church in Corinth who were simultaneously undermining all his hard work—work done at the cost of beatings, shipwreck, stoning and abuse—while leading the thankless Corinthians away from apostolic tradition. Paul practically pioneered the discovery of many a Catholic saint since that no good deed goes unpunished.

And all this sets the stage for a rich and colorful pageant of Catholic history in which Catholics drive each other crazy, hurt each other, lie to each other, cheat each other, make war on each other, rape each other, and kill each other. And by this, I mean Catholics from every walk of life. You can find everybody from Pope to dog catcher in the rogue’s gallery: clerical, lay, male, female, young, old, black, white, unlettered ruffian, cultured scholar, foreign, and domestic. No wonder Paul has to exhort us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13) and Jesus tells us to forgive one another. It’s easy to forget that these instructions are not some platform for general social reform in which saintly Christians march out and show a barbarous world of buffoons the True Path.

Rather, the instructions to bear with and forgive one another are given to Christians first, because we need to hear them first. The New Testament documents are meant to be read in Christian assemblies of worship and are calculated to help Christians get along with each other. They were not written for classes on Civilizational Uplift to be taught by Holy Christians to a rabble of unwashed pagan thugs. Nor were they written for Christians to study in a class on “how to endure persecution from non-Christians” (though a few remarks here and there do, indeed, instruct Christians on how to cope with persecution from non-Christians).

On the contrary, the command to forgive—a command so crucial that it is the only part of the Our Father on which Jesus comments (warning “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15))—frankly presupposes that the Church is the rabble of sinners who hurt each other before it is the communion of saints that reaches heaven.

Because of all this it’s worth looking at some of the biblical principles by which the Church orders its life for when its member don’t act like saints. In a world of pain infliction like ours, it’s easy to leap to a variety of conclusions that can hurt rather than help our faith and our obedience to Jesus Christ. We can assume that the person who hurt us meant to hurt us. We can assume that the hurt is proof the person is not really a Christian and is bound for Hell. We can assume the sinner is acting with the power and the authority of the Church (a particularly easy assumption when the sinner is a cleric). We can assume the hurt is proof that we “had it coming”. We can assume the hurt is proof the entire Catholic faith is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof Jesus Christ is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof the existence of God is a fraud.

Because of our tendency to draw unwarranted conclusions from the pain Catholics cause each other as they bonk into each other in the hurly burly of life, it’s wise to think about such matters and plan ahead for the moment when (not if) somebody in the Church hurts you.

The Mark Twain Principle

The first and most sensible thing that Catholics can do is not borrow trouble by presuming the worst right off the bat. Mark Twain said we should never attribute to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity. His humorous point, of course, is that while there certainly are deliberately hurtful acts, an awful lot of what we do to one another is caused by ignorance and can even have a good-hearted intention behind the misfire if we can get past our pain to see it. The child who tries his best to be nice to the neighbor lady and ends up saying, “Gee, for a fat lady you sure don’t sweat much!” may deeply hurt with his words, but he does, after all, mean well. So our tradition counsels us to always assume the best first. With each pain we encounter, we have to develop the habit of asking “Was this grave? Did the person who did it have freedom? Did they understand what they were doing?” This spells the difference between excusing and forgiving. A lot of evil done us doesn’t even rise to the level of a sin. So we excuse the person who steps on our toes, or the verbal klutz who means to compliment us but winds up saying “You’re a lot smarter than I thought you were.”

Cultivate a 70 X 7 Habit

Of course, not all evils are excusable. Sometimes people commit actual sins against us. They fail to render the love or justice we were properly owed. They cut in line. They steal our stuff. They cheat us. They cheat on us. They abuse us. Whether by action or by failure to act, they knowingly and willingly hurt us. What then?

The command of Jesus is famous—and scary: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also Who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25) Peter, standing at the head of a long line of Christians who couldn’t even begin to imagine what Jesus really meant by that, summoned his magnanimity to its height and suggested that instead of the rabbinic custom of forgiving people three times, perhaps we should go all out and forgive them seven times. Jesus countered, “Not seven, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). How many times must we forgive? Infinity. As many times as we are sinned against. And that forgiveness is to be extended “if you have anything against any one”. No qualifications on whether or not they reciprocate or say they are sorry or show contrition.

The reason for this, of course, is for our good. Unforgiveness is, as has been famously observed, like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. To refuse to forgive is not to maintain power over our victimizer. It is to hand all power over to them and leave them in control of us for the rest of our lives and (if we let it destroy our souls with bitterness) possibly for the rest of eternity. In forgiveness, we hand the person who has sinned against us back to God, release them from our judgment and entrust them to the mercy of God. In doing so, we are set free from their power and can stand in the place of Christ the Beloved Son who likewise forgave and enjoyed—even on the cross—the love of God.

Don’t Blame Yourself

The Christian tradition has a healthy habit of self-criticism enshrined in the Confiteor. We are sinners, it is true. At the same time, there can be a certain pathology in which we can blame ourselves for sins committed against us. The child blames himself because his uncle beat him. The abused woman says it’s her fault that her husband gave her a black eye. The victim of priest abuse believes (and in some cases was shamefully told by ecclesial authority) that the abuse was their fault because they “asked for it”. The Church’s actual moral tradition, however, stands against this: the sinner is responsible for his sin, not somebody else. The victim of abuse needs to lay hold of Christ, the innocent sufferer, who did not say, “Maybe I had it coming”. He knew he was innocent. But neither did he allow the injustice done him to conquer him with bitterness. He showed the way between self-blame and hatred of his victimizers: the way of love rooted in the knowledge that he was the beloved Son of God. You are likewise a beloved child of God and the sin committed against you is not a sign that you had it coming or that God is angry at you. It is a sign only of the fact that we live in a fallen world. United with Christ crucified, your suffering can even help in the redemption of the evil done you, and can be a way that God will defeat Satan’s attack on you with a good that conquers and overwhelmingly triumphs.

Forgiveness Does not Mean Inaction

One great fear that can seize people is the mistaken notion that the command to forgive is a command to be passive—as though forgiveness means sitting on your hands while somebody gets away with fleecing you blind or beating you up because to oppose them would be “judgmental”. In fact, however, the New Testament knew as well as we do that sometimes sins require action:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Clearly, what Jesus has in view here is the twofold reality that sins and conflicts are going to arise within the Church and that his disciples need to find a way to deal with them effectively. For much of our day-to-day life, these problems are the equivalent of pin pricks and paper cuts in the body of Christ. Somebody sins. You show them their fault with mercy and charity. They repent. All’s forgiven. You don’t call your pastor because your husband left the toilet seat up. The bishop is not on speed dial to adjudicate how the monies from the parish bake sale will be distributed. Subsidiarity means that the people closest to the problem will, nine times out of ten, be competent to deal with the problem.

However, sometimes a bit more is required. So you call in a second opinion when your son is blowing off his schoolwork, making you and your spouse the united front who forbid the hike or the video games till the sin is remedied. Other times, the two or three witnesses may point out that there is blame to go around on all sides. On occasion, it may be necessary to bring a conflict to a pastor, such as with marriage issues, parenting issues, or some sort of struggle with how the school, or the finance committee are doing. A huge amount of our daily life never goes further than these levels of conflict and arbitration because most of us do not live epic lives of conflict that rocks the Church.

That said, of course, there are moments when some sin is so grave that ecclesial and even civil authority must be called in. A good rule of thumb is that ecclesial authority is necessary for ecclesial issues and civil authority should be contacted for issues in which the common good is threatened. So if your parish or Catholic educational institution is, for instance, fomenting rank heresy or open contempt for the faith, it may be time to contact the bishop. The trick, of course, is that very often the people most eager to make such calls are the people least qualified to do so. Every diocese has its wannabe Inquisitors who contact the chancery on a weekly or daily basis to complain that their parish sings hymns they don’t like, or the priest does not elevate the Host as high as the Inquisitor thinks proper, or women are not wearing veils as they should or what have you. Bishops have a lot on their minds, so a good rule of thumb is to ask whether the thing I think of such burning importance seems to be of burning importance to other good and holy folk I know in the diocese. If they do not think it worth going to the mat for, say, having to sing the umpteenth chorus of “Anthem” at the family Mass, probably this is not the battle that needs to be fought right now. On the other hand, if there are really serious theological and liturgical abuses, the bishop needs to know.

With matters of civil law such as theft, sexual abuse and such like, the proper place to go is to the cops. As Paul says,

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4)

So, for instance, to draw from the very stark and disastrous example of the priest abuse scandal, if a layperson has evidence that a priest has been harming a child, this is not a matter for internal discipline in the diocese. This is a criminal matter and the police should be contacted. It is not “unforgiving” to do so. It is an act of justice to the victim, an act of charity and protection for potential victims, and a work of mercy to the Body of Christ.

One temptation that faces us when a member of the Church sins against us is to conclude that the sinner is “not really a Christian” or that the whole thing—Church, Jesus, God—is a sham. As to the question of whether somebody who sins is “really a Christian”, C.S. Lewis gives us a good perspective via his demonic correspondent Uncle Screwtape, who advises his nephew, the junior tempter Wormwood, on how to help sow the seeds of bitterness and pride in his human “patient” when he discovers his fellow Christians are all quite capable of sin:

All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy(God) to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk. At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these ‘smug,’ commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.

Remember Why the Church is Called “Holy”

It will be noticed that throughout this article I have not confined the discussion to what the press typically means by “the Church”: namely, the hierarchy and the ordained office. That’s because, of course, the Church is all the baptized. When we speak of “the Church” hurting us and think only of the clergy we are taking a radically impoverished view of the Church. And this is of a piece with a general tendency to think of “the Church” merely as a sort of institutional structure. It’s not. The Church is the Body of Christ. But what makes it the Body of Christ is not the Pope, bishops or priests. It’s not the saints. It’s not radical empowered laity full of progressive fervor bringing an antiquated institution into The Future. It’s not properly observed liturgical rubrics. What makes the Church the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit, Who is the soul of the Church. We say the Church is holy not because we are stone blind Kool-Aid drinkers who imagine Catholics never sin despite two thousand years of evidence to the contrary, but because, through thick and thin, the Holy Spirit continues to make it possible to forgive, heal, and be reconciled despite the worst wounds—the wounds we receive in the house of our friends (Zechariah 13:6).”

Lord, strengthen me against my own hypocrisy, which is daily.
Love,
Matthew

Semper Ecclesia Reformanda: Franciscan vs Lutheran reform

saint_francis

taylor_marshall
-by Dr. Taylor Marshall

“Essentially, Francis teaches us that we cannot fight heresy by creating new heresies. Francis always submitted to the Church, the popes, and the bishops.

Whenever “reformation” begins to the buck against the institutional Church, more heresy arises. For example, in many regards the Monophysite heresy (i.e. “Christ has one nature”) was an over-reaction to the Nestorian heresy (i.e. “Christ is two persons”). The Catholic Church has always sought to aim directly at the truth, and not merely at the destruction of error. Too often the refutation of error crosses over into further error.

Similarly, Luther and Calvin sought to displace misunderstandings about grace and merit (i.e. the faulty nominalism spawned by William of Ockham) by creating an alternate vision of grace and merit (which ironically embraced Ockham’s nominalism and repackaged it). Luther’s “solution” was in fact heretical. A quick fix is often faulty. Duct tape can “fix” almost anything – but it eventually gives way to other problems.

The annals of Church history are filled with Catholic Reformers: Paul, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Maximus, John Damascene, Pope Gregory VII, Francis, Dominic, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, et al. Each of these Catholic Reformers retained the unity of Christ’s Church, submitted to church leadership, and patiently brought about renewal. In many cases, each experienced active persecution from other Christians and even fell under the suspicion of heresy. However, their humility and silence eventually vindicated their cause as advocates for the evangelical truth of Christ’s doctrine.

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps one of the best examples of patience in the cause of reform. When St Francis went to Rome to seek recognition from the Pope, the Pope dismissed him impatiently and told him to go “lie down with the pigs.”

After a little while, Francis returned smeared with swine feces and stinking to high heaven. When the Pope objected, Francis answered, “I obeyed your words and merely did as you said. I lay down with the pigs.” Suddenly the Pope realized that this was a holy man who was willing to obey even in the face of humiliation. The Pope listened to Francis’ vision for renewal and the rest is history.

When rebuffed by the pope, Saint Francis could have appealed to Sacred Scripture, showing this his pattern of life was poor and lowly like that of Christ. He might even have contrasted his own “biblical life” against the extravagance of the Papal court. Francis may even have rightly rebuked the abbots, bishops, and cardinals for lacking evangelical witness. Instead, Francis followed the path of Christ. He allowed himself to be misunderstood and maligned, knowing that God would bring about his vindication…and God always does.

Contrast Saint Francis to Martin Luther. Luther did not visit Rome for confirmation of his cause, nor did he respect the structures of the Church. In fact, Cardinal Cajetan met privately with Luther and explained how Luther might modify his message so that Cajetan could have it approved by the Roman Curia. If Luther had moved more slowly and charitably, he may have become “Saint” Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, Luther was adamant and stiff-necked. He would not attempt compromise. If the Pope would not agree with him, then he would reject the papacy. Period. Luther would not tolerate any authority that failed to support him immediately and without question. Consequently, when the papal bull arrived, Luther burned it publicly and began to curse the pope as Antichrist.

Note the difference between Francis and Luther. The former moved slowly and humbly. The latter acted independently and rashly. Consequently, the history of Protestantism is marked by rash and hasty division – there are now 36,000 Protestant denominations.

As the Apostle James wrote: “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (Jas 1:20). History shows that God does not use “hot-heads” to guide His Church into righteousness. God chooses those who are little, meek, and humble – for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

Herein lies the mystery of Catholic Reform.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

A Universal Church has universal opinions….shocker!!!!

A 3d graphic of the words in the question What Do You Think? This could be used to encourage people to participate in a survey or poll and ask their opinion or

Some people are surprised, or scandalized, or relieved, or whatever, to learn Catholics have differing opinions from each other, ALL THE TIME!!!  Some of this results from inadequate, eighth grade level catechesis, at best, and even then of questionable quality, but exactly how many sublime and nuanced truths as contained in philosophy and theology can you really communicate to college students, let alone eighth graders?

My humble opinion is, with the elevated level of education on the part of the laity, the Church has relied too long on its old, old model of the ignorant and illiterate peasant farmer or such, Catholic, Catholic ghetto, immigrant getting off boat, train, etc., and making a bee-line for the rectory where the good Father, the only literate Catholic within miles, will secure housing, food, employment, etc. for said peasant.  See where priests get there historical power, besides the obvious?  Not a healthy, mature, relevant, sustaining, Christian, 21st century, empowered (and, I hate that word, as used in “corporate”) model, but, still.  We’re still using that ancient model.  The world HAS changed, and so have most Catholics; maybe not clergy, sharing power is a BITCH, like surrendering one’s divinity to become mortal, or even going to the Cross, out of love, but they are dependent on their bishop for everything, ok.  And, a bishop is dependent on Rome to even be called Catholic.

Granted, not every Catholic wishes to enter into post-graduate theological catechesis, or the relevant discussion therein implied.  However, this is where REAL answers begin to emerge.  Sorry, not sorry.

Some may be scandalized to realize Catholics are not a monolithic thought block.  We’re not.  Once formally declared as teaching of the Church, however, things become more linear, they do, or they should. This is pretty much where Luther, and other Reformation leaders, fell off the boat. Obedience is a virtue. No matter how right I think I am, I will NOT disobey Holy Mother Church. She is my mother, after all. Lord, have mercy on my soul. Please!!!!

However, anyhoo, even with THAT, Catholics would have raging differences of opinions on EVERYTHING.  It’s very Catholic.  As I have mentioned MANY times and places, asking questions, and I know I have a problem with asking questions and with the truth, I like them both TOO MUCH!  But, asking questions is VERY Catholic!!  Deo gratias!!

Trigger warning!!!  🙂  Let’s have an example!!!!  Yeah!!!

Q.  Do homosexual unions have moral value?  (No ez ones in my class!!  They’re boring, anyway. 🙂 )

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-by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

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-Cardinal Marx

“According to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, homosexual relationships have “worth,” a worth that must be recognized by the Catholic Church.

“We have to respect the decisions of people,” Marx told the media last week in Dublin after delivering a speech at Trinity College, according to a recent report in the Irish Times.

“We have to respect the decisions of people. We have to respect also, as I said in the first synod on the family, some were shocked but I think it’s normal, you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man and they are faithful [that] that is nothing, that has no worth,” he said.

Consequently, according to Marx, the Church owes homosexuals an apology for its historical treatment of homosexuals. “As Church and society, we have to say ‘Sorry, Sorry,’” Marx said. He added that the Church should support “regulating” homosexual partnerships. “We as church cannot be against it.”

Marx’s statements seem to fly in the face of repeated affirmations by some of the Catholic Church’s most authoritative documents, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which calls homosexual sexual acts “acts of grave depravity” which are “intrinsically disordered,” and “can never be approved.” They also contradict the Vatican’s 2003 instruction on homosexual unions, which forbids support for legal recognition for homosexual unions of any kind.

St. Peter Damian, a cardinal who wrote the most extensive treatment of the issue of homosexual unions in the Church’s history, also had a very different understanding of the value of homosexual relations from that of Cardinal Marx.

According to Damian’s work on the subject, the Book of Gomorrah, written in the 11th century in response to a plague of homosexual vice among priests and clergy, homosexual unions are in no way beneficial to their participants; to the contrary, they are utterly destructive to them, spiritually, psychologically and even physically, throwing them into an emotional and spiritual confusion that makes them subject to demonic manipulation.

Damian writes that “this vice, which surpasses the savagery of all other vices, is to be compared to no other. For this vice is the death of bodies, the destruction of souls, pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of the intellect, expels the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human heart, introduces the diabolical inciter of lust, throws into confusion, and removes the truth completely from the deceived mind.”

Damian recognizes that the logic of homosexual vice leads to ever-more degrading and self-destructive acts, a reality confirmed by those who have come out of the gay lifestyle. The homosexual relationship “violates sobriety, kills modesty, slays chastity,” writes Damian. “It butchers virginity with the sword of a most filthy contagion. It befouls everything, it stains everything, it pollutes everything, and for itself it permits nothing pure, nothing foreign to filth, nothing clean.”

The homosexual relationship removes “the armaments of the virtues, and to strike them down, exposes them to the darts of every vice,” Damian writes, adding that it “removes the foundation of faith, enervates the strength of hope, breaks the tie of charity, destroys justice, undermines fortitude, banishes temperance, and blunts the sharpness of prudence. And what more shall I say? Since indeed it expels every cornerstone of the virtues from the court of the human heart, it also, as if the bolts of the doors have been removed, introduces every barbarity of the vices.”

Damian notes that individuals who involve themselves in homosexual relationships suffer from anxiety and other psychological disturbances, a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed by numerous peer-reviewed medical studies in recent decades.

Of those who participate in such relationships, Damian writes: “His flesh burns with the fury of lust, his frigid mind trembles with the rancor of suspicion, and chaos now rages hellishly in the heart of the unhappy man while he is vexed by as many worries as he is tortured, as it were, by the torments of punishment. Indeed, once this most poisonous snake has sunk its teeth into an unhappy soul, sense is immediately taken away, memory is removed, the sharpness of mind is obscured; it becomes forgetful of God, it forgets even itself.”

In some ways Damian seems to foresee the behavior of the modern homosexual movement. Using a metaphor that seems particularly appropriate, Damian refers to the homosexual lifestyle as “the queen of the sodomites,” who enslaves and degrades her victims, taking away their peace and instilling in them a frenetic obsession with pleasure. He also notes that those who involve themselves in such behavior feel compelled to draw others into the same wretchedness, by becoming homosexual “militants.”

“This most pestilent queen of the sodomites renders him who is submissive to the laws of her tyranny indecent to men and hateful to God,” Damian writes.

“In order to sow impious wars against God, she requires a militancy of the most wretched spirit,” he continues. “She separates the unhappy soul from the fellowship of the angels, removing it from its nobility to place it under the yoke of her own domination. She strips her soldiers of the armaments of the virtues, and to strike them down, exposes them to the darts of every vice. . . . She gnaws the conscience like worms, burns the flesh like a fire, and pants with desire for pleasure. But in contrast she fears to be exposed, to come out in public, to be known by others.”

In contrast to Cardinal Marx and other Catholic prelates who have recently advocated affirming homosexual relationships or tolerating them, Peter Damian writes that we must avoid the “cruel mercy” of staying silent in the face of evil, and even warns that we become the “murderer of another’s soul” if we do not speak against the immorality of their behavior.

“Who am I to watch such a noxious crime spreading among those in holy orders and keeping silent, to dare to await the accounting of divine punishment as the murderer of another’s soul, and to begin to be made a debtor of that guilt of which I had been by no means the author?” writes Damian, adding later, “For how am I loving my neighbor as myself, if I negligently allow the wound, by which I do not doubt him to be dying a cruel death, to fester in his soul? Seeing therefore the spiritual wounds, should I neglect to cure them by the surgery of words?”

St. Peter Damian’s words were well-received by Pope St. Leo IX, who said “everything that this little book contains has been pleasing to our judgment, being as opposed to diabolical fire as is water.” Today, however, Damian’s warnings are increasingly ignored by European and American prelates in favor of an indifferent and even benign understanding of the sin of sodomy.”

Love,
Matthew

Pope Francis: some “catholics” aren’t REALLY Catholics!!!

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-by Kathy Schiffer

“Half-hearted Catholics–those who believe only some of the Church’s teachings–aren’t really Catholics at all. “They may call themselves Catholic,” said Pope Francis at his morning Mass (6/7/14)  at the Domus Sancta Marthae, “but they have one foot out the door.”

The Holy Father drew his inspiration from the Gospel reading for June 5, taken from John 17:20-26, and Jesus’ prayer that there would be unity, not divisions and conflict, among his followers. He singled out three groups of people whose half-hearted acceptance of faith drew into question their membership in the Church:

“Uniformists” who believe that everyone in the Church should be just like them. “They are rigid!” said the Pope. “They do not have that freedom the Holy Spirit gives,” and they confuse what Jesus preached with their “own doctrine of uniformity.” Jesus never wanted the church to be so rigid, Pope Francis said. Such people “call themselves Catholics, but their rigid attitude distances them from the Church.” The Pope likened the “uniformists” to the early Christians who demanded that pagans become Hebrews before they could enter the Church, when this was not what God intended.

“Alternativists” are those who hold alternative teachings and doctrines. They, according to Pope Francis, have “a partial belonging to the church. These, too, have one foot outside the church. They rent the church,” not recognizing that its teaching is based on the preaching of Jesus and the apostolic tradition. The “alternativists” are today’s “Cafeteria Catholics” who accept some teachings, but not the teachings which they find inconvenient or which they don’t really understand.

“Businessists” are those who use the Church “for personal profit.” Pope Francis noted that they call themselves Christians, but don’t enter into the heart of the Church. “We have all seen them in parish or diocesan communities and religious congregations,” said Francis, “they are some of the benefactors of the Church. They strut around proud of being benefactors; but in the end, under the table, they make their deals.”

The Church, Pope Francis taught, is made up of people with a variety of differences and gifts. If one wants to belong to it, he or she must be motivated by love and must enter with “your whole heart.” The Pope explained the correct approach to the Church, according to L’Osservatore Romano:

But Christ’s message is quite different: to all these types, the Pontiff continued, Jesus says that “the Church isn’t rigid, it’s free! In the Church there are many charisms, there’s great diversity in people and in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says: in the Church you must give your heart to the Gospel, to what the Lord has taught, and never have an alternative for yourself! The Lord tells us: if you want to enter the Church”, do so “for love, to give all, all your heart and not for doing business for your benefit”. Indeed, “the Church is not a house for rent” for all those who “want to do as they please”; on the contrary, “it is a home to live in”.

And to those who object that “it’s not easy”, to keep both feet in the Church, because “there are so many temptations”, the Rome’s bishop recalled that He Who “creates unity in the Church, unity in the diversity, in the freedom, in the generosity” which is the Holy Spirit, whose specific “duty” is to actually create “harmony in the Church”. Because “unity in the Church is harmony. Everyone — he added with a joke — we’re different, we’re not equal, thank God”, otherwise “it would be hell!” But “we are all called to be docile to the Holy Spirit”. And this is exactly the virtue that will save us from being rigid, from being “alternativists” and from being “advantagists” or swindlers in the Church: docility to the Holy Spirit, He Who “builds the Church”.

Pope Francis called for a docility which transforms the Church from a house “for rent,” into a house in which everyone feels at home. “I’m at home,” he said, “because the Holy Spirit gives me this grace.”

In the Prayers of the Faithful, Pope Francis prayed for the grace of unity in the Church: to be brothers and sisters in unity, feeling right at home. He prayed for “unity in the diversity of everyone… but free diversity,” without imposing conditions.

In his closing invocation, he prayed that we would create this harmony in our communities, parishes, dioceses, and movements.

He reiterated the message from his first Mass in Jordan, when he said:
“The mission of the Holy Spirit… is to beget harmony–He himself is harmony–and to create peace in different situations and between different people.”

Love, and always begging Him to be His servant,
Matthew

The Church: sacrament of salvation?

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In my practice as a technologist, I use a little ditty: “The good news is there are A LOT of options! The bad news is there are A LOT of options!”

Another one I like, not necessarily professionally, is “There is no love like family love!  No money like public money!  No politics like Church politics!”  🙂

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-from an article by Mark Shea, former Baptist and now Catholic apologist

“The good news about the Catholic Church,” said a friend of mine “is that it’s like a big family.”
“The bad news about the Catholic Church,” he continued, “is that it’s like a big family.”

A basic fact of life is that the same Body of Christ that is the sacrament of salvation, the fountain of so many graces, the home of so many amazing and wonderful people, so much healing, so much beauty, and the glorious treasury of saints to whom we owe so much…that same Church is the scene of incredibly devastating hurts dealt out by traitors, perverts, scoundrels, monsters, selfish jerks, liars, grasping careerists, Pharisees, libertines, and fools.

Just about everyone has a story to tell: the scheming chancery functionary bent on inflicting economic harm on some struggling Catholic self-employed businessman; the priest who was an insulting, despair-inducing buffoon in the confessional; the sexually abusive cleric and the bishop who protected him; the Church Lady with her petty hurtful gossip; the jackass who poses as the uber-pious Catholic while he cheats on his wife; the nun who shamed and scarred the little girl in third grade; the crazy mom who destroyed her kids lives while yakking about God, dragging them from one quack visionary to the next and then running off with the priest; the liturgist who decided the mandate was not “Feed my sheep” but “Try experiments on my rats”; the Catholic schoolteacher who destroyed your shot at college because she was a vindictive psycho who hated males.

It is, in fact, a story as old as the New Testament. Jesus’ story is, after all, a story of betrayal. It’s easy to forget that Judas was, at one time, a friend of Jesus’. And so one of the great psalms of the Passion records the messianic sufferer lamenting, “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).

Nor did the other apostles always present a sterling example of loyal friendship. They fought amongst themselves about who was the greatest, even as Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper and warning of his betrayal (Luke 22:24). James and John elbowed each other for a coveted spot at Jesus’ left and right hands, and even sent their mom to run interference for them as they jockeyed for position (Matthew 20:20-24). Peter, who had massive failings of his own when it came to denying Jesus and chickening out in a pinch, was also frustrated by Simon Magus, a baptized Christian who saw Jesus as a potential source of super powers and who tried to buy Peter off (Acts 8:9-14).

Similarly, Paul has to write on a number of occasions to express his exasperation, not with persecuting pagans outside the Church, but with his own fellow Christians within it. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” he tells the Galatians, adding later (of those Judaizing Christians who were tempting the Galatians to abandon the gospel and return to salvation by circumcision): “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12). (It’s been a while since a bishop blurted out in frustration that he wished members of his flock would castrate themselves.)

In various letters, Paul complains about Christians getting drunk at their agape meals, embarrassing the poor, having relations with their stepmother, rejecting the resurrection, getting puffed up with pride, refusing to work since Jesus was coming soon, and rejecting himself as an apostle since he was not one of the original Twelve. Indeed, for all the abuse and beatings Paul got at the hands of both Jews and pagans, the greatest pain and frustration he felt was at the sheer ingratitude and hostility he received from fellow Christians, a fact easily verified from 2 Corinthians 10-13, in which the apostle “vents” (as they say these days) about the exasperation he feels at having to establish his bona fides as a “real” apostle to the spouting popinjays at the Church in Corinth who were simultaneously undermining all his hard work—work done at the cost of beatings, shipwreck, stoning and abuse—while leading the thankless Corinthians away from apostolic tradition. Paul practically pioneered the discovery of many a Catholic saint since that no good deed goes unpunished.

And all this sets the stage for a rich and colorful pageant of Catholic history in which Catholics drive each other crazy, hurt each other, lie to each other, cheat each other, make war on each other, rape each other, and kill each other. And by this, I mean Catholics from every walk of life. You can find everybody from Pope to dog catcher in the rogue’s gallery: clerical, lay, male, female, young, old, black, white, unlettered ruffian, cultured scholar, foreign, and domestic. No wonder Paul has to exhort us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13) and Jesus tells us to forgive one another. It’s easy to forget that these instructions are not some platform for general social reform in which saintly Christians march out and show a barbarous world of buffoons the True Path.

Rather, the instructions to bear with and forgive one another are given to Christians first, because we need to hear them first. The New Testament documents are meant to be read in Christian assemblies of worship and are calculated to help Christians get along with each other. They were not written for classes on Civilizational Uplift to be taught by Holy Christians to a rabble of unwashed pagan thugs. Nor were they written for Christians to study in a class on “how to endure persecution from non-Christians” (though a few remarks here and there do, indeed, instruct Christians on how to cope with persecution from non-Christians).

On the contrary, the command to forgive—a command so crucial that it is the only part of the Our Father on which Jesus comments (warning “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15))—frankly presupposes that the Church is the rabble of sinners who hurt each other before it is the communion of saints that reaches heaven.

Because of all this it’s worth looking at some of the biblical principles by which the Church orders its life for when its member don’t act like saints. In a world of pain infliction like ours, it’s easy to leap to a variety of conclusions that can hurt rather than help our faith and our obedience to Jesus Christ. We can assume that the person who hurt us meant to hurt us. We can assume that the hurt is proof the person is not really a Christian and is bound for Hell. We can assume the sinner is acting with the power and the authority of the Church (a particularly easy assumption when the sinner is a cleric). We can assume the hurt is proof that we “had it coming”. We can assume the hurt is proof the entire Catholic faith is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof Jesus Christ is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof the existence of God is a fraud.

Because of our tendency to draw unwarranted conclusions from the pain Catholics cause each other as they bonk into each other in the hurly burly of life, it’s wise to think about such matters and plan ahead for the moment when (not if) somebody in the Church hurts you.”

Love, always begging forgiveness for those whom I have hurt,
Matthew

Neurotic Catholics

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-from an article, by Mark Shea, former Baptist, and now Catholic apologist

“The Catholic tradition has a healthy (?) habit of self-criticism enshrined in the Confiteor. We are sinners, it is true. At the same time, there can be a certain pathology in which we can blame ourselves for sins committed against us. The child blames himself because his uncle beat him. The abused woman says it’s her fault that her husband gave her a black eye. The victim of priest abuse believes (and in some cases was shamefully told by ecclesial authority) that the abuse was their fault because they “asked for it”.

The Church’s actual moral tradition, however, stands against this: the sinner is responsible for his sin, not somebody else. The victim of abuse needs to lay hold of Christ, the innocent sufferer, who did not say, “Maybe I had it coming”. He knew He was innocent. But neither did He allow the injustice done Him to conquer Him with bitterness.

He showed the way between self-blame and hatred of His victimizers: the way of love rooted in the knowledge that He was the beloved Son of God. You are likewise a beloved child of God and the sin committed against you is not a sign that you had it coming or that God is angry at you. It is a sign only of the fact that we live in a world enmeshed/ensnared in sin. United with Christ crucified, your suffering can even help in the redemption of the evil done you, and can be a way that God will defeat Satan’s attack on you with a good that conquers and overwhelmingly triumphs.”

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Love,
Matthew

Catholics void of kindness

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I was telling Kelly, if I had not been born into being Catholic, had a mother who regularly reaffirmed, “If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!”, had met so many wonderful consecrated and/or ordained Catholics, true servants of the Lord, I might definitely choose not to be Catholic.  I can see, clearly, too clearly, why many people do not choose the Catholic faith because of Catholics1.

I would, instead, be and always try to be, as I hope I am, committed to a constant ethic of kindness.  Love might be stretching it.  But, I do try on any initial encounter to offer kindness as a first impression.  Not naivete’, but mature, sincere, respectful kindness, no matter whom.

I don’t know what group that is, or if that even exists in reality/is realistic.  Not so much doctrinally orthodox, or much worried about that, and never subscribing that somehow orthodoxy may be a strength in lieu of kindness, but just…kindness.  As Dickens wrote, “The milk of human kindness”, offered by the Ghost of Christmas Present, an intoxicating beverage.

I try to make it exist in myself and offer it to others as immediately serenely and naturally as I can.  I also believe, sincerely, it is a mercy to fellow Catholics, especially, to clearly identify when they are not living up to their baptismal promises, I do.  (I, also, sincerely, sincerely, hope another would extend the exact and exacting same mercy to me.)  I feel at peace and confident in this, as I ONLY do it in the most dire of cases and as a last resort, fully aware as I can be of my own sinfulness.  I believe this is the only way to live.

I had hoped “Love ye one another!” would be the ultimate, and Jesus Christ is the most sane person I know, including myself.  Also, I recognize and believe the Catholic Church as the historical church founded by Jesus Christ, but I am also truthful enough to admit those facts, that reality is not enough to keep me Catholic.  I would seek something better.

I also tell Kelly if there actually were a better religion/community that existed, I would have left a long time ago.  Since, I don’t believe I really will find them, I will live and die in the faith 1600 years of my ancestors have lived and died in, and Mara, will live in, God willing.  I just don’t want to be the one in the chain who breaks it without REALLY GOOD reasons.

It is, I trust, the imitation of Bl Pier Giorgio, OP, I most admire in this case.  Performing acts of selfless charity secretly, which ultimately lead to his death.  THIS is a good life.

9432Donald DeMarco
-from an article by Dr. Donald DeMarco, PhD

…”Hell is other people,” Jean-Paul Sartre famously stated. His cynical image, however, is apt, but only for a gathering of unvirtuous people who, as is their wont, prey upon each other. A community of virtuous people, on the other hand, who love each other, is at least a foretaste of paradise. Sartre found life absurd because he did not find love at all. Where there is no virtue, love remains unexpressed. Hell is not only the place where there is no love, but also the place where there is no virtue.

…Love does not flow directly from one person into another; it requires virtue that serves as a mode of transmission. We express love to each other not directly, but through virtue. Virtue is our moral medium of exchange. Without it, we are spiritually bankrupt.

Only God can transmit His love directly. Nonetheless, He chose Mary, the Mother of God, to serve as the Mediatrix of all grace. Nathaniel Hawthorne, though not a Catholic, revealed a fine understanding of Mary’s role in this regard when he made the following statement: “I have always envied the Catholics their faith in that sweet, sacred, Virgin Mother who stands between them and the Deity, intercepting somewhat His awful splendor, but permitting His love to stream on the worshipper more intelligently to human comprehension through the medium of a woman’s tenderness.” Mary’s tenderness is her virtuous way of directing God’s love into our hearts.

Each of us comes into the world with a certain capital of love. It is ours to spend. And the remarkable thing about spending love (unlike spending money) is that the more we spend, the more our supply is increased. With love as our currency, we can go on a lifelong spending spree and never go broke. But we cannot spend a dollop of our love unless we channel it through some virtue. A simple act of kindness, for example, can brighten a person’s day. Kindness is love’s low voltage way of expressing itself to complete strangers without fear of embarrassment or threat of obligation. Kindness is a natural way of affirming the inherent goodness of others and of stirring up their own supply of love. Kindness begets kindness. It can even prepare the way to friendship where additional virtues such as fidelity, patience, and courage come into play. Kindness, which demands so little of us, can open the door to a flood of subsequent virtues.

In Psalm 118 we read: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His kindness endures forever.” Here, God is telling us not only that His virtue is constant and everlasting, but also that His virtue is more powerful than our sin. In addition, He is telling us that if we want to be more Godlike, we, too, must be virtuous. But as we become more Godlike, we do not become less human-like. In fact, because we are created by a God Who loves us, the more Godlike we become, the more human we become, which is to say, the more we become ourselves, the person God intended us to be.

As Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik states in his book, The Hidden Powers of Kindness, “Kind words have converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning.” “He who is kind is free, even if he is a slave,” wrote St. Augustine; “he who is evil is a slave, even if he is king.” The power of this seemingly modest virtue is inestimable. And it is good to know that such a power is always readily available to us.

Expressing love through kindness allows us to stop complaining and begin building a culture of joy.  We often complain about how much unkindness there is in the world. But this amount of unkindness, however much it may be, exists only because of the lack of kindness practiced by individuals who live in it. The supply of kindness is available; all that is needed is its expression. Expressing love through kindness allows us to stop complaining and begin building a culture of joy. Then we will understand and properly appreciate why virtue is our most important medium of exchange, giving practicality to love and bringing conviviality to life.

It is clear, then, that according to the Christian tradition, virtue is rooted in love. “Love is the form of all virtues,” states St. Thomas Aquinas. For St. Augustine, “Virtue is the order of love” (Virtus est ordo amoris). Nonetheless, virtue is not an exclusively religious notion.

…All humans, religious or otherwise, have an inherent capacity to love. This means that all human beings are capable of expressing their love through any number of virtues. And no one wants to argue that non-religious people are incapable of love. Christianity is not a substitute for humanism, but builds on it and perfects it. Therefore, Christians and non-Christians can work together virtuously, as long as their expressions of virtue are based on love. In this regard, we can take heart in St. Thomas More’s celebrated comment that, “The times are never so bad that a good man can’t live in them.”

There is a light that true virtue sheds that can be recognized and respected by all human beings, regardless of their religious affiliations. Even random acts of kindness can help to bring about a better world. In the words of the Immortal Bard:

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world

(Merchant of Venice, Act. V, Sc.1, 90-91).”

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Love,
Matthew

Prayer for frustrated Catholics

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Like Fr Jim, I love the Church. And, too, I have long said it’s a lovely institution until you want something. Then the Church brass knuckles come out. If the Church is supposed to represent Jesus, I just don’t don’t think Jesus was this difficult, seriously. It is a penance to be a Catholic, and not just the times for atonement. Geez!

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-by Rev. James Martin, SJ

“Dear God, sometimes I get so frustrated with Your Church.

I know that I’m not alone. So many people who love Your Church feel frustrated with the Body of Christ on Earth. Priests and deacons, and brothers and sisters, can feel frustrated, too. And I’ll bet that even bishops and popes feel frustrated. We grow worried and concerned and bothered and angry and sometimes scandalized because Your divine institution, our home, is filled with human beings who are sinful. Just like me.

But I get frustrated most of all when I feel that there are things that need to be changed and I don’t have the power to change them.

So I need your help, God.

Help me to remember that Jesus promised that He would be with us until the end of time, and that Your Church is always guided by the Holy Spirit, even if it’s hard for me to see. Sometimes change happens suddenly, and the Spirit astonishes us, but often in the Church it happens slowly. In Your time, not mine (always, all ways…Thy will be done, Thy Kingdom come!). Help me know that the seeds that I plant with love in the ground of Your church will one day bloom. So give me patience.

Help me to understand that there was never a time when there were not arguments or disputes within Your Church. Arguments go all the way back to Peter and Paul debating one another. And there was never a time when there wasn’t sin among the members of Your Church. That kind of sin goes back to Peter denying Jesus during His Passion. Why would today’s church be any different than it was for people who knew Jesus on earth? Give me wisdom.

Help me to trust in the Resurrection. The Risen Christ reminds us that there is always the hope of something new. Death is never the last word for us. Neither is despair. And help me remember that when the Risen Christ appeared to His disciples, He bore the wounds of His Crucifixion. Like Christ, the Church is always wounded, but always a carrier of grace. Give me hope.

Help me to believe that your Spirit can do anything: raise up saints when we need them most, soften hearts when they seem hardened, open minds when they seem closed, inspire confidence when all seems lost, help us do what had seemed impossible until it was done. This is the same Spirit that converted Paul, inspired Augustine, called Francis of Assisi, emboldened Catherine of Siena, consoled Ignatius of Loyola, comforted Thérèse of Lisieux, enlivened John XXIII, accompanied Teresa of Calcutta, strengthened Dorothy Day and encouraged John Paul II. It is the same Spirit that it with us today, and your Spirit has lost none of its power. Give me faith.

Help me to remember all Your saints. Most of them had it a lot worse than I do. They were frustrated with Your Church at times, struggled with it, and were occasionally persecuted by it. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by Church authorities. Ignatius of Loyola was thrown into jail by the Inquisition. Mary MacKillop was excommunicated. If they can trust in Your Church in the midst of those difficulties, so can I. Give me courage.

Help me to be peaceful  and forgive when people tell me that I don’t belong in the Church, that I’m a heretic for trying to make things better, or that I’m not a good Catholic. I know that I was baptized. You called me by name to be in Your Church, God. As long as I draw breath, help me remember how the holy waters of baptism welcomed me into Your holy family of sinners and saints. Let the voice that called me into Your Church be what I hear when other voices tell me that I’m not welcome in the church. Give me peace.

Most of all, help me to place all of my hope in Your Son.  My faith is in Jesus Christ. Give me only His love and his grace. That’s enough for me.

Help me God, and help Your Church, Your Spouse.

Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 7 2016 – God as terrorist?

charlie-hebdo-cover
-it is interesting to note the image above is of God-the-Father in the Trinitarian Christian God. It is recognizable by the triangle symbol and surrounding the Eye of Providence, as on US currency, connoting the Trinity and is classic iconography of the Christian God-the-Father. Charlie Hebdo did not satirize the Prophet Muhammed on its cover as it has in the past. Easier target?

-by Lara Rebello, International Business Times, UK

“The Tuesday edition of the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano criticised French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for the cover of its edition that marks the first anniversary of a terrorist attack on the publication’s Paris office. The anniversary edition cover shows God wearing blood stained robes with a Kalashnikov over his shoulder, accompanied by the headline: “One year on: the assassin is still out there.”

The newspaper said: “Behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism, the weekly is forgetting once more what religious leaders of every faith unceasingly repeat to reject violence in the name of religion – using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy, as pope Francis has said several times.”

The magazine’s review went on to add: “In Charlie Hebdo’s choice, there is the sad paradox of a world which is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of ridicule, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers’ faith in God, regardless of the religion.”

Today (6 January), one million copies of the magazine will hit stands, according to AFP. A year ago, on 7 January terrorists entered the publication’s office in Paris and killed 12 people, including eight members of the magazine’s staff.

Following the shooting, Pope Francis condemned killing in God’s name but warned religion could not be insulted. “To kill in the name of God is an absurdity,” Francis told reporters on the papal plane during an Asian tour.

While defending freedom of expression, he also cautioned “each religion has its dignity” and “there are limits”. “If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched, and that’s normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it.”

Love, and praying always for peace,
Matthew