Category Archives: Theology

Why is Catholic Marriage different?

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In my experience trying to understand Catholic teaching on marriage, the language is more like love poetry than a practical, utilitarian dissembling of rights and functions.  See Song of Songs.  WIFM = What’s In It For Me? is definitely NOT the Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage, quite the contrary, quite, even though, culturally, we may use the same word to describe a dramatically different understood reality.  If our current crisis causes this definition and clarity to come more fully into focus, grace doth abound.  Rom 5:20.

In this season of marriage ceremony, let us pray for those who take on this most solemn vocation.  I have recently begun attending a secular support group to offer support to divorced men and fathers as they bear the cross of divorce and separation from their children and the torture of the family court system, biased against men.  Please pray for all who suffer this most desperate of crosses, regardless of their sins.


-by A. David Anders, PhD

Catholic teaching on marriage elicits more practical opposition and misunderstanding than perhaps any other Catholic doctrine. When I ask people what is keeping them from full communion with the Catholic church, Catholic teaching and the canon law on marriage rank high on the list.

The reason for the opposition is easily understood.  Christ calls married couples to lifelong fidelity, no matter what. A valid sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved for any reason by any power on earth. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6) This teaching seems so difficult that the apostles themselves could hardly believe it. “If this is the situation between a husband and wife,” they said, “it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)  Christ himself admitted that the teaching was impossible without grace: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.” (Matthew 19:11)

Some Protestant denominations wish to make an exception to this law in cases of adultery or abandonment. They base this exception in the so-called “exception clause” of Matthew 19:9. But St. Paul explains Christ’s teaching very clearly in 1 Corinthians 7:10: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.”  For this reason, the Church allows for the “separation of bed and board” in cases of abuse and neglect, but in no way countenances the remarriage of those separated while the true spouse is still living.

Why? Why does Christ call Christian couples to such a high standard of fidelity, even to the point of embracing the cross of suffering? The reason is that Christian marriage is no mere human contract. It is a mystical participation in the sacrificial, self-giving love of Christ for his Church. (Ephesians 5) It is a special vocation to holiness, an ecclesial state in the same way that priesthood or religious life is an ecclesial state. Christian marriage participates in the sacramental mission of the Church to bring Christ to the world. St. John Paul II wrote that “Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.” (Familiaris Consortio)

The really glorious news is that God never calls us to a task without giving us the means to accomplish it. For this reason, the sacrament of marriage is accompanied by astonishing graces that are unique to the married state. The Second Vatican Council (Gaudium et Spes) put the matter quite beautifully:

“Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is governed and enriched by Christ’s redeeming power and the saving activity of the Church, so that this love may lead the spouses to God with powerful effect and may aid and strengthen them in sublime office of being a father or a mother. For this reason Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.”

To be sure, not all married couples experience or enjoy the full benefit of these graces. The increase of sanctifying grace in the sacraments calls forth our willing cooperation. Pope Pius XI explains: “[since] men do not reap the full fruit of the Sacraments . . . unless they cooperate with grace, the grace of matrimony will remain for the most part an unused talent hidden in the field.” (Casti Connubii)

In order to reap the full benefits of sacramental marriage, one must live a sincere, faithful and generous Catholic life. St. John Paul II explains:  “There is no doubt that these conditions must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in His grace, and frequent recourse to prayer and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation. Thus strengthened, Christian husbands and wives will be able to keep alive their awareness of the unique influence that the grace of the sacrament of marriage has on every aspect of married life.” (Familiaris Consortio).

Christian marriage is an awesome calling. Like all the sacraments, it is “a mystery,” but a mystery of astonishing fruitfulness. The law on Christian marriage is arduous because the end of Christian marriage is so sublime. Through it we are “caught up into divine love.”  The Council teaches: “Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.” (Gaudium et Spes)”

“…Thy Kingdom come!  Thy will be done!  On earth, as it is in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Grace Hurts

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Like Dietrich Boenhoffer, I hate cheap grace. I do. I despise it.  It’s a sham, a phony, a charlatan, a hypocrite – like me.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, (it is) baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”  { p. 43-4}, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Boenhoffer, 1937.

“All my requests seem to melt down to one for grace,” -Flannery O’Connor, 1962

What did Flannery O’Connor know about suffering and grace? At the age of twenty-six, Flannery would be diagnosed (like her father before her) with systemic lupus erythematosus (“lupus”), a disabling rheumatologic condition. Through chronic pain, recurrent illnesses and medication side effects, Flannery would write with keen insight, acerbic wit and devout Catholic faith. Thirteen years later, she would die. She was only thirty-nine years old. Flannery O’Connor knew suffering and she knew grace – a mean grace.

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”― Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, 1948-1964.

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”

“This notion that grace is healing omits the fact that before it heals, it cuts with the sword Christ said He came to bring.”

“[The trendy “beat” writers] call themselves holy but holiness costs and so far as I can see they pay nothing. It’s true that grace is the free gift of God but in order to put yourself in the way of being receptive to it you have to practice self-denial.”

Mt 16:24

Love,
Matthew

Why does the Catholic Church teach homosexual acts are intrinsically evil?

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“Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” -CCC 2357

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THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WANTS YOU TO HAVE AWESOME SEX!!!!  It’s true.  It does.  But, let’s define some terms.  You could say the Catholic Church holds sexual union as sacred.  So sacred it places it within and confines it to a sacrament.  In Catholic theology, sacraments are “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us.”

This is easier if you have had some philosophy, literally the “love of wisdom”.  Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.

Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. In more casual speech, by extension, “philosophy” can refer to “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group”.

The Church, from the beginning, has understood the world has an implied rational order due to the nature of creation itself.  The Church “holds these truths to be self-evident”, so to speak, when reflected upon.  Truth cannot contradict truth.

But, humans being sinful beings, can and do and have always and will always pervert the rational truth distilled from philosophy and revelation to fit their own agendas, to fit their own definitions of their “truths”.

The Church does not believe there are many “truths”.  Rather, it holds there is only One Truth, Jesus Christ, and it strives, under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit, to come to an ever more full understanding of that Truth.

In Catholicism, a “mystery” is not something unknowable, it is something infinitely knowable.  We are only limited by our own humanity as to why God had pre-ordained such things, and things as such.

We may NOT make ourselves gods, and make our own “truths”.  We do, therefore, have free will, as God’s gift, and, frankly, also the inherent challenge and responsibility to use or to abuse the created world as we do, even contrary to the Creator’s will.  We have the freedom to cure terrible diseases, to feed the starving, to free slaves, but also to commit genocide, to enslave, to exploit, to oppress, to make war, to annihilate.  We also have the freedom to use our sexual gifts, our ability to participate in the creation of beautiful life, and the freedom to abuse them towards selfish and unproductive ends.

There is no genuine love of the Creator nor anything else without free will.  The realization of the gift of free will means, as with any freedom or authority we may possess, that there is also the intrinsic freedom to abuse our free will, to choose wrongly, to act against the intentions and the will of the Creator.  This is a heavy responsibility.  We must choose wisely.  Our choices have consequences here, in this life, and in eternity.

The Natural Law

Very simply put, the natural law is that moral behavior which can be determined through reason by its architecture, form, function, and effects.  The end NEVER justifies the means.  The Catholic Church understands human beings to consist of body and mind, the physical and the non-physical (soul), and that the two are inextricably linked. Humans are capable, but only proper moral formation inclines them to judge rightly, of discerning the difference between good and evil because they have a conscience, and the divinely mandated obligation to do so.

The Divine Law

Gen. 19:8-9,13, Jude 7, Ezek. 16:49-50, Lev. 18:22, 20:13, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Romans 1:27, provoking the wrath of the Almighty.  Prov 1:7.

Love must be fruitful

The Catholic definition of “love” is very specific.  It MUST, NO exceptions, comport to the the natural moral law.  It MUST, same deal, comport to the Divine law.  It MUST be open to life.  It MUST be open to fecundity, and fruitfulness.  It MUST occur within the Sacrament of Marital Union.

  1. Because homosexual acts violate the natural law as implied by the sexual “complementarity”, or sexual differences, between male and female, both in biology, and in the total complementarity of a person’s personal identity in  their masculinity or femininity,
  2. Because they violate the Divine law,
  3. Because, by definition, they cannot be naturally fecund, ever, and are inherently closed to natural procreation,
  4. Because of the above, homosexual acts cannot, ever, be blessed in the Sacrament of Marriage,
  5. Because of all these, homosexual acts can never be approved.

This position is objectively determined as a consequence of faith in Jesus Christ.  It has nothing to do with “liking” or “disliking” anyone.   It has nothing to do with subjective preferences, conditions, opinions, or agendas.  Nothing.  It has been the Church’s consistent teaching.  Those who object are just waking up to the Church’s teaching in greater clarity, which cannot be a bad thing.  “Truth is not determined by a majority.” – BXVI

All are called to chastity in their particular state of life.  Homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion, dignity, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives.

Love,
Matthew

SBNR: “I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this I will build…politically neutral universally nice feelings!” :) Look, Ma! No Cross!!!!

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“I can love Jesus without going to Church.”  -any wishy-washy, spineless, pseudo-Christian teenager, adult, etc.


-by Fr. Dwight Longnecker, a former Evangelical Protestant, graduate of Bob Jones University, turned Anglican priest, turned Catholic priest.

Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, riding his motorcycle and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias. They live in Greenville, South Carolina with a black Labrador named Anna, a chocolate Lab named Felicity, a cat named James and various other pets.

No. Because the Lord Jesus Christ–the only begotten Son of the Father–took human flesh He therefore sanctified the physical realm. Because He took human flesh; human flesh matters. Because He took on physical matter; matter matters. My body matters for it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. My Church matters. The physical church building matters. The One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church–the Catholic Church with all her institutions and history and paperwork and bureacracy and canon law and dogma–all of it matters. The incense and the candles and the books and the bells. They all matter.

The saints and their suffering matters. My rosary and my books of theology and my Infant of Prague and my plaster St Therese and my Our Lady of Lourdes–soiled and with a hole in her head because a nun from the convent where I got her dropped her once–that matters, and so does my starving neighbor and my friend with a headache and my child who needs a hug and a listening ear. They matter.

And so does the Blessed Sacrament which is the focus of the presence of God in the physical.

…and because of this I kneel to adore.”

To connect and correct

Servant of God, Fr. Isaac Hecker, CSP, was a 19th-century convert to Catholicism who became a priest and founded the American religious order known as the Paulists.  He summed it up best. Religion, said Hecker, helps you to “connect and correct.” You are invited into a community to connect with one another and with a tradition. At the same time, you are corrected when you need to be. And you may be called to correct your own community — though a special kind of discernment and humility is required in those cases.

Endurance: A Hecker Reflection

“Jesus our Saviour fell oftentimes with the excessive weight of His cross, in order to show us that He has not called us to enjoy success but to support adversity; to show us that as long as our cross does not exceed our strength, self-centeredness will always find room to conceal itself and live. It is in the death of our self-centeredness that gives rise to God’s love in our hearts. As Blessed John of Avila writes, “for it is its (love-of-self’s) life that has given death to the love of God.”

Jesus Christ not only enjoined upon us to sell all that we have and give it to the poor, if we would be His disciples, but He said also, “take up your cross and follow Me.” Everyone is therefore supposed to have a cross. To get rid of it is not what the Saviour asks, but to take it up and follow Him. Ah My Lord, it is not the work of a moment, not that of a child to take up your cross the weight of which surpasses our strength; to bear it and fall under it, and bear it again, and finally to be mercifully crucified on it. This is what God asks us to do, for this is what Jesus did and to follow Jesus is to accept God’s invitation to do the same. It requires much more courage to follow Jesus Christ to the conquest of heaven than to follow Caesar to the conquest of the entire universe.”

Our crosses MUST exceed our own strength.  It is God’s will.  To show us how utterly dependent we are on Him.  Yes, Lord, yes.  Thank you for my sweet crushing crosses.  They that show me how much I NEED YOU!!!!  Amen.  Amen.  Praise Him!!!!

Love,
Matthew

Obedience & Informed Conscience

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Rev. Thomas Petri, OP
Vice President and Academic Dean
Instructor of Moral Theology and Pastoral Studies
Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception
Dominican House of Studies, Wash, DC

from Interfaith Voices, 2/12/15

Listen here:

Moderator:   

“One of the oldest spiritual struggles experienced by serious Catholics is the struggle between following Church teaching and following one’s conscience when they’re in conflict. Earlier, we heard from Father Tony Flannery, an Irish priest who was recently silenced by the Vatican for openly questioning Church teachings on the origins of the priesthood, women’s ordination and homosexuality. The Irish hierarchy said he had broken his vow of obedience, but Father Flannery believed he had to follow a higher authority, his conscience.

For another view, we turned to another priest named Father Thomas Petri, OP. He’s an instructor in moral theology and pastoral studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. When we presented him with Father Flannery’s dilemma, he had a very different answer.”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, to put it very succinctly, priests take a vow of obedience or make a promise of obedience because they’re public representatives of the Church. They’re public persons. So when a man is ordained, he can no longer claim to be a private person. He may still have elements of his life that the faithful don’t see, but he still is in some ways representing the Church publicly.

So the vow of obedience and the promise of obedience to say Church teachings or to what the Church believes and teaches, helps him to live that way and to authentically then witness to what the Church puts forth as the Gospel and teaching of Jesus Christ.”

Moderator: 

“So if you were Tony Flannery and you disagreed on some of the things that he does, what would you do?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, first of all, I wouldn’t broadcast it to begin with. I wouldn’t broadcast it. I would take it to prayer. I would take it to spiritual direction. I would take it to my superiors. I would want to study it. I know a very prominent, for example, sister who is now on the International Theological Commission who was once in favor of women’s ordination. She studied herself out of that position. She was, for the longest time, one of the few nuns in America who had a PhD in theology in the late 70s and early 80s, because her mind was open to looking this up and trying to figure out why the Church teaches what it does. That’s what I hope I would do if I ever were to come across this bridge.”

Moderator:

“And of course I don’t know who that nun is but I know an awful lot of people who work on that issue. I don’t know anybody that’s argued themselves out of it.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Well, Sister Sarah Butler would be the one you’d want to look up.”

Moderator: 

“Yes, okay. That’s a name that I’ve heard, I must admit. Now, as we mentioned in the introduction, there are many Catholics over many centuries who have come into conflict between this idea of obedience and the idea of conscience. The conscience tells them something other than what the Church teaching is. So how do they relate to each other in Catholic teaching? What’s the official word on that?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, when we talk about conscience, so often it’s used as a substitute for personal opinion. It’s my personal opinion that this is true or that is true. So we have to mean something different about the word conscience than we do personal opinion, and the Church’s position, down through the century, has always been faithful living in conscience, that their conscience is formed by living the life of the faith, living life with Jesus Christ. Living life in worship of God day in and day out, Sunday after Sunday, going to Mass, preaching, studying the word, being docile to what the saints and the fathers have said, that this forms their conscience.

So that’s what we mean when we talk about conscience in a certain sense. When we talk about a priest’s obedience and his relationship to conscience, well, we’re talking about a priest who in good conscience made a public commitment to the Church and to be faithful to the Church. And certainly there can be times in a priest’s life when those do come into conflict in his own existential experience, his own living the life. Absolutely. But how do you handle that, that’s a different question.”

Moderator:

“And Father Tony Flannery did what – certainly he’s not the first, he went public –”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Sure.”

Moderator:                  “– with some of the struggles that he was having with various teachings of the Church, but a Catholic I believe is supposed to have something called an informed conscience, what does that mean?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Well, it means just those things I was talking about. To have an informed conscience is simply to not walk around blindly. Well, whatever I think is right that must be right. That’s not an informed conscience. It doesn’t mean not questioning, it doesn’t mean being a robot and just taking everything in blindly and without question, but it does mean giving the Church the benefit of the doubt and allowing it to sink in so that it informs my life.”

Moderator:                  “So Church teaching and someone’s conscience might not always coincide or else conscience would be totally redundant, wouldn’t it?”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Well, that’s right. Also, a person’s conscience cannot simply be the blind guide either because culture –”

Moderator:                  “No, no, I’m talking about an informed conscience, somebody who knows what the Church teaches, has reflected on it, maybe prayed about it, all that sort of stuff. I know plenty of people who have done that and still have conflicts.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Well, still have conflicts. So the question would be when you have a conflict, how are you going about living your life within that conflict? Right. And the Church’s traditional teaching has always been that Catholics who have difficulty in conscience should be docile to the wisdom of the centuries and the wisdom of the Church, of the wisdom of the Church, and then to try to work through their difficulties with their pastors, with the Saints, with the (writings of the historical) Fathers of the Church.”

Moderator:      

“Let me quote you something from the official teaching of the Church. This is from the document on religious liberty at the Second Vatican Council and we all know that official councils of the Church are the highest teaching authority. It says, and I’m quoting, “The individual must not be forced to act against conscience nor be prevented from acting according to conscience, especially in religious matters.” And in another place, it says, “It is therefore fully in accordance with the nature of faith that in religious matters that every form of human coercion should be excluded.” So it seems to me that be excluded.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Absolutely.”

Moderator:                  “So it seems to me that what I always learned as the primacy of conscience, is in fact primary if a person is informed and has reflected on it.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Well, I guess it goes to what we mean by informed here but I would say that the document, the Vatican II document on religious liberty is primary concerned with forcing conversions which you know in the Catholic tradition, as in other traditions, that was a sad part of our history. What we’re talking about is Catholics who are baptized and baptized into the faith of the Catholic Church and presumably baptized and have at some point in their life accepted the Catholic Church as the granter of truth as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Then having a difficulty or some sort of conflict and then following that, publically dissenting from the Catholic Church and what the Catholic Church teaches as you say. That’s a completely different question than coercion. Because then the question is, is this baptized person, has this baptized person really embraced and fully lived the teaching of Jesus Christ as it is communicated to us by the Church?”

Moderator:   

“I’m thinking in terms of Father Tony Flannery’s case, and he’s not alone on this. There are certainly a number of people in recent Church history who when they have expressed a view that is not a 100 percent in accord with the Church’s teaching, get faced with sign this statement of orthodoxy which is a direct opposition to what they believe.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “In conscience.”

Moderator:                  “Right. Or keep quiet and don’t say anything more about it. And it would be against their conscience to sign a statement that they don’t agree with. They would be lying essentially.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Right. So what I would want to go back to on that is my initial point that a priest is a public person. He is a public representative of the Church and I think any corporation. Even if we just take it away from the spiritual and bring it to the secular, any corporation, if you have a CEO of the corporation and saying no, you should be Microsoft and not Apple, can I say that on – we’re not getting paid for these endorsements, but you should buy Microsoft and not Apple, but I work for Apple. That’s a real problem for the corporation.

The same is true for the Church. If you have a priest who has been ordained to be faithful and has made a public commitment of fidelity, he’s given the oath of fidelity; he now then goes out as a priest that others can look at as a representative of the Church. He goes out and says things that are directly contrary because he’s having his own personal crisis or conflict. He in fact is leading people away from the Church.”

Moderator:

“But what would you say to a priest who makes a statement like that out of the deep concern for the Church because he’s out there with the faithful – this particular priest gave retreats and so forth all over the country of Ireland. So he knew a lot of people who were in conflict with the teaching of the Church. He was deeply concerned about the future of the Church and it’s direction. So he wasn’t trying to be obtuse. He was expressing this out of love for the Church. Most people that have been in this situation, that I know, did it for the same motive.”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“And I would not disagree with that. I think most people do this out of good intentions and good faith, but when a priest then sets himself up in opposition to the Church, he is claiming for himself a personal authority that he really doesn’t have. He has as an individual but he no longer speaks for the Church. You see? So when the Church says – when the congregation for the doctrine of faith says to Father Flannery, you cannot present yourself publicly as a priest, well, it’s because he really no longer has been. It’s an after the fact sort of thing.”

Moderator:

“Well, most of the priests that I’ve known that have expressed some dissenting view publicly have made it clear that the official teaching is this but these are the questions that I have and I’m concerned about the future of the Church whether it should let’s use some concrete examples. Whether ordained women or treat lesbian and gay people differently or whatever it is that they’re concerned about, it’s because they detect that there is a need for a more loving Church and they’re representing that Church. At least that’s how I’ve heard it.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Sure. And I would want to dispute the idea that the Church is not loving because it holds to what it believes to be the revealed word of Jesus Christ. So I would want to dispute that. But I would say that there is one thing for a priest to say. ‘Well, here’s what the Church has traditionally taught. I don’t quite understand it. I’m not sure I agree with it.’ There is quite another thing for a priest to publicly say the Church is wrong.”

Moderator:

“How in the world then does change take place in the Church? If you can’t have open discussion, and may I say Pope Francis at the recent Synod on the Family, invited all those present to say what they think, even if they thought he didn’t agree with them.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Right. That’s right. Look, there’s some things that simply cannot change. Some things that simply cannot change in the Church, and I realize that’s an unpopular position in today’s culture where we vote in and out politicians and people sometimes think well, the new pope is going to come in, he’s going to change this or – the pope does not have authority, nor do the bishops nor does the magisterium of the Church to change anything that has already been determined to have been revealed by Jesus Christ and his Apostles. Other areas, there can be development but nothing that contradicts what Christ Himself has done and said.”

Moderator:

“But you know and I know that there are Church teachings, and I suppose we could dispute about whether they go back to the apostles or not, but there are Church teachings on issues which were considered very sacred at one time which have changed. The position on usury. Charging interest on lending for example. Position on evolution. The ways in which it’s acceptable to interpret scripture; we used to do it literally. We no longer do it that way. Those are significant things which have changed over time.”

Father Thomas Petri:

“Yeah, I’m not sure – I mean, they might be perceived as significant, but we never declared those to be divinely revealed, any of those teachings. They would’ve been sort of lower level outgrowths of what we do know to be divinely revealed and what we believe to be divinely revealed. That’s really what I want to say to that. Not all teachings have the same weight. Not all the teachings have the same levels of fidelity and obedience that are required.”

Moderator:

“But where conscience comes up today as we all know has a lot to do with issues of sexuality, and one of the most common – and if you read the polls, widely common, has to do with married couples and contraception. I’m sure you’ve known, too, and I certainly have, plenty of married couples who are much aware that the official teaching of the Church is opposed to the use of artificial contraception.

So they know what the Church teaches, they’re informed, but they don’t believe for reasons of health or finances or whatever, that they can risk having more children. And natural family planning doesn’t work for them let’s say. It doesn’t work for a number of people. So they use it in good conscience. And if you read the polls, it’s about a vast majority.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Oh, it’s pretty high. I can see that.”

Moderator:                  “It’s a vast majority of Catholics. And plenty of priests assure them, at least privately, that this is okay. So how does that fit?”

Father Thomas Petri:  Well, I would say a couple of things about that. First of all, it goes back to what we were talking about, what constitutes a formed conscience? For a person to simply know that the Church teaches that you shouldn’t do it, that’s not really a formed conscience. That’s just knowledge. That’s just information. To have a formed conscience is to live day in and day out the life of the faith, the life of the Church.”

Moderator:                  “And a number of these people do. They’re regular communicants.”

Father Thomas Petri:             “Well, certainly they do but have they ever been exposed to a real rationale, like the real reasons why the Church teaches this? And I think you would agree with me, how many priests talk about this? A few. Very few.”

Moderator:                  “Almost none.”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Exactly. Have they ever been exposed to a dynamic priest who can explain why this is better than the other way? Have they been exposed to John Paul’s theology of the body for example which is what he was trying to do with that, trying to get people to see this is actually the more beautiful way to live. What you just said a minute ago. Just because they know the Church teaches against it, doesn’t seem to meet or constitute a formed conscience. How have they lived? Have they ever really studied it? Have they ever really tried to understand why the Church would say that? Most of them – they just know – well, I know the Church teaches against this but we do it anyway.”

Moderator:  

“Now, when I talked to Father Flannery, one of his main complaints was not that the Vatican said that his views were incorrect, but how they dealt with him. For example, his views had been public in Ireland for some time before they censured him. But they didn’t dialogue with him. They didn’t invite him to dialogue. They didn’t respond to him when he said he wanted to dialogue. They simply demanded that he sign this statement of orthodoxy and be silent. They never dealt with him face-to-face. So it raises the question, is this the way to deal with a man whose been a priest for 40 years?”

Father Thomas Petri: 

“Sure. We have one side of the story; I don’t know the other side of the story. Sometimes there is dialogue and I trust what Father Flannery has said, that that’s his experience, and all I can say is if true, that’s how he experienced it, I think anybody would say that that’s not the appropriate way to deal with a priest or to deal with these issues. Now, from my own perspective, I do know theologians and priests who have gotten into this sort of conundrum with the Holy See and that wasn’t their experience at all. It was completely different.”

Moderator:

“It seems to me that there is however a huge disconnect between what the Church teaches, particularly on issues of sexuality, and what the laity actually do. All you’ve got to do is look at the polls to see that in both North America and Western Europe. So are, “Disobedient” priest like Tony Flannery a symptom of that or is he some kind of a wakeup call that maybe the hierarchy should pay more attention?”

Father Thomas Petri:

“No, I don’t think he’s a wake-up call because you refer to the polls and polling Catholics, there are a number of Catholics who are nominal Catholics. They self-identify as a Catholic but they’re not necessarily living the life of the Church. They’re not going to Mass but maybe twice a year, they’re not soaking in the preaching, they may not even have good preaching depending on who their pastor or priest is. But they don’t necessarily typify what we would call a true, dedicated, faithful Catholic. They may be baptized, they may be struggling, they may trying to live the faith as best they can but if they’re not engaging these issues from the life of faith, they’re not engaging them at all as far as we’re concerned.”

Moderator:                  “Thank you so much for joining us today.”

Father Thomas Petri:  “Thank you, Maryanne.”

Moderator:                  “Father Thomas Petri is an instructor in moral theology and pastoral studies at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. where he also serves as an academic dean and vice president.”

“Truth is not determined by a majority.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Love,
Matthew

The Humility of Tradition

tradition-crest

Technology is new.  It is flashy!!! 🙂  It is impressive!!!  But, it ALL comes from somewhere.  It does.  It is not, NEVER created out of nothing (ex nihilo).  Frankly, one of the challenges of working with and in technology is all the “newness” coming at the practitioner with light speed!  Couple the techno-babble with virulent marketing, new packaging, new acronyms, frankly, meant to confuse, dazzle, and distract and too quickly lead to belief in its uniqueness, its “newness” and it down right gives the engineer a headache!

But, with length of experience and good training, the technologist learns in his decades of practice that nothing ever comes from nothing.  It really is all a progression of what came before, always.  Maybe a tweak here, or a little stardust there.  But, the technologist’s first duty when presented with “NEW & IMPROVED!!!” is where does this actually come from?  What is it’s phylum, species, genus?  Once that curtain is pulled back, “Oh, I get it!!” results with years of training and practice, and you do. 🙂

constantiussanders
-by Br Constantius Sanders, OP

“Ever tried to do something completely original? Give up on traditions? Do something brand new, entirely of your own doing? It’s really not possible. Sure, you can act uniquely, but only accidentally. We rely on traditions to do anything of substance, such as the languages we use to communicate and the customs that dictate effective interaction. Just about everything we use has an origin outside of us. The same is true for our existence and the existence of the world around us. We simply can’t be entirely original. Only One has ever been completely original, and He is the origin of all things. This is a comforting, and humbling, truth.

Recognizing our inability to be original and our dependence on traditions is a necessary part of being human. Tradition, or receiving what is “handed on,” gives us the very tools by which we interact with the world around us. In many ways our lives and work are given their shape by those who have gone before us. Acknowledging the role that tradition plays in our lives is little more than accepting a truth about human existence. It is humbling to realize how dependent we are on others, both past and present, in order to do just about anything.

Think of modern scientists. They have to accept many traditions in order to accomplish new work. The entire body of scientific knowledge, as well as the customs regulating how to communicate it, are simply traditions. The same is true in the liberal arts, in culture, and in any other pursuit. One must be immersed in a tradition in order to contribute to that field. This is what makes different traditions or “schools” of thought so important. It is a recognition of the value of the work that went before you, and the desire to further its study. We are not the creators of our pursuits. We rely on traditions to give us the form in which we can flourish.

The same is true in religion. We are not the founders of our spiritual lives or the inventors of salvation history. The content of faith is passed down from Christian to Christian. For Catholics in particular, the Tradition we have been given has already been tried and found fruitful by those who came before us. It is a whole way of life which we take on to grow in knowledge and love of God. We can’t do it on our own. Everything has first been “handed on” to us, in order that we might discover its promises for ourselves. From the stories of the Old Testament, to its fulfillment in the New, and the development of the Faith through the centuries, Tradition is what gives us the supernatural form in which our lives of faith can flourish.

Recognizing any tradition can often seem like asking a fish to notice the water it swims in. Its ubiquity can lead to a lack of appreciation. Yet a fish must be humble enough to accept the truth that it can’t live without water. In an age that prizes self-determination, it is interesting to note that while many self-determining groups or individuals strive to be absolutely original, they turn out to be rather similar. On the other hand, accepting tradition (especially our Tradition of faith) actually allows us to contribute in unique ways, without the pressure of trying to be or do something completely new. We can still help create great things or develop great ideas, but this is done by first recognizing both the values and limits of what already is. Thankfully, we don’t have to be ex nihilo creators of the next brilliant new thing. In fact, we can’t.”

Tradition!

Tradition is important to every person and every group of people. It is part of our very identity. It represents our education, our culture, everything that has been handed on to us by the previous generation. Tradition is—literally—what is handed on. The term comes from the Latin word tradere, ‘‘to hand on.’’ Not all traditions are important. Some are frivolous or even harmful (see Mk 7:8 and Col 2:8 on traditions that are merely ‘‘of men’’). But some are very important indeed.

For Christians, the faith that has been handed on to us from Christ and the apostles is of unparalleled importance. In Catholic circles, this passing down of the faith is referred to as ‘‘sacred Tradition’’ or ‘‘apostolic Tradition’’ (with a capital ‘‘T’’ to distinguish it from other, lesser, ‘‘lower-case’’ traditions, including those merely ‘‘of men’’).

At first the apostles handed on the faith orally—through their preaching—but with time some of them and their associates wrote the documents that form the New Testament, which together with the Old Testament comprise sacred Scripture. Since Scripture has been handed down to us from the apostles, it can be seen as the written part of Sacred Tradition.

Whether or not an item of Tradition was written down in Scripture, it was still important and binding for believers. A number of places in the New Testament exhort the reader to maintain Sacred Tradition  (e.g.,1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thes 3:6), and in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, St. Paul bluntly tells his readers to ‘‘stand firm  and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.’’ So whether Christian Tradition was received orally or in writing, it was  authoritative.  Another noteworthy passage is 2 Timothy 2:2, in which the apostle instructs his protégé, ‘‘what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.’’ Bearing in mind that this letter is Paul’s swan song, written just before he died (2 Tm 4:6–8), Paul is exhorting the transmission of Sacred Tradition across generations of Christian leaders—from his generation, to Timothy’s generation, to the ones that will follow. It was through the Church  Fathers that this transmission would be accomplished.

The Fathers of the Church

Certain individuals in the early Christian centuries are referred to as Church Fathers or ‘‘the Fathers of the Church.’’ The origin of this analogy is found in the New Testament, which depicts the apostles as the fathers both of individual converts and as the fathers of particular churches.  Since the apostles spiritually provided for, taught, and disciplined those under their care, it was natural to apply the analogy of fatherhood to them (though of course this has its limits and must not be confused with the unique Fatherhood of God; see Mt 23:9).  After the time of the apostles, others also spiritually provided for, taught, and disciplined the Christian community, and it was natural to apply the analogy of fatherhood to them as well. This was the case especially with bishops, who were regarded as the  spiritual fathers of the communities that they served.

In time, the concept came to be applied in a general way to those who shaped the faith and practice of the Church in its earliest centuries. They became ‘‘Fathers’’ not only for their own age but for all ages that would follow.  Some of these—the ones who heard the preaching of the apostles themselves or lived very shortly after the time of the apostles—came to be called the ‘‘Apostolic Fathers’’ or ‘‘Sub-Apostolic Fathers.’’  Together with the Fathers of later ages, they were important witnesses to the apostolic Tradition.

Though pronounced somewhat differently in Greek and Latin, the word for ‘‘father’’ in both languages is pater. A number of terms have been derived from this word, and on account of it we refer to the early Christian centuries as the patristic age (the age ‘‘of the fathers’’ ) and to the study of the Fathers as patrology.

Love,
Matthew

Pornography

pornography-300x300

“Whom/what shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or the sword?
As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:35-39

Jn 15:5

Pornography is a BIG problem in modern society. Actually, no. Pornography is a HUGE problem in modern society. Did you know that 10-15% of all search engine requests and 20% of smart phone searches are for pornography? Studies show that 90% of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to pornography before they are 18 years old. In addition, 70% of young men and 20% of young women view pornography every week and pornographic sites have more monthly visitors than Twitter and Amazon combined.

We should first, as the Jesuits say, define our terms. The word “pornography” comes from the Greek words, “porne,”meaning a harlot, prostitute, or whore, and “graphos,” meaning a writing or depiction. If we put both words together we arrive at “A depiction or description of the activities of whores.”

With the theatre debut of “Fifty Shades of Grey” imminent, does the media we consume affect us?  Positively?  Negatively?  Violent video games?  Music?  Violence in fim?  Print?  The news?  Literature?  Do we have an adult responsibility to intentionally choose the media we expose ourselves towards?  Guided by a moral path?   Based in and on our values?  Imho, I believe the answer is “yes” to all of the above.  It is His grace ALONE which can save us, in the here and now.  I say that with conviction as a sinner, who has prayed for His grace and received, and I continue to struggle but also feel, in a very real way, His healing presence.  I do.  Mt 7:7.  Pray for me, please.

Jonathon_van_Maren.jpg_300_300_55gray_s_c1

from https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/not-convinced-that-porn-is-evil-then-quit-because-its-making-you-miserable

-by Jonathan Van Maren

PORNOGRAPHY Tue Feb 3, 2015 – 10:12 am EST

Not convinced that porn is wrong? Then quit because it’s making you miserable.

Pornography

I was very pleased to see that GQ Magazine has joined the growing number of secular publications that are beginning the painful process of examining our out-of-control cultural obsession with pornography, recently publishing an article entitled 10 Reasons You Should Quit Watching Porn.

While a number of prominent feminists (including Naomi Wolf) have openly condemned pornography, men have been slow to engage in the discussion, for obvious reasons. Recently, I decided I wanted to get a male perspective on the porn plague for my radio show—so I called up one of the foremost male scholars in the field, Dr. Robert Jensen, author of both “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity” and “Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality,” co-authored with Dr. Gail Dines.

Dr. Jensen, a self-described radical feminist, approaches the pornography discussion with a pragmatism that eschews much of the sound and fury that makes up the debate elsewhere. Men, he believes, often just really haven’t thought through what they’re doing when they consume porn.

“For me,” he told me, “the challenge to men—originally it was just the challenge to myself, and then I became part of the [anti-porn] movement—a broader challenge was, ‘Is that who we want to be? Is that consistent with our own moral principles and political principles?’ And even at a more basic level, does that kind of arrangement really make us happy? Do we feel fulfilled?

And that’s one of the ways we need to speak about this. Not just to talk about the sexual exploitation industries, in the way that they injure women—and they do injure women in all sorts of ways—but also the way they leave us men in very constrained, confined, and in the end incredible roles…The effect of these sexual exploitation industries and then violence more generally on women is pretty clear. But I think men also have to think about what it does to us as human beings.

A lot of this boils down to how pornography inevitably shapes the relationships men have with the women in their lives. Dr. Jensen is not convinced by male bravado in regards to porn use. When they obsess over pornography, men often watch the rest of their lives disintegrate.

I’ve spoken to a lot of men and women over the years, both in formal interview situations and just informally after talks or presentations. And what’s clear is that the repeated habitual use of pornography, especially the most cruel and degrading forms of pornography that present women as these degraded objects, that the habitual use of that kind of pornography by men has a direct effect on relationships.

So, I’ve heard from many men and women about how the male partner’s use of pornography will distort what had perhaps prior to that been a healthy, intimate and sexual relationship. These stories are piling up everywhere. I always say – it’s partly joke but it’s actually very accurate – that if you want to know about the effects of repeated pornography use on heterosexual relationships in this culture, there are two kinds of people you can ask. One is marriage therapists and the other is divorce lawyers, because these things are actually coming up as relationships disintegrate.

Dr. Robert Jensen sees pornography as a great threat to women’s rights, because the systematic dehumanization of women through pornography is leaking into the culture in dangerous ways.

“Society has become less sexist,” he told me. “Women have more access to higher education, they can make more inroads into politics and government…but we’ve also lost ground. And I think this question of rape, pornography, and the trivializing of sexual violence is one of those reasons where we’ve lost ground, and I think in fact that’s part of the reason people have so much trouble talking about pornography. Now, I’ve always said that, and people say, ‘Well, the reason we don’t talk about porn is we have trouble talking about sex!’ And I always say, ‘Look around at this culture. People are talking about sex all the time!’”

The cultural discussion around pornography, Dr. Jensen points out, is actually a very good opportunity for feminists and religious conservatives to find common ground. Both groups, after all, oppose the dehumanization of women.

I think this is actually one of the issues where conversation between conservatives – you know, often people rooted in a particular religious perspective – there’s a real possibility for dialogue with a least one part of the feminist movement. Now, as you pointed out, other segments of the feminist movement are celebrating pornography and calling it liberation, and the dialogue there is more difficult. But I’m always eager to engage on all of these issues, and as someone who considers himself on the Left, and a radical feminist, but also goes to church, I find church space is very important for this because even when there are significant differences in theology between people within a Christian community in my case, there’s still the common ground for dialogue and that’s more important than ever.

Men, Dr. Jensen says, hate being talked down to—which is one of the reasons that men can speak out about pornography to other men in a powerful way.

When I talk to men about this, I don’t pretend that, you know, I’m somehow on high and mighty throne telling people how to behave. I grew up as a man in, post-WWII America, what I would call the Playboy World, and I struggled with this and to some degree still struggle, which is why I stay away from pornography of all kinds because I feel like it takes me into a place where I don’t like the person I am. Now that’s often a hard conversation for men who are trained to be tough and stoic and not reveal emotion, but those are the kind of conversations I think we have to have and I think we can have them. At least in my own life, I know I’ve been able to have them.

And these conversations, Dr. Jensen believes, are essential to moving the discussion forward. There is no one magic bullet, no one strategy to fighting the influence of pornography in our culture. But opening up dialogue with male consumers is one indispensable part of that strategy.

“One thing I’ve learned is that if you’re man, and you’re trying to disconnect from the pornographic world by yourself, if you want to go it alone, I can guarantee you you’ll fail,” he told me. “Because these are difficult questions and they’re very hard to negotiate on our own.”

So we have to find these kinds of spaces where men can talk to each other and the notion of porn as addiction is, I think, actually very complex. I’m not comfortable calling the use of pornography or the use of any media an addiction in terms that we typically use that for drugs and alcohol. But certainly there are patterns of habitual repeated use that people engaged in the activity can recognize is counterproductive, that it’s hurting themselves – yet they’re compelled to do it. Whether we call that compulsion addiction, or whatever we want to call it, men are more and more aware of this.

When I first started doing work on this, 25 years ago, I could be guaranteed that most men would be hostile. For what I’ve noticed and what Gail [Dines] and I talked about over the years is that because more and more men are troubled by exactly what you’re describing, the sense that what they’re doing is not only wrong in some political or moral sense, but it’s affecting the way they are able to be with their female partner, that these men are compelled now to think about this almost out of self-interest, because they can feel what it’s doing to them. I think that’s part of the solution to this problem, to make spaces more attractive to men to talk about this.

One of my friends in the anti-porn movement often notes that men are generally the problem when it comes to porn—but they also are, and must be, the solution. When men start fully realizing what pornography is doing to them—destroying their healthy relationships with female partners, friends, and family members, rewiring their brains in dangerous ways, twisting their view of sexuality, and physical fallout including erectile dysfunction – they recognize that using pornography just isn’t worth it. Pornography is fantasy, not real life – but it has the power to destroy so much real happiness.”

Brain on Porn:  JAMA Psychiatry
Brain on Porn2

Love,
Matthew

Holy Hatred? Repent! And believe in the Gospel!

holyhatred

-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (Br Humbert received his PhD in mathematics from Ohio State University prior to joining the Order.)

“Do I not hate those who hate You,
abhor those who rise against You?
I hate them with a perfect hate,
and they are foes to me.”
-(Psalm 139:21-22)

“With the anniversary of the martyrdom of the second-century Roman priest St. Valentine coming up, we hear a lot of talk about love.  But what about hate?

The Psalmist, in one of several passages excised from the Liturgy of the Hours, shows forth his utter contempt for the enemies of God. At the time, when the kingdom of Israel was fighting to survive among several hostile nations and even factions within itself, the people who rose up against God were seeking to take the life of this psalm’s composer. Today, however, the word “hate” is often employed to undermine the Gospel: Christians, because of violence in the Bible, are continually accused of hate-mongering; preaching the truth about love, marriage, and human nature is often denounced or even prosecuted as “hate speech”; and Fundamentalist protesters bearing signs that read “God hates [insert group here]” only add to the charges. With this in mind, how can hatred be justified, and what can make the Psalmist’s “perfect hate” actually a form of love?

When we consider the nature of hatred, as one of the passions within the body and the soul, we see that it is directly opposed to love, but also that it cannot exist without love. For example, it is impossible to love and hate the same movie. I can say I hated the recent Hobbit films because I loved the book and found the movies to be lacking in the book’s goodness. Love and hate often come together with regard to a limited good, so that willing that good for someone is also willing that someone else be deprived of it: thus if I wish for Ohio State to win the Big Ten championship, I necessarily also wish that Michigan may not win it. (Nothing personal against the team up north, but there can only be one winner.)

However, the salvation of our souls is not a zero-sum game, for eternal life is an unlimited good. In fact, if we love God and wish our own salvation, then we necessarily wish for our neighbors to be saved, for “if anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Even those who turn against God and oppose us demand our love, as Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:43-44).

To love our enemies, then, means to love who they are (namely, persons made in the image and likeness of God). It means to wish them well and, on a heroic level, to do good for them. Yet with this love comes a concomitant hatred, namely, for the obstacles to our enemies’ true flourishing, that is, their sins, by which they love some lesser good more than God. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains:

Consequently it is lawful to hate the sin in one’s brother, and whatever pertains to the defect of Divine justice, but we cannot hate our brother’s nature and grace without sin. Now it is part of our love for our brother that we hate the fault and the lack of good in him, since desire for another’s good is equivalent to hatred of his evil (ST II-II.34.3).

Moreover, advising our neighbors to cease from sin and return to friendship with God, that is, fraternal correction, is an act of charity and mercy. St. Thomas, following Cicero, even classifies vengeance as a virtue in this circumstance, “with the intention, not of harming, but of removing the harm done” (ST II-II.108.2). As we Dominicans read in the Rule of St. Augustine, when admonishing our brothers in community, we should always “let love of the sinner be united to hatred for his sin.”

Thus we should not hate our enemies (and the enemies of God) in themselves, but hate what it is that makes them enemies. This is the “perfect hate” of which the Psalmist speaks, perfect because it goes hand in hand with love of neighbor, hating whatever prevents him or her from achieving the ultimate goal of eternal life with God. Let us not fall prey to hating those who oppose us, but rather, as Pope Francis exhorts,

At least let us say to the Lord: “Lord, I am angry with this person, with that person. I pray to You for him and for her.” To pray for a person with whom I am irritated is a beautiful step forward in love, and an act of evangelization. Let us do it today! Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love! (Evangelii Gaudium 101)”

Love,
Matthew

Treasury of Merit

AllSaints

-from http://taylormarshall.com/2006/06/indulgences-and-treasury-of-merit.html

taylor_marshall
-by Dr Taylor Marshall

“I must admit that this was the last and most difficult doctrine for me to understand. In fact, I’ve only understood it for a couple of months. As an Anglican, I always held the doctrine of the Treasury of Merit and Indulgences as a major obstacle to Rome. In fact, when Catholics asked, “Why not just become Catholic?” I would usually ask them about indulgences and the treasury of merit and watch them back down. It seems that even Catholics are confused about these teachings and may even be a little embarrassed of them. Luther. Tetzel. Catholics don’t want to go there.

And so it was my “get out of jail free” card. The “ridiculous” doctrine of the Treasury of Merit was something that enabled me to remain Anglican in good conscience. As I began to seriously pray about becoming Roman Catholic I still had a major objection to the Treasury of Merit. It seemed so obviously medieval and late. I saw no Scriptural basis. I decided that if the rest of Catholicism was consistent, this doctrine must fit the system, even if I didn’t understand it. So I decided to move forward and accept it as an act of the will.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this about the Treasury of Merit:

1476 We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury, which is “not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy.”

1477 “This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission in the unity of the Mystical Body.”

After I made plans to be received into the Church, I was reading in the New Testament and crossed these words that I had read and heard hundreds of times:

Matthew 6:19-20
‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.’

The word “treasures” jumped off the page. Christ is teaching that we can indeed store up “treasure in heaven.” Everytime we do something good for God, we “lay up treasure in Heaven.” And thus there is truly a treasury of good deeds in Heaven.

And if we are full of charity in Heaven, then we would be willing to share this treasury with all, even our brethren not yet in Heaven. And thus we find that the gracious acts of Christ and all the Saints are indeed laid up in Heaven and can be shared.

The doctrine of the indulgences flows from this understanding. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1471 “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.”

An indulgence is therefore a sharing in those treasures “laid up in Heaven”.

It should be stated that the eternal guilt of a sinner is propitiated by the death of Christ alone. The Catholic Church does not teach that indulgences can get you out of Hell or save you. But the progressive sanctification of a Christian is accomplished by cooperation of the Christian with Christ in union with the whole Church. Indulgences do not affect whether we are saved, but once in a state of grace, the graces received through indulgences do assist us as we journey in holiness and Christian perfection.

You may also enjoy:  http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/01/indulgences-the-treasury-of-merit-and-the-communion-of-saints/

Love,
Matthew

Vatican II DID NOT say “whatevs”…

-from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column.php?n=2383

-by Bishop Robert Barron

“Dr. Ralph Martin, Professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, has written an important book titled “Will Many Be Saved?” The text received a good deal of attention at the recent synod on the New Evangelization, and its opening pages are filled with endorsements from some of the leading figures in the Church today. Dr. Martin’s argument is straightforward enough: the attitude, much in evidence in the years following Vatican II, that virtually everyone will go to heaven has drastically undercut the Church’s evangelical efforts. Why then, if salvation is guaranteed to virtually everyone, would Catholics be filled with a passion to propagate the faith around the world with any urgency? Therefore, if the New Evangelization is to get off the ground, we have to recover a vivid sense of the reality of Hell, the possibility, even likelihood, of eternal damnation for the many who do not come to a lively faith in Christ.

Martin certainly has some theological heavyweights on his side. Both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas believed that the majority of human beings end up in Hell. And the official magisterium of the church has insisted on a number of occasions that missionary work is vital, lest millions wander down the wide path that leads to perdition. Moreover, these theological and magisterial positions are themselves grounded in the witness of Scripture. No one in the Bible speaks of Hell more often than Jesus himself. To give just a few examples, in Mark 16, the Lord says, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” And in John 5, he declares, “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” And in a number of his parables – most notably the story of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 – Jesus stresses the desperate urgency of the choice that his followers must make.

To be sure, the conviction that Hell is a crowded place has been contested from the earliest days of the Church, and Martin fully acknowledges this. Origen, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor all held to some form of universalism, that is to say, the belief that, at the end of the day, all people would be gathered to the Lord. And this view was revived during the era of exploration, when it became clear to European Christians that millions upon millions of people in Africa, Asia and the Americas would certainly be condemned if explicit faith in Christ was truly requisite for salvation.

The universalist perspective received a further boost in the 20th century, especially through the work of two of the most influential Catholic thinkers of the time, Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Rahner held that every human being is endowed with what he termed a “supernatural existential,” which is to say, a fundamental orientation toward God. This spiritual potentiality is fully realized through explicit faith in Christ, but it can be realized to varying degrees even in those non-Christians who follow their consciences sincerely. The supernatural existential makes of everyone – to use Rahner’s controversial phrase – an “anonymous Christian” and provides the basis for hoping that universal salvation is possible. Basing his argument on the sheer extravagance of God’s saving act in Christ, Balthasar taught as well that we may reasonably hope that all people will be brought to heaven. A good part of Balthasar’s argument is grounded in the Church’s liturgy, which demands that we pray for the salvation of all. If we knew that Hell was indeed a crowded place, this type of prayer would be senseless.

Now the heart of Martin’s book is a detailed study and critique of the theories of Rahner and Balthasar, and space prevents me from even sketching his complex argument. I will mention only one dimension of it, namely his analysis of Lumen Gentium paragraph 16. Both Balthasar and Rahner – as well as their myriad disciples – found justification in the first part of that paragraph, wherein the Vatican II fathers do indeed teach that non-Christians, even non-believers, can be saved as long as they “try in their actions to do God’s will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience.” (Ed. ‘God’s will’ is a very specific statement here, that as understood by the Catholic Church, not a general definition of the god-of-your-own-choosing/defintion, etc.  This is so implied as to often be overlooked.)  However, Martin points out that the defenders of universal salvation have, almost without exception, overlooked the next section of that paragraph, in which the Council Fathers say these decidedly less comforting words: “But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the world rather than the Creator…Hence to procure…the salvation of all these, the Church…takes zealous care to foster the missions.” A fair reading of the entire paragraph, therefore, would seem to yield the following: the un-evangelized can be saved, but often (at saepius), they do not meet the requirements for salvation. (Ed. as defined by the Catholic Church, Mt 16:19.)  They will, then, be damned without hearing the announcement of the Gospel and coming to an active faith.

So who has it right in regard to this absolutely crucial question? Even as I deeply appreciate Martin’s scholarship and fully acknowledge that he scores important points against both Balthasar and Rahner, I found his central argument undermined by one of his own footnotes. In a note buried on page 284 of his text, Martin cites some “remarks” of Pope Benedict XVI that have contributed, in his judgment, to confusion on the point in question. He is referring to observations in sections 45-47 of the Pope’s 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi,” which can be summarized as follows: There are a relative handful of truly wicked people in whom the love of God and neighbor has been totally extinguished through sin, and there are a relative handful of people whose lives are utterly pure, completely given over to the demands of love. Those latter few will proceed, upon death, directly to heaven, and those former few will, upon death, enter the state that the Church calls Hell. But the Pope concludes that “the great majority of people” who, though sinners, still retain a fundamental ordering to God, can and will be brought to heaven after the necessary purification of Purgatory. Martin knows that the Pope stands athwart the position that he has taken throughout his study, for he says casually enough, “The argument of this book would suggest a need for clarification.”

Obviously, there is no easy answer to the question of who or how many will be saved, but one of the most theologically accomplished popes in history, writing at a very high level of authority, has declared that we oughtn’t to hold that Hell is densely populated. To write this off as “remarks” that require “clarification” is precisely analogous to a liberal theologian saying the same thing about Paul VI’s teaching on artificial contraception in the encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s position – affirming the reality of Hell but seriously questioning whether that the vast majority of human beings end up there – is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising.

Love,
Matthew