Christopher Columbus, Human Rights Champion

“In popular myth, Christopher Columbus is the symbol of European greed and genocidal imperialism. In reality, he was a dedicated Christian concerned first and foremost with serving God and his fellow man.

Peering into the future, Columbus (1451-15­06) could not have anticipated the ingratitude and outright contempt shown by modern man toward his discovery and exploration of the New World. Few see him as he really was: a devout Catholic concerned for the eternal salvation of the indigenous peoples he encountered. Rather, it has become fashionable to slander him as deliberately genocidal, a symbol of European imperialism [1], a bringer of destruction, enslavement, and death to the happy and prosperous people of the Americas [2].

In the United States, the vitriol directed against Columbus produces annual protests every Columbus Day. Some want to abolish it as a federal holiday, and several cities already refuse to acknowledge it and celebrate instead “Indigenous Peoples Day” [3].

This movement to brand Columbus a genocidal maniac and erase all memory of his extraordinary accomplishments stems from a false myth about the man and his times.

The so-called Age of Discovery was ushered in by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) of Portugal. Prince Henry and his sailors inaugurated the great age of explorers finding new lands and creating shipping lanes for the import and export of goods, including consumables never before seen in Europe. Their efforts also created an intense competition among the sailing nations of Europe, each striving to outdo the others in finding new and more efficient trade routes. It was into this world of innovation, exploration, and economic competition that Christopher Columbus was born.

A native of the Italian city-state of Genoa, Columbus became a sailor at the age of fourteen. He learned the nautical trade sailing on Genoese merchant vessels and became an accomplished navigator. On a long-distance voyage past Iceland in February 1477, Columbus learned about the strong east-flowing Atlantic currents and believed that a journey across the ocean could be made because the currents would be able to bring a ship home [4]. So Columbus formulated a plan to seek the east by going west. He knew that such an ambitious undertaking required royal backing, and in May of 1486, he secured a royal audience with King Fernando and Queen Isabel of Spain, who in time granted everything Columbus needed for the voyage.

On August 3, 1492, Columbus embarked from Spain with ninety men on three ships: the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria [5]. After thirty-three days at sea, Columbus’s flotilla spotted land (the Bahamas), which he claimed in the name of the Spanish monarchs. Columbus’s modern-day detractors view that as a sign of imperial conquest. It was not—it was simply a sign to other European nations that they could not establish trading posts on the Spanish possession [6].

On this first voyage, Columbus also reached the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. He stayed four months in the New World and arrived home to fanfare on March 15, 1493. Unfortunately, the Santa Maria ran aground on Hispaniola so was forced to leave forty-two men behind, ordered to treat the indigenous people well and especially to respect the women [7]. But as Columbus discovered on his second voyage, that order was not heeded.

Columbus made four voyages to the New World, and each brought its own discoveries and adventures. His second voyage included many crewmen from his first, but also some new faces such as Ponce de León, who later won fame as an explorer himself. On this second voyage, Columbus and his men encountered the fierce tribe of the Caribs, who were cannibals, practiced sodomy, and castrated captured boys from neighboring tribes. Columbus recognized the Caribs’ captives as members of the peaceful tribe he met on his first voyage, so he rescued and returned them to their homes [8]. This voyage included stops in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.


-human sacrifice, Codex Magliabecchiano


-cannibalism, Codex Magliabecchiano

The third voyage was the most difficult for Columbus, as he was arrested on charges of mismanagement of the Spanish trading enterprise in the New World and sent back to Spain in chains (though later exonerated). Columbus’s fourth and final voyage took place in 1502-1504, with his son Fernando among the crew. The crossing of the Atlantic was the fastest ever: sixteen days. The expedition visited Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, and was marooned for a time on Jamaica.

Most accounts of Columbus’s voyages mistake his motives by focusing narrowly on economic or political factors. But in fact, his primary motive was to find enough gold to finance a crusade to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims, as evidenced by a letter he wrote in December 1492 to King Fernando and Queen Isabel, encouraging them to “spend all the profits of this my enterprise on the conquest of Jerusalem” [9]. In this, he believed he was fulfilling conditions for the Second Coming of Christ. Near the end of his life, he even compiled a book about the connection between the liberation of Jerusalem and the Second Coming [10].

Columbus considered himself a “Christ-bearer” like his namesake, St. Christopher [11]. When he first arrived on Hispaniola, his first words to the natives were, “The monarchs of Castile have sent us not to subjugate you but to teach you the true religion” [12]. In a 1502 letter to Pope Alexander VI (r. 1492-1503), Columbus asked the pontiff to send missionaries to the indigenous peoples of the New World so they could accept Christ. And in his will, Columbus proved his belief in the importance of evangelization by establishing a fund to finance missionary efforts to the lands he discovered [13].

Contrary to the popular myth, Columbus treated the native peoples with great respect and friendship. He was impressed by their “generosity, intelligence, and ingenuity” [14]. He recorded in his diary that “in the world there are no better people or a better land. They love their neighbors as themselves, and they have the sweetest speech in the world and [they are] gentle and always laughing” [15]. Columbus demanded that his men exchange gifts with the natives they encountered and not just take what they wanted by force. He enforced this policy rigorously: on his third voyage in August 1500, he hanged men who disobeyed him by harming the native people [16].

Columbus never intended the enslavement of the peoples of the New World. In fact, he considered the Indians who worked in the Spanish settlement in Hispaniola as employees of the crown [17]. In further proof that Columbus did not plan to rely on slave labor, he asked the crown to send him Spanish miners to mine for gold [18]. Indeed, no doubt influenced by Columbus, the Spanish monarchs in their instructions to Spanish settlers mandated that the Indians be treated “very well and lovingly” and demanded that no harm should come to them [19].

Columbus passed to his eternal reward on May 20, 1506.

[1] Carol Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem (New York: Free Press, 2011), xii.

[2] See http://www.transformcolumbusday.org/.

[3] Marilia Brocchetto and Emanuella Grinberg, “Quest to Change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day Sails Ahead,” CNN.com, October 10, 2016, accessed April 7, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/09/us/columbus-day-indigenous-peoples-day/.

[4] The sailors of Columbus’s day did not believe the earth was flat, as is commonly believed, but were afraid about the ability to get home after sailing across the ocean.

[5] Columbus demanded a patent of nobility, a coat of arms, the titles of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy and Governor of all discovered lands, plus 10 percent of the revenue from all trade from any claimed territory. Isabel agreed to these terms and both parties signed the Capitulations of Santa Fe on April 17, 1492. See Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 68.

[6] See Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 92.

[7] Ibid., 109.

[8] Ibid., 130.

[9] Ibid., vii.

[10] The book was titled Libro de las Profecías or the Book of Prophecies.

[11] Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 83.

[12] Daniel-Rops, The Catholic Reformation, vol. 2, 27.

[13] Ibid., 159.

[14] Ibid., 97.

[15] Columbus, Diario, 281. Quoted in Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 107. Columbus was a literate man, which was rare for the day. He recorded his observations of the New World in his diary and ship’s log, at a time when keeping logs was not standard practice.

[16] See Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 181.

[17] Ibid., 142.

[18] Ibid., 153.

[19] See Samuel Eliot Morison, trans. and ed., Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, vol. 1 (New York: Heritage Press, 1963), 204. Quoted in Delaney, Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, 125-126.

“Prior to European contact, journals, letters, and reports prove the New World was not an “egalitarian society” as author, Howard Zinn, claims.

Instead, sources reveal slavery, genocide, sexual exploitation, trafficking, polygamy, violence, sacrifice, and even cannibalism were part of the culture.

Indigenous Slave Trade

According to reports, “wherever European conquistadors set foot in the American tropics, they found evidence of indigenous warfare, war captives, and captive slaves.”[i]

Christopher Columbus recorded in his journal that he “Saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and made signs to ask what it was, and they me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the intention of seizing them, and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners.” [ii[

Indigenous Cannibalism

Upon Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the New World, he befriended the Taino tribes and became awar of their horrific experiences with Carib tribes, a barbaric people.

The Taino people warned Columbus of “extremely ferocious…eaters of human flesh who “visit all the native islands, and rob and plunder whatever they can.””[iii]

Reports reveal that the Carib people preferred to eat infants and adult males. Dr. Diego Chanca, a medical expert who traveled with Columbus reported, “When the Caribbees take any boys prisoners, they remove their genitalia, fatten the boys until they grow to manhood and then, when they wish to make a great feast, they kill and eat the young men, for they say the flesh of boys and women is not good to eat.”[iv]

Indigenous Sex Trafficking

Eye witnesses reveal that, “In their wars upon the inhabitants of the neighboring islands, native peoples capture as many of the women as they can, especially those who are young and handsome, and keep them as body sex slaves, eating the children produced, only raising the children they have with women from their own tribe.”[v]

According to contemporary sources, “Dr. Chanca described that the Caribs enslaved so many women that, “in fifty houses we entered no man was found, but all were women.”[vi]

The culture Columbus stumbled upon was one that depended on sex labor, subjugation, and cannibalism of offspring.”

[i] Fernando Sanos-Granero, “Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life (Austin University of Texas Press, 2009)

[ii] Columbus, The Journal, 38.

[iii] Nicolo Syllacio, “Syllacio’s Letter to Duke of Milan, 13 December 1494” in Journals and Other Documents on the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison (New York: The Heritage Press, 1963), 237.

[iv] Diego Chanca, “Letters of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca”, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1907), Vol 48, 442.

[v] Ibid

[vi] Chanca, “Letter of Dr. Diego Alvarez Chanca”, 442

Pray for the world,
Matthew

Evolution doesn’t prove atheism


-please click on the image for greater for detail


-by Pat Flynn

“[The entire biological] evolutionary process depends upon the unusual chemistry of carbon, which allows it to bond to itself, as well as other elements, creating highly complex molecules that are stable over prevailing terrestrial temperatures, and are capable of conveying genetic information (especially DNA).” —Alistair McGrath

Atheists like to claim that atheism better predicts or explains certain information about the world and our lives than theism. Here we will consider the big one, which is evolution.

First, why do some believe that evolution favors atheism? There are several reasons. One is because evolution seems to include many evils, like animal suffering. Another is because people (some people) believe that evolution conflicts with biblical revelation. The third is the assumption that evolution is a purely naturalistic explanation, which makes God’s existence irrelevant to explain the development and complexity of life, not to mention the problem of evil. Otherwise, what motivates the idea that evolution is more probable on atheism seems to be a fundamentalist or “literalistic” interpretation of scriptural texts.

But all this is irrelevant. We are evaluating metaphysical theories and not religious commitments. What we are asking is not whether evolution is more expected on some reading of Genesis, but whether evolution is more expected given a transcendent and intelligent God. And if evolution is contingent upon a finely tuned universe (which it is), and if a finely tuned universe is better explained by theism than atheism (which it is), then evolution is ultimately better explained by theism than atheism, in which case the naturalist is not advantaged by evolution, but disadvantaged by it. It is only looking just at evolution (with challengeable assumptions) and not the necessary preconditions for evolution that lends any possible credence to atheism. A deeper look turns that analysis around.

Joshua Rasmussen summarizes the point well:

“The “evolution” explanation . . . [is] incomplete. . . . First, contrary to popular impression, natural selection in a randomized environment does not automatically select for increases in complexity. In fact, recent computer simulations of evolution suggest an opposite tendency. I tested this myself. A few years ago, I wrote a grant-funded computer program that simulated randomized evolution, and I observed that randomized natural selection in my randomized environments tended to select simpler organisms, not more complex ones. I was able to generate some moderately complex structures, but that was only after I coded a very specific environment in which the evolution would “aim” for complex structures. In my randomized environments, by contrast, any initial organized complexity dwindled over time. As far as I am aware, all the computer-based simulations of evolution support (or are at least consist with) my findings. The result is this: the very existence of an evolution in which turtles, giraffes, and humans can emerge depends on a precisely fine-tuned environment.”

The point can be pressed further once we see that evolution is also inherently teleological, which is to say, it exhibits directedness and determinacy of fact or meaning. In other words, even granting Darwin’s theory as sufficient to explain the development and complexity of life, one cannot make sense of evolution, including natural selection working on random mutation, apart from there being directedness and determinate facts of the matter—namely, that certain things are selected for. For reasons argued by James Ross and Edward Feser (see here; also, Aristotle’s Revenge, chapter six), any such directedness and determinacy are not just difficult, but impossible to explain on atheistic ontologies—particularly physicalism. These are technical arguments, and space does not permit an adequate defense of them here, which means I can only reference them. The punchline, however, is this: evolution requires teleology in nature, and teleology in nature requires intentionality beyond nature (Aquinas’s fifth way, or John Haldane’s “Prime Thinker”), and all that is (quite obviously) better explained by theism than atheism.

Moving deeper into evolution, let us now consider the experience of pain. Atheists sometimes claim that this is evidence in their favor, particularly in conjunction with evolution, because it seems to include wanton suffering. I claim that it is not. Once we move away from the superficial analysis and look closely at theoretical details, it becomes clear that theism has a better metaphysical explanation for why pain occurs in the evolutionary process than atheism does. As Jim Madden explains in a recent response to Paul Draper, one of the main options (if not the only option) for naturalists in philosophy of mind is that pain is epiphenomenal—that is, the experience of pain is something that “floats atop” underlying physical events—a mere residual, if you will, that serves no useful function over and above the chain of physical events that precedes it. Why? Because what’s needed for survival just are the unconscious physical operations and not any qualitative experiences that came to be associated with them, painful or otherwise. But this means that pain, as a qualitative experience, really has no atheistic-evolutionary explanation or use at all. A theist, however, can give reasons why there might be morally relevant properties built into nature—for example, the fact that something causes a sentient being pain is relevant to decision-making: in some cases, we ought not do it (like burning a kitten to impress bandmates); in other cases, we ought to cause it (like punishment), even if they’re epiphenomenal.

Finally, a few remarks about challengeable assumptions related to evolutionary theory itself. The first is the problem of communication: evolution requires a channel to pass along adaptive traits—i.e., reproduction. However, evolution is supposed to explain the arrival of this (very complex) ability no less than anything else related to life. So evolution both requires this channel and is supposed to explain it—classic chicken-and-egg stuff—a vicious explanatory problem that is a problem in principle, not just a problem lacking any good scientific solution (also true). Here it should be noted that armchair conjectures of proto-replication are of no more explanatory value than speculations of proto-consciousness, since we are dealing with a phenomenon that is not susceptible to “fade-ability.” It is either all there—i.e., either something is, or is not conscious, regardless of how much is represented in any given conscious act—or it isn’t.

There’s also the problem not of organized complexity mentioned by Rasmussen, but of irreducible complexity as touted by Michael Behe. This is controversial, but just because something is controversial, that does not mean that it poses no problems to evolutionary theory. In this case, I believe that Behe’s work poses significant problems for evolutionary theory, especially the naturalistic mechanism purported to drive it. But again, I must refer to Behe and his critics to allow readers to assess the arguments for themselves. Space constraints, you know.

Importantly, if one is going to claim that his theory has the resources to explain as much as some other theory, we should want some evidence of this. So far, the evidence for the creative power of selection working on random mutation is counterproductive for the naturalistic hypothesis, since we overwhelmingly see destructive (even if beneficial), rather than constructive, results. Fitness, in other words, tends to be conferred by breaking or blunting already existing genes, rather than introducing functional novelty. The analogy is like knocking the car doors off to gain an advantage in speed: it’ll help in certain situations, but it would be foolish to think this process in any sense could account for the complexity of the car itself. And before anyone objects—this is not an argument from ignorance, but an argument from the best experimental evidence regarding Darwin’s theory (as cited and interpreted in Behe’s work). It is an argument not from what we don’t know, but from what we do know.

In summary, evolutionary theory, even when superficially considered, is expected no more on atheism than on theism. If God wanted to bring life about gradually, that is God’s prerogative, and no theist—no Christian, for that matter—is committed to a literalistic interpretation of Genesis. However, a more substantial analysis reveals a number of essential considerations to see which direction the evolutionary evidence leans, including 1) that evolution is contingent upon a finely tuned universe, which is better explained by theism than atheism; 2) that evolution is inherently teleological, which is better explained by theism than atheism; 3) that evolutionary pains can be given a more adequate explanation on theism than atheism; and 4) that Darwin’s theory, particularly the mechanism of natural selection and mutation, faces not insignificant theoretical and empirical difficulties, which seem salvageable only by the aid of intelligent direction (God’s providence). Again, more expected on theism than atheism.

Love,
Matthew

Acquired Virtues

Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. the virtuous man is he who freely practices the good. The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love. CCC 1804. Each of the acquired, cardinal virtues orders a particular power of man towards its end—prudence (which St. Thomas says is the highest since it is closest to reason), justice (will), fortitude (irascible appetite) and temperance (concupiscible appetite) Fortitude is above temperance because of its more rational determinateness.


-by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Ignitum, Fr. Christopher serves in the Diocese of London, Ontario.

“According to St. Thomas Aquinas, natural virtue (justice, prudence, temperance and courage, and all the subset virtues) are acquired virtues. Acquired virtues are those good-habits which are developed by way of our own effort, behavior, and mind. Theological virtues, however, are “infused” virtues, where the capacity to Faith Love and Hope are understood to be supernatural. Sometimes a more generic notion of faith love and hope are ascribed to these virtues, but this type of hope, love and faith is merely natural. Rather, the supernatural type of faith, hope and love spoken of here is something that man does not have the capacity unto himself to develop.

Once baptized the Christian then has the capacity to develop these virtues, and thus analogically, the Church has said that such virtues are given at baptism. To be clear, however, this does not mean the habit is present at baptism, but the capacity. Thus, since our nature is now configured to that of Christ, our capacity to act accordingly involves as a consequence of such Divinity united to ourselves that we likewise are capable of such supernatural habits.

This capacity, once received then becomes like acquired virtues insofar as we must act and habituate these virtues, according to our own capacity. God sustains that capacity, and can in fact increase it. Think of his parables about giving more responsibilities to those who proved themselves to do well with what they were originally given. If you do well with the baptismal supernatural capacities, then you will be given more.

Finally, its important to avoid two extremes with regard to the virtues. Aquinas makes it clear that without the supernatural virtues it is impossible to be made perfect in regard to the cardinal virtues. Although there can be some health and strength in one sphere of a person’s life, in others there will be deficits of growth. The reason for this is due in part to our fallenness. Second, the Theological virtues themselves are not meant to be abstractly applied to normal living – they have implications whereby they elevate the cardinal virtues into a greater context. No longer is justice merely a natural category, but now is taken up into Divine-Justice. Courage is not longer ordered towards accomplishing a natural-good, but rather a supernatural-love (think of martyrdom). Temperance is visibly noted in the mortification that Catholics practice, because the call to fast and pray is not merely ordered towards an natural good (such as health, mental-health), but now it is oriented towards the salvation of souls including our own, and the glory of God. Finally, prudence is elevated to discern not merely what is a natural-wisdom, but the Will of God, and thus we see Christ in the Garden suspending his natural disposition to avoid death, and seeks the eternal and spiritual-life chosen by the Father.

Thus we cannot compartmentalize the virtues as though they are separate entities – rather they are to have an interconnected integration and subordination. Finally, the principle with which all virtue rests upon is that man is rational. This indicates that man, as a moral agent is called embody himself by aligning himself to whatever the truth is. For if man ascribes to some illusion or falsity, he falls short of being true to his own nature.

Some contemporary philosophers have suggested that seeking the virtue of justice, for instance, implies a righteous act without any benefit. However, this is shortsighted. It is true that whistleblowers for instance can suffer at the hands of the powerful, or Christ himself be murdered for simply telling the truth in love. But it would be wrong to draw the conclusion thus that this had no benefit to those individuals who acted according to the truth of justice and goodness. What it rather indicates is that they became fully alive, truly who they were, and thus the inheritance is their own integrity – which is a good.”

Love & virtue,
Matthew

Evil proves God’s existence



-by Pat Flynn

“Maybe you’ve heard about the problem of evil (theodicy). It’s an argument atheists like to use to refute the existence of God. Why, they ask, would a good God allow such horrible things to happen so often to innocent people? And there’s no shortage of tragedy they can cite to back up their claim.

But what if evil is evidence for rather than against the existence of God?

This is not to say evil is untroublesome. Evil impacts all of us, likely far more than we can even imagine. But philosophy is about getting to the truth of things, and the truth—at least as I have come to see it—is that evil raises the likelihood of God.

To start, imagine the following scenario, which I borrow from philosopher Tim McGrew. (I am also borrowing ideas from other philosophers in this article, including Joshua Rasmussen and Edward Feser.) You are walking in the woods and stumble upon what appears to be an abandoned cabin. The outside looks decrepit: there is moss, the front door is barely hanging on, and whatever else. But then you peer inside and notice that there’s is a cup of tea steeping. Immediately, you revise your hypothesis from the cabin being abandoned to the cabin being occupied. Why? Because a steeping cup of tea is better predicted and explained by—that is, far more probable on—the hypothesis that the cabin is occupied, notwithstanding the cabin’s condition.

Here is an important feature of this line of reasoning. It does not matter if you cannot assign a specific probability to the likelihood that any given occupied cabin will have a cup of tea steeping in it. It also does not matter if you think the probability of such an occurrence is low or even exceptionally low. What matters is what you believe the probability to be of finding a cup of steeping tea in an occupied cabin versus an abandoned one—for even if you believe that the probability of finding steeping tea is low in any given occupied cabin, surely the probability is far lower in any given abandoned cabin, whatever those specific probabilities are.

So the discovery of steeping tea in any cabin gives great evidence for that cabin being occupied rather than abandoned—in fact, such great evidence that it causes you to be virtually certain that the cabin is occupied. The steeping tea didn’t come about from a fortuitous set of non-intelligent circumstances, like wind blowing plus an earthquake and a lightning strike.

What is the probability that God, if God exists, would create a world like ours with the amount of evil we encounter, like the threat of nuclear war and babies dying and fawns burning in forest fires? Perhaps we think the probability is low—that, given that God is all good, he would not create a world with as much evil as ours. Let’s grant the assumption for now that the probability is low—maybe even exceptionally low, like one or two percent. If so, then do evil and suffering count against the existence of God?

Well, no. Not necessarily, anyway—that is, not unless we see how much we would expect evil on some alternative hypothesis, like atheism (naturalism).

Here is where the story takes an interesting turn: however low we think the occurrence of evil would be given the existence of God, it is, in fact, far lower (if not impossibly low) given the non-existence of God—so much lower that the occurrence of evil provides evidence for, rather than against, God’s existence, like how the cup of steeping tea gives evidence for the occupied cabin.

First is this. To call something evil—that is, really and truly bad (not just a matter of opinion)—we require a moral standard. With no moral standard, nothing can fail to be or do what it should or could have done, and there’s no basis for calling anything evil. Further, to make moral judgments about whether things can objectively fall short, we need conscious agents living in communities and engaged in reasoning about moral realities. What’s more, for there to be any of what we just described, we need some explanation of why there is anything at all and not nothing instead. So evil itself is contingent—it depends upon there being a moral standard, rational agents, moral communities, a contingent universe, etc. We can now ask: would I be more likely to expect these data points and experiences on theism or atheism (naturalism)?

To the first point, theism locks in a moral standard, since God is the subsistent good itself. And if theism is true, then a moral standard is true—God himself. Atheism seems to lack any such standard, because atheism holds that fundamental reality is just amoral physical stuff. How could such stuff as that ever produce a moral standard? It seems impossible that dust, particles, etc. could configure into an objective moral standard, regardless of time or complexity, but even if it is not impossible, surely, it is fantastically improbable.

Perhaps this is why many atheists—the consistent ones, anyway—are nihilists. Atheistic philosopher Alex Rosenberg, for example, calls out his more “teary-eyed” naturalist colleagues for not following their position through to the nihilistic outcome concomitant with it: “Most of those who fear Darwin’s dangerous idea reject it owing to their recognition that it is a universal acid, eating through every available argument for the values people cherish. We differ from those who fear Darwinism because we believe it is true. But we do not think we can or need hide our countenances from the nihilism it underwrites.”

(As a brief aside, Rosenberg is too quick to assume that Darwinism implies nihilism; rather, it is Darwinism atop an assumed—and I would argue demonstrably false—naturalistic metaphysics that implies nihilism. Darwinism itself is something one can be neutral about, ethically speaking.)

What’s more, God could have reason to create rational conscious agents and put them together in moral communities, just like what we see. Atheism lacks explanatory resources here as well, particularly for how rational conscious agents came about from stuff that is once again fundamentally non-rational, non-conscious, unintentional, disparate, etc. If there’s no God to form Adam out of dust, then dust seems to be the wrong sort of material from which minds, and especially rationality, would coincidentally arise. Perhaps it is possible—just as finding a cup of tea in an abandoned cabin is possible (broadly logically speaking) without positing the involvement of people—but it seems far less probable that rational agents living in moral communities would emerge on atheism than theism.

Here is the short of it. The problem of evil points toward the existence of God—the God hypothesis, as it were—because if atheism were true, I would not expect there to be any evil at all, just as I would not expect steeping tea in an abandoned cabin, precisely because I would not expect there to be a contingent universe (frankly, I would expect nothing), a moral standard, moral obligations upon conscious rational agents, and so on. But because there is evil and because theism better predicts or explains those things needed to make sense of evil, then evil provides great evidence for the existence of God.

There is more to be explored on this issue, including why God would create a world with the amount and types of evil we see, but what has been said so far should encourage us to explore such questions as theists. That is all that is needed to diffuse the problem of evil—or if it remains a problem, then it is a problem only for atheism.

His love,
Matthew

Catholic reform (no, that is not, in the end, an oxymoron) – Deus Vult!!!!


Theme from Herrens Veje (English: The Lord’s Ways), entitled Ride Upon the Storm in the English-language subtitled version, is a 2017 Danish drama television series.

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill;
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
-Light Shining out of Darkness, William Cowper (1731–1800), his last before attempting suicide.

The Church has always made progress through crisis, it seems never through its own inertia, or in spite of its own inertia. Perhaps the Holy Spirit uses crises to its own ends. Who is to say how God works in mystery. His ways are not our ways. That’s why there are prophets, and always will be until the end, when He comes to take the Church Militant to Himself. Lord, have mercy.


-by Christopher R. Altieri, is a journalist who worked for more than a dozen years on Vatican Radio’s English newsdesk, and afterward as Rome bureau chief and international editor (later executive editor) of the Catholic Herald, where he is now editor-at-large. He is contributing editor to the Catholic World Report and has written for leading Catholic publications from America to The Catholic Thing. He holds a Ph.D. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is author of three books.

“Not too long ago, I published a piece in the Catholic Herald on the reform effort—such as it is—in the Church. I was frustrated with the experience of leadership’s entrenched institutional and operational opacity. I still am. Leaders’ persistent failure even to appear to care about putting up a halfway credible show of concern for transparency exasperated me. It still does. I wondered aloud—not for the first time—whether legal reforms in the Vatican and at the highest levels of Church government are designed not to work.

Reform is necessary—the great reformers are gifts from heaven—but even their successful efforts cannot get us heaven on earth. That’s no reason not to be about the work of reform, though. In fact, it is the source of the task’s urgency.

Ecclesia semper reformanda is the pretty-sounding Latin phrase we use to describe the Church as always in need of reform. It means the Church is more like an old relic of a machine that needs to keep working and can’t be kept in working order for more than a few hours at a time. You need it for a job, so you can’t have it up on blocks or sitting on hydraulic ramp lifts all day. Old mechanics and machinists would love to have it for a few weeks or even a couple of months to study and tinker and figure it out and replace all the parts that need it and refurbish the ones that can take it and maybe tweak the design so it doesn’t break down again—not as it did the last time or two—but you have an order to fill, and you need the machine to fill it.

When it comes to Church reform, in other words, the practically achievable “good” is closer to “good enough” than it is to “mint” or “excellent” or even “very good” condition.

Is real reform even possible? If so, what does successful reform look like?

Those are reasonable questions, which happen to admit of valid—even if not entirely satisfactory—answers.

Church reform is possible. We know it is possible, because it has happened. Because it has happened, we know what Church reform looks like.

But here’s where the gloss begins to come off the business. You’re not going to like what it looks like. It looks like bishops residing in the jurisdictions they govern.

Not many folks realize it today, but for hundreds of years before the Council of Trent, bishops frequently did not live in their dioceses. Church jurisdictions were sees-in-gift, which princes used to placate rivals, shore up alliances, take care of relatives, and frequently just make sure they had a friend in the job. The state of affairs was one of Luther’s (and other reformers’) chief complaints.

The Council of Trent worked on changing Church law so that it required bishops to be resident in their dioceses. Trent took maybe a half-century to call—there were lots of half-hearted, half-baked, and more desultory attempts at Church reform in the bottom of the fifteenth century and into the top of the sixteenth—then almost eighteen years to conclude, and then it took another century and a half to get the paper reforms requiring bishops to live where they nominally ruled to stick, but bishops eventually did begin sticking to their sees as a matter of course.

The problem didn’t disappear entirely. Today, Pope Francis complains about “airport bishops,” and rightly so. In the main, however, people take it for granted that their bishops live somewhere inside their jurisdiction. Reform happened—it didn’t just happen, but it happened—and bishops mostly living in their dioceses is what reform looks like.

In short, there is no golden age just over the horizon—not in either direction—no better age to which we can return and nothing close to perfect in the future. That’s not to say reform isn’t worth the trouble. The point is that we’re never really done working, but also that we never really begin.

The hope of heaven is real and true—we know this with a hope that cannot disappoint—but as long as we’re on this side of the celestial Jerusalem, our business is muddling. It’s a truth of pilgrim life—institutional and personal—and there’s more than a little comfort to be had in that view of the matter.

On the other hand, it’s also a lot like the view of the guy whose car is always in the shop. It’s fine if he’s a tinkering collector. If he relies on his vehicle for his daily bread, it’s another story.

The Church Militant was a favorite image of Catholic progress in ages past. Militancy means marching and bivouacking and campfire cooking, and all of that means lots of mud and lots that’s worse than mud. The pilgrim Church is another old image, recently returned to vogue. Pilgrimage is muddy business, too. Until very recently, if you were on a soldier’s campaign or a pilgrim’s path, you were more likely to die of disease or starvation or exposure or by a cutthroat bandit’s dagger than by an enemy’s arms or of old age.

There will always be bandits on the road, and there will always be cutthroats in the camps, and there will always be disease abroad in the world, and anyone who tells you different is a fool or worse.

We have a right to expect our leaders not to be bandits and cutthroats, not to be in cahoots with them who are. We have a right to know what they’re doing—really doing—to keep us safe as can be while we’re under the colors or underway. We have a right to know when their recklessness, negligence, or downright stupidity endangers us needlessly. We have a right to clean camps—in the old days, that meant laundries and latrines (but you might be amazed at how long those were in coming)—and hostels and hospitals served by competent staff and subject to reasonable inspection.

It’s dangerous enough out there already. That’s no reason not to be on the march. It also gives us every reason we need to get cracking on reform. Only we need to know what kind of work we’re in for, and what we can reasonably expect from the “best case” result of our efforts.”

Love,
Matthew

It’s biblical to ask the saints to pray for us


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Matthew Olson(right)

“There is nothing wrong with asking the heavenly saints to pray for us.

Many Protestants argue that asking the saints to pray for us is “unbiblical,” while throwing around verses like 1 Timothy 2:5. But they are incorrect.

1 Timothy 2:5 — the infamous “one mediator between God and men” verse — refers to salvation, not prayer. The verse reminds us that it is only because of the graces found through Christ (God Himself) that we are able to have any real relationship with God and reach Heaven. It does not, however, absolutely negate relations with angels or heavenly saints. After all, it was an angel (Gabriel) that spoke to Mary before Christ was conceived in her body, not God Himself.

I was raised in several Protestant denominations. They all placed a major emphasis on Christians praying for each other — which is encouraged in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and other passages. I would contend that a heavenly saint, one who is holy and in Heaven with God, would have a lot more sway with God than a rebellious sinner on earth would.

To put that another way, if someone asked you to do something for them, would you not be more likely to help them if they were your best friend, as opposed to a complete stranger? Of course, you may very well be willing to do something for a complete stranger, but you would probably be more willing to do something for your best friend.

And there is evidence in the Bible of the saints praying to God.

“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” – Revelation 8:3-4

The word for “saints” in that passage comes from the Greek word hagios. Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon says that the best definition of hagios is “most holy thing, a saint”. This would seem to undermine the Protestant assertion that “saints” in this context can only refer to people on earth.

Now, what would the saints be praying for? Themselves? Doubtful. They are in Heaven, so they do not need anything, as eternal life with God is perfect. That really only leaves one option: they are praying for us. And because they are praying for us anyway, how could it be wrong to ask them to pray for us about something specific? It is like interacting with a DJ at an event. He’s playing music anyway, so what is the harm in asking him to play your favorite song?

Here’s my Scripture-based defense of the practice that should answer most Protestant objections:

Matthew 17:3-4 & Luke 9:28-31.
Moses and Elijah (who are clearly heavenly saints, not “saints” in the way Paul would sometimes use the word) are with Christ during the Transfiguration.

Revelation 6:9-11.
The martyrs can talk to God.

From those three passages, we can gather that the saints in Heaven interact with God.

Luke 15:10.
The angels and saints (who, in Luke 20:35-36, Christ says are equal to the angels) are aware of earthly events.

1 Timothy 2:1 & James 5:16.
It is good for Christians to pray for one another.

Now, if the saints interact with God and are aware of earthly events (and can therefore hear us), why wouldn’t they pray for us, considering that it is good for Christians (which the angels and saints definitely are) to pray for one another?

Revelation 21:27.
Nothing imperfect will enter into Heaven.

Psalm 66:18 & James 5:16.
God ignores the prayers of the wicked, and the prayers of the righteous are effective.

Because the saints have reached perfection (they are in Heaven), their prayers are more effective than the prayers of those that are less righteous, so that’s why one might ask them to pray instead of asking another Christian on earth or simply doing it themselves.”

Love,
Matthew

Penal substitutionary/vicarious atonement


-Crucifixion, Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-11), Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Trent Horn

“Some Protestants argue for justification by faith alone by appealing to 2 Corinthians 5:21, which says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Protestant pastor John MacArthur even calls this verse the “heart of the gospel” when it comes to belief in sola fide, or justification by faith alone.

On the face of it, this doesn’t sound like it has much to do with us needing only to make an act of faith in Jesus in order to be saved. But Protestant apologists like MacArthur will say our salvation comes not from anything we do, but from the simple recognition that Jesus has already done everything that is necessary to rid us from sin. Through an act of faith, God “swaps” our sins for Christ’s righteousness, and that is why we can spend eternity with him. Jesus doesn’t literally become a sinner, but he is literally punished for our sins because now he has them.

When the Father sees the Son on the cross, he sees our sins and pours out his wrath upon the Son. But when the swap happens and God looks at us, he doesn’t see our sins anymore; he just sees Christ’s righteousness. Think of it as a theological Freaky Friday.

What’s important to remember is that our own righteousness hasn’t changed. Instead, God has covered our sins with Christ’s righteousness. Martin Luther is believed to have compared this to how dung heaps in the countryside would be covered with pure white snow. The dung heap remains, but it is no longer seen.

But this is not how 2 Corinthians 5:21 was traditionally understood throughout Church history.

Several Church fathers said this verse was an allusion to coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, or just the Incarnation in general, and has nothing to do with imputation of sin. St. Augustine said, “Therefore having no sin of his own; nevertheless, on account of the likeness of sinful flesh in which he came, he was called sin, that he might be sacrificed to wash away sin.” Even John Calvin used this verse in this way. When he was defending the importance of Christ’s humanity in the atonement, he wrote the following:

Although Christ could neither purify our souls by his own blood, nor appease the Father by his sacrifice, nor acquit us from the charge of guilt, nor, in short, perform the office of priest, unless he had been very God, because no human ability was equal to such a burden, it is however certain, that he performed all these things in his human nature. . . . Righteousness was manifested to us in his flesh. . . . He places the fountain of righteousness entirely in the incarnation of Christ[:] “He has made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

The point is not that Christ has become our sins, but that Christ has offered himself for humanity by taking on a human body. This corresponds to Romans 8:3, which says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Another interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that “made him to be sin” means “made him to be a sin offering.” The Greek word for sin in this passage can also mean “sin offering,” or what is sacrificed to take away sin. Another place where we find it is Hebrews 10:6, which quotes Psalm 40, which refers to sacrifices. It literally says in Greek: “Burnt offering and for sin you have not delighted in,” so most translators render “sin” in this passage “sin offering” because that makes the most sense of the context.

It’s reasonable to conclude that the same is true of 2 Corinthians 5:21 because Paul makes it clear Christ himself is a paschal sacrifice. He says in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed.”

So, to summarize, 2 Corinthians 5:21 does not refute the Catholic understanding of Christ’s atoning death. Moreover, it’s perfectly compatible with the Catholic view of Christ offering himself as a sacrifice that pays the debt incurred by all the sins ever committed. It is then up to each individual to freely choose to allow God to apply the effects of that sacrifice to his soul. This includes being baptized and being initially saved, and then living a life of obedience to God and not throwing away the value of Christ’s sacrifice. That’s why Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment.”

We should take heart that Christ doesn’t just legally expunge our sinful deeds from a ledger, but transforms us as we receive his righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:17 even says, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”


-by Allison Low, Allison Tobola Low is a lifelong Catholic, passionate for sharing Christ and the Catholic faith with others. She works full time as a physician in Tyler, Texas, and also received a Master’s degree in Theology from the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO. Allison finds time to teach and share the Catholic faith every opportunity she can find, including being a catechist for Adult Faith Formation and RCIA at her local parish. Allison enjoys giving talks in parishes on a variety of faith-related topics and is also a regional leader for St. Paul Street Evangelization. Her website is www.pillarandfoundation.com where you can find short simple Catholic videos she creates (that are especially for children/young adults).

“Discussing theology with our Protestant brothers and sisters is often interesting, but it can also be quite frustrating.

For instance, many Protestants, particularly those from the Reformed traditions, passionately and firmly hold to the doctrine of penal substitution. This doctrine holds that, on the cross, Jesus was taking the place of all of mankind and was punished by God the Father. In so doing He endured the wrath and punishment we deserve because of our sins.

Reformed vs. Catholic Theology

Of course, as Catholics, while we hold that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice, we do agree that it was substitutionary. But we firmly reject the idea of penal substitution. Since Jesus is God and God is perfect, how can God punish God? And assuming Jesus could somehow separate Himself from God, why would God punish a holy and pure being for our sins? Such an idea is entirely incompatible with our understanding of God.

In dialogue with Protestant friends, I have found that the essential elements in their belief in penal substitution seem to be that due to God’s wrath and perfect justice, Jesus had to be punished in order for us to be forgiven – there was no other option. But this doctrine is based on misunderstandings of the Incarnation, God’s “wrath,” and God’s perfect justice.

Why have you forsaken me?

When Jesus is on the cross, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46). Those holding the doctrine of penal substitution, claim this shows that God the Father abandoned Jesus on the cross and the relationship between God the Father and God the Son was severed. Additionally, quoting 2 Corinthians 5:21, they believe Jesus literally took on our sins. Referencing Romans 1:18, they say that God’s wrath was poured out onto Jesus. So at this moment on the cross, Jesus is taking our place and enduring the punishment we deserve for our sins.

But if we examine our understanding of the Trinity and of the Incarnation, we can see that this view of penal substitution is incompatible with these doctrines.

In Light of the Trinity and the Incarnation

First of all, God has revealed that He is a Triune God. The three Divine Persons of the Trinity are God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each Divine Person is distinct but not separate. Each divine person fully possesses the divine nature with the only difference being the relationship of the Persons. In the Godhead, these three Persons have no beginning and no end, and they are in eternal communion with each other.

In the Incarnation, God the Son, the Second Divine Person, while still fully possessing a divine nature, united himself to a human nature. This hypostatic union is real and not merely accidental. The two natures in Christ are distinct without commingling and Jesus’ divinity remained unchanged. Jesus was not simply a man with the indwelling of God but was both true God and true man.

Both Human and Divine

Therefore, when Jesus walked the shore of Galilee, spoke to the Apostles and was scourged at the pillar, it was God the Son who did these things. These experiences were possible because of his human nature. And when Jesus gave sight to the blind, calmed the storms and raised the dead, it was God the Son who did these things, because while having a human nature, He was still God the Son who fully possessed the divine nature. And when Jesus died on the cross, the Second Divine Person suffered in the flesh and was crucified in the flesh.

So the Passion was endured by God the Son on account of the human nature He assumed while His divine nature remained unchanged. (See Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, 46, a. 12.)

With the doctrine of penal substitution, however, it is held that God the Father ruptured His relationship with God the Son on the cross in order to punish Jesus. But this element of the doctrine is contrary to the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. If it were possible for God the Son to be separated from God the Father, even for a moment, then he would not and could not be God.

Did Jesus literally take on our sins?

When we acknowledge that Jesus is God the Son, we also must reject any interpretation of Scripture that suggests that Jesus literally took all our sins onto himself. We can confidently do this because of the nature of sin.

Simply put, sin is an offense against God. When we sin, we damage our relationship with God to varying degrees. By committing grave sins, we completely sever our relationship with God. We are no longer in communion with God.

If Jesus literally took on all our mortal sins, we would have a situation where Jesus would be at enmity with God. But, as already pointed out, this is not possible because Jesus is God the Son.

Acknowledging what we know about the Triune God, the Incarnation, and sin, we must then examine Scriptures in their entirety along with all the revealed doctrines. Looking at Scriptures in their entirety requires us to reject any interpretations suggesting God the Son in any way lost communion with God the Father or was at enmity with the Father.

How is God’s wrath satisfied?

Protestants will often ask, however, if Catholics do not hold that God the Father poured out the wrath we deserve onto Jesus, then how is God’s wrath satisfied? They will also point to numerous texts in the New Testament referring to God’s wrath, such as John 3:36; Romans 1:18 and 12:19; and Ephesians 5:6. But the key to understanding is in properly interpreting what Scripture is teaching us.

Anger (wrath) is a passion within human beings. God, however, is immutable and impassible. He does not have feelings as we know them. Nor does He experience passions. God also does not have a temper. And our sins do not provoke revenge in God. God is infinitely perfect, merciful, loving and just in all he does, so we must see what we call His anger in light of this truth.

Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, tells us that at times Scripture speaks of things in reference to God metaphorically. This is seen particularly when certain human passions are predicated of the Godhead. Aquinas says:

Hence a thing that is in us a sign of some passion, is signified metaphorically in God under the name of that passion. Thus with us it is usual for an angry man to punish, so that punishment becomes an expression of anger. Therefore, punishment itself is signified by the word anger, when anger is attributed to God.

In order to help us better understand God, Scripture uses metaphors, but we must take care to not hold that God can change, or that our actions cause emotions or passions to flare up in God.

Punishment as an expression of Wrath

Even though God does not experience the passion of anger, we say that we experience the consequences of sin as expressions of His “wrath.” But this must be understood metaphorically. When we sin, we rebel against God and turn away from him. God allows us to endure the consequences in this life and in the next. Those consequences include disorder, disharmony, pain, suffering and physical death. But these consequences/punishments are not the result of God actively willing torments. Rather, because of His love for us, God has given us a free will to make choices. If we choose to separate ourselves from Him who is Goodness itself and Love itself, then the inevitable outcome will be that we deprive ourselves of His goodness and love.

Another way of understanding “God’s wrath” is to recognize that our disobedience and rebellion do not causes any change in God by nature of who He is. Rather, we are changed by sin. If we reject God’s love and rebel, our hearts are hardened. Lacking God’s love, one will be tormented by the thought of God’s judgment and, as a result, will experience “God’s wrath.” But in both scenarios, what has changed is not God but us.

God’s Justice

The final point to keep in mind in regard to God’s nature is related to His perfect justice. Those holding to the doctrine of penal substitution believe that since the consequences of our sins are suffering, death and the pains of hell, justice requires Jesus to take our place and experiences these consequences for salvation to be possible.

But as posited earlier, how can God punish Jesus Christ who is completely innocent? It is also impossible to hold that God the Son could literally become a sinner in enmity with God. And it is at odds with justice that Jesus, perfectly pure, holy and innocent, would have to be tortured and crucified as punishment for what He did not do.

Christ’s Sacrificial Offering of Love
Jesus’ entire life was one of love, obedience and self-emptying (Philippians 2:8). He accepted his death on the cross freely, willing laying down his life for each one of us in love. Because of the Incarnation, God the Son performs a human act – one of freely offering Himself and sacrificing His life. He does this in our place. And being God, his offering is one of infinite value. This act of humility, obedience and love was pleasing to God. And Christ’s sacrifice was of infinite merit for us.

As Aquinas writes:

. . . by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. First of all, because of the exceeding charity from which he suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of his life which he laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion and the greatness of the grief endured…And therefore, Christ’s Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race…” (Summa, III, 48, a. 2).


-by Dr. Bryan Cross, PhD, was raised in the Pentecostal tradition, then became Reformed shortly after completing his bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Michigan. He then received an M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary. In 2003 he and his wife and two daughters became Anglican. On October 8, 2006, he and his family were received into full communion with the Catholic Church. He has previously taught at Saint Louis University, Lindenwood University, and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. He is presently an assistant professor of philosophy at Mount Mercy University. His personal blog is “Principium Unitatis.”

“The Reformed conception of the Atonement is that in Christ’s Passion and death, God the Father poured out all of His wrath for the sins of the elect, on Christ the Son. In Christ’s Passion and death, Christ bore the punishment of the Father’s wrath that the elect deserved for their sins. In the Reformed conception, this is what it means to bear the curse, to bear the Father’s wrath for sin. In Reformed thought, at Christ’s Passion and death, God the Father transferred all the sins (past, present, and future) of all the elect onto His Son. Then God the Father hated, cursed and damned His Son, who was evil in the Father’s sight on account of all the sins of the elect being concentrated in the Son. (R.C. Sproul says that the 56th minute of his talk here.) In doing so, God the Father punished Christ for all the sins of the elect of all time. Because the sins of the elect are now paid for, through Christ’s having already been punished for them, the elect can never be punished for any sin they might ever commit, because every sin they might ever commit has already been punished. For that reason Reformed theology is required to maintain that Christ died only for the elect. Otherwise, if Christ died for everyone, this would entail universal salvation, since it would entail that all the sins of all people, have already been punished, and therefore cannot be punished again.

The Catholic conception of Christ’s Passion and Atonement is that Christ offered Himself up in self-sacrificial love to the Father, obedient even unto death, for the sins of all men. In His human will He offered to God a sacrifice of love that was more pleasing to the Father than the combined sins of all men of all time are displeasing to Him, and thus made satisfaction for our sins. The Father was never angry with Christ. Nor did the Father pour out His wrath on the Son. The Passion is Christ’s greatest act of love, the greatest revelation of the heart of God, and the glory of Christ.(1) So when Christ was on the cross, God the Father was not pouring out His wrath on His Son; in Christ’s act of self-sacrifice in loving obedience to the Father, Christ was most lovable in the eyes of the Father. Rather, in Christ’s Passion we humans poured out our enmity with God on Christ, by what we did to Him in His body and soul. And He freely chose to let us do all this to Him. Deeper still, even our present sins contributed to His suffering, because He, in solidarity with us, grieved over all the sins of the world, not just the sins of the elect. Hence, St. Francis of Assisi said, “Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”(2) The Passion is a revelation of the love of God, not the wrath of God. The fundamental difference can be depicted simply in the following drawing(3):

One problem with the Reformed conception is that it would either make the Father guilty of the greatest evil of all time (pouring out the punishment for all sin on an innocent man, knowing that he is innocent), or if Christ were truly guilty and deserved all that punishment, then His suffering would be of no benefit to us.

A second problem with the Reformed conception is the following dilemma. If God the Father was pouring out His wrath on the Second Person of the Trinity, then God was divided against Himself, God the Father hating His own Word. God could hate the Son only if the Son were another being, that is, if polytheism or Arianism were true. But if God loved the Son, then it must be another person (besides the Son) whom God was hating during Christ’s Passion. And hence that entails Nestorianism, i.e. that Christ was two persons, one divine and the other human. He loved the divine Son but hated the human Jesus. Hence the Reformed conception conflicts with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. The Father and the Son cannot be at odds. If Christ loves men, then so does the Father. Or, if the Father has wrath for men, then so does Christ. And, if the Father has wrath for the Son, then the Son must have no less wrath for Himself.

St. Thomas Aquinas says:

Christ as God delivered Himself up to death by the same will and action as that by which the Father delivered Him up; but as man He gave Himself up by a will inspired of the Father. Consequently there is no contrariety in the Father delivering Him up and in Christ delivering Himself up. (4)

There St. Thomas explains that there is no contrariety between the Father and the Son during Christ’s Passion, no loss of love from the Father to the Son or the Son to the Father. The Father wholly and entirely loved His Son during the entire Passion. By one and the same divine will and action, the Father allowed the Son to be crucified and the Son allowed Himself to be crucified.(5)

One question, from the Reformed point of view, is: How then were our sins paid for, if Christ was not punished by the Father? Christ made atonement for the sins of all men by offering to God a sacrifice of love that was more pleasing to the Father than the combined sins of all men of all time are displeasing to Him. Hence through the cross Christ merited grace for the salvation of all men. Those who refuse His grace do not do so because Christ did not die for them or did not win sufficient grace for them on the cross, but because of their own free choice.

A second question, from the Reformed point of view, is this: St. Paul tells us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”(6) How should we understand the curse, if God the Father is not pouring out His wrath on His Son? St. Augustine explains clearly in his reply to Faustus, that what it means that Christ was cursed is that Christ suffered death.(7) Christ took our sin in the sense that He willingly bore its consequence, namely, death, because death is the consequence of sin and its curse. Death is not natural. But Christ took the likeness of sinful man in that He subjected Himself to death, even death on a cross for our sake.

A third question, from the Reformed point of view, is this: How then should we understand Isaiah 53? What does it mean that:

Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. .. And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: if he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall be prosperous in his hand. Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53;4-6, 10-11)

This means that Christ carried in His body the sufferings that sin has brought into the world, and that Christ suffered in His soul over all the sins of the world, and their offense against God. He bore our iniquities not in the sense that God punished Him for what we did, but in the sense that He grieved over them all, in solidarity with us. That is what it means that the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He suffered the consequences of sin (i.e. suffering, grief, death), by entering into solidarity with us, entering into our fallen world, and allowing Himself to suffer in it with us, for us, even by our hands.(8)

  1. This is why Christ retained His five wounds in His resurrected body. And this is why Catholics show Christ on the cross, in the crucifix, because this is Christ’s glory. We, with St. Paul, glory in Christ crucified. (1 Cor 1:23-24) [↩]
  2. CCC 598 [↩]
  3. Of course in the Reformed system Christ also self-sacrificially loves the Father. But what effects propitiation in the Reformed system is the complete pouring out of God’s wrath upon the Son. In Catholic doctrine, by contrast, God does not pour out His wrath for our sins onto His Son, and what effects propitiation is Christ’s positive gift of love to the Father. Hence the illustration depicts what effects propitiation in the respective theological systems. It is not intended to be an exhaustive illustration of all that is going on during Christ’s Passion. [↩]
  4. See ST III Q.47 a.3 ad 2 [↩]
  5. For a fuller explanation of what Christ did for us through His Passion, according to St Thomas Aquinas, see “Aquinas and Trent 6.” [↩]
  6. Gal 3:13 [↩]
  7. Contra Faustus, XIV. [↩]
  8. For additional reading on the Catholic understanding of the atonement see Philippe De La Trinitaté’s What is Redemption?, and Jean Rivière’s The Doctrine of the Atonement Volume 1 and Volume 2. [↩]

Love,
Matthew

Sep 16 – St Andrew Kim Taegon (1821-1846), Priest & Martyr, First Priest of Korea, 김대건 안드레아, 金大建, Gim Daegeon Andeurea, Kim Taegŏn Andǔrea


-Choyeung Portrait of St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, 김대건 안드레아 신부의 초상화, 75x90cm,Oil on canvas, 2010


-Franciscan church of St Francis of Assisi in New York


-by Sean Fitzpatrick

“When French missionaries first set foot on Korean soil in 1836, they were not prepared for the surprise that awaited them. There they found thousands of practicing Catholics, living without sacraments and who had never seen a priest before. Among these remarkable faithful, the missionaries would help one young Korean begin his path toward holy orders—one who would, in time, be declared Korea’s first native priest and the canonized patron of the East Asian Peninsula: Andrew Kim Taegon.

In its typically mysterious ways, the Church preceded its apostles in Korea, coming some three hundred years before the Paris Foreign Mission Society at the hands of Japanese invaders, and later, from texts that were brought over by scholars from China. Many Korean people were moved to embrace Jesus Christ wholeheartedly on hearsay and hope alone. It was this extraordinary faith that characterized the early Church in Korea and that animated Korea’s first Catholic priest and saint.

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Born in Chungchong Province in 1821 to parents who were Catholic converts, Kim Taegon was baptized Andrew at the age of 15, even though his father and grandfather had been put to death for adhering to Christianity. The Korean monarchy was suspicious of this Western faith and its opposition to the nation’s predominant Confucian philosophy. Catholicism was regarded as a sinister colonizing influence, and violent efforts were made to crush it.

Under these circumstances of persecution, the missionary priests sent Andrew with two companions over a thousand miles away to a seminary in Macau, China, to prepare for the priesthood. After years of study, and adventures as an interpreter aboard a French warship, Andrew was ordained a deacon in China. He then made his way back to his fatherland.

From Seoul, Andrew led a number of French missionaries to Shanghai, where the French bishop Jean-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Ferréol ordained him the first Korean priest. Shining with zeal and fervor at the age of 25, Andrew returned to Korea with Bishop Ferréol himself to bring the gospel and Christ’s salvation to his people. He labored and ministered with joy in his home province of Chungchong until the bishop sent him on to Seoul in an effort to introduce the French missionaries from China into that region, using Chinese fishing boats to smuggle them in.

His mission was discovered by officials of the Joseon Dynasty, whose merciless clampdown on Christianity forced the faithful into hiding, but Andrew was bold in his love for Christ and Christ’s flock. He was taken to prison in Seoul, where he was tortured and finally found guilty of treason in leading a heretical cult into the country. As he awaited the executioner’s blade, Andrew Kim Taegon is reported to have cried out to those who assembled for his beheading,

This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and my God. It is for him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know him.

In 1984, Pope St. John Paul II canonized Andrew Kim Taegon together with Paul Chong Hasang, who laid the groundwork for the founding of a diocese in Korea, and 102 Korean martyrs. These valiant companions in Christ celebrate their feast day on September 20.

Today, we are all somewhat accustomed, at least from afar, to the longstanding tensions that entangle North Korea and South Korea and the ripple effects they produce on the world stage. The peculiar isolationism of North Korea, with its overt militaristic bluff and bluster, might be viewed as an extreme and alarming caricature of a certain Oriental self-assurance, arising paradoxically from an Asian privacy that in many, if not most, cases, is an Asian courtesy, given how much of a matter of course it is for a multitude to live in a relatively minute territory.

That attitude of charity in society and forbearance of neighbors is one that makes for good soil for Christianity. On the other hand, the defensive attitude also prevalent in such places challenges the Faith’s taking root. Today, a good deal of saber-rattling may come from Pyongyang, but the sword that Our Lord promised to bring has rattled these nations for centuries beyond any modern missile test. That sacred saber-rattling has awoken many in the East to the sun of righteousness, rising with healing in his wings.

The persecution of Catholics in the history of Asia is not as storied as it deserves to be, hidden perhaps behind that deep Eastern veil of secrecy and sanctity. But there are heroes, valiant soldiers of Christ, whose lives and deaths, though obscure, have built up a foundation of faith that has withstood the brinkmanship and pressures of oppressive dynasties whose motives often appear more calculated toward power than peace.

Christianity now has a home in Korea and, more importantly, in Korean hearts, though their struggles continue to this day. But also to this day, the blessings and bruises of Korean Catholics remain in the hands of their holy patron saint, Andrew Kim Taegon, and his fellow martyrs. As goes the ancient Korean saying, at the end of hardship comes happiness.”


-Mirinae Holy Site, the location of the graves of Saint Andreas Kim Taegon, Korea’s first Catholic priest and saint; his mother Ursula; Bishop Ferréol, the third head of the Joseon parish who ordained Priest Kim; and Vincentius Lee Minsik who buried Saint Kim’s body.

“My Lord, Your Excellency will have already heard what has happened in the capital since we parted. We set sail as soon as we had completed our preparations, and a favourable wind brought us in safety to the sea of Yen-pieng, which was covered at that time by a quantity of fishing boats. My people bought some fish, and went to the harbour of the island of Suney to sell it again, but not finding purchasers, they sent a sailor ashore to salt it.
In the course of our voyage we passed by Pokang, and the islands of Maihap Thetsinmok and Sotseng Taitseng, and at last cast anchor near Pelintao. I saw there about a hundred fishing junks from Canton; they kept very near to the shore, but the crew were prevented from landing by sentinels, who were posted on the elevations of the coast, and the tops of the hills. Curiosity drew a crowd of Coreans from the neighbouring islands round the Chinese. I myself went near them at night, and was able to speak to the master of a boat. I entrusted him with the letters of your Excellency, and wrote some to MM. Beneux, Libois, and Martre, as well as to two Chinese Christians. I added to these two maps of Corea, with a description of the islands, rocks, and other remarkable features of the coast of Hoang-hai. This place appears very favourable for the introduction of missionaries, and for the transmission of letters, provided sufficient precautions are taken in making use of the Chinese. They make an appointment here for the fishing every year, about the beginning of the third month, and remain there till about the end of the fifth.

After having executed your Lordship’s orders, we set out again, and returned to the harbour of Suney. Up to this time my voyage had been very prosperous, and I hoped for an equally fortunate termination of it. The fish which we had left was not yet dried, which obliged us to stay longer in port. My servant Veran asked leave to go on shore to reclaim some money which he had left in charge of a family, with whom he had been concealed for seven years for fear of persecution.

After he had gone the mandarin came to our boat, with some of his people, and asked to be allowed to use it to drive away the Chinese junks. Corean law does not allow the boats of the nobles to be taken for the public service, and as I had been made, I do not know how, to pass with the people for a ianpan of high rank, as the nobles are called, I should have fallen in their estimation, and so done an injury to our future expeditions, if I had given up my boat to the mandarin. Besides, Veran had prescribed for me a line of conduct which I was to pursue in similar circumstances. I therefore replied to the mandarin, that my boat was for my own use, and that I could not give it up to him. His officers abused me violently, and took my pilot away with them.

They came back in the evening, and taking away another sailor, brought him into the court, where the answers which both of them made when questioned, threw grave suspicions upon me. The mandarin was aware that the grandmother of one of them was a Christian. The officers then consulted together, and said: “We are thirty; if this person is really noble, perhaps one or two of us may be put to death, but not all; let us go and seize him.” They accordingly came at night, accompanied by several women of bad character, and throwing themselves upon us like madmen, they dragged me by the hair, some of which was pulled out, and tying me with a cord, they showered kicks and blows with their hands and with sticks upon me. In the mean time the remaining sailors under cover of the darkness of the night crept quietly down into the boat, and rowed away as fast as they could.

When we reached the shore, the officers stripped me of my clothes, bound and beat me again with every sort of insult and sarcasm, and brought me to the court, where a great many persons were assembled. The mandarin said to me: “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes, I am,” I answered.

“Why do you practise this religion contrary to the king’s orders? Give it up.”

“I practice my religion because it is true; it teaches me to know God, and brings me to eternal happiness: I know of no such thing as apostasy.”

The torture was then applied to me, and the judge said, “If you do not apostatise you shall die under the blows.”

“As you please, but I will never abandon my God. Do you wish to hear the truth of my religion? Listen. The God whom I worship is the Creator of heaven and earth, of men and of everything that is: He punishes sin and rewards virtue, &c. Whence it follows that all men are bound to do homage to Him. For my part, I thank thee, O mandarin, for making me suffer these tortures for His love. May my God reward you for this benefit, and raise you to a higher rank.”

At these words the mandarin and the whole assembly began to laugh. They next brought me a cangue about eight feet long, which I immediately took up, and put on my neck, at which bursts of laughter broke from all parts of the audience. I was thrown into prison with the two sailors, who had already apostatised. My hands and feet, my neck and my loins were tightly bound, so that I could neither walk, nor sit, nor lie down. A crowd of people pressed round me out of curiosity, and I spent part of the night in preaching the faith to them, and they declared that they would embrace it if it were not forbidden by the king.

The officers finding some Chinese articles in my bag believed that I was of that country, and the next day the mandarin sent for me and asked if I was a Chinese.

“No,” I answered, “I am a Corean.”

Not believing what I said he asked, “In what province of China were you born?”

“I was brought up in Macao in the province of Koang-tong; I am a Christian, and curiosity and the desire of propagating my religion brought me to this country.”

He then sent me back to prison, from whence, five days later, I was taken by a subaltern and several men to Kaiton, the capital of the province. The governor asked me if I was a Chinese, and I answered as I had done to the mandarin of the island. He put a great many questions to me about my religion, and I gladly took the opportunity of speaking to him of the immortality of the soul, hell, paradise, the existence of God, and the necessity of worshipping Him in order to be happy after death.

He and his people answered, “What you say is good and reasonable: but the king does not allow us to be Christians.” They afterwards asked me many things which would have compromised the Christians and the mission, and I was very careful not to reply to them. “If you do not tell us the truth,” they said angrily, “we will torment you in various ways.”

“Do what you please,” I answered; and running to the instruments of torture I took them up and threw them at the governor’s feet, saying, “See, I am ready, strike me. I do not fear your tortures.”

The officers removed them immediately, and the servants of the mandarin came up to me and said: “It is the custom for every body who speaks to the governor to call himself So-in” (which means fool.) “What are you saying?” I answered, “I am a great nobleman, and know nothing of such an expression.”

Some days afterwards the governor sent for me again, and overwhelmed me with questions about China, sometimes speaking by an interpreter to find out if I was really a Chinese, and ending by ordering me to apostatise. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to express my pity for him. The two Christians who were arrested with me were overcome by the severity of the torture, and pointed out the house where I had lived in the capital, besides betraying your excellency’s servant, Thomas Ly, his brother Matthew, and several others: they confessed that I had communicated with the Chinese junks, and given some letters to one of them. A detachment of soldiers was immediately sent off to the junks, which brought back the letters to the governor. We were very strictly guarded in separate cells, with four soldiers watching us night and day, and a long cord tied to our loins. The soldiers seeing seven scars which had been left on my breast by the ten leeches which I had put on when I was ill at Macao, declared that I was the Great Bear, and amused themselves by many jokes about it.

As soon as the king heard of our arrest he sent some officers to bring us to the capital: he had been told that I was a Chinese. During the journey we were not bound as we were in prison, but our arms were tied with a red cord, as is done with robbers and great criminals, and our heads were covered with bags of black cloth. We suffered greatly on the way from the crowds, who thought I was a foreigner, and pressed to see me, some even climbing up trees and getting on the roofs of houses as I passed.

When we reached Seoul we were thrown into the prison of thieves. The people of the court, hearing me speak, said I was a Corean. The following day I appeared before the judges, who asked me what I was.

“I am a Corean,” I answered, “and I was educated in China.” Interpreters of Chinese were then called that I might speak with them.

In the persecution of 1839 the person who betrayed us declared that three young Coreans had been sent to Macao to study the language of the Europeans, so that it was impossible that I should not be recognized: besides, one of the Christians who was arrested with me had told them that I was their countryman. I confessed to the judges that I was Andrew Kim, one of the three Coreans mentioned, and I related to them all that I had gone through in order to return to my country.

When I had told my story every one exclaimed, “Poor young man! From his infancy upwards he has been in trouble.”

The judges ordered me to conform to the king’s orders and to apostatise, but I answered, “The God who orders me to worship Him is above the king, and to deny Him is a sin which the king’s order cannot justify.”

When it was suggested to me to denounce the Christians I objected to them the duties of charity and the commandment of God to love our neighbour. Being asked about religion I spoke to them at length of the existence and unity of God, of the creation and immortality of the soul, of hell, of the necessity of worshipping our Creator, and of the falsehood of the religions of the heathen.

When I had finished speaking the judges answered: “Your religion is good, but ours is so also, and therefore we practise it.”

“If such is your opinion,” I replied, “you ought to leave us alone and live at peace with us. But instead of that you persecute us, and treat us worse than the greatest criminals: you confess that our religion is good, and you attack us as if its teaching was abominable.”

They laughed loudly at my reply, and handed to me the letters and papers they had taken. The judges read the two that were written in Chinese; they only contained salutations to friends. They then told me to translate the European letters, but I only explained to them what was of no consequence to the Mission. They asked me about MM. Berneux, Maistre, and Libois, and I answered “esse philosophantes in Sinis,” that they were studying philosophy in China.

Finding a difference between my letters and those of your Excellency they asked me who had written the latter. I said in general that they were my letters. They showed me those of your Excellency, and desired me to write like them, intending to entrap me, but I was too cunning for them. “These characters,” I said, “were written with a metallic pen; if you will bring one I will do as you wish.

“We have no pens of metal.”

“Unless I have one I cannot form characters like these.”

A quill was then brought, and the judge gave it to me saying, ” Cannot you write with this instrument?”

“It is not the same thing, but it will serve to show how a person who uses the European characters can write different hands.” Then making a very fine pen I wrote several lines in a small hand, and afterwards I cut off the point and wrote much larger. “You see,” I said to them, “these characters are not the same.” This satisfied them, and they did not press me further, but your Lordship will see from this how far our learned men in Corea are behind those of Europe.

The Christians who were taken with me have not yet been put to any torture in the capital. Charles and his companions are in another prison, where we cannot communicate with them. Of the ten who are here four have apostatised, but three of them repent of their weakness. Matthias Ly, who played so vile a part in 1839, appears full of courage and desirous of martyrdom, His example is followed by the father of the convert Sensiri, by my pilot, and by Peter Nam, who formerly gave such scandal to the faithful. We do not know when we shall be led out to death, but we are full of confidence in the mercy of the Lord, and trust that He will give us strength to confess His holy Name up to our last moment.

The government has decided upon seizing your Excellency’s servant Thomas, and several other important persons. The police seem rather tired, and not caring to look for Christians any more, have said that they have all gone away to Itsen Iantsi Ogni, and into the provinces of Tshong-tsheng and Tsella. I entreat your Excellency and M. Daveluy to remain concealed until after my death.

The judge tells me that three vessels, believed to be French, have anchored near the island Oiento. He says they have come by order of the Emperor of France, (a convenient expression in these countries,) and that they threaten to do much harm to Corea; that two of them have gone away with the intention of returning next year, and that the third still remains in Corean waters. The government seems frightened, remembering the death of the three Frenchmen who were martyred in 1839. I was asked if I knew the reason of their coming, and I replied that I knew nothing about it, but that they need not be afraid, for that the French never did harm to any one without good reason. I have spoken to them of the power of France, and of the liberality of her government. I think they believe me, but they object to me that they have killed three Frenchmen without coming to any harm. If French ships have really come to Corea, your Excellency will doubtless be aware of it.

I have had to translate an English map of the world, and have made two copies of it in colours, which have pleased them much; one is intended for the king. Just now I am engaged, by order of the ministers, in making a small compendium of geography. They take me for a very learned man. Poor people!

I recommend Ursula, my mother, to your Excellency. She was allowed to see her son for a day or two after an absence of ten years, and then he was taken from her again. Have pity upon her, I beseech you, and console her in her sorrow.

Prostrating myself in spirit at your Excellency’s feet, I salute for the last time my beloved father and revered bishop. I likewise salute Mgr. De Besi, and send my respectful compliments to M. Daveluy.

May we meet in heaven.

From prison, 26th August, 1846,
-Andrew Kim, Priest, Prisoner of Jesus Christ” (beheaded on September 16, 1846, Seoul, Korea), Letter of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon (martyr) to Bishop Jean Joseph Ferréo,

““We have received baptism, entrance into the Church and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name only and not in fact?” -St Andrew Kim Taegon

“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.” -final words of St Andrew Kim Taegon

“O God, Who have been pleased to increase your adopted children in all the world, and Who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
–Collect for the feast of the Martyrs of Korea.

사랑 해요, salang haeyo,
Matthew

Conscience Rights & Intrinsic Evil


-by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Ignitum, Fr. Christopher serves in the Diocese of London, Ontario.

“Bio-ethicists have claimed that to offer effective-referrals (government (Canada, a failed state, for example) legal requirement for doctors) for medically assisted suicide, abortion, etc. is to “formally cooperate” with an act that is intrinsically evil.

Conscience rights are an important thing worth protecting, at the civil level, and we must learn to accept the negative repercussions that come from the diversity of views that result therein. In any community it is imprudent to micromanage or coerce consciences, violently into the same value and agenda as the state. Obviously, there are some matters which involve enforcement, however when it comes to matters of conscience that are complex, and diverse, the process of informing one’s conscience should not be obstructed by coercive tactics from the government such as “losing your Job if you don’t offer an effective referral” or “You are fired because you would not provide Plan B.” There are several things that this inhibits in a mature democracy, but I will name three: (1) affective maturity, (2) individual dignity, and (3) free-speech/thought.

1) Affective maturity is where one can understand another person’s position that is contrary to their own without taking it personally. In this regard, there is an openness to the other to dialogue, and not vilify the enemy. This happens on both sides – take for instance those discussing the vaccine: it is the “mark of the beast” or the people receiving the vaccine “hate the vulnerable.” None of these are mature responses, but they are angry ones that are rooted in a type of affective-wound that has gone unhealed. Part of that maturity is living in a society where we meet professionals who don’t share our same world view, and having the patient respect that they do not have a right to force someone to do something they don’t believe in.

2) Respecting the individual consciences of others allows them to go through a process of informing their conscience, and to exercise it. Consciences are a distinctive part of a human person where their own individuality is called to humbly submit to the truth and act accordingly. In this regard we reflect on the importance of “interior freedom” where fear, coercion, and dictates are not imposed upon that individual for the sake of egalitarian conformity. Such conformity is unintelligible, especially if it rises from a type of Categorical Kantian ethical system that does not have the opportunity to nuance complex situations that may exist in each individual. For instance, there are those who cannot receive the vaccine for several reasons, some in regard to their interpretation of the data/science, others because of their medical situation as mothers, etc… but the circumstances of each particular individual needs to be respected, as well as the process by which they come to make a decision so that it can truly be their own. Without this freedom, we have slaves to fear and coercion.

3) Free-Speech and free-thought is incredibly important, because, as a subset to the previous point, it enables a person to freely examine their own reasoning without the pressure to conform to various tribes. However, if a disproportionate type of enforcement occurs, it will undermine the ability to speak, dialogue and even shed a light upon the topic being discussed. Conclusions and recommendations from others will become untrustworthy because opposing views have been silenced or oppressed.

Finally the application of all of this is to say that while the Church cannot provide religious grounds for a person to avoid receiving the vaccine, the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Holy Office, the Roman Inquisition) does clearly indicate that one should respect the conscience freedoms of others. These two should not be conflated: religious reasons, and conscience freedoms. Although there is certainly an overlapping dimension between the two, the religious aspect pertains to the moral and theological reasoning, while the conscience pertains to one’s own particular circumstances, their own philosophical reasoning, and experiences. Thus, conscience rights are more general (broader) than religious rights. These conscience rights, the CDF does believe are worthy of defending, which in a democratic country, and especially in Ontario have demonstrably been proven not to be respected. I think this is an area worthy of our efforts to reexamine.

The original purpose of this post was to explain that while I am in favor of vaccines, I respect the right for others to think otherwise. I believe we need to have healthy discussions on this matter, as a mature democratic society should, but this is unfortunately inhibited by what is already demonstrated to be a lack of liberty amongst health officials, and what is sometimes an equal-opposite reaction.”

His justice shall reign,
Matthew

Latin not as dead as you think


-Pavia, Italy. “Et Verbum caro factum est” meaning “And the Word became flesh” in Duomo di Pavia (Pavia Cathedral)

[I am always the Catholic docent on business trips with colleagues. When diversion takes us into Catholic spaces, I am called upon by colleagues to translate/interpret both art and letter in said spaces. I do what I can. I try to be helpful.  It is said when Pope BXVI wanted to communicate something difficult, like his resignation, he would speak it in Latin to the Curia listening to him during a meeting.  It would take a moment to process and sink in, which is why he did that way is supposed.]


-by Joseph Shaw

“From an early date, the Church in the West has used Latin—not only for administration, study, and communication, but for prayer. This was natural for regions where Latin was the majority language, but as the centuries passed, the Western Church persisted with a Latin liturgy in evangelizing peoples on and beyond the edges of the Roman Empire not conversant with it, such as the North African speakers of Punic and the speakers of Celtic and Germanic languages in western and central Europe. By contrast, the Eastern Churches sometimes made use of the languages of their new converts, even when these had to be specially developed in their written forms for this to be possible, as with Ethiopia’s Ge’ez and Russia’s Church Slavonic.

There is thus a close association between the Western Church and the Latin language. Even today, when the liturgy can be celebrated in a huge range of languages, this relationship has left its mark, and Latin remains an option for both public and private prayer—not only in celebrations of the pre-Vatican II liturgy, but also for the reformed Mass.

Why has the Church been so attached to Latin? The answer is that liturgical Latin is not just a convenient language, but a sacred language. Many religions have sacred languages, or a sacred register of an ordinary language, for use in their liturgies. Islam has classical Arabic, a language not widely understood by its many millions of non-Arabic believers, and some distance from the Arabic spoken today in the Arab world. Buddhism, Hinduism, and the Jain religion share the very ancient sacred language of Sanskrit. Judaism has biblical Hebrew, and the languages of many Eastern churches today are specialized sacred languages: the Church Slavonic and Ge’ez already mentioned, and the koine Greek of the Greek churches.

Sacred languages, like sacred garments, sacred forms of music, and the styles associated with sacred buildings and sacred art, may derive from the non-sacred, but even in their origins, they often have distinguishing features. Koine Greek and Church Slavonic were literary creations rather than natural languages. No one ever spoke the sacred English created by Anglicanism and found in the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible: it includes archaisms and deliberately exotic syntax to mimic Hebrew and Greek. The High German of Luther’s Bible and liturgy was the language of the imperial court, not the language of most German-speakers. Similarly, the form of Latin found, first in the early Latin translations of the Bible and then in liturgical texts, is distinct from ordinary Latin. No Roman ever said, “Amen amen dico vobis”: “Truly, truly, I say to you.” The first word of many Latin prayers, “quaesumus,” “we beseech,” was already archaic when it was first used in them.

There is a powerful religious instinct to have special, separate words, things, buildings, and music for worship. These are intended not to exclude worshippers, but rather to draw them in to something supernatural, to introduce them into a sacred zone for communication with the divine, a communication that transcends mere words. Hearing a sacred language, like entering a sacred building, is a clear signal that we are leaving the ordinary world behind. In common with other religions, the Church still insists on special vestments; sacred vessels not to be used for anything else; and distinctive furnishings, artistic styles, and language, even in the context of the vernacular liturgy.

Latin is the Church’s superlative means of creating a sense that we are communicating with God and not with human beings. Even in the act of announcing the liturgical reform that would largely displace Latin with vernacular languages, Pope St. Paul VI described Latin as “sacred utterance” and “the language of the angels”. The effect of Latin on the worshipper was noted by Pope St. John Paul II, who remarked on the sense of worldwide unity it inspired and also “the profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery” it elicited.

There is a parallel with the use of silence in the liturgy. This has a place in the reformed Missal of 1970 (for example, for the “priestly prayers”), and its importance was emphasized by John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In silence, nothing is communicated by words, but when worshippers are united in an act of adoration, a period of silent prayer can communicate at a deep level, both horizontally, in terms of a sense of solidarity, and vertically, to and from the object of worship, God. Latin does something similar in creating a meaningful frame for prayer.

It is relevant, therefore, that Latin prayers are meaningful. The liturgical formation that all adult Catholics should have should equip us to understand in general terms what is going on in Mass regardless of the language. Even people without formal Latin education know what gloria in excelsis, agnus dei, and the like mean. The Church has always encouraged the study of Latin, and this can provide us with a dimension of liturgical participation that goes beyond what we get in a vernacular translation, since (at least with prayers of ancient origin) it puts us in touch with the words used by our predecessors in the Faith, often from the time of the Fathers of the Church. We can, however, choose to focus on the words, or on the general thrust of the liturgy, just as someone praying the rosary can focus on the words of the Hail Mary or instead on the mystery being considered in that decade. Liturgy in the vernacular tends to be more insistent and demanding of our attention, word by word, particularly when we have to make responses and change our bodily posture.

The Latin of the liturgy has something special to offer those with a knowledge of Latin, since they can understand it better and be directed in their engagement with the liturgy in a more detailed way. Paradoxically, it also has something special to offer those with limited knowledge of the vernacular used in the liturgy they happen to attend. These include the speakers of minority languages and migrants. Many tens of millions of Catholics are obliged to worship not in their mother-tongue, but in a second language: in Africa, usually the old colonial language; in China, the “standard Chinese” favored by the State. The use of a vernacular inevitably favors those most at home in it, and also those who prefer verbal communication over non-verbal communication: adults over children, the more educated middle class over the working class, and even women over men.

In this way, Latin can be a leveler, like silence. As Pope St. John XXIII expressed it, Latin belongs to no one in particular, but is “gracious and friendly to all.” The experience of the sacred that Latin makes possible has been appreciated by saints and scholars, soldiers, peasants, and sinners, and even small children, since the Church’s early centuries. It remains available to us today.”

Te amo,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP