Semper ecclesia reformanda: chastity & celibacy


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“Purity is the fruit of prayer.”
— Saint Teresa of Calcutta, quoted from the book Purity 365

Chastity as a Virtue

“The Catholic Church wants YOU to have AWESOME SEX!!!!”

Chastity is not a teeth-gritting ability to avoid violating the sexual rules. Rather, chastity is a habit of reverence for oneself and others that enables us to use our sexual powers intelligently in the pursuit of human flourishing and happiness.

“Those who are chaste are fully at peace with their bodies and their sexuality. Chastity is not best seen as the ability to keep oneself from violating the sexual “rules”; rather, it is “a dynamic principle enabling one to use one’s sexual powers intelligently in the pursuit of human flourishing and happiness.”

If chastity is a virtue, it is an aspect of character that a person can aspire to, achieve, stray from, regain. Notice that when the virtue at the top of this spectrum is chastity, there are three different ways of being unchaste—continence, incontinence and the vice of lustfulness.”
-Caroline J. Simon

“The virtue of chastity calls us, as sexual beings, to revere ourselves as creatures made in the image of God and made to honor God through our actions—through how we do have sex and do not have sex,” Matt Fradd writes. “And it calls us to revere other persons for the sake of the other person’s good and ultimate happiness. When we think about it, this loving reverence for ourselves and others is what we deeply desire.”

  • However, these truths about the virtue of chastity are easily forgotten today. There are some reasons for our amnesia.
    We are unfamiliar with the language of “virtue.” Caroline Simon notes above that chastity (like other virtues that temper human desire for pleasure) is actually an ideal trait, a settled and comfortable “peace” with our well-ordered desires and pleasures—in this case, our desires for and pleasures regarding sex. Chastity is neither mere continence (a difficult, but successful struggle against disordered desires) nor incontinence (a losing struggle); chastity is not a struggle at all. Of course, many of us continue to struggle with wayward sexual desires. But this suggests that we are not yet chaste and not yet at peace with proper sexual desire, as we want to be.
  • We experience some resentment toward morality generally and toward specific ideals like chastity. The emotion-stance of resentment “involves disparaging and rejecting what is good and strong because we feel unable to attain it,” Fradd explains. We long to be at peace with sexual desire in relationships that “accord with our human dignity and…weave into the happiness that God intends for us in this life.” But this ideal seems unattainable. “All around us we see marriages that are impermanent, personal loyalties that are problematically divided, and spouses and friends who are unfaithful. Sexuality is misused, within marriages and in singleness, in ways that are selfish, in ways that are abusive, and in ways that do not honor God,” he notes. “So, we end up despising the ideal. We call chastity ‘oppressive’; we call it ‘naïve.’Lacking the strength in ourselves and having little community support to obtain the ideal we desire, we end up resenting it.”
  • We mistakenly think chastity revolves around not having sex. Yes, during singleness and at times in marriage it is appropriate to not have sex. But abstinence is not the heart of this virtue. “Simply put, chastity is a sort of reverence: a chaste person reveres and respects the other person by making sure that before they have sex, both are united in a common aim—namely, a marriage commitment whose mutual goal is the gift of self to the other,” Fradd writes. “When people will the good for one another in this way, they do not act solely on passing desires and feelings, but rather on their commitment to help the other person attain the good and honor God.”
  • We mistakenly think chastity revolves around repressing sexual desire and not thinking about sex. This is “almost exactly backwards,” Fradd notes. Chastity has no interest
    in eliminating true sexual desire, which says, “This is my body given for you,” but it would like to rid our lives of the lust that says, “This is your body taken for me.” Furthermore, chastity has no interest in stopping our thinking about sex, but it would like for us to think carefully and well about sex. Fradd says, “The place to start is with the telos for which God created us, and why God made the other creatures and us sexual beings: ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:22, 28). This tells us that sex, sexual desire, and orgasms are good. Chastity wants us to think about what good it is that they were created for. How do they fit within God’s plan for us to love one another and honor God?”

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
— Mt 22:36-39


-by Steve Weidenkopf

“By the eleventh century, the Church found itself in great need of reform, especially the clergy, and the Holy Spirit provided a series of reform-minded popes. These popes began their ecclesial careers as monks, and many of them had spent time at the famous reformed Benedictine monastery at Cluny in France. When Bruno of Alsace was elected pope in 1049, taking the name Leo IX, he initiated one of the most comprehensive reforms in Church history.

Leo (r. 1049-1054) recognized that simply issuing reform decrees from Rome would not change clerical behavior and restore the Church, so he decided to go on one of the most important road trips in papal history. During his five-year pontificate, he spent only six months in Rome, taking his reform road show to France, Italy, and Germany. Wherever he went, Leo deposed immoral bishops and punished clerics who were guilty of simony. Although those actions were necessary, the pope recognized that the major problem with clerical behavior was infidelity to the promise of celibacy.

In the first three centuries of Church history, there was no law prohibiting the ordination of married men, and many priests were married; however, marriage was never permitted after ordination. Moreover, all priests—married, single, or widowed—practiced sexual abstinence after ordination. The first recorded Church legislation concerning clerical celibacy in the West was decreed at the Synod of Elvira in Spain around the year 300, and in 385, Pope Siricius (r. 384-399) mandated celibacy for all clergy in the West.

But despite the longstanding practice of the Church, clergy in the early medieval Church often did not live celibacy faithfully. Many priests were not properly trained or formed, and they flouted their vow of celibacy, taking mistresses and concubines who bore them children, causing great scandal. Other priests engaged in homosexual acts. All the while, bishops and abbots seemed hesitant to act and restore virtue to the priesthood and monasteries.

But one monk was not afraid, and he wrote a book in which he called for Leo IX to remove this stain of clerical immorality. His name was Peter Damian, and today (Feb 21) is his feast day.

Peter was born in Ravenna seven years into the eleventh century. His early life was marked by suffering; both his parents died when he was an infant. An older, abusive brother and his concubine took Peter into their home, where he was beaten, starved, and sent to work as a swineherd. In the midst of this tribulation, Peter took solace in Christ and developed deep piety. When he found a gold coin in the mud while tending the pigs, for example, instead of spending it on himself, Peter ran to the parish priest and paid a stipend for a Mass to be celebrated for the repose of his father’s soul.

Eventually, Peter was rescued from his horrible conditions by another brother who recognized Peter’s intellectual gifts and ensured he received an education in the liberal arts. This brother’s love and generosity influenced Peter to add his brother’s name, Damian, to his own and he henceforth was known as Peter Damian.

Peter’s devoted his life to growing closer to God, and he performed many acts of mortification to drive away temptations of the flesh. His spirituality was focused on the Cross, and he wrote, “Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ” (Sermo XVIII, 11). He incorporated this focus into his life to such a degree that he came to describe himself as “Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ.”

In his late twenties, Peter joined a monastery, where he committed himself to personal reform and to pursuing reform within his community. He knew that reform in the larger Church and even in secular society was impossible without first focusing on the individual. Peter was appalled by the immoral behavior of the diocesan clergy and monks and endeavored to return his brother priests to virtuous living. During the time of Leo’s reign, he composed a book critical of clerical sexual immorality.

Addressed to the pope, the book (given the title The Book of Gomorrah centuries later) was not just a diatribe against sin but was also an exhortation to personal penance and a return to virtue and was written in a firm yet compassionate tone. He exhorted fellow priests who were tempted by the devil toward carnal pleasures to orient “your mind to the grave.” Even as he offered a chapter on “a weeping lamentation over souls surrendered to the dregs of impurity,” he provided also “an exhortation to the man who has fallen into sin, that he might rise again.”

He also noted that the “cancer of sodomitic impurity” was raging through the clergy “like a cruel beast,” decrying that “degenerate men do not fear to perpetuate an act that even brute animals abhor.”

Pope Leo IX favorably responded to Peter’s book and adopted many of his recommendations. Over time this work became an important part of the eleventh-century reform movement.

A few years after completing his manuscript, Peter was ordained a bishop and later created a cardinal. Peter wrote extensive letters, sometimes signing them as “Peter the Sinner” or “Peter the Sinner-Monk,” which provide a window into the soul of this important saint in the life of the Church. The life of St. Peter Damian is a model of virtue to Catholic clergy, and his words provide an exhortation and a warning for all Catholics not to let sexual vice taint the life and mission of the Church.”

Love,
Matthew

Traditiones Custodes

-by Catholic Answers

On July 16, 2021, Pope Francis released a new document regulating the celebration of the pre-Vatican II liturgy.

The document is titled Traditionis Custodes (Latin, “Guardians of the Tradition”), and it narrows the situations in which the traditional Latin liturgy is permitted.

There is much more to say about the document than can be covered here, but this will be an overview of some of the key points that have the most immediate impact.

Under the provisions of Benedict XVI’s 2007 document Summorum Pontificum, the individual priest was the primary decision-maker concerning when Mass would be celebrated according to the older form. Under the new document, the bishop has this responsibility.

Although rumors had been circulating that Pope Francis was likely to release a new document narrowing the situations in which the older liturgy could be celebrated, the document came more quickly than many suspected and took a large number by surprise. Reactions were quick in coming, with many on the internet expressing shock and outrage.

To correctly understand the document, it is important to get the facts and to try to understand why the pope made the decisions he did. A good starting point is reading the motu proprio itself.

To start with, although there are not as many opportunities to celebrate the traditional liturgy as when every individual priest could decide to perform it, there is no sudden end to its celebration. Instead, bishops whose dioceses have groups of faithful for whom the 1962 liturgy is celebrated are “to designate one or more locations where the faithful adherents of these groups may gather for the eucharistic celebration” according to the older form. In these “celebrations,” the document prescribes, “the readings”—presumably the single epistle reading, often but not always taken from the apostles’ New Testament letters, and the Gospel reading—“are proclaimed in the vernacular language, using translations of the Sacred Scripture approved for liturgical use by the respective Episcopal Conferences.”

The new locations specified in Traditionis Custodes aren’t to be in ordinary parish churches, but they may be in “personal parishes” already erected for this purpose. Although no new personal parishes are to be erected, the existing ones have not been suppressed (though it is up to the bishop whether to continue them).

Bishops in dioceses with the traditional liturgy also are directed “to appoint a priest who, as delegate of the bishop, is entrusted with these celebrations and with the pastoral care of these groups of the faithful. . . . This priest should have at heart not only the correct celebration of the liturgy, but also the pastoral and spiritual care of the faithful.”

The pope is thus not stopping the celebration of the traditional liturgy, but mandating a space for it separate from the parish churches and addressing the pastoral care of the faithful who prefer it.

There are other details to the current regulations, but these are the ones that have the most immediate impact on the ordinary faithful who prefer the traditional liturgy.

When it comes to understanding the pope’s reasoning behind these decisions, the best source of information is a letter that Pope Francis wrote to the world’s bishops explaining them. When reading the letter, we should remember the Catechism’s exhortation: “To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way” (2478).

In the letter, the pope seeks to enter the minds of his two predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, as well as the minds of those who are disappointed with poorly celebrated liturgies.

He writes: “I am saddened by abuses in the celebration of the liturgy on all sides. In common with Benedict XVI, I deplore the fact that ‘in many places the prescriptions of the new missal are not observed in celebration, but indeed come to be interpreted as an authorization for or even a requirement of creativity, which leads to almost unbearable distortions.’”

Francis notes that the bishops must “provide for the good of those who are rooted in the previous form of celebration and need to return in due time to the Roman Rite promulgated by Saints Paul VI and John Paul II.” In prescribing how to go about this, he concludes by asking the bishops “to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses. Seminarians and new priests should be formed in the faithful observance of the prescriptions of the Missal and liturgical books.”

The pontiff traces the origin of Traditionis Custodes to a survey the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith conducted of the world’s bishops to ask how successfully Summorum Pontificum was being implemented in their dioceses.

He writes, “The responses reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew,’ has often been seriously disregarded. An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI . . . was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”

Specifically, the pope claims in his letter, attitudes had developed that were “often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.’”

The extent to which these attitudes are present among attendees of the traditional liturgy can be debated. Nevertheless, the pope says he felt it necessary to intervene with the new regulations, lest these attitudes continue to grow and divisions in the body of Christ become even worse. The motu proprio thus directs local bishops with groups that celebrate the traditional liturgy “to determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the magisterium of the supreme pontiffs.”

It should be borne in mind that each of the recent pontificates has seen significant shifts on the role of the traditional liturgy in the life of the Church. This is likely to continue in the future, and future popes may again choose to broaden the circumstances under which the traditional liturgy is permitted.

Love & unity, praise Him!
Matthew

Anglican blasphemy


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(I went to Anglican pre-school. No harm. No foul. This was 1970, though.)

-by Michael E. Daniel, a convert from Anglicanism, is schoolmaster at an independent school in Melbourne, Australia, where he lives with his wife, Helen, and baby daughter, Lydia.

“I was born in the late 1960s and raised in the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church, being a member of the Sunday school and later the Church choir. Soon after I joined the choir I developed an interest in both Christianity and history. In addition to Bible story books, we had some old British history readers at home, and I devoured these. My favorite period of history was that of the Tudor monarchs, and this brought me into touch with the Reformation. These histories presented the standard Protestant apologetic, anti-Catholic line, and for the first time I became aware of the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

My preparation for confirmation at age eleven was the first systematic catechesis Christian doctrine and ethics I received. Two of the lessons stand out in my mind. The first was on the “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.” The Anglican church, it was explained, was a branch of the Catholic Church, since it accepted the three creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian), had the two sacraments (baptism and Eucharist), and retained the threefold order of ministry—bishops, priests, and deacons.

The other lesson was on the Eucharist, which we studied as we went through the Anglican catechism in the Book of Common Prayer. The vicar told us that although the elements still remained bread and wine, the faithful received Christ spiritually and grew in relationship with him. Transubstantiation was denied. I accepted this, but I remember feeling not entirely comfortable with it. Did not Christ say, “This is my body …This is my blood”? The explanation that this was symbolic language was not convincing.

Secondary education at an Anglican grammar school meant taking a course called Divinity. Here I first encountered theological liberalism. One of the masters, for example, questioned the Virgin Birth, suggesting Christ was probably the son of a Roman soldier. The liberal masters probably felt they were making Christianity reasonable to the modern mind, saving it from fundamentalism. Instead, it had the opposite effect: My classmates seemed to become even more contemptuous of Christian beliefs.

The religion preached by the school chaplain, an evangelical Anglican clergyman, was more traditional. His preaching and lessons included standard anti-Catholic rhetoric. So convinced was I that Rome was wrong that I remember being impressed with his concept of the “unity of Protestantism”: although there were many Protestant churches, the differences between them were slight; they were right on the essentials, namely, “the Bible alone” and “justification by faith alone.”

This instruction complemented what I was encountering in my evangelical Anglican youth group. The leaders reinforced my belief in “the Bible alone” as the rule of faith, for without this rule, Christians could invent any beliefs as the Catholics had done. They also emphasized “faith alone,” but, as I studied Scripture, that concept never gelled completely, since passages from James didn’t fit the matrix.

Sometime when I was in form five, a school friend who had become interested in Anglo-Catholicism took me to high mass at a leading Anglo-Catholic church. Anglo-Catholics are those members of the Anglican/Episcopalian church whose devotional life and beliefs are similar in many respects to Catholics. For example, they celebrate the Eucharist as if it were the Mass, with vestments, incense, and elevation of the host; they have devotions to Mary, benediction, confession et cetera. I was awestruck by the beauty, reverence, and transcendence of the liturgy.

Around the same time a new leader joined the youth group who was particularly anti-Catholic. He claimed Catholics were not even Christian and had to be rescued from Catholicism. Ironically, my Anglican father had chosen a practicing Catholic as my godfather. He had a good understanding of the Catholic faith and was able to answer my questions. I assumed Catholics were wrong, but all I knew about them was what Protestants had told me and what I had read in Protestant literature. Why not allow Catholics to speak for themselves? Their literature should not be too hard to disprove. What a shock I was in for.

Sneaking into a Catholic church, hoping I would not be seen, I purchased a few inexpensive pamphlets that were eye-openers. Catholics could actually present reasoned and intelligent arguments to defend their beliefs, and their arguments based on Scripture were just as compelling, if not more so, than Protestantism. I went back, got more pamphlets, and read them eagerly. Many of the ideas I encountered I discussed with my godfather, and his explanations underscored how logical and reasonable Catholic teaching seemed to be.

I gradually came to accept on an intellectual level most of the Church’s teachings, since they could be proven by Scripture. I was impressed by historical arguments, particularly by analyses of the writings of Church Fathers that supported Catholic teaching (to the detriment of Protestant interpretations). I realized that Catholics, contrary to what some Protestant literature stated, did not believe they could work their way to heaven or earn their salvation. This heresy, called Pelagianism, was condemned by Augustine and the Council of Trent. Both Catholics and Protestants believe that we are saved by grace alone; the differences were primarily in the relationship between faith and works (actions).

Justification by faith alone did not stand up to a comprehensive analysis of Scripture. It had been taught by no one before Luther, who added the word alone to Romans 1: 17, which should read, “The just shall live by faith.” Indeed, as has been pointed out in this magazine many times, the only time the phrase “by faith alone” appears in the Bible, it opposes the Protestant doctrine: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, emphasis added).

The other important difference was that Catholics believe that grace is imparted rather than imputed-that is, the sinner is made righteous rather than merely being declared righteous. For Luther, man always remains sinful; when he was saved, Christ, as it were, covered the sinner with his cloak to make him appear righteous. Not only is the Catholic vision of salvation more merciful, it also explains the underpinning for beliefs such as purgatory, since most people die with imperfections on their soul that need to be purged before they stand before God, since nothing unclean or defiled can stand before the throne of God.

One text that kept coming back to me was Christ’s promise that the Holy Spirit would lead his disciples into all truth (cf. John 14:26). I wanted to find Christian truth, but where was it to be found? At the Last Supper, Christ prayed to the Father that his disciples should be one. Protestantism, through its insistence on the Bible alone as the rule of faith and private interpretation, in the belief that scriptural truths are self-obvious, had resulted in disunity. How could one logically talk about the unity of Protestantism when there are myriads of denominations, each of which claims it has the correct interpretation of the Bible?

Some Protestants attempt to argue that the Church, the Body of Christ, is an invisible entity, congregations being mere gatherings of like-minded believers. However, behind the New Testament writings was the presumption that the Church was a visible structure that had the power to teach. The visible nature of the Church and necessity of membership became increasingly clearer as I read early Christian writings.

As I accepted Catholic teachings, my devotional life changed. I began to receive Communion on the tongue (to the horror of the school chaplain) and go to confession. The impact of the rosary on my faith development cannot be underestimated. The hardest doctrines to accept were the Marian ones. I did not pray the glorious mysteries of the Assumption and the Coronation until I reflected on Revelation 12:1: “And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” If Mary is in heaven, I reasoned, then how did she get there unless she was assumed? Similarly, what woman other than a queen wears a crown?

As an Anglo-Catholic, I believed in the “branch theory,” which holds that the Catholic Church comprises three main branches: Rome, Canterbury, and Byzantium. The issue of women’s ordination, which the Anglican church was confronting, was a catalyst for me to re-examine the Anglican church’s claims. It was a departure from the constant practice of Christendom. Christ, at the Last Supper, had ordained only men.

Anglicans are by no means united on this issue. Although the Episcopal church prides itself on being inclusive, embracing a range of opinions and views, this impacts its unity severely. The situation could emerge in which one Anglican diocese had women priests when a neighboring one refused to recognize the validity of the orders of women priests. Furthermore, by ordaining women without the permission and agreement of the other two branches of the “Catholic Church,” the Anglican church was undermining its claim to be a branch of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.

At the end of secondary education I joined an Anglo-Catholic parish. Inspired by my love of history and interest in the ancient world, I enrolled in Latin and ancient history at university. In my second year, I studied late Roman history and this, together with other private reading, raised the historical faith issues, particularly through my encounter with the Church Fathers.

On virtually every issue they confirmed the Catholic beliefs that I held as an Anglo-Catholic, particularly regarding the Eucharist, the Mass, purgatory, the intercession of saints, et cetera. For example, when writing to the Smyrneans, Ignatius of Antioch stated that Docetists, a group of heretics who denied the Incarnation, refused to receive the Eucharist because they failed to recognize it as the body of Christ. The formal definition of transubstantiation, a definition rejected by the Anglican Church, was reflected in Ignatius’s teaching. So who was right: Ignatius-a younger contemporary of the apostles who wrote well before the formulation of the canon of Scripture-or the Anglican Church?

As an Anglo-Catholic I held beliefs that were a contradiction to those of my Evangelical past and the contents of the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, which, together with the three creeds, are the doctrinal standards of Anglicanism. For example, Article XXXI states, “Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.” Or Article XXII: “The Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardon, Worshiping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also the invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.” Article XXVIII forbids elevation of the elements at the consecration, procession, and benediction with the Blessed Sacrament-standard practices in my Anglo-Catholic parish!

At some stage while still an Anglican I had ditched sola scriptura or “the Bible alone” theory, since nowhere in the Bible does it state that the Bible is the only rule of faith. Similarly, the Bible grew out of the Church, whose members wrote the books of the New Testament and who compiled it. The canon of the New Testament started to take shape only in the second half of the second century and reached its final form at the end of the fourth. By this stage the Church clearly taught Catholic doctrines on a range of issues, such as the Real Presence, purgatory, and the Mass as a sacrifice. I f the Church was wrong on these issues, what guarantee was there that it had not erred in the formulation of the canon of Scripture?

My study of history and in discussions with legal student friends highlighted the necessity for any legal text to have an interpreter. St Peter’s second epistle itself contained warnings about misinterpreting Scripture and difficulties with interpreting some of Paul’s sayings. (cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16). Who was to be Scripture’s interpreter? Private judgement had produced a plethora of Protestant sects, and the Anglican Church could not arrive at a consistent position on issues such as women’s ordination.

But what powers did various churches have to settle doctrinal disputes that threatened their stability? How were Christ’s promises to be with his Church through all ages to be fulfilled? The Protestant churches simply splintered. By contrast, with Church councils and particularly with papal infallibility, the Catholic Church contained what could be called an emergency executive power. Reading early Church history, it became more and more apparent that the bishop of Rome enjoyed a special status. Irenaeus, writing at the end of the second century stated of the see of Rome, “For it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church, on account of its preeminent authority.”

I read further only to realize that the concept of development of doctrine was consistent with the definition of the hypostatic union (the belief that Christ is one person with two natures, a human nature and a divine nature) at the Council of Chalcedon, which employed Greek philosophical ideas to underpin the definition. If Anglicans accepted development of doctrine up to A.D. 451 and the first four Church Councils, why not accept further development of doctrine and more Church councils? How would one expect the Church settle further doctrinal disputes?

Furthermore, in reading about Chalcedon, my attention was drawn to the role of Leo I at this council. In his famous Tome of Leo in 449 AD he stated correct belief concerning the person of Christ and his two natures. The Council fathers voted to accept the definition he offered with the accolade, “Peter has spoken through Leo.” The realization then dawned on me: If the Church accepted the leadership and role of the pope and accepted that Peter’s office and prerogatives were passed down to his successors, and if the Anglican church and other Protestant bodies accept the first four Councils, then why do they not accept the papacy?

After years of study, prayer, and reading I came to know, without any doubt, that the Catholic Church was the church founded by Christ. It alone could claim continuity with the upper room at Pentecost. I sought out a priest for instruction and three months later was received into the Church.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Eucharist: depth of communion with Christ


-by Br John Joseph

“Real friendship with Christ is only possible with the Eucharist. It was at the Last Supper, at the institution of the Eucharist, that Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants… but I call you friends” (Jn 15:15). In the Eucharist, therefore, the gift of Christ’s friendship is given, and His friendship is concentrated in it. All who befriend the Eucharist, befriend Christ; all who would wish to advance from servanthood to friendship with Christ must befriend the Eucharist, and all friendship involves ‘time spent with’. Quantity of time is important, and ought not to be neglected, but quality time is what matters most.

Find a friend of the Eucharist and you will find a true friend of Jesus.

What about those Protestant brothers and sisters of ours who’ve never received the Eucharist? We must remember that they are baptized like us into the one life of Christ. But for one, they have not been brought ordinarily into a certain depth of communion with Christ, which is alone possible through reception of this Sacrament. This distinction between the ‘field’ of communion entered into through Baptism and entered uniquely, more deeply through the Eucharist, is brought out by Pope St. John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia. He writes, “Incorporation into Christ, which is brought about by Baptism, is constantly renewed and consolidated by sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, especially by that full sharing which takes place in sacramental communion” (22).

Secondly, for those Protestants who have a relationship with Christ this relationship is indeed real, but it is only possible because of the gift of the Eucharist, and their relationship with Him, unbeknownst to them, flows from the Body of Christ, both mystically as visibly manifest in the Catholic Church, and sacramentally in the Eucharist. Any genuine relationship with Christ must necessarily flow from the Church and the Eucharist, even if only in a hidden and invisible way due to a lack of full communion with Christ’s Body. Catholics are privileged to be in full communion, direct touch, with Christ’s Mystic, and Sacramental Body.

As for the nature of the Protestant relationship with Christ, no doubt some Protestants are closer to Christ than many Catholics who frequent Holy Communion, but at the same time, keeping in mind the “full sharing” of communion in Christ uniquely accessed and partaken in the Eucharist, there is a certain character to the depth of this communion with Christ objectively lacking, and this is made manifest in the comparison of the caliber of those who would quality as “saints,” post-reformation, from a protestant point of view, and those who are Catholic Saints. The difference is startling. The Catholic Saints exemplify, and are living fruits, of good and perfect Holy Communion with Christ in the Eucharist. In the Saints, we see friends of Christ par excellence, and if we dig deep into their lives the Eucharist is always the bedrock of their life. An encouragement to make it the bedrock of our own.

To make our First Holy Communion is to be initiated into closer friendship with Christ. It is to be brought into the holy of holies of communion with Christ, the inner sanctuary of divine intimacy with Him, and in Him with the Father, in the Holy Spirit.

Those who receive their first and/or subsequent Holy Communion without basic awareness of this mystery into which they’ve been brought into, and without communing in reciprocity with He who is communing with their soul, are like senseless men stumbling around in a room, not knowing where they’ve been brought to, or who they’re with, and anything that is going on, just like drunkards in a holding cell, stumbling about. For the fact is, those who’ve received Communion have been brought into the inner sanctuary by virtue of their Holy Communion, since the Sacrament is efficacious, the Communion on the part of Christ is efficacious, but without the proper dispositions the reciprocal communing on the part of the soul is absent, and thus the gift of the friendship of Christ cannot open, cannot blossom in the soul. The friendship becomes one-sided on the part of Christ who calls such a soul “friend” who acts the part of a Judas.

It is quite the opposite for those aware of who they are receiving, and who open their hearts to Him. These receive the gift of Christ’s friendship in the Eucharist, and it is allowed to unfurl within their hearts, involving communion with the Trinity. This communion with the Trinity is experienced as friendship in Christ, in whom, and through whom communion with the Father expands, and the friendship and communion is itself the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who draws souls to Christ, to the Eucharist, and in and through Christ, in and through the Eucharist, to the Father.

To taste the Eucharist is to taste the friendship of Christ. It is to be nourished in communion with Him. To sit with Jesus in the Eucharist, in adoration, is to sit with Christ and spend time with Him. This is the time when friendship with Christ, received in the Eucharist, and nourished by its reception, is brought to maturation.

“I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). To spend time before Jesus in the Eucharist is to enter the presence of “the Resurrection and the Life,” and here one is brought to life, one is raised spiritually into heights and depths of communion with Jesus. In Eucharistic adoration friendship with Christ matures, and really, it is here that such friendship is really discovered on the part of the soul. This should not surprise us because the friendship of Christ as gift, is concentrated in the Eucharist, and remains in the consecrated species of bread reposed in the tabernacle and exposed in the monstrance.

It is true, this friendship is alive in us, and so too is Christ who dwells within our hearts, but friendships only deepen by means of the ‘going-out’ of oneself to meet and encounter the other. Friendships deepen by means of renewed and continued selfless processions of person to person. In coming before Jesus in the Eucharist, in the places wherein he is reposed and exposed, we sacramentally—tangibly, as signifying our interior movement toward Christ— ‘go out’ of ourselves, and show ourselves as wanting Christ. This is why there is no substitute for time spent before Jesus in the Eucharist, because although Jesus is forever ‘going out’ to be with us, being ever present with us, expressing His desire and love for us, we struggle to do so, and nothing helps us to do so better than when we must really ‘go out’ of ourselves, by visiting Jesus to simply be with Him as a friend.

Those who become friends with Christ, become friends of the Eucharist. Those who become friends of the Eucharist, become friends with Christ; and those who become better friends of the Eucharist, become better friends with Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Eternal now


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[Ed. God is outside the realm of creation, outside our concept of time. This is fatal and all to common, Stephen Hawking et al, flaw many thinkers make, trying to reason about God within creation, which He is not. He is transcendent.]


-by Br Linus Martz, OP

“The saints in heaven all speak the same language, and they favor one tense for their verbs: the present tense. Safe from all threat of sin and defection, they sing in the eternal now of the divine glory: “To Him Who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever” (Rev 5:13). The saints live forever in the ‘today’ of heaven, sharing in the eternal life of He Who Is (Exod 3:14).

Here on earth, we too must hear God’s voice “today” and in the present moment (see Ps 95:7). This is the only real time available to us. As Saint Augustine observed, the future “is not as yet,” and the past “now is not” (Confessions, XI, 14). The present is the most real of times, and therefore the most heavenly.

However, only God can fully claim the eternal present for Himself because He alone simply is. For our part, we are either wayfarers in the world, longing for future happiness, or former wayfarers marked by our past decisions. Consequently, the grammar of human speech is always more complex. The blessed pray in the present tense, but because of their time on earth even they preface their sentences with past counterfactual conditions. A brief word on grammar will help us understand this significant point.

Counterfactuals give a false hypothetical scenario and then say what would have happened if that scenario had been real. If the train had been delayed, then he would have been late. If she had studied German, then she would have known what they were saying. If sentence diagrams brought great joy to our childhood, then we would not need these examples.

The saints, precisely because they are not the eternal God, always use their own counterfactual condition, as the psalms reveal:

If it had not been the Lord Who was on our side,
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord Who was on our side (Ps 124:1-2).

By imagining a world without divine aid, the Psalmist vividly recalls God’s real and constant action for His people. If God had not been on Israel’s side, then her enemies would have “swallowed” her “alive”; the “raging waters” would have drowned her (Ps 124:3-5). But, thanks be to God, this premise is pure fiction: Israel’s “help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8).

The Church uses this same construction whenever she marvels at the gift of grace. All that we know and do by nature depends radically on God, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). But grace elevates us still further, to live and act in an order entirely above our nature. Without grace, we could never love God with the love of charity, and we could never merit everlasting life. This supernatural life is our gratuitous participation in the life of the triune God (see 2 Pet 1:4). Jesus preached about this divine generosity when He offered His own counterfactual to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

Jesus Himself is the living water and the gift of God (John 7:37-39). The saints know perfectly this divine gift. They acknowledge that their present glory rests on the reality of God’s saving grace during their earthly lives. We depend upon and can sing about this same divine help, just as the saints did and do. Whenever we strive in our “today” to go up and join them in the new Jerusalem, may we, like them, remember that God has been “on our side.”

Love,
Matthew

Why I left the Anglican Church – ubi Petras, ibi ecclesia

““Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia” were the words written in the comments column of the visitors book. I had just spent the previous half hour wandering around one of London’s most beautiful Anglican churches, All Saints, Margaret Street. My school Latin was good enough to translate: “Where Peter is there is the Church.” It was a short phrase but the words came as a bullet into my soul. In one sense it brought a sense of exhilaration, but at the other extreme it was part of a nightmare which I seemed embarked upon. The quotation from Ambrose, bishop of Milan in the fourth century, was a bit to close to the truth for my liking.

Conversion has been described as a dying process, and no one wants to die. In that Latin phrase were the claims of the Catholic Church firmly set before me, and it was just not convenient. It interfered with my future plans and contradicted what I thought would be a vocation to the Anglican ministry. But why couldn’t I just bury those claims forever? Had not some of my friends warned me of their own disillusionment with the Catholicism of their childhood? Had I not seen through the wishy-washy nature of what passed itself off as post Vatican II Catholicism? Anyway, how could an archetypal anti-Catholic be driving himself quietly crazy over Catholicism?

The root cause of this disquiet was undoubtedly the Holy Spirit working on a personality that since childhood was inquisitive and determined to get to the bottom of the matter. The Anglican claim to comprehensiveness never appealed to my mind. The idea that Anglicanism was a middle way (via media) never attracted me. People who walk in the middle of the road invariably get knocked down! However I was to discover gradually and painfully that Anglicanism was not a reformed Catholicism, but Protestanism pure and simple.

While some proclaim Anglicanism as a bridge between extreme Protestantism and Rome, I found it by contrast to be a side track, which for years kept me from facing the issues of the historical claims of the Catholic Church and the issue of authority. Anti-Catholicism can come in many guises. With many Fundamentalists it is based on stereotypes and ignorance. Within Anglicanism, there exists much anti-Catholicism of a refined and subtle nature. First we have the “intellectuals,” who are basically freethinkers in clerical garb. They might wear cope and miter, but their theology runs into rationalist waters. They object to the dogmatism of the Pope, his “oppression” of women and refusal to ordain them. His totally “unliberated” view of human sexuality and his “rebuff” to the divorced and the homosexual.

Then there were the old-fashioned Evangelicals, still breathing the fire of the Reformation, supporting missions to Catholics whether they be in South America or Ireland. An example of this is the Anglican Irish Church Missions to Roman Catholics. Under the patronage of the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, Evangelicals like these are firmly loyal to the Reformation and all it stood for, and deeply suspicious of ecumenical dialogue with the Church of Rome.

Out of this group has emerged more “tolerant” Evangelicals, accommodating of women’s ordination and divorce. They are prepared to enter into dialogue, and I well remember George Carey (the present (1998) Archbishop of Canterbury and member of this group) preaching in my former theological college about the Catholics having to clear their attic of junk. Subsequent statements by Carey on Catholics and birth control have been equally insensitive.

It was the inherent confusion within Anglicanism that led me to examine the claims of the Catholic Church. When I sought counsel on this confusion, I was told that the Anglican Church was comprehensive. As one shrewd Catholic author observed, “Comprehensive of men and not of Catholic truth and doctrine.” I was told that the differences between Anglicans were “tensions” and that in essentials Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics were agreed. I learned from my own experience that this was false.

I attended a lively Anglican Evangelical Church in Newcastle upon Tyne. The vicar, David Holloway, is one of the leading hard-line Evangelicals in the Church of England. There were about 500 people in the congregation, and Communion as the main service was celebrated twice a month. After one such service, I went into the church kitchen for a glass of water and saw the verger’s wife pouring the leftover Communion wine down the sink and putting the bread in the bin. This I later discovered was standard practice among Evangelical Anglicans, and I even knew of ministers who threw the crumbs to the birds in the churchyards. The distressing side to all this is that in the same Church there are Anglicans who believe that Christ is present in the sacrament and reserve the same communion elements for worship! To someone who had been exposed to the naked Protestantism of Anglicanism, this never rang true. I could not delude myself that the Reformation had been simply schismatic and that Cranmer and his cronies had not changed the Catholic teaching of the English Church.

Indeed at the time of my visit to the Anglican church in London that I describe at the beginning of this account, I had just visited the adjoining parish of All Souls, Langham Place. A thriving church of the Evangelical school, the curate there had informed me that because of the size of the congregation the bread and wine leftovers were thrown away. It seemed incongruous to me that the AngloCatholic Parish of All Saints had a tabernacle to reserve the sacrament, and less than a mile away it was molding away in a dust bin!

The logic and coherence of the Catholic position appealed to me. It seemed to stand as a rock in a stormy sea—just as our Lord predicted. Yes, there were dissenting voices in the Catholic Church, but they could not capture the castle. The gates were locked by the keys given to Peter by our Lord. All I could see within Anglicanism and “mainline” Protestantism was a nightmare world of doctrinal change. This change was not only the monopoly of the liberal, as even some Evangelicals were advocating the remarriage of the divorced, contraception, and the ordination of women. In parts of the Anglican communion, the debate was moving to the acceptance of “faithful gay” relationships and lay celebration of the Eucharist.

Even a conservative Evangelical such as John Stott manifested this subjective nature, when he decided to reject the idea of eternal punishment and substitute for it annihilation. Yet the same John Stott (clearly going against the tide of close on two thousand years of Christian exegesis and interpretation, which has affirmed the punishment of the wicked in hell) would turn in disdain to the gay lobby, which has “discovered” new meaning to the words of Paul on homosexuality! Such is the eclectic nature of the Protestant mind. John Stott and others may not realize it, but subjectivism and private judgment (the real hallmark of the Reformers) are ultimately the origin of theological liberalism. . . .

My one remaining obstacle was the role of the Virgin Mary. Why were Catholics, so orthodox in everything else, seemingly obsessed with her? When I heard Catholics reciting the rosary and endlessly invoking her name, it struck me as weird. I remember visiting the Catholic shrine at Walsingham and also visiting the church that some AngloCatholics had established in honor of Mary (it is regularly picketed by Anglican Evangelicals protesting idolatry!) and being left totally bemused. I can remember being close to conversion and entering a Catholic church where there was a shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I can remember reading the prayers to Mary and feeling inwardly repulsed. As an Anglican I knew very little of the communion of saints. As an Anglican I never had been taught that Mary was my mother. In fact I had been taught that to ask the saints for their prayers to God was unbiblical superstition and contrary to the teachings of the “reformed” Church of England. The Protestant in me took a long time to die.

A conversion can be an intellectual exercise up to a certain point, but then the supernatural element must take its course. There must be a submission of will and a becoming like a child. Questions still troubled me, but there was a growing conviction of inner peace that I had to convert and give it a try at the very least. So on Easter Sunday 1991 I was received into the Catholic Church. I decided I wanted to be in the Church of Christ, so clearly indicated by the presence of the successor of Peter. It was a marvelous occasion and the reception of my first Holy Communion a most wonderful and precious moment.

While there were many things within Anglicanism that I loved, such as the fine tradition of choral music and my family associations, I realized that I must not be like the rich young man who placed his wealth before total commitment to Christ. If a person remains within Anglicanism because of sentimentality toward a building or outward forms, he is in effect repeating the mistake of the rich young man. It is in reality a form of idolatry. The spiritual forces of wickedness will do all to prevent entry into the Catholic Church, and my appeal to all sincere Anglicans is to pray ultimately for the grace of God. At the end of the day, all true conversions can be accomplished only by that supernatural and unexplainable power.”

Love,
Matthew

Financial clericalism & crimes


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  • Pope approved move against cardinal, who says he is innocent
  • Former head of Vatican Financial Intelligence denies charges
  • Becciu most senior Vatican official charged with financial crime
  • Trial to start July 27 2021

VATICAN CITY, July 3 (Reuters) – A prominent Italian cardinal was among 10 people sent to trial in the Vatican on Saturday charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion and abuse of office.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly a senior official in the Vatican administration, as well as two top officials at the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit will go on trial on July 27 over a multi-million euro scandal involving the Vatican’s purchase of a building in one of London’s smartest districts.

The trial will inevitably bring a swirl of media interest to the tiny city-state surrounded by Rome, and appears to underscore Pope Francis’ determination to cure the rot in Vatican finances, even if it involves messy public hearings.

Becciu, 73, whom the pope fired from his senior clerical post last year for alleged nepotism, and who has always maintained his innocence during a two-year investigation, becomes the most senior Vatican official to be charged with financial crimes.The pope personally gave the required approval last week for Becciu to be indicted, according to a 487-page indictment request seen by Reuters. The Vatican announced the indictments in a two-page statement.

The charges against Becciu include embezzlement and abuse of office. An Italian woman who worked for him was charged with embezzlement and the cardinal’s former secretary, Father Mauro Carlino, was accused of extortion.

Becciu said in a statement that he was a victim of a “machination” and reaffirmed his “absolute innocence”.

Carlino’s lawyer said his client was innocent, had been “acting under orders”, and had saved the Vatican millions of euros. He said starting a trial so soon did not give defence lawyers enough time to prepare.

Two Italian brokers, Gianluigi Torzi and Raffaele Mincione, were charged with embezzlement, fraud and money laundering. Torzi, for whom Italian magistrates issued an arrest warrant in April, was also charged with extortion.

There was no immediate response to attempts to reach their lawyers, but both men have consistently denied wrongdoing.

Four companies associated with individual defendants, two in Switzerland, one in the United States and one in Slovenia, were also indicted, according to the document.

POLICE RAID

The investigation into the purchase of the building became public on Oct. 1, 2019, when Vatican police raided the offices of the Secretariat of State, the administrative heart of the Catholic Church, and those of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF).

The then-president of the AIF, Rene Bruelhart, a 48-year-old Swiss, and AIF’s former Italian director, Tommaso Di Ruzza, 46, were charged with abuse of office for allegedly failing to adequately protect the Vatican’s interests and giving Torzi what the indictment request called an “undue advantage”.

Di Ruzza was also accused of embezzlement related to alleged inappropriate use of his official credit card, and of divulging confidential information.

Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who has been caught up in a real estate scandal, speaks to the media a day after he resigned suddenly and gave up his right to take part in an eventual conclave to elect a pope, near the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, September 25, 2020.

Bruelhart said in a text message that he had “always carried out my functions and duties with correctness” and that “the truth about my innocence will emerge”.

Di Ruzza did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.

In 2014, the Secretariat of State invested more than 200 million euros, much of it from contributions from the faithful, in a fund run by Mincione, securing about 45% of a commercial and residential building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London’s South Kensington district.

The indictment request said Mincione had tried to deceive the Vatican, which in 2018 tried to end the relationship.

It turned to Torzi for help in buying up the rest of the building, but later accused him of extortion.

‘ENORMOUS LOSSES’

At the time, Becciu was in the last year of his post as deputy secretary of state for general affairs, a powerful administrative position that handles hundreds of millions of euros.

All told, the Secretariat of State sank more than 350 million euros into the investment, according to Vatican media, and suffered what Cardinal George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer, told Reuters last year were “enormous losses”.

Torzi was arrested in the Vatican in June 2020, and spent a week in custody.

According to the indictment request, Becciu is charged with five counts of embezzlement, two of abuse of office, and one count of inducing a witness to perjury. About 75 pages of the document are dedicated to Becciu.

It says Becciu tried to “heavily deflect” the inquiry into Vatican investments, including the London building, and tried to discredit the investigating magistrates via the Italian media.

Becciu continued to have influence over money transfers at the Secretariat even after he left the post, the document said.

The main charges against Becciu involve the alleged funnelling of money and contracts to companies or charitable organisations controlled by his brothers on their native island of Sardinia.

Another Sardinian, Cecilia Marogna, 40, who worked for Becciu, was charged with embezzlement. Her cellphone was not connected.

The indictment request said she had received about 575,000 euros from the Secretariat of State in 2018-2019.

She has said on Italian television that the money, sent to her company in Slovenia, was to ransom kidnapped missionaries in Africa. But the indictment request said much of it was used for “personal benefit”, including the purchase of luxury goods.”


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Indictments for Vatican financial crimes a sign of progress
Jul 6, 2021
by Thomas Reese, SJ, Vatican

:The Vatican’s criminal tribunal indicted 10 people July 3, 2021, including Becciu, and four companies on charges including extortion, abuse of office and fraud in connection with the secretariat of state’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture. Becciu helped engineer the initial London investment when he was the chief of staff in the secretariat of state.

The Catholic faithful are rightly outraged by news of financial crimes in the Vatican, especially since the latest alleged crimes involve Peter’s Pence, the collection for the pope’s charities. But last week’s announcement of indictments by Vatican prosecutors is not a scandal but a sign of progress.

Indicted by the Vatican are six former Vatican officials, including the cardinal who was behind a real estate investment in London involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Also indicted are Italian businessmen who worked with the Vatican on the investment, as well as a woman accused of buying luxury goods with Vatican funds intended for ransoming Catholic hostages.

The charges include embezzlement, corruption, extortion, money laundering, fraud, abuse of office and falsifying public documents.

For some years now, experts at Moneyval, the international agency dealing with money laundering, have complimented the Vatican on improvements in its laws and procedures, but they have wondered at the absence of prosecutions for financial crimes. In its most recent report, Moneyval warned the Vatican that it was still susceptible to money laundering and faced financial risks from “insiders.”

Many presumed that the Vatican preferred to cover up these crimes when they involved cardinals and other clerics. Vatican officials feared the scandal would hurt the church’s image and reduce giving. In addition, the accused were colleagues and friends.

In 2017, when two laymen were charged with diverting money from Bambino Gesu Hospital to finance the renovations of a cardinal’s apartment, the cardinal was not indicted. He was not even called to testify at the laymen’s trial. The occupant of the apartment was Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, one of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s closest collaborators and a former secretary of state.

Nor did the Vatican have prosecutors or investigators competent to dig up the truth.

In March, a Vatican presentation to a British court was so poorly prepared that it was laughed out of court. The judge ruled that the Vatican request to seize the bank accounts of Gianluigi Torzi, the broker involved in its disastrous London real estate investment, was “appalling” and riddled with “non-disclosures and misrepresentations.”


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What has changed?

First, Pope Francis, two months ago, changed the rules so that cardinals can now be tried like anyone else in Vatican court with lay judges. Before that, only the pope could judge a cardinal. The pope has also mandated more financial transparency and the disclosure of conflicts of interest. For the first time in modern history, a cardinal and his secretary are being charged with financial crimes by the Vatican.

Nor is this just any cardinal; it is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who had dreams of someday becoming pope. Prior to becoming a cardinal, he was sostituto (substitute) in the Vatican secretariat of state — technically a position just under the secretary of state, but in reality, the sostituto acts as chief of staff to the pope. It was as sostituto that Becciu orchestrated the Vatican’s disastrous $400 million investment in London real estate in 2014.

Second, the pope beefed up the Vatican legal team dealing with financial crimes. In 2019, he appointed Giuseppe Pignatone, a former Italian prosecutor known for his anti-mafia efforts, to head the Vatican tribunal. He has been working with investigators from other countries to dig up the truth. The indictments announced last week are a result of his investigations.

The other good news in the current round of indictments is that this investigation does not involve the Vatican bank, which has been tarnished by major financial scandals in the past. The Vatican bank was cleaned up thanks to Benedict’s insistence that it be subjected to review by Moneyval. This cost millions of dollars as forensic accountants combed through the bank’s accounts.

In fact, it was the bank that first sounded the alarm over the London real estate deal when the secretariat of state tried to get a loan to cover its losses. For the bank to say “no” to the secretary of state, who is on its board, was an extraordinary act of financial responsibility and shows that the banking reforms are working. It is other parts of the Vatican that need to be cleaned up.

The Vatican’s criminal tribunal on Thursday, Jan, 21, 2021 convicted the former head of the Vatican bank and his lawyer of embezzling some 57 million euros in proceeds from the sales of Holy See-owned real estate and sentenced them to nearly nine years in prison.

What is next?

A preliminary hearing will be held July 27, but don’t expect a quick trial. The Vatican, like Italy, is not known for speedy trials, especially with complex financial issues. Tons of paper will be submitted, and there will be long stretches between actual sessions of the court while judges review the documents.

The cardinal will undoubtedly say he is innocent and was tricked by the people with whom he was dealing. Those outside the Vatican who worked with the cardinal will argue that he knew and approved what they were doing, and if he did not understand the consequences, it’s his fault, not theirs.

Will the prosecution be able to prove its case? That remains to be seen. Although the appointment of Pignatone is encouraging, remember that the “appalling” submission rejected by the British court was prepared after his appointment. That is not encouraging.

In addition, the most surprising indictment is that of René Brülhart, the former president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, who has an international reputation for integrity and competence. The evidence against him has to be overwhelming or his peers will conclude he was set up by enemies who opposed his efforts to investigate Vatican finances. This could undermine the credibility of the judicial process.

Finally, there are unanswered questions about the role of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the secretary of state, in the scandal. It was his shop that made the investments and it was he who asked the Vatican bank for the loan. The Vatican says he had not been “effectively informed to be fully aware of the juridical effects that the different categories of actions would cause.” At a minimum, he should testify at the trial, lest it look as if those closest to Francis are immune from prosecution while their subordinates take the fall.

There are three lessons from this fiasco.

First, papal leadership is needed to get Vatican finances under control. Most popes want be pastors and therefore delegate finances to others. This does not work.

Second, the church must put in place financial controls like those in any well-run nonprofit or business. The Vatican does not have to invent something new; policies and procedures already exist that the church can use.

Third, cleaning up Vatican finances costs money, as the reform of the Vatican bank showed. The Vatican is heavily criticized when it spends millions on outside accountants and lawyers, but doing so is cheaper in the long run. The credibility of Vatican financial managers is already diminished because they are not paid as well as their equivalents in the secular world. Some employees see “side deals” as ways to make up for low salaries.

There is more work to do. Numerous financial entities in the Vatican, including the city state, Propaganda Fide (the mission fund) and APSA, the Vatican investment and finance office, need to be examined. Real estate holdings in Rome and around the world need to be regularized, as do scores of contracts and purchases.

The Vatican bank has shown how to ferret out abuse and avoid scandals. Since Vatican finances are currently in the red, some big Catholic donors must go to the pope with a detailed plan and the money to clean up Vatican finances. Once the outside auditors arrive, the pope must make clear that anyone who obstructs their work will be fired.

Vatican financial scandals have repeatedly tarnished the image of the church. It is time for the Vatican to get its act together. Ironically, that will mean more bad news in the future as crimes and incompetencies are uncovered. But these should not be seen as scandals but good news.”

“History is being made with the upcoming Vatican financial crimes trials. It’s painful that the ugly underbelly of Church finances is being exposed, but it has to happen. In truth, money is at the root of much of the evil suffered by the Catholic community in the last 30 or so years. Most especially, the child abuse scandal took on gigantic proportions because protecting Church assets was treated as more important than getting to the truth.

As of today, we have made parishes and seminaries safer places, to be sure, but we have not dealt with financial clericalism – the sick tendency to hide financial realities from the laity.

The clergy and the laity are still not partners in managing finances, and this is no longer acceptable. For the Church to accomplish her mission in the late-modern world, bishops and those in the pews must be collaborators at every level. Certainly, it is harder to run large institutions when the financial knowledge is a shared commodity, but building a collaborative Church is worth whatever difficulties might come from opening the books.

It is shocking that a cardinal has been charged with financial crimes. But it is not shocking for the right reasons. We have learned to expect the crimes. The shock is the prosecution.” -Cy Kellett, Catholic Answers Radio

The Catholic Church never met a $ it didn’t like!!! I rate parishes based on how many asks for money are in the Sunday bulletin.

Judas was stealing from the purse. “‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” -John 12:4-6.


-Venerable Aloysius Schwartz

“Christ Himself was marked by the sign of poverty. He was born under it, lived under it, died under it. The historical Christ chose to be poor and a concomitant fact is, his disciples have no choice but to follow.”
— Venerable Aloysius Schwartz
Quoted in the book Priest and Beggar: The Heroic Life of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz by Kevin Wells (Kevin Wells is a Catholic writer, speaker, and former sports reporter with the Tampa Tribune, where he covered major-league baseball. He is the author of the best-selling Catholic book The Priests We Need to Save the Church (Sophia, 2019) and Burst, A Story of God’s Grace When Life Falls Apart (Servant). His most recent best-selling book, Priest and Begger, tells the story of the heroic life of Venerable Aloysius Schwartz, a priest from Washington DC who went on to serve the poor in South Korea. Within 15 years, Father Schwartz had changed the course of Korean history, founding and reforming orphanages, hospitals, hospices, clinics, schools, and the Sisters of Mary, a Korean religious order dedicated to the sickest of the sick and the poorest of the poor. All the while, he himself–like the Sisters–lived the same hard poverty as the people he served and loved.
Wells is currently the president of the Monsignor Thomas Wells Society for Vocations. He also serves a Director of Public Relations for World Villages of Children, which supports the works of Fr. Al Schwartz. His work with youths earned him the James Cardinal Hickey National Figure Award from the Archdiocese of Washington. He lives in Millersville, Md., with his wife and three children.)

Bitterly weeping,
Matthew

We were made for happiness. It is our natural end. 2

Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part 3: Life in Christ (1691 – 2557)
Section 1: Man’s Vocation — Life in the Spirit (1699 – 2051)
Chapter 1: The Dignity of the Human Person (1700 – 1876)
Article 2: Our Vocation to Beatitude (1716 – 1729)
II. THE DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS
1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:
We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.13

How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.14

God alone satisfies.15

13. St. Augustine, De moribus eccl. 1,3,4:PL 32,1312.
14. St. Augustine, Conf. 10,20:PL 32,791.
15. St. Thomas Aquinas, Expos. in symb. apost. I.

Summa Theologiae I-II, Questions 1-5

-from https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/thomas-aquinas/

“Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) is one of the towering figures in Western philosophy and theology, so great that he is even called the “angelic Doctor” by the Roman Catholic Church.  Within a twenty year span he wrote over forty books, including his masterpiece The Summa Theologica, in which he constructs a vast system integrating Greek philosophy with the Christian faith.   In the second part of this great work, as well as Book 3 of his shorter volume Summa contra Gentiles, he sets out a systematic answer to the question of what human happiness is, and whether it can be obtained in this life.   His ultimate answer is that perfect happiness (beatitudo) is not possible on earth, but an imperfect happiness (felicitas) is.   This puts Aquinas midway between those like Aristotle, who believed complete happiness was possible in this lifetime, and another Christian thinker, St. Augustine, who taught that happiness was impossible and that our main pleasure consists merely in the anticipation of the heavenly afterlife.

Thomas Aquinas was born in the castle of Roccasecca, north of Naples, to a wealthy aristocratic family. After studying at the University of Naples, however, he renounced his noble heritage, made a vow of celibacy, and determined to become a monk. He entered the Dominican order and studied with Albertus Magnus (also known as Albert the Great), who had initiated the great project of integrating all knowledge with Christianity. This meant not being afraid of empirical science or the contributions of the great Arabic philosophers, who had already synthesized the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle with their Muslim faith. Aquinas was so stout in stature, and so silent in class, that he was called “The Dumb Ox” by his fellow students. Albert however, responded: “You call him a Dumb Ox, but I tell you this Dumb Ox shall bellow so loud his bellowing will fill the world.”

Aquinas was ultimately assigned as a lecturer to various Dominican houses in Italy, but his real task was the masterpiece, his Summa Theologica, “The Summation of All Theology,” which sets out an entire book dedicated to the question of happiness. For twenty years Aquinas worked on this project, but on a night in December 1273 after celebrating Mass he experienced a mystical vision that shattered his entire aspirations. After that night he never wrote another word, and he died six months later. On his deathbed he is reported to have pointed to all of his books and said “After what I have experienced, all that is just straw.” As we shall see, this is most ironic when considering Aquinas’ views on happiness, since in the Summa one of his main conclusions is that true happiness consists in a mystical (beatific) vision of God that is only possible in the afterlife.

The Doctrine of Double Happiness

Already in his Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas had taken a position similar to St. Augustine’s, that perfect happiness is not possible in this lifetime. Aquinas takes seriously St. Paul’s assurance in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that “for now we see as through a glass darkly, but then we see face to face.” This world is too plagued with unsatisfied desires to achieve that ultimate good which we all seek by nature. Furthermore, God has basically created us with a desire to come to perfect knowledge of Him, but this is hidden from us while in our mortal bodies. True knowledge of God would require being able to see him directly, but this is only possible by a completely purified soul. When this occurs, we will experience the ultimate pleasure—a pure and everlasting bliss that will be the satisfaction of every human desire and the obliteration of every sadness or worry.

However, unlike St. Augustine, Aquinas goes on to maintain that we can achieve a kind of “imperfect happiness” here on earth. In this he is undoubtedly influenced by Aristotle, who argued that happiness depends on the actualization of one’s natural faculties. The highest faculty the human being possesses is Reason, from which it follows that we can achieve happiness in this life in proportion to the level of truth accessible to Reason. As he writes:

Man’s ultimate happiness consists in the contemplation of truth, for this operation is specific to man and is shared with no other animals. Also it is not directed to any other end since the contemplation of truth is sought for its own sake. In addition, in this operation man is united to higher beings (substances) since this is the only human operation that is carried out both by God and by the separate substances (angels). (Summa Contra Gentiles, book 3, chapter 37)

While the perfect realization of Truth will only occur in heaven where we will perceive God “face to face,” there is an imperfect counterpart of that vision here on earth. Thus Aquinas is lead to make a distinction between “perfect happiness” which he calls beatitudo, and “imperfect happiness” called felicitas. By making this distinction, Aquinas is able to tone down the pessimistic view of human nature expressed by St. Augustine, including the doctrine of Original Sin. As Aquinas writes, “Human Nature is not so completely corrupted by sin as to be totally lacking in natural goodness.” We have an impulse in us that seeks God and other impulses that pull us down to worldly pleasures. However, it is possible to begin the process of healing in this lifetime by exercising the natural virtues that Aristotle talks about—the virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, justice, friendship, etc. Furthermore, God in his grace has now revealed to us three additional virtues: those of faith, love and hope. These will pull us through to the final end so long as we begin the effort.

Happiness as Knowledge of God

Aquinas is uncompromising in his view that our true happiness can only be found in knowledge of God. No other worldly good or pleasure can truly provide us with the ultimate good we seek. As he argues in the Summa Theologica:

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is that perfect good which entirely satisfies one’s desire; otherwise it would not be the ultimate end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s desire, is what is universally good; just as the object of the intellect is what is universally true. Hence it is evident that nothing can satisfy man’s will, except what is universally good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone, because every creature has only participated goodness. Therefore, God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of the Psalms (102:5): “Who alone satisfies your desire with good things.” Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.” (Summa Theologica Part 2. Q.1. Article 8)

This passage illustrates well Aquinas’ unique blend of rigorous logical reasoning with his use of Scripture which reveals to us the same truth through other means, in this case the mouth of the prophet. Nothing can contradict the Truth: hence if Reason and Revelation are valid pathways to truth, they must ultimately be reconcilable. So Reason confirms to us what we already know deep down in our hearts: that our ultimate desire lies in absolute perfection, which can only be found in God, the absolute Being.

Thus for Aquinas we must make a sharp distinction between enjoyment and happiness. Enjoyment pertains to worldly goods and physical pleasures: but these tend to be very short-lived. And even if all of our worldly desires were satisfied—even if we were to experience every possible enjoyment—we would remain unhappy, since we would still have a nagging feeling that something is missing. Today Aquinas would point to the experience of many rich people and celebrities as evidence for this truth. Despite having every worldly good—fine foods, cars, houses, vacations, friends, family—many of them remain deeply unhappy, even spiraling into the misery of drugs and suicide. Aquinas would explain this as follows: when every enjoyment is felt, the soul begins to crave for something more than mere enjoyment. But if one has no knowledge of this “something more” or doesn’t know how to go about finding it, the enjoyment turns to pain and suffering. This also explains why we see a lot of billionaires suddenly change towards the middle or end of their lives: that nagging feeling that there is something more results in charitable work or an orientation to a higher purpose in life.

One might, however, question Aquinas’ insistence that perfect happiness is only possible in the afterlife. Is it possible to purify the soul in this lifetime, so that one can possess a direct experience of Ultimate Reality? The Buddhists and Hindus certainly think so: they can point to certain individuals such as the Buddha who have obtained absolute enlightenment. And there is a mystical side to monotheistic religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism as well, according to which the ultimate goal is Oneness with God, which has been attained by various saints or prophets throughout history. Aquinas’ own mystical experience at the end of his life might be just such an example: perhaps he actually achieved a beatific vision of God, a vision so strong that it rendered all of his words obsolete.

Conclusion

Aquinas held the following views about human happiness:

  • Perfect happiness (beatitudo) is not possible in this lifetime, but only in the afterlife for those who achieve a direct perception of God
  • There can be an imperfect happiness (felicitas) attainable in this lifetime, in proportion to the exercise of Reason (contemplation of truth) and the exercise of virtue.
  • Virtue is to be divided into two categories: 1) the traditional Aristotelian virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation, friendship, etc., and 2) the theological virtues revealed to man through Jesus Christ: faith, hope, and love.
  • There is an important distinction between enjoyment and happiness. Enjoyment concerns satisfaction of worldly desire. Happiness concerns obtaining our absolute perfection, which by definition can only be found in the absolute Being, which is God.

Bibliography

Aquinas, Thomas; Mary T. Clark (2000). An Aquinas Reader: Selections from the Writings of Thomas Aquinas. Fordham University Press.

Aquinas, Thomas (2002). Aquinas’s Shorter Summa. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press.

Davies, Brian (2004). Aquinas: An Introduction. Continuum International Publishing Group.

McMahon, Darrin (2006). A History of Happiness. Atlantic Monthly Press.

See also Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Aquinas

Love & His Joy, which He alone can give,
Matthew

Jan 23 – Bl Henry Suso, OP (1295-1366), priest, mystic, poet, bundle of contradictions

(Source : Dorcy, Marie Jean. St. Dominic’s Family. Tan Books and Publishers, 1983)

“Henry Suso is a bundle of contradictions, and a person, moreover, who has gathered legends about him like a snowball rolling downhill. He was a poet, which is not always a key to happiness in this world; a mystic of the highest order; a hard working Dominican; and a man with a positive genius for getting into embarrassing situations. He has suffered at the hands of chroniclers who dislike his followers, or his tactics, or his poetry; he is all but canonized by those who see in him the Dominican mystic. It will require many years of exhaustive research to sort out the diverse elements in his personality, if, indeed, it can ever be accomplished. Poets are not easy to analyze, and Henry, before all else, was a poet.

Henry was born in Switzerland, in 1290, the son of a warlike family of counts and crusaders. His father said more than once that he wished Henry had been a girl and some of his spirited daughters had been boys; for Henry was not a type to carry a sword. Henry was a gentle, dreamy lad, who liked to accompany his mother on pilgrimages and read about heroic deeds. He had taken his mother’s name of Suso, perhaps out of sheer inability to live up to the warlike title of the Count von Berg.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts to make a soldier out of Henry, his father abandoned the task and sent him, when he was barely thirteen years old, to the Dominican convent near Lake Constance. At the convent, Henry found a happy life, one that he did not know existed. Like a starved child who has had no happiness before, he revelled in the companionship of friendly people and the beauty of community prayers. For five years it did not occur to him that there was anything more to religious life than the gay and irresponsible way he lived. This brief paradise came to an abrupt end when he was eighteen. He sat one day in chapel, restless and worried, because suddenly it had dawned upon him that he was not really getting anywhere, and without warning he fell into an ecstasy that lasted more than an hour. Arousing from the ecstasy, he was a different person, and a whole new life began.

First of all Henry looked with wide opened eyes on the lukewarm life he had been living. Considering his age, we would be inclined to suspect that it was not so much lukewarm as adolescent, but it appeared to him that he was a great sinner and should do great penance. The penance he performed for the next sixteen years became notorious, even in that age of extremes; an iron chain, and an undershirt studded with nails, were the most mentionable of the methods he used. At night, he tied his hands so that he could not slap at the mosquitoes that infested his room. Out of determination to overcome his natural taste for cleanliness, he bent over backwards in the opposite direction to torture himself into submission and to make himself ready for the grace of God, which he felt that he so little deserved. At the end of sixteen years, he was favored with another vision, telling him that the physical phase of his suffering was over, but to be prepared for mental torments.

While all this interior purification was being accomplished in his soul, Henry was busy about the ordinary work of a priest. He preached and taught and heard confessions, never absenting himself from apostolic work under the impression that pure contemplation would be better. Some of his travels got him into weird situations, and legends began building up around the strange young priest whose penances had already earned him the name of eccentric. Things happened to him that just never happened to other people.

One time ha was on a journey with a lay brother who was not very bright. While Henry was looking for lodgings in a strange village, the lay brother went into a tavern, and, with the help of some of its customers, rapidly got out of hand. In order to direct attention away from himself, he told the men they should go after the priest who was with him; he said that the Jews had hired Henry to poison their wells, and that he was now out investigating how it could be done. It was possibly only the lay brother’s heavy humor, but the townspeople did not think it was funny, and they went in pursuit of Henry. Seeing himself chased by men with clubs, Henry did what most people do he ran. He hid all night in a hedge, and the next day he had to get the lay brother out of jail.

He fell into rivers and almost drowned. He became innocently involved in family feuds and was nearly killed for interfering. People tried to poison him. As prior, he ran the house finances into such a snarl that no one could untangle them. As if he did not have enough trouble, one of his penitents at least he thought she was penitent decided to blackmail him, and told all over town that he was the father of her child. To clean up the ensuing scandal, he stood formal trial with his superiors, and was, of course, proved innocent but no one could stop the scandal which had by this time gone to the four winds.

As a last terrible trial, his own sister, who had gone into religion against her will, fell into serious sin and ran away from the monastery. The convent from which she had escaped was a relaxed and worldly place, but she was legally a fugitive. Henry got permission to go and look for her, and, after a long search, he found her repentant, penniless, and terrified in a tavern. He brought her to another monastery, where a strict rule was observed, and he stayed until she was firmly settled and living a good religious life. How any man could write poetry while trying to keep up with such events is hard to say, but some of the finest poetry in medieval German poured from the pen of this gifted man during the years when life was most difficult for him. His prose, too, was almost poetry perhaps this is why his writings have always been so popular with women.

We are indebted to the sisters whose consciences Henry directed for all that we know of his writing. They kept careful track of all of it and made copies to circulate among a discreet circle of friends. In fact, it is from this circumstance that the unhappy charges against Suso stem. Some of the sisters, making their personal copies, took down notes indiscriminately from Suso, Tauler, and Master Eckhart and it was practically impossible to untangle them. Only the persistent scholarship of Father Denifle, in the past century, has identified the writings of each of these men, and exonerated both Tauler and Suso of the charges that caused Eckhart to be censured.

The best known work of Henry Suso is his Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, which is a classic of spiritual writing. He also composed many other short treatises on the mystical union of the soul with God, all written with the same poetic language and the same intensity of feeling. The man who had carved “the lovely name of Jesus” into the flesh over his heart was just as intense in his spiritual life. He had an outstanding devotion to the Mother of God, which he expressed very beautifully.

Henry died in 1365, in Ulm, and was buried there in the convent of St. Paul. However, in spite of the fact that his body was found intact and giving forth a sweet odor two hundred and fifty years later, the beatification was delayed until 1831. The relics, meantime, had disappeared entirely and have never been recovered.”

Love,
Matthew

Evangelical burnout

-by Howard Charest

“In the midst of a wild theological discussion, some Evangelical acquaintances asked me what I had gained by converting to Catholicism. I had embraced Evangelicalism for about five years, but its theological and spiritual inadequacies contributed to my nearly losing faith in Christ. Catholicism restored and deepened both my faith in and my love for Christ, and in so doing it began to fulfill my deepest spiritual and intellectual longings.

Raised at first as a Lutheran and then as a Presbyterian, by the time I finished high school I nevertheless had become an atheist of the scientific humanist sort. Scientific objections to Christianity, such as evolutionary theory, had been my primary stumbling block. But within a year of graduating from high school, during a personal crisis concerning the meaning of life and after I had made a commitment to embrace truth whatever it might be, I read How Should We Then Live? by the Evangelical thinker Francis Schaeffer.

His reasoned critique of humanism opened my heart to the gospel, and, recognizing myself as a sinner and morally guilty before God, I believed that through Christ’s sacrifice my sins had been forgiven. I identified my conversion experience as the “born again” experience I had heard so much about during high school, and my attitudes towards life truly began to change.

Schaeffer’s interpretation of Christianity left a decisive mark on me. On the positive side, I gained an interest in defending Christianity intellectually (especially through philosophy) and a fascination with the history of theology, philosophy, and culture. For this reason, he still remains a man I admire.

On the negative side, Schaeffer left me with the conviction that true Christianity equals Reformation Christianity, represented in the modern world by Evangelicalism. For the next five years I would assume, virtually without question, that Christianity stands or falls with Evangelicalism. However fascinating the Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition might appear to be—and during the next few years I occasionally would feel a pull in this direction—intellectually I was convinced that Catholicism was an apostate religion.

Yet it was the expectations concerning Christianity raised by Schaeffer which ultimately would make my departure from Evangelicalism necessary. These expectations are best expressed by something Schaeffer wrote in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century. He explained that Christianity is the true and highest mysticism, for it is a personal relationship with God which is grounded in rationality. In other words, Christianity is a rational answer to the question of the meaning of life, one which fulfills man’s deepest spiritual longings and resolves his deepest spiritual problems. Two developments would lead me to conclude that Evangelicalism could not fulfill these expectations and that, if Evangelicalism equals Christianity, I should have to abandon the latter as well.

First, a number of emphases within Evangelicalism would contribute to my having a spiritual burnout. Second, I came to believe that Evangelical thought, based ostensibly on the Bible as its sole authority, was incapable of meeting the many intellectual challenges facing it. I would come to the conclusion that Schaeffer’s defense of Reformation Christianity had serious limitations even though his critique of humanism contained important insights.

Ultimately, and much to my surprise, I would find that it is the Catholic intellectual tradition which fits the glowing descriptions Schaeffer had penned of Christianity’s intellectual viability and that it is Catholic spirituality which most adequately fulfills the Christian mysticism Schaeffer hinted at.

After my conversion experience, my first Evangelical involvement was as a member of a Lutheran church. I remained as such for two years, when, through the influence of Campus Crusade for Christ, I left to become a Baptist. Looking back, I realized that part of my discontent with Lutheranism came from this: Although Lutheranism acknowledges the importance of doing good works, it seems more interested in consoling sinners than in showing them how to overcome sin. One of the benefits of being a Catholic, I have found, is a spiritual discipline centered around mortification and penance. This discipline is powerful in overcoming sin.

In the same year of my conversion, shortly after I joined the Lutheran Church, I became involved in Campus Crusade. At first Campus Crusade benefited me greatly, both spiritually and socially. Crusade’s emphasis on the Spirit-filled life helped me grow in personal character, and I was encouraged to spend time reading the Bible daily.

This I loved to do, and I became an avid student of Scripture, eventually beginning a personal study of Greek in order to draw closer to the meaning of the New Testament. In addition to these spiritual benefits, Crusade’s emphasis on evangelism and discipleship helped me learn to communicate my beliefs with boldness, and through the love and acceptance I found in this group I progressed considerably in social maturity.

I immersed myself in the Crusade way of life, evangelizing frequently and conducting small discipleship groups. One semester I led the Crusade group at a local community college. But the overall spirituality and practice of Crusade worked to inflict on me an intense spiritual burnout, almost destroying my Christian life. And this spirituality and practice, I would discover, is fairly typical of large segments of Evangelicalism.

The major cause of this burnout was Campus Crusade’s emphasis on activity. I found that the genuineness of one’s spirituality was measured by his involvement in evangelism and discipleship. This pressure created in me an assumption that, if I did not have a personal ministry, I was not living the true Christian life.

In many ways this would have a corrupting influence on me, an experience which, I would insist, is shared by other Evangelicals. For example, the need to find opportunities to share our faith and win disciples would lead us to develop friendships with people—Christians and non-Christians alike—for an ulterior motive: the practical goal of fulfilling the Great Commission. People tended to become means for us to achieve our ministry objectives and this because our lives were dominated and motivated by an activist cause.

Perhaps the most corrupting effect was the way this activism turned me into a manipulator of people. It was bad enough that I felt manipulated by my fellow Crusaders, but it hurt me more that I began to manipulate others. People had applied subtle pressure on me to become involved, and as I sought my own disciples I put pressure on them. The great amount of recognition given to those with a successful ministry further fueled this manipulation.

I fell victim to this syndrome because my life had become identified with a cause and my participation in this cause was my primary source of satisfaction. It has required Catholic spirituality with its emphasis on the path of humility and on the performing of quiet deeds of mercy and charity to begin uprooting these tendencies from my heart.

One might wonder what became of the personal relationship with Christ so tirelessly preached by Evangelicals. Certainly Crusaders emphasized the importance of this relationship, but in my experience their practical orientation limited its development.

Scripture became a tool to be controlled by the reader to develop his character and increase his ministry. Absent was the Catholic understanding that through receptive, loving meditation on Scripture Christ is conceived in our souls and begotten into the world through deeds of love. Even our praising of God was strictly active, as we looked for attributes of God in Scripture for which we could praise him. Absent was the Catholic understanding of silent, loving adoration.

As my burnout developed, I dreaded the very idea of discipleship, and my Christian life became strained. I sought deeper roots in the Baptist church I had started attending, one of the finest Evangelical churches in my area. Unfortunately, this church could do little to help me regain a sound Christian life for the simple reason that its spirituality differed little from Crusade’s.

It really should not have surprised me that this church should have the same orientation as Crusade; after all, Evangelicals define themselves as Christians committed to the spread of the gospel. Their defining characteristic and reason for existing is commitment to a particular cause. This was shown vividly during a talk by a professor from Talbot Seminary. He explained we were put on Earth not to learn to worship God–after all, he reasoned, we will worship God better when we see him face to face in heaven–but to evangelize.

Evangelicals are limited by the press of practical activity. The efficacy of their public worship is crippled by its subordination to practical activity. I found that Baptist-type worship is essentially the same as Crusade’s: The singing and other activities are structured primarily to encourage enthusiasm in the congregants (and to evangelize non-Christians).

Both Crusade and contemporary Evangelicalism are descended from nineteenth-century revivalism. A hallmark of revivalism was the belief that excitement was necessary to spread and revive the true religion. Often Evangelical church services are conducted as if they were designed for entertainment; there is never any dead time. The congregation is fed songs, novel prayers, and preaching, with no opportunity for contemplative prayer.

Catholicism subordinates all causes to worship. In Catholicism, the summit of the Christian life is public worship of God in the liturgy, in continuity with the worship of God in heaven by the angels and saints. There is an essential continuity between our lives in heaven and on earth. This liturgical worship begins in receptivity—that is, in contemplation, which is nothing other than receptivity to reality and to God—and ends in sacrifice as we offer ourselves to God after receiving him deeper into our lives through the Eucharist.

This worship overflows into all of life, even the most active life, for even the most active life is subordinate to contemplative and sacrificial worship. From this overflow all of our activity is elevated to worship insofar as we become living sacrifices to God, expressed through our deeds of love. Evangelism is one form of these good deeds, an act of mercy to the souls of others as we, nourished by worship, draw others through their repentance and conversion into the true worship and adoration of God. Through the examples of Catholic saints such as Dominic and Catherine of Siena I have been filled with a new desire for the salvation of others. But Dominic in particular has shown me how to evangelize in accord with my own abilities and personality—through my love of learning—rather than according to the legalistic mold of Campus Crusade.

Thus for me the greatest benefit of Catholicism has been the restoration of a deep relationship with Christ, and I learned this through reading classical Catholic spiritual writers and theologians. Contrary to popular opinion, Catholic thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, always understood the need for a personal relationship with Christ.

They never used this term since, after all, even enemies can know each other personally, but explained instead that by justification we are made friends and lovers of God. And these Catholic writers understood what it meant to be a friend and lover of God better than any Evangelical writer I had ever encountered.

I learned from Bernard of Clairvaux and Catherine of Siena that the most fundamental form of prayer is the loving adoration of God, a prayer which exceeds the ability of words to express. Whereas Evangelicals often think of the Spirit-filled life as one in which the Spirit controls us, Catholic writers teach that being Spirit-filled means that, as we meditate on and contemplate Christ and the Trinity, the Spirit ignites our hearts with love, and thus we willingly obey God.

Evangelicals speak often of a relationship with God based on the gratitude felt when they realized that God loves the unlovable, but my gratitude and love for God has deepened as I’ve learned that God by his grace goes even further and makes us lovable in his sight. It is a commonplace among Catholic writers that God by grace beautifies the soul, adorning it with virtues; he does not leave us hateful to him, but dignifies us by enabling us through the grace of the indwelling Spirit of Christ to become worthy of eternal life.

The two aspects of Catholicism which Evangelicals most often claim are a hindrance to a personal relationship with Christ, ritual and hierarchy, have become for me a tremendous help in developing that relationship.

The sacrament of the Eucharist has created in me a deep awareness of my dependence on the grace of God. Genuflecting at Mass moves me to bow before Christ’s authority in all areas of my life, an experience which reflects the Catholic principle that bodily acts can influence the soul’s disposition.

The hierarchical elements of the Church have helped me draw nearer to Christ. Going to confession humbles me and helps uproot sinful tendencies from my heart. Obedience to the teachings and authority of the bishops and the Pope has helped free me from bondage to my own interpretations as the measure of truth. I believe my capacity to receive Christ has been deepened through this obedience. After all, Jesus said that whoever receives His messengers receives Him (Matt. 10:40).

Even though I value these spiritual benefits more than any other benefit, it was the intellectual struggles I went through which sealed my burnout and paved the way for my turning toward Catholicism. While in Crusade I spent much time in personal evangelism. As I shared my faith with other college students, intellectual objections to Christianity were hurled at me.

Being convinced that Christianity is not an irrational religion, I strove to find answers. I consulted commentaries and the writings of various Evangelicals to find solutions. Gradually, I began to find these answers inadequate and became disillusioned with Evangelical thought, wondering if my relationship with Christ was being maintained at the expense of truth.

The first category of intellectual difficulties comprised biblical passages which conflicted with Evangelical theology. For example, in preaching that we are justified by faith alone, I often encountered the objection that James, in the second chapter of his epistle, clearly states we are not justified by faith alone.

Evangelical commentators offered explanations of how this passage could agree with the Protestant interpretation of Paul’s doctrine of justification. I never found these interpretations satisfactory. I had the uneasy feeling that the passage was being explained away rather than explained.

Jesus’ emphasis on the role of works in salvation further disturbed me, while Paul himself never uses the phrase “faith alone.” In fact, the only time “faith alone” or “faith only” is used in Scripture is by James, and he conclusively rejects the concept: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Schaeffer’s influence prevented me from finding a solution to this problem so long as I remained a committed Evangelical.

Many other passages I encountered seemed to conflict with the broad outline of Evangelical theology and spirituality. This left me with a feeling of unease, yet I was hopeful that by trying to be more objective I could develop a more accurate understanding of biblical theology and spirituality. I was never able to do this while an Evangelical.

As I realize now, the narrow confines of Protestant theology had constricted my ability to penetrate deep into the teachings of Scripture. Ironically, after I began to read Catholic writers, especially the Church Fathers and medieval writers, Scripture began to make more sense to me.

Catholic thought opened Scripture up to me in a way Evangelical thought never could. From my Bible study I knew many Bible verses, but as I now realize their rich meanings typically eluded me. The truly decisive intellectual problem for me centered around the second pillar of Evangelicalism, the doctrine of sola scriptura, the Bible as the sole authority of faith and practice. This problem would involve me in epistemology, the study of how we can have knowledge at all.

Several specific issues gradually wore away my belief in sola scriptura. First, in my Baptist days I became interested in evangelizing Catholics, even acquiring materials from Mission to Catholics for this purpose. Seeking to find and expose the errors in the Catholic view of tradition and Church authority, I studied passages of Scripture used by Evangelicals in their polemic against the Church. Ultimately I found these arguments wanting.

Evangelicals argue that the injunction in Revelation 22:18-19 against adding anything to the “words of the prophecy of this book” secured sola scriptura and precluded Catholic tradition. But this “book of prophecy” refers only to the book of Revelation. This book was written as an individual book, not as the last section of an already-compiled New Testament.

Furthermore, I encountered passages of Scripture which positively suggested the Catholic view. In John 16:13-15 Jesus tells his apostles that the Spirit will guide them into “all truth.” This presented a dilemma for me. If we allowed that this promise extended beyond the eleven apostles then present, the Catholic understanding of Tradition and the infallibility of the magisterium would become reasonable. If the promise applied only to those present and to no one else, then many of the New Testament writers, such as Paul, could not have been inspired.

One could reply that the original apostles could pass on the grace of this spiritual guidance to others, but this implies successors to the apostles—and that is precisely the Catholic position.

It is not enough to say, as some Evangelicals do, that the apostles, such as Peter, merely approved what non-apostles, such as Mark, had written. If Mark’s Gospel was only “approved” by Peter, then that Gospel is only accurate, not inspired. For it to be inspired, the grace of the Spirit described in John 16 must have been passed on to Mark so he too would be inspired. Furthermore, this Evangelical argument concedes that it required the authority of the Church, with the apostles as its spokesmen, to determine what should be included in Scripture.

The challenge of secularism and atheism, from which Christianity had originally rescued me, still haunted me. I decided as I finished my studies in English to pursue a second major in philosophy, hoping to work through the philosophical challenges I had encountered while evangelizing. My studies began with epistemology.

Exposed to the scourges of positivism and Humean empiricism, I sought a foundation for response in the thought of Carl F. H. Henry, a leading Evangelical thinker. He did not help much; conceding much ground to empiricism, he argues that reason cannot prove the existence of God. Instead, all theology must be based on a single presupposition: the living God revealed in his Word. Henry presupposes the truth of (Evangelical) Christianity and proceeds to show the flaws of every other system of thought.

This question-begging not only failed to convince me, but it also showed the impoverishment of sola scriptura. Henry claimed his theory of knowledge was the biblical view, but it really stems from Descartes and post-Cartesian philosophy. It became apparent that in practice even Evangelicals don’t follow sola scriptura.

I had some familiarity with the historical defense of the authority of Scripture proposed by John Warwick Montgomery, an important Evangelical theologian opposed to presuppositionalism. In his view, we become convinced by historical evidence that Christ is the Son of God and that he spoke of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. This historical approach suggested Catholicism rather than Evangelicalism.

In the next phase on my studies I began investigating the thought of philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato, Hegel, and Heidegger. These writers exhibited a depth of thought and, yes, spirituality I never had found as an Evangelical. Although I could not give up my love for Christ, I was taken captive by philosophy. Two parallel processes began. On the one hand, I moved in the direction of the liberal experience-based theology which originated with Schleiermacher in the nineteenth century. In this approach, theology is essentially reflection on personal experiences.

On the other hand, while doing research for my master’s, I began studying writings of the Church Fathers and medieval theologians and mystics. I was struck by the sublimity of their reflections on the Incarnation and the Trinity, for these doctrines–or rather the realities they express–were an integral part of Catholic spirituality, not simply doctrines that must be reluctantly defended, mere intellectual liabilities. I fell in love with these central Christian truths, but they were undermined by the man-centered spirituality of the liberal theology I had embraced.

Liberation from this new spiritual mire came though Catholic thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas, who had confronted philosophy and transformed it in the light of Christian revelation rather than retreating into an anti-intellectual ghetto. In doing this they were following the example of the apostle Paul, who exhorted us to bring every thought captive to Christ and who in his own preaching, as in Acts 17:28 and in his epistle to the Colossians, made use of Greek thought to communicate the gospel. This philosophical tradition helped me rediscover the reasonableness of the Christian faith and thus fulfilled the expectations raised by Schaeffer.

The final moment of my liberation from man-centered spirituality came with my discovery of Thomist realism, an alternative to empiricism and idealism. Three books especially helpful here were Ten Philosophical Mistakes by Mortimer Adler, Three Reformers by Jacques Maritain, and Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. Realism allows us to reach beyond our sense impressions, unlike empiricism, and to be receptive to reality outside ourselves, unlike idealism. The receptivity of Catholic philosophy fully supports the receptivity of genuine Christian spirituality. Catholic philosophy and spirituality, I found, form an integral unity.

My spiritual and intellectual journey has taken me into Catholicism, where I have found the true and highest mysticism, in which there are no limitations to the depth of the loving relationship we can have with Christ, a relationship which allows us to live in accord with truth and rationality. Although I have only begun to grasp the riches of Catholic spirituality, I have no doubt that in finding Catholicism I found Christ in a more profound way than ever before in my Christian experience.”

Love,
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