The Heresy of Universalism, opiate of theologians…


-The Awesome Judgement — icon of the Second Coming. From Christ a river flows forth: it is radiant like a golden light at the upper end of it, where the saints are. At its lower end, the same river is fiery, and it is in that part of the river that the demons and the unrepentant are depicted.


-by Trent Horn

“The prolific author and Eastern orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has just released a new book that covers a very old topic: Universalism, or the belief that all creatures will definitely be saved. In his new book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, Hart argues that eventually all people (which may include fallen angels, though Hart doesn’t explicitly come out and say it) will spend eternity with God in heaven. That’s because an eternal hell is supposedly so unjust that if it were an essential part of Christian doctrine it would be (in Hart’s words) “proof that Christianity should be dismissed as a self-evidently morally obtuse and logically incoherent faith.” (As an aside, my colleague Karlo Broussard has done some great work showing hell is not unjust.)

The possibility that hell is empty is not a twenty-first century novelty. In the third century, the ecclesial writer Origen argued for apokatastasis, or a “restoration” that would unite all things, including unrepentant sinners, to God. This would seem to rule out the possibility that anyone would spend an eternity in hell, though modern commenters are divided over the implications of Origen’s theology on this question. According to Bible scholar Richard Bauckham:

“Until the nineteenth century almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of eternal torment in hell. Here and there, outside the theological mainstream, were some who believed that the wicked would be finally annihilated. . . . Even fewer were the advocates of universal salvation . . . though these few included some major theologians of the early church.”

The Catholic Church condemned universalism at the regional council of Orange in 543 AD, though a few theologians still held out hope for all creatures to be saved. This uniformity of thought began to change, however, with the rise of denominations like the Universalist Church of America (which exists today under the name Unitarian Universalism).

Most Christian universalists like Hart agree that hell is real and even believe that some or many people will go there. But from their perspective hell is a temporary “purgatory-like” condition and the Bible’s references to it being “eternal” only mean hell is a temporary punishment that the damned face in “the age to come” because the Greek word for eternity (aionion) can also mean “age” (Hart even refers to hell as “the purifying flames of the Age to come”).

As I’ve shown in my engagements with others who dispute the eternal aspect of hell, the endless nature of hell is quite obvious from the biblical texts. Given the strength of the Catholic Church’s case, universalists can’t just claim that the punishments of hell might not be permanent. To be convincing, they need to show positive evidence that all people will eventually be saved. When it comes to providing positive evidence, universalists usually cite biblical passages that, from their perspective, describe God effecting the salvation of every single person.

Hart seems puzzled, though, that these passages were not given more attention by theologians throughout the Church’s history, noting “how odd it is that for at least fifteen centuries such passages have been all but lost behind a veil as thin as the one that can be woven from those three or four deeply ambiguous verses that seem (and only seem) to threaten eternal torments for the wicked.”

But perhaps that’s because these passages don’t teach that everyone will be saved. Instead, they express the hope that anyone can be saved.

In 1 Timothy 2:4, for example, St. Paul says that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But God also desires that we not sin, and yet we still do. God desires the good for all of his creatures, but because he has also given human beings and angels the gift of free will, it follows that God will allow us to enjoy or suffer the consequence of this good gift, even if it means eternal separation from him.

Although Hart admits he doesn’t like “reducing biblical theology to concentrated distillates (prooftexts)” he proceeds to do just that by listing nearly a dozen verses, including their original Greek and Hart’s own rendering of them from his own strange, overly-literal translation of the Bible. Unfortunately, his translation doesn’t offer much in terms of exegesis or understanding of these crucial texts.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive,” but this doesn’t mean that through Christ all people shall be brought to eternal life. What it means is that all who are “in Christ” (a phrase Paul often uses for the saved or elect) shall be brought to eternal life. This logic also explains Romans 5:18, wherein Paul says, “As one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”

This refers to life for all believers, or those who are in Christ. We know this because in the previous verse Paul says, “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” This is talking about the salvation of all believers, not the salvation of all people. Jesus himself says that he will “draw all men to himself” (John 12:32), but that doesn’t mean that people can’t reject him even after being so drawn. In this passage Jesus also foreshadows his own crucifixion, which may mean that all people will have their sins atoned for on the cross but the grace that Christ accrues for them may not be applied to their souls if they choose to reject it.

In other words, Christ draws all men to Himself and He died for every single person, offering them the gift of eternal life. But each person still has a choice, and some people will tragically refuse to accept Christ’s mercy and salvation. That is why the Church prays for the soul of anyone who has perished: because God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

If Hart’s universalism is true, then those who reject the gospel would cease to be “the lost” Jesus came to save (Luke 19:10) and become instead “the delayed,” who just have to wait a little longer for the heavenly rewards they rejected in life.

The evangelist who foolishly thinks universalism will make it easier to preach the gospel will see that without the “bad news” the “good news” isn’t taken seriously. On this view, Christianity becomes a faith that seeks to merely make “heaven on earth,” and by that point it’s nothing more than secular humanism playing dress-up on Sundays.

Contrary to Hart’s assertion, it is not the presence of hell that makes Christianity a “morally obtuse and logically incoherent faith”— it is its absence.”

Love, His will be done!!
Matthew

How to go to hell


-Hell Receiving Fallen Angels, Dante’s Paradise Lost illustration, by Gustave Dore (1832-1883)

-by Edward Freser is writer and philosopher living in Los Angeles. He teaches philosophy at Pasadena City College. His primary academic research interests are in the philosophy of mind, moral and political philosophy, and philosophy of religion.

“How is it that anyone ever goes to hell? How could a loving and merciful God send anyone there? How could any sin be grave enough to merit eternal damnation? How could it be that not merely a handful of people, but a great many people, end up in hell, as most Christian theologians have held historically?

A complete treatment of the subject would be complex, because there are a number of relevant subsidiary issues, some of them complex in themselves. These issues include: the difference between the supernatural end of the beatific vision and our merely natural end, and hell as the loss of the former; the difference between the sufferings of hell and the state of a soul either in limbo or in purgatory; the precise nature of the sufferings of hell, and the different kinds and degrees of suffering corresponding to different vices; what it is that makes a particular action – including actions modern people tend to regard as merely minor sins or not sins at all – mortally sinful or apt to result in damnation; what can be known by way of purely philosophical analysis and what is known only via special divine revelation; the proper interpretation of various scriptural passages and the authority of the statements of various councils, popes, and saints; what is wrong with various popular misconceptions which cloud the issues (crude images of devils with pitchforks and the like); and so forth.

I’m not going to address all of that here. What I will address is what I take to be the core issue, in light of which the others must be understood, which is the manner in which hell is something chosen by the one who is damned, where this choice is in the nature of the case irreversible. In particular, I will approach this issue the way it is approached by Aquinas and other Thomists.

Many misunderstandings arise because people often begin their reflections on this topic at the wrong point. For example, they begin with the idea that the damned end up in hell because of something God does, or with the idea that there is something in some particular sin (a particular act of theft or of adultery, say) that sends them there. Now, I would by no means deny that the damned are damned in part because of something God does, and that particular sins can send one to hell. The point, again, is just that there is something more fundamental going on in light of which these factors have to be understood.

Obstinate angelic wills

It is useful to begin with the way in which, on Aquinas’s analysis, an angel is damned. (See especially Summa Theologiae I.64.2; De Veritate, Question 24, Article 10; and On Evil, Question XVI, Article 5.) Here, as with the images of devils with pitchforks, the unsympathetic reader is asked to put out of his mind common crude images, e.g. of creatures with white robes, long golden hair, and harps. That is not what an angel is. An angel is instead an incorporeal mind, a creature of pure intellect and will. It is also worth emphasizing for the skeptical reader that whether or not one believes in angels is not really essential to the subject addressed in this post. Think, if you must, of what is said in this section as a useful thought experiment.

On Aquinas’s analysis, angels, like us, necessarily choose what they choose under the guise of the good, i.e. because they take it to be good in some way. (See my article “Being, the Good, and the Guise of the Good,” reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays, for exposition and defense of the Thomistic account of the nature of human action.) And as with us, an angel’s ultimate good is in fact God. But, again like us, they can come to be mistaken about what that ultimate good is. That is to say, like us, an angel can erroneously take something other than God to be its ultimate good.

However, the nature of this error in the case of an angel is somewhat different from the nature of the error we might commit. In us, a sudden and fleeting passion might distract us from what is truly good for us and lead us to pursue something else instead. But passions are essentially corporeal, i.e. they exist only in creatures which, like us, have bodies. Angels do not have bodies, so passions play no role in leading them into error.

A second way we can be led into error is through the influence of a bad habit, which pulls us away from what is truly good for us in a more serious way than a fleeting passion might. For Aquinas, there is indeed habituation in angels, as there is in us. However, there is a difference. In our case, we have several appetites pulling us in different directions because of our corporeal nature. Because we are rational animals, our will is directed at what the intellect conceives as the good, but because we are rational animals, we also have appetites which move us toward the pursuit of other, sub-intellectual things, such as food, sexual intercourse, and so forth. These appetites compete for dominance, as it were, which is why in a human being, even a deeply ingrained habit can be overcome if a competing appetite is strong enough to counter it.

Angels are not like this, because they are incorporeal. They have only a single appetite – the will as directed toward what the intellect takes to be good. There is no competing appetite that can pull the angel away from this end once the will is directed toward it. Once the will is so directed, habituation follows immediately and unchangeably, because of the lack of any other appetite that might pull an angel is some different direction.

A third way we can be led into error is intellectually, by virtue of simply being factually mistaken about what is in fact good for us. Here too, angels can make the same sort of error. But here too, the nature of the error is different in the case of an angel. The way we come to know things is discursively. We gather evidence, weigh it, reason from premises to conclusion, and so on. All of this follows upon our corporeality – in particular, the way we rely upon sensory experience of particular things in order to begin the process of working up to general conclusions, the way we make use of mental imagery as an aid to thought, and so forth. Error creeps in because passion or habituation interferes with the proper functioning of these cognitive processes, or because we get the facts wrong somewhere in the premises we reason from, or the like. Further inquiry can correct the error.

There is nothing like this in angels. For Aquinas, an angel knows what it knows, not discursively, but immediately. It doesn’t reason from first principles to conclusions, for example, but knows the first principles and what follows from them all at once, in a single act. Now, because there is no cognitive process by which an angel knows (as there is in us), there is no correction of a cognitive process that has gone wrong, either by gathering new information, resisting passions, or overcoming bad habits. If an angel goes wrong at all, it is not (as we are) merely moving in an erroneous direction but where this trajectory might be reversed. It simply is wrong and stays wrong.

For Aquinas, then, an angel’s basic orientation is set immediately after its creation. It either rightly takes God for its ultimate end, or wrongly takes something less than God for its ultimate end. If the former, then it is forever “locked on” to beatitude, and if the latter, it is forever “locked on” to unhappiness. There is no contrary appetite that can move it away from what it is habituated to, and no cognitive process that can be redirected. The angel that chooses wrongly is thus fallen or damned, and not even God can change that any more than he can make a round square, for such change is simply metaphysically impossible insofar as it is contrary to the very nature of an angelic intellect.

Obstinate human wills

Again, human beings are different, because they are corporeal. Or, to be more precise, they are different while they are corporeal. For a human being has both corporeal and incorporeal faculties. When the body goes, the corporeal faculties go. But the incorporeal faculties – intellect and will, the same faculties that an angel has – carry on, and the human being persists as an incomplete substance. (See my article “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought,” also reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays, for defense of the incorporeality of the intellect. See chapter 4 of Aquinas for exposition and defense of the Thomistic argument for the immortality of the soul.)

This brings us to Aquinas’s treatment of the changeability or lack thereof of the human will. (See especially Summa Contra Gentiles Book 4, Chapter 95.) Prior to death, it is always possible for the human will to correct course, for the reasons described above. A passion inclining one to evil can be overcome; a bad habit can be counteracted by a contrary appetite; new knowledge might be acquired by which an erroneous judgment can be revised. Hence, at any time before death, there is at least some hope that damnation can be avoided.

But after death, Aquinas argues, things are different. At death the soul is separated from the body, a separation which involves the intellect and will – which were never corporeal faculties in the first place – carrying on without the corporeal faculties that influenced their operation during life. In effect, the soul now operates, in all relevant respects, the way an angelic intellect does. Just as an angel, immediately after its creation, either takes God as its ultimate end or something less than God as its ultimate end, so too does the disembodied human soul make the same choice immediately upon death. And just as the angel’s choice is irreversible given that the corporeal preconditions of a change are absent, so too is the newly disembodied soul’s choice irreversible, and for the same reason. The corporeal preconditions of a change of orientation toward an ultimate good, which were present in life, are now gone. Hence the soul which opts for God as its ultimate end is “locked on” to that end forever, and the soul which opts instead for something less than God is “locked on” to that forever. The former soul therefore enjoys eternal beatitude, the latter eternal separation from God or damnation.

The only way a change could be made is if the soul could come to judge something else instead as a higher end or good than what it has opted for. But it cannot do so. Being disembodied, it lacks any passions that could sway it away from this choice. It also, like an angel, now lacks any competing appetite which might pull its will away from the end it has chosen. Thus it is immediately habituated to aiming toward whatever, following death, it opted for as its highest end or good – whether God or something less than God. Nor is there any new knowledge which might change its course, since, now lacking sensation and imagination and everything that goes with them, it does not know discursively but rather in an all-at-once way, as an angel does. There is no longer any cognitive process whose direction might be corrected.

But might not the resurrection of the body restore the possibility of a course correction? Aquinas answers in the negative. The nature of the resurrection body is necessarily tailored to the nature of the soul to which it is conjoined, and that soul is now locked on to whatever end it opted for upon death. The soul prior to death was capable of change in its basic orientation only because it came into existence with its body and thus never had a chance to “set,” as it were. One it does “set,” nothing can alter its orientation again.

An analogy might help. Consider wet clay which is being molded into a pot. As long as it remains wet, it can alter its basic shape. Once it is dried in the furnace, though, it is locked into the shape it had while in the furnace. Putting it in water once again wouldn’t somehow make it malleable again. Indeed, the water would be forced to conform itself to the shape of the pot rather than vice versa.

The soul is like that. While together with the body during life, it is like the wet clay. Death locks it into one basic orientation or another, just as the furnace locks the clay into a certain definite shape. The restoration of the body cannot change its basic orientation again any more than wetting down a pot or filling it with water can make it malleable again.

The influence of the passions and appetites

Now, what choice is a soul likely to make immediately upon death? Obviously, the passions and appetites that dominated it in life are bound to push it very strongly in one direction or another. For example, a person who at the end of his life is strongly habituated to loving God above all things is very unlikely, in his first choice upon death, to regard something other than God as his ultimate end or good. A person who at the end of his life is strongly habituated to hating God is very unlikely, in his first choice upon death, to regard God as his ultimate end or good. A person who, at the end of his life, is strongly habituated to regarding some specific thing other than God as his ultimate good – money, sex, political power, etc. — is very likely, in his first choice upon death, to regard precisely that thing as his ultimate good or end. It is very likely, then, that these various souls will be “locked on” forever to whatever it was they were habituated to valuing above all things during life on earth.

Of course, what counts as regarding God as one’s ultimate end requires careful analysis. Someone might have a deficient conception of God and yet still essentially regard God as his ultimate good or end. One way to understand how this might go is, in my view, to think of the situation in terms of the doctrine of the transcendentals. God is Being Itself. But according to the doctrine of the transcendentals, being – which is one of the transcendentals – is convertible with all the others, such as goodness and truth. They are really all the same thing looked at from different points of view. Being Itself is thus Goodness Itself and Truth Itself. It seems conceivable, then, that someone might take goodness or truth (say) as his ultimate end, and thereby – depending, naturally, on exactly how he conceives of goodness and truth – be taking God as his ultimate end or good, even if he has some erroneous ideas about God and does not realize that what he is devoted to is essentially what classical theists like Aquinas call “God.” And of course, an uneducated person might wrongly think of God as an old man with a white beard, etc. but still know that God is cause of all things, that he is all good, that he offers salvation to those who sincerely repent, etc. By contrast, it seems quite ridiculous to suppose that someone obsessed with money or sex or political power (for example) is really somehow taking God as his ultimate end without realizing it.

In any event, the strength of the passions and appetites is one reason why the sins attached to them are so dangerous, even when they are not as such the worst of sins. To become deeply habituated to a certain sin associated with a particular appetite or passion is to run grave risk of making of that sin one’s ultimate end, and thus damning oneself. This is why the seven deadly sins are deadly. For example, if one is at the time of one’s death deeply habituated to envy or to sins of the flesh, it is naturally going to be difficult for one’s first choice upon death not to be influenced by such habits.

There is this “upside” to a sin like envy, though – it offers the sinner no pleasure but only misery. That can be a prod, during life, to overcoming it. Sins of the flesh, however, typically involve very intense pleasure, and for that reason it can be extremely difficult to overcome them, or even to want to overcome them. In addition, they have as their “daughters” such effects as the darkening of the intellect, self-centeredness, hostility toward spiritual things, and the like. (I discussed Aquinas’s account of the “daughters of lust” in an earlier post.)

It is said that at Fatima the Blessed Virgin declared that more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than for any other reason. Whatever a skeptic might think of Fatima, this basic thesis is, if one accepts the general natural law account of sexual morality together with Aquinas’s account of the obstinacy of the soul after death, quite plausible. That is not because sins of the flesh are the worst sins. They are not the worst sins. It is rather because they are very common sins, easy to fall into and often difficult to get out of. Nor does it help that in recent decades they are, more than any other sins, those that a vast number of people absolutely refuse even to recognize as sins.

A world awash in sexual vice of all kinds and “in denial” about it is a world in which a large number of people are going to be habituated to seeking sexual pleasure above all things, and to become forever “locked on” to this end as their perceived ultimate good. (It is very foolish, then, for churchmen and other Christians to think it kind or merciful not to talk much about such sins. That is like refusing to warn joggers of the quicksand they are about to fall into. And positively downplaying the significance of such sins and even emphasizing instead the positive aspects of relationships (e.g. adulterous relationships) in which the sins are habitually committed is like encouraging the joggers to speed up. One thinks of Ezekiel 33:8.)

Whatever might be said about sins of the flesh per se, however (and I have said a lot about that subject in other places) the main point is to emphasize how deeply the passions and appetites “prepare” a soul for the decisive choice it is going to make, especially when there is pleasure attached to the indulgence of the passions or appetites. What is true of illicit sexual indulgence is true also, if often in a less intense way, of the indulgence of other passions and appetites. There is, for example, the pleasurable frisson of self-righteousness that can accompany the judgment of others or the indulgence of excessive or misdirected anger. There is the pleasure a sadist might get from dominating or humiliating others. And so forth.

There can also be a deficiency in the passions and appetites. For example, one can show insufficient anger at injustice and evil and thus lack any resolve to do something about it. Or one might be deficient in the amount of sexual desire one has for one’s spouse or in the amount of affection one is inclined to show one’s children. Deficiencies in passions and appetites can thus keep us from pursuing what is good, just as excesses in passions and appetites can lead us to pursue what is not good.

The passions and appetites are like heat applied to wet clay. The longer the soul is pushed (or not pushed) by a passion or appetite in a certain direction, the more difficult it is to reorient the soul, just as it is more difficult to alter the shape of wet clay the longer heat is applied and the drier the clay gets.

Those interested in further reading on this subject are advised to read, in addition to the texts from Aquinas cited above, Abbot Vonier’s The Human Soul, especially chapters 29-33; Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s Life Everlasting and the Immensity of the Soul, especially chapters VII-IX; and Cardinal Avery Dulles’s First Things article “The Population of Hell.” (Most readers will be familiar with Garrigou-Lagrange and Dulles. If you are not familiar with Vonier, I highly recommend tracking down everything written by him that you can get your hands on.)”

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
-Litany of the saints
Matthew

Hell: God is unjust?


-by Karlo Broussard

“For many people, the Catholic doctrine of hell serves as an obstacle to belief in God. They think an all-good God wouldn’t allow someone he loves to experience everlasting torment. And they think the permanent nature of hell’s punishment is incompatible with a just God.

A recent caller on Catholic Answers Live asked, “Given that we have a finite life with limited information to make our decisions, how is an infinite punishment not infinitely disproportionate? Shouldn’t the punishment be proportional to the transgression?”

St. Thomas Aquinas put this question in the form of an objection:

“It would seem that an eternal punishment is not inflicted on sinners by divine justice. For the punishment should not exceed the fault: “According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be” (Deut. 25:2). Now fault is temporal. Therefore the punishment should not be eternal (Summa Theologiae, suppl. III:99:1).”

So, does the eternity of hell make God an unjust, vengeful tyrant? Here are some reasons why the answer is no.

A different law of gravity

First, the objection falsely assumes that a punishment has to be equal or proportionate to a fault as to the amount of duration. If the duration of punishment had to correspond to the duration of an offense, then it would be unjust to give a murderer a prison sentence any longer than the time it took for the murderer to kill his victim.

But that’s absurd. As the Jesuit philosopher Bernard Boedder writes, “[T]ime cannot be the standard by which punishment is to be determined” (Natural Theology, 340; Kindle edition).

The measure of the punishment due for sin is the gravity of the fault. According to Aquinas, “[T]he measure of punishment corresponds to the measure of fault, as regards the degree of severity, so that the more grievously a person sins the more grievously is he punished” (ST, suppl.III:99:1). In other words, it is the internal wickedness of an offense that is the measure of expiation for it.

The highest high of moral disorders

The free and willful rejection of God—what the Catholic Church calls a “mortal sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1855) or, as the apostle John calls it, “a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16; Douay Rheims)—reasonably calls for permanent exclusion from the presence of God.

As Aquinas points out in the supplement to the third part of the Summa Theologiae, the gravity of an offense is determined according to the dignity of the person sinned against. For example, punishment for striking the president of the United States is going to be greater than punishment for striking a fellow citizen in bar brawl.

Since God is ipsum esse subsistens (subsistent being itself), He is infinite in dignity and majesty. Therefore, His right to obedience from His reasonable creatures is absolute and infinite. There is no right that can be stricter and every other right is based on it.

A willful violation of this right, which is what a mortal sin is, is the most severe offense a human being can commit. Boedder explains it this way: “A willful violation . . . of this right implies a malice which opposes itself to the foundation of all orders” (NT, 340).

Since the rejection of God’s absolute right to our obedience, worship, and love is a moral disorder of the highest degree, it deserves a penalty of the highest degree. Everlasting punishment seems to fit the bill.

Alternatives that don’t register on the justice monitor

A second reason why the unending punishment of hell is just is because the alternatives are unreasonable. If permanent punishment is not the answer, then there can only be two other options: temporary punishment or annihilation—the act by which God stops willing someone into existence. But neither one of these alternatives coheres with the nature of mortal sin in relation to God.

Consider temporary punishment. Perhaps the soul receives an intense dose of punishment and then enters heaven upon being relieved of it. This would be an injustice. For example, let’s say I find out that my twelve-year-old son ditched school and went to a party with his older teen friends and got drunk and smoked a few jays (this is merely hypothetical, mind you).

I punish him by saying, “Son, you’ve been a bad boy, and as a result you’re going to stay in your room for ten minutes. But when that time is up, pack your bags because we’ve got tickets to spend the weekend at Legoland.” (He loves Legos). How does this register on your justice monitor? My guess is that it doesn’t rate very high—especially if my son refuses to apologize for his misconduct. The duration of the punishment is much too small relative to the reward he is given.

Similarly, a temporary stint in hell—no matter how long the term—is much too small of a punishment relative to the everlasting happiness of heaven. It would be unjust for God to give heaven as a reward to a person that committed the most grievous offense of all, the permanent rejection of God’s absolute right to obedience, worship, and love.

Annihilation is also an unreasonable alternative. How could a person experience the punishment justice demands for permanently rejecting God if he were annihilated? The gravity of violating God’s absolute right would be reduced to nothingness if there were no punishment for it, Justice would not be served.

Furthermore, it would violate God’s wisdom to annihilate the soul. Why would he create a soul with an immortal nature only to thwart it? Moreover, Aquinas argues that because God’s power is manifest in preserving things in existence, to take a soul out of being would hinder that manifestation (Summa, I:104:4).

The reasonableness of a permanent commitment

A third reason the unending nature of hell is justified is that it’s befitting to reason that an individual make a permanent choice for or against God at death. And if a permanent choice against God, then a permanent punishment.

We know from divine Revelation that there is no repentance after death: “[I]t is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The time of preparation for man’s last end comes to an end at the moment of death.

This is reasonable within the logic of love. Love demands a permanent commitment to the beloved. For example, would it be true love if a man says to his bride on the altar, “I’ll commit to you for only ten years, and then after that, we can go our separate ways?” Of course not! We value loving relationships that involve a choice to commit one way or the other—a commitment unto death.  [Editor: even better if you don’t know what you’re getting into!!!  It’s too easy when the going is rough to abandon one’s commitment.  Metaphorically, if a soldier under fire throws away his gun and says “I quit!”  Let the marriage jokes regarding a combat metaphor ensue.  Remember, there are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church: baptism. eucharist. confirmation. reconciliation. anointing of the sick. holy orders and martyrdom.  I know, I know.  I’m in trouble, AGAIN!] 😉

Similarly, the loving relationship that God has created us for demands that we at some point in time make a definitive choice to love Him or not. According to divine Revelation, that moment is death (Heb. 9:27).

The permanency of our choice at death can also be argued for in light of the nature of choice by an incorporeal being. Such a topic, however, goes beyond the scope of this article. For a great explanation of Aquinas’s thought on this topic, see Edward Feser’s online article “How to Go to Hell.”

If a person makes his choice against God at the moment of death, then his choice to not love God remains forever—the perversity of the will is forever determined. Therefore, the punishment for such perversion is eternal as well.

This is why the Catechism defines hell as the “definitive self-exclusion from God” (CCC 1033). This is also the reason why the Church teaches that if a person dies in a state of mortal sin, hell will be his lot (see CCC 1033, 1035).

The sinner who rejects God at the moment of death gets what they wanted—namely, separation from God. This unending separation is the “eternal punishment” (CCC 1472), because the individual will forever lack the fulfillment and satisfaction that only God can give a creature of a rational and spiritual nature (CCC 1035).

The flip side is reasonable

Finally, we can see the reasonableness of the unending punishment of hell by seeing the reasonableness of the reverse side of the issue—the unending reward of heaven. Aquinas writes:

As reward is to merit, so is punishment to guilt. Now, according to divine justice, an eternal reward is due to temporal merit: “Every one who seeth the Son and believeth in Him hath [Vulg.: ‘that everyone . . . may have’] life everlasting.” Therefore according to divine justice, an everlasting punishment is due to temporal guilt (Summa, Suppl. III:99:1).

Just as it is not contrary to God’s justice to give a permanent and everlasting reward for a temporal act of charity, so too it’s not contrary to God’s justice to give a permanent and everlasting punishment for a temporal act of evil.

Conclusion

Hell is not a pleasant place to think about. It’s something that we’re all repulsed by—especially those who use it to object to God’s justice. But there is no reason why such repulsion should lead us to reject God. It should lead us to reject hell; not to deny its existence but to do what we can to stay out of it.”

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us. Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
-Litany of the saints
Matthew

Is Mindfulness harmful? dos


-by Connie Rossini

“The Spanish bishops note that people often ask them about authentic Catholic spirituality as opposed to Eastern meditation techniques. We read: “We want to offer criteria to discern which elements of other widespread religious traditions can be integrated into a Christian praxis of prayer to aid ecclesial institutions and groups to provide paths of spirituality with a well-defined Christian identity, responding to this pastoral challenge with creativity and, at the same time, with fidelity to the richness and depth of the Christian tradition” (no. 6).

They remind us of the adage, lex orandi, lex credendi, which translates roughly as “the Church believes as she prays.” If we are to maintain our faith in this post-Christian culture, and help others to do so as well, it is vital that we pray as Christians. Indulging in practices from other religions – no matter what our intent – may distort our views of God, the human person, and the goal of life. We cannot just co-opt practices from other traditions.

Certain theological truths underlie all Christian prayer. The bishops highlight the uniqueness of the Incarnation. Jesus alone is both fully God and fully man. Thus, any spirituality or spiritual practice that minimizes his role, making him into simply an example of how we all have the divine within us, is opposed to Christianity. The bishops also reject the idea that we cannot know the truth about God. Jesus came to reveal God to us. He is the one way to God. He and his words are truth.

Finally, they write, “It is important to note that in our culture, the Christian idea of salvation has been replaced by the desire of immanent forms of happiness, material welfare, and the progress of humanity” (no. 10). We will ultimately find these things to be empty. When that emptiness yawns before us, it’s easy to instead look for happiness in personal wellness. Then our focus turns inward, instead of outward to God. We become concerned with self, rather than the other. This danger, as we will see, is present in all forms of Eastern (non-Christian) meditation.

In reading documents like this, I sometimes long to see a list of problematic practices. It would make discernment and teaching about prayer so much easier! But the bishops of Spain, like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, give us instead principles by which to judge whether a given practice is compatible with Christian prayer. Thus, they teach us about authentic Christian prayer at the same time that they warn against error. They account for new practices that may arise in the future. They expect us to examine prayer and meditation practices in light of these principles.

And yet, they did decide to focus in on perhaps the biggest current fad in both secular and Christian circles respecting meditation: mindfulness. The bishops write, “In many spheres of our society, the desire to find inner peace has favored the diffusion of meditation inspired by Zen Buddhism” (no. 11). Critics could rightly point out that Zen is only one strand of Buddhism, and that mindfulness, for example, which is referenced in a footnote, is not particular to Zen. Neither do some of the other popular meditation techniques come from Zen. But this is the term the Spanish bishops chose. Perhaps such usage is common in Spain. Whatever the case, it’s important to look beyond this imprecision.

The Spanish bishops hit directly at mindfulness, as well as other forms of Eastern meditation, when they say, “The reduction of prayer to [Eastern] meditation and the absence of a you as its end, turn this practice into a monologue that begins and ends in the subject itself. The Zen technique consists in observing the movements of one’s mind to calm the person and bring them into union with their own being. Understood this way, it can hardly be compatible with Christian prayer, in which the most important thing is the divine You revealed in Christ” (ibid.).

This passage contains two important points. First, Buddhist meditation is not directed toward anyone outside oneself. Therefore, instead of the dialog that should comprise prayer, it remains a monologue. It begins and ends with oneself. The second point digs deeper. Buddhist techniques consist of passively observing one’s thoughts. Typically, the practitioner cultivates a non-judgmental awareness of his thoughts, remaining distant from them intellectually and emotionally. These techniques calm one’s mind and help one connect with oneself. Christian prayer, in contrast, seeks connection with God, especially in the person of Jesus. The Spanish bishops say that these differences make Eastern meditation and Christian prayer incompatible.

The mental stillness found in Eastern meditation brings a sense of peace, but it also can cause one to disengage from the world, instead of intervening to change things for the better. “Therefore, if a person is satisfied with a certain inner serenity achieved through this method and confuses it with the peace that only God can give, it would become an obstacle to the authentic practice of Christian prayer and the encounter with God” (no. 12). It fosters complacency with one’s spiritual state, instead of moving the practitioner to grow in virtue or a desire to know God. One thinks that passivity is enough.

Finally, Buddhist practices create a non-dualistic attitude toward reality. In other words, they blur the distinctions between oneself and the world, “between the sacred and the profane, between the divine and the created” (no. 13). They end in pantheism, seeing everything as God, rather than revealing “the personal face of the Christian God.” “When deity and world are confused, and there is no otherness, any kind of prayer is useless” (ibid.). To whom would one pray?

Clearly, Buddhist meditation can obstruct the intimacy with God through Christ, which is the goal of Christian prayer. My Soul Thirsts makes one more assertion about the possible ill consequences of Christians practicing Buddhist meditation.”

Love,
Matthew

Is Mindfulness harmful? uno


-by Connie Rossini

“On September 6, the Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith in Spain released a document entitled My Soul Thirsts for God, for the Living God: Doctrinal Orientations on Christian Prayer. It echoes the 1989 document from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (in Rome), On Some Aspects of Christian Meditation. Both documents speak eloquently about the foundations of Christian prayer, while also cautioning against Eastern meditation techniques.

The document begins with a survey of the current climate regarding prayer in Spain. It could equally apply to the US or most western nations. Spain’s bishops write that the human heart is restless for God, but our culture “generates emptiness,” rather than fulfillment (no. 1). People are thus searching for spiritual fulfillment, which can lead to their taking up problematic practices.

“[M]any people—even those who grew up in a Christian environment—resort to meditation, prayer techniques and methods that have their origin in religious traditions outside Christianity and the rich spiritual heritage of the Church. In some cases, this is accompanied by the abandonment of the Catholic faith, even inadvertently. In other cases, people try to incorporate these methods as a ‘supplement’ of their faith to achieve a more intense experience of it. This assimilation is frequently done without proper discernment about its compatibility with the Christian faith, the anthropology that derives from it and with the Christian message of salvation” (no. 2).

The first thing we learn, then, is that when considering methods of prayer or meditation that originated outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, we must be cautious and discerning. These methods may not always be suitable for Catholics. Sometimes, practicing them might bring confusion regarding human nature and our need for salvation. Such practices have even led some to completely abandon the Christian faith.

The bishops of Spain note that we are living in a post-Christian culture. In Christian cultures, they say, teaching the faithful should be focused on theology and morality. But in a world that is no longer Christian, we have no commonly held faith to build upon. “[I]n this cultural context, in which so many live outside the faith, the fundamental challenge is to ‘show’ men the beauty of the face of God manifested in Christ Jesus so that they feel attracted to Him. If we want everyone to know and love Jesus Christ and, through Him, to have a personal encounter with God, the Church cannot be perceived only as a moral educator or defender of truths, but above all as a teacher of spirituality and the place where to have a profoundly human experience of the living God” (no. 5).

Many people who grew up nominally Christian have no knowledge of the vast spiritual tradition within their native faith. They mistakenly think that they know what Christianity has to offer, and that it is lacking. Popular fads, like the current fad of mindfulness that has swept through the West, seem to offer a spirituality that can satisfy their thirst.

How can we bring such people back to the faith? We must help them to encounter Jesus. By teaching them about the richness of Christian prayer and how it can lead to intimate union with God, we can direct their thirst toward the only One who can really satisfy them.”

Love,
Matthew

Litany for Abuse Survivors

-by Mary Pezzulo

“Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven Who created all people in His image, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Who descended to earth to suffer with us, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, who carried the Son of God as an exile and a refugee, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins who was suspected of adultery and nearly divorced by Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saint Michael, defender of the children of God, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel, consoling angel of Gethsemane, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the healer, pray for us.
All you holy angels and archangels, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist who was imprisoned and murdered, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, protector of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Holy Abel who was murdered by his brother, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Noah who was sexually humiliated by his son, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Isaac who was bound and nearly killed by Abraham, pray for us.
Holy Matriarch Hagar who was abused by Sarah and Abraham but the Lord heard her cry, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Jacob who fled from being killed by his brother, pray for us.
Holy Matriarchs Rachel and Leah who were forced into conflict and suffering by their father and husband, pray for us.
Holy Dinah who was raped and then sold by her father, pray for us.
Holy Patriarch Joseph who was sold into slavery and imprisoned on false charges, pray for us.
Holy Jochebed, the mother of Moses who saved him from genocide, pray for us.
Holy Prophet Moses who was separated from his mother and left in the Nile to save him from a genocide, pray for us.
Holy Hannah who was mocked for being childless, pray for us.
Holy Prophet Elijah who fled to the wilderness, pray for us.
Holy Prophet Jeremiah who was thrown into the cistern, pray for us.
Holy Queen Esther, victim of a forced marriage to a violent man, pray for us.
All you holy matriarchs, patriarchs and prophets, pray for us.
Saint Peter, crucified upside down by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Paul, beheaded by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Andrew, crucified by Rome, pray for us.
Saint James the Greater, put to the sword by Rome, pray for us.
Saint John the Beloved, exiled by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Thomas, murdered in India, pray for us.
Saint James the Less, crucified in Egypt, pray for us.
Saint Philip, crucified by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Bartholomew, skinned alive, pray for us.
Saint Matthew, murdered at the altar, pray for us.
Saint Simon, sawn in half, pray for us.
Saint Thaddeus, murdered with an ax, pray for us.
Saint Barnabas, murdered by Rome, pray for us.
Saint Luke, dragged to death by horses, pray for us.
Saint Mark, strangled to death, pray for us.
Saint Mary Magdalene, equal to apostles, who was disbelieved and ridiculed when she preached the Resurrection, pray for us.
All you holy apostles and evangelists, pray for us.
All you holy innocents, murdered by genocide, pray for us.
Saint Agnes, dragged naked through the street, pray for us.
Saint Agatha, mutilated to satisfy Quintianus’s lust, pray for us.
Saints Felicity and Perpetua, separated from their children, humiliated and murdered for Roman entertainment, pray for us.
Saint Lucy, tortured and blinded, pray for us.
All Holy Early Martyrs, who were raped and sexually tortured in their martyrdom, pray for us.
Saint Grace of Lerida, betrayed by her brother and murdered, pray for us.
Saint Charles Lwanga, and his companions, murdered for resisting homosexual molestation & pedophilia, pray for us.
Saint Dymphna, murdered for fleeing molestation by her father, pray for us.
Saint Gerebran, murdered for protecting Saint Dymphna, pray for us.
Saint Maria Goretti, murdered by a rapist, whose story was exploited to shame rape victims, pray for us.
All you holy martyrs, pray for us.
Saint Monica, victim of domestic violence who could not escape and thought it was virtue to submit to abuse, pray for us.
Saint Patrick, who was kidnapped and enslaved, pray for us.
Saint Francis, who was abused by his father, pray for us.
Saint Clare, who escaped a forced marriage, pray for us.
Saint Rose of Viturbo, who was thrown out by the Poor Clares, pray for us.
Saint Catherine of Sienna, who was abused by her mother, pray for us.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino, rejected by his mother and humiliated by his brother Franciscans, pray for us.
Blessed Margaret of Castello, who was neglected and abandoned by her parents, pray for us.
Blessed Laura Vicuña, beaten by her stepfather, pray for us.
Saint Joan of Arc, who was burned to death as a witch, pray for us.
Saint Rita of Cascia, victim of domestic violence, pray for us.
Saint John of the Cross, imprisoned and tortured by his brother Carmelites, pray for us.
Saint Marguerite Mary Alacoque, mocked by her fellow sisters, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette, mocked and gaslit by her fellow Catholics, pray for us.
Blessed Lucia of Fatima, beaten by her mother, pray for us.
Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto, psychologically tortured by the police, pray for us.
Saint Mary MacKillop, slandered and excommunicated for reporting child abuse, pray for us.
Saint Martin DePorres, mocked and humiliated by racists, pray for us.
Saint Josephine Bakhita who was enslaved, pray for us.
Saint Edith Stein, stripped naked and gassed to death in a genocide, pray for us.
All you holy men and women of God, victims of violence by those inside and outside the Church, pray for us.
From the belief that the abused are lesser Christians than we are, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that abuse by fellow Catholics makes us lesser Catholics, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From cycles of domestic violence and child abuse, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that being a victim is shameful, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that being victims of sexual violence makes us dirty and unworthy, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that spiritual abuse inflicted on us was loving and somehow merited, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From clerics, religious and spiritual leaders who believe their vocation gives them the right to victimize, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the shame of telling our stories, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the idolatry of clericalism and the worship of celebrity Catholics, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the trauma that has come down on us through others’ sin through no fault of our own, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the shame of believing we brought it on ourselves, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
From the belief that God despises us because the Church does, Lord, deliver us, we pray.
That all of us in the Church may protect the victims of violence and abuse, Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer.
That all of us in the Church may have the courage to tell the truth, Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, we ask you, hear our prayer!”

From the agony and suffering of soul murder caused by pedophilia, Lord, deliver us, we pray.

Love,
Matthew
BOLD = emphasis mine

Relics

The sixteenth-century Church endured an outbreak of new ideas and teachings contrary to the one true Faith. The Protestant Reformation had a slow start, but decades after Martin Luther’s first discourses against the Church, more ideas of reform and biblical interpretation began to arise. Soon, these ideas became infestations, and the mass spread of this fever became an ideological and spiritual plague.

In addition, many actual plagues were popping up in corners of Europe. Crops were decimated, food supplies spoiled, and water was poisoned. In the 1570s, the metropolitan city of Milan in northern Italy suffered a plague that drove out the wealthy, the influential, and the learned, leaving it nearly barren for leadership. It was left to one person to take charge and drive out the pestilence.

As if Charles Borromeo was not busy enough being archbishop of the city, he was also a highly influential cardinal tasked with executing the decrees and reforms resulting from the recently concluded Council of Trent. Finding the time to drive out a plague from one of the busiest and politically layered cities in the world would have seemed unthinkable. But nothing ever stopped Borromeo from accomplishing something when he put his mind to it. Through his managerial savvy he was able to influence the mayor to cordon here, prevent entry there, and direct traffic elsewhere, choking off the transport and transmission of the plague within the city walls.

Borromeo was not only a gifted administrator; he had a heart for the pastoring of souls. His applied his desire for personal holiness and reform to the lives of all his flock. During the plague and immediately afterward he applied one kind of pastoral care that may seem a little antiquated in our time: public demonstration of our faith through relics.

What is a relic? The word comes from the Latin term relinquo, meaning to leave behind, and fittingly, in their highest classification relics are the physical remains of saints or venerated persons. These remains consist of everything from hair to muscle tissue to vials of blood, with the most common being pieces of bones. These are known as first-class relics and they are usually kept in cathedral crypts, reliquaries in certain locations, and in altar stones in parishes (or in the floor immediately under where an altar would go).

Second-class relics are items that were used or owned by the saint, such as the cassock St. Charles was wearing when he was shot in an assassination attempt. (The blood on the cassock is first class.) Third-class relics are items that have been touched to a first-class relic. So, crucifixes, medals, and rosaries often become third-class relics.

Relics have an important place in the Church for several reasons. First, because the body is sacred, a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17).These temples belong to God, and we are to honor God with them (1 Cor. 6:19). It follows that the bodies of the saints, who in their lives honored God to an extraordinary degree, are worthy of our special respect. We can also note how the bodies of numerous saints have remained uncorrupted even centuries after death, a miracle that compels us to marvel at the power of this temple in which the Holy Spirit dwelt.

Furthermore, there relics and their veneration can be instruments of God’s power. We see this in Scripture. The Israelites took the bones of Joseph when they departed Egypt (Ex. 13:19). Elisha’s bones came in contact with a dead person who then was resurrected to life (2 Kings 13:21). Elisha also took the mantle of Elijah and fashioned a miracle with it (2 Kings 2:13). The Christians of Ephesus, by using handkerchiefs and cloths touched to St. Pauls skin, effected the healing of the sick (Acts 19:12). And Christian history is chock-full of occasions of miracles involving contact with and veneration of relics.

In Borromeo’s time many Catholics were succumbing to the ideas of Calvin, whose stronghold in Geneva was just 200 miles away. Protestants were destroying relics and even some incorruptible bodies. St. Charles understood this challenge and, in an effort to rekindle hope and faith the hearts and minds of the people of Milan, decided to do something about it: show the people these relics, first-hand, and preach about their power. Most famously, he led a Lenten procession of one of the holy nails from the Crucifixion, displayed in a crystal enclosure. Thousands of people took part in the forty-hour veneration, each receiving a replica of the nail as a solemn remembrance of the Passion.

Even when a sizable portion of his city had doubts about their power, Borromeo marched these relics straight down the busiest boulevards for all to witness. Imagine that happening today. Imagine if at the March for Life, or on All Saints Day, or on Good Friday, our bishops and pastors marched the relics of our martyrs and saints right down Park Avenue in New York City, Lakeview Drive in Chicago, the National Mall in Washington D.C., or the main thoroughfare in your city, right to the cathedral for a solemn Mass. Imagine taking our faith to the streets during the next crisis, the next natural disaster, the next holy day. Imagine the faith that can still be stirred up by this act of Christian piety and tradition.

It worked so well for Borromeo during the plague that when the pestilence was driven out and the Lombardi and Piedmont regions were clear of signs of disease, his pastoral use of relics did not end—it only increased. When he was confident of the end of the epidemic, he wrote the dukes of Savoy in Chambéry, France to inform them of his intention to make a pilgrimage of thanks over the Alps to venerate the sacred burial cloth that covered Christ in his tomb.

In their excitement to meet the famous cardinal, they met him halfway: in the city of Turin, where the Shroud and other relics were displayed for three days of city-wide spiritual exercises and devotions. Before his departure, Borromeo met privately with the duke and his sons. We don’t know exactly what they discussed, but we do know that the Shroud never went back to Chambéry. It remained in Turin, and that city has been part of its name ever since.

Five hundred years after the Reformation’s beginnings, we still have the trustworthy and wise voice of the Council of Trent that responded to the Reformers’ claim that veneration of the saints and their relics is contrary to Scripture. As the council taught, “The holy bodies of the holy martyrs and of the others who dwell with Christ . . . are to be honored by the faithful.” Let us follow that exhortation—and St. Charles Borromeo’s example—in the Church today.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 3 – #AllSurvivorsDay


-PLEASE click on the image for greater detail

“And I saw a great white throne and the One sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from His presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” -Rev 20:11-15

Spread the Word: Sample Social Media Content for #AllSurvivorsDay

“All Survivors Day, November 3, is an international opportunity to raise awareness of sexual abuse, stand in support and recognition of survivors, and to come together to change the culture that surrounds sexual violence. Whether you are holding an in-person event in your local community or will be adding your voice using the #AllSurvivorsDay hashtag, using social media can help spread the word about the day and get people on board with the cause….

..In 2018, the All Survivors Day coalition brought together survivors in 35 countries across 3 continents for the purpose of bringing attention to the issue of sexual violence and showing collaboration in creating a world in which all survivors are recognized, believed, and supported.

In 2019, we are looking to build on this success and spread the word about All Survivors Day even further, and especially on social media. We are hopeful that on November 3, 2019, organizations that participated in ASD 2018 will be willing to participate in this social media campaign. This year, we will be focusing on sharing ways that the public can support survivors and help protect children from abuse. Those ways include:

Advocating for public policy that benefits survivors and helps prevent abuse, such as statute of limitations reform, increased funding for prevention programs and education, and mandatory reporting legislation.
Demanding federal and state leaders take action to prevent future cases of sexual abuse, such as by opening state AG investigations or convening federal working groups to address the issue of sexual violence in any sphere, public or private.
Supporting organizations and causes that promote healing, prevention, and change…

* All survivors deserve to be heard and believed. Learn how you can help support survivors and protect children from abuse today at SNAPNetwork.org/take_action.
* We believe survivors. SNAP stands in solidarity with all those who have been sexually abused worldwide. We thank you for your bravery and courage to tell your stories and speak truth to power. Learn more at AllSurvivorsDay.org.
* On average, there are over 320,000 victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. every year. Survivors are everywhere! If you’re feeling alone or need support, we are here for you. Speak with someone in your area today SNAPNetwork.org/snap_locations.
* Sexual violence hurts all of us and can be prevented. Learn how to play your part SNAPNetwork.org/take_action.
* Supporting survivors of sexual abuse is easier than you may think. Visit SNAPNetwork.org/you_can_make_a_difference to learn steps you can take to support your fellow survivors and prevent future abuse of others.
* #AllSurvivorsDay aims to create a world where it’s easier for victims of sexual abuse to find the help they need to heal and come forward.
* Silence is complicit with sexual abuse. Kids are safe, abusers are exposed and parents are warned only when victims are able to report their crimes and only when we are able to have conversations about sexual abuse and the ramifications that come with it. Learn ways you can diffuse the silence at SNAPNetwork.org/take_action.
* Talking with your children about sexual violence is an important yet difficult conversation to initiate. However there are many benefits to having this communication early on. Visit SNAPNetwork.org/talking_to_kids_about_sexual_violence for tips on how to have these conversations in open and age-appropriate manners.
* Talking about sexual abuse with your friends, family and even your children, can be difficult. Learn ways to navigate this conversation at SNAPNetwork.org/take_action.
* 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18. November 3 is #AllSurvivorsDay, a chance to stand in solidarity with the women and men who have been abused in homes, churches, military bases, sports teams. Help us bring awareness, healing and hope for survivors and learn more about #AllSurvivorsDay at allsurvivorsday.org
* Sexual abuse happens more often than you think. Join us November 3 for #AllSurvivorsDay as we stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse and work together to find healing, justice and solutions. allsurvivorsday.org
* We support #AllSurvivorsDay because we #BelieveSurvivors and stand in solidarity with all those who have been abused, whether it occurred in the home, a church, in the military, a school, or in sports. Learn more about All Survivor’s Day and what you can do to get involved: allsurvivorsday.org
* Sexual abuse is more common than you think. On #AllSurvivorsDay, we are bringing attention to the men and women who survived their abuse. If you are a victim of abuse and need somewhere to turn, visit allsurvivorsday.org to find a list of our partner organizations. We are here to help.
* We recognize the brave men and women who have spoken up about their abuse at the hands of priests, nuns, and other religious figures on #AllSurvivorsDay. We also know that it’s not just a burden for survivors to bear – we ALL can help prevent sexual abuse. Learn what you can do to help at allsurvivorsday.org.
* #AllSurvivorsDay is a chance to recognize the women and men who have suffered in silence, shame, and pain. You are believed. You are loved. We are here for you. Get the help you need at allsurvivorsday.org.
* 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be a victim of a sex crime before they turn 18. On #AllSurvivorsDay, we recognize the brave men and women who have come forward to tell their stories of abuse, hold perpetrators accountable, and make the world a safer place for children.
* Stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual abuse on November 3 for #AllSurvivorsDay! Band together with local supporters outside your cathedral or state capitol to show support for survivors and to push (Church/State/School) officials to take sexual abuse seriously! Learn more here: allsurvivorsday.org
* On November 3, we’re uniting to call attention to the barriers survivors face when coming forward, finding support, and fighting to hold perpetrators accountable. *Join us as we recognize #AllSurvivorsDay and learn how you can show support in your own community – allsurvivorsday.org
* Survivors of sexual abuse often have to stand up and speak out alone. On #AllSurvivorsDay, we are standing with them! Join us in Philadelphia for a public display of support for all victims of sexual abuse and assault, included those abused in churches, universities, their own home, military or sports settings, and more. Join us – allsurvivorsday.org
* All survivors need support – join survivors of sexual abuse and their allies from around the world as we stand in solidarity on November 3 in front of churches, state capitols and more for #AllSurvivorsDay. Learn how you can get involved and show your support here: allsurvivorsday.org
* On November 3 we are standing in support of those who have been victims of sexual abuse by parents, clergy, teachers, military, sports teams and more. Join us on #AllSurvivorsDay as we honor those who share their stories and speak for those who can’t. allsurvivorsday.org

Love & healing & being believed,
Matthew

Idols – Ex 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” –Ex 20:4-6

The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region (commonly referred to as the Amazon synod) met in Rome from 6 to 27 October 2019. Pope Francis announced on 15 October 2017 that it would work “to identify new paths for the evangelization of God’s people in that region”, specifically the indigenous peoples.

The Amazon basin, according to one Vatican report, covers some 6,000,000 km^2, with a population of 2.8 million divided among 400 tribes that speak some 240 languages belonging to 49 linguistic families. The Synod defines the region to include all or parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Venezuela and Suriname.

On Oct. 21, five statues were taken, apparently quite early in the morning, from the Carmelite Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina, four blocks from St. Peter’s Basilica. They were thrown off a nearby bridge into the Tiber River. These events have been a source of much controversy in the Church.

In a Universal Church, especially one that spans the globe, just like in any society, some Catholics do weird things; depending on what side of weird you may be standing on from the viewpoint of the other doing weird things from your point of view, being human.  They may be misunderstood, culturally, or not, or they may be wrong, or somewhere in between.  Welcome to being human.  Love one another.  Even if they throw your artwork off a bridge.  -cf Jn 13:34-35


-pachamama statue in Santa Maria in Traspontina

-Amazon synod participants bow in tree planting ceremony, Vatican gardens

Catholics ONLY WORSHIP GOD!!!!!!!! – dulia, hyperdulia, honor, veneration vs latria, adoration, worship

CCC 2132 “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.”


-by Karlo Broussard

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church approve of religious statues when the Bible forbids having graven images?

Catholics are known for putting statues and images in their churches and using them in their private devotions. The Catechism affirms such devotions, calling the “honor paid to sacred images” a “respectful veneration” (2132).

But, for many Protestants this is problematic, biblically speaking. God commands in Exodus 20:4-5,

You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.

God says, “No graven images,” but yet the Catholic Church has images all over the place. God says, “Don’t bow down to images,” but the Catholic Church encourages such acts of piety. These Catholic practices contradict God’s word.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. In these verses, God can’t be condemning religious statues and images, because elsewhere he explicitly commands making them.

Consider, for example, the two gold cherubim (cast sculptures of angels) that God commanded to be put on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exod. 25:18-20). God also instructed that cherubim be woven into the curtains of the tabernacle (Exod. 26:1).

When God gave instructions for building the temple during the reign of King Solomon, he commanded that two fifteen-foot tall cherubim statues be placed in the holy of holies (1 Kings 6:23-28) and that “figures of cherubim” be carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29). Later, in 1 Kings 9:3, we read that God approved of such things, saying to Solomon, “I have consecrated this house which you have built, and put My name there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there for all time.” God’s blessing on the temple is certain evidence that He doesn’t oppose having statues and sacred images in places of worship.

Another example where God commanded the making of a statue is Numbers 21:6-9. The Israelites were suffering from venomous snakebites; in order to heal them, God instructed Moses to construct a bronze serpent and set it on a pole so that those who were bitten could look upon it and be healed (Num. 21:6-9). God did later command that the bronze serpent be destroyed, but only because the Israelites started worshiping it as a god (2 Kings 18:4).

2.  What God’s commandment forbids is the making of idols.

The context bears this out. Consider the prohibition that precedes it: “You shall have no other gods before me” (v.3).

Then after the passage in question, we read, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Given this contextual prohibition of idolatry, it’s reasonable to conclude that God’s command not to make “graven images” refers to making images to be worshiped as deities, or idols.

Accordingly, we note that every time the Hebrew word for “graven images” (pesel) is used in the Old Testament it’s used in reference to idols or the images of idols. For example, the prophet Isaiah warns, “All who make idols [pesel] are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.” Other examples include, but are not limited to, Isaiah 40:19; 44:9, 17; 45:20, Jeremiah 10:14; 51:17, and Habakkuk 2:18).

Since making idols is what this commandment forbids, the Catholic custom of using statues and images for religious purposes doesn’t contradict it, because Catholics don’t use statues and sacred images as idols. The whole of paragraph 2132 (referenced above) states the following:

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” The honor paid to sacred images is a “respectful veneration,” not the adoration due to God alone.

Catholics don’t treat statues, or the people whom the statues represent, as gods. As such, the biblical prohibition of idolatry doesn’t apply.

This challenge from modern Evangelicals shows that there’s nothing new under the sun. The Catholic Church dealt with this sort of objection all the way back in the eighth century when it condemned the heresy of iconoclasm at the Second Council of Nicaea (787).

Iconoclasm was the belief that all religious images are superstitious. In response to this heresy, the council declared that religious images were worthy veneration and that any respect shown to a religious image is really respect given to the person it represents.

In having images or statues of Jesus, angels, Mary, and the saints in its places of worship, the Catholic Church is following the Old Testament precedent of incorporating images of heavenly inhabitants that serve as reminders of Who is present with us when we approach God in liturgical worship.

The representations of the cherubim in the Old Testament served as reminders that they were heavenly inhabitants present with God. Since humans have been admitted into heaven (Rev. 5:8; Rev. 6:9; 7:14-17), it’s reasonable to employ representations of them, too.

What about pious acts directed to the statues, such as bowing? Doesn’t Exodus 20:4 prohibit “bowing” before graven images? Well, the Bible forbids bowing before idols. It doesn’t forbid the physical act of bowing before something or someone when that something or someone is not an idol.

For example, Solomon was not guilty of idolatry when he bowed before his mother in 1 Kings 2:19. It was simply a gesture of honor given her as queen mother. Jesus Himself says in Revelation 3:9 that He will make “those of the synagogue of Satan” “bow down” before the feet of the Christians in Philadelphia. If bowing before another were, in and of itself, an act of worship, Jesus would be causing idolatry. But that’s absurd.

So, pious acts and postures can be legitimate when directed to the person that a statue or picture represents if the action is not used as a sign of the adoration or worship that is due to God alone. And such honor for the saints is their due because of what God has done for them. Jesus says, “If any one serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26). The saints in heaven, who our statues represent, have served and do continue to serve Jesus. As such, the Father honors them. And if the Father honors them, we can too.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Are all religious images idols? How can you know?

AFTERTHOUGHT: Among some Christian communities, the commandment not to make “graven images” is listed as the second of the Ten Commandments. This differs from the Catholic numbering of the Ten Commandments. But seeing the prohibition to make “graven images” as part of God’s overall prohibition of idolatry provides an explanation for why the Catholic Church doesn’t consider it a separate commandment.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 1 – Reality


-for more detail, please click on the image

“How shining and splendid are Your gifts,
O Lord which You give us for our eternal well-being
Your glory shines radiantly in Your saints,
O God, in the honor and noble victory of the martyrs.
The white-robed company follow You, bright with their abundant faith;
They scorned the wicked words of those with this world’s power.
For You they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments, they were drained by cruel punishments.
They bore their holy witness to You Who were grounded deep within their hearts; they were sustained by patience and constancy.
Endowed with Your everlasting grace, may we rejoice forever with the martyrs in our bright fatherland.
O Christ, in Your goodness, grant to us the gracious heavenly realms of eternal life.”
-10th century

Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In the book of Revelation, we read: “[An] angel came and stood at the altar [in heaven] with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Rev. 8:3-4).

And those in heaven who offer to God our prayers aren’t just angels, but humans as well. John sees that “the twenty-four elders [the leaders of the people of God in heaven] fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8). The simple fact is, as this passage shows: The saints in heaven offer to God the prayers of the saints on earth.


-by Br Vincent Mary Bernhard, OP

“Reality is not always something we can choose for ourselves, and oftentimes we neither understand nor acknowledge it. So what is reality, properly speaking? Reality speaks to the truth of an objective state of affairs in which we exist, forming our perceptions about ourselves and those around us. In light of this “objective state of affairs,” we often speak of people needing to “wake up to reality” and to live in a way that is “realistic”—and the Church invites us to do the same. She does just this through the feast days and solemnities of the liturgical year. By reflecting on the events of Christ’s life and the witness of the saints, we are shaken from our mental slumber and spiritual routine to ponder anew the reality that is the Christian life.

Today is the day that the Church awakens us from our spiritual lethargy, so that we may recognize the reality of sainthood. Far from being a “catchall” for the unknown saints in heaven, this solemnity is a final and dramatic reminder that the Church gives us as the liturgical year draws to a close. There is a multitude of saints in heaven, and we are called to join them before the face of God.

The Church upholds the example of the saints, not only showing how they attained heaven but that they attained heaven; the glory of resting in the heart of the Father is not only possible but within reach. Further, these saints are still united with us in the Mystical Body of Christ, and the same divine life sustaining them in glory is perfecting us here and now. “Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ,” we read in Lumen Gentium, “so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from Whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself” (LG 50). We are called to the same glory as the saints in heaven and are united with them right now as their brothers and sisters.

As Jesus Christ intercedes on behalf of the human race in heaven, so also do those who participate in His glory share in His intercessory prayer before the Father. The saints remain before the face of the Father as those transformed into the likeness of the Son, and because they exist in this reality, they pray on our behalf for our salvation. Their prayers are efficacious inasmuch as their wills are perfectly united to the divine will, and their power is evident inasmuch as they are united to us through Christ. We are, therefore, existing within a reality that transcends space and time, intimately connected with the saints in heaven through our life in Christ.

We are reminded today of this reality: our call to sainthood and the intimate relationship we share with those who have entered eternal glory before us. Let us call upon the aid of the saints in heaven as we are renewed in our vigor and zeal, that we may take heaven by storm. May the saints, through their witness and prayers, help us surrender to the reality of the Father’s love for us, the Son’s call to us, and the Holy Spirit’s saving work within us, so that we may be more perfectly conformed to Christ’s image and come to participate in his glory with the saints in heaven.”

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