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Scientific Mythology & Triumphalism


-Crab Nebula, please click on the image for greater detail

https://www.catholicscientists.org/idea/christian-truth-in-an-age-of-scientific-mythology


-by Dr. Christopher Clemens, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Innovation, Jaroslav Folda Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy

“It shocks many people to find out that I am both an astrophysicist and a religious believer. It shocks some of my fellow astrophysicists and even some of my fellow Catholics. And I know it shocks some of my faculty colleagues at Chapel Hill. But why should this be? Why should it be a surprise that someone whose chosen profession is the scientific study of the universe is also a person of faith? Why the perception of conflict? Is it intrinsic to the business of science that it be “at odds” with religion? Or is it rooted in cultural attitudes?

Let us start by looking at certain aspects of the wider culture and of the culture of science itself.

One of the defects of contemporary culture is the undue and unhealthy reverence we show toward scientists. The public imagines scientists to be too smart to disagree with, too objective to be swayed by emotion or bias, and experts on every subject they choose to talk about. None of these things is true, of course, and the unquestioning acceptance of these notions does great harm. When the physicist Stephen Hawking said that his theories show that the universe has no cause, but simply “is”, or when the biologist Richard Dawkins rails against religion as a “virus” that should be eradicated, their words are given much weight. They are the great minds of our time, our culture supposes, and therefore we are not smart enough even to disagree.

In truth, scientists are anything but authorities on subjects philosophical, and have strayed very far from their own scientific method when they make these kinds of pronouncements. The question of why their words carry so much weight is an interesting one, and deserves to be studied, but here I want to explore what lies behind some of their anti-religious pronouncements. What I hope becomes apparent is that while scientists might be very good at their jobs, their thinking on the subject of religion is not always objective and clearheaded.

To begin, I need to introduce a concept that sounds like an oxymoron: “Scientific Mythology.” The great majority of agnostic or atheist scientists criticize Christians for their “superstitions,” but their own world views are often constructed around a kind of mythology, with scientists themselves as the mythic heroes. The enemy (or, more romantically, the “dragon”) in their myths is anything that stands in the way of free inquiry and the advancement of knowledge. In their terms, the enemy is “dogma,” and they will have none of it. These same scientists do not see that holding the advancement of knowledge or free inquiry as the supreme good is itself a kind of dogma; and this should help us realize that scientists are not always flawless in their logic.

In any event, a typical story in Scientific Mythology has as its hero a person with a new idea, and the story works best if the idea can be described as “heretical” — an adjective many scientists use to confer honor. In the course of the story, the hero encounters a “dogmatic” villain, preferably an immensely powerful one, and is often vanquished in body and spirit, but never in mind, and at the climax of the story he may mutter under his breath, “e pur si muove” (“it moves nonetheless”) or some other phrase to tell us that he has not given up his idea. The moral is always the same: today we know the “heretical” idea is correct, and we can scoff at the dogmatic villain who was powerful but wrong and honor the freethinking hero who was weak but right.

Many scientists are wedded to this kind of mythology to such an extent that it warps their view of history, adversely affects their scientific work, and even compromises their honesty. These are serious charges, the most serious ones you can level against a scientist, but I base them on close experience. Let me tell a story that illustrates what I am saying.

When I was a graduate student at the University of Texas, many of the professors there taught a scientific myth about the Crab Nebula and the Supernova of 1054. The Crab Nebula is a wispy cloud of gas and dust visible in the northern skies, which astronomers believe is the remnant of an exploding star called a supernova. Based on the distance to the nebula, and the rate that material in the nebula is expanding outward, we can calculate the year (1054 A.D.) that the supernova would have appeared in the sky and how bright it would have been. As it happens, in that year, Chinese and Japanese astronomers recorded the presence of a new star, bright enough to be seen even in daytime, which is what we would expect. However, there is no record that the event was seen in Europe.

From this absence of recorded evidence grew the myth taught by many of the UT astronomy faculty (which I have now traced back at least as far as The Feynman Lectures on Physics). The supernova of 1054, they taught, was not reported in Europe because the Europeans were in the grip of the Dark Ages, and the powerful and dogmatic Catholic Church enforced Aristotle’s view that the stars were unchanging. This Church was so effective at suppressing the observations that none survived in all of Europe.

This story has all the basic elements of Scientific Mythology magnified many times. The supposedly heretical idea, that a new star could appear, was verifiable by anyone who had eyes to see. The dogmatic villain was so powerful that it could convince the poor ignorant masses of a whole continent that they could not believe what their own eyes told them. A dark age indeed! Thank Newton we live in better times!

There’s just one problem with the story, it is patently ridiculous. Anyone who can read the Gospels will have a first inkling that something must be wrong with it: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:2) It is difficult to reconcile a dogmatic position that the heavens are unchangeable with a newly appeared Star of Bethlehem of Matthew’s Gospel. Or are we supposed to believe that Aristotle held a higher position in the medieval mind than even the Gospels? Well, it really doesn’t matter, because anyone who knows Western history, that increasingly esoteric and unpopular subject, will see a bigger problem. The ideas of Aristotle were nearly completely unknown in Latin Europe in 1054. Not until the 13th century did St. Thomas Aquinas and other Scholastic thinkers attempt to adapt Aristotelian thought to the foundations of Christian theology, and this was greeted with great suspicion at first.

To continue the story, near the end of my graduate studies at UT, I spent a lot of time working in the library, and I came across a book — I believe it was called The Historical Supernovae — and read an account of the supernova of 1006. This one was brighter than the supernova of 1054 and a little further south, and it was also reported in China and Japan, and … in the records of a European monastery. At this point, I had had enough. I copied the page from the book and brought it to one of our weekly group lunches. At the end of the meeting, I showed it to a professor whom I had heard teach the “mythological” version. He was a man whose scientific integrity I respected. I told him that he and many of the professors were teaching an error in the introductory astronomy classes. I explained everything that I have explained above, ending with an emphatic flourish: “and so, unless you have a convincing theory that some radical dogmatic change occurred in the 48 years between 1006 and 1054, you should probably change what you teach about the supernova of 1054.”

What do you suppose he said? His one-sentence reply was “I’m still going to teach it the way I always have.”

Apparently, his myth meant more to him than the truth. And he’s not the only one. I have found lots of interesting references to the myth of the Supernova of 1054. The most interesting is from a 1998 issue of Natural History magazine and was written by the director of the Hayden Planetarium (none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson), in an article, ironically enough, about the importance of checking the evidence before you believe something:

“In scientific investigations of the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier. In A.D. 1054, a star in the constellation Taurus abruptly increased in brightness by a factor of one million. Chinese astronomers wrote about it. Middle Eastern astronomers wrote about it. Native Americans in what is now the southwestern United States made rock engravings of it. The star became bright enough to be seen in the daytime sky for weeks, and it continued to be visible in the night sky for months. Yet we have no record of anybody in all of Europe documenting the event.”

Tyson’s explanation:

“[But] Aristotle had said the stars don’t change. The Church, with its unmatched authority, promulgated the idea. People accepted it, believed it: a collective delusion that was stronger than their own powers of observation.”

Later in the same article, referring to some of the commonly held misconceptions about astronomy, Tyson lamented,

“One would think that in our modern and enlightened culture, people would be immune to believing falsehoods that are easily testable. But we are not.”

What can one say, except “how true”? You are allowed one guess as to where Neil de Grasse Tyson conducted his graduate studies….The University of Texas. (I know this because I was studying there at the same time.) Thus is the Scientific Mythology passed on to the next generation, except, with Tyson, the size of the forum is quite a lot larger. In a final irony, I found a 1999 article that claims to have found evidence that the 1054 supernova actually was reported in European records. But even that article couldn’t let go of the mythological version so easily. It ends by noting that Europeans never reported seeing the supernova in the morning, as the Asians did, and then speculates that the Roman church may have suppressed only the morning observations. Right … or maybe they just slept later in Europe.

There are many other examples of Scientific Mythology one could cite. Many of them have to do with the case of Galileo, which involved real abuse of authority and real injustice, though not as clear-cut as in the mythological versions.

To see how distorted the story of Galileo has become, consider the following fact that many historians and scientists forget to mention: the evidence Galileo presented for the motion of the Earth in his “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” had to do with ocean tides and is completely wrong. Not his conclusion, mind you — the Earth does move — but the evidence he presented for it. So his critics in the Church were not wrong to insist on better proof before taking his advice about re-interpreting Scripture in light of heliocentric theory.

Scientific Mythology unfairly distorts history, but is often innocent and rather juvenile. Sometimes, however, it is coupled with something more pernicious, namely the idea that science and Christianity are in fundamental opposition. This usually takes the form of what one may call “Scientific Triumphalism”, in which science completely displaces theology, philosophy and everything else as the sole tool for understanding our existence.

Scientific Triumphalism is harmful both to science and to Christianity, and so full of subtle errors that I’m sure I haven’t worked them out fully. So let me proceed again with examples. I borrow the first example from the late Stephen Hawking, who was Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University, the very chair that Newton held. In a 2002 article from his 60th birthday symposium, Hawking described the situation in theoretical cosmology at the beginning of his career. (See http://plus.maths.org/issue18/features/hawking/) The big question in cosmology at that time (the early 1960s) was whether the universe had a temporal beginning, i.e. a first moment of time. Many scientists were instinctively opposed to this idea, because they felt that a first moment could be seen as a “point of creation.” It might even be a place where science broke down and one might have to appeal to the hand of God to set the “initial conditions” of the universe.

This widespread prejudice against the idea that the universe had a beginning grew out of the materialist philosophies of the 19th century, and by 1917 it held such sway that Einstein himself was afflicted with it. When Einstein improved upon Newton’s theory of gravity and used his new theory to construct the gravitational equations governing the universe, he found that there was no “static solution,” that is, the equations suggested that a universe dominated by gravity would either expand or contract. This idea was so philosophically “repugnant” (his word) that he added a constant, or “fudge factor” if you like, to the equations to balance them out. In effect he forced the equations to describe an eternal universe. He later called this his “biggest blunder”. The consequence of his blunder was that he failed to predict the cosmic expansion that Edwin Hubble would measure in 1929.

As it happened, there was a less dogmatic hero in this story, who took seriously the possibility, suggested by the equations, that the universe could be expanding. Do know who he was? His story falls so far outside the standard Scientific Mythology that you seldom hear it or even his name. He was the Belgian theoretical physicist and Catholic priest Georges Lemaître. Lemaître used Einstein’s Equations to construct the theory that later became known as the Big Bang theory and to predict the expansion of the universe two years before Hubble measured it. Here’s what Fr. Lemaître had to say about science and religion in his life: “There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both.” He also said,

“Nothing in my working life, nothing I ever learned in my studies of either science or religion has ever caused me to change that opinion. I have no conflict to reconcile. Science has not shaken my faith in religion and religion has never caused me to question the conclusions I reached by scientific methods.”  [Editor:  me neither.]

To continue Lemaître’s story, the initial response of some to his theory of an expanding universe with a finite age was dismissal and even derision. Fred Hoyle, a Cambridge astronomer of firm atheist convictions, applied the name “Big Bang” to the theory as mockery. Hoyle hated the idea of a universe with a beginning, even after Hubble’s discovery that the universe is expanding. He did not believe the question was settled, but proposed that as the universe expanded new matter was constantly appearing to fill the void, so that the Universe could still be eternal. Hoyle was happier with the spontaneous and unobserved generation of new matter (which violated the principle of conservation of energy) than he was with a cosmic beginning.

Fortunately, one of the great features of scientific inquiry is that it relies upon observations of the universe itself to correct any biases that theorists might have. And that is what happened in the case of the “Big Bang” theory. In 1965, when radiation from the “primordial fireball” of Lemaître’s theory was observed by Bell Labs engineers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, even the diehard skeptics were convinced, and now the Big Bang is the standard model astronomers and physicists use to think about the universe. And almost all of them agree it had some kind of beginning very different from the conditions we see now. Happily, Fr. Lemaître is now beginning to receive greater honor from scientists for his contributions. In 2018, the members of the International Astronomical Union voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the famous “Hubble Law” describing the expansion of the universe should henceforth be called the Hubble-Lemaître Law. And this is another wonderful thing about science, which should give us hope: in the end truth does tend to win out over myth and prejudice.

My second example of Scientific Triumphalism are the radically reductionist views of Evolution of the kind promoted by Richard Dawkins and others.

Evolution by natural selection is an elegant, though incomplete, theory and a theory I enjoy thinking about very much. As a scientific theory, it is no more problematic for religion than the study of fetal development. If I tell my children in one moment that they were made by God and in the next I explain how they grew in their mother’s womb from a single cell through a set of magnificently orchestrated chemical reactions, I do not commit any theological or scientific error. As I once put it to a Christian audience, “Ladies and gentlemen, no laws of physics were broken in the creation of this human being you see here before you.” Reproduction strikes me as an economical way to create. And it illustrates a general principle of Catholic theology, which was stated as follows by the great Jesuit theologian Francisco Suarez (1548-1617): “God does not interfere directly with the natural order, where secondary causes suffice to produce the intended effect.”

Of course, fetal development is not only economical, it is also marvelous, wonderful, and, if you have ever tried to build anything remotely complicated, awe-inspiring.

Before applying the same logic to evolution, it is important to be clear about the meaning of the word. To “evolve,” in the literal sense of the word, is to “unfold.” If the unfolding of the first man and woman was through natural selection acting on the well-regulated natural interactions of matter, then what is there in that to threaten our faith? In saying this, am I going way out on a theological limb? Well, listen to what the great St. Augustine wrote more than sixteen centuries ago in his work De Genesi ad Litteram (“On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis”):

“But from the beginning of the ages, when day was made, the world is said to have been formed, and in its elements at the same time there were laid away the creatures that would later spring forth with the passage of time, plants and animals, each according to its kind. . . . In all these things, beings already created received at their own proper time their manner of being and acting, which developed into visible forms and natures from the hidden and invisible reasons which are latent in creation as causes. . .”

That is about as good an anticipation of evolution as one could imagine. And St. Augustine proposed it for theological reasons. So why is evolution considered so controversial and problematic, and why do even some Catholics feel a pit in their stomachs when some eminent biologists teach and defend the theory? Part of the reason is that some of these biologists are like the astronomers I described above. Some of them are interested not only in teaching us about evolution but also in telling us what it means … their materialist and triumphalist version of what it means. Which usually translates into “God is dead at last.”

For example, Jacques Monod, molecular biologist and 1965 Nobel laureate in medicine, argued in his book Chance and Necessity that because we arise from a process involving chance events we cannot be the result of any foresight, nor can we be the fulfillment of any purpose, divine or otherwise. “Destiny,” he said, “is written concurrently with the event, not prior to it.” Richard Dawkins, the most effective popularizer of evolutionary theory, is more blunt: “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics… Natural selection has no purpose in mind, it has no mind and no mind’s eye. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all.” Along with their presentation of evolutionary theory, both of these atheists present, as a logical conclusion of the theory, that we cannot be the result of any design.

My first response to this is that it is a logical fallacy. The presence of randomness in a process might just as much be evidence for design as against. In recent years, a whole new field of computational physics has emerged that relies upon the same principles we find in evolutionary theory. In this new field, programmers construct “genetic algorithms”, which breed and randomly mutate solutions to complex equations; and then they use these algorithms to explore the properties of physical systems. It turns out that this is the most efficient way to explore solutions to some complicated problems, and yet it relies on randomness and selection based on fitness. If we came upon a computer running one of these algorithms, we would not be able to discern its purpose simply by observing it in operation, but we would err if we supposed from its use of random mutation that it had no purpose or design.

For the more poetic, a different analogy: just as dust sprinkled randomly on a surface can reveal the prints left by a hand, so could the random exploration of physical forms reveal latent creatures laid down by God’s design in the very potentialities of matter. I don’t pretend to be proving that this is true, only showing that the randomness and selection by fitness intrinsic to evolutionary theory is not prima facie evidence against God, no matter what some well-known biologists may say.

I would also point out a curious paradox. In the interval of history between Isaac Newton and Werner Heisenberg, materialists told us God was dead because the laws of physics were deterministic. Once the initial conditions were fixed, the universe played out without the chance for free will. At best we could have Deism, where God winds things up and then sits back to watch. But it wouldn’t be a very interesting show since the end was fixed at the beginning. Now we know better, we know that all interactions in nature are pervaded with intrinsic randomness, including the interactions of beings like us. And what do materialists tell us this means? … That God is dead!

One of the problems with Scientific Triumphalism, the notion that science has displaced all other ways of arriving at truth, is that there are many questions it cannot provide answers to, including most of the important questions of life and how we should live our lives.

Modern science as we know and practice it emerged in the early modern period within a Western Christian culture. In the service of human flourishing it has done great good. But in an increasingly secularized West, science as a methodology for solving problems is in constant danger of pulling loose from its religious and spiritual moorings. Whenever this happens, the result is disaster. In ethics and in morality science cannot provide for itself. There are two things in particular it has to borrow from elsewhere, and these are “compassion” and “hope”. Concerning compassion, one way to put the problem is this: “compassion for the weak is not a principle of science.”

The more you think about that the more frightening it becomes. To be fair, all of the atheist scientists I have known who claimed to live by science alone actually had quite a lot of compassion for the weak. Whether this arose from the “law written in their hearts” by God (Romans 2:14-5) or from breathing what is left of the increasingly rarified religious component of the atmosphere of our culture I cannot say. But this compassion was certainly not an outgrowth of their scientific materialism. I have always been simultaneously puzzled by and grateful for the compassion of atheists, but I never inquire too deeply about it, out of fear I might trigger a recognition of what I have just told you: “compassion for the weak is not a principle of science.”

In fact, compassion for the weak is the virtue science most easily forgets. The flirtation with eugenics in the last century was an attempt to improve the human race by eliminating the so-called weak. In the United States it resulted in forced sterilizations and in Europe millions died. In the future, when we have constructed clear enough genetic maps to choose precisely between the weak and the strong, how many millions will die? The machinery is already in place, and our culture has already declared its willingness to cooperate in such an “improvement project” by assenting to the abortion of many millions of children.

In addition to “compassion for the weak,” science lacks the route to another important virtue, and that is hope. From observation we know not only that each of us will die, but that in the distant future our planet will undergo the same fate. Even if there is no catastrophic asteroid collision that wipes out all life sooner, in 5 billion years or so the sun will grow into a red giant star, boil away the earth’s oceans and atmosphere and leave a lifeless rock. Everything we have ever created or will create will be lost forever. Even if we can move elsewhere, the increasing expansion of the universe will eventually mean energy is too dilute to sustain life. Science gives us no reason to hope in the face of existential fears.

And the loss of hope has become a serious problem in the secular world. What is the leading cause of violent death worldwide? Is it war, or homicide? It’s neither. According to the World Health Organization, the leading cause of violent deaths is suicide, which is roughly twice as common as homicide and seven times more common than death from violent conflict. In many ways we live in our own Dark Ages, an era of despair. Never have so many, with so much, been so unhappy. Science can show us how to live longer, but it cannot show us how we ought to live or even that we ought to live.

Science itself is a great good and a great gift. It is not and never has been an enemy of religion. What is harmful to religion, and not only to religion but to science itself, is what I have called Scientific Mythology and Scientific Triumphalism. These are cultural phenomena that do not stem from the discoveries of science but from the vanity of some scientists who are unable to put science in proper perspective.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Oct 12 1492 – Christopher Columbus brings the true Faith to the New World

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

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

[Editor:  which is untrue.  The warlike Caribs encountered were driving other tribes out.  Caribs practiced cannibalism, sodomy, castrated captured boys to use for sodomy.  When these eunuchs had grown, they were killed and eaten. Raids upon other tribes enslaved women as wives.  Captured men were tortured and killed.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love & truth,
Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Ibid., 109.

[8] Ibid., 130.

[9] Ibid., vii.

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

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

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

[13] Ibid., 159.

[14] Ibid., 97.

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

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

[17] Ibid., 142.

[18] Ibid., 153.

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

The Divine Attributes – Immutability


-by Dave Armstrong

“Orthodox, historic Catholic theology holds that God is…immutable. Descriptions such as “jealousy” applied to God are usually held by orthodox theologians to be anthropomorphic (intended to make God more comprehensible to limited human beings, rather than being literally true). Here are some typical statements in this regard, by St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas:

“God’s anger implies no perturbation of the divine mind. It is simply the divine judgment passing sentence on sin. And when God “thinks and then has second thoughts” this merely means that changeable realities come into relation with his immutable reason. For God cannot “repent” as human beings repent, of what he has done, since in regard to everything His judgment is fixed as His foreknowledge is clear … But it is only by the use of such human expressions that Scripture can make its many kinds of readers whom it wants to help to feel, as it were, at home. Only thus can Scripture frighten the proud and arouse the slothful, provoke inquiries and provide food for the convinced. This is possible only when Scripture gets right down to the level of the lowliest readers.” -(St. Augustine, City of God, 15:25)

“It is written, I AM the Lord, and change not. (Mal. 3,6) I answer that, From what precedes, it is shown that God is altogether immutable. First, there is some being, whom we call God, and that this first being must be pure act, without any admixture of potency, for the reason that, absolutely, potency is posterior to act (Q.III, A. 3). Now everything which is in any way changed is in some way in potency. Hence it is impossible for God to be in any way changeable.-(Summa Theologica, First Part, Q.9, art.1)

“God is said in turn to repent; not in the sense that his eternal disposition has changed, but some effect of his is changed. Hence Gregory says: “God does not change his plan, though at times he may change his judgment”, not, I say, the judgment which expresses his eternal disposition, but the judgment which expresses the order of inferior causes, in accord which Ezechias was to have died, or certain people were to have been punished for their sins. Now such a change of judgment is called God’s repentance, using a metaphorical way of speaking, in the sense that God is disposed like one who repents, for whom it is proper to change what he had been doing. In the same way, he is also said, metaphorically, to become angry, in the same sense that, by punishing, He produces the same effect of an angry person.”-(Summa Contra Gentiles, Bk. 3, Pt. 2, q.96:15)

Let’s examine now Catholic dogma regarding these matters. First, I consult Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (edited in English by James Canon Bastible; translated by Patrick Lynch, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974, from the fourth edition of May 1960; first published in German in 1952):

God is absolutely immutable. (De fide.)

The 4th Lateran Council and the Vatican Council teach that God is immutable (incommutabilis) D 428, 1782. Holy Scripture excludes all change from God and positively ascribes to Him absolute immutability . . .

The Fathers exclude all change from God . . .

St. Thomas bases the absolute immutability of God on His pure actuality, on His absolute simplicity and on His infinite perfection . . .

(pp. 35-36)”

Now I shall cite Henry Denzinger: The Sources of Catholic Dogma (I have the 13th edition of 1954; translated by Roy J. Deferrari; Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loreto Publications). All bolding is my own.

LATERAN COUNCIL IV 1215

Ecumenical XII (against the Albigensians, Joachim, Waldensians etc.

The Trinity, Sacraments, Canonical Mission, etc.*

Chap. 1. The Catholic Faith

(Definition directed against the Albigensians and other heretics]

428 Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God is one alone, eternal, immense, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, Father and Son and Holy Spirit: indeed three Persons but one essence, substance, or nature entirely simple. The Father from no one, the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Spirit equally from both; without beginning, always, and without end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal and omnipotent and coeternal; one beginning of all, creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body. For the devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked. But man sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity according to common essence undivided, and according to personal properties distinct, granted the doctrine of salvation to the human race, first through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants according to the most methodical disposition of the time.

THE VATICAN COUNCIL 1869-1870

Ecumenical XX (on Faith and the Church)

SESSION III (April 24, 1870)

Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith *

[ . . . ]

Chap. 1. God, Creator of All Things

1782 [The one, living, and true God and His distinction from all things.] * The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself [can. 1-4].

That’s only the beginning; there is much more:

ST. MARTIN I 649-653 (655)

THE LATERAN COUNCIL 649

(Against the Monothelites)

The Trinity, the Incarnation, etc.*

254 Can. 1. If anyone does not confess properly and truly in accord with the holy Fathers that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit [are a] Trinity in unity, and a unity in Trinity, that is, one God in three subsistences, consubstantial and of equal glory, one and the same Godhead, nature, substance, virtue, power, kingdom, authority, will, operation of the three, uncreated, without beginning, incomprehensible, immutable, creator and protector of all things, let him be condemned [see n. 78-82, 213].

COUNCIL OF LYONS II 1274

Ecumenical XIV (concerning the union of the Greeks)

Declaration Concerning the Procession of the Holy Spirit *

[The Most Exalted Trinity and the Catholic Faith]

[ . . . ]

Profession of Faith of Michael Palaeologus *

[ . . . ]

463 He will come to judge the living and the dead, and will return to each one according to his works whether they were good or evil. We believe also that the Holy Spirit is complete and perfect and true God, proceeding from the Father and the Son, coequal and consubstantial, co-omnipotent, and coeternal through all things with the Father and the Son. We believe that this holy Trinity is not three Gods but one God, omnipotent, eternal, invisible, and unchangeable.

A Decree in Behalf of the Jacobites *

[From the Bull “Cantata Domino,” February 4, Florentine style,

1441, modern, 1442]

703 The sacrosanct Roman Church, founded by the voice of our Lord and Savior, firmly believes, professes, and preaches one true God omnipotent, unchangeable, and eternal, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; one in essence, three in persons; . . .

* * * * *
(ST. SERGIUS I 687-701)

COUNCIL OF TOLEDO XV 685

Protestation concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation *

[From “Liber responsionis” or the “Apologia” of Julian,

Archbishop of Toledo]

294 . . . We have found that in that book of response to our faith, which we had sent to the Roman Church through Peter the regent, it had seemed to the Pope already mentioned (St Benedict II) that we had carelessly written that first chapter where we said according to divine essence: “Will begot will, as also wisdom, wisdom,” because that man in a hurried reading thought that we had used these very names according to a relative sense, or according to a comparison of the human mind; and so in his reply he commanded us to give warning saying: “In the natural order we recognize that the word takes its origin from the mind, just as reason and will, and they cannot be changed, so that it may be said that, as the word and the will proceed from the mind, so also the mind from the word or the will, and from this comparison it seemed to the Roman Pontiff that the will cannot be said to be from the will.” We, however, not according to this comparison of the human mind, nor according to a relative sense, but according to essence have said: Will from will, as also wisdom from wisdom. For this being is to God as willing: this willing as understanding. But this we cannot say concerning man. For it is one thing for man not to will that which is, and another thing to will even without understanding. In God, however, it is not so, because so perfect is His nature, that this being is to Him as willing, as understanding. . . .

The Catholic Encyclopedia reiterates the above (“The Nature and Attributes of God”):

Immutability

In God “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (James 1:17); “They [i.e. “the works of thy hands”] shall perish, but thou shalt continue: and they shall all grow old as a garment. And as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the selfsame and thy years shall not fail” (Hebrews 1:10-12, Psalm 101:26-28. Cf. Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). These are some of the Scriptural texts which clearly teach Divine immutability or unchangeableness, and this attribute is likewise emphasized in church teaching, as by the Council of Nicaea against the Arians, who attributed mutability to the Logos (Denzinger, 54-old No. 18), and by the Vatican Council in its famous definition.

That the Divine nature is essentially immutable, or incapable of any internal change, is an obvious corollary from Divine infinity. Changeableness implies the capacity for increase or diminution of perfection, that is, it implies finiteness and imperfection. But God is infinitely perfect and is necessarily what He is. . . .

Divine Knowledge

That God is omniscient or possesses the most perfect knowledge of all things, follows from His infinite perfection. In the first place He knows and comprehends Himself fully and adequately, and in the next place He knows all created objects and comprehends their finite and contingent mode of being. Hence He knows them individually or singularly in their finite multiplicity, knows everything possible as well as actual; knows what is bad as well as what is good. Everything, in a word, which to our finite minds signifies perfection and completeness of knowledge may be predicated of Divine omniscience, and it is further to be observed that it is on Himself alone that God depends for His knowledge. To make Him in any way dependent on creatures for knowledge of created objects would destroy His infinite perfection and supremacy. Hence it is in His eternal, unchangeable, comprehensive knowledge of Himself or of His own infinite being that God knows creatures and their acts, whether there is question of what is actual or merely possible. Indeed, Divine knowledge itself is really identical with Divine essence, as are all the attributes and acts of God; but according to our finite modes of thought we feel the need of conceiving them distinctly and of representing the Divine essence as the medium or mirror in which the Divine intellect sees all truth.

The article on “Eternity” highlights the same notions of immutability and transcendence of time:

. . . That is how and why we represent the Divine existence as a life. It is a life, moreover, not only without beginning or end but also without succession — tota simul, that is without past or future; a never-changing instant or “now”. It is not so difficult to form some faint notion of a duration which never began and shall never end. We hope that our own life shall be endless; and materialists have accustomed us to the notion of a series stretching backward without limit in time, to the notion of a material universe that never came into being but was always there. The Divine existence is that and much more; excluding all succession, past and future time-indeed all time, which is succession-and to be conceived as an ever-enduring and unchanging “now”. . . .

If, now, we apply to the time-line what we have been attempting in that of space, the infinite, unchangeable point which was immensity becomes eternity; not a real succession of separate acts or changes (which is known as “time”); nor even the continuous duration of a being which is changeless in its substance, however it may vary in its actions (which is what St. Thomas understands by an aevum ); but an endless line of existence and action which not only is not actually interrupted, but is incapable of interruption or of the least change or movement whatsoever. And as, if one instant should pass away and another succeed, the present becoming past and the future present, there is necessarily a change or movement of instants; so, if we are not to be irreverent in our concept of God, but to represent Him as best we can, we must try to conceive Him as excluding all, even the least, change or succession; and his duration, consequently, as being without even a possible past or future, but a never beginning and a never-ending, absolutely unchangeable “now.” This is how eternity is presented in Catholic philosophy and theology. The notion is of special interest in helping us to realize, however, faintly, the relations of God to created things, especially with regard to His foreknowledge. In Him there is no before or after, and therefore no foreknowledge, objectively; the distinction which we are wont to draw between His knowledge of intelligence or science or prescience and His knowledge of vision is merely our way of representing things, natural enough to us, but not by any means objective or real in Him. There is no real objective difference between His intelligence and His vision, not between either of these and the Divine substance in which there is no possibility of difference or change.

. . . it is not true to say that God either saw or foresaw anything, or that He will see it, but only that He sees it. . . . It is only in relation to the finite and mutable that there can be a before and after. And when we say, that, as faith teaches, the world was created in time and was not from eternity, our meaning should not be that the existence of the Creator stretched back infinitely before He brought the world into being; but rather that while His existence remains an unchangeable present, without possibility of before or after, of change or succession, as regards itself, the succession outside the Divine existence, to each instant of which it corresponds as the centre does to any point in the circumference, had a beginning, and might have extended indefinitely further backward, without, however, escaping the omnipresence of the eternal “now” . . .

Sources

The basis of all later treatment of the question of eternity is that of ST. THOMAS, I, Q. x. For a fuller exposition see SUAREZ, De Deo, I, iv; IDEM, Metaphysica, disp. l, ss. 4 sq.; LESSIUS, De perfectionibus divinis, IV.

….The salvation or damnation of every soul is known to God and decreed from eternity. Therefore, there is no change. It always was what it is. For God it simply “is” because He is at all times “now.” An omniscient being cannot change His “mind….”

…Protestant theologian John Frame has written a very informative article that is, I believe (unless I missed something) harmonious with Catholic teaching: “Open Theism and Divine Foreknowledge”. This can clear up many questions about “contingency” and conditional prophecies. See also the Catholic Encyclopedia article, “Prophecy”, though it doesn’t specifically address the issue of how God presents prophecies in relation to His foreknowledge and omniscience, and immutability.

For an extremely interesting (but not exclusively Christian or Catholic Christian) philosophical treatment of these sorts of issues, see “Prophecy” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy); also, “Immutability” in the same work. And “Divine Simplicity” and “Eternity”. Also, along similar lines: “God and Time” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). Also, St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa: First Part, Q. 10: The Eternity of God.

Paul Helm: J. I. Packer Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, has written a book defending the divine timelessness view: Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time (Oxford University Press, 1988). IVP (evangelical publisher) has put out a book: God & Time: Four Views. Protestant (?) writer George Pytlik defends God’s timelessness: “Can God Change His Mind?” (part one / part two). John Frame gives a very brief reply too.

Did the Incarnation affect God’s immutability, though? No:

“It is to be remembered that, when the Word took Flesh, there was no change in the Word; all the change was in the Flesh. At the moment of conception, in the womb of the Blessed Mother, through the forcefulness of God’s activity, not only was the human soul of Christ created but the Word assumed the man that was conceived. When God created the world, the world was changed, that is, it passed from the state of nonentity to the state of existence; and there was no change in the Logos or Creative Word of God the Father. Nor was there change in that Logos when it began to terminate the human nature. A new relation ensued, to be sure; but this new relation implied in the Logos no new reality, no real change; all new reality, all real change, was in the human nature. Anyone who wishes to go into this very intricate question of the manner of the Hypostatic Union of the two natures in the one Divine Personality, may with great profit read St. Thomas (III:4:2); Scotus (in III, Dist. i); (De Incarnatione, Disp. II, sec. 3); Gregory, of Valentia (in III, D. i, q. 4). Any modern text book on theology will give various opinions in regard to the way of the union of the Person assuming with the nature assumed.’ -(Catholic Encyclopedia: “The Incarnation”; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas’ related comments in the Summa)”

Love & mind blown,
Matthew

“Three times I begged the Lord” -2 Cor 12:8


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“We do not pray to change God’s mind. We pray to be one with God. So often we treat prayer like a battle of wills, as though we need to cajole God into doing something he would rather not. This is typically how we read the parable of the friend at midnight in today’s gospel (Lk 11:5-13). From this perspective, God comes out looking like a kind of heavenly boss to whom we need to make a pitch for a promotion or more vacation time. This is clearly not how Jesus means for us to interpret his parable. Jesus does not want us to see his Father as a tight-fisted CEO, but as the generous Father that he is: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:13).

Even if we could change God’s mind (which is impossible), it would only be worse for us in the long run. God is pure goodness and infinite wisdom. He wants what is best for us, and knows what is best for us much better than we do. The purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to be one with the God who loves us. That is the reason for everything in the Christian life. If he wanted to, God could do everything himself; nevertheless, in his great love for us, God wants to give us a share in his work, to make us one with him in his activity in the world. In addition to working with him in our outward actions, God also asks us to work with him in our prayers. God could do everything on his own, but there are many things he wants to do because we prayed for them (e.g. the salvation of souls).

If there is any way in which prayer is a battle of wills, it is a battle with our own will as we learn to accept God’s plans for us. For example, when we ask for something, we want it now. It may be, however, that God wants to answer our request only after we have prayed long and hard for it, to reward us for our patience and perseverance. Such was the case with St. Monica, who prayed 14 years for the conversion of her son, Augustine, and became a saint in the process. It may be that God will not answer our request at all because it is not ultimately for our good. Such was the case with St. Paul, who tells us, “Three times I begged the Lord about this [trial], that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:9).

Hard though it may be, God asks us to trust that he knows what he is doing. Even if we may not get everything we ask for as soon as we ask for it, we should never doubt God’s loving concern for us. Our Father knows how to give good gifts to his children.”

Love & prayers,
Matthew

How demons deceive us

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith. -1 Peter 5:8–9

“‘Spiritual combat’ is another element of life which needs to be taught anew and proposed once more to all Christians today. It is a secret and interior art, an invisible struggle in which we engage every day against the temptations, the evil suggestions that the demon tries to plant in our hearts.” -Saint Pope John Paul II, May 25, 2002

“This generation, and many others, have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil… But the devil exists and we must fight against him.” -Pope Francis, Halloween 2014

How Demons Deceive Us

Although the powers of demons are infinitely weaker than the powers of God, they are still greater than those of humans, and their powers can fool us if we are not careful. For example, only God knows all things, including the future. God does not see time in a linear fashion as past, present, and future; rather, he sees all times at once. Everything that ever has been, is now, and ever will be, is present to him at once.

Demons, however, exist in time as we do, so they do not know the future. However, they are very intelligent and can make it appear that they know the future. One might think of them as extremely accurate weathermen: they don’t know the future, but they can make very good predictions.

Demons also have knowledge of human beings throughout history, and thereby know all human languages, including ancient ones. As we will see later, signs of demon possession include knowledge of things that the possessed individuals could not have known on their own, as well as the ability to speak languages that they have never heard.

Demons have the power to communicate with other demons and with human beings. However, being pure spirits, they communicate in a spiritual rather than a physical way.

Aquinas maintained that demons could affect our imagination. This ability does not differ greatly from our powers of communication. We communicate ideas to one another all the time through speaking and writing. Every time we turn on the television, read a newspaper or magazine, or search the Internet, we see advertisements. These are nothing more than someone trying to plant ideas or images in our imagination.

A particularly frightening ability of demons involves how well they know our personal habits. We have only to think of people whom we know very well. When they talk to us, we often know more of what is on their minds than they say, due to hints in their affect: we notice their tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

Because of demons’ greater intelligence, memory, and powers of observation, they are much better at interpreting human behavior and thought than we are. The demons can listen to us and observe us carefully, and may be able to see or hear subtle physical signs that show our emotions. Therefore, even though God alone knows all of our thoughts, demons can readily analyze what we are thinking and feeling, and make accurate predictions.

Demons can also deceive us through their ability to move physical objects. An example of telekinesis by a demon can be seen in the book of Job (1:13–19). In that biblical account, the devil caused lightning to kill the shepherds and sheep. In the same story, demons also caused a great wind that destroyed the house of Job’s children, thus killing them. The Gospels tell us that demons caused a herd of pigs to run off a cliff, fall into the lake, and drown (Mark 5:1–13).”

Love & Lord save us!!
Matthew

Female Priests

“Can women be ordained to the priesthood? This is a question that provokes much debate in our modern world, but it is one to which the Church has always answered “No.” The basis for the Church’s teaching on ordination is found in the New Testament as well as in the writings of the Church Fathers.

While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11–14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34–38).

The following quotations from the Church Fathers indicate that women do play an active role in the Church and that in the age of the Fathers there were orders of virgins, widows, and deaconesses, but that these women were not ordained.

The Fathers rejected women’s ordination, not because it was incompatible with Christian culture, but because it was incompatible with Christian faith. Thus, together with biblical declarations, the teaching of the Fathers on this issue formed the tradition of the Church that taught that priestly ordination was reserved to men. This teaching has not changed.

Further, in 1994 Pope John Paul II formally declared that the Church does not have the power to ordain women. He stated, “Although the teaching that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone has been preserved by the constant and universal tradition of the Church and firmly taught by the magisterium in its more recent documents, at the present time in some places it is nonetheless considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force. Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis 4).

And in 1995 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in conjunction with the pope, ruled that this teaching “requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:2)” (Response of Oct. 25, 1995).

The following quotations from the Fathers constitute a part of the tradition on which this infallible teaching rests.

Irenaeus

“Pretending to consecrate cups mixed with wine, and protracting to great length the word of invocation, [Marcus the Gnostic heretic] contrives to give them a purple and reddish color. . . . [H]anding mixed cups to the women, he bids them consecrate these in his presence.

“When this has been done, he himself produces another cup of much larger size than that which the deluded woman has consecrated, and pouring from the smaller one consecrated by the woman into that which has been brought forward by himself, he at the same time pronounces these words: ‘May that Charis who is before all things and who transcends all knowledge and speech fill your inner man and multiply in you her own knowledge, by sowing the grain of mustard seed in you as in good soil.’

“Repeating certain other similar words, and thus goading on the wretched woman [to madness], he then appears a worker of wonders when the large cup is seen to have been filled out of the small one, so as even to overflow by what has been obtained from it. By accomplishing several other similar things, he has completely deceived many and drawn them away after him” (Against Heresies 1:13:2 [A.D. 189]).

Tertullian

“It is of no concern how diverse be their [the heretics’] views, so long as they conspire to erase the one truth. They are puffed up; all offer knowledge. Before they have finished as catechumens, how thoroughly learned they are! And the heretical women themselves, how shameless are they! They make bold to teach, to debate, to work exorcisms, to undertake cures . . . ” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 41:4–5 [A.D. 200]).

“It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church [1 Cor 14:34–35], but neither [is it permitted her] . . . to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, not to say sacerdotal office” (The Veiling of Virgins 9 [A.D. 206]).

Hippolytus

“When a widow is to be appointed, she is not to be ordained, but is designated by being named [a widow]. . . . A widow is appointed by words alone, and is then associated with the other widows. Hands are not imposed on her, because she does not offer the oblation and she does not conduct the liturgy. Ordination is for the clergy because of the liturgy; but a widow is appointed for prayer, and prayer is the duty of all” (The Apostolic Tradition 11 [A.D. 215]).

The Didascalia

“For it is not to teach that you women . . . are appointed. . . . For he, God the Lord, Jesus Christ our Teacher, sent us, the twelve [apostles], out to teach the [chosen] people and the pagans. But there were female disciples among us: Mary of Magdala, Mary the daughter of Jacob, and the other Mary; he did not, however, send them out with us to teach the people. For, if it had been necessary that women should teach, then our Teacher would have directed them to instruct along with us” (Didascalia 3:6:1–2 [A.D. 225]).

Firmilian

“[T]here suddenly arose among us a certain woman, who in a state of ecstasy announced herself as a prophetess and acted as if filled with the Holy Ghost. . . . Through the deceptions and illusions of the demon, this woman had previously set about deluding believers in a variety of ways. Among the means by which she had deluded many was daring to pretend that, through proper invocation, she consecrated bread and performed the Eucharist” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74:10 [A.D. 253]).

Council of Nicaea I

“Similarly, in regard to the deaconesses, as with all who are enrolled in the register, the same procedure is to be observed. We have made mention of the deaconesses, who have been enrolled in this position, although, not having been in any way ordained, they are certainly to be numbered among the laity” (Canon 19 [A.D. 325]).

Council of Laodicea

“[T]he so-called ‘presbyteresses’ or ‘presidentesses’ are not to be ordained in the Church” (Canon 11 [A.D. 360]).

Epiphanius of Salamis

“Certain women there in Arabia [the Collyridians] . . . In an unlawful and basphemous ceremony . . . ordain women, through whom they offer up the sacrifice in the name of Mary. This means that the entire proceeding is godless and sacrilegious, a perversion of the message of the Holy Spirit; in fact, the whole thing is diabolical and a teaching of the impure spirit” (Against Heresies 78:13 [A.D. 377]).

“It is true that in the Church there is an order of deaconesses, but not for being a priestess, nor for any kind of work of administration, but for the sake of the dignity of the female sex, either at the time of baptism or of examining the sick or suffering, so that the naked body of a female may not be seen by men administering sacred rites, but by the deaconess” (ibid.).

“From this bishop [James the Just] and the just-named apostles, the succession of bishops and presbyters [priests] in the house of God have been established. Never was a woman called to these. . . . According to the evidence of Scripture, there were, to be sure, the four daughters of the evangelist Philip, who engaged in prophecy, but they were not priestesses” (ibid.).

“If women were to be charged by God with entering the priesthood or with assuming ecclesiastical office, then in the New Covenant it would have devolved upon no one more than Mary to fulfill a priestly function. She was invested with so great an honor as to be allowed to provide a dwelling in her womb for the heavenly God and King of all things, the Son of God. . . . But he did not find this [the conferring of priesthood on her] good” (ibid., 79:3).

John Chrysostom

“[W]hen one is required to preside over the Church and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also, and we must bring forward those who to a large extent surpass all others and soar as much above them in excellence of spirit as Saul overtopped the whole Hebrew nation in bodily stature” (The Priesthood 2:2 [A.D. 387]).

The Apostolic Constitutions

“A virgin is not ordained, for we have no such command from the Lord, for this is a state of voluntary trial, not for the reproach of marriage, but on account of leisure for piety” (Apostolic Constitutions 8:24 [A.D. 400]).

“Appoint, [O Bishop], a deaconess, faithful and holy, for the ministering of women. For sometimes it is not possible to send a deacon into certain houses of women, because of unbelievers. Send a deaconess, because of the thoughts of the petty. A deaconess is of use to us also in many other situations. First of all, in the baptizing of women, a deacon will touch only their forehead with the holy oil, and afterwards the female deacon herself anoints them” (ibid., 3:16).

“[T]he ‘man is the head of the woman’ [1 Cor. 11:3], and he is originally ordained for the priesthood; it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation and leave the first to come to the last part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For he says, ‘He shall rule over you’ [Gen. 3:16]. . . . But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of the priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ” (ibid., 3:9).

“A deaconess does not bless, but neither does she perform anything else that is done by presbyters [priests] and deacons, but she guards the doors and greatly assists the presbyters, for the sake of decorum, when they are baptizing women” (ibid., 8:28).

Augustine

“[The Quintillians are heretics who] give women predominance so that these, too, can be honored with the priesthood among them. They say, namely, that Christ revealed himself . . . to Quintilla and Priscilla [two Montanist prophetesses] in the form of a woman” (Heresies 1:17 [A.D. 428]).

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004″

Love,
Matthew

The Great Disappointment: Anti-Catholicism

The Dangerous Doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism
Anti-Catholicism Based on Ellen White’s Writings Characterize the Group

Seventh-day Adventists agree with many Catholic doctrines, including the Trinity, Christ’s divinity, the virgin birth, the atonement, a physical resurrection of the dead, and Christ’s Second Coming.

They use a valid form of baptism. They believe in original sin and reject the Evangelical teaching that one can never lose one’s salvation no matter what one does (i.e., they correctly reject “once saved, always saved”).

Unfortunately, they also hold many false and strange doctrines.

Among these are the following:

The Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon;
The pope is the Antichrist;
In the last days, Sunday worship will be “the mark of the beast”;
There is a future millennium in which the devil will roam the earth while Christians are with Christ in heaven;
The soul sleeps between death and resurrection; and
On the last day, after a limited period of punishment in hell, the wicked will be annihilated and cease to exist rather than be eternally damned.

Adventists also subscribe to the two Protestant shibboleths, sola scriptura (the Bible is the sole rule of faith) and sola fide (justification is by faith alone).

Other Protestants, especially conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, often attack Adventists on these points, claiming they do not really hold them, which is often used as “proof” that they are “a cult.” However, along the spectrum of Protestantism (from high-church Lutherans and Anglicans to low-church Pentecostals and Baptists), there is little agreement about the meaning of these two phrases or about the doctrines they are supposed to represent.
Catholics may suppose that anti-Catholicism is part of Adventism’s radical fringe.

Unfortunately, this is untrue.

Adventists who are moderate on Catholicism are a minority. Anti-Catholicism characterizes the denomination because it is embraced in White’s “divinely inspired” writings.

A few illustrations help indicate the scope of the problem:

“Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots . . . is further declared to be ‘that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’ Revelation 17:4–6, 18. The power that for so many centuries maintained despotic sway over the monarchs of Christendom is Rome.” (The Great Controversy, 338).

“It is one of the leading doctrines of Romanism that the pope is the visible head of the universal Church of Christ . . . and has been declared infallible. He demands the homage of all men. The same claim urged by Satan in the wilderness of temptation is still urged by him [Satan] through the Church of Rome, and vast numbers are ready to yield him homage” (ibid., 48).

“Marvelous in her shrewdness and cunning is the Roman Church. She can read what is to be. She bides her time, seeing that the Protestant churches are paying her homage in their acceptance of the false Sabbath. . . . And let it be remembered, it is the boast of Rome that she never changes. The principles of Gregory VII and Innocent III are still the principles of the Roman Catholic Church. And has she but the power, she would put them in practice with as much vigor now as in past centuries” (ibid., 507–8).

“God’s word has given warning of the impending danger; let this be unheeded, and the Protestant world will learn what the purposes of Rome really are, only when it is too late to escape the snare. She is silently growing into power. Her doctrines are exerting their influence in legislative halls, in the churches, and in the hearts of men. She is piling up her lofty and massive structures, in the secret recesses of which her former persecutions will be repeated. Stealthily and unsuspectedly she is strengthening her forces to further her own ends when the time shall come for her to strike. All that she desires is vantage ground, and this is already being given her. We shall soon see and shall feel what the purpose of the Roman element is. Whoever believe and obey the word of God will thereby incur reproach and persecution” ( ibid., 508–9).

Bear in mind that these quotes are not taken from an obscure work of White’s that nobody ever reads. They are from what is probably her single most popular volume, The Great Controversy.”

Love,
Matthew

Prudence

-The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1822) by William Blake, Tate Gallery, London, UK, please click on the image for greater detail.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
-Matthew 25

CCC 1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.”(Prov 14:15). “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.”(1 Pet 4:7). Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. ST II-II,47,2. It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Show me, O Lord, the way of true prudence.

MEDITATION

If we wish to attain union with God, our whole life should be directed toward Him; and as our life is made up of many acts, we should see that each one is a step forward on the way that leads to Him. Supernatural prudence is that virtue which suggests to us what we should do and what we should avoid in order to reach the goal we have set for ourselves. If we wish to reach union with God, prudence tells us to conform ourself in everything to His will, to detach ourself from all things, even the least, if it be contrary to His divine will. If we wish to become a saint, we must perform these acts of charity and generosity without recoiling from the sacrifice. If we wish to become a soul of prayer, we must strive to be recollected, to avoid useless conversation, to mortify our curiosity, and to apply ourself diligently to prayer. Thus prudence prescribes what we ought to do and what we ought to avoid, whether in view of our final end—union with God, sanctity—or in view of an immediate goal—such as the acquisition of particular virtues—which, however, always must be ordered to our final end.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins effectively demonstrates the need of this virtue. They all slept while waiting for the bridegroom to come; when he arrived, the first five were admitted into the banquet hall, the other five were refused simply because they had not had the prudence to provide themselves with sufficient oil to fill their lamps. And the parable concludes: “Watch ye therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Supernatural prudence counsels us first of all to make good use of the time God gives us and the opportunities He offers us to practice virtue, because “the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). When, through indolence or carelessness, we miss an opportunity to do a good deed, it is lost forever; others may present themselves later, it is true, but that one will never return again.

COLLOQUY

“O my God, a soul who loves You listens no more to the suggestions of human prudence. Faith and love alone influence her, making her despise all earthly things, holding them to be worthless, as indeed they are. She cares not for any earthly good, being convinced that all is vanity. When she finds that by doing something she can serve You better, she listens to no objections but acts at once, for she understands that her profit consists entirely in this” (cf. Teresa of Jesus Conceptions of the Love of God 3).

“O Lord, if I wish to be a saint, I must live entirely on a supernatural plane, always remembering that ‘whatsoever is not God, is nothing,’ as the author of the Imitation says; consequently, I must leave all things or make use of all to come to You.

“If I do not watch over myself, I can materialize even spiritual things by considering everything superficially, under its human aspect. Alas! O Lord, I know that at times I have acted in this way.

“Oh no! a life spent for You is so great, so beautiful! But it is not great because of any extraordinary deeds, but rather because of the love and fidelity with which I must inform even the least important duties, which transforms these least actions, as well as all my daily occupations; it is great because of the apostolic intentions which vivify my prayers and sacrifices. Teach me, O Lord, to give the greatest amount of love to each instant, to make eternal every passing moment, by giving it the added value of charity” (cf. Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.).”

Love & prudence,
Matthew

The Bible is a Catholic Book: 400 silent years?

Many in the Protestant community discount books not found in their version of the Old Testament on the ground that there were “400 silent years” between Malachi and the ministry of Jesus.

This claim is bolstered by the assertion that there were no prophets in this period. The implication is that, without the divine inspiration given to prophets, books of Scripture couldn’t be written.

There are several problems with this assertion. One is that it isn’t clear that all the books in the Protestant Old Testament were written before 400 B.C. Even among conservative Protestant scholars, a significant body of opinion holds that some were much closer to the time of Christ.

Another problem is that an author doesn’t have to be a prophet to write Scripture. While all of the biblical authors were divinely inspired, this didn’t mean that they functioned in society as prophets. Psalms and Proverbs attribute many passages to David and Solomon, but they were kings, not prophets. The truth is, we don’t know who wrote many Old Testament books—including all the historical ones (Joshua to 2 Chronicles)—and it’s just supposition to claim that they were by prophets. We also have no evidence that New Testament authors like Mark and Luke ever received prophetic revelations.

But even if we granted that one had to be a prophet to author Scripture, we don’t have evidence that the gift of prophecy was absent in this period. Sometimes advocates of the “four hundred silent years” appeal to passages like 1 Maccabees 4:46 and 9:27 to support the claim that there were no prophets in this era, but these passages don’t show this.

The first describes how, around 164 B.C., Judah Maccabee and his men debated what to do about an altar the Gentiles had defiled. They tore it down and stored “the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.” The second refers to a few years later, when “there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.”

These passages indicate that—in the 160s B.C.—there were no prophets functioning, but that doesn’t mean that God never gave prophecies between Malachi and John the Baptist, or that Jews of the period didn’t expect new prophets. First Maccabees shows they did. Thus, in 4:46, it says that they set aside the altar stones until “there should come a prophet to tell them what to do with them.” Similarly, 1 Maccabees 14:41 states that, in 140 B.C., Simon Maccabee was made ruler of the people “until a trustworthy prophet should arise”—again indicating an expectation of further prophets, including the possibility of one arriving in the reign of Simon Maccabee.

The absence of prophets in the time of the Maccabees thus was a temporary event, and it wasn’t unprecedented. There were similar lulls in prophetic activity in other periods. First Samuel 3:1 reveals that, when the prophet Samuel was a boy, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.” Yet later in his life, when Samuel anointed Saul as king, there was a band of prophets that met Saul on the road, and he himself was overcome by the Spirit and began to prophecy. Thus, it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (see 1 Sam. 10:9-12).

Another prophetic lull is mentioned during the Babylonian Exile. Psalm 74, which records the destruction of the temple (vv. 4-7), says, “We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet” (v. 9). Similarly, Lamentations 2:9 describes events following the destruction of the temple by saying Zion’s “prophets obtain no vision from the Lord.” Yet neither passage indicates that the age of Old Testament prophecy was closed, for prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel were active during the Exile. Neither do these prophetic lulls indicate Scripture couldn’t be written, for both passages are part of Scripture!

Even in a prophetic lull, God could give revelation, as in the case of the previous two passages. Similarly, in the time of the Maccabees, Judah Maccabee himself received a revelation (2 Macc. 15:11-16), though he didn’t function as a formal prophet.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 2 – Guardian Angels


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

This little prayer focuses on four verbs to describe the activity of our guardian angels, and each teaches us something about the role of our guardian angels in our lives.

To light. For millennia the image of enlightenment has been used for instruction and teaching. Saint Thomas reminds us that, in terms of intellect, humans are at the bottom of the hierarchy. Every angel, even the least of them, is categorically superior in intelligence. This means that our guardian angels, even apart from their gifts of grace and glory, can teach us a thing or two. That’s exactly what St. Thomas says they do. Since our minds are weak and can easily fail, our guardian angels help us to hold onto the truth more firmly, and so we ask our guardian angels to enlighten us (ST I q. 113, a. 1).

To guard. True to their name, guardian angels also protect us from the assaults of the enemies of God. Saint Thomas gives this as reason to believe that even Adam, in the state of innocence, would have had an angel guardian (ST I q. 113, a. 4). In the same place, he states that even when we fall (as Adam did) into temptation, our guardian angels keep us from being harmed as much as the tempters want.

To rule. Since our guardian angels are not simply teachers of truth, but ministers of divine government, they never forget that their purpose in teaching is to lead us back to God. In this manner, we ask them not only to enlighten us with teaching, but also to rule and direct us toward the good. For, as St. Thomas tells us, even though we know the natural law, we sometimes struggle to apply it well, needing our angels to assist us (ST I q. 113, a. 1).

To guide. Like guarding, guiding can be understood defensively. For while a ruler might give direction from afar, a guide assists along the way by pointing out pitfalls in the path. While our guardian angels don’t and can’t make our decisions for us, they can give us nudges here and there to keep our feet on the narrow path.

These activities of our guardian angels are not extraordinary or miraculous. Their guardianship belongs to the execution of Divine Providence, much like any parent’s guardianship of children. Let’s make a new effort to appreciate and call upon these faithful angels, who are always willing to help us.”

Holy Guardian Angels!! Pray for & protect us!!!
Matthew