All posts by techdecisions

Why don’t intellectuals believe in God?

“For many people who don’t believe God exists, this is one reason why: the smart people they know and respect, such as scientists and philosophers, are often atheists.

For example, ninety-three percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the most elite scientific organizations in the United States, deny God’s existence. One study found that seventy-three percent of professional philosophers are atheists

With such an overwhelming amount of smart people embracing atheism, it’s no surprise that a person who wants to be intellectually responsible will be disinclined to acknowledge that God exists. Let’s look at two strategies for how we can lower this mountain, and prepare a way for the Lord.

Strategy 1:

Explain that just because someone is smart in one area of expertise doesn’t make him competent when it comes to the question of God’s existence.

QUESTION: “Would you trust a mechanic’s views on politics because he is a good mechanic?”

I think it’s safe to say your friend will answer no. The training that a mechanic receives as a mechanic doesn’t equip him with political knowledge or wisdom. Explain that the same principle applies to what natural scientists and philosophers who are not trained in philosophy of religion, for example, say about God’s existence.

You can remind your friend that God is not subject to scientific inquiry. God is an immaterial being who transcends the boundaries of science’s data source—namely, physical reality. This being the case, no amount of scientific training is going to equip a scientist to pursue the philosophical inquiry of God’s existence.

QUESTION: “If you shouldn’t trust a mechanic’s views on politics just because he knows cars, then why should you trust a scientist’s views about God because he knows chemistry?”

Since the question of God’s existence is beyond a scientist’s expertise, as a matter of authority his opinion on the matter is of equal value to that of any other educated non-scientist—just like his opinion on art, or history, or sports.

Strategy 2:

Name some smart people that were/are believers in God or some transcendent power.

Your friend doesn’t merely have to trust polls that say many scientists and philosophers are believers. You can share with him the names and pro-God quotes of some of the greatest minds of history. Some of them laymen who were/are theists:

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), father of the heliocentric theory of the solar system: “The universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.”

Max Planck (1858–1947), originator of the quantum theory: “Religion is the link that binds man to God—resulting from the respectful humility before a supernatural power, to which all human life is subject and which controls our weal and woe.”

Albert Einstein (1879–1955): “Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order… This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”

And consider the contributions of these Catholic scientists:

Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294), English Franciscan monk whose writings predicted the construction of the telescope and laid the groundwork for the scientific method.

St. Albert the Great (1200–1280), bishop who taught St. Thomas Aquinas and who did a great amount of observational work in botany and zoology.

Thomas Bradwardine (1290–1349), archbishop of Canterbury who proved Aristotle’s scientific ideas on motion to be inconsistent and was the first to attempt to formulate a mathematical law of motion.

Nicholas of Oresme (1323–1382), bishop of Lisieux in France who made significant contributions to psychology, physics, mathematics, and economics.

Nicolas of Cusa (1401–1464), German cardinal who posed bold ideas such as the universe being infinitely large and that the sun and earth were in motion in infinite space.

Marin Mersenne (1588–1648), historic figure in mathematics referred to as the “father of acoustics.”

Christoph Scheiner (1573–1650), Jesuit priest who was one of the first five people to discover sunspots with a telescope independently of each other. His sunspot data is still used by scientists today.

Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799), top biologist of the eighteenth century whose investigative work and experiments served as the foundation for the work of Louis Pasteur

Gregor Mendel (1822–1884), Augustinian monk and priest who was the founder of genetics.

Abbe Henri Breuil (1877–1962), one of the leading paleontologists of his time and known for his expertise on cave paintings and prehistoric art.

George Lemaitre (1894–1966), director of the Pontifical Academy of the Science who was one of the two originators of the Big Bang theory.

By now your friend will see that to believe in God is to be in good intellectual company.”

Love & His truth,
Matthew

“Quid est veritas?” -Pontius Pilate, Jn 18:38


-by Br Charles Marie Rooney, OP

“Every once in a while, we do well to ask ourselves why we are Catholic. Is it because the community at our local church is kind and welcoming? Because we enjoy the liturgy or like the priest? Or perhaps because we are nostalgic for the customs of our youth?

Though common, each answer puts the cart before the horse. First and foremost, we are Catholic because we know it to be true that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt 16:16), for He alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).

And yet, astoundingly, we cannot adjudicate the question on our own power. We believe Christ to be the Savior not because flesh and blood has deduced this but rather because the Father in heaven has made it known, and he has moved us to affirm His truth (cf. Mt 16:17).

This graced acceptance of and confidence in the truth of the Gospel is absolutely primary in the Christian life. Every human person has a visceral sense of what it means for something to be true: that it is. For as long as we can remember, we have instinctively understood that to lie is to tell what is not, what does not exist, what is not in fact real. Lying never ultimately feels good because it is contrary to what is most basic about human experience: that we receive and respond to an ordered reality that exists outside of ourselves. The liar, in taking what is real and recreating it in his own image for his own selfish purposes, commits an offense against the very being of things [Ed. helpful if you know a little, or as in my case very little, philosophy.]  We feel this all the more acutely when we discover that someone has lied to us, for then we have become victims of such a cheapening of reality, and our own natural, inquisitive desire for the truth—and our trust in its knowability—is wounded.

The act of faith heals these wounds because it perfects the human mind, elevating it to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who stands above and beyond our mere natural capacities of knowing. We can thus say with Blessed Columba Marmion that “faith is the homage of our intellect to the divine veracity”—a consecration of the mind to Him Who Is and to all that He has spoken. Faith is an expression of total trust that “Truth Himself speaks truly, else there’s nothing true” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Adoro te devote, trans. Gerard Manley Hopkins).

Conversion to Christ must begin with the recognition that we are not artificers but recipients of truth. This always entails the humble realization that my life to this point has, to a greater or lesser degree, been a lie, and that a more fundamental truth exists to which I must conform myself. Indeed, it is this same recognition that enables ongoing conversion, as when Catholics are convicted to go to confession: we see that an act against the truth—an ontological lie—has been committed, that we have done it, and that only the truth Himself can restore us to the eternal end for which we are made.

Pope Saint John Paul II once said that “truth” is the most important word in the Gospels (Witness to Hope, 244). Indeed, the Lord says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Truth alone liberates because truth alone illumines what we are and hence what is good for us. The light of faith shines upon the mind the brightest beam possible in this life. It communicates certain, saving truth—the knowledge that makes possible intimacy with Christ, Who frees us to turn toward what is and to shun what is not.

Our world, in denying this, sows doubt {Ed. and its own sorrow and destruction by doing so] about divine truth. But we are Catholic because we are convicted by grace that Christ is Who He says He is  [Ed. a difference between God and man is, what God says is] and does what He says He does. On this, everything hangs in the balance. Such, then, is our call: “for this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).”

Love & His truth,
Matthew

Feb 4 – St Catherine de Ricci, OP, (1522-1590) – Everyday stigmata


-by Br Paul Marich, OP

“The Dominican Order celebrates the witness of one of its own members today, Saint Catherine de Ricci (1522-1590). Devotion to her may not be as widespread in the universal Church as it is to Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), another Dominican for whom today’s saint was named. Yet the life of Catherine de Ricci offers us an example of how to bear the sufferings of this life while still fulfilling our daily responsibilities.

From an early age, St. Catherine de Ricci desired to serve Christ, developing a strong devotion to his passion. She joined a community of Dominican lay women, where she started to have mystical experiences. Many members in Catherine’s community, unaware that she was having visions of spiritual ecstasy, initially had doubts about her vocation. They misunderstood her experiences as rude manners. [Ed. De’ Ricci’s period of novitiate was a time of trial. She would experience ecstasies during her routine, which caused her to seem asleep during community prayer services, dropping plates and food, so much so that the community began to question her competence, if not her sanity.] Nevertheless, she persevered in her vocation, finding ways to complete her tasks in the convent while not losing sight of her devotion.

Catherine’s love for the passion of Christ led her to receive a mystical gift, something only given to a few chosen souls. On Thursdays and Fridays of each week, Catherine would receive visions of the passion, which were accompanied with great physical pain. She was entirely united to Christ’s sufferings through these experiences, which included the gift of the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ on her very body. However, in the midst of such extraordinary graces, Catherine was diligent in carrying out her everyday tasks. Recognition of her skills and abilities would lead to her election as superior of the community on several occasions. She offered spiritual counsel to the people of her town of Prato, while fulfilling the demands of her life within the Dominican community.

Catherine’s example can help us in the midst of our everyday trials and sufferings. Of course, only a few are called to receive the mystical graces that Catherine experienced. One does not have to receive such special visions of Christ’s passion in order to be holy. “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mt 16:24).

Christ calls each one of us to bear our everyday crosses with courage. These can be small setbacks, uncertain circumstances in life, persecution for our beliefs, physical ailments, or long-term struggles that seem to have no sense of a resolution, to name just a few. Embracing these crosses in union with Christ allows us to be conformed more fully to Him. At the same time, we must not allow these crosses to prevent us from going about our daily tasks, be they family responsibilities, work, or our contributions to society. In the midst of suffering, Christ’s instruction at the conclusion of the Beatitudes should give us great comfort: “rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:12). (Ed. The priest who married Kelly and I said jokingly?, “Don’t kid yourself.” He turned out to be a bad apple anyway.)

St. Catherine de Ricci provides an example of one who fulfilled her daily commitments, while secretly carrying the burden of the cross. Now that she shares in the glory of heaven, her witness shows us the hope that awaits us in Christ, now risen from the dead. By uniting our sufferings to His, we can be assured that He will transform our pain and sorrow for the sake of His greater glory. Such confidence in Christ allows us to go about our daily tasks without any fear, for He has been victorious in His sufferings.”

Love & strength, resilience, courage, endurance through His grace, Phil 4:13,
Matthew

Feb 2 – Candlemas


-by Br Nicodemus Thomas, OP

“Whether it is a candlelit meal at a fancy restaurant, a birthday celebration with a candle-topped cake, or the procession of the paschal candle at the Easter Vigil, candles are a clear sign of solemnity. We usually sense something different, even quasi-religious, on the occasions that candles are used—think, for another instance, of candles lit at the vigils of societal tragedies and untimely deaths. Suffice to say, candles are objects with rich, religious symbolism.

To understand the religious symbolism of candles, we must first recognize the natural qualities present in candles. There are three qualities of candles we immediately observe: their light, their flame, and their total consumption. By briefly examining these three qualities, we will grasp more deeply the way candles symbolize Christ.

The most obvious characteristic of a candle is its light. In fact, its original purpose was just that—to provide light. We have a foundational desire to know and this desire drives us to seek the light of truth, especially since sight is the most obvious way to knowledge. In the Christian realm, this is no less true. In fact, Christ says as much. He claims to be, “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Through his presence in our souls by faith, he illumines the darkness of our minds so that we may begin to see him as he is (c.f., 1 John 3:2).

A candle, by its flame, is also able to represent love. We draw in this symbolism explicitly when we pray “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of thy love…” A candle’s flame can remind believers of the flame of charity present in their hearts. This is one reason the Church gives candles to the newly baptized and why we all carry candles during the Easter Vigil; the flame represents the work of God in our souls. While we may not see God clearly in this life, the flame of charity allows us to cherish God’s presence in our souls.

Finally, in order to produce the light and flame the candle must be consumed. Our Lord, in shining the light of faith in our intellects and kindling the fire of charity into our hearts, was himself consumed in his humanity—he died that we might have life. It would be easy to think that this occurred only at the Cross. However, we see from the very beginning of his earthly life that he was destined to be a sacrificial lamb. In a similar way, the light that Christ shines in our minds and the fire of charity that sets our souls aflame should consume us, such that we can say with Saint Paul: “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Yesterday, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. It is no coincidence that this same feast day is called “Candlemas.” The first appearance of the Lord in the Temple is commemorated by the blessing of pillars of wax—wax that will later be used to remind us of Christ’s presence in other temples: the tabernacle of the Church and in the depths of our heart.”

Love & He is the Light!!!!
Matthew

Historical Jesus 2

-by Cale Clark, Cale’s two most amazing discoveries in life have been that Jesus Christ would forgive him, and that Patricia would marry him. In 2004, Cale returned to the Catholic Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ, after spending ten years in Evangelical Protestantism, with much of that time spent in pastoral ministry.

“I began to fall away from the Catholic faith during my high school years. One of the big questions I had at the time was, “How do I know that Jesus even existed?”

Back then, this wasn’t high on most people’s lists of doubts, but, my, how things have changed. As we delve deeper into the season of Advent, we watch for the annual appearance of blog posts, magazine articles, and TV shows asserting that the very person whose birth we are about to celebrate never lived at all.

For example, a lapsed Christian and fellow Canadian named Tom Harpur (author of The Pagan Christ) recently opined that historians don’t have “a shred of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.” A Catholic layman might read that and find the notion disturbing. This guy has written some books! As a published author, he must know of what he speaks.

But it’s important to know that Jesus-deniers such as Harpur represent the tiniest minority of voices on this issue. They really are considered to be the lunatic fringe, and no reputable scholar of history takes them seriously, no matter how much noise they make in the media.

The Facebook Challenge

John Dickson, who holds a doctorate in ancient history and is a senior research fellow at Macquarie University, got so tired of these false claims that three years ago he took to Facebook with a challenge: if anyone could give him the name of a single professor possessing a Ph.D. in ancient history who claimed Jesus never existed, he would eat a page from his Bible.

So far, Dickson has not had to “consume the word” in that literal sense!

Indeed, there’s a reason why Dickson could confidently make that challenge: there’s a veritable mountain of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, both inside and outside the Bible. This is why no credible historians—even skeptical or anti-Christian scholars—doubt it. They don’t have to believe the Bible is the word of God, or even merely that it’s a good historical source, in order to affirm that Jesus was a real historical figure.

Even non-Christian writers and historians provide us with an abundance of evidence. Let’s take a look at perhaps the most important of those writers.

1. Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62-113):

“They (Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but of an ordinary and innocent kind (Epistles 10.96).”

“Pliny Jr.” was a Roman governor in Asia Minor, not to be confused with his father, Pliny the Elder, the naturalist who died when Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Pliny wrote to Emperor Trajan asking what ought to be done regarding the proliferation of Christians in his territory. Pliny explains what he had learned from interrogating these believers: especially noteworthy is their habit of Sunday worship, with a very early reference to belief in Jesus as divine.

As scholar Craig Evans notes, these Christians were likely slaves. The way Pliny treated them—even torturing them for information—means they were probably not Roman citizens. They awoke very early in order to worship before their work began, as slaves would have had to do. They also vowed not to do many of the immoral things that Roman slaves often did, including committing theft and sexual sin.

Of particular note is Pliny’s description of what, in all likelihood, was the celebration of the Eucharist. Some in the empire believed the Christians to be cannibals, because they had heard chatter about believers consuming the “body” and “blood” of a certain individual. Pliny, perhaps in response to this, notes that the food was “of an ordinary and innocent kind.” In other words, Pliny was describing the “accidents” of bread and wine, which Christians believed were transformed into the body and blood of Christ.

2. Tacitus (A.D. 60-120):

“Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue (Annals 15.44).”

Tacitus is considered one of the greatest Roman historians. Here he situates the death of Jesus in history—as does the Apostles’ Creed—linking it with the involvement of another known historical personage: Pontius Pilate, who governed Judea under Emperor Tiberius. Tacitus also verifies that the death of Jesus did not stop the movement he founded, which eventually established itself in Rome.

An interesting sidebar: some moderns have even doubted the historical existence of Pontius Pilate! This was laid to rest, though, by the 1961 discovery of a first-century stone inscription dedicated to Pilate in Caesarea Maritima.

3. Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), the great Jewish historian of the times, was born shortly after the death of Jesus, and wrote about him in a famous (and famously disputed) passage known as the Testimonium Flavianum (“The Testimony of Flavius Josephus”). It’s disputed because most scholars believe that later Christian interpolators doctored the text to make it appear that Josephus was attributing more to Jesus than what, in all likelihood, Josephus actually had done. Since Josephus was not a Christian, it’s hardly plausible that he composed these disputed sections. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to spot what likely didn’t come from Josephus’s own hand (indicated below by brackets):

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to call him a man], for he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. [He was the Messiah.] When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. [On the third day, he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.] And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared (The Antiquities of the Jewish People 18.3.3).”

If we delete the dubious portions of this passage, we still have solid evidence that Josephus wrote about Jesus as a historical figure. Josephus also corroborates much of what we know from Jesus’ biographies, the Gospels: namely, that Jesus was known as a miracle worker and convincing teacher and was condemned to death by the Jerusalem priesthood (“men of the highest standing”).

Josephus mentions Jesus again later on when discussing the death of James, the relative of Jesus who became the bishop of Jerusalem. This latter passage is relatively undisputed in terms of its authenticity:

“Possessed of such a character, Ananus [the high priest] thought that he had a favorable opportunity because Festus was dead and Albinus was still on the way (Festus and Albinus were Roman governors.). And so he convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others (The Antiquities of the Jewish People 20.9.1).”

What we have here are three ancient, non-Christian writers who confirm the existence of Jesus. And in the case of Pliny and Tacitus, we have two “hostile witnesses” who are not at all sympathetic to the claims of Christ or his followers. There are other ancient, non-Christian writers who also corroborate the existence of Jesus. But this brief sampling should be enough to convince a reasonable person that, despite the bizarre claims that seem to rise to the surface every December, the Jesus whose birth we will commemorate at Christmas was indeed a historical figure who walked the Earth.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Nov 13 – St Francis Xavier Cabrini, MSC, (1850-1917), a saint’s face

I visited Mother Cabrini’s room behind glass, left as she died, while I lived in Chicago.  The shrine to her was beginning construction.


-by Josemaria Guzman-Dominguez, OP

“The heart changes the countenance,

either for good or for evil.

The sign of a happy heart is a cheerful face.” (Sir 13:25-26)

And the sign of disappointment? A frown. Of embarrassment? Blushing cheeks. Of pain or anger? Clenched teeth. What about profound sadness? Teary eyes. And what is the sign of roaring merriment? A mouth open with laughter.

A saintly face, then, manifests a saintly heart. What do those look like?

In a beautiful paragraph at the start of The Quest Elisabeth Langgäser writes:

Let us . . . examine the face of Mother Cabrini, the first saint of North America. Let us look at it honestly and without fear, this quiet, sublime countenance full of kindness and gentle humor. It is broad and plain, like the face of an Italian peasant woman, with big black eyes that are sheer love. The mouth too is large, an animated mouth whose corners curve slightly upward; a mouth made as if made for merriment and for storytelling. The cheeks are full. They are ripe and like fruits that must soon be picked. Here and there is a faint shadow – the shadow of a mystery. For the flesh of a saint harbors a secret that is fearful and repulsive. It was crucified and hammered into ripeness by the fists of Satan. In the battle with the Adversary it has already been touched by decay, already carries the mark of death and has become an object of horror to the world. But also it has already passed beyond decay. It has already survived its death and is on the point of manifesting in itself immortality and the resurrection of the dead.

On Mother Cabrini’s face, on the face of any saint, contraries meet: silence with storytelling, recollection with laughter, sublimity with commonality, light with shadow, youth with decay, death with resurrection. The saints’ flesh, their faces, carry opposites because their hearts do too. In unredeemed nature, these contraries would wound flesh, disfigure faces, and rend hearts irreparably, to the point of destruction. For contraries do not abide together so easily. One opposite could dominate over the other so that a face becomes a caricature. Or two contrary dispositions might be in a person, which almost splits him into two, such as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Or, out of fear, human qualities could be so muted that a person becomes bland and expressionless.

But the saints hold contraries together in a harmony of paradoxes revealed even on their faces. They can do so only because their hearts were transformed by (even into) the heart of Christ Jesus. This heart knew sorrow and utmost joy. It felt anger and compassion. It was pierced and resurrected. We wonder at the saints, their flesh, their faces, their hearts, because they were, and will be once more at the resurrection, one with Jesus’ flesh, face, and heart. And the human heart of Jesus is one with the heart of God; on His face we see God’s face.”

Love, joy, peace only He can give,
Matthew

Anti-Catholic “Fake News” 2

The Myth: The Church began mandating clerical celibacy during the Middle Ages so that it could acquire the clergy’s family property.

The History Behind the Myth: Bruno of Alsace was noted for his piety. As bishop of Toul (in modern-day France), he cared deeply for his people. The abuses in the Church, especially among the clergy, pained him. When Pope Damasus II, the third German to sit on the Chair of Peter, died in 1048 after a short pontificate of only twenty-three days, Bruno of Alsace was the logical and saintly choice as his successor.

Pope St. Leo IX (r. 1049-1054) was faced with three major issues that shaped his pontificate: the protection of the Papal States from the encroaching Normans; resolution of disputes with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines); and the reform of the Church. And the Church was indeed in desperate need of reform in the eleventh century. The practice of simony (buying or selling Church offices) was rampant, as were violations of the discipline of celibacy among clergy (deacons, priests, and bishops)

To combat these abuses, Leo IX launched one of the most comprehensive reforms in the history of the Church. To ensure its effectiveness, he did not just issue decrees from Rome and demand obedience; he went on the most significant papal road trip in history, traveling throughout Italy, Germany, and France, and holding local synods along the way. Indeed, in the five and half years of his pontificate, Leo spent only six months in the city of Rome. Leo deposed immoral and corrupt bishops, and excommunicated clergy found guilty of simony or unchastity.

Leo’s eleventh-century reform illustrates that the discipline of celibacy was highly regarded in the medieval Church, and was not instituted to enrich it with the land of the clergy. The promise of celibacy freely taken by the clergy dates to the early Church and is rooted in Christian doctrine and tradition. As a discipline (not a doctrine), celibacy has developed through the centuries. In the first three centuries of Church history there was no law prohibiting the ordination of married men, and many priests were married; however, marriage was never permitted after ordination. Moreover, all priests—married, single, or widowed—practiced sexual abstinence after ordination. Indeed, the prohibition of marriage after ordination makes sense only if sexual abstinence was demanded even of married priests. St. Paul taught that a bishop should be the “husband of one wife,” meaning that a man who remarries after the death of his wife illustrated an inability to live conjugal abstinence as required by the Church.

The first recorded Church legislation mandating clerical celibacy in the West was decreed at the Synod of Elvira in Spain around the year 300. In the East, ordination of married men continued through the centuries (and remains a practice), but from the seventh century onward only celibate monks or priests were elevated to the episcopacy. And neither the Eastern nor the Western Church has ever allowed marriage after ordination. In 385, Pope Siricius (r. 384-399) mandated celibacy for all clergy in the West.

Although most people today think of celibacy as unique to Catholicism, conjugal abstinence was required of Jewish priests during their temple duty in Jerusalem, and pagan soldiers abstained from sexual intercourse before battle. Though the early Church permitted the ordination of married men, virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was highly regarded. Men who left the world to seek closer union with God in the desert practiced celibacy, and in monasteries throughout the world it became the norm. Nor was celibacy limited to clergy in the early Church: women, both consecrated virgins and widows, pledged celibacy out of love for God. At the time of St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), there were 3,000 virgins and widows in Constantinople.

Despite the longstanding practice of the Church, celibacy was often not lived faithfully in the early medieval Church. Pope Benedict VIII (r. 1012-1024) held a synod at Pavia where he reinforced the rule of clerical celibacy and denounced the scandal of clerical marriage. By the time of Pope Leo IX in the mid-eleventh century, unchastity among the clergy was widespread. So many priests lived openly with mistresses or practiced the abhorrent vice of homosexuality that St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) wrote The Book of Gomorrah against the sexual sins of the clergy. The eleventh-century papal reform focused on ensuring the independence of the papacy from the interference of secular rulers, and was led mostly by popes who were former monks, free from the sins of secular (diocesan) clergy. These reform popes (St. Leo IX, St. Gregory VII, Bl. Urban II) recognized that reform in terms of the Church’s freedom from external secular control could be accomplished only if reform began in the Church, hence their focus on rooting out simony and unchastity among the clergy. Urban II captured the essence of the reform movement when he wrote, “The Church shall be Catholic, chaste and free: Catholic in the faith and fellowship of the saints, chaste from all contagion of evil, and free from secular power.””

Love & truth,
Matthew

Feb 21 – St Peter Damian (1007-1072 AD) – Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church, Reformer of the Clergy, Patron of Priests


-by Steve Weidenkopf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love, and praying all our ordained,
Matthew

Excommunicatus latae/ferendae sententiae

Excommunication is a medicinal penalty of the Church. Its purpose is not necessarily to obtain justice or satisfaction but is meant to awaken an individual’s conscience to repentance (canon 1312 & 1331).  (Ed. feudal lords feared it, since it removed any citizens’ duties, as part of a religious obligation, since coronation and monarchy had religious underpinnings/overtones, of fealty to one’s lord.  It meant secular disobedience was permitted by the Church, and in some cases, revolt and coup d’etat were encouraged by the Church, to return a rightful ruler, obedient to the Church, to leadership.  

In addition, historically, the Christian obligation to feed, clothe, shelter are no longer required as this person knew the love and mercy of God and rejected them.  Neither is the love of neighbor due them.  The Church technically had shunning until 1983.)

Excommunication can either be imposed by the competent authority (usually a bishop) through a canonical process. In such cases, the action would be mentioned in canon law and the code would call for the competent authority to punish with a “just penalty.” If the competent authority felt in those specific circumstances a just penalty would be excommunication, he could then issue the decree.

The other way it can be imposed by canon law itself when certain actions take place. This one is called latae sententiae or “automatic” excommunication. Automatic excommunication happens when someone commits an act that is specifically punished in canon law by a penalty of automatic excommunication.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law attaches the penalty of automatic excommunication to the following actions:

Latae sententiae (automatically, none for Eastern Catholics)

  • uses physical force against the Pope (reserved to the Apostolic See, for Eastern Catholics even to the Pope in person; can. 1370 CIC, can. 1445 CCEO; used to result ipso facto in a vitandus excommunication until 1983, can. 2343 CIC/1917),
  • pretends to absolve (which is invalid, can. 977) his own partner in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (reserved to the Apostolic See; can. 1378 § 1. CIC, can. 1457 CCEO, can. 728 §1 CCEO),
  • violates directly the Seal of the Confessional (reserved to the Apostolic See; can. 1388 CIC, can 1456 § 1 CCEO, Canon 728 §1 CCEO)
  • throws away, or for sacrilegious purpose keeps back the Blessed Sacrament (reserved, for Latin Catholics, to the Apostolic See; can. 1367 CIC, can. 1442 CCEO,)
  • consecrates, as a bishop, another bishop without mandate by the Apostolic See or receives such consecration (reserved, for Latin Catholics, to the Apostolic See; can. 1383 CIC, can. 1459 § 1 CCEO),
  • is an apostate (can. 1364 § 1 CIC, cf. can. 751 CIC; can. 1436 § 1 CCEO), that is, one who totally repudiates the Christian faith,
  • is a heretic (can. 1364 § 1 CIC, cf. can. 751 CIC; can. 1436 § 1 CCEO), that is, contumaciously denies or doubts a dogma of the Catholic Church,
  • is a schismatic (can. 1364 § 1 CIC, cf. can. 751 CIC; can. 1437 § 1 CCEO), that is, denies submission to the Pope or community to the other members of the Church subordinate to the Pope (this is not, per se, true of one who merely disobeys an order of the Pope)
  • performs, has performed on herself, assists in, or makes possible, including paying for, an abortion (can. 1398 CIC, can. 1450 § 2 CCEO),
  • commits simony in a Papal election (Universi Dominici gregis [UDG] no. 78),
  • as a Cardinal or any other person taking part in the conclave (the conclave’s secretary, etc.), makes known an exclusive or helps, in any other manner, a secular power to influence the papal election (UDG no. 80),
  • as a Cardinal, makes any pacts, deals or promises regarding the papal election at a conclave; this does not forbid the Cardinals to discuss whom to elect (UDG no. 81).
  • as a bishop attempts to confer Holy Orders on a woman, alongside the woman who attempted to receive the consecration.

Ferendae sententiae (through a process/judgment)

A person may be ferendae sententiae excommunicated if he:

  • tries to celebrate the Mass without being a priest (incurs, for Latin Catholics, also a latae sententiae interdict for laymen and suspension for clerics, can. 1378 § 2 no. 1 CIC, can. 1443 CCEO),
  • hears a Confession or tries to absolve without being able to absolve (for Latin Catholics; this does not, of course, include hindrances on the penitent’s side for the mere hearing of the Confessions, and hidden hindrances on the penitent’s side for absolutions; can. 1378 § 2 no. 1; incurs also a latae sententiae interdict for laymen and suspension for clerics)
  • breaks the Seal of the Confessional indirectly (?) or as someone not the Confessor, e. g. an interpreter or one who overheard something that was said (for Latin Catholics, can. 1388 § 2 CIC),
  • who breaks a penal law allowing excommunication that was enacted on local level, which the local authority, however, may only do with great caution and for grave offences (for Latin Catholics, can. 1318 CIC).
  • omits stubbornly, as an Eastern Catholic priest, the commemoration of the hierarch in the Divine Liturgy and Divine Praises (not mandatorily, can. 1438 CCEO)
  • commits physical violence against a patriarch or a metropolitan, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1445 § 1 CCEO),
  • incites sedition against any hierarch, especially a patriarch or the Pope, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1447 § 1, not mandatorily),
    commits murder, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1450 § 1 CCEO),
  • kidnaps, wounds seriously, mutilates or tortures (physically or mentally) a person, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1451 CCEO, not mandatorily),
  • falsely accuses someone of a [canonical] offense, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1454 CCEO, not mandatorily),
  • tries to use the influence of secular authority to gain admission to Holy Orders or any function in the Church, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1460, not mandatorily),
  • administers or receives a Sacrament, excluding Holy Orders, or any function in the Church through simony, as an Eastern Catholic (can. 1461f. CCEO, not mandatorily).

In order for the penalty to be considered to apply, certain conditions must be met (can. 1323):

  • The individual must be at least sixteen years old.
  • The individual must know that his action was a violation of Church law.
  • The individual must have acted freely without threat of force or grave fear, have the use of reason, and not have acted mistakenly.
  • Unless the canon reserves removal of the penalty to the Holy See, the local ordinary can remit the excommunication, or he can delegate that authority to the priests of his diocese (which most bishops do in the case of abortion).

By and large, automatic excommunications are not known to the public. Unless the individual committed the action in a public manner that would cause the local ordinary to issue a statement about the automatic excommunication, the burden is on the offender to confess the sin and seek the removal of the penalty.

An excommunicated person is not to receive the sacraments. However, if he does so in violation of the law, the sacraments are valid. An excommunicated person who marries has illicitly but validly received the sacrament. In such circumstances the grace of the sacrament would be of no effect, since the person is in a state of mortal sin. In the case of confession, the sacrament would be invalid because all mortal sins must be confessed for a valid confession (CCC 1456), and if the individual withholds the action(s) that incurred automatic excommunication, he’d be withholding a mortal sin.”

According to Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, “excommunication does not expel the person from the Catholic Church, but simply forbids the excommunicated person from engaging in certain activities…” These activities are listed in Canon 1331 §1, and prohibit the individual from any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship; celebrating or receiving the sacraments; or exercising any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions.

Under current Catholic canon law, excommunicates remain bound by ecclesiastical obligations such as attending Mass, even though they are barred from receiving the Eucharist and from taking an active part in the liturgy (reading, bringing the offerings, etc.). “Excommunicates lose rights, such as the right to the sacraments, but they are still bound to the obligations of the law; their rights are restored when they are reconciled through the remission of the penalty.” They are urged to retain a relationship with the Church, as the goal is to encourage them to repent and return to active participation in its life.

Ed. It is the loss of graces which flow from the sacraments of the Church which places the soul in peril. Not the excommunication itself. There salvation probability moves from “likely” to “possible”, my words and interpretation. The Church states CCC 846 “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus (Outside the Church there is no salvation.)…Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; He is present to us in his body which is the Church…Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.  LG 14 implies a possibility only God can know, since He is the ultimate judge, and no one on earth is, not a certitude.

Love, and ultimate hope in Him & reunion with His Church, from which flows the fountains of grace necessary for salvation,
Matthew

The Evil of Socialism

“In 2019, 43 percent of Americans consider socialism to be a “good thing” and millennials are some of its strongest supporters.

Magazines such as Teen Vogue even run articles like “Everything You Should Know About Karl Marx” and “What ‘Capitalism’ Is and How It Affects People,” which says that millennials “expect a grand societal shift toward socialism” to counteract a “dystopian Mad Max nightmare” in which “rich plutocrats own everything.” Another poll found that half of young people say they would prefer life in a socialist country to a capitalist one.

But this flirtation with socialism is nothing new; in order to understand it, in fact, we need to go back to the Great Depression.

When you see how socialism thrived in that decade, you’ll understand why it’s making such a comeback today.

By the mid-1930s, following the stock market crash in 1929, the average family’s income had fallen 40 percent. But may- be they were the lucky ones compared to the 25 percent of Americans who were unemployed. For many people, volatile markets and greedy bankers were the villains responsible for taking people’s jobs and even their homes. In John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath, banks are described as “monsters” that men make but can’t control, and capitalists are depicted as heartless pursuers of profit. For example, in one scene Steinbeck describes farmers dousing oranges in kerosene as starving people look on, because this was necessary to keep the price of oranges from getting too low.

Steinbeck doesn’t tell his readers that it was the federal government that ordered the farmers to do this. However, he does describe the resentment many average people felt toward an economy that seemed to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor: “Men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits may be eaten . . . in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

Before 1929, the Communist Party USA was a marginal movement, but during the thirties its explosive growth in membership led later historians to call that decade “the hey-day of American Communism.” However, most critics of capitalism adopted a more moderate socialism focused on redistributing wealth instead of launching a worker’s revolution.

For example, Democratic senator Huey Long blamed the country’s economic crisis on the small number of people who he said owned most of the nation’s wealth. In his notorious “Share Our Wealth Speech,” Long declared:

[T]he rich people of this country—and by rich people I mean the super-rich—will not allow us to solve the problems, or rather the one little problem that is afflicting this country, because in order to cure all of our woes it is necessary to scale down the big fortunes, that we may scatter the wealth to be shared by all of the people.”

THE RETURN OF SOCIALISM

Long proposed that no one be allowed to possess more than $50 million. He claimed that confiscatory taxation on wealth above that amount could provide every family with enough money to own a home, automobile, and radio, meaning that “there will be no such thing as a family living in poverty and distress.”

Despite such lofty promises, socialism didn’t catch on in America, partly because it was associated with distinctly anti-American values. While reflecting on his unsuccessful 1936 bid for the California governorship, socialist Upton Sinclair said, “The American people will take socialism, but they won’t take the label. . . . Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to ‘End Poverty in California’ I got 879,000.”

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

In the 2010s, struggling American families were still reeling from the Great Recession, after which the average family’s income fell by 4 percent and nine million jobs were lost—doubling the unemployment rate to a high of 9.3 percent. What angered people the most, however, were policies that seemed to allow the wealthy to hoard the country’s wealth at the expense of the poor. In 2011, protesters took over lower Manhattan as part of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, carrying signs saying, “We are the 99 percent.”

That slogan came from economist Joseph Stiglitz’s article “Of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent,” in which Stiglitz claimed that 1 percent of the population controlled 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and that, although their incomes had risen over the past twenty-five years, the incomes of the lower classes were stagnant or had even fallen. He ominously concluded:

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.

Part of young people’s affection for socialism is grounded in a distrust of capitalism that grew out of the Great Recession.

Many millennials blamed the economic crisis on unregulated free markets, and polls show that between 2010 and 2018 their support for capitalism dropped from 68 percent to 45 percent. This skepticism made them the least likely generation in history to invest their savings for retirement. Some of them even believe retirement saving is pointless because, as one thirty-two-year-old political consultant put it, “I don’t think the world can sustain capitalism for another decade. It’s socialism or bust.””

Love,
Matthew