Category Archives: Theology

Gender

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Mutilation

(CCC 2297) “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.”

Sexual Identity

(CCC 2333) “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”

(CCC 2393) “By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”

Body and Soul

(CCC 364) “The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”

Pope Francis

Encyclical letter Laudato Si’ (2015)

(# 155) “Human ecology also implies another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law, which is inscribed in our nature and is necessary for the creation of a more dignified environment. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of an ‘ecology of man’, based on the fact that ‘man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will’. It is enough to recognize that our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

(# 56) “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.’ It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised. It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated.’ …It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to Updated August 7, 2019 3 replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”

(# 285) “Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for ‘thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centeredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension ‘to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.’

(# 286) “Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons, as well as other formative situations. It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore. But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories. It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy ‘exchanges’ which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an over accentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential.”

Address to Priests, Religious, Seminarians and Pastoral Workers during the Apostolic Journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan (October 1, 2016)

“You mentioned a great enemy to marriage today: the theory of gender. Today there is a world war to destroy marriage. Today there are ideological colonizations which destroy, not with weapons, but with ideas. Therefore, there is a need to defend ourselves from ideological colonizations.”

Address to the Polish Bishops during the Apostolic Journey to Poland (July 27, 2016)

“In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] ‘gender’. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible! “In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: ‘Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator’. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a ‘raw’ state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the ‘raw’ state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. ‘This is the age of sin against God the Creator’. That will help us.”

Address to Équipes de Notre Dame (September 10, 2015)

“This mission which is entrusted to them, is all the more important inasmuch as the image of the family — as God wills it, composed of one man and one woman in view of the good of the spouses and also of the procreation and upbringing of children — is deformed through powerful adverse projects supported by ideological trends.”

Address to the Bishops of Puerto Rico (June 8, 2015)

“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.” Full text General Audience on Man and Woman (April 15, 2015) “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it. Yes, we risk taking a step backwards. The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution.”

Address in Naples (March 23, 2015)

“The crisis of the family is a societal fact. There are also ideological colonializations of the family, different paths and proposals in Europe and also coming from overseas. Then, there is the mistake of the human mind — gender theory — creating so much confusion.”

Meeting with Families in Manila (January 16, 2015)

“Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family.”

Pope Benedict XVI

Encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (2005)

(# 5) “Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.”

(# 11) “While the biblical narrative does not speak of punishment, the idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become ‘complete’… Eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who ‘abandons his mother and father’ in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become ‘one flesh’. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfill its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage.”

Address to the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” (January 19, 2013)

“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”

Address to the Roman Curia (December 21, 2012)

“These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”

Address to the German Bundestag (September 22, 2011)

“…There is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.”

Pope St. John Paul II

Letter to Families (1994)

(# 6) “Man is created ‘from the very beginning’ as male and female: the light of all humanity… is marked by this primordial duality. From it there derive the ‘masculinity’ and the ‘femininity’ of individuals, just as from it every community draws its own unique richness in the mutual fulfillment of persons… Hence one can discover, at the very origins of human society, the qualities of communion and of complementarity.”

(# 19) “…the human family is facing the challenge of a new Manichaeanism, in which body and spirit are put in radical opposition; the body does not receive life from the spirit, and the spirit does not give life to the body. Man thus ceases to live as a person and a subject. Regardless of all intentions and declarations to the contrary, he becomes merely an object. This neo-Manichaean culture has led, for example, to human sexuality being regarded more as an area for manipulation and exploitation than as the basis of that primordial wonder which led Adam on the morning of creation to exclaim before Eve: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen 2:23).”

Theology of the Body

Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006)

(# 9:3) “The account of the creation of man in Genesis 1 affirms from the beginning and directly that man was created in the image of God inasmuch as he is male and female… man became the image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.”

(# 9:5) “Masculinity and femininity express the twofold aspect of man’s somatic constitution… and indicate, in addition… the new consciousness of the meaning of one’s body. This meaning, one can say, consists in reciprocal enrichment.”

(# 10:1) “Femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is ‘constitutive for the person’ (not only ‘an attribute of the person’), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as ‘he’ or ‘she’.”

(# 14:4) “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons.”

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World (2004)

(# 2) “In this perspective [i.e., that of gender ideology], physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”

(# 12) “Male and female are thus revealed as belonging ontologically to creation and destined therefore to outlast the present time, evidently in a transfigured form.”

Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics (1975)

(III) “… There can be no true promotion of man’s dignity unless the essential order of his nature is respected.”

Congregation for Catholic Education

“Male and Female He Created Them”: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education (2019)

(# 1) “It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and sexuality. In many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason”. The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning.” ** This entire document deals with gender theory and education. The above is the first paragraph.

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

(# 224) “Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: ‘Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. . . .’ According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage” (emphasis in original, internal citation omitted).

Pontifical Council for the Family

Family, Marriage and “De Facto” Unions (2000)

(# 8) “In the process that could be described as the gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the spread of a certain ideology of ‘gender’ should not be underestimated. According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined Updated August 7, 2019 8 fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the very bases of the family and inter-personal relationships are attacked.”

(# 8) “Starting from the decade between 1960-1970, some theories… hold not only that generic sexual identity (‘gender’) is the product of an interaction between the community and the individual, but that this generic identity is independent from personal sexual identity: i.e., that masculine and feminine genders in society are the exclusive product of social factors, with no relation to any truth about the sexual dimension of the person. In this way, any sexual attitude can be justified, including homosexuality, and it is society that ought to change in order to include other genders, together with male and female, in its way of shaping social life.”

USCCB: Various Documents

Chairmen Letter to U.S. Senators regarding ENDA Legislation (2013)

“ENDA’s definition of ‘gender identity’ lends force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality, which a person may choose at variance from his or her biological sex.”

ENDA Backgrounder (2013)

“ENDA defines ‘gender identity’ as ‘the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.’”

“ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity would lend the force of law to a tendency to view ‘gender’ as nothing more than a social construct or psychosocial reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. Second, ENDA’s treatment of ‘gender identity’ would adversely affect the privacy and associational rights of others. In this respect, ENDA would require workplace rules that violate the legitimate privacy expectations of other employees… Third, ENDA would make it far more difficult for organizations and employees with moral and religious convictions about the importance of sexual difference, and the biological basis of sexual identity, to speak and act on those beliefs.”

Chairmen Statement on ENDA-style Executive Order (2014)

“[The executive order] lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent… “The executive order prohibits ‘gender identity’ discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that ‘gender’ is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees.”

Chairmen Statement on Department of Labor Regulations (2014)

“The regulations published on December 3 [2014] by the U.S. Department of Labor implement the objectionable Executive Order that President Obama issued in July to address what the Administration has described as ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ discrimination in employment by federal contractors. . . . [T]he regulations advance the false ideology of ‘gender identity,’ which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees.”

Chairmen Statement on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (2013)

“Unfortunately, we cannot support the version of the ‘Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013’ passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate (S. 47) because of certain language it contains. Among our concerns are those provisions in S. 47 that refer to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity.’ All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union.”

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (5th Edition)

(# 53) “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.” (No. 70) “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization.”

For further related USCCB resources, see:

• USCCB, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009), https://www.usccb.org/resources/pastoral-letter-marriage-love-and-life-in-the-divine-plan.pdf

• USCCB, Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care (2006), https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/homosexuality/upload/minstry-persons-homosexual-inclination-2006.pdf

• Made for Each Other (video, viewer’s guide, and resource booklet), available at www.marriageuniqueforareason.org

Love & truth,
Matthew

Summa Theologiae


-by Br Simon Teller, OP

“If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s theological masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. This work has fed the minds of over 700 years of Catholic thinkers, and at least two popes have written laws to enshrine it within the syllabi of seminary professors (see the Code of Canon Law, can. 252 §3). With an import that is vast and perennial, the Summa has become one of the most important texts of Christian literature.

You probably have heard of the Summa, but do you know why Aquinas wrote it?

When St. Thomas began his work on the Summa Theologiae, he did not set out to write a timeless classic. Rather, he intended to meet a specific need of his own era (see Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work, 142–145).

During the 1260s, the Roman Province of the Dominican Order had a problem. Its intellectual life was in a sad state because the Roman friars had lost their ardor for study. Regrettably, many of them had forsaken the reading of sacred books. As a result, the preaching of the friars was beginning to run theologically dry, lacking the robust doctrinal character appropriate to the Dominican charism. Despite years of exhortations and commands from the Dominican powers-that-be, the friars had been unable to do anything to remedy the situation.

In 1265, the Dominican Order tasked St. Thomas with founding a center of studies at its Roman headquarters—Santa Sabina (Ed. one of my novitiate classmates, who could not sing, became Prior of Santa Sabina in Rome and Prior Provinical of the Eastern Province US). Select friars from throughout the Province would be sent to study there, with the hope that they would spread the intellectual zeal from this one house to the province’s other Dominican priories when these friars were sent out for further missions. As the assigned leader of this project, Aquinas was in charge of creating the program of theological formation that would be implemented at this new theological center.

To do this, he set to work charting a course of studies for the students of this new studium. In the process of writing and rewriting his courses, Aquinas produced a synthetic and doctrinally robust textbook for the theological formation of preachers and confessors: the Summa Theologiae.

As we now know, the Summa’s impact far surpassed Aquinas’s original, modest intentions. He had set out to provide for a particular need of his own time, namely, the revival of his province’s intellectual life. But his work far transcended the needs of the Roman Dominicans in the 1260s. For St. Thomas’s writings took on a transgenerational influence, fueling the intellectual zeal of the Church on a universal scale. The local need for a doctrinally rich textbook for beginners that Aquinas’s Summa met was also a need experienced by the whole Church.

St. Thomas did not begin this work with a view to producing a perennial masterpiece. His focus, rather, was on providing for the needs of his age. But God used Aquinas’s solicitude for a particular, local need to meet a need experienced by the whole Church throughout time.”

Love,
Matthew

The Hierarchy of Sin, Works, & Virtues

(Ed. I have always wished the Catholic Church would give a numerical 1-10 score to it’s teachings so that there might be some indication for each particular teaching how important it is.  Of course, humans being humans, controversy and acrimonious debate would immediately ensue amongst faithful Catholic theologians, let alone everybody else.  It would still help knuckle-draggers like me.)

“There is an idea among some Protestants that all sin is equal. Although tacitly recognizing that certain sinful actions are morally worse than others, they seem to get hung up on the idea that any sin is imperfection and any imperfection will keep someone out of heaven (this is why Jesus—who is perfect—must stand in our place). If this is the case, then any sin will send someone to hell, so any distinctions in gravity among sins is pointless. Therefore, all sin is equal. Sometimes they will quote St. James, who writes, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” ( James 2:10).

Now, common sense tells us otherwise. A Hyundai and a Lamborghini are both cars, but they are clearly not equal! All broken laws are broken laws, and anyone who breaks the law is a lawbreaker no matter which law he broke. That does not, however, mean that there is no hierarchy within the law. Indeed, it seems evident from numerous passages of Scripture that various sins can result in varying levels of punishment. Jesus tells the Pharisees that they will receive a greater condemnation for their actions (Mark 12:40). He tells his disciples that anyone who will not listen to what they say will be judged more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:14–15). James warns teachers that they will be judged more severely than others ( James 3:1). St. Peter says that for those who have come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ but then again defile themselves with the world, it would have been better if they had never known the way of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:20–22). John records Jesus saying that Judas has a greater sin than Pilate ( John 19:11).

We perceive a similar hierarchy when it comes to good works. Several times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that certain actions will lead to greater rewards (e.g., Matt. 5:11–12, 6:1–6, 16–20). How is it that these greater rewards are gained? Jesus said it’s according to what people do (Matt. 16:27). This concept is illustrated in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) and repeated by Paul in Romans 2:5–6: “He will render to every man according to his works.” Paul also distinguishes between the reward received by those whose good works endure and those whose do not: “If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved” (1 Cor. 3:14–15; cf. Rev. 20:12).

But although many Protestants typically shy away from assigning salvation-merit to good works or damnation- judgment to evil works, many agree there is indication that these very things are taught in Scripture. Evangelical apologist Norman Geisler, for example, lists degrees of happiness in heaven and punishment in hell as an area of agreement between Catholics and Evangelical Protestants: “As to the degree of punishment, Roman Catholicism holds that ‘The punishment of the damned is proportioned to each one’s guilt.’ Augustine taught that, ‘in their wretchedness, the lot of some of the damned will be more tolerable than that of others.’ Just as there are levels of blessedness in heaven, there are degrees of wretchedness in hell.”80

In Principle Protestants Agree: Moral common sense and Scripture teach that not all sins are equivalent.

In Particular Catholicism Affirms: Sins are not equivalent— either in seriousness or their effects on salvation.”


-by Robert Kennerson

https://www.wilmingtonfavs.com/medieval-philosophy-2/thomas-aquinas-on-the-neoplatonic-hierarchy-of-virtues.html

“Like Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas directly addresses the Neoplatonic theory of a hierarchy of virtues. The theory makes an appearance in the Summa Theologiae, where Aquinas, like Bonaventure in the Collations, does not attribute the theory to Porphyry but to Macrobius.40 The fifth article of question 61 (Iallae) asks: “Are the cardinal virtues appropriately divided into political, purifying, purified, and exemplar virtues?”41

After citing some Aristotelian (and one Ciceronian) objections that seem to arise from Macrobius’s account of virtue, Aquinas allows Macrobius to cite his own authority, whom Aquinas has no reason to doubt is “Plotinus, along with Plato.” To mediate this dispute, Aquinas appeals to Augustine, who says, “the soul must follow something so that virtue can be born in it; and this something is God, and if we follow Him we shall live a moral life.”42 From this, Aquinas concludes:

“…the exemplar of human virtue must pre-exist in God, just as the exemplars of all things pre-exist in Him. In this way, therefore, virtue can be considered as existing in its highest exemplification in God, and in this fashion we speak of exemplar virtues. Thus the divine mind in God can be called prudence, while temperance is the turning of the divine attention to Himself.. The fortitude of God is His immutability, while God’s justice is the observance of the eternal law in His works.”43

Aquinas’s discussion here recalls the words of Porphyry, cited above, concerning the exemplar virtues: “wisdom is nous cognizing; self-attention, temperance; peculiar function [justice], proper action. Valor is sameness, and a remaining pure of self-dependence, through abundance of power.”

Aquinas’s words are surprising because up until this point in the Summa, he has been speaking of virtue primarily in the political sense; “man is a political animal by nature,” and “manz comports himself rightly in human affairs by these [political] virtues.”44 But Aquinas acknowledges the philosophical necessity of understanding the political virtues as having their origin in higher virtues. Thus, in answer to the objection that Aristotle says it is inappropriate to attribute the virtues to God (NE, X, 8, 1178b 10), Aquinas answers that Aristotle must be speaking of the political virtues 45—for surely we would not want to deny to God any excellence of activity. And again, to the objection that the virtues concern the regulation of passions, and so could not exist if the soul was completely purified of passions, Aquinas says this is only true of the political virtues. Beatified souls, however, are without the passions of wayfaring souls; it is these souls which achieve the purer virtues. 46

To the objection that the purifying virtues cannot be virtues since they involve “flight from human affairs,” Aquinas agrees that “to neglect human affairs when they require attending to is wrong.” But otherwise such flight is virtuous. 47 Here, Aquinas appeals to Augustine, who says: “The love of truth needs a sacred leisure; the force of love demands just deeds. If no one places a burden upon us, then we are free to know and contemplate truth; but if such a burden is put upon us, we must accept it because of the demands of charity.”48

The purifying virtues, commonly called the contemplative virtues, are the virtues of “those who are on the way and tending toward a likeness of what is divine.” In agreement with Porphyry’s description of these virtues is Aquinas’:

Thus prudence, by contemplating divine things, counts all worldly things as nothing and directs all thought of the soul only to what is divine; temperance puts aside the customary needs of the body so far as nature permits; fortitude prevents the soul from being afraid of withdrawing from bodily needs and rising to heavenly things; and justice brings the whole soul’s accord to such a way of life.49

Above these are the “purified” virtues. Porphyry would attribute them only to the gods (all those other than the “father of the gods”), that is, to immaterial souls; Aquinas, in keeping with this, attributes these virtues to the souls of men who have been beatified— and even, it seems, to saints in this life:

…prudence now sees only divine things, temperance knows no earthly desires, fortitude is oblivious to the passions, and justice is united with the divine mind in an everlasting bond, by imitating it.50

Love,
Matthew

40 Albertus Magnus also mentions this Neoplatonic theory, attributing it to Plotinus (Albertus Magnus, Super Ethica Commentum et Quaestiones 2.2; 4:12; 5.3; 7.11).

41 ST1-2.61.5: “Utrum virtutes cardinales convenienter dividantur in virtutes politicas, purgatorias, purgati animi, et exemplares.”

42 Ibid., corpus: “Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut Augustinus dicit in libro de Moribus Eccles., oportet quod anima aliquid sequatur, ad hoc quod ei possit virtus innasci: et hoc Deus est, quern si sequimur, bene vivimus.” The citation of Augustine is from De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae 1.6.

43 ST1-2.61.5, corpus: “.exemplar humanae virtutis in Deo praeexistat, sicut et in eo praeexistunt omnium rerum rationes. Sic igitur virtus potest considerari vel prout est exemplariter in Deo, et sic dicuntur virtutes ‘exemplares’. Ita scilicet quod ipsa divina mens in Deo dicatur prudentia; temperantia vero, conversio divinae intentionis ad seipsum…; fortitude autem Dei est eius immutabilitas; iustitia vero Dei est observatio legis aeternae in suis operibus, sicut Plotinus dixit.” Cf. Quaestiones de Virtutibus Cardinalibus 1.4 (“Utrum virtutes cardinales maneant in patria”): “.fortitude divina est eius immobilitas; temperentia erit conversio mentis divinae ad seipsam; prudentia autem est ipsa mens divina; iustitia autem Dei ipsa lex eius perennis.”

44 ST1-2.61.5, corpus: “Et quia homo secundum suam naturam est animal politicum, virtutes huiusmodi, prout in homine existunt secundum conditionem suae naturae, politicae vocantur: prout scilicet homo secundum has virtutes recte se habet in rebus humanis gerendis. Secundum quern modum hactenus de his virtutibus locuti sumus.” Cf. 1-2.61.1, corpus: “.dicendum quod, cum simpliciter de virtute loquimur, intelligimur loqui de virtute humana.”

45 ST1-2.61.5, ad. 1: “.dicendum quod Philosophus loquitur de his virtutibus secundum quod sunt circa res humanas: puta iustitia circa emptiones et venditiones, fortitude circa timores, temperantia circa concupiscentias. Sic enim ridiculum est eas Deo attribuere.”

46 Ibid., ad. 2: “dicendum quod virtutes humanae sunt circa passiones, scilicet virtutes hominum in hoc mundo conversantium. Sed virtutes eorum qui plenam beatitudenem assequuntur, sunt absque passionibus.” Cf. Quaestiones de Virtutibus Cardinalibus 1.4: “Dicendum, quod in patria manent virtutes cardinales, et habebunt ibi alios actus quam hie.”

47 ST1-2.61.5, ad 3: “.dicendum quod deserere res humanas ubi necessitas imponitur, vitiosum est: alias est virtuosum.”

48 Augustine’s words are from De Civitate Dei 19.19.

49 ST1-2.61.5, corpus: “.quaedam sunt virtutes transeuntium et in divinam similitudinem tendentium: et hae vocantur virtutes purgatoriae. Ita scilicet quod prudentia omnia mundana divinorum contemplatione despiciat, omnemque animae cogitationem in divina sola diregat; temperantia vero relinquat, inquantum natura patitur, quae corporis usus requirit; fortitudinis autem est ut anima non terreatur propter excessum a corpore, et accessum ad superna; iustitia vero est ut tota anima consentiat ad huius propositi viam.”

50 Ibid.: “Quaedam vero sunt virtutes iam assequentium divinam similitudinem: quae vocantur virtutes iam purgati animi. Ita scilicet quod prudentia sola divina intueatur; temperantia terrenas cupiditates nesciat; fortitude passiones ignoret; iustitia cum divina mente perpetua foedere societur, earn scilicet imitando. Quas quidem virtutes dicimus esse beatorum vel aliquorum in hac vita perfectissimorum.” Cf. De Virtutibus Cardinalibus 1.4, ad. 7: “dicendum, quod virtutes purgati animi, quas Plotinus definiebat, possunt convenire beads nam prudentiae ibi est sola divina intueri; temperantiae, cupiditates oblivisci fortitudinis, passiones ignorare; iustitiae, perpetuum foedus cum Deo habere.’ Mark Jordan has suggested that in ST 1-2.67.1, Aquinas says that both the purifying and the purified virtues remain in patria (Jordan 1993, 239). In fact, in that question Aquinas says that in patria the “formal” element of the moral virtues remains without the “material” element, and Aquinas’ description of what these virtues are like is consistent with the position articulated in ST 12.61.5, that only purified virtues are had in patria.

Apparitions, Private Revelations, & Miracles

“Scripture gives us many passages that call us to reflect on the role of the supernatural in our lives of faith. St. Paul encourages us to be open to the supernatural when he reminds us, “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything, holding fast to what is good” (Thess. 5:19-21).

Although Christ worked many miracles of healing, He did not encourage the search for miracles: “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given them except the sign of Jonah” (Matt. 16:4). Christ hints in a parable about Lazarus that even otherworldly revelations will not persuade the world: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 17:31). When the resurrected Christ addresses Thomas, He seems to be addressing us if we seek signs and wonders in our own day: “Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

Despite asking us not to rest our faith entirely on miracles and to not get swept up in pursuing them, Jesus used miracles to draw people to him and encourage their faith. Even in our modern world, for many people, miracles are a connection to the supernatural that might inspire or enliven their belief and participation.

From the beginning of Scripture, God reveals Himself to humanity in major moments, from interactions with Adam in the creation account to Noah at the time of the Great Flood, to Moses, upon whom he bestows the Ten Commandments. There are at least 120 instances of revelation (dreams and visions) mentioned in the Old Testament.vi

Perhaps the Bible’s most famous dreamer was Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, who shared his revelations with his family, which resulted in his brothers plotting his death (Gen. 37:1-11). In one dream, the brothers of Joseph gathered bundles of grain that bowed to his own bundle. In another, the sun (his father), the moon (his mother), and eleven stars (his brothers) bowed down to Joseph himself.

Revelations continue in the New Testament. At the baptism of Christ, a voice from the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). At the Transfiguration where Jesus is transformed on the mountaintop and becomes radiant, the prophets Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus (Matt. 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). A voice from the sky again calls Him “Son.”

The most famous apparitions in Scripture are the numerous times Christ appeared to the apostles (1 Cor. 15:5) and other times to various disciples, including on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). In the early Church, the deacon Stephen saw a vision of the heavens open and Christ at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:55-56). The “visions and revelations” from the Lord (Cor. 12:1-6) are the impetus for the conversion of Saul (Gal. 1:11-16), setting him on the path to become Paul, the greatest missionary in Christian history. The final book of the New Testament, Revelation, relates the visions of St. John.

The revelations of the Bible received by prophets and apostles showcase a supernatural connection between the Church and the divine. Throughout Christian history, there have been stories of visions and divine messages, the most common being those attributed to the Virgin Mary. Some Protestants, skeptical of the power and significance that Catholicism affords her, may doubt these reports, but the scriptural basis for Mary’s role in her Son’s saving work cannot be ignored:

  • Through her God the Father sent Christ to us physically.
  • Elizabeth received the grace of God through the mouth of Mary (Luke 1:44).
  • Jesus’ first miracle—the wedding feast at Cana—and the beginning of his public ministry came at her request (John 2:4).
  • From the cross, Jesus entrusted her to the care of St. John and symbolically to the care of all believers (John 19:26-27).

Although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5-6), St. Paul has no problem asking the rest of us (including Mary) to be subordinate mediators as he asks us to pray for each other (Rom. 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:25, 1 Tim. 2:1). When we embrace the messages of Church-approved revelations of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, and reflect on the scriptural accounts of God’s tangible intrusions in the human experience, we appreciate more deeply God’s fatherly care for us and better understand His plan for salvation and our participation in it.”

Love, Lord, Holy Mary, all ye holy men and women, be near to me,
Matthew

Lord, lunatic, liar

“Some people think of Jesus as a remarkable man but basically in the same category as Buddha, Moses, Confucius, and Gandhi: a good man, a holy man, but just a man.

This view, however, is hard to reconcile with what Jesus says and does. Jesus claims to be Lord over the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-5). Jesus forgives sins committed against God (Mark 2:5-12). Jesus says He is the one Who gives eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus says no one can convict Him of sin (John 8:46). Jesus changed the name of Simon to Peter (Matt. 16:13-19). As Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli point out, “For a Jew, changing names was something only God could do, for your name was not just a human, arbitrary label but your real identity, which was given to you by God alone. In the Old Testament, only God changed names, and destinies—Abram became Abraham, Sari became Sarah, Jacob became Israel.”iii Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

And when His life was threatened and His enemies surrounded Him, Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” In attributing the sacred name of God, “I AM,” to Himself, Jesus was making Himself equal to God. His enemies understood this as blasphemy: “So they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.” (John 8:57-59). Given the claims that Jesus makes about Himself, is it reasonable to believe that Jesus was simply a holy man and wise teacher?

In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis answers no. In fact, he says this is the one thing we can’t say about Jesus. “A man who was merely a man,” Lewis writes, “and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice.” Lewis outlines three possibilities. Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. He could not have been simply a good person, a saintly sage.

Was Jesus a liar?

One possibility is that Jesus knew He was not God but said He was; in other words, He deliberately lied. But it is hard to believe that a man hailed throughout the centuries as a paragon of goodness could have spent His life intentionally misleading and deceiving His disciples in this way.  If Jesus knew He was not God but claimed to be God nevertheless, He wasn’t a good person—He was the worst religious charlatan of all time. If Jesus lied to His disciples about being God, then He misled to their violent deaths those who trusted Him most. He also led billions of people into the sin of idolatry. No, if He deliberately deceived others about His identity, Jesus was not a holy man, but a deeply narcissistic and malicious person.

This is not how most people perceive the Jesus of the Gospels. His life was so radically unlike other religious hucksters who claim to be God (or a prophet of God). Con artists claim to be God in order to amass wealth and a harem of young women to be their brides.  But the character of Jesus is radically unlike that of a con man. He amassed no wealth and did not have even one wife, let alone a harem. Jesus did not seek power—“My kingdom is not of this world,” He said (John 18:36)—but rather laid down His life as a suffering servant. Jesus did not act like a lying con artist.

Was Jesus a lunatic?

If Jesus was not a liar, was He perhaps just mistaken about His identity? Maybe He wasn’t a liar because although He was not God He really thought He was God. In other words, Jesus was massively mistaken, but not a deliberate deceiver.

If Jesus was not divine but honestly and mistakenly thought He was, then Jesus was not a wise person. He was, therefore, very unlike Confucius, or Moses, or a sage. Kreeft and Tacelli note, “There are lunatics in asylums who sincerely believe they are God. The ‘divinity complex’ is a recognized form of pathology. Its character traits are well known: egoism, narcissism, inflexibility, dullness, predictability and an inability to understand and love others as they really are and creatively relate to others.”  But Jesus is radically unlike a lunatic babbling in an insane asylum. His moral teachings stressed the importance of loving your neighbor, forgiving your enemies, and caring for those in need.

Moreover, the way Jesus responds to the traps set for Him indicates not a raving madman totally disconnected from reality but someone with practical wisdom. Consider, for example, when His enemies bring to him a woman caught in adultery. They set a brilliant trap: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” If Jesus says she should not be stoned, then He is acting against the laws of the community and against the authority of Moses. His enemies could then accuse Him of heresy and rebellion. If Jesus says that she should be stoned, then He is acting against His own teaching to show mercy to others. His enemies can then accuse Him of self-contradiction. Whatever He says, His enemies think they have Him trapped.

Jesus replies, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In saying this, Jesus avoids acting against the Law of Moses, avoids contradicting Himself, and convicts those who want to stone her of their own sin. In the wisdom of His teaching and in the prudence of His actions, Jesus shows He is no madman.

Now, if Jesus was not a liar (because that would make him evil), and Jesus was also not a lunatic (because everything He says and does in the Gospel suggests otherwise), this only leaves the option that Jesus was Who He claimed to be: one with the Father; the Way, the Truth and the Life; and the Son of God.”

Love,
Matthew

Salvation requires perseverance – 1 Jn 5:13


-“Christ Persevering with His Cross” – by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (b. 1696, Venezia, d. 1770, Madrid), from Sant’Alvise, Venice, Italy, 1737-38, oil on canvas, 450 x 517 cm. The subject of the painting is Christ’s carrying of the cross to the hill of Golgotha, which rises up in the centre of the picture as a tall rock, the crosses already erected upon it. Directly beneath it in the foreground we see Christ in a flame-red robe. He has collapsed under the heavy weight of the cross. To the right, Veronica, holding the sudarium, turns away from the dramatic scene, visibly moved. To the left, the two thieves likewise condemned to crucifixion are being led forward. In the exact center of the picture, between Christ’s cross and the hill of Golgotha, and directly facing the viewer, are the figures of Jesus’ disciples, together with Mary and Mary Magdalene. Brightly illuminated, they stand out symbolically from the other figures. Please click on the image for greater detail.

He who perseveres unto the end will be saved.-Mt 10:22


-by Karlo Broussard

“Contrary to Catholic belief, some Protestants teach that once we believe in Jesus we can be absolutely sure we’re going to heaven. They quote 1 John 5:13 as a proof text: “I write this . . . that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Does this text teach what some Protestants think?

The term “knowledge” can be used for different kinds of intellectual certainty. Sometimes, it is used to convey absolute certitude. For example, I know that 1 + 1 = 2.

But “knowledge” can also be used in a way that doesn’t imply absolute certitude. For example, I may say that I “know” I’m going to earn an A on my philosophy exam because I’ve studied hard and I’m familiar with the material. But that doesn’t mean that I have infallible knowledge (knowledge without the possibility of error), since I could very well goof up and get a B. Rather, I have a reasonable expectation.

Since the term knowledge can take the form of either absolute certitude or reasonable expectation, it’s wrong to conclude that we can have absolute assurance that we’re going to heaven just because John says that his readers can “know” they have eternal life.

So, this raises the question: How did John intend for us to understand “know” in this case?

Some Protestants will argue that it’s a knowledge that entails absolute certitude because it’s revealed that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Since John’s words in 1 John 5:13 are directed at those who “believe in the name of the Son of God,” it follows that their knowledge that they will attain eternal life at the end of their lives entails absolute certitude.

The problem here is that John also teaches his readers must persevere in belief until the end of their lives in order to attain eternal life, as we see in 1 John 2:5: “Whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in Him”.

Then, in verse 24, John writes,

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He has promised us, eternal life.”

John’s readers have heard from the beginning that Jesus is the Christ and they need to confess Him as such (v.22). The talk of this Gospel message abiding in them refers to belief in that Gospel message. It also refers to loving our neighbor (1 John 3:11). The implication, therefore, is that continued belief in the Gospel message, and love of neighbor, is necessary to abide in the Son and in the Father. And since to abide in the Son and in the Father is to have eternal life, it follows that continued belief in the Gospel message, which works through love (Gal. 5:6), is necessary to attain eternal life.

This motif of perseverance in faith and love unto the end has its roots in the teaching of Jesus. Consider, for example, Matthew 10:22, where Jesus says, “He who perseveres unto the end will be saved.”

We know this perseverance entails continued belief in and love for Jesus and that he’s referring to eternal salvation because just a few verses later Jesus teaches that our being acknowledged before the Father (being numbered among the elect and thus having eternal life—cf. Rev. 3:5) is dependent on whether we acknowledge him before men: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (vv. 32-33).

Now that we know John believes his Christian readers must persevere in faith to attain eternal life at the end of their lives, the question becomes, “How could John’s readers possibly know with absolute certitude that they would persevere in faith unto the end of their lives?”

They couldn’t know by way of philosophical demonstration, since knowing which persons God has eternally decreed to give the grace of final perseverance to is beyond the reach of reason on its own.

They couldn’t know by way of public revelation, because no inspired writing at the time John writes this letter names any of the Christians to whom John is writing as numbered among the elect. Nor does the Bible ever say believers in general will all persevere. To suggest otherwise would make passages that warn Christians about falling away from Christ unintelligible (cf. 1 Cor. 10:12— “Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall”).

The only other possible way that John’s readers could have had absolute certitude concerning their final perseverance is by way of private revelation, which would involve Jesus appearing to them and telling them that they would persevere. But there’s no evidence that John’s readers did have such experiences, nor is there any evidence that John knew about such experiences.

Since these are the only ways that John’s audience could possibly have absolute certitude that they would finally persevere in faith, it’s reasonable to conclude that the knowledge John speaks of in 1 John 5:13 is not the kind of knowledge that involves absolute certitude. Rather, he speaks of a knowledge that entails confident expectation.

A Protestant might object that we haven’t exhausted all the options for private revelation. Maybe John didn’t think Jesus appeared to his readers in a vision. But he would have known they received the inner testimony of the Spirit that they are children of God, for Paul writes, “It is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16).

The problem here is that to be a child of God is distinct from receiving after death the inheritance of eternal life that belongs to his children. One can be a child and still forfeit his inheritance. As such, the interior witness of the Spirit that Christians are children of God doesn’t entail absolute certitude that all will persevere in faith to receive and enjoy their inheritance of eternal life at the end of their lives.

In sum, John is consistent with the entirety of Scripture, which says we as Christians have to persevere in faith to receive the reward of eternal life at the end of our lives. We showed above that none of the ways one can arrive at absolute certitude concerning perseverance in faith applies to John’s audience. Therefore, the knowledge that John says his audience can have concerning the possession of eternal life is not the kind of knowledge that involves absolute certitude. As such, a Protestant can’t appeal to 1 John 5:13 as biblical support of the idea that Christians can know with absolute certitude that they will attain heaven at the end of their lives once they become believers.

St. Paul would have fit right in with John’s readers, since he didn’t have such certain knowledge of his final salvation. He writes, “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted [Greek, dedikaiōmai—“justify; declare righteous”]. It is the Lord Who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4).

This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t have any knowledge. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, by virtue of the theological virtue of hope we can a “confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God” (CCC 2090). That’s certainly a knowledge that we can rejoice in.”

O Jesus, my Savior, my God, by Thy Sacred Heart, by the most pure Heart of the Virgin Mother, by whatever is pleasing to Thee on heaven and on earth, I beg and entreat Thee, grant me holy perseverance, grant me patience. Give me grace and courage that I may efficaciously employ the means which Thou hast given.

Love, with my last breath, free of mortal sin, may the last words on my lips be, “Jesus!  Jesus!”
Matthew

What time of the year was Jesus actually born? Is Christmas pagan? -Jer 10:1-4


-by Jimmy Akin, “A Daily Defense

Do environmental conditions contradict what the Gospels claim?

CHALLENGE: Christians are wrong to celebrate Christmas on December 25. Jesus couldn’t have been born then. It would have been too cold for the shepherds to keep their flocks outdoors (Luke 2:8).

DEFENSE: There are several problems with this challenge.

First, the Catholic Church celebrates Jesus’ birth on December 25, but this is a matter of custom rather than doctrine. It is not Church teaching that this is when Jesus was born (note that the matter isn’t even mentioned in the Catechism).

Second, although most Christians today celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25, this was not the only date proposed. Around A.D. 194, Clement of Alexandria stated Christ was born November 18. Other early proposals included January 10, April 19 or 20, and May 20 (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 2nd ed., §488, §553). By far the most common proposals, however, were January 6 (ibid., §§554-61) and December 25 (ibid., §§562-68).

While the last was eventually adopted by the Catholic Church for use in its liturgy, the fact that the Church did not declare alternate proposals heretical shows the matter was not considered essential to the Faith.

Third, the proposals that put Jesus’ birth in the colder part of the year (November 18, December 25, January 6, and January 10) are not ruled out by the fact that there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night.

Ancient Jews did not have large indoor spaces for housing sheep. Flocks were kept outdoors during winter in Judaea, as they are elsewhere in the world today, including in places where snow is common (search for “winter sheep care” on the Internet). Sheep are adapted to life outdoors. That’s why they have wool, which keeps body heat in and moisture out.

Sheep are kept outdoors in winter in Israel today: “William Hendricksen quotes a letter dated Jan. 16, 1967, received from the New Testament scholar Harry Mulder, then teaching in Beirut, in which the latter tells of being in Shepherd Field at Bethlehem on the just-passed Christmas Eve, and says: ‘Right near us a few flocks of sheep were nestled. Even the lambs were not lacking. . . . It is therefore definitely not impossible that the Lord Jesus was born in December’” (ibid., §569).

The Prophecy of Immanuel

Could the Gospel writer have misunderstood the Old Testament prophecy?

CHALLENGE: Matthew misunderstands Isaiah’s prophecy of Immanuel (Isa. 7:14). It doesn’t point to Jesus.

DEFENSE: Matthew understands the prophecy better than you think.

The biblical authors recognized Scripture as operating on multiple levels. For example, Matthew interprets the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt as a fulfillment of the prophetic statement, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” In its original context, it is obvious the “son” of God being discussed is Israel: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt, I called my son” (Hos. 11:1).

Matthew understood this. He had read the first half of the verse and knew that, on the primary, literal level, the statement applied to the nation of Israel. But he recognized that on another level it applied to Christ as the divine Son who recapitulates and fulfills the aspirations of Israel.

In the same way, it is obvious in Isaiah that on the primary, literal level the prophecy of Immanuel applied to the time of King Ahaz (732-716 B.C.). At this point, Syria had forged a military alliance with the northern kingdom of Israel that threatened to conquer Jerusalem (Isa. 7:1-2). God sent Isaiah to reassure Ahaz the alliance would not succeed (Isa. 7:3-9) and told him to name a sign that God would give him as proof (Isa. 7:10-11).

Ahaz balked and refused to name a sign (Isa. 7:12), so God declared one: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. . . . For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted” (Isa. 7:14-16).

For this sign to be meaningful to Ahaz, it would have to be fulfilled in his own day—indeed, very quickly. It therefore points, on the primary, literal level, to a child conceived at that time (perhaps Ahaz’s son, the future King Hezekiah).

This was as obvious to Matthew as it is to us, but—like the other New Testament authors—he recognized the biblical text as having multiple dimensions, so the prophecy was not only fulfilled in Ahaz’s day but also pointed to Christ as “Immanuel” (Hebrew, “God with us”).

Is Christmas Pagan?

From Saturnalia to Sol Invictus, there is no shortage of theories

CHALLENGE: Christmas is based on a pagan holiday.

DEFENSE: There are multiple responses to this challenge.

First, which pagan holiday are we talking about? Sometimes Saturnalia—a Roman festival honoring the god Saturn—is proposed. But Saturnalia was held on December 17 (and later extended through December 23). It wasn’t December 25.

Another proposal is Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Latin, “The Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun”), but the evidence this was the basis of the dating of Christmas is problematic. The Christian Chronography of A.D. 354 records the “Birthday of the Unconquerable” was celebrated on that date in 354 AD, but the identity of “the Unconquerable” is unclear. Since it’s a Christian document that elsewhere (twice) lists Jesus’ birthday as December 25, it could be the Unconquerable Christ—not the sun—whose birth was celebrated.

Second, correlation is not causation. Even if Christmas and Sol Invictus were both on December 25, Christmas might have been the basis of Sol Invictus, or the reverse, or it might just be a coincidence. If you want to claim the date of Sol Invictus is the basis for the date of Christmas, you need evidence.

Third, that evidence is hard to come by. Even if the Chronology of A.D. 354 refers to Sol Invictus being celebrated on December 25, this is the first reference to the fact, and we know some Christians held that Jesus was born on that date long before 354 AD.

For example, St. Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-c. 240) stated in his commentary on Daniel that Jesus was born on December 25, and he wrote around a century and a half before 354 (see Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 2nd ed., §562). Further, Sol Invictus wasn’t even an official Roman cult until 274 AD, when the Emperor Aurelian made it one.

Fourth, if Christians were subverting Sol Invictus, we should find the Church Fathers saying, “Let’s subvert Sol Invictus by celebrating Christmas instead.” But we don’t. The Fathers who celebrate December 25 sincerely think that’s when Jesus was born (ibid., §§562-567).

Finally, even if Christmas was timed to subvert a pagan holiday, so what? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and celebrating the birth of Christ is a good thing. So is subverting paganism. If the early Christians were doing both, big deal!”

Love, He comes!!!!
Matthew

Are indulgences a scam?

Christ’s sacrifice in no way is lacking. The Lord, in His glorious mercy, permits, gifts, provides the grace to participate with Him, albeit unnecessary in the strictest sense, to join His redemption of ourselves/others. Catholicism has a very “group” view, as opposed to an individualistic view. Catholics do not interpret the Holy Scriptures definitively themselves. The Church does and always has done so, which it is incumbent upon the faithful to assent as part of being Catholic. The entirety of Scripture definitively being defined about the 4th century AD.

The money allusions are a poor one, but the closest to the definition we have, and in so using, takes on the negative inferences of the limping analogy. We must imitate the Master in EVERY way!!! Praise Him.

NO ONE is counting!!!! We trust in the promises of the Lord. But, it gives the Catholic a salutory meaning to suffering, either for their own need or that of others, communal Treasury of Merit. It belongs to all of us. The value of suffering is never meaningless, pointless, or wasted.

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

The Sin of Scandal


-millstones, please click on the image for greater detail

In the Septuagint, the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek, the Hebrew מִכְשֹׁל, miḵšōl is translated into Koine Greek skandalon (σκανδαλον), a word which occurs only in Hellenistic literature, in the sense “snare for an enemy; cause of moral stumbling”. In the Septuagint Psalms 140:9 a stumbling block means anything that leads to sin.

“Scandal” is discussed by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica.[11][12] In the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is discussed under the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) section “Respect for the Dignity of Persons”.[13]

Active scandal is performed by a person; passive scandal is the reaction of a person to active scandal (“scandal given” or in Latin scandalum datum), or to acts which, because of the viewer’s ignorance, weakness, or malice, are regarded as scandalous (“scandal received” or in Latin scandalum acceptum).[14]

In order to qualify as scandalous, the behavior must, in itself, be evil or give the appearance of evil.[15]  To do a good act or an indifferent act, even knowing that it will inspire others to sin — as when a student studies diligently to do well, knowing it will cause envy — is not scandalous.[15]  Again, to ask someone to commit perjury is scandalous, but for a judge to require witnesses to give an oath even when he knows the witness is likely to commit perjury is not scandalous.[15]  It does not require that the other person actually commit sin; to be scandalous, it suffices that the act is of a nature to lead someone to sin.[15]  Scandal is performed with the intention of inducing someone to sin.[15]   Urging someone to commit a sin is therefore active scandal.[15]  In the case where the person urging the sin is aware of its nature and the person he is urging is ignorant, the sins committed are the fault of the person who urged them.[15]  Scandal is also performed when someone performs an evil act, or an act that appears to be evil, knowing that it will lead others into sin.[15]  (In case of an apparently evil act, a sufficient reason for the act despite the faults it will cause negates the scandal.[15])  Scandal may also be incurred when an innocent act may be an occasion of sin to the weak, but such acts should not be foregone if the goods at stake are of importance.[16]


-by David Dashiell

“Our words and actions must be building blocks for other people’s faith—not stumbling blocks that trip them into hell.

Lately, we’ve had many occasions to think about the sin of scandal. Whether certain high-profile Catholics and members of the hierarchy have truly been guilty of scandal or whether the media have just been taking reports out of context depends on each case; nonetheless, a lot of the faithful are suffering from it.

Although the word scandal is derived from the Greek skandalon (a trap or snare laid for an enemy), we’re used to it being used to describe salacious tabloid stories. But the sin of scandal has a different and more precise meaning. So what exactly is scandal?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal (CCC 2284) as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death.” Our Lord militates against scandal, and even ties a curse to those who promote it: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6).

The Catechism explains that scandal is greater according to the authority of the one scandalizing. It is one thing for a four-year-old to say, “Jesus isn’t the Son of God,” but it would be another thing entirely for a bishop to say this. Because of the authority of the episcopate, the bishop can influence more people more effectively, increasing the gravity of the harm done to those who hear him. If the faithful (or unfaithful) believe him, they move away from Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers us.

This example displays a second, closely related element of scandal: it increases when the speaker has a duty to teach the truth. Since people trust their bishops to teach them the true Catholic faith, their errors are particularly harmful. Even when the faithful don’t believe it, the above statement is still scandalous. The faithful feel betrayed by their shepherd, who should be witnessing to Christ’s truth. This can cause a mistrust of the hierarchy and a disrespect for the priesthood.

The Catechism names two more factors that can increase the gravity of scandal. It becomes more grave when the scandalized person is especially weak or when others are deliberately led into grave sin. Given the poorly formed faith of so many Catholics, this means that today the opportunities for scandal are many. The improperly catechized can easily mistake vice for virtue and be led into sin.

In cases where scandal occurs but is less grave, it may lead to a simple misunderstanding. In the graver cases described above, scandal can encourage a gravely improper view of reality, to the point that a person sees good as evil and evil as good. In the most severe cases, as when a Catholic leader endorses a sinful lifestyle, someone could get the wrong idea about God, the Church, or salvation, causing him to run towards hell while thinking that he is closing in on heaven. This potential is amplified when the listeners are young and impressionable.

Catholic leaders aren’t the only ones with the potential to give scandal. We all have to guard against it, for it can take many forms, usually regardless of our intentions. So it is important that we honestly ask ourselves how we can avoid causing scandal.

We should first realize that scandal can be caused by the truth, too. Although we usually think of scandal in the context of a flagrant lie about the Faith, in fact it can come from any attitude or behavior that leads another to do evil—including the way we present true assertions.

If I had evidence, for example, that certain bishops were the subjects of adulterous affairs, it might not be good to share that true information with certain people, especially if they are not well-formed in the Faith. Such a claim might cause the hearer to doubt the bishops’ legitimate authority as successors to the apostles, or even lead to apostasy. And so we must be attentive to the condition and disposition of those to whom we speak (or witness by our actions). We must also be attentive to speaking the truth in the proper manner to avoid scandal.

For another example of scandal caused by truth, take this situation: perhaps there is a notorious felon who attends a parish, and everyone knows what he’s doing. When confronted by upset parishioners, the pastor replies, “Look, he really loves his family. His many good actions should speak for themselves.” In this case, the pastor’s words may be true, but he scandalizes by omission: he does not denounce the sin. This could easily lead the less knowledgeable to think that the Church condones certain sins.

Of course, there’s a difference between the natural consequences of an action and unintended or even unlikely consequences. In the previous two examples, the speaker unintentionally scandalized through imprudence and omission. However, if we proclaim God’s love to a troubled soul, and he takes that as a catalyst to double down on his despair, we have not given scandal. His sin isn’t caused by our good message, but by his own resistance to that message. There were circumstances that made our efforts powerless.

If we want to avoid scandal, it is not enough to avoid imprudence and omission. We should also steer clear of “hot takes.” In the era of social media, when so many are quick to promote emotional and uncharitable discussion, even well-intentioned Catholics are at risk of causing scandal. It is especially important that we slow down and avoid mere reactions to the torrent of bad news with which we are daily confronted. When we take both our message and our audience into account, we are much less likely to scandalize.

This drives home what is most important: to truly avoid scandal, we must speak the truth in charity, within the proper context. This means charity towards the subject and charity towards our audience. When speaking about a public figure, we should freely speak about his good qualities while carefully addressing his problematic statements. We ought to take care that his dignity is preserved in the process. When we are talking to someone who is quick to be suspicious, we need to make sure that we are not feeding his prejudice. We may need to address that prejudice towards suspicion before sharing what we have heard. In every situation, we should make sure that we are never giving others an excuse to turn away from Christ or his Church.

Perhaps now more than ever, scandal is being caused by those who never intended to mislead. In response, we ought to take seriously our duty to live the Catholic faith with integrity. We must pray unceasingly, frequent the sacrament of confession, and worthily receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Armed with these tools, we are much better prepared to evangelize effectively in the public square and not unwittingly turn souls away from God.”

Love, trust Him, obey Him,
Matthew

-Vander Heeren, Achille (1912). “Scandal”. Catholic Encyclopedia.

13 “Part three: Life in Christ / Section two: The Ten Commandments / Chapter two: You shall love your neighbor as yourself / Article 5: The fifth commandment / ii. Respect for the dignity of persons”. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Holy See. 1992. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
14 Vander Heeren 1912, “Divisions”
15 a b c d e f g h i Vander Heeren 1912, “Cases in which the sin of scandal occurs (1)”
16 Vander Heeren 1912, “Cases in which the sin of scandal occurs (3)”

Abuse/misuse of Creation, which is Good


-Matthew 25:31-46


-by Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., a convert from Episcopalianism

“Why does Christ, our great King and Judge, call those on his right “you who are blessed by my Father” but those on his left “accursed”—not “accursed by my Father”?…

…The fact is that if we really understand sin and virtue, we will see that every material aspect of a sin is not something bad or evil; all the aspects of the things we want to do or say or think about or use are just good, created qualities. When we misuse those good things slightly or seriously, we sin. The misuse is not due to their nature, but to our own self-will. Beautiful bodies, sums of wealth, effective words, possessions, associations, skills, and talents are all good in themselves. It is our willed misuse of them that constitutes sin.

This is necessarily true because everything is created by God, and God did not create anything evil. Even our will is so good that we cannot choose evil unless we pretend to ourselves that it is really good. Evil is not a thing; it is rather something missing, a lack of good, a disorder.

This has everything to do with how Christ our Lord and Creator judges and rewards our actions. He rewards those who are about to enter heaven for using the good things that God has given them so as to fulfill his commandments; that is, to do his will. Their actions showed that they prayed sincerely, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and now they are finally going there! They were positively blessed by the Father because they are going to that happiness that was prepared for all human goodness by the creator of human goodness.

They sinned, yes, but their love, especially their works of mercy (yes, that’s what Our Lord says!) made them blessed by the Father, since these very works and their reward were prepared for them by Him. God is the Creator of all things, but most of all of loving persons and their actions. “Love covers a multitude of sins,” the apostle tells us.

In the case of those who are sent away to the fires of hell, yes, they are accursed, but not “by my Father.” St. Thomas, explicitly following Origen on this point, tells us that the blessed are blessed by God, but those who are cursed have their own curse that does not come from Him. Their curse cannot ultimately be the work of God. He can bless after a curse, but He does not curse definitively because His curse is ultimately not on any of His creatures, but only on sin.

Thomas, following St. Gregory, says that God takes no delight or complacency in the condemnation of the wicked; rather He loves His goodness and therefore cannot love, cannot reward, the evil in which they persist. Hell, Gregory tells us, is not for any good nature, angelic or human, but is prepared simply for sin. Heaven, on the other hand, is God and all he has created come to the fullest perfection. Compared to this, hell is a shadow as close to nothing as nothing can be.

“And of his fullness, we have all received,”(Jn 1:16) St. John tells us. This can give us some insight into the mercy of God. He really does not hate the sinner (that means you and me!), but only the sin. Hell is the condemnation of a sinful will, and only accidentally the eternal condemnation of those who will not rid themselves of it. Christ our King knows that everything you have, and especially the will that you can use to love or offend Him, is good and comes from Him. He loves your will even more than you do. Just as the baby’s mother loves his potential health and happiness more than he does, even though she knows he can resist her love.

So let’s not be stubborn, loving our own will against our own true good, but repent and begin to love as our King enthroned in judgment has taught us, and then some great day we will hear Him say, “Come, blessed of my Father…””

His Love, joy, blessedness, beatitude,
Matthew