Category Archives: Theology

The Cruelty of Error

Tolerance is NOT a Christian virtue.


-by Br Philip Nolan, OP

“Here’s an open secret: Many young Catholics disagree or struggle with the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. Not only do they struggle—as have generations—with the call to chastity, but they also doubt the Church’s basic claims about what sexuality is for. Even among those who wish to be faithful, many simply can’t see how the Church’s teaching about sexuality could ever be something other than an embarrassment. And, from a cultural standpoint, it’s easy to see why.

Consider the experience of teenagers and college students. Every day, they confront a certain set of questions. “You want to be accepting of others, right?” Yes, I’m no bigot. “You want to support people in their pursuit of happiness?” Of course! “Well, these people, perhaps some of them good friends, have discovered that they are attracted romantically to someone of the same sex and, therefore, unless you are bigoted or against people being happy, you will support their seeking to fulfill this desire.” This line of questioning becomes even more acute if one has some uncertainties about one’s own attractions.

Now, more and more, we see the same logic spreading. “You want to be accepting, right?” “You want to support people in their pursuit of happiness?” “Well, these people have discovered that they have to surgically reconfigure their bodies in order to be happy, so you will support them, right?”

Young Catholics find themselves caught between the latest form of self-identification and a Church whose precepts they do not understand. Humans can only live with this cognitive contradiction for so long, before having to jettison either Church teaching or the ideologies of the day.

They have many motivations to reject Church teachings: being on “the right side of history,” acceptance by peers, perceived self-fulfillment, and, increasingly, employability.

What’s the case for staying true to the Church? On this matter, the Church preaches two words of good news: First, although the world has fallen in profound ways, God made the world good and providentially guides it. And second, the Church preaches the truth of Christ crucified.

God’s good ordering shapes the world. How is this good news? Our interior experience does not create the world. Especially in an age in which the young are consumed by anxiety and depression, this truth is great news. We can confront our fears by contemplating the way the world actually is. You will not die if you get a C on one test. Your life won’t be over if you make a fool of yourself in front of friends. God is totally in control.

As our fears can deceive us, so too can our desires. So often we desire what will in reality make us miserable. The Church’s teaching frees us from the tyranny of our often misaimed desires by introducing us to the designs of God.

The goodness of the world does not negate the fact that we suffer. Unfulfilled desires cause us to suffer—this is true whether the desires point us to something contrary to what the Church teaches or not. But by suffering the unfulfillment of desires we know to be misaimed, we allow God to begin to heal us at the deepest level. Christ crucified gives meaning to our suffering. His suffering makes ours a place of profound intimacy with God. He has given us a promise that the suffering we bear for Him is not in vain.

Perhaps these two points don’t immediately seem to sway the balance in favor of choosing God and His Church. To sum up the case: we will suffer if we let God reshape our hearts to accord with the goodness of reality. But, in the long run, we will be much more miserable if we try to reshape the world according to our broken desires. So we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom 13:14), knowing that “the world and its desires are passing away” (1 John 2:17). In the end, it is cruel to affirm otherwise. The choice is becoming starker—in one sense harder, in another sense clearer: God or the world, truth or error, life or death. The Church teaches a freeing truth, and “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:28).”

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” -Dt 30:15-20

Love & truth,
Matthew

Ecce, Res & Objective Truth


-“Ecce homo”, Andrea Mantegna, 1500, tempera on canvas, 72 cm × 54 cm (28 in × 21 in), Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. In the painting, two messages can be seen in Latin script: Crvcifige evm[.] tolle evm[.] crvcifige crvc[…] (“crucify him, trap him, crucify [in the cross]”) to the left and to the right the similar Crvcifige evm crvcifige tolle eṽ crvcifige (“crucify him, crucify, trap him, crucify”). The text on the left pretends to be pseudo-Hebrew in cursive script.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Ephrem Maria Reese, OP

“One thing that frustrates some, and fascinates others, about philosophical study, is that it takes ordinary things and makes them very, very complicated…

One feature of Catholic thinking that now fascinates people goes under the name “objective truth.” For many people, secular and religious alike, our world has been affected by “the turn to the subject,” or the tendency to say that truth mostly lies in the eye of the beholder, or depends on who the person thinking is. For truth to be objective, on the other hand, means that who the thinker is is not as important as what the thing they are thinking about is. The who needs to conform himself or herself to the what, not the other way around.

It is popular nowadays in Catholic theology to point out that Truth, in Jesus, became a person. In other words, Truth became a Subject. Indeed, He did. But a further twist to the story is that Jesus, Who is a Subject, also chose to become, for us and for our salvation, an Object. He became, among other things, a piece of food—a mere Thing. In the Eucharist, God so humbled Himself as to become, mysteriously, both thing and person—in theological language, we might say that He is both res et persona.

The Truth is a Person, a Subject, and is thus in perpetual conversation with us. He speaks interiorly. He comes to us as Word, speaking in our hearts, and even in other persons. But the Truth is also Thing, and as such, comes to us in Objects, called the Sacraments. One complaint that the early Protestant Reformers in England had with the Catholics is that our treatment of God is so thing-like. Their early charter, the 39 Articles, says: “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about.” Well, yes and no. These most sacred Things are not to be merely thrown around, or treated superstitiously. But God did intend them to be mysterious realities. A “reality” is another word for “thing,” from the Latin res. In the Eucharist, and in the other sacraments (though in different ways), God makes His presence Real, in things. And that is something to be gazed upon, with reverent silence and song and humble prayer.

Before the person Who so humbled Himself as to be gazed upon in His torment, carried about in His death, worshiped and eaten in mystery, a true Christian will say: “yes, truth is objective.” He is more interior than my most interior self; He is more real than the realest exterior object. Ecce, Res.”

He lives,
Matthew

Impassibility: does God have emotions?


-by Trent Horn

“Biblical descriptions of God’s emotions are metaphors that describe how human beings relate to God, not how God relates to us

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and atheist whose writings are very critical of Christianity. In her essay “God’s Emotions” in the anthology The End of Christianity, she argues that emotions are a non-rational “evolved functional feedback response” found in higher-order animals. Therefore, the Bible’s depictions of God having emotions such as anger or regret reveal that ignorant nomads who “only had a superficial idea of what these words mean” wrote the Bible. According to Tarico, “It is a testament to our narcissism as a species that so few humans are embarrassed to assign divinity the attributes of a male alpha primate.”

Some people may say biblical descriptions of God’s emotions are nothing to be ashamed of because they make God more relatable to us. But although God did experience human emotions through the human nature He assumed through His Incarnation as Jesus Christ, God does not experience emotions as part of His divine nature. The Incarnation makes God more relatable precisely because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God—”the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable”—with our human representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God (CCC 42).

For example, the persons you and I know have intellects and loving qualities, but God is “intellect;” He is “love” (1 John 4:8). God is not a person or being who embodies these attributes; He is the perfect exemplification of them. This is similar to the fact that God doesn’t have “goodness” or “being,” but simply is “Goodness” or “Being” itself.

If this is hard to grasp, remember what God said about Himself through the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).

Emotions usually comprise our responses to unexpected or uncontrollable events. But nothing can surprise or overwhelm that which is “the infinite act of being,” so that means God lacks emotions. This doesn’t mean, however, that God is an impersonal force of nature. It just means that although God has qualities we see in persons, God himself is not a person, in the same way, humans are persons (similar to how God is not a being but just is being). According to Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin priest and author of the book Does God Suffer?:

From the dawn of the patristic period Christian theology has held as axiomatic that God is impassible—that is, he does not undergo emotional changes of state, and so cannot suffer. . . . God is impassible in that he does not undergo successive and fluctuating emotional states, nor can the created order alter him in such a way so as to cause him to suffer any modification or loss.

When the Bible describes God as having emotions such as anger, regret, or pleasure, we understand that these are metaphors that describe how human beings relate to God, not how God relates to us. Saying God is angry at our sin or pleased with our obedience doesn’t mean God is reacting to something we did. It means we did something to alienate ourselves from God or to draw us closer to him. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger put it this way:

The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. . . . “The punishment of God” is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.

The Bible’s descriptions of God’s emotions also represent how ancient people conceived of God in light of their cultural context. In places such as the ancient Near East, deities were often compared to human kings, and the best kings were those who were strong and swiftly punished anyone, whether foreign invaders or domestic rebels, who threatened the populace.

Just as the Bible contains ancient, popular descriptions of the world that should not be equated with modern scientific descriptions of it (for example, descriptions of the firmament), the Bible also contains ancient, popular descriptions of God that are true if they are not treated as modern theological or philosophical descriptions of God.

Now, Valerie Tarico emphatically objects to the idea that the Bible’s descriptions of God’s emotions are not literal. She says, “A metaphor about something as deep as the human relationship to ultimate reality needs to be deeply accurate . . . but the Biblical descriptions of God have this backwards.” They are backward, according to Tarico, because emotions are merely physiological responses to weakness or stress. Saying God is angry or pleased would indicate that God is imperfect.

But remember that these descriptions of God are not obscure or “mere” metaphors. They are expressions, albeit in an indirect way, of real truths about God that ancient people understood despite their ignorance of the physiological causes of emotions. Though they lacked Tarico’s training in psychology, ancient people still knew that being angry at someone meant you had a negative relationship with that person, and being pleased with someone meant you had a positive relationship. These are not naïve or improper ways of describing how finite, sinful humans might stand in relation to God.

People who say that the God of the Bible has “all-too-human needs or desires,” as does Tarico’s fellow contributor to The End of Christianity, Jaco Gerike, fail to grasp this metaphorical understanding of God’s emotions. Or they outright reject it. Gerike says, “None of these divine psychological characteristics were in their biblical contexts understood as being mere metaphorical descriptions or the result of any supposed divine accommodation.”

But the whole point of divine accommodation is that God lowered himself to a level for the biblical authors to understand him. Just as these authors would not have considered their descriptions of the physical world to be popular descriptions accommodated to ancient sensibilities, but rather how the world appeared, they would have thought the same of the descriptions of God they penned in the Bible. Those descriptions are true, but not if we read them as modern, theological treatises.

Sometimes they even fail to grasp the literal truth behind these nonliteral descriptions. For example, Gerike says that God is “narcissistic and egotistic” because he prescribes in detail how to worship him. Gerike takes aim in particular at the elaborate instructions for constructing the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus 25-40 but fails to see that these instructions were for the Israelite’s benefit, not God’s. Human beings require custom and ritual in order to form their identities, and these rituals foster proper reverence for God. Just because they were tailored for what a resident of the ancient Near East would expect for pious worship does not make them evidence of God’s “narcissism.”

Finally, it is egotistical for creatures to demand to be worshiped, because they are not infinite in value like God. God, however, has a right to our worship, because he is “that which no greater can be thought.” Worship means we give someone his “worth-ship,” and so a being of infinite worth has a right to our unconditional obedience and adoration.”

Love & His love,
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

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

Offer it up – Is 55:8-9


-by Br Bertrand Hebert, OP

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways. (-Isa 55:8)

Saint Thomas draws from various medieval authors (especially Saint Boethius) to explain why it is hard for man to comprehend God’s lofty perspective. To illustrate this difference in perspective, St. Thomas uses a simple analogy. Man is likened to someone traveling on a road that is along the side of a hill. He is only able to see what is a little behind him and before him—that is, some of the past and the present. This perspective differs drastically from someone who is standing on top of the hill. In a single glance, he is able to see all of these different perspectives of the traveler. Unlike the traveler, the one on the hill doesn’t have to wait for something down the road to come into his view; everything is already before him as if all of it were the present (ST Ia q. 14 a. 13 ad. 3). In a similar way, God sees all our past, present, and future in a single, all-encompassing glance.

Saint Thomas’s insight transforms the idea that we just have to “deal with” God’s providence into something more consoling: “God sees and is planning something beyond all of this.” However, every analogy limps; even so, this particular hobble ends up being helpful. God is not living on top of a hill with a far-removed and indifferent perspective on what is happening in the world of man. His higher and eternal perspective doesn’t prevent Him from having perfect knowledge of temporal things as well as Fatherly concern for the things we experience (Ps 8:5). After all, God, Himself, came into the world through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). Saint Paul reminds us here that God is intimately involved in our lives, even from His elevated state. In this relationship, He both governs the events that unfold on these winding roads, while also walking with us.

This last point clarifies Isaiah’s words above, and it further defends them from a disheartening interpretation. Although God is active in our lives, we can still say that He acts differently than us because, in a way far beyond our capacity, He governs with an attentive and loving concern for our greatest good. This good is ultimately found in God, Himself. He is concerned about matters from our perspective, but He also looks beyond them because he calls us to join Him in His own lofty heights.

This loftiness is what makes His ways different from ours. Even though His ways are different, we shouldn’t think they are worse. They are infinitely greater and better than our ways because they are the roads that ultimately lead us to Himself.”

Love & comfort, healing, grace,
Matthew

Diocese of La Crosse, WI

1/18/20

The Diocese of La Crosse released the names Saturday of more than two dozen clergy who have faced a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.

The diocese said none of the accused are now in public ministry. Many are listed as deceased. The list comes from an independent review of clergy files dating to 1868 by the audit firm Defenbaugh & Associates Inc.

Established in 1868, the Diocese of La Crosse serves nearly 200,000 Catholics in 19 counties: Adams, Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Marathon, Monroe, Pepin, Pierce, Portage, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon and Wood.

Those identified are:

Bruce Ball

Raymond Bornbach

Albert Sonnberger

James Stauber

Patrick Umberger

Raymond J. Wagner

Two were identified as being from another order or diocese, but whose allegation occurred while service the Diocese of La Crosse:

Timothy Svea

Bogdan Werra

Five more were identified as non-diocesan clergy whose whose names appear on a list in another diocese or religious order. The Diocese of La Crosse has no specific information relating to the allegations.

Those clergy are:

Dennis Bouche

Daniel Budzynski

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/natureandscope/dioceses/lacrossewi.htm

“The statistics for the Diocese of La Crosse reveal that, out of 705 clergy who have served in the diocese between 1950 and 2002, there have been 10 individuals (including one who was not a priest of the diocese) with substantiated allegations against them. The result is that only 1.4 percent of the total clergy population in that time period had substantiated allegations.

Accused Clerics: 28 (of which allegations were substantiated against 10; of that 10, one was not a priest of the diocese)
Total Priests: 705 (of which 478 diocesan priests, 187 religious order priests, and 40 deacons)
Allegations: 58 (of which allegations against 3 were “withdrawn” or the priest was “exonerated”; 24 were unsubstantiated)

On January 6, 2004, the Diocese of La Crosse released its statistics regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy.”

2/5/20

“The Diocese of La Crosse has released the names of seven more priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

These additions, made Wednesday, include two priests who held assignments in La Crosse and four who worked at a now defunct Jesuit boarding school in Prairie du Chien.

They are:

At least five of the priests have died, and the other two were long ago dismissed by the Society of Jesus. It is unclear whether Cannon (dismissed in 1997) and Haller (dismissed in 1982) are still alive, still working with children or still serving in religious roles.

Though they served within the boundaries of the La Crosse diocese, none of the seven priests were official diocesan clergy or directly overseen by the bishop.

Wednesday’s disclosure came less than three weeks after the diocese released the names of 20 priests who were credibly accused of child abuse while serving in the diocese.

The list included J. Thomas Finucan, who was president of Viterbo University in La Crosse from 1970 to 1980.”

God is merciful. God is just.

Love,
Matthew

“Woe to you scribes & pharisees…” -Mt 23

Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, attends the third day of the meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. Sister Openibo told the gathering that clerical sexual abuse “has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SUMMIT-OPEN-OPENIBO and SUMMIT-MARX Feb. 23, 2019.  Please click on the image for greater detail.
Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, attends the third day of the meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. Sister Openibo told the gathering that clerical sexual abuse “has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SUMMIT-OPEN-OPENIBO and SUMMIT-MARX Feb. 23, 2019.  Please click on the image for greater detail.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, attend the third day of the meeting on the protection of minors in the church at the Vatican Feb. 23, 2019. Sister Openibo told the gathering that clerical sexual abuse “has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SUMMIT-OPEN-OPENIBO and SUMMIT-MARX Feb. 23, 2019. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Church credibility ruined by silent hypocrisy, sister tells summit

-by Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

2.23.2019 6:25 AM ET

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The hypocrisy of Catholic leaders who claimed to be guardians of morality yet remained silent about clerical sexual abuse has left the church’s credibility in shambles, an African woman religious told bishops at the Vatican summit on abuse.

“Yes, we proclaim the Ten Commandments and ‘parade ourselves’ as being the custodians of moral standards-values and good behavior in society. Hypocrites at times? Yes! Why did we keep silent for so long?” asked Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, congregational leader of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus.

Addressing Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world’s bishops’ conferences and religious orders Feb. 23, Sister Openibo insisted the church needed to be transparent and open in facing the abuse crisis.

In a poignant yet powerful speech, the Nigerian sister reminded the bishops of the church’s universal mission to be a light for the world and a “manifestation of the Christ we know as both human and divine.”

However, she said, the “widespread and systemic” sexual abuse of children by clergy and the subsequent cover-up have “seriously clouded the grace of the Christ-mission.”

Clerical sex abuse, she said, “is a crisis that has reduced the credibility of the church when transparency should be the hallmark of mission as followers of Jesus Christ. The fact that many accuse the Catholic Church today of negligence is disturbing.”

She also called out bishops, particularly in Asia and her native Africa, who dismiss the abuse crisis as a Western problem, citing several personal experiences she confronted while counseling men and women who were abused.

“The fact that there are huge issues of poverty, illness, war and violence in some countries in the global South does not mean that the area of sexual abuse should be downplayed or ignored. The church has to be pro-active in facing it,” she said.

Church leaders cannot think they can “keep silent until the storm has passed,” Sister Openibo told them. “This storm will not pass by.”

Outlining steps the Catholic Church can take to move toward true transparency and healing, she suggested beginning with the admission of wrongdoing and publishing “what has been done since the time of Pope John Paul II.”

“It may not be sufficient in the eyes of many, but it will show that the church had not been totally silent,” she said.

Along with clear and comprehensive safeguarding policies in every diocese and devoting resources to help survivors heal from their suffering, Sister Openibo said the church also must give seminarians and male and female novices a “clear and balanced education and training” about sexuality and boundaries.

“It worries me when I see in Rome, and elsewhere, the youngest seminarians being treated as though they are more special than everyone else, thus encouraging them to assume — from the beginning of their training — exalted ideas about their status,” she said.

Religious women also are susceptible to a way of thinking that leads to “a false sense of superiority over their lay sisters and brothers,” she added.

“What damage has that thinking done to the mission of the church? Have we forgotten the reminder by Vatican II in ‘Gaudium et Spes’ of the universal call to holiness?” she asked.

Looking toward Pope Francis seated on the dais near here, Sister Openibo spoke directly about his initial denial and subsequent about-face regarding the abuse crisis in Chile and accusations of cover-up made against bishops.

“I admire you, Brother Francis, for taking time as a true Jesuit, to discern and be humble enough to change your mind, to apologize and take action — an example for all of us,” she told the pope.

Transparency, she said, also will mean treating equally all clerics who abuse children and not shying away from acknowledging the names of abusers, even if they are high-ranking churchmen or already have died.

“The excuse that respect be given to some priests by virtue of their advanced years and hierarchical position is unacceptable,” she said.

Of course, “we can feel sad” for clerics whose offenses are being brought out into the open, Sister Openibo said, “but my heart bleeds for many of the victims who have lived with the misplaced shame and guilt of repeated violations for years.”

By protecting children, seeking justice for survivors and taking the necessary steps toward zero tolerance of sexual abuse, she said, the Catholic Church can fulfill its mission to preach the good news, announce deliverance to the captives and “proclaim the Lord’s year of favor.”

“This is our year of favor,” she said. “Let us courageously take up the responsibility to be truly transparent and accountable.””

Lord, have mercy,
Matthew

10 truths about Purgatory


-Dante’s Purgatrio, Canto 2, Katerina Machytkova, please click on the image for greater detail.


— by Valerie Schmalz, Catholic San Francisco [10.30.2013]

1. Purgatory exists: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states there are three states of the church, those who are living on earth, those who are in purgatory, and those who are in heaven with God.

2. It is not a second chance: The soul is already saved. Purgatory is a
place to pay off debts for sins that were forgiven but for which sufficient penance had not been done on earth.

3. It is not an actual place: Blessed John Paul II said in an August 4, 1999 general audience that purgatory was a state of being: “The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.” Pope Benedict XVI said in a January 12, 2011 general audience, “This is purgatory, an interior fire.”

4. Purgatory is not punishment but God’s mercy: “Few people can say they are prepared to stand before God,” says Susan Tassone, author of “Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for the Holy Souls in
Purgatory” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012). “If we didn’t have purgatory
there would be very few people in heaven, because it would be heaven or hell. It is his mercy that allows us to prepare to be with Him in heaven.”

5. Our prayers for the souls in purgatory help them achieve heaven:
“The doctrine of purgatory recalls how radically we take love of
neighbor,” says Sulpician Father Gladstone Stevens, vice rector and
dean of men at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park. “The
obligation to pray for each other does not cease when biological life
ends. God wants us to always pray for each other, work for each other’s redemption.”

6. The souls in purgatory can intercede for those on earth but cannot pray for themselves: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 958) states: “…the church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead;…Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

7. God does not send souls to purgatory – each soul sends itself to
purgatory: Once a soul sees itself with the light of God, it realizes it
cannot stay in his presence until all imperfections are wiped away. “The soul chooses,” Tassone says.

8. There is no fire in purgatory: But each soul is aflame with the pain of being separated from God and with the desire to be purified so it can be in the beatific vision. Each soul also feels joy knowing it will one day be with God, Father Stevens and Tassone say.

9. There is a special day and month to pray for the souls in purgatory:
November 2 or All Souls’ Day is the day set aside and November is the month in the liturgical calendar to pray especially for all the souls who are in purgatory. November 2 is called “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed,” but the church asks us to pray always for each other, including for the souls in purgatory.

10. Prayers for souls in purgatory always count: Pope Benedict says in his encyclical “Spe Salve” (“On Christian Hope”), regarding the souls of the dead, “…in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.””

Love, Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinful man,
Matthew

What is Purgatory?


-“Dante kneeling before celestial helmsman”, Purgatorio, Canto 2.28, by Doré, Gustave, c.1868, engraving, The vision of Purgatory and Paradise by Dante Alighieri (London and New York: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin [1868?], please click on the image for greater detail.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).

The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.

What Happens in Purgatory?

When we die, we undergo what is called the particular, or individual, judgment. Scripture says that “it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We are judged instantly and receive our reward, for good or ill. We know at once what our final destiny will be. At the end of time, when Jesus returns, there will come the general judgment to which the Bible refers, for example, in Matthew 25:31-32: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” In this general judgment all our sins will be publicly revealed (Luke 12:2–5).

Augustine said in The City of God that “temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment” (21:13). It is between the particular and general judgments, then, that the soul is purified of the remaining consequences of sin: “I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper” (Luke 12:59).

The Catholic Church, Purgatory, and Money

One argument anti-Catholics often use to attack purgatory is the idea that the Catholic Church owes the majority of its wealth to the doctrine of purgatory. But the numbers just don’t add up.

When a Catholic requests a memorial Mass for the dead—that is, a Mass said for the benefit of someone in purgatory—it is customary to give the parish priest a stipend, on the principles that the laborer is worth his hire (Luke 10:7) and that those who preside at the altar share the altar’s offerings (1 Cor. 9:13–14). In the United States, a stipend is commonly around five dollars; but the indigent do not have to pay anything. A few people, of course, freely offer more. This money goes to the parish priest, and priests are allowed to receive only one such stipend per day. No one gets rich on five dollars a day, and certainly not the Church, which does not receive the money anyway.

But look at what happens on a Sunday. There are often hundreds of people at Mass. In a crowded parish, there may be thousands. Many families and individuals deposit five dollars or more into the collection basket; a few give much more. A parish might have four or five or six Masses on a Sunday. The total from the Sunday collections far surpasses the paltry amount received from the memorial Masses.

Is Purgatory a Catholic “Invention”?

Fundamentalists may be fond of saying the Catholic Church “invented” the doctrine of purgatory to make money, but they have difficulty saying just when. Most professional anti-Catholics—the ones who make their living attacking “Romanism”—seem to place the blame on Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from A.D. 590 to 604.

But that hardly accounts for the request of Monica, mother of Augustine, who asked her son, in the fourth century, to remember her soul in his Masses. This would make no sense if she thought her soul would not benefit from prayers, as would be the case if she were in hell or in the full glory of heaven.

Nor does ascribing the doctrine to Gregory explain the graffiti in the catacombs, where Christians during the persecutions of the first three centuries recorded prayers for the dead. Indeed, some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Such prayers would have been offered only if Christians believed in purgatory, even if they did not use that name for it. (See Catholic Answers’ tract The Roots of Purgatory for quotations from these and other early Christian sources.)

Why No Protests?

A study of the history of doctrines indicates that Christians in the first centuries were up in arms if anyone suggested the least change in beliefs. They were extremely conservative people who tested a doctrine’s truth by asking, Was this believed by our ancestors? Was it handed on from the apostles? Surely belief in purgatory would be considered a great change, if it had not been believed from the first—so where are the records of protests?

They don’t exist. There is no hint at all, in the oldest writings available to us (or in later ones, for that matter), that “true believers” in the immediate post-apostolic years spoke of purgatory as a novel doctrine. They must have understood that the oral teaching of the apostles, what Catholics call tradition, and the Bible not only failed to contradict the doctrine, but, in fact, confirmed it.

It is no wonder, then, that those who deny the existence of purgatory tend to touch upon only briefly the history of the belief. They prefer to claim that the Bible speaks only of heaven and hell. Wrong. It speaks plainly of a third condition, commonly called the limbo of the Fathers, where the just who had died before the redemption were waiting for heaven to be opened to them. After his death and before his resurrection, Christ visited those experiencing the limbo of the Fathers and preached to them the good news that heaven would now be opened to them (1 Pet. 3:19). These people thus were not in heaven, but neither were they experiencing the torments of hell.

Some have speculated that the limbo of the Fathers is the same as purgatory. This may or may not be the case. However, even if the limbo of the Fathers is not purgatory, its existence shows that a temporary, intermediate state is not contrary to Scripture.

“Purgatory Not in Scripture”

Some Fundamentalists also charge, “The word purgatory is nowhere found in Scripture.” This is true, and yet it does not disprove the existence of purgatory or the fact that belief in it has always been part of Church teaching. The words Trinity and Incarnation aren’t in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are clearly taught in it. Likewise, Scripture teaches that purgatory exists, even if it doesn’t use that word and even if 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a place other than purgatory.

Christ refers to the sinner who “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of one’s sins. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering (“fire”) there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory alone explains this passage.

Then, of course, there is the Bible’s approval of prayers for the dead: “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin” (2 Macc. 12:43–45). Prayers are not needed by those in heaven, and no one can help those in hell. This verse so clearly illustrates the existence of purgatory that, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants had to cut the books of the Maccabees out of their Bibles in order to avoid accepting the doctrine.

Prayers for the dead and the consequent doctrine of purgatory have been part of the true religion since before the time of Christ. Not only can we show it was practiced by the Jews of the time of the Maccabees, but it has even been retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that the loved one may be purified. It was not the Catholic Church that added the doctrine of purgatory. Rather, the Protestant churches rejected a doctrine that had always been believed by Jews and Christians.

Why Go to Purgatory?

Why would anyone go to purgatory? To be cleansed, for “nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]” (Rev. 21:27). Anyone who has not been completely freed of sin and its effects is, to some extent, “unclean.” Through repentance he may have gained the grace needed to be worthy of heaven, which is to say, he has been forgiven and his soul is spiritually alive. But that’s not sufficient for gaining entrance into heaven. He needs to be cleansed completely.

Fundamentalists claim, as an article in Jimmy Swaggart’s magazine, The Evangelist, put it, that “Scripture clearly reveals that all the demands of divine justice on the sinner have been completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It also reveals that Christ has totally redeemed, or purchased back, that which was lost. The advocates of purgatory (and the necessity of prayer for the dead) say, in effect, that the redemption of Christ was incomplete. . . . It has all been done for us by Jesus Christ, there is nothing to be added or done by man.”

It is entirely correct to say that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on the cross. But that does not settle the question of how this redemption is applied to us. Scripture reveals that it is applied to us over the course of time through, among other things, the process of sanctification through which the Christian is made holy. Sanctification involves suffering (Rom. 5:3–5), and purgatory is the final stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven. Purgatory is the final phase of Christ’s applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross.

Nothing Unclean or Purged

Catholic theology takes seriously the notion that “nothing unclean shall enter heaven.” [Ed. not just covered: cleansed completely, new, to make new again, from the inside out.] From this it is inferred that a less than cleansed soul isn’t fit for heaven. It needs to be cleansed or “purged” of its remaining imperfections. Sanctification is thus not an option, something that may or may not happen before one gets into heaven. It is an absolute requirement, as Hebrews 12:14 states that we must strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

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

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

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine


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